Computer Programmer

Computer Programmer

Computer programmers (“coders”) write code. Every website and mobile app runs on code. Code tells computers and mobile devices what to do. As technology continues to develop at an unprecedented rate, the demand for coders is far greater than the available supply. It’s rare in our current economy for a particular industry to be so starved of qualified employees. What does this computer programmer shortage mean for you? Well, it means that there are coding opportunities available if you learn how to code.

Why Become a Coder   

A big draw to the coding industry is that the average median salary is in excess of $100,000. Yeah, you can rake in the dough. And something unique about coding is that the technology is developing so rapidly—new coding languages are constantly evolving—that a coder with no formal degree in the field may have an advantage over a coder with a computer science degree. Why? Well, the coder with a computer science degree has most likely been trained in JavaScript, the current standard language for web development. But what if a software start up wants to use a different language such as Python? Sure, the person with a degree in JavaScript will likely have an easier time transitioning to Python than a beginner, but the person with a degree in JavaScript may not have the same desire and motivation to learn Python that a beginner has. Learning a coding language takes work and repetition above all else. If you’re willing to put the work in, you already have a huge leg up.

Really great video in which many relevant figures in society such as Mark Zuckerberg and Chris Bosh talk about the importance of code. Code.org is a great resource for learning how to code.

How To Become A Coder

Now, don’t get me wrong—an academic degree in computer science is the gold standard for landing a job as a computer programmer. If you have a computer science degree, you’ll be able to find a coding job. If you’re really good, you can start your own software company.

But let’s say you don’t have a computer science degree as is the case with many coders. Intensive coding academies called “coding boot camps” are popping up all over the United States. These boot camps normally run from 8 to 12 weeks. They’re immersion programs designed to develop coders who are qualified for entry level to mid level coding jobs. The median age for students at these coding boot camps is 29. The majority of these people have a college degree and/or a graduate degree in a field unrelated to computer science.

These boot camps are more or less designed for people who’d like to change professions and become a coder. Graduates of these boot camps are having great success finding jobs. Several of these boot camps guarantee that you’ll find a job after finishing the program. One boot camp called “Code Fellows” will refund your tuition if you don't find a job within nine months of completing the program.

These boot camps are by no means easy. Most demand 90 to 100 hours of work per week. “Work” consists of class time, studying and homework. In other words, you need to live, breath and sleep coding.

It would be very difficult to maintain a full time job while attending one of these boot camps, which could be a problem because most are expensive. The median cost for a 12 week program is $10,000 but can range all the way up to $20,000. These high prices could be worthwhile, however, if after completing the program, you land a job that pays $100,000 per year. A few of the boot camps are free such as App Academy. App Academy runs classes in New York City and San Francisco. Its matriculation process is incredibly competitive with an admission rate of 5%. Betamore Academy in Baltimore is another great program that costs about $4,000.

Self-Taught Coders

At the end of the day, in order to get hired as a computer programmer, you have to prove that you know how to code. If you’ve completed a boot camp, most employers will trust that you know how to code. If you have a computer science degree, employers will definitely trust in your coding ability.  

That said, there are successful coders out there who have no degree and haven’t completed a boot camp. These coders are self-taught. It’s possible to learn how to code on your own if you dedicate the necessary time and effort. Start with learning the command line, and then focus on one particular language and/or the type of programming that you’re most interested in. There are many books and free online courses available that can help you determine which type of coding you’d like to do (i.e. web development, app development…) There are also many books that will help you learn a particular coding language.

Self-taught coders face an uphill battle when searching for coding jobs. Employers will naturally doubt your ability to code effectively until you prove them otherwise. In these situations, a portfolio is incredibly important as well as a GitHub profile. You’re portfolio should at the very least be a webpage that you’ve written from scratch using some coding language. And GitHub is a really cool resource that allows you to experiment with code and develop interesting coding projects online, projects that can be public. For example, you can write a code for a webpage that translates Chinese characters into English. Be creative. Work hard and have faith in your code.

In addition to working as a coder for a coding company, you can work freelance jobs. Most people involved in the internet business don’t know how to code. Small start ups and websites often hire freelance coders for particular jobs. To find these jobs, register as a coder on directory websites such as fiverr.com and Craig’s List. People will ask to see your portfolio before hiring you, so make sure you have a very strong portfolio. Also, many perspective employers will offer you equity in their start up as opposed to cash, just FYI.

Salary and Lifestyle

Coders make a lot of money, on average $125,000 per year. If you work for a company, your hours will likely be nine to five. If you work on your own or run your own company, you can largely set your own schedule although you'll have to work hard to be successful. 

 

  

  

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