IN THIS ARTICLE
- Is Programming the Right Career Choice for Me?
- A Career as a Programmer: Pros and Cons
- Who Should Consider a Career as a Programmer?
- Programming Career Overview
- Programming Careers To Explore
- Programming Job Market and Demand
- Should You Become a Programmer FAQs
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One can’t deny that programming is the career choice du jour for this century. We live in a digital world, and coders are the professionals who are best equipped to deal with that reality. However, with the emergence of generative AI and some of the layoffs we’ve been hearing about, should you still become a programmer?
There are a number of factors that need to be taken into account to answer this question. This includes the current state of the job market, forecasts for the future of programming, and the individual skills and interests that determine whether you can succeed at the job. In this article, we’ll do a deep dive into all those things to find out whether you should pursue a career in programming.
Is Programming the Right Career Choice for Me?
If you’re thinking to ask yourself this question, then there’s a good chance that programming could be the right career choice for you. It shows that you’re curious about the tech field and might have some basic skills to make a career in coding. If you’re curious about a career in programming, then answering this question is simply a matter of figuring out whether you have the gumption for the hours of learning and practice that it takes to actually become a programmer.
At a broader level, a programming career can be a good career option for anyone entering the workforce or looking to change careers. The market for programming jobs is in a good place today, and projections show that the tech industry and others will continue to hire programmers in large numbers in years to come.
So is a career in software development the right choice for you? It very well can be if you’ve got the right skills and the stomach for the job. To help with that decision, let’s take a look at some of the upsides and downsides that come with a career as a programmer.
A Career as a Programmer: Pros and Cons
Even the most successful programmers will tell you that the job isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. Here are a few of the pros and cons of the job.
Here’s what programmers love about their jobs:
High Job Satisfaction
Programming jobs allow you to work on key projects and contribute to them in a high-impact fashion. And you don’t even need to be a senior developer to do that. This is a field where, right from the beginning of your career, you’ll get to do influential work.
Another reason job satisfaction levels tend to be high in programming is because of the constant innovation that’s happening in it. There are always new technologies and programming paradigms popping up. It’s exciting to be able to learn about these developments and implement some of them as part of your work.
Low Barrier to Entry
It once used to be the case that only people with access to costly equipment and a college degree could make it into a career in programming. But all that has changed now. There have never been more options when it comes to learning resources for those looking to break into programming.
The democratization of education in the space has led to greater accessibility to software development jobs. Online options such as Springboard’s Software Engineering Bootcamp make a career in programming more accessible than ever before. The cost of learning programming has dropped pretty drastically, and companies don’t require you to have an undergraduate degree in order to be eligible. All these things mean that it has never been easier to acquire coding skills to become a programmer.
A survey done by Stack Overflow found that almost 43% of software developers worked fully remotely in 2022. Another 42% worked in a hybrid mode. That means that only 14.5% of developers go into an office on a full in-person basis. These numbers reveal just how flexible working as a developer can be.
That flexibility also extends to the employment modalities that are available to programmers. It’s easy to transition to being a consultant or freelancer once you’ve gained some professional experience.
This is perhaps one of the most widely-known perks of working as a programmer. This is a field where there are plenty of lucrative jobs available and your skills are highly valued by the industry. The median salary in the field was over $93,000 in 2021, and programmers in the 75th percentile made $122,600.
Here’s what’s not to love about a job as a programmer:
Constantly Evolving Field
On the one hand, the dynamic and cutting-edge nature of technology makes it an exciting career option. But that can also be a drawback, as professionals in the field have to work hard to stay relevant. There are always new programming languages and frameworks popping up. As a programmer, you will need to regularly complete courses and certifications so that you can keep up with the field.
Multidisciplinary Skill Requirements
Programming is many different disciplines and skills serenading as just one. Depending on the nature of your work, you may need to be good at math, statistics, algorithms, design, physics, finance, and a whole host of other skills.
The multidisciplinary nature of programming can be hard for some people to keep up with. You have to be sure to choose a niche within the field where your skills and interests match the demands of the job. Most skilled programmers get where they are by working on a wide variety of programming languages and across industries.
If you’re somebody who’s trying to break into a career in programming, you should know that recruiters usually receive hundreds of applications for any vacant role. You need to ensure that your programmer resume is spot on and that you have an impressive portfolio to stand out from the crowd.
Most programmers have dealt with periods during which they have to burn the midnight oil. This happens because they work in high-pressure environments with tight deadlines. These come with the territory for anyone who wants to work in programming.
You will need to find a way to work around this environment as a programmer. Make sure that you take ample breaks even on busy days and maintain a healthy lifestyle as much as possible.
Who Should Consider a Career as a Programmer?
There are some traits that are good to have if you aspire to become a successful computer programmer. We’ll take a look at what they are below.
Programming Is for You if…
You’re A Problem-Solver
Programming, at its core, is a dedication to solving problems. That isn’t to say that that’s all there is to programming. However, it is a large part of what you will do as part of your job as a programmer. If you’re someone who likes a challenge and can methodically work towards coming up with solutions to problems, then you’re likely to do well as a programmer.
You Enjoy Learning New Things
The life of a programmer involves constant learning. You might have plenty of programming experience and all of the coding chops you need, but even then, you still need to dedicate time to picking up new technologies and working on a wide range of projects. Enjoying the process of assimilating new concepts and applying them in the real world is the mark of a good programmer.
Anybody who has worked on real-life programming examples and applications knows that it isn’t always obvious how to go from a problem statement to the finished product. That is a process that demands a certain amount of creativity, both in terms of coming up with solutions and thinking about how best to implement them. Programming is a discipline where only creative professionals can make significant contributions.
Programming Is Not for You if…
You Get Tired of Thinking
Programming requires long stretches of strenuous cognitive labor. You might not spend all of that time writing software programs, but even tasks like producing specifications and reviewing code require mental work. Those who are unable to spend time thinking about problems that relate to programming won’t have a successful career in the industry.
You’re Not Comfortable Working Autonomously
Programmers usually work in teams. However, every programmer needs to have the ability to contribute to projects independently. If you’re someone who requires constant supervision or feedback, then programming might not be the right for you.
You’re a Rigid Thinker
Those who have any degree of practical experience in coding know that it is a field where freethinkers succeed. This isn’t to say that you take everything that you’ve learned and throw it out of the window. Rather, you need to have the ability to combine traditional wisdom with abstract thinking and the intellectual freedom to do things differently.
Programming Career Overview
We now have a good understanding of what development jobs entail and some of the characteristics of the people who succeed at them. Let’s now shift our attention to the things that you need to do if you are to land a job as a programmer.
General Requirements for a Programming Career
Here’s what you need to launch your career:
You can complete a four-year degree in computer science or IT as a foundation for a career in programming. That said, that is no longer a requirement for most companies. There are more affordable ways that you can go about picking up the basics of programming.
One of the most popular alternatives to a conventional four-year degree is a coding bootcamp. These are intensive courses that last a few months and take you from novice to job-ready programmer. They’re a lot more affordable than a college degree and also get the job done faster. You can also become a self-taught programmer.
Knowledge of Programming Languages
Most budding programmers wonder which programming language they should start with. Since you’re completely new to the discipline, it is highly recommended that you choose a programming language like Python. It is a beginner-friendly language, and the syntax is quite easy to grasp.
Regardless of which specific programming language you choose, what’s important is that you pick one and stick with it. You should be able to build applications in the programming language of your choice before you decide to move on to other ones.
Programming syntax isn’t the only thing you need to know as a programmer. Here are a few other skills that you should focus on:
Data Structures and Algorithms
Coming up with algorithms precedes writing code. You need to be able to produce an algorithm to solve a problem first—the code you write is only an implementation of the process that you come up with. For that reason, all programmers need to have a strong grasp of algorithms.
Data structures are fixed ways of storing and organizing data in a program. You should be able to choose the right data structures for different kinds of applications and be able to implement them in the programming language of your choice.
Integrated Development Environment
You can’t write code unless you set up an environment where your code can be compiled and you can view the resultant program. That’s what an integrated development environment (IDE) makes possible.
The IDE you choose will depend on the programming language that you’re working in. For example, if you’re working in Python, you would learn how to set up IDEs like PyCharm and IDLE.
This is an overlooked skill that will make your life a lot easier once you’re a professional programmer. Documentation is the process by which you make a record of what a piece of code does and how it achieves that result. Documenting code makes it a lot easier to use and reproduce the code. You should practice documenting your code from an early stage in your programming journey.
Problem-solving is a foundational skill for all programming. You should be adept at breaking down problems and coming up with solutions that can be implemented using a programmatic approach.
Having a background in math is not a hard requirement for programmers. However, knowing basic mathematics strengthens your ability to think algorithmically and solve problems. Your programming career will benefit greatly from gaining a basic understanding of concepts in probability, calculus, and algebra.
An often overlooked aspect of the programming process is the messy business of debugging programs. But it’s something you need to get good at. An easy way to get some practice is by looking at debugging problems online and working through them.
Finally, every programmer needs to be good at teamwork. It’s rare that you’ll ever be able to work on an entire project yourself, so you need to be able to communicate and collaborate with your colleagues effectively.
Programmers are well compensated, and the current average salary of programmers in the US is $91,000. One’s exact salary, of course, depends on a range of factors, including years of experience and your location.
Programming Careers To Explore
Programmer is a broad term to describe what can be many different kinds of jobs depending on the industry and specific technology you’re working on. Here are a few popular roles that programmers can be hired to work in:
Web developers build and maintain websites. Their work involves transforming designs into functional websites, setting up databases, and connecting them to the backend of a website. Front-end developers and back-end developers both fall under the web developer umbrella.
Game developers write the code that creates games and makes them playable interactive media. They usually do so by building games in game engines and writing the code to create the game’s physics.
Mobile Application Developer
Mobile app developers build apps for mobile interfaces. They usually specialize in writing code for Android or Apple products. Developing apps for mobile interfaces comes with its unique challenges due to the limited real estate available.
Cloud engineers write code to set up and maintain cloud computing environments. They work in close collaboration with security and data professionals to ensure that cloud applications have maximum uptime and adhere to strict data security guidelines.
Artificial intelligence engineers build computer systems that can mimic human intelligence in different ways. This is a cutting-edge area in computing, and a lot of popular technologies like autonomous cars and voice assistants are developed through the contribution of AI engineers.
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Programming Job Market and Demand
Although programming is a popular career choice, many aspirants now have doubts about its prospects. Let’s find out if programming remains a good choice for those considering their career options.
What Does the Programming Job Market Look Like?
The job market for “computer programmers” is expected to shrink by 10% between 2021 and 2031, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). At the same time, the BLS predicts that the job market for “software developers, quality assurance analysts, and testers” will increase by a whopping 25%.
What do these seemingly contradictory numbers mean? It seems to be the case that specific roles within programming will wane in demand in the coming decade. However, the job market overall will likely remain quite healthy.
Are Programmers in Demand?
Demand for programmers is high across industries despite recent layoffs. In fact, many companies have reported developer shortages in several areas.
Will AI Replace Programmers?
AI will not replace programmers. In fact, it will become a tool that many programmers will turn to for assistance with their work. That said, there may be specific kinds of programming tasks that will slowly be assigned to AI instead of human programmers.
What Does the Future Look Like for Programmers?
The future looks largely positive for programmers, as evidenced by projections by the BLS and current demand in the professional world. At a time when tech is seeing widespread layoffs, and there are questions about how AI will change the nature of some tech jobs, programming remains one of the most future-proof skills.
Should You Become a Programmer FAQs
We’ve got the answers to your most frequently asked question.
Is Coding a Stressful Job?
Coding can be a stressful job with periods of strenuous work and tight deadlines. Make sure that you maintain a healthy style of work and talk to your manager if you feel like you’ve been assigned an onerous workload.
What Type of Coding Is in High Demand?
Data science, cloud engineering, and cybersecurity are the fields that are currently hiring the most coders.
How Hard Is It To Learn Coding?
It is not particularly hard to learn how to code. There are plenty of resources available online that you can use to test the waters and see if you enjoy the learning process. If you do and you want to work in the field, you should consider joining a coding bootcamp. Doing so will allow you to get high-quality instruction, and many bootcamps offer one-on-one mentorship.
Why Is Coding Not for Everyone?
Coding is a highly specialized field with specific requirements. Not everybody has the skills or interests that can lead to a career in coding.
What Is the Easiest Programming Job To Get?
Web development roles are the most accessible for those who are complete beginners.
Since you’re here…
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