Coding offers more than buzzword hype for students

Mohammad Syed

It’s no secret that computer science has become imperative in a rapidly tech-centric world. People all over the world emphasize the need to learn to code, especially starting at a young age. We see this with the “Hour of Code,” where community leaders host one-hour coding sessions, free educational websites that teach novices various different languages for free, and a myriad of other events. However, this surge in popularity has transformed coding into a meaningless buzzword that people use liberally to indicate “the future.” This “buzzword effect” has caused people to casually glance at coding and acknowledge its importance, but never actually engage in the practice — and it’s this that needs to change. 

So with this in mind, let’s take a step back and evaluate the importance of coding objectively. Coding has opened thousands of job opportunities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2014 there were 3.9 million jobs pertaining to IT. While some may argue that the overall number of software developer jobs are predicted to decrease due to outsourcing, IT jobs as a whole are predicted to increase by 20 percent — and this in spite of outsourcing. And these jobs don’t pay poorly. The median income for computer programming jobs hovers around $81,430 per year. Economically speaking, coding can be life altering. 

But it’s at this point where we are on the threshold of entering “buzzword” territory. The question we still haven’t answered is: What is coding? It depends. There are multiple coding languages, each with a different purpose. Python for example, is mainly used for mathematical and scientific applications and basic logic. HTML, on the other hand, is used to create websites, and CSS is used to make websites look aesthetically pleasing. The variety of languages can often be threatening to people entering the vast world of coding. However, hope is not lost. The good news is that most coding languages have relatively the same structural base, meaning that if you can code in one language, it won’t be too hard to pick another up.

Now remains the question: How do I learn? Bootcamps seem the way to go. These camps are often summer long courses that teach intensive coding. For UT students, the university recently started offering their own boot camp over the summer. But oftentimes these bootcamps are expensive and require a major time commitment. The good news is that free resources exist. Codecademy.com offers courses for learning multiple programming languages. Freecodecamp.com is also an incredible resource where you can learn both basic and advanced web development. Hundreds of other resources exist as well. All you need to do is google (a once small company created by curious coders): “How do I learn how to code” and essentially, just do it. 

Syed is a biochemistry and humanities honors sophomore from Houston. Follow him on Twitter @mohammadasyed.