Why you should learn how to code

Looking for ways to level up your tech-savviness? Learn coding—it will also give you more control over your work and career.

Two women of colour programmers discussing computer code

I’m not tech-savvy/young/smart enough… can I still learn to code?

That’s the imposter syndrome talking, and you know it. It’s never too late, and you’re never too old to learn a language—whether it’s French, Japanese or JavaScript, a coding language frequently used to create web and mobile apps.

In fact, ‘mature-age’ students (air quotes, because the term refers to anyone over the age of 22, and is therefore a little laughable) are the best learners. You’re studying because you want to. And because you’re determined and motivated, you’re far more likely to achieve your goals.

What is coding and what is it used for?

Coding is essentially the act of writing a list of instructions that tell a computer how to complete a task. To do so, you need to write your instructions in a language that it understands a.k.a. a coding or programming language. Besides JavaScript, other common ones include Python, HTML and C++.

Code is used for everything from timing traffic lights to creating websites. It tells your mobile phone what to do when you hit ‘send’ on a text message. It runs the physics software in the world’s most esoteric machine—the Large Hadron Collider—a 27-kilometre underground ring that sends beams of particles in opposite directions and measures the effects when they crash into each other.

There are over 700 different programming languages, but don’t let that scare you. Even computer programmers, software developers and software engineers (the people for whom coding is a core skill) are usually only fluent in one or two at any given time.

Why should I learn to code?

For so many reasons. It sharpens your problem solving, analytical and logical thinking skills, which will benefit all the non-coding work you do.

A piece of code either works or it doesn’t, so you’ll immediately know whether you’ve written it correctly or wrongly. That being said, coding is a creative pursuit. It’s like building with a full set of Lego blocks—you are limited only by your imagination.

No matter what career you’re in, knowing how to code will enhance it. If you’re a designer, you’ll be able to build websites, without having to rely on a developer to translate your visuals and animation ideas.

As a digital marketer, you could automate tasks like data gathering, analysis and visualisation. Or process a database to create customer segments and campaign performance reports.

Scientists, business analysts, teachers—nearly every role benefits from coding skills. With a programming language or two on your CV, you’ll become a standout candidate for any job you apply for.

 

Learn how to code
Once you understand one programming language, it's easier to learn more. 


How long does it take to learn how to code?

The first three to six months are the toughest. But once you’ve mastered the basics, your learning will start to accelerate. If you want to learn coding, you could dip your toe in with an online short course, like one of these 10–16 week courses offered through Open Universities Australia. 

Most coders agree that it takes around two years of consistent practice and use to become proficient at any one programming language (with proficiency meaning that you can write code without looking at reference material). 

The good news is that once you know a programming language or two, picking up a new one becomes easier. 

Common advice is not to bother learning a programming language that you won’t use regularly. Like with other languages, you’ll find it hard to retain what you’ve learnt.

You’ll also be glad to know that people don’t care about the number of languages you know. The most important thing is having the mindset of a learner—it’s ok if you don’t have all the answers, as long as you’re willing to search for them.

Will AI take away coding jobs?

ChatGPT is not evil. At best, it’s a thought starter to springboard you into better, more original solutions.

And it’s unlikely that AI will ever replace humans in coding jobs. Here’s why. AI algorithms rely on existing data, so, if the original data is biased, the AI will perpetuate those biases. For that reason, AI is unreliable.

Unlike people, AI isn’t creative either. Again, it can only reproduce what’s already available.

Instead of AI causing people to lose jobs, it will lead to the creation of new roles (it already is!). Scan any job portal and you’ll see ads for machine learning engineers, data scientists, AI software developers and natural language processing (NLP) engineers. And guess what, you still need to know programming languages to get hired in these jobs. 

Instead of just writing code, software developers now need to excel at data analysis and management. They’re moving away from repetitive tasks and looking at the bigger picture—improving AI’s ability to distinguish between good and bad inputs to raise the quality of its outputs.

Once upon a time, being able to use a computer was a skill worth noting on your CV. Now, it’s a given that everyone can. And we predict that coding will follow suit!

 

Start your coding journey with a fully online short course, single subject, diploma or degree from a leading university, through Open Universities Australia.

 

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