Coding vs. Programming: Skill Requirements and Career Opportunities
Eight of 2022’s top 10 jobs are technology-focused, according to job search engine and review site Glassdoor. They include roles that involve computer programming and coding, which offer competitive salaries and a strong employment outlook. When considering coding vs. programming, the various positions that require those skills play an important role. Some popular jobs include the following:
Computer programmer: Programmers made a median annual salary of $89,190 as of May 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Software developer, quality assurance analyst, and tester: The median annual salary for these roles was $110,140 as of May 2020, according to the BLS. Professionals in this category include software engineers and systems software developers.
Web developer and digital designer: The median annual salary for these roles was $77,200 as of May 2020, according to the BLS. This category includes back-end web developers, front-end web developers, and web and digital interface designers.
The job outlook for people with programming and coding skills is promising, according to the BLS:
Projected software developer job growth between 2020 and 2030: 22%
Projected web developer job growth between 2020 and 2030: 13%
The technology sector has long relied on computer code, but thanks to the increasing digitization of products and services across all industries, coding and programming skills are now in high demand for critical roles far beyond the technology industry.
In this article, you’ll learn:
What Is Coding?
Humans communicate and interact with computers through code. Coding is the process of translating natural language into binary language (ones and zeros) that provides step-by-step instructions for computers.
Essential skills for individuals working with code include a basic understanding of different programming languages, such as the following:
Python: Used to develop technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data analytics, as well as web and enterprise applications
Java: Useful for building enterprise-grade applications for web, mobile, and desktop
R: Used in data analysis and data modeling, as well as machine learning projects
C/C++: Useful for building operating systems and file systems and creating various applications and platforms for IoT, cloud, and more
Other popular programming languages used for coding include C#, PHP, and SQL.
Part of coding is understanding syntax—the rules that define a programming language’s structure. For example, in the English language, most sentences begin with a capital letter and end with a period. This structure tells the reader what they’re reading is a sentence. Similarly, coders need to know how to order and structure code so that a computer understands how to translate it.
The coding process typically uses a trial-and-error approach to problem-solving, which involves performing tasks to fix mistakes such as run-time errors (which cause applications to crash) or improve the code syntax (to make a program run faster or use fewer resources).
Coders use simple text editors to write lines of code for software programs. They typically focus on simple solutions or small portions of a larger project.
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What Is Programming?
Programming requires thinking about how to get a computer to follow the instructions to perform a specific task. Apart from knowledge of computer languages and understanding code syntax, some of the skills essential to effective programming include:
Analytical thinking: When trying to identify the source of a problem, going line by line in the code is not an efficient process. Analytical thinking enables programmers to assess code structure to identify where the root cause lies.
Attention to detail: Working with thousands of lines of code is typical, and the slightest mistake in syntax can cause a program to malfunction or crash. Programmers must pay attention to how every line of code is written to ensure that it works as expected.
Collaboration: Within organizations, programming teams work with IT staff, engineers, and project leaders during development, testing, and maintenance. Additionally, programmers collaborate with end-users to understand their feedback and apply solutions.
Typical programming activities include:
Documentation and requirements analysis: This is the process of gathering and organizing requirements from stakeholders such as software developers and business leaders to define the software’s goals. Documenting requirements help teams meet project objectives and avoid scope creep—when a project goes off in the wrong direction due to lack of guidance.
Generating algorithms: By generating algorithms, programmers give computers a detailed, step-by-step process for accomplishing a task or solving a problem in the most efficient way using the fewest resources (for example, memory).
Developing executable machine programs: Coding is a series of numbers. An executable machine program contains instructions for computers to perform a sequence of tasks. Computers translate binary code (series of ones and zeros) into a computer language.
Validation: This activity entails verifying that the program responds to various combinations of inputs, debugging, and testing.
What Is the Difference Between Coding and Programming?
While coding is part of the programming process, programming also includes planning, design, testing, deployment, and maintenance. During each step, programmers collaborate with software engineers, information technology experts, business leaders, designers, and end-users.
Here are some examples of how coding and programming differ:
Coders need to have knowledge of programming languages and syntax. Programmers also need to know how to create algorithms to improve efficiency, manage projects to monitor different sections of code, and develop models to demonstrate what works and what does not.
Coding is used to solve simple problems of a stand-alone project or a portion of a larger-scale project. Programming involves developing fully functioning software, which often includes collaboration from multiple teams.
Coding typically can be done using a simple text editor. Programming requires additional support such as code generators, testing frameworks, and modeling and analysis tools.
The planning involved in coding is typically limited in scope. Programming requires significantly more, as it involves assembling different sections of code into an overall software program capable of performing multiple complex tasks.
How Long Does It Take to Learn Coding?
Time and availability also play a role. Full-time workers might only be able to study for a few hours a day. Full-time students, on the other hand, can acquire the necessary knowledge in a shorter period of time. Coding bootcamps offer both full-time and part-time programs that can teach students to code in four to six months.
How Long Does It Take to Learn Programming?
While computer programming can be learned through self-study, it can be a difficult and time-consuming process. Many people study programming at a college or university as part of a four-year bachelor’s degree. A traditional degree offers students the opportunity to expand their knowledge and skills beyond programming with non-major courses and general education requirements; however, not everyone has the time or finances to attend college full time.
As with coding, different people learn in different ways and have different amounts of time to devote to their studies. For those who are unable to commit to a four-year degree, bootcamps can help students learn the fundamentals of programming in a shorter time frame and with more flexibility.
Different Types of Coding Careers
Individuals with strong coding skills are competitive for a range of jobs, from developing code for mobile apps and websites to working as data analysts. Whether they have limited skills or are just starting their career in coding, students can acquire competitive coding skills in an accelerated way and prepare for coding jobs by attending a bootcamp. The following are examples of some common coding careers:
Software Application Developer
Software developers create all types of software applications, from mobile games to commercial software and databases. In addition to their expert-level computer coding skills and advanced technology knowledge, software developers typically have strong analytical, communication, interpersonal, and problem-solving skills. Software developers are known for their attention to detail and creativity.
Front-end developers work on the web interface that users interact with. They oversee web project elements such as analyzing design requirements, recommending technical solutions, debugging websites, and ensuring code is error-free. They work with various programming languages and have knowledge of how databases and networks work. Competencies for front-end developers include problem-solving, team building, collaboration, and analytical skills.
Back-end developers write and analyze code to create components and features that reside on the servers that run websites. Users don’t see the back end, but it’s the engine that carries out the functions that the user interface calls for. This means close collaboration between back-end and front-end developers is crucial. Back-end developers also maintain, debug, and run tests on a site’s back end.
Mobile Application Developer
Mobile application developers build apps for mobile devices that use Android and iOS operating systems. In addition to technical knowledge of languages such as Java, JSON, Objective-C, .NET, and HTML, mobile application developers should have strong analytical, problem-solving, and communications capabilities.
Coding analysts review new software plans and perform analysis to ensure code aligns with best practices and user requirements. They carry out fact-finding efforts to analyze and solve problems. In addition to knowing various programming languages, coding analysts perform multiple concurrent tasks and are effective in communicating technical information to non-technical audiences.
Data analysts use mathematical and statistical tools, software, and databases to find patterns in data that help with decision-making. They typically use data visualization tools such as Power BI and Tableau. Python and SQL skills are helpful.
Different Types of Programming Careers
When considering coding vs. programming, a key point is that programmers can do many of the jobs that coders do. Individuals with programming skills can qualify for a range of jobs, from innovating uses for software and hardware to programming robots and analyzing computer systems.
For students looking to improve their qualifications for different programming jobs, a bootcamp offers an intense learning format that can teach them valuable skills that set them apart. The following are examples of some common programming careers.
Computer programmers transform software developers’ designs into computer instructions by writing and testing code. Throughout the process, they gather and organize requirements, generate algorithms, and validate that the code aligns with user requirements.
Computer and Information Research Scientist
Computer and information research scientists design innovative uses for software and hardware. They may work with complex algorithms, test software systems, and develop new computing languages. Some computer and information research scientists develop robotics applications in collaboration with electrical engineers and computer hardware engineers.
Computer and Information Systems Manager
Computer and information systems managers are often known as information technology (IT) managers. They oversee an organization’s technology infrastructure, including planning, installation, maintenance, and security. They use critical thinking and business skills to analyze technology needs and make recommendations for business decision-makers.
Computer Hardware Engineer
Computer hardware engineers lead the development of physical technology components, such as processors, memory devices, and circuitry. They conduct research, design schematics, and test systems. Hardware components must work with software, so computer hardware engineers often work in conjunction with software engineers.
Computer Systems Engineer
Computer systems engineers focus on analyzing system performance, determining problem areas, and designing and integrating new systems. Systems engineers often serve as the point of contact for project managers and other engineers to ensure the development of successful systems.
Computer Systems Analyst
Computer systems analysts focus on improving the efficiency and performance of computer systems. Their responsibilities include analyzing an organization’s systems and technology procedures, researching technology investments, and performing cost-benefit analyses of upgrades. They often prepare diagrams detailing system requirements, helping guide the efforts of programmers and software developers.
A Rewarding Career Is Within Your Reach
A review of coding vs. programming reveals that while self-instruction is possible, mastering essential skills can take many years. Another option is to enroll in a four-year degree program for computer programming. An even quicker way to acquire key skills that can be used in various roles is to enroll in a full-time bootcamp, which allows individuals to acquire coding skills and knowledge of the latest web technologies in four to six months.
Bootcamps provide guided practice and formal training, which can help individuals learn faster. This is particularly helpful for individuals without a technical background or previous experience using programming languages. Completing a formal coding program also helps individuals validate their expertise with an industry-known credential that demonstrates that they’ve acquired certain skills and knowledge.
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