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Should you switch your job for a career in coding?

Is coding a good career? Image of person coding on laptop
(Image credit: Getty Images)

There’s a huge shortage of talent in the coding industry at the moment, despite the fact that as a career path it can offer a great salary and a wide variety of challenges. However, the idea of switching jobs when you already have an established career is fairly daunting, especially with something like coding which feels alien to a lot of people.

So is it a viable option for people looking to change their jobs? Software developer and popular coding tutor Kathryn Hodge thinks so and is encouraging people to get to grips with this new skillset.

“There are so many resources available online today for software development that I think it's one of the easier careers to switch to - if you want to make a career switch,” says Kathryn.

How long does it take to learn to code? 

If you’re thinking of making the leap into a coding career, you probably want to know how long it will take before you can confidently put yourself forward for a job in your chosen field. And while learning to code won’t happen overnight, you might be surprised by how long it normally takes to master a language.

“Something like C++ is going to take a lot longer to learn because you have to worry about things like memory management and pointers,” advises Kathryn. “But other coding languages handle these tasks for you so while it might be nice to learn those concepts, it’s not necessary for an entry level position. Overall, I would say it would take at least three months to really get comfortable with programming in a given language.” 

This time frame would be affected by how much time you’re able to dedicate to learning the new language. Kathryn also points out that there are usually additional skills you’d be expected to learn for certain technical career paths: “There's data structures, algorithms, and even other tools such as Git and the command line that are a part of the job.”

What careers use coding? 

There’s a broad range of jobs available once you’ve learned to code. People go on to be mobile app developers, software engineers, data analysts and much more. However, you don’t have to limit yourself to these jobs with your newfound coding skills. In fact, learning to code is a useful skill to master even if you’re not going to use it directly.

“There's so many jobs in the tech industry that aren't even about coding,” says Kathryn. “You could be a product owner, a UI/UX designer, or even marketing a software product.”

Image of person with coding career on computer

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Learning to code can make it easier to land a broad range of jobs too, where knowledge of the industry comes in useful but isn’t core to your day-to-day function.

Product managers in tech companies, who liaise between different core departments, could find the skill useful if they’re working with engineers. Technical writers could find it helpful to master coding vocabulary too, and even bloggers could benefit from learning basic HTML knowledge to help with webpage layouts. 

LinkedIn Learning revealed some interesting trends last year. Professionals who were using the learning platform, and who later went on to land new jobs, tended to have looked at certain classes prior to being hired. A lot of these classes were coding based, including introductions to Python, SQL and other programming basics.

Where can I learn to code? 

Digital learning platforms have really taken off over the past year and it’s now easier than ever to find free beginner courses online - or to plunge yourself into a more comprehensive paid-for course, once you know what you’d like to learn. 

“No matter how you like to learn, you can find something that works for you whether it's a boot camp, online courses, or even going back to school for a master's degree in computer science,” says Kathryn. 

Taking on a master’s degree is probably beyond the budget of most people, but the sudden boom in online courses does mean that it’s now relatively easy to pick up some coding basics. 

Kathryn herself hosts a coding YouTube series and has multiple in-depth LinkedIn Learning courses available, like Getting Started With Technology: Think Like an Engineer. You can also try out other learning platforms, like Skillshare, or look for completely free resources if you’re just trying to get to grips with the basics.

You don’t need a whole lot of equipment to start learning either, just a laptop or home computer

Is coding a good career? 

Coding jobs pay quite well. According to Indeed, software engineers earned an average of around $110,371 last year and programmer analysts earned $80,934. This is based on information submitted by individual users, so may not be completely accurate, but can be taken as a rough estimate.

Several coding careers have high satisfaction rates, too. A 2018 report from CareerCast put several engineering and programming jobs in its top 25 list. Similarly, reports from Glassdoor also indicate high satisfaction rates among software developers and data scientists.

If you're keen to try out a coding career, it’s important to figure out which are the most useful coding languages to learn in 2021. But Kathryn advises that beginners needn't worry too much about picking one language over another, as a lot of them are fairly similar so you can transfer what you've learned across different types.

“I don't think there's a gap in the industry for a particular language,” says Kathryn. “But I do believe there are not enough software engineers to fill all the technical jobs that are available right now.”