Want to break into tech? Software developers say to learn these coding languages
One of the best ways to start a journey with many paths is to ask someone who has reached the destination you want to go. Whether you work as a front-end, back-end, or full-stack developer, you want to learn a language that can help you land a coveted salary of over $80,000 a year. In Baltimore, when Technically looked at data on high earners – specifically those earning $200,000 – we found that computer systems design and related services were among the top 10 highest earning industries in the city in 2009 and 2019.
But the question remains: what coding languages should aspiring programmers learn if they want to break into the tech industry?
Stack overflow, the crowdsourced learning site for software developers, surveyed 70,000 software developers to find out what developers use to improve their skills, as well as the languages in which they invest their time. But to give the insights from that raw data a more personal feel, Technical.ly asked Baltimore software developers which coding languages they would recommend starting a career in tech today. We also asked them if, if they went back to the first year of their career, they would do something different and learn another coding language. Here’s what five of them had to say:
Chris Uehlinger, software engineer at TechSlice
When I was a kid, I learned C (my uncle gave me his old textbook). I wouldn’t recommend this approach to anyone. Although I hold C in high regard and think all software engineers should learn it at some point, it’s a really difficult starting language and isn’t very rewarding until you have a ton of ‘experience. In fact, I gave up programming for several years because I couldn’t do the kind of programs I wanted to do.
Years ago I would have said PHP, given how easy it is to build a web application using PHP. Now I would say Ruby on Rails – Ruby being a programming language and Rails being a framework built in Ruby that people use to build web applications. These days, there are plenty of resources for learning to program in Rails, from bootcamps to self-directed courses one can take, local hangout groups, and other industry players who are happy to mentor and impart knowledge to others. If getting a job is your goal, then [you can] Rest assured that your skills will be in demand as a Rails developer.
Like most skills in life, knowing where and how to use them is key to ensuring the right skill set is identified, learned and perfected over time.
For most developers, people gravitate very early to the front-end (what people interact with, whether on a website, a phone screen, or a visible widget that represents a program or code) or the back-end (server-side script that executes code or stores data in databases that execute commands to retrieve certain things when the client/user wants). Eventually, some may even do both well and become a full-stack engineer.
Having gone through the process myself, I would highly recommend general-purpose languages like Python, given its ability to be used in a variety of things, (from) building models to websites to science experiments.
I would like to have a clear and dry answer to this question. When I am an assistant University of BaltimoreMy students ask me a similar question every semester.
If someone wants to break into the gaming industry, the language they need to learn will depend on what aspect of the gaming industry they want to enter: independent or AAA.
If they are unsure, I recommend that they learn C++ (at least up to the C++11 standard) as it will give them a footing in any area of the gaming industry they wish walk in. If they lean more towards indie game development, then C# coupled with the Unity3D game engine tends to be an easier route to take. A large community of indies gathered around him, which resulted in a good amount of free documentation, videos and social networks to help each other.
If the programmer wants to pursue AAA, then C++ and even non-object-oriented C are good places to start learning. Although there is a bit of a learning curve, there are plenty of engine options to pursue with that programming knowledge such as Godot and Unreal. It is also the language of choice if [you’re] run your own game engine.
If I started today, I would follow my own advice and make sure I had a good foundation in C++, but I would also be looking to the future with WebAssembly and Rust. The latter could one day replace C++, as Rust attacks problems at the same level of abstraction but has memory safety built into its core. This makes it an attractive option for companies that need to rapidly scale their applications without sacrificing security.
I started writing C and C++ because that’s what I learned in school, but I didn’t really like it. I think writing in C++ is probably good for job security and salary, because there are fewer people writing in it, but it also feels like fewer projects are being written in it ( so you might be more likely to maintain codebases, versus writing new code).
I don’t regret how I started my career. I guess if I had to give career advice to a younger version of myself, it might be not to go to college. I feel like so many things I learned as a computer science major really didn’t help me much. I took so many math classes that weren’t very useful to me (I don’t write algorithms) and I could have learned a lot of software engineering in business school, or just ignored it. I think there are definitely people out there who need this kind of low-level knowledge, and I started going that route when I was doing kernel development and malware analysis. But in the end I didn’t like it very much.
There are lots of options out there, and no right answers. Go make some mistakes and find out what you like.
Donte Kirby is a 2020-2022 corps member of Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation. -30-