How Can Teens Break into Coding?
By Matthew Jo.
Your eyes open to a screen of seemingly random numbers and words. A flashing light on your left says “error.” You realize that you fell asleep again working on your coding project. You quickly get back up to go back to writing out your code. The sounds of click, click, click fill the room.
Coding can seem very challenging due to the complexity and uniqueness of each language. However, even with how challenging it seems, coding can be easy to learn for teenagers. There are even job opportunities for teenagers to work in the coding industry. Coding controls everything a computer does; this allows coding to be incredibly useful for those who know how to code.
How Does Coding Work?
“Ultimately coding is a tool, right? Similar to the way people try to build stuff with wood or metal…you're building stuff in a computer,” says Jay Jacobsohn, a programmer for Sora Schools.
Coding allows a programmer to create things we never could have in the real world. Through coding people can design skyscrapers, listen to music with headphones, and even learn other languages.
Coding has many different languages: Python, Java, C#. These languages can all do the same base functions, however they all talk to the computer differently like real languages.
In addition to mastering a coding language, in order to create everyday projects, programmers perform back-end coding and front-end coding.
When using backend coding, coders add functions behind the screen that viewers don’t see, like when math is being done with a calculator. Front-end coding is what the person sees and interacts with on a screen.
Many everyday items require front-end and back-end code, for example, a vending machine, electric stoves, or stop lights. Each of these items functions with some kind of code that allows it to run. Coding allows for many different things to be created and many of the different everyday objects that you see.
Teens in the Coding Industry
There are many different electronics that coding can be applied to. There are also many different jobs in the coding field. Computer programming allows teenagers to get jobs in the industry because there “is a bias towards teenagers” in the coding industry, says Jacobsohn.
This is because the teenage brain can create connections faster, according to the 2018 Pennsylvania University Medicine article “Learning and the Teenage Brain." This allows teenagers to learn code faster which makes it easier for teenagers to get one of the many jobs in the coding field.
According to Michael Gingras, a coder for Sora Schools, many young people have been getting jobs by showing their work on Twitter. Gingras, who has many connections in the coding community, has seen first-hand “teenagers and people who are maybe younger, working in the industry.”
I think it’s really great [for teens to work in the industry]. It’s definitely a profession that you can do at any age and I think it's just really awesome to see people being able to get rewarded if they have the skills to do the job.Michael Gringas, coder for Sora Schools
How to Get Into the Industry
Since coders’ jobs can range from working on cutting-edge A.I. to building missile-targeting systems for the military, there are many different job opportunities. According to the U.S. Bureau of labor statistics, there are 174,400 people working in computer programming. These computer programmers make 93,000 dollars a year on average.
The pay makes coding a job prospect for some people. Some of these people have gone to college to get degrees in computer science.
“I think it’s valuable to go to school and get a degree in computer science if that’s the path that you want to take, but I have plenty of friends who also have made their way into the computer science and programming industry without having even graduated with a computer science degree,” says Gingras.
Coding does not require a degree. According to Southern New Hampshire University, about 20% of professional coders do not have a degree.
In college, Gringas took a programming course and “liked the challenge of coding and..liked how applicable it seemed to any sort of field. You could really get a degree in programming, and then apply that to whatever interests you might have on top of programming.”
Some coders like teenager Ben Dove learned by trial and error as they tackled small challenges they found online. Now Dove, who began coding as a passion project, understands multiple languages.
“If you put time and effort into it’s not that hard. If you're committed it’s easy,” says Dove.
However, learning to code takes time. It can take anywhere from 6 to 12 months on average to learn coding by yourself. Traditional degree programs can take anywhere from 2 to 4 years, according to Kenzie Academy, a coding program from Southern New Hampshire University.