Regardless of Your Major, You Need Coding Skills

Experts Explain Why Coding Is Essential in the 21st Century

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College students can pursue a plethora of degree choices. But whether they major in business, science, healthcare, or another field, coding skills will likely play a role in their career.

In fact, a Burning Glass study of over 26 million job ads reveals that half of the online job postings in the top income quartile require some level of computer coding skills.  These jobs pay at least $57,000 a year.

Lynn McMahon is the managing director for the New York metro area of Accenture, a global management consulting, technology services, and outsourcing company. She tells ThoughtCo, “We believe computer science can open more doors for students than any other discipline in today’s digital world.”

IT is Big Business

It’s no secret that students with a computer science-related major are in demand and can command lucrative wages. Randstad’s Workplace Trends Report lists information technology workers as one of the five hardest positions to fill. From software developers and web developers to cybersecurity professionals and network and computer systems administrators, companies are desperate to find qualified IT workers. 

And since the supply of qualified workers can’t keep up with demand, salaries and perks are skyrocketing, and many students are even offered jobs before they graduate from college.  According to “Students in Demand: An Insight Into STEM Graduates,” a report published by the National Association of Colleges and Universities, the offer and acceptance rates for computer science majors exceed those for other STEM majors. In addition, the starting salaries for these grads are only $5,000 less than those of engineers.

“But despite the focus on computer science education today, there continues to be a glaring gap between the demand for computing skills and the availability of qualified computer science talent,” McMahon says. “In 2015 (the latest year with full data available), there were 500,000 new computing jobs available in the U.S. but only 40,000 qualified graduates available to fill them,” McMahon says.  

Reading, Writing, and Coding

However, there’s also a serious demand for workers in other fields who have computer science skills. That’s why McMahon believes that students should be taught computer science at an early age and it should be emphasized as much as other fundamental skills.

One individual who understands the need for individuals with these skills is Ketul Patel, lead instructor at coding bootcamp Coding Dojo. With campuses scattered around the country, Coding Dojo has trained more than a thousand developers, some of whom have been hired by such companies as Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon.

Patel agrees with McMahon that coding should be assigned a high priority. “Coding is an extremely important skill that, in my opinion, is on par with math, science, and language arts,” he tells ThoughtCo.

Students who are not interested in an IT-related career may think that Patel is exaggerating the importance of coding, but he says it’s not about learning the syntax itself as much as it’s about developing the critical thinking and problem solving skills needed in any career field. “Learning how to code offers kids another avenue to train their logic centers, which helps them in their other subjects as well.”

The Tech Effect

Technology has permeated every area of life, and the workforce is no exception. “Regardless of what field students choose to pursue - whether they go into business, politics, medicine, or the arts, computer science provides a foundation for success in any 21st-century career path,” McMahon says.

It’s a view shared by Tufts University’s Karen Panetta, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, and the associate dean for graduate education. Panetta tells ThoughtCo that regardless of a student’s discipline, almost every job will eventually require them to use technology. “We use technology to do everything from conceptualizing and visualizing ideas, making purchasing decisions, and collecting data as a means of communication to influence policy makers,” Panetta says.

And she believes that computer science is important because it helps students learn how to think logically. “More importantly, it helps us to consider all possible scenarios and appropriately use solutions that anticipate proper use and misuse of technology.”

Whether students choose to pursue a career in IT or not, they’ll graduate to a workforce that requires these skills. “For example, statisticians, data analysts, mathematicians and physicists also use code in their jobs for computations and modeling,” Patel explains. Artists and designers also use coding skills. For example, JavaScript and HTML are used to build websites, and engineers use AutoCAD. Other common programing languages are C++, Python, and Java.

“The world is moving towards technology and coding is a skill that is not just relevant to building software,” McMahon concludes.