The world is run by computers and by computer programs. So even if you do not want a job specifically working with technology, it is still in your best interest to understand the process behind which the world works. Unfortunately, computer literacy has always been, globally, very low, but just as reading literacy was an imperative shift in the world, computer literacy will also become an essential skill that everyone, whether they need to use it often or not, will need.
That understanding and literacy is important for everyone, but it is even more important for those who want to get started with a job in tech. This is because there are so many computer languages out there, and more than that, expert computer scientists are expected to be proficient in several of them.
If you are just starting out or want to make a career change into tech, it is important to start there. Of course, there are a lot of steps that you will need to take to really get started with a thriving career in tech, but learning the basics of computer languages is an excellent place to start, at any age:
The Computer Languages
The first thing to note is that you cannot learn all of the computing languages because, throughout our history, we have created almost 9000 programming languages, dating all the way back to the early 1800s – far before the advent of the computer itself. The ones that are most popularly used sit around 150, but for those looking to start a career in tech, you only need to acquaint yourself with:
- Assembly Language
These languages, of course, do not include structure-instruction languages like HTML or CSS, which are in a different class to programming languages, and yet are still important to know, as they help computers provide the right visual output.
Not every programming language does it all. In addition, there are different types of languages. For example, there are object-oriented programming languages that are organized around data or objects and are ideal to use in structuring software.
Then there is also functional programming, which is based on linear mathematical logic. These are the ones that would be used in big data analysis.
Which Programming Language Should You Start With?
One of the most influential programming languages is C. C has inspired many other programming languages, including C++, C#, and even Python. It is incredibly versatile, but it can be difficult to learn since it has been through so many editions as the decades have passed by. This can make it relatively difficult to get started with.
What is considered by many to be the ideal entry-point language is Python. It is by far one of the easiest to learn and yet is still a great, high-level object-oriented programming language. Moreover, it was designed to be more intuitive than C could ever be.
Java is similar in that regard and is also considered a relatively easy programming language to learn. It is a very popular programming language, and it was built with the “write once, run anywhere” concept at its core. This means that it is used for software, websites, and apps (from android to apple).
Where You Can Learn Programming Languages
There are many, many excellent online resources to help you learn how to code. Some of them are even entirely free, allowing you to learn the basics and then try it out for yourself using scripting programs. You can also take short courses to help you learn more advanced applications, and never forget the very, very active community of coders out there.
From online guides to online resources to online videos and tutorials, the resources you have to learn programming languages online are immense and right there for you to take advantage of.
When to Get Started with Formal Education
The most direct path towards a career in tech is to take a computer science degree. If you have not, do not worry, because often you can go through and earn a master’s in computer science so long as you have an undergraduate degree that included math coursework. So, if you learned calculus, statistics, or probability, then you are good to go once you have learned and practiced with two of three programming languages.
If you have not, then there are foundation courses that you can take to branch over your existing undergraduate degree so that you have the prerequisites necessary to specialize your education in computer science.
There are always options. If you have a humanities degree, know that you can still put some of the credits that you earned there towards a computer science bachelor’s, or alternatively a foundation degree. If you have the necessary background in math, you can specialize with an online master’s computer science degree.
What to Look for in a degree
It, unfortunately, is not as simple as getting a standard degree in computer science. There are many applications for computer science and knowing what area you want to specialize in is how you will get your foot in the door and, more importantly, what work you will be focused on.
Though many businesses out there would love to find one IT specialist that can do it all without fail, these do not exist. It would be like having a doctor who can do it all; there is simply too much information out there and too much to know to specialize in any one area.
That is why specialization is so important. It is necessary for businesses and for your career. It is also how you can choose an area of computer science that you are most passionate about and get paid well for it.
Think of your specialization as a niche. Though not everyone needs a niche, those who do are far more willing to pay well and give you the respect you deserve because they know exactly what you do and why they need you.
Know What You Want to Specialize In
There are many different areas that you can specialize in. The big ones for computer scientists are by far computer systems, cyber security, AI & Machine learning, and Big Data analytics.
These four specializations are sure to help you with your career and also tend to make you qualified for some of the highest-paid wages in tech.
- Information security analysts earn $99,730 on average
- Software developers earn $107,510 on average
- Network & computer systems administrators earn $83,510 on average
- Computer network architects earn $112,960 on average
- Computer information and research scientists earn $122,840 on average
- Computer systems analysts earn $90,920 on average
Tech jobs are also growing. There were 2.8 million job postings in the last year alone, and it is estimated that tech jobs will grow by 11% through 2029.
With an average salary across the board of $108,000, the outlook for your career in tech is bright. But, of course, these are median average salaries, so the longer you work and the more prestigious the company, the higher your salary range will increase.
How to Choose the Right Degree for You
A degree is one of the best ways to learn what you need and prove what you know to future employers. Not every degree, however, is going to be a right fit for you. Therefore, it is important that you know your needs, how the university can help support you, and how the program in question fits your own personal career goals.
You can take time off from your career, for example, and attend university full-time. Unfortunately, as most adults have financial and personal responsibilities, taking time off to study can be an impossible prospect. The good news, however, is that tech is the perfect degree to take on online.
An online degree allows you to choose the right program with the right institution, without having to move or even quit your job, as you can tackle your credit hours at a pace that suits you, within limits.
Institution Qualities to Watch Out For
You will want the institution to have a few qualities, even if the program itself sounds like a dream. Having a top career service, for example, is a huge benefit for you. It is not enough to just have a degree; you need support and direction to help you get your foot in the door. A top-notch career service can help you do that.
It is also worthwhile investigating what recent graduates thought about the degree in question. You can do this by looking online for reviews and testimonies and also by searching job sites like LinkedIn and asking alumni directly to see if they would not mind giving your insight and even advice.
On top of that, you will also want to learn more about the faculty. Every master’s program includes a thesis or, in this case, a capstone experience that will be entirely your own. You will often be paired with the faculty member with the most experience in that general field, so if you have an idea of what capstone project you want to propose, you can explore the faculty first in advance.
Other than that, simply knowing who will be teaching you and their qualifications can help. If they have a job history that includes some roles you are interested in, you have a very powerful resource at your disposal.
How to Get Your First Job in Tech
Having a degree will do a lot for your career, but unfortunately, many employers will prioritize those with a degree and experience. So to help you get your first job in tech, you will want to:
1. Create Personal Projects
Show do not tell. If you are a programmer, create programs that can showcase what you can do and how well you can do it. Today, many video game designers got started by creating mods and using those mods to showcase their talent before being hired. You can do the same, regardless of the program type.
2. Use Your Network
Use the career service at your school, use your alumni and professional network, and do not be afraid to look to your friends, either. There are many ways where you can apply through your network for a new job. However, if that is not possible, know you can always make opportunities for yourself.
3. Apply, even if You Do not Have All the Experience
It is key to remember that, in tech, most job postings will read like wish lists – because they are. Most companies cannot afford the full IT team that they need, so if you do not have everything they want, apply anyway if the opportunity interests you. You will need to stay strong to negotiate your job role to avoid getting overloaded. Chances are, if you can do the most important task on their list, they will be willing to hire you.
Remember to Stay in the Know
Technology is always changing, so it is imperative that as an expert in tech, you change with it. A good way to do this is to build further training into your career. For example, when negotiating salary and benefits, have your employer sponsor you for conferences, workshops, and so on so that you can stay on top of your field. It is good for them and good for you, but you should not have to pay for training that your employer will directly benefit from.
Reading, listening to podcasts, and following influential programmers and other experts in their field is another way to learn, and also how you can take advantage of unique opportunities.