For most non-programmers, the language of programming is distant, exotic, and quite possibly intimidating. Certainly, there are compelling reasons to avoid it. For one thing, there are over 700 programming languages currently in circulation, which begs the question, which should I learn?
Add to this the fact that Netflix uploads new content almost daily and a rather persuasive argument against learning programming begins to emerge. And yet there is no denying that data and software are and will continue to be two of the most relevant factors driving the economy.
Even basic programming knowledge improves your self-sufficiency, marketability, and even your ability to communicate in the professional world. Here’s how.
Programming Can Help You Harness the Power of Data
It’s no secret that data plays a key role in modern business. What’s less obvious, to the layperson, is how. Every day 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are produced—an almost unfathomable figure that is only expected to amplify in the years to come.
In fact, this information is so dense that without the right people doing important work, it’s completely useless. Those people are data scientists—programmers who build algorithms to filter, sort, store and categorize data—and data analysts. People who take the information provided by the scientists, interpret it and make it actionable.
Of course, no person is an island. IT works alongside data scientists to help them create databases, maintain security standards, and perform other key functions that ensure the massive quantities of information they are handling serve their purpose safely and efficiently.
Programming languages help both analysts and scientists perform their jobs. Though complex, these languages provide professionals with the resources they need to create bespoke business solutions.
Fortunately, one needn’t sift through all 700+ programming languages to prepare themselves for data science or management. There are currently four primary languages that are used within the fields.
- Python: Perhaps the most basic of the four options and considered relatively easy to learn, Python provides users with a set of preconfigured formulas that are designed for data management. In fact, a recent survey of hiring managers in the tech space revealed that an understanding of Python is one of the key traits they look for in new hires.
- Structured Query Language: More complicated than Python, SQL is designed to allow data scientists to access and interact with large datasets across relational databases.
- R: Often used cooperatively with Python, R is a programming language designed by statisticians to aid with statistical analysis.
- Statistical Analysis System: As the name suggests, SAS is designed with statistical analysis in mind. Though similar to R, it’s widely considered more user-friendly and can typically be learned with relative ease by anyone with a rudimentary understanding of programming or code.
Naturally, there are a large number of professional roles surrounding the interpretation, management, and implementation of data. None of these roles are identical, and yet they are all, in some sense or another, touched by the languages that drive the programs.
Understanding those languages can serve as a pathway into data science, data management, or even business leadership.
Give Yourself Leverage by Learning How to Program
The need for computer programmers in the United States is surging at an impressive rate, exhibiting an accelerated pattern of growth that should continue throughout the decade. Not only is the need high but so are the salaries, with application programmers seeing a median income that exceeds six figures.
Naturally, a high level of competence and knowledge is required for elite positions, and understanding programming language is only one part of that equation. However, even job candidates who aren’t interested in taking the full programming plunge can find rewarding, lucrative work in tech if they can exhibit the right skills.
Understanding a programming language can serve as a ticket into any number of well-paying jobs in fields like web development or database management.
The good news is that the options are numerous. The tiresome news is that so are the potential programming languages. Deciding which one to learn may depend on several factors, including your previous experience, your personality, and, of course, the field that you wish to enter.
Whatever you decide on, the language you learn can serve as a passport to new opportunities. The decision you ultimately make will be just one of many on what could potentially be a highly rewarding relationship with programming technology.
Programming Language Makes You a Better Communicator
A basic understanding of programming language can also just make you a better communicator and collaborator.
Whatever your role in the data creation/processing chain, you’ll surely find that it helps to come to the table using the same vocabulary as everyone else. Not only does an ability to do this look good—both on resumes and in application—but it lends clarity to your communication which can result in quicker turnaround times, fewer revisions, and ultimately, more productivity.
And of course, understanding code, even at a basic level also makes you a more dependable member of any team. You don’t have to be able to design a database to be useful. Even the ability to design and launch landing pages can be a valuable trait in the highly collaborative, fluid modern workspace.
To say that programming language is only for programmers is like claiming the English language is only for the English. There’s tremendous collaborative utility in being able to understand the language behind the technologies your place of work uses every day.
More broadly speaking, there’s also just significant value in having at least a rudimentary understanding of programming. It makes you more marketable as an eligible professional. It makes you more desirable as a team member. It gives you options for the future.