Getting a Foothold as a Software Developer

Here is some quick advice if you want to start coding and have absolutely no background in computing

Software developers are in demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics sees a 22% rise in job opportunities in this sector over the next eight years. But where do you start if you’re not already on that career path?

Software Developer Job Outlook from Bureau of Labor Statistics

There are so many coding languages in use that selecting the right language (or languages) to jump-start a career in this field can feel—well, overwhelming. Luckily, that doesn’t have to be an obstacle because the most popular languages have stayed remarkably consistent over the past several years. Software-quality company Tiobe publishes a handy list of the most popular programming languages every year. Judging from the top of the list, if you stick with the C family, the Java family and Python, you should gain the skills in order to compete for well-paying development careers for the foreseeable future.

What About HTML/CSS?

Technically, it's not a programming language because it's not Turing complete, but the combination of HTML5 and CSS3 makes it close enough to count, particularly if you are looking to break into programming. HTML5 gives you the ability to add video and animation to websites, and those skills go a long way in today's marketplace. Job site Glassdoor pegs the national average salary for a web developer at $88,000 a year. UC Berkeley Extension offers an online course, Fundamentals of Website Development, that can start you on your web-programming journey. We also have a course that is designed to introduce designers to the technical skills needed to create online design: Web Design With HTML5 and CSS3.

So, Where Else Could I Start?

Python is a good language for beginners. The language is widely used—free, open source and available on all platforms. IEEE Spectrum ranks it the Number 1 programming language on its 2017 list. A quick search on LinkedIn shows thousands of jobs in the San Francisco Bay Area that require knowledge of Python. One reason why you—a beginner at coding—should look at Python or Ruby is because they can provide instant prototyping through its REPL (Read-Eval-Print Loop) function. If you just want to dive in now, the Python wiki offers a quick intro guide to get you ready to code. Our Python Programming course is available online, anytime—meaning that you can start the course the moment you enroll!

If you have had no exposure to programming at all, you might want to start with a more basic introduction. We offer an Introduction to Computers and Technology that uses the Raspberry Pi to give you an overview of how computers process information. You'll also learn programming concepts using Python.

Is There Another Good Option?

Learning Java will get you off to a good start with object-oriented programming. This versatile language powers a lot of Web applications. If you're a motivated self-starter, Oracle offers a ton of information on learning Java. For those who need more direction, take our introductory course online.

OK, When Should I Start?

While software development has been a desirable career for decades now, it still holds a lot of future promise. If you've considered coding, now is the time to start your journey to becoming a professional developer.

We can help you meet your development goals.

Blog post updated in February 2021.