Written by Ashley Murphy

Bill Gates is encouraging everyone to do it, and the late Steve Jobs thought it was the essential skill to learn. The UK government is teaching it to primary schools kids, and when in office, President Obama called for an investment of $4 billion to ensure American kids weren't left behind. And if you haven't figured it out yet, we're talking about coding.

We are surrounded by code. It powers our smartphones and sat navs; it directs us towards the type of entertainment it thinks we like; it helps us find new friends and even life partners. And as our lives become increasingly more integrated with technologies, computer codes may start to influence us on the deepest levels. So it's time to get prepared. Because according to one of the current tech mantras, today’s students will need to learn to code “or get coded”.

It was even the subject of one of the biggest and most controversial memes of 2018. In response to sizeable lay-offs in the US coal industry, as well as thousands of redundancies in the mainstream media, the words 'learn to code' became emblematic of rapidly evolving marketplaces and a (harsh) comment on how future generations of workers may need to adapt.  

Code.org is just one nonprofit organization committed to encouraging more schools to introduce coding. Their main aim is to ensure every student in every school has the opportunity to learn computer science, making the subject as fundamental as maths, physics, and literacy.  This approach will prepare students for the predicted shift towards increasing automation and AI, where knowing how to code will become a vital factor in ensuring economic opportunity and social mobility.

So with all that in mind, here are four reasons why you should study coding

It’s the job of the future

According to one study, AI-powered robots are set to replace as many as 800 million human workers by 2030. Major companies like Amazon are already testing driverless car, while more sophisticated software could eventually replace those working in low-skilled service industries. And the rise of the machines is unlikely to stop here; many experts believe AI will evolve to complete more complicated tasks and procedures in professional fields like insurance, law, and medicine. This new shift in the global economy will inevitably require a modern, tech-savvy workforce. In other words, if you're looking to put yourself in a strong position for the coming brave new world, then it is time to learn how to code.

There are approximately 23 million coders worldwide, and the number is set to increase to 28 million by 2024. But despite these enormous numbers, tech companies believe we will need even more. This increased demand is what inspired two UK digital companies to set up the Institute of Coding. The program is jointly funded by the UK government and the private sector and has partnered with 25 universities to entice more students into coding.

The UK is also one of 15 European countries that now include coding in secondary schools and one of nine promoting the skill to primary children.

It trains your mind to think more efficiently

Code is a set of instructions for a computer or piece of hardware to follow. So while they are capable of doing incredibly complex calculations or pinpointing a place on the map thousands of miles away, these machines and devices follow a set of pre-programmed instructions and rules inputted by the coder. And for the code to work, it must adhere to its logical framework. Programming languages have their own grammar and punctuation rules. In a sense, coding syntax is similar to written and spoken language, in that one misplaced symbol can alter the meaning or functionality of the code in the same way a missing word or incorrect tense can make a sentence incomprehensible.

The most advanced pieces of software are composed of millions of lines of code. Facebook runs on over 62 million lines, while the Large Hadron Collider uses around 50 million. As such, coding is about breaking down large projects into a series of smaller tasks, which are then divided into sub-tasks if necessary. This kind of work requires a highly logical and methodical approach to planning, problem-solving, and troubleshooting; it also has many benefits beyond the world of coding. Hilary Bird is the senior developer at Get CenturyLink. She believes the coding mindset has benefited many aspects of her personal and professional life. She says, “I can break problems down into small, separate parts and figure out how each is affecting the other. This helps me decide what area of the problem to focus on first.”

The great Steve Jobs voiced a similar sentiment. He said, “I think everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer, because it teaches you how to think.”

Learning to code will give you plenty of technical and marketable skills, but it can also encourage you to look at the world in terms of practicality and functionality. Coding is about logic, attention to detail and, most of all, forward planning. So whether it's organizing a project to streamline a business process or moving into a new house, thinking like a coder is a great way to ensure personal and professional success.

You’ll become self-sufficient

Coming up with great ideas is one thing, but having the technical skills to implement them is something entirely different. But coders don't have this problem. A coder with a creative mindset doesn't have to wait around (or pay) for other people to bring their ideas to life; they can simply start writing the code themselves. Tyler Moore is Marketing Director for App Press. Knowing how to code means he can build landing pages for marketing campaigns without having to rely on an engineer. He writes, “I’ve mostly worked for technical startups and SaaS companies, and being able to iterate quickly has made it a lot easier to ship new campaigns, or to get something started.”

Competent coders are always in high demand and having such a vital skill will give you the kind of freedoms which few people are privileged with. Almost every major business or organization needs coders, and there are numerous exciting new-startups to get involved in. Four of the five world's biggest companies by market cap are tech companies, and the number of available jobs will only increase over the next decades. In other words,  talented coders are in an enviable position where they can decide who they work for, and why. They're not forced into accepting a job because of the scarcity of opportunities but can instead make their decisions based on something more than mere economic necessities, such as personal values or ambitions.

Many coders take extended career breaks to pursue other interests, confident in the knowledge that there will be plenty of jobs waiting for them should they decide to re-enter the workplace. And for the more independent-minded coders who like to work autonomously, there's always the option of going freelance or contracting.

It will open doors in your career

Coding is a dynamic and fluid skill that could lead you along many interesting paths. Coders are not limited to one job or career but can move between different areas of IT and tech development to broaden their experience or take on fresh challenges. Coders are primarily associated with software development, but they also play a vital role in database administration, systems engineering, and computer programming. What's more, coders will be best positioned to take advantage of the coming opportunities created by advancements in AI and automation.

Even if you don't work in IT, learning to code can still open doors in your current career, as well as protecting you against any unexpected shifts in the market. Daniel Davidson is the of Dan Design Co. He started his career in print design and learned to code after missing out on several chances to develop his business due to his lack of technical knowledge. “The single greatest skill I have picked up for my professional life has been learning how to code,” Davidson says. “Had I not learned to code, I would have been out of work years ago. It’s been liberating and very lucrative.”

You don't need a profound understanding of coding to reap its benefits. Knowing just the basics of this digital language means you will have a significant advantage of your competitors. Being able to speak about coding, or at least understanding those who do, can foster better working relationships, which can lead to more professional success.

If technologies like AI follow the path outlined by certain experts, learning to code is not just advisable, but absolutely essential. However, even if the next generations of tech are not as totalizing as we can be lead to believe, coding is still on course to become one of the most essential and financially rewarding jobs of the future.

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