Should I Learn to Code as a Humanities Person?
Programming and computer science are all the rage these days. But for people with little or no experience programming, the idea of learning to code can seem daunting. And truth be told, learning to code is no easy task: it will require dedication, it can be frustrating, and it takes considerable effort to become proficient. So, is it worth the time and in some cases, money to learn to code?
Absolutely. And here are my top reasons:
1. Coding is fantastic for your resume.
Even if you do not become a full-stack developer or programming whiz, knowing the basic principles of programming and computer science will make you instantly more employable. Maybe you won’t even target programming jobs in your job search, but if you can code, it becomes way easier to do all sorts of useful computer tasks. Imagine you are applying for a job that requires proficiency in Excel, which you don’t have. But if you can program in Python, for instance, your potential employer is much more likely to hire you. They will believe that you can quickly learn Excel given your programming skills.
And let’s be honest: many employers are biased against people with a background in the humanities. Learn to code and prove them wrong. Demonstrate how multi-talented you are, and you will become a hot commodity on the job market.
2. Learning to code exercises different mental muscles.
Writing a functional Python script or debugging source code in C++ is a very different skill from other kinds of writing. When you learn to program, you will be building out a new skillset that is very different from your training in liberal arts and humanities. While your critical thinking skills will serve you well, programming will force you to become more intellectually nimble. Mental flexibility is a hallmark of career success and is worth cultivating every day.
3. Know your tools.
Americans spend almost four hours per day on computers, phones, and tablets. When you spend so much time on your computer, phone, or tablet, you will feel really empowered if you know what is going on “under the hood.” Even after just a few weeks of studying computer science, many complicated-sounding technical terms or inexplicable program crashes will be understandable. This was one of my favorite parts of learning to code. After a couple of weeks, I had a new sense of control when I used my computer and was no longer victim of its many whims.
4. Learning new material will become easier.
Once you have a good foundation in programming, it is not difficult to learn new programming languages or pick up new topics. The learning curve for programming is very steep at the beginning, and many people quit because they get overwhelmed right at the start. But this is usually because of bad teaching, and if you can get past the initial hurdles, it becomes easier to pick up new skills. By the end of the popular introductory CS50 course from Harvard (which is free online), you will have some real skills and a portfolio of projects to show for it. If you start with CS50, you’ll have a good foundation for moving into more advanced courses.
For me, learning to code was honestly one of the most fulfilling intellectual experiences of my life. It was challenging, but the rewards were tremendous, and it gave me a huge advantage when applying for jobs. Many employers, who otherwise would not have considered me, were eager to hear about my experience coding.
So, go get started. Improve your employability, become a computer superuser, and impress yourself with your own intellectual gains.
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Please comment below with questions or stories about the programming journey.