Want to Learn to Code? Here’s Where to Start.
  • April 27, 2017
Want to Learn to Code? Here’s Where to Start.
  • April 27, 2017

Coding isn’t just for developers anymore.

Cheri Allen. Instructor in the Certificate in HTML5, CSS3 & Responsive Design for Web Development

According to a 2016 study by Oracle Academy and Burning Glass, almost 7 million job openings across the country required coding skills in 2015. A full half of these were outside the tech scene — in fields including design, finance and health care, in roles like web designer, business analyst and researcher.

So if you’re looking to boost your career potential these days, you may want to add some coding skills to your repertoire. But where should you start?

To help you figure that out, we asked Randal Root and Cheri Allen, programming instructors for UW Professional & Continuing Education, to talk about some of today’s common starter programming languages and what you can do with each.

HTML: The Foundation of the web

Every website uses it, and so does every coder: HTML is at the foundation of the web. You can use it to build a website from scratch or to modify an existing one.

While not a programming language per se, HTML is key to web development and maintenance. Simply put, it’s a markup code that tells a web browser how to display words and images.

These days, HTML definitely isn’t just for people in tech either. Professionals who work with web content in a variety of roles, including content managers and designers, often need to know at least some HTML so they can get under the hood and make fixes or tweaks themselves.  

Although there are a number of tools today that make building a web page a snap, it still pays to learn HTML. “If you’re going to work in web development at all, you have to know HTML,” said Cheri Allen, who teaches in the Certificate in HTML5, CSS3 & Responsive Design for Web Development.

JavaScript: Adding interactivity

If you want to add interactivity to a website, JavaScript is the language for you. With a little JavaScript know-how, you can add drop-down menus, zooming and scrolling effects, image carousels and much more.

A Coding Boom

Here's a look at the increase in job listings, between 2011 and 2016, for people with skills in these beginning coding languages.

  • C#: 8%
  • JavaScript: 39%
  • Python: 256%

Source: Labor Insight.

JavaScript isn’t just for front-end web development, though. “In the last five years or so, there’s been an explosion in the kinds of things you can do with JavaScript,” Allen said. “You can build the entire back-end of a web application using JavaScript. You can build mobile applications with it. It’s amazing.”

This versatility has helped propel JavaScript’s popularity. According to an analysis of job postings by Coding Dojo, JavaScript is the fourth most popular programming language today.

Python: versatile and fun

Conceived in the late 1980s (yes, by a Monty Python fan), Python is one of the most popular programming languages for beginners. You can use Python for everything from automating different tasks, like moving files, to building web applications and mining data. Major websites like Google, Instagram and Pinterest are built on Python.

Another plus? This language’s simple syntax is relatively easy to pick up for novice coders. “Python is a really fun programming language,” said Allen. “It’s enjoyable to write and not terribly hard to learn.”

Demand for professionals with Python skills has taken off in recent years in the United States, with Python currently ranking third on Coding Dojo’s list of in-demand programming languages. 

C#: building windows apps and more

Developed by Microsoft, C# is used to build a wide variety of applications, particularly those that run on the Windows operating system, such as Visual Studio and Microsoft Azure.

“C# is my preferred language because it’s pretty easy to program with, but it can do so much,” said Randal Root, a software consultant who teaches in the Certificate in IT Foundations and the Certificate in C# Programming. “It can be used instead of Python, or even alongside Python, to create very complex web applications and Windows applications and automation.”

The decision to learn Python versus C# mostly depends on what environment your company (or the company you hope to work for) is using. For example, Microsoft coders will need C# skills, while pros at Amazon rely on Python. Of course, as Allen noted, it never hurts to learn them both.

“No programming language is perfect for all scenarios,” Allen said. “If you’re familiar with more than one, you can pick the right one for any particular problem, and you become a better programmer.”

Get Coding

Interested in advancing your career by learning a beginning programming language? Check out these great ways to get started, including some programs you can take completely online.


For more career tips and industry trends, visit the News & Features section of our website, and subscribe to our email list. To learn more about UW Professional & Continuing Education certificates, degrees and courses, explore your options or contact us.