Coding might be the most valuable thing people who have already started their careers can learn in the coming years. By 2020, 1.4 million jobs for computer scientists will exist, but right now, there are only 400,000 people who will be trained to fill those roles, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
As computers continue to infiltrate the working world and our daily lives, coding no longer only applies to building websites. It's now a part of every field, and people already well into their careers will need to learn new skills to supplement the changing way we work. For those looking to switch careers entirely, programming is one of the most in-demand jobs, and the need is only growing.
When people think of potential jobs in science, technology, engineering and math, the most common is computer programming. Programmers are in demand, but as we move further into the digital age, STEM jobs are expanding into many other fields.
"One of the big misunderstandings is that all of the new jobs are just computer programming," General Assembly CEO and co-founder Jake Schwartz told Mic. "Computer programming is great and it's a valuable skill, but there are also all of these other fields that are starting to open up like UX [user experience] design, data science and analytics, digital marketing and product management."
From designing video games to building the next spaceship, careers in STEM are becoming more diverse. In the aerospace industry, jobs vary from engineers building rockets to astrophysicists. In the gaming world, people need to learn code to be able to program the games themselves, design what the game will look like or animate the different parts of the game.
Outside of traditional science or technology tracks, there are a number of jobs in areas that don't seem like STEM fields at first glance. In the music industry, companies like Spotify that stream live music need people looking at the listener data. In sports, statisticians need to analyze data from games.
Learning how to code later in life can help many people in their 20s and 30s get ahead in their careers or make a complete career change.
"The average job span in the U.S. is 4.6 years, which means people have to constantly learn new skills," Udacity vice president of content Stuart Frye told Mic. "Learning to code is simply a way to succeed in this fast-paced and ever-changing landscape. And even if you're not going to embark on a career as a software developer, you can be more impactful with some basic programming knowledge."
Many organizations like Stanford's Udacity program and General Assembly's courses offer ways for people to learn how to code later in life. There are also a number of free online resources for those who want to start learning to code in smaller increments or on their own.
Codecademy, one of the largest organizations doing so, is teaching 25 million people around the world how to code from its platform with no cost to students. The biggest obstacle Codecademy CEO and co-founder Zach Sims hears from adult students when deciding whether to learn code is they don't have enough time. But there is a way to make it work with any lifestyle.
"We try to combat that with the notion that you don't need to commit a huge amount of time to learn and by fitting it into people's lives and actually making it a fun experience," Sims told Mic.
While learning a new skill at an older age can seem challenging at first, Schwartz has seen the effect it can have on a person's career trajectory and life.
"All too often, as adults, we get stuck in thinking who we are is who we are, and there's nothing we can do to change," Schwartz said. "If you have the will, coding is something that most people can learn. Some people will love it in a way that they will want to keep going forever, and some people will find it as a useful add-on for their work lives, but I think it's incredibly empowering."