Where do I begin?

My question is: what should someone like me do? Should I go back to school for a degree? Look into certifications?

Dear Ada,
Computer coding, programming, software development–they are all areas that I am very curios about. I am 33 years old and considering a career change. I have always been great with computers and I think, given some time to learn, would love to work in tech. My question is: what should someone like me do? Should I go back to school for a degree? Look into certifications?

I just don’t even know where to start! Any advice you can give is much appreciated.

Wondering Where to Begin

Dear Wondering Where to Begin,
This is a great question and one that everyone who has ever considered dipping their toes in the tech industry has faced. Our entire world is going more digital, and you should absolutely get involved!

To begin, you should just try to familiarize yourself with the lay of the land. Learn what all goes into making a website (HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Programming Language, Database, Web Server). Find out what different web programming languages are out there. Figure out the difference between frontend and backend web development, and familiarize yourself with the many different types of jobs available in tech. And then wow all your friends by knowing what an API is.

When you are ready to start coding, you have to begin with HTML & CSS. Those two are the coding gatekeepers because you can’t make a website without ‘em. I would of course suggest that you take our class, Skillcrush 101, which we will be running again in January. You can sign up here to be notified when the class registration begins.

Once you have those two under your belt, you need to spend some time thinking about whether or not you want to focus on frontend or backend programming. Do you want to learn JavaScript (frontend)? Or PHP, Ruby, or Python (backend)? I think your best bet is to start with JavaScript, but I would also encourage you to not spend too much time deliberating over which language, but instead, try out a few.

Now, to your question about degrees and certifications. You can definitely take a more traditional route and go study Computer Science at a University. But, honestly, we are not sure it’s worth the time or financial investment. Most of the programmers we know are either self-taught, or have learned on the job, or some combination of the two.

Lucky for you, there is also an incredible proliferation of offline courses. There are tons of shorter term offline classes being taught all over the world, we’ve got a nice starter list here. If you want something a more immersive, without having to commit to a full university program, we recommend NYC’s Hacker School and Chicago’s Starter League.

Phew, so that should keep you busy for a bit. But Ms. Wondering, you aren’t off the hook yet! Keep in touch! We want to hear where you go, what you try, and most importantly, we want to see what you make.

Ada Lovelace