Is coding a good career?

A coding career has the potential to be exciting and lucrative, but there are some important caveats to consider.


So you think you want to be a coder? You’ve weighed the variables, worked out how you like to function, and now you have one final query to execute: Is coding actually a good career? Well, read on to find out.

If you still need the basics on how to code, be sure to check out our beginner’s guide to coding and programming (opens in new tab). We also have a guide on the value of coding bootcamps (opens in new tab), if you’re considering doing a crash course in computer programming.

You’ll need something to code on too, and that’s where our best laptops for coding guide comes in. Now, let’s dive in and look at the ones and zeros of starting a career in coding.

How much could I earn as a coder?

The average salary for a coder in the United States is $73,473 (£58,700) per year, according to job seeking website Indeed (opens in new tab). But coding salaries vary significantly. At the top end of the market, a coder working at Apple, Amazon or Salesforce can expect to earn upwards of $100,000 (£79,900).

Geography also plays a role in a computer programmer’s wage. Perhaps unsurprisingly, California (home to Silicon Valley and a little place called Los Angeles) is the highest-paying state for a coder, with an average annual salary of $79,627 (£63,600). That’s $10,000 (£8,000) more than the salary in Kansas, for example — though there’s also the cost of living in these cities to consider.

Some companies, particularly new start-ups, pay low base salaries but give employees stock options. The idea is that by owning a small chunk of the company, you could be in line for an enormous payday if the company blows up. However, outcomes like this are obviously hard to predict. Taking a share option in a small company could be how you make your millions. But remember, most start-ups end in failure.

Do I need to live in San Francisco, London or another big city?

One of the appeals of a coding career is that, in theory, it can be done wherever there is an internet connection. Why work in a gray office in an industrial estate when you could be sitting by the beach, on a tropical island, tapping out code between Zoom calls?

Well, there are still advantages to living in a city — particularly a large, tech-oriented city such as San Francisco, New York or London. First and foremost, big cities are where most tech firms are located, and most tech jobs still have some office-working requirements (see below).

There are also informal benefits that come with living in a tech hub, particularly early in your career. You can attend tech events where you’ll be able to sharpen your skills, and you can go for in-person drinks with colleagues in the same industry. And in an industry where companies are created and destroyed seemingly overnight, it is important to build a strong network of contacts. In coding, you’re very unlikely to work at the same company for more than a few years — and your next job might just come from that person you know socially, from industry drinks.

What’s the work/life balance like?

It’s hard to describe the work/life balance of an entire field, but there is some evidence we can point to. For example, because writing code is a desk job, it is well positioned to take advantage of post-pandemic remote working, which could mean you can expect more flexible working hours and conditions, and spend more time with your family. But this isn’t a given.

There has been a shift back toward office work in some of the largest tech firms since 2020. Today, Microsoft requires its staff to work from the office 50% of the time, while Google and Apple now expect their workers in the office three days per week. So being a coder doesn’t necessarily mean that you can work remotely forever.

Another work/life pressure to consider is the concept of “crunch.” It’s the situation when in order to ship a product or feature by a given deadline, managers put pressure and expectation on employees to work extremely long hours — upwards of 60 to 80 hours per week — to get what they’re building over the line. Though this has become most notorious in the video games industry, the rest of the tech industry is not immune.

There’s also the reality of how the tech industry is structured. Many tech start-ups raise money from investors to fund themselves for, say, a year, with the goal at the end of the process being to “exit” — either to a stock market IPO or acquisition from a much larger company, earning the initial founders a big payout. There can be lucrative rewards, but there’s a strong incentive and structural pressure toward working extremely hard. If you work for a start-up, expect long hours.

Is the industry full of sexist tech bros?

I’ll leave the value judgment up to you, but the reality is that the tech industry is still heavily skewed toward men. According to the website Women in Tech, just 26% of the U.K. tech workforce are women, and figures are similar in the U.S. But there’s only one way to change that: The industry needs more women.

Am I going to be replaced by AI?

The problem with planning a career in the modern, digital world is that it’s very hard to predict what might happen in the future. A job in tech is not necessarily a job for life. And as we’ve seen in recent months, the emergence of generative AI could upset job prospects for even highly skilled workers such as coders.

What is likely to change is the actual job of coding: Instead of starting from a blinking cursor in a blank window, you’ll have an AI companion such as GitHub Copilot, which will allow you to work in a similar way to how a mathematician uses a calculator. This change could make your job more interesting. Instead of having to write lines and lines of boring, basic code, AI will take care of that for you. And that will leave you with the more interesting challenges beyond the AI’s current capabilities.

So will AI take away your coding job? It’s hard to say for sure, but it seems likely that knowing how to code will still be an important skill in the future economy — not least because you could be helping to build the mind-blowing AI tools of tomorrow.

Prosper Dougoli

Prosper Dougoli, also known as a Bomzydget, is a young Ghanaian tech content creator with extensive experience in Internet blogging.

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