How to kickstart a career in code at any level

Code career
There are plenty of pathways into computer science – and not all of them involve University. Image: Shutterstock

Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about landing a coding career at any level. 

Whether you want a career in computer science, or are just curious about the hype, we’ve got you covered.

“One of the key reasons to be aware of computer science is to grow diversity in the field – if teenagers haven’t done the subject their perception is based on the stereotype of what it is,” says computer scientist Tim Bell. “Without a chance to experience what it is, we see missing populations of young women and other under represented groups. Studying the subject helps students make decisions based on what it is, rather than a perception of what it is based only on stereotypes.”

Year 8

Get some basic skills: Start with Scratch, the simple, free block coding program to get the basics. You can also choose to learn other programming languages like JavaScript or Python – there are plenty of ways to get some experience trying out coding. Remember no-one is an expert, you can always pick up the tech skills later. Try the coding app for beginners, Grasshopper or the hundreds of Hour of Code activities.

RELATED: SEEK reports more diversity in recruitment after removing coding from selection criteria

Team up: Because learning with others is more fun! Join a code club or start your own. Try Code Club NZCode Club Australia or Tech Girls Are Superheroes.

Try it yourself: You can get in-depth learning activities from the CS Field Guide, Grok Learning or Code Avengers.

Year 10

Choosing electives: Finding your passion is critical to a happy work life, so study what you love – you can combine it with computer science/tech fields later. Not all of us love maths, but it’s a great brain trainer and leaves you with plenty of options in deciding on your future career. Keep at it and remember you don’t need to be a genius, persistence is more important. CS is also about teamwork and creativity. Learning languages and being a good communicator is important, so English and humanities subjects are also relevant if you’re looking to choose your Year 11/12/13 subjects.

Alternative options: There are plenty of pathways into CS. You can get skills
by learning short courses online and at polytech/TAFEs. Many universities also offer flexible alternatives into study after a gap year – so if you’d prefer to get some life/work experience first, go for it.

RELATED: The 5 best coding resources for digital technologies

Do a hackathon: Hackathons are a great way to get a taste of what CS involves! There’s teamwork, problem solving and genuine businesses and charities that you
can help out – whether it’s designing a game-style app or setting up their website to work with external data. You’ll meet people with a bunch of skills, so just remember you have plenty to offer – no-one is just like you and everyone is welcome at a hackathon! Search for something near you
and check out this guide to setting one up yourself.

Hackathons are often themed – if you’re in the North Island, NZ check out the Ag Tech Hackathon.

Year 12/year 13

Further study: How much you study is up to you. You may choose to go to uni or polytech/TAFE and if you do, look at a bunch of options. There will be computing courses
in Business and Science degrees, and Engineering, as well as IT, CS and Software Engineering bachelor degrees. You can also combine degrees to keep your options open – whether that’s arts, music, media, marketing or any other combination. You can also move to a CS field after studying something totally unrelated. It’s a good idea to keep your options open by including a programming or data course.

Boot up: Boot camps are short training bursts – from three-to-six months that get you qualified and into the workplace. They may give you the opportunity to do an internship at the end of this time, which can help you meet potential employers and get valuable on-the-job experience. These won’t suit everyone, as you need to be able to keep up with an intense workload and be very self-motivated, but could be an option if you like a challenge.

Getting work: If you’ve done some further study above Years 12/13, check out graduate internships – a diverse range of companies offer programs where you revolve around their workplace learning new sets of skills and getting paid.

Straight out of Year 10 you can also get paid gigs to study and work – or non-paid roles that get you work experience through vocational training like TAFE (Australia) or polytechs (NZ).

This article originally appears in Careers with STEM: Code 2019.

Heather Catchpole

Author: Heather Catchpole

Heather co-founded Careers with STEM publisher Refraction Media. She loves storytelling, Asian food & dogs and has reported on science stories from live volcanoes and fossil digs


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