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The Code to Your Future: Preparing for a Career in Coding Technology, in High School

Computer science is currently one of the hottest job market growth areas. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts computer and information technology jobs will surge by 11% between 2019 and 2029, much higher than the overall job growth rate. And what’s even better is these jobs have a much higher salary than other jobs. Computer and information technology jobs have a median annual wage of $91,350.

But there are other perks to careers in computer science and technology beyond money and job security. Most allow—and require—some creativity. And many have flexible work settings and can be performed in an office or from home.

It’s no wonder the field is a popular choice for young professionals. So, what can high school students do to set themselves up for a career in computer science and technology? We have some ideas!

Build Coding Skills as a High School Student

A great way to set yourself apart is by building a solid foundation of codding skills early on. Learning and honing your coding chops through programming languages like Java, Python, SQL, and C++ is a good starting point. Laurel Springs Upper School offers a variety of Coding, Computer Science, Programming, and Video Game Design classes. And, if you’re interested in getting a head start (before high school that is), Laurel Springs offers coding classes for students as early as Lower and Middle School. Of course, there are also plenty of online resources as well. Galvanize has a free prep course focused on learning JavaScript. Udemy offers a trove of inexpensive Web Developer Bootcamp courses focusing specifically on Python, R, and Java, among others. If you’re looking for another free option, check out Codecademy.

After you’ve gotten a taste for coding and programming, take your skills to the next level with a Bootcamp. Bootcamps can be pricey but are great investments if you know coding will be your career path. Hack Reactor has Bootcamp options that require an application and can run up to $18,000, while General Assembly offers less expensive options. And if you’re looking for a relatively inexpensive option, explore Coding Dojo’s offerings.

Math skills are also crucial to this field. Laurel Springs offers a plethora of advanced math classes. And, If you enroll in the Computer Science & Technology Pathway, AP Calculus AB and AP Calculus BC are requirements. These courses further help you master programming languages and problem-solving.

Don’t Forget the Soft Skills

It’s easy to get caught up in hacking, coding, and programming when it comes to tech and computer science. But what can differentiate you from others for potential future employers is to develop proficiency in soft skills at an early age. This job field requires a lot of collaboration, so mastering verbal and written communication skills is essential.

So, what’s the best way to start honing these skills? Practice them. Try coding and programming with friends and classmates. Practice giving presentations in class or to friends. Join clubs offering leadership opportunities. When you get to a point where you feel you’re proficient in some areas of coding, try teaching or mentoring younger students.

Another way to learn both hard and soft skills is to hitch your wagon to an older student or teacher who has more experience. One of the best ways to learn any skill and continuously improve is to have a mentor or peer that is just a bit more advanced. Then turn into a sponge to absorb their wisdom.

Start Creating

From day one of coding classes, start creating a portfolio. A robust portfolio can lift your application to the top of the pile for college admissions officials and job recruiters alike. If you have your own ideas for an app or site, that’s great! If not, reach out to some nonprofits in your town or state. Ask the adults in your life if they know of anyone or an organization that could use some coding help. And be sure to include class projects in your portfolio too.

Combine those hard and soft skills by learning how to talk about what you created. Be able to answer questions like these: Why is this particular app essential? Or, What makes it different or unique from other apps or sites already created? Again, the more you can effectively communicate about your work and creation, the better.

Network Your Way to a Future

The cliche “it’s not what you know, but who you know” is often true. As a teenager, there are at least two ways to get to know more people. First, find people and organizations that need help coding. Even if it’s just a small project, helping nonprofits and organizations or individual family friends expands your network. And you never know whom those you help might know.

The other option is to find people in positions you’d like and schedule an informational interview. Bonus: This is another opportunity to work on soft skills. Think about some companies you’d like to work for or positions you’d like to have, and a simple internet search will likely lead to people in those roles. One silver lining of the pandemic is people are more willing to hop on video calls. This opens the door for things like informational interviews in a wider geographical area.

Keep Practicing

As you build your skills, don’t stop learning and improving on your skills. No matter how good you get at coding and programming, there will always be more to learn. Likewise, there will always be more ways to improve your skillset.

Don’t forget the Laurel Springs School network. Use it to find Laurel Springs School alumni who are in positions you’d like to see yourself in one day. Lastly, have fun! Coding and programming can be a creative and artistic outlet for high school students. So, be sure to have some fun with it!