As someone who attended college in the early 1990s computer science hadn’t become matyinstream. The Internet was limited to educational and government facilities, and it was several years before Mozilla would invent the first browser. Computer programmers were thought of as the nerdy people who preferred to spend hours in a computer lab rather than go to the frat parties or really know how to socialize. To some extent, this stereotype was true at least our university.
As I look back over my 20 year career, the advice to learn to program computers could not have been better for me, and I believe it still rings true for people in school today. There will always be a need for someone who can design and build computer software. In my time we learned PERL, CoBOL and C++ and built applications that are now handled automatically by either the operating system or come with a nice UI eliminating the need for any code to be written, the current generation of developers create a lot of integrations or customizations to other systems. While the types of problems that will be solved over the next 20 or 40 years may change, the need for someone who can think analytically, understand algorithms, and effectively build solutions is going to continue to be in high demand.
Another key benefit of programming is the tiny capital investment to start a company. When someone knows how to code, they are immediately able to create everything from the storefront, the product, and the sales channel in the online world. In the physical world, starting any business can take thousands of dollars, but to someone who can code a computer and internet access are the only things required to start a business.
As the economy continues to contract making it difficult for recent graduates to find jobs. I would greatly recommend that everyone pickup one or two programming languages as a backup skill. It may not be the long-term career, but simply having the ability to whip up a website or create a few back end macros to automate a task is going to make a professional life so much easier.
As someone who has now been in the workforce, I am so thankful that someone gave me this advice. I know that as long as I stay current with technology, I shall never lack for a means of gainful employment that will allow me to earn double, triple or even quadruple the minimum wage. While a rank and file computer program may never become a millionaire, I know that I won’t be in a situation where I’m forced to go to bed hungry or be forced to ask would you like fries with that.