What Is Coding? The Ultimate Guide

Learning to code might seem intimidating at first, but there are numerous benefits for both personal and career development for those who learn.
portrait of Shauna Blackmon
Shauna Blackmon
Read Full Bio

Contributing Writer

Shauna Blackmon is a journalist and writer specializing in the intersection of technology and humanity. She is also currently finishing her master's degree in international relations, focusing on future technologies and smart borders....
Updated on February 21, 2024
Edited by
portrait of Madison Hoehn
Madison Hoehn
Read Full Bio


Madison Hoehn has worked as an associate editor for BestColleges, focusing on coding bootcamp rankings and the skilled trades. She is passionate about providing readers with alternatives to a traditional four-year college. She holds a BA in English l...
Reviewed by
portrait of Monali Mirel Chuatico
Monali Mirel Chuatico
Read Full Bio

Contributing Reviewer

Monali Mirel Chuatico is a data engineer who currently works at Mission Lane. She also helps new grads and young professionals overcome underemployment by teaching them data analytics tools and mentoring them on their professional development journey...
Learn more about our editorial process

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Find the program that's right for you

Learn new skills quickly with a bootcamp, or earn a degree from a traditional college.

Find a Bootcamp
Search Colleges

  • Computer programmers use code to communicate with computers and tell them what to do.
  • Coding involves writing with coding languages, such as JavaScript and C++.
  • You can learn how to code through degree programs, bootcamps, websites, and apps.

You are not alone if you have ever wondered, What is coding? and How does coding work?

Coding, also known as computer programming, is how we communicate with computers and tell them what to do. Through coding, professionals can build programs, including websites and apps. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual pay for a computer programmer was $93,000 in May 2021.

The following sections will answer the questions, "How does coding work?" and "What are some benefits of learning how to code?" Readers will also learn about potential coding careers and where they can learn to code.

What Is Coding?

Coding creates a set of instructions for computers to follow. These instructions determine what actions a computer can and cannot take. Coding allows programmers to build programs, such as websites and apps. Computer programmers can also tell computers how to process data in better, faster ways.

How Does Coding Work?

To speak with computers, programmers learn different coding languages. Binary code is the primary language of all computers. Binary code consists of only two numbers: one and zero. In the binary coding language, zero represents off while one represents on.

Binary is still used with electronics and computer hardware. Programmers can use binary to control the flow of electricity and the positive and negative poles of a magnet. Binary code allows programmers to create simple instructions and procedures for computers.

Low-Level vs. High-Level

Computer programmers split coding languages into two groups: low-level and high-level.

Low-level languages, like binary, are considered "machine-oriented." Machine-oriented languages write instructions that must be specified in terms of the capabilities of the processor in question. Coders also refer to low-level languages as assembly language or machine code.

High-level languages are user-oriented. Most of the popular coding languages, such as Python, fall under this category. Programmers designed high-level languages to convert an algorithm into program code more easily. High-level coding languages are closer to human language — they include more nuance and adaptability than low-level coding languages.

Coding vs. Programming

A lot of people think coding and programming are the same thing. Coding, however, is only one small part of programming.

Coding is the process of allowing humans to speak to computers. As computers only understand binary language — a series of zeros and ones — humans need to use a programming language as a translator of sorts.

Programming, on the other hand, includes not only coding but also the digital product's planning, testing, deployment, and maintenance.

Coding Bootcamps for You

Benefits of Learning Coding

Learning a new skill always has its benefits but learning how to code is one skill with many benefits.

Benefits of Coding

  • Elevate your career prospects: Regardless of whether you work in the tech industry, learning at least one programming language can help you stand out from the competition in an interview process or help you negotiate a higher salary.
  • Improve your problem-solving skills: Many people who learn to code report an improved ability to break problems down into smaller pieces and approach problems with clearer, linear thinking.
  • Cultivate creativity: Coding gives you the ability to create anything you can dream of.
  • Community: There are countless online communities for coders to exchange tips and tricks and chat and meet each other.

Careers Where Coding Is Helpful

Readers can find many different kinds of coding careers, including computer programmer, web developer, and database administrator roles. Learn more about potential software developer careers below:

Computer Programmer

Computer programmers write and test code for applications, software, and websites. These professionals typically know multiple coding languages. They may work individually or as part of a team. Computer programmers earned a median annual salary of $93,000 in May 2021. The BLS projects a 10% job decline between 2021 and 2031.

Computer Network Architect

These professionals build data communication networks, including wide area networks and intranets. These networks may be small-scale — such as a connection within an office — or as large scale as cloud computing. The BLS found that computer network architects earned a median annual salary of $120,520 in May 2021. This career is projected to grow 4% between 2021 and 2031.

Software Developer

Software developers create new software and upgrades for existing programs. These professionals also oversee software testing and development, sometimes consulting with other tech professionals to create a streamlined product. Software developers, quality assurance analysts, and testers earned a median annual salary of $120,730 in May 2021. The BLS projects 25% job growth between 2021 and 2031.

Web Developer

Web developers work with their clients to create websites and apps. These professionals can work on front-end and/or back-end development. Web developers may also consult about the functionality of existing websites. These professionals earned a median annual salary of $79,890 in May 2021. The BLS projects 23% job growth between 2021 and 2031.

Database Administrator

These professionals create and/or manage computer systems that store data. Administrators also ensure that user data remains secure, either from external attacks or internal data loss. Database administrators and architects earned a median annual wage of $96,710 in May 2021. The BLS projects 9% job growth between 2021 and 2031.

Coding Careers Outlook

Professionals with coding skills can work for tech companies, in IT departments, and as independent consultants. Almost every industry needs computer programmers to create and maintain websites and other critical online infrastructure.

The BLS projects 15% growth for careers in computer and information technology between 2021 and 2031, which is faster than the average 8% growth projected across all occupations.

The median annual wage for all tech careers was $97,430 in May 2021. By comparison, the BLS found that the median annual wage for all occupations was $45,760.

Many professionals in coding only need a bachelor's degree, although some, like computer and information research scientists, need a master's degree. You may be able to start your career with just an associate degree, professional certification, and/or a bootcamp training program.

Learning additional coding languages can also help current computer programmers advance their careers. By adding coding languages to their portfolio, computer programmers appear more desirable to employers.

What Are the Most Popular Coding Languages?

Most Popular Coding Languages
Name of Language What is this language used for? Pros of language Cons
C/C++ General-purpose; can be used as both a high-level and low-level coding language Fast and powerful; multi-paradigm coding language Less flexible and not as safe as other coding languages
Java General-purpose; web applications Simple and secure; object-oriented code Java consumes a lot of memory and runs slower than other coding languages
JavaScript General; front-end and back-end development Fast and simple; also works well with other coding languages Not as secure as other coding languages; not as efficient at debugging
PHP General-purpose; back-end development Fast and flexible; offers more options for database connectivity Not as secure as other coding languages; lack of specialized libraries
Python General-purpose; back-end development Short time to learn; can be used in various disciplines Can be slower than C or C++
Ruby Full-stack web development Fast; follows web standards Not very flexible
SQL Data management User-friendly and standardized Complex interface; only partial control given to the database

Where Can I Learn to Code?

You can attend a postsecondary program, such as an associate degree program and/or bachelor's degree program, to learn to code. However, there are additional options to learn to code that do not require enrolling in a degree program. Prospective programmers can learn to code through bootcamps, websites, and apps.


Coding bootcamps are intensive, short-term training programs that teach students the skills they need to pursue coding careers. Readers can find bootcamps run by universities or independent organizations. The average bootcamp lasts four months. Students can either enroll in a full-time or part-time program or possibly find a self-paced bootcamp.

Some popular coding bootcamps include Coding Dojo, General Assembly, and Flatiron School.


Some websites also provide opportunities for people to learn coding skills. Students can learn to code through videos, hands-on practice, or individual courses in specialized coding topics. You can find some free videos and courses in addition to paid options.

Some popular websites for learning coding include Treehouse, Khan Academy, and freeCodeCamp.


Readers can also use apps to learn how to code. Coding apps use similar methods as websites to teach coding, including pre-recorded videos and hands-on practice. These apps may offer free and subscription content, allowing users to decide how much they want to spend on their coding lessons.

Some popular coding apps include Mimo, Codecademy, and Programming Hero.

Frequently Asked Questions About Coding

What are the easiest programming languages to learn?

Does coding require math?

For the most part, coding does not require extensive math knowledge. Depending on the project, most coders will primarily need to understand the order of operations and some basic algebra skills. More than anything, coding relies on strong logic and problem-solving skills.

Is coding hard to learn?

Learning to code can be difficult or frustrating at times, but overall the process should not be too complicated for most learners. The hardship, however, will depend on various factors, including which language you are learning, if it is your first language or not, and what your natural abilities and strengths are.

What are some examples of code?

Coding can take on many shapes and forms depending on the programming language used and the overall aim.

For example, this is what it would look like to say Hello World in three different languages:

Hello World Code Examples
Name of Language Example Code
JavaScript console.log('Hello World'); // Prints the string to the console.
Python print("Hello World")
Java class HelloWorldApp {
public static void main(String[] args) {
System.out.println("Hello World!"); // Prints the string to the console.