Learning JavaScript: Possibly the Best Decision You Could Ever Make

Famed venture capitalist Marc Andreessen generated a new meme with his 2011 statement “software is eating the world.” The construction "X is eating the world" has become a snappy way to describe the explosive growth and impact of many new technologies. Incidentally, Andreessen was co-founder of Netscape. This is serendipitous because Netscape gave us JavaScript. We can make the case that among contemporary programming languages, JavaScript is the one that is truly eating the world.

It also happens that learning to code JavaScript may be one of the best decisions you ever make. Why is this? We all love a good rags-to-riches story, or at the very least something along the lines of “I went from pedicab driver to software developer with a high income in less than two years.” Such tales are becoming common.

Many people are able to shortcut the traditional path of "4-year Computer Science Degree to internship to junior developer" and become software professionals in a fraction of the time. Coding bootcamps is one of the most common shortcuts. This is almost always owed to the tremendous demand for JavaScript and the fact that it is possible to become productive in the language very quickly.

JavaScript is eating the world

We can vouch for the statement above both in terms of mind share and market share. The 2016 Stack Overflow Developer Survey — a comprehensive set of figures from the world's most popular online developer community — illustrates just how pervasive the language has become. 90.5 percent of front-end developers and an astonishing 54.5 percent of back-end developers use JavaScript. Keep in mind that it was never meant as a back-end technology.

According to the Medium post linked in our introduction, JavaScript is eating up business and major organizations. Walmart is rapidly switching over its website to a 98 percent JavaScript technology stack, while it's SamsClub.com property will soon be 100 percent JavaScript. Even NASA is on board, making Node.js (i.e. back-end JavaScript) the basis of its architecture.

Unlikely rise of JavaScript

It's fitting that many people are finding rapid success by learning JavaScript because the language itself has had an unlikely ascent. Unlike Java, which was explicitly developed and marketed as a “world-changing” technology, JavaScript was quietly introduced in Netscape as a way to add client-side interactivity to a mostly static web. It was a supplemental feature solving a practical problem. However, the rapid growth of the internet and the need for websites that behave like native applications has given JavaScript a level of buzz that no marketing campaign could ever manufacture.

Easy to learn, a lifetime to master

Like the game of Go, it does not take much time to pick up JavaScript. It has comparatively fewer concepts that must be learned — in contrast to C++, Java, or PHP — before a beginner can write useful programs. The fact that it is available in every browser and is the leading front-end technology means that new students can get all-important visual feedback while learning it.

However, this does not mean that it is a language for amateurs or those that have no interest in the deeper concepts of computer science. Quite the opposite. Its object model makes it somewhat challenging and intriguing to seasoned software veterans, and when that model is truly grasped it opens up a world of flexibility and novel approaches to programming problems that would not be possible in many other leading languages.

Refresh your career

The reasons above make it clear that JavaScript is ideal for launching an entirely new career in one the world's most interesting and high-paying fields. It is possible to take a shortcut to a fulfilling career and avoid the glacial pace of the college grind. Take coding classes at programming school and you're already on your way.

However, can experienced engineers change their lives by learning JavaScript as well? Absolutely. Many senior engineers build long careers in roles that have no need for front-end programming or use stacks that exclude JavaScript. Due to other time obligations learning JavaScript while out-of-pocket may not be possible. In this case, there are two important reasons to learn JavaScript: keeping skills fresh in the face of an often volatile job market, and giving your career a boost by entering the lofty realm of “full-stack developer” — often the most sought after tech professional.

Mikael Morgan

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