Why programming isn’t a future blue-collar job

A couple nights ago, I sat in my customary spot in the Gates building, scouring through different pages on Stack Overflow looking to resolve a particularly annoying design bug. It was around 2.00 AM and I found myself desperately craving for some coffee, so I decided to go to the Au Bon Pain located on campus. As I waited, I did what any average twenty-five year old does with some free time on his hand — I logged onto Facebook to check my notification feed. In a quick few seconds, I came across this post on a friend’s timeline, about how coding would be the blue-collar job of the future.

I knew I wasn’t going to make any progress on my design problem, so I decided to call it a night. I got my coffee and briskly glanced through this article which essentially talked about how programming is not hard and how an average Joe can pick up something like HTML or JavaScript in a matter of few weeks and make a living for himself. The author of that article emphasized in great detail about how spending money on a Computer Science degree was equivalent to throwing money down the drain, because why should one spend thousands of dollars on a degree when they can learn things at a Dev BootCamp or the nearest community college? To substantiate this, the author threw out some stats suggesting that how only 8 percent of the nation’s programmers are actually employed by the Silicon Valley giants.

Although I like the general premise of this article, the conclusion seems partially flawed. And here’s why — synonymizing Computer Science with just programming is fallacious. Yes, learning HTML or JavaScript isn’t hard and anyone who puts their mind to it for a couple of weeks can get a decent hang of it. But that would be equivalent to someone who wants to be an architect and design buildings, but is only capable fixing doors and windows.

A well-defined curriculum in Computer Science is not only heavy on programming, but is also equipped with teaching students a lot of Math and Algorithms. A major part of the curriculum is designed to introduce students to the prevalent theoretical and practical ideas and problems in the world of STEM. Not only does it teach students to write code, it teaches them to write good code. And the dearth of people lacking the ability to write decent scalable and maintainable code is the real reason why Silicon Valley employs only 8 percent of the nation’s coders.

And if we translate this into the existing paradigm, companies are trying to automate, ergo, eliminate all the *potential* blue-collar coding jobs. Yes, you can make money by writing simple websites for the local businesses in your neighborhood, and while it may be a good starting point, it would only be a fleeting stepping stone. Why — because soon everyone will be able to do that.

Learning how to program won’t guarantee that you become the next Bill Gates, but it would definitely teach you how to think. It would teach you how to learn, then unlearn, and re-learn something that you’ve never seen or heard of. And once you become an efficient problem-solver, you would always be a *potential* hire for any industry.