Programming is easy: a guide for liberal arts types

Are you a person who often thinks, “Man, I’d like to get into coding, but I’m just not cut out for it?” Are you also a liberal arts major? If so, I’m here to tell you that the second half of the thought you just had is wrong.

Hey, I’m Katie, and I’m a political science major. I’m also a software developer.

English majors: Have you ever been personally victimized by a misplaced comma? Been upset at incorrect spelling on a business’s sign? Do you have an opinion on whether that word I just typed should have been business’s or business’?

Excellent news, my friend: programming languages care about that stuff too. Your program will fail if there’s any sort of stray comma, period, parenthesis, or bracket left laying around in your code. And if you name something one way and then spell it wrong when trying to use it later, great news: your code will break! (Admittedly, this doesn’t protect against spelling the thing wrong to begin with, but that’s what silently leaving a copy of the OED on your coworker’s desk is for.)

Political science majors: Do you still love to argue, several years out of college? Do you find yourself in political debates with strangers at the bar, or, worse, on Facebook? Do you have an opinion on the correct way to govern a society?

Would you like to actually be paid to have such opinions? Let me introduce you to the model-view-controller debate. Not spicy enough for you? How about this comparison of object-relational mappers to the Vietnam War? That should be enough to keep you occupied for an hour, which is, as you know, long enough to form an expert opinion on the topic, which you can then go forth and spew at all your colleagues à la Aaron Sorkin.

History majors: Have you ever read about the history of programming languages? It’s full of intrigue and competition between great powers! Also, do poorly written essays and badly structured theses/arguments upset you? Code refactoring: it’s a thing. And there’s finally one single person to definitively blame for a terrible historical event.

Philosophy majors: Here’s an article about programming that contains the word “heretical.” Hooked you, didn’t I?

Anthropology, sociology and psychology majors: Still kept up at night wondering why people do the things they do, especially when they get together in groups? People with money care about that too, and they will pay you to implement and test your theories.

Linguistics majors: If you’re not already here, you should be.

Economics majors: Is the phrase “scarce resource allocation” as a caress from your lover? Do you have dreams of inhabiting the body of Janet Yellen and announcing the start of QE4 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial? Here are some things for you: algorithmic complexity, database management and load balancing.

Women’s studies majors: Convinced programming is a cesspool of the patriarchy? Still haven’t seen Hidden Figures? Go read about Grace Hopper and RailsBridge and get going.

Art majors of any stripe: Y’all already know about web design, so freelance your little hearts out and buy that high-end ramen.

The point: if you’re dissatisfied with your income and/or career path post-college, or even non-college, there’s a role in programming for you. If you still need to be convinced, let me know in the comments!