4 Ways Humanities Majors Can Learn How to Code

ByAshwin Mudaliar

In an economy that’s increasingly putting occupational pressure on students with humanities degrees and burdening scholars with withering amounts of debt to pursue graduate studies, previously prospective historians, philosophers, and lawyers should know that they have options, especially in the world of software engineering.

Beyond the statistic that a newly minted liberal arts grad earns on average only $36,988 — $25,000 less than their engineering classmates — is the fact that the tech industry is experiencing a supply deficit of qualified coders in the face of skyrocketing demand.

Talented yet still unemployed English majors take note: there are many ways for you to capitalize on this market boom without having to go back to school for four years to major in CS.

1. Boot camps

These innovative computer programming schools offer an immediate route to make a career change. Self-dubbed “hacker boot camps,” these programs teach enrollees how to write code, with an emphasis on employability. Following two to three months of grueling 80-100 hour weeks learning under the auspices of experienced software developers, coding boot camps work to place their graduates at top companies, like SurveyMonkey, Pinterest, and Twilio, with starting salaries between $80,000 and $100,000.

It’s not that simple though. These programs admit between 10 and 20% of applicants and can be expensive, charging between $10,000 and $17,000, or up to 15% of your first year starting salary. They’re also concentrated in tech centers like San Francisco, Chicago, and NYC, making them cost and geographically prohibitive.

For a list of boot camps, check out www.bootcamps.in and this Quora thread.

2. Online Courses

Another solid option is utilizing the plethora of online courses that provide free or low cost access to coding education. From CodeAcademy to Khan Academy, hundreds of resources exist that will allow the recovering writer to learn web development on his or her own schedule and on a budget.

There are a number of factors to take into consideration before choosing an online program, including the curriculum, teaching style, and feedback methods. The latter two are especially important as computer science, especially for the beginner, can be very difficult and can require a very high level of “hand holding.” In this regard, paid platforms like Udemy or Code.com that include screencasts and access to top coders, and online boot camps, like Tealeaf Academy and bloc.io that provide structured curriculums and guided development, might be better options.

However, for the consummate self-starter and motivator, free options like CodeAcademy, Bloc, and Treehouse offer high level courses that will have our erstwhile literature Ph.D coding and employable in a matter of months.

For a list online web development courses and resources, check out this Quora thread.

3. Community college


The beauty of the coding industry is that degrees matter less than skills, and thus heading back to community college for a semester or two could serve as an excellent path into the coding world. Community colleges offer flexible and guided instruction in a class room environment, and with reasonable costs in comparison to boot camps, they offer a happy medium in between the in-person guidance of a boot camp and the affordability and flexibility of online courses.

However, the aspiring coder on the community college route runs the risk of losing time taking “unnecessary” prerequisites and other classes that don’t necessarily enhance employability. Be sure to look for classes in HTML5, Ruby, and Javascript to maximize your time.

4. Hitting the books


The age-old method of self-study is also a reasonable option for those who want maximum time and cost flexibility. While coding is an inherently collaborative endeavor, you can learn the skills from text books and other written resources to get you up to speed.

If you do choose this route, be sure to concentrate your study with books and manuals on Ruby on Rails, HTML and CSS, and Javascript for the greatest pay off. Note, however, that prospective employers will expect a portfolio of your work, and you may not get the necessary feedback you need to create it by yourself. Be sure to solicit feedback from coding friends and family and start pushing out apps onto the web as soon as you can.