According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for programmers are forecast to grow “much faster than average” over the next 10 years — which makes sense. As digital transformation becomes a top priority across industries — in many cases, to meet growing consumer demand driven by the ubiquity and ease of mobile-first experiences — there’s a commensurate need for skilled coders capable of translating market strategy into usable software.
But where are these application experts and software savants most in-demand? Where are they pushing the boundaries of digital delivery, and what’s on the horizon for creative computation?
A Brief History of Binary Building
Computers and humans process information differently. Where our biology includes multiple sensory organs that help us function in the physical world, computers rely on binary — “on” or “off” states represented by ones and zeros — to navigate digital directives. Programming languages were created to bridge the gap; these frameworks translate human-created commands into something computers can understand and implement.
One of the first languages created was Fortran, developed by John W. Backus in 1957. Fortran made it possible to connect computer output with simple input, in turn bypassing the need for more complicated and laborious programming processes, as IBM notes. As a result, it became the first widely adopted language, and it still sees use today. More familiar frameworks quickly followed — C made its appearance in 1972, Python in 1991, Ruby and Java in 1995, and C# in 2000, according to ComputerScience.org. While coding newcomers such as Go and R have also made significant inroads, C, Python and Java remain the top three languages in 2021, per InfoWorld. Although each approach differs in syntax, they share the substantive purpose of translating human input into digital output.
The Kids Are Alright
As technology has become a ubiquitous part of daily life, much has been made of the need to teach children coding techniques to prepare them for future success. Increasingly, schools are offering STEM-based in-school or after-school programs. This push toward programming posits a world where kids who don’t learn to code will be left behind as they enter evolving job markets. However, recent pushback suggests that this focus on digital literacy may not be as beneficial as first believed — and it may in fact be doing more harm than good.
The bigger problem here? Binary thinking. When it comes to learning code, it isn’t an either/or operation. Instead, it’s about teaching kids to problem solve in both physical and digital worlds. In practice, this means a healthy balance between on-screen interactions — whether this takes the form of educational gaming or more in-depth coding courses — and hands-on challenges that see kids thinking outside the box.
Put simply? While coding classwork helps to better prepare kids for the realities of a digital-first future, this isn’t an all-or-nothing scenario. Children with only a passing interest in programming will gain basic benefits, while those with a natural affinity will seek out more specialized software development jobs and opportunities.
So, what’s out there for those with a programming predilection?
Mobile application development remains a reliable source of software development jobs. Companies across all industries and markets are looking to create cross-platform, user-friendly apps capable of both providing on-demand access to key services and collecting relevant data.
But there are also new paths emerging that offer new opportunities for programming experts. Industry Wired offers some examples, including how expanding use of coding in agriculture underpins the development of “farming as a service.” A combination of tools and technologies could make it possible for farmers to leverage historical and real-time data combined with autonomous processes to improve crop yields and limit overall risk. There’s also expanding opportunity for coding in military applications, such as the development of artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms capable of creating unexpected and “unfair” strategies in military simulations to help develop more responsive defense tactics.
“One of the significant challenges in the aerospace and defense industry is the integration of advanced capabilities into modern weapon systems to address emergent and future cyber threats,” said Dr. Francis Afinidad, an NG Fellow in cybersecurity at Northrop Grumman. “There is an immediate need for software engineers able to develop solutions driven by artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced machine learning (ML) to intelligently protect against active threats in a cyber-contested environment.”
Other areas on the forefront of coding include expanding markets, such as e-sports. This increasingly popular (and lucrative) pastime requires software-driven virtual reality and augmented reality platforms to help bring more players and fans into the game. An unexpected opportunity comes in the form of kitchen appliance coding. With smart fridges that include cameras and code to identify current foodstuffs and suggest potential recipes, or intelligent stovetops capable of achieving exact temperature settings or instantly cooling to prevent potential burns, there’s no shortage of programmable potential for interested parties.
Beyond current market initiatives, there’s also opportunity for cutting-edge coding in quantum computing applications. While recent advancements in quantum computing have produced reliable and repeatable results that underpin new computing frameworks, a recent IEEE Spectrum article notes that “quantum computing arguably isn’t quite full-fledged computing till there’s quantum software as well as hardware.” New languages in development — such as Jaqal — look to make the best use of quantum qubit potential, but as the quantum market expands, there’s a host of opportunity for programmers to develop their own super positional software solutions.
Bottom line? Jobs for programmers are expanding beyond traditional software and mobile application development into areas such as agriculture, AI and even kitchen appliance coding. And there’s more where that came from — the advent of true quantum computers showcases the need for an entirely new class of languages capable of harnessing qubit computing power at scale.
Are you interested in all things related to technology? We are, too. Check out Northrop Grumman career opportunities to see how you can participate in this fascinating time of discovery.