Coding vs. Programming: What's the Difference? (With FAQs)
Updated 25 March 2023
As technology advances, many employers are seeking candidates who have expert knowledge of coding and programming to join their teams. While coding and programming are both skills professionals use to develop websites and applications, there are some important differences between these two activities. If you're interested in pursuing a career in computer science or information technology (IT), then you may benefit from learning more about coding and programming. In this article, we list the key differences between coding versus programming, define each of these skill sets and answer some frequently asked questions to help you determine which skill to learn.
Coding vs. programming
Although people often use the terms coding and programming interchangeably, it's important for computer science and IT professionals to understand how they differ. Here are some of the key differences between coding and programming:
Coding involves translating commands into a binary, machine-based languages that computers can understand. These codes act as the instructions a computer uses to create software programs, websites or applications. Coders use programming languages, such as Python and Java, to write codes for different applications. Their primary goal is to write pieces of code that follow the programmer's specifications.
While coders work primarily on developing the code for a specific application, programmers actually program a machine or computer system by giving it a specific set of instructions that make it run. Programmers work on every phase of software development and implementation. They may assist with planning, designing and testing a program, as well as providing routine maintenance. Programmers are also responsible for troubleshooting issues with the code and developing effective solutions. Their primary goal is to develop finished software products, applications or websites.
The specific job duties for coders and programmers may vary depending on the organisation they work for or the project they're working on. Some of the most common job duties for a coder include:
Writing code scripts: Coders develop computer scripts based on the instructions they receive from programmers. These scripts tell the computer what specific tasks it needs to complete for the program to run effectively.
Selecting programming languages: While coders may receive instructions that determine which coding language they can use for a specific project, they may also use their advanced knowledge of programming languages to choose the best one to execute specific pieces of code.
Identifying coding errors: Coders review each piece of code they create carefully to ensure that it's error-free. They may also test individual pieces of code before submitting them to make sure they run properly.
Coding websites: Coders may also apply their knowledge of different programming languages to create the front-end code for websites. The front-end code determines what the website looks like and improves its usability for end-users.
Some of the most common job duties programmers are responsible for include:
Developing applications: Programmers often use their skills to develop entire applications or software programs. Depending on the organisation they work for, they might create mobile applications, computer games or other software programs.
Troubleshooting issues: As a programmer, you may be responsible for testing, troubleshooting and solving potential program errors. Programmers also conduct routine maintenance for the applications they work on to ensure they run smoothly.
Programming systems: While many programmers work on applications and software programs, they may also design the systems that house these applications and programs. For example, programmers may develop, maintain and improve the operating systems different applications use to function.
Providing updates: Programmers may create and install updates for previously developed applications and software programs to ensure they remain compatible with the operating systems they run on. They can also use these updates to mitigate risks, solve programming errors and improve program features.
Coders require fewer tools than programmers to complete their work. As a coder, you may be able to accomplish most of your tasks using a simple text editor, such as Notepad. Many coders also use an integrated development environment (IDE) and other debugging tools to test their code and identify potential errors. Popular examples of these tools include Bootstrap, Eclipse and Delphi.
Programmers often use the same tools coders do in addition to more advanced tools that help them analyse and generate code, develop databases and test frameworks. They may also use graphical user interface (GUI) designers and performance analysis tools. Some of the most common tools programmers use include Apache Spark, Git and Github.
To become a successful coder, you may have a basic understanding of popular programming languages. Some of the most common languages coders work with include Python, HTML, Java, C++, R and CSS.
Programmers know how to use popular programming languages, but they also may have a strong understanding of advanced coding techniques and data structures. They also use their critical thinking skills to analyse programs, mitigate potential issues and develop effective algorithms.
Related: What Are Technical Skills?
Coders use their skills to translate and develop smaller pieces of code that support larger software or program projects. Programmers are responsible for applying this code to create a complete program or application. While coders assist with developing code at the beginning of a project, programmers are responsible for every phase, from the initial design to the final deliverable of the finished product.
While programmers typically earn more than coders do because of their advanced skill set, both careers provide lucrative job options. The average salary for a coding specialist is $2,891 per month. How much you earn as a coding specialist may vary depending on your skill set, education level and work experience. The size of the company you work for may also impact your salary.
The average salary for a programmer is $3,702 per month. Your salary as a programmer may also vary based on your skill set, education level, work experience and the size of the company you work for.
Tips for coders and programmers
Here are some tips to help you advance in your career as a coder or a programmer:
Start with the basics: Whether your goal is to become a coder or a programmer, start by learning the basics. Focus on learning one programming language at a time to become a master in that area before moving onto another topic.
Enrol in online courses: While you may pursue a degree in computer science, you can also learn coding and programming by enrolling in online courses. Research coding boot camps and programming certification courses to hone your skills and enhance your resume.
Pay attention to details: To excel as a coder or a programmer, it's important to pay attention to small details. Review your work carefully to identify potential errors and test each piece of code before moving onto the next phase of a project.
Network with industry professionals: Research coding clubs or associations near you to connect with other professionals in your industry. Online communities are also a great resource that you can use to ask questions, learn new techniques and grow your network.
Frequently asked questions about coding and programming
Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about coding and programming to help you begin your career:
Is coding or programming easier to learn?
Typically, coding is easier to learn because all it requires is a basic understanding of programming languages. Once coders understand the syntax and the rules of a specific programming language, they can quickly develop binary codes. Programming is more complex because it requires more advanced knowledge of data structures, algorithms and debugging methods.
Related: How To Develop Skill Sets in 9 Steps
Should I learn coding or programming first?
Many professionals choose to learn coding first because it's the foundation of programming. Developing a strong understanding of different coding languages can prepare you to excel as either a coder or a programmer. It can also help you prepare to take more advanced programming courses in the future, which can help you excel throughout your career.
Is coding or programming better to learn?
While coding is an important foundational skill, both coding and programming are excellent skills to learn. Assess what your career goals are to determine what type of courses make the most sense for you to take. If you plan to become a coder, additional programming courses may not be necessary. However, if you plan to become a programmer, start by learning how to code before exploring more advanced programming topics.
Please note that none of the organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed. Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.
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