Why Learn JavaScript?

JavaScript is essential to the interactivity of the internet and IoT (Internet of Things). Specifically, any audio, video, maps, animations, menus, buttons, and interactive elements that you encounter online have likely been developed through JavaScript. In fact, according to technology tracking site W3Techs, the internet hosts nearly 1.9 billion websites, of which 97.9 percent use JavaScript.

Fortunately for coding newcomers, JavaScript ranks among the most accessible programming languages and is often one of the first beginners learn. JavaScript allows coders to “test as you go,” meaning it’s possible to check the functionality of code as it’s written, rather than having to complete it and then debug. In addition, JavaScript has a large, active user community that developers can turn to for help.

Although web developers are often mentioned when discussing JavaScript users, there is actually a wide variety of coding roles that use JavaScript. Read on to learn more about JavaScript use, the job opportunities it can provide, and educational options to learn this valuable programming language.

JavaScript Explained

According to PCMag, JavaScript is a high-level, interpreted language developers use to add interactive functions to otherwise static websites. Along with HTML and CSS, JavaScript is a primary language for creating websites.

Developer Brendan Eich created JavaScript in 1995 to add dynamic activity to websites. Originally known as Mocha, the language underwent several naming iterations before landing on JavaScript.

JavaScript is based, in part, on Sun Microsystems’ Java programming language. Sun and Netscape joined forces to unveil the new language and it was quickly adopted by companies such as Apple and AT&T to include in their products.

Today, JavaScript is available in every web browser and is one of the three fundamental languages of web development. JavaScript expands on the functions of HTML (HyperText Markup Language) and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), which define the basic structure and aesthetic of websites, respectively. JavaScript builds on this functionality by enabling interactivity in websites such as interactive maps and animated 2D/3D graphics. And, for this reason, it’s not surprising that JavaScript is the world’s most commonly used programming language. In fact, developers have voted JavaScript as their most-used language for nine consecutive years, according to Stack Overflow’s 2021 Developer Survey.

Here are some additional characteristics to be aware of. JavaScript is:

An object-oriented language: Objects are structures that store data and their pertinent functions which developers organize into programs that can be maintained and updated easily.

A high-level language: High-level programming languages employ instructions and terminology that resemble common written language — notably English — which makes it easier to learn.

An interpreted language: An interpreted language runs through a process that translates and runs its code simultaneously. The interpreter converts and executes statements consecutively until completing the program.

An image highlighting three basics that readers should understand about JavaScript.

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What Does JavaScript Do?

You may ask, “What can you do with JavaScript?” but a better question may be “What can’t you do?” JavaScript is a popular language, in part, because it accommodates both front end (client-side) and back end (server-side) programming.

JavaScript brings websites to life by enriching them with menus and forms, video players, photo galleries, slideshows, and more. For example, when you click on a dropdown menu or interactive map, you’re likely interacting with something built with JavaScript.

JavaScript’s application extends beyond building websites. Programmers employ it to create desktop and mobile apps, as well as online games. With its vast library of prewritten, open-source code bundles, JavaScript can perform a variety of functions.

What else can JavaScript do? It might get you noticed by employers. Nearly 65 percent of developers surveyed say they use JavaScript, and another 14.5 percent say they want to learn JavaScript. Meanwhile, HackerRank reports that 57 percent of U.S. hiring managers view JavaScript as the most important language for prospective employees to know (PDF, 2.3 MB).

An image highlighting some of the important statistics surrounding JavaScript.

Ready to take JavaScript for a test drive? It’s as easy as opening a web browser. In Google Chrome, open the browser and click on a new tab. Right-click on the screen, and then click “Inspect.” A window with HTML code will open to the right. Click on the word “Console” to open a JavaScript window. Then type this line of code:

console.log(“Hello world!”)

The phrase “Hello world!” should appear. Congratulations — you just wrote your first JavaScript program!

What Is JavaScript Used For?

Programmers employ JavaScript in many ways, including:

As noted earlier, developers rely on JavaScript to make websites interactive and responsive. Just about every element of the user experience — dropdown menus, tabs, forms, pop-ups, etc. — begins with JavaScript. If you operate a site that requires payment processing, you’ll likely build those forms with JavaScript too.

Though primarily a front end language, JavaScript also works well in back end development. To accommodate back end programming, developers have created tools that work with JavaScript. For example, Node.js is a runtime environment that executes code on the server-side, which makes JavaScript a vital language for full stack development.

JavaScript has become popular in creating native apps for both iOS and Android. In addition, JavaScript frameworks offer blocks of pre-written code to use in building applications, making the process quicker and easier. React Native is among the leading frameworks to build mobile apps using JavaScript.

As a primary website language, JavaScript is great for creating web-based games. Since JavaScript is an interpreted language, it responds to commands such as users clicking on the screen. For this reason, you can create simple two-dimensional games using JavaScript. Experienced game developers use the wide variety of JavaScript game engines available on GitHub to bring their visions to life. These engines can render 2D and 3D graphics, easily create game features, and build game logic.

The World Economic Forum’s 2020 Future of Jobs Report (PDF, 10.6 MB) found that AI and machine learning specialists are among the top emerging jobs through 2025. JavaScript, its frameworks, and its libraries are some of the key tools these professionals often use. For example, JavaScript’s top machine learning library is Google’s TensorFlow.js, which is used for developing and running machine learning models in JavaScript that can run directly in a browser.

JavaScript Programs: Ways to Learn

You can learn JavaScript in as little as three months, depending on the course of study you choose. A variety of JavaScript programs are available — from traditional degree programs, to boot camps, to independent study options.

Traditional Degree Programs

A traditional degree remains the most common path to a career in web development. According to CareerOneStop, 69 percent of developers hold at least a bachelor’s degree, while 94 percent have attended at least some college.

Four-year programs in computer programming cover a breadth of topics and expose the learner to both concepts and theory. Although they do teach programming languages, many traditional degree programs don’t focus on them. As HackerRank notes, JavaScript often is left out of computer science programs.

Boot Camps

Some learners choose to concentrate on JavaScript and other leading languages rather than the broader topic of computer science. For them, a coding boot camp focusing on a full stack curriculum can be a beneficial choice.

Boot camps tend to take a practical approach, focusing on in-demand skills employers are searching for and focusing less on theory. During their 12- or 24-week boot camp, these learners are taught JavaScript and its libraries, HTML/CSS, database technologies, and more. Boot camps present learning options for upskillers, career-changers, and beginner learners who want to enter the job market quickly. In fact, more than 70 percent of hiring managers consider boot camp graduates to be as skilled as other hires (PDF, 2.3 MB) according to HackerRank.

Independent Learning

The internet is filled with videos, free and paid classes, and self-guided tutorials that teach JavaScript in many spoken languages and at various paces. If you simply want to learn JavaScript and are committed to self-directed study, these can be worthwhile options.

For example, edX offers a variety of free JavaScript courses, including an introductory class. A YouTube search for “JavaScript programming software” also yields plenty of options to get started. Print guides are also available for those so inclined.

Independent learning can be rewarding and is a good option for those interested in trying out a language before diving in. However, learners concerned about creating their own curriculum or those who require certain types of certification may want to consider other options.

What Kinds of JavaScript Jobs Are Available?

JavaScript jobs stretch across multiple programming disciplines, and JavaScript coders are in high demand. In fact, demand for JavaScript expertise is outpacing supply (PDF, 2.3 MB), according to HackerRank, and it appears that will be true for some time.

If you’re considering a new career using JavaScript, these are some paths you might follow:

  • Front end developer: Writes code for the client side of websites.
  • Back end developer: Writes code for the server side of websites.
  • Full stack developer: Works on both the front and back ends of websites.
  • Mobile developer: Creates software for mobile devices.
  • JavaScript developer: Specializes in JavaScript website functions.
  • Software developer: Designs and updates software.
  • Software engineer: Builds software using engineering principles.
  • Game developer: Designs new and exciting games on multiple platforms.

In its 2020 Future of Jobs Report, the World Economic Forum lists JavaScript development as one of the emerging jobs of tomorrow (PDF, 10.6 MB). Further, CareerOneStop expects demand for web developers and digital designers, for whom JavaScript is a must, to grow by 13 percent from 2020 to 2030 — which is greater than the 8 percent average for all U.S. occupations during the same time period. Software developer demand is anticipated to grow by 22 percent during the same time frame.

Salaries in these fields vary depending on experience, location, industry, and other factors. However, CareerOneStop lists the U.S. median annual salary for web developers at $77,200 as of May 2020, and the BLS reports that the median annual salary for software developers is $105,310. A JavaScript developer’s salary would fall into this range.

Why Learn JavaScript FAQs

JavaScript is a high-level, interpreted, object-oriented scripting language commonly used to add interactive effects and functions to websites. As a scripting language, it operates on a website’s front end (client side), but it can also be used in back end (server-side) programming. The uses of JavaScript extend to app building, game design, machine learning, and more.

Brendan Eich, then a programmer at Netscape, developed JavaScript in 1995 as a new scripting language for Netscape’s web browser Navigator. Netscape and Sun Microsystems, important tech companies of the 1990s, jointly introduced JavaScript as a language that would bring dynamic new features to websites.

JavaScript can take several months to several years to learn, depending on your coding experience, dedication, and expectations. In a coding boot camp, for instance, learners dive into a concentrated 12- or 24-week curriculum that typically includes JavaScript, and gain the practical skills employers are looking for.

Java is an object-oriented programming language, while JavaScript is a scripting language. Java applications run on a virtual machine or web browser, while JavaScript’s applications are browser-based. Also, Java code is a compiled language, whereas JavaScript code is an interpreted one.

These extremely popular languages have several differences. Python is an object-oriented, general-purpose programming language, while JavaScript is an object-oriented scripting language. Programmers employ Python across various disciplines, including data analytics and scientific programming. They use JavaScript primarily to make websites interactive and responsive.

Get Started Learning JavaScript Today

As the world’s most-used programming language, JavaScript influences nearly every interaction we have with a website. In its fourth decade, JavaScript remains a fundamental internet technology. Consequently, JavaScript proficiency continues to generate job opportunities.

If you’re ready to take advantage of these opportunities, consider learning JavaScript and other important tools to become a web designer or full stack developer at Georgia Tech Coding Boot Camp.

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