What Do Today’s Young Programmers Want in a Career?

A new survey finds that growth opportunities and work/life balance are priorities.
By: | December 11, 2018 • 3 min read

Today in the U.S., there are a reported 580,000 open computing jobs with less than 50,000 computer science graduates entering the workforce, which equals to 11 job postings for every computer-science major.

HackerRank, a technical hiring platform, surveyed over 10,000 student-developers from its community of 5 million developers from around the world to determine how they’re acquiring their coding skills and what they look for in a job. The findings reveal some surprises, including that YouTube has become a popular platform for young programmer-wannabes to help them acquire skills. It also finds that programmers place higher priority on career-growth opportunities than perks and compensation.

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HackerRank founder and CEO Vivek Ravisankar has stated that companies have placed too much emphasis on pedigree (universities attended, previous employers) than on actual skills when it comes to finding programmers. Coding competitions and sites such as GitHub are more effective ways to evaluate and identify skilled programmers, he says.

“Today’s average CS curriculum is not a clear indicator that a student will possess the skills needed to enter the workforce,” says Ravisankar.

Here are the report’s highlights:

  • Many programmers are self-taught. Today’s students are not relying solely on university computer-science curricula to give them the necessary skills they need for software development. Over half of student developers (65 percent) report they are partially reliant on self-teaching to learn to code, with nearly a third (27 percent) claiming they are completely self-taught.
  • Students rely on YouTube more than professionals. Student developers are turning to YouTube (73 percent) to learn more than professional developers (64 percent). Meanwhile, students rely less on networking site Stack Overflow compared to their professional peers (77 percent vs. 88 percent, respectively).
  • Globally, student JavaScript expertise can’t keep up with demand. With 95 percent of web applications built on JavaScript, it’s no surprise that the programming language has become one of the most in-demand skills for companies. HackerRank found that while 48 percent of employers are looking for JavaScript proficiency, only 42 percent of students worldwide say they know the language. Examining the data regionally, HackerRank found the largest gaps in India and Canada.
  • Growth opportunities are five times as appealing as perks. The three most important criteria students look for in job opportunities are: professional growth and learning (58 percent), work/life balance (52 percent) and having interesting problems to solve (46 percent). Student developers have a stronger appetite for growth opportunities than compensation (18 percent) and perks (11 percent), which they view as niceties as opposed to deal-breakers. Companies looking to attract new graduates must ensure they are considering these career preferences as they design and market software developer jobs.
Andrew R. McIlvaine is senior editor for talent acquisition at Human Resource Executive. He oversees coverage of talent acquisition and recruiting and also edits the weekly Recruiting Trends Bulletin e-newsletter and its associated website, RecruitingTrends.com. A Penn State graduate, Andy also spent two years in the U.S. Army prior to attending college and attained the rank of sergeant while serving in the Army Reserves. He can be reached at [email protected]