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What Kinds of Jobs Can You Get With JavaScript Skills?

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If you’re not familiar with JavaScript or you need a refresher, it’s a scripting language used to add and control dynamic content on a website. Where markup languages like HTML and CSS give web browsers instructions on how to display a website (defining static things like headers, fonts, paragraphs, etc.), JavaScript executes the features on a page that need to update in real time without a user having to refresh their screen (things like interactive maps, animated graphics, scrolling video, jukeboxes, etc.). Since most websites will eventually require content and features above and beyond static text, JavaScript is an important addition to an HTML/CSS foundation. But how exactly do JavaScript skills translate to jobs when it comes to nailing down paid work?

Amy Cho, CTO at diversity hiring site Hirekind, says that about one third of all programming-related jobs listed on sites like Indeed require JavaScript proficiency. According to Cho, JavaScript’s strong presence in the workforce can be attributed to two things—the foundational nature of the language (as of this writing, JavaScript helps provide the foundation for 95.1% of all active websites) and the robust array of features JavaScript brings to those foundations (unlike the relatively cut-and-dried text and formatting of HTML and CSS, JavaScript’s features provide a flexible, added layer that make sites stand out and present as highly functional).

What Do JavaScript Jobs Look Like?

According to Elaine Queathem, Founder at coding bootcamp Savvy Coders, some of the most common JavaScript jobs include front end web development (building the user-facing, visual parts of a website), web application development (creating web-based software applications including interactive online forms and shopping carts, word processing and spreadsheet programs, video and photo editors, file conversion and scanning programs, and email software), and website administration (maintaining, backing up, and updated existing websites for an organization). Meanwhile, Ross O’Neill, Quality Assurance Automation Specialist and Founder at job site WorkNearYou, adds full stack developer and quality assurance automation specialist to the list. These are web developers who work on the front end of a website as well as its back end—the invisible infrastructure that powers websites “under the hood”—and technicians who oversee automated software testing, respectively.

As of this writing, Glassdoor has nearly 53,000 JavaScript-related jobs posted, including the roles Queathem and O’Neill mentioned, as well as web marketing managers (online marketing professionals who create and implement digital marketing campaigns) and web marketing design specialists (digital designers who create the design strategy for those campaigns). Cho points out that these roles are not confined to traditional tech companies, either. “Most industries—including things like banking, insurance, and retail—rely on some form of software or website that very likely uses JavaScript,” Cho says. “Which means companies ranging from enterprise to startup are all hiring for these kinds of jobs.”

How is JavaScript Used on the Job?

When it comes to using JavaScript on the job, Queathem says she relies on JavaScript regularly for tasks like adding and updating JavaScript content on existing websites, fixing bugs in pre-existing code, and sometimes building new JavaScript features from scratch. O’Neill says that in his role as a quality assurance automation specialist he uses JavaScript for setting up and executing automated software tests. In O’Neill’s case, instead of using JavaScript’s scripting function to control dynamic content on a website, he uses it to instruct a software framework—a collection of tools used to build software, websites, or apps—called Selenium to perform automated tests on web applications. By using JavaScript, automation specialists like O’Neill are able to run tests on thousands of mobile and desktop browsers at once rather than performing each test individually. So whether it’s controlling dynamic features on a page so the user doesn’t have to or automating processes like software testing or database management to make back end work more efficient—JavaScript’s ability to instruct other programs what to do is at the heart of what makes it so useful.

What Does It Take to Learn JavaScript?

Like most tech skills, the time it takes to pick up JavaScript and put yourself in position to start working is probably a lot less than you think. Cho says it took her about four months to teach herself JavaScript, while O’Neill says he got up to speed in about six. As for where to start learning, Queathem points prospective JavaScript students toward the many resources available online, including Codeacademy, Freecodecamp, and Udemy. Queathem also stresses the importance of seeking out local developer meetups and using them as an opportunity for networking and mentorship. If in-person meetups are hard to find in your area, you can find similar opportunities by staying active in forums like Github and Stack Overflow, while checking out webinars and articles from sources like TechSoup and TechCrunch.

However—also like most tech skills—while JavaScript can be picked up over a course of months, the learning process continues over the course of a career. For instance, Cho says things like the continued development and popularity of JavaScript frameworks (collections of pre-written JavaScript code commonly used in web development) means that there are always new techniques and applications to pick up—you don’t simply “learn JavaScript” once. Similarly, most people don’t learn JavaScript in a vacuum. No matter how JavaScript-intensive your job may be, it’s usually carried out alongside other programming languages and skills. Queathem says that while her career has been primarily focused on JavaScript, she’s also picked up some PHP (another scripting language used for automation) and Python (an all-purpose programming language used for app and software development), as well as familiarizing herself with content management systems (platforms for publishing digital content) like ExpressionEngine and WordPress. Cho adds that HTML, CSS, and an understanding of database management (e.g. SQL) are also crucial skills to learn alongside JavaScript.

With as many JavaScript job-related opportunities as are out there, Queathem adds that even if you don’t end up in a JavaScript-forward role it’s still an essential language to add to your toolkit, due to how widely used and accessible the language is. JavaScript is ubiquitous enough that even if it isn’t the central language in your particular tech role, having it on tap will undoubtedly be useful. But drilling deeper than that, Queathem says that JavaScript is a relatively direct and straightforward coding language, making it an efficient and practical way to familiarize yourself with the fundamentals of programming before learning more languages. If if you give JavaScript the time it deserves, says Queathem, you’ll see the returns in a highly marketable skill for your resume, and in the personal achievement of being qualified to land creatively satisfying and professionally rewarding work.

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