Never Too Early To Code According to HackerRank
Written by Janet Swift   
Wednesday, 24 January 2018

When and how did today's developers learn to code? The answers differ by generation and by geography according to the results of a new survey from HackerRank.


For its 2018 Developer Skills Report HackerRank, a developer hiring platform that conducts over 200,000 coding challenges per month in over 35 programming languages, surveyed more than 39,000 software developers. 

Given that a big emphasis for I Programmer is (lifelong) learning of programming languages and associated skills, HackerRank's finding about the age at which today's developers first learned to code was of immediate interest. 




Almost half those surveyed has learned to code in their late teens, with the other half almost evenly dived between younger and older age groups. The headline that the report uses is:

1 in 4 developers started coding before they could drive

and it comments:

It’s never too early — or too late! — to start coding

noting that of the developers who started coding after the age of 26, 36% are now senior or even higher-level developers, growing quickly in their careers. 

What is even more interesting is a marked generational difference. Almost half of all developers (47%) between the ages of 45 and 54 started coding before they were 16 years old and 1 in 8 among those now aged 35 to 44 starting coding before they were 10.




These bulges in interest in learning to program correspond to the era of the personal computer revolution. As the report puts it:

Developers between the ages of 45 and 54 were among the first to get their hands on relatively powerful PCs, like the Acorn Archimedes, TRS-80, Commodore 64, and Apple II. With limited to no access to formal education, young people in the PC Revolution had an unusually strong drive to learn to code on their own.

In the UK - the country that has the distinction in the survey as being the places with the highest share of developers coding between 5 and 10 - it was popular home computers such as the ZX-81, ZX Spectrum, Dragon and, in the school environment the BBC Micro, that introduced a whole generation of teens and pre-teens to writing their own programs for games and utilities - what we would now terms apps.

One trend that has persisted is that the developers are largely self-taught with almost three quarters of those surveyed choosing this option. Almost 70 percent  said that school or university has also contributed to their coding education. Less than 1 in 10 had experienced accelerated training - which presumably includes the bootcamp model.




Self-learners have a wide range of resources to rely on and the most important of these is Stack Overflow with over 7 out of 8 of respondents using it to benefit from the advice of their peers.



Developers in the 25 to 34 age range have the highest reliance on Stack Overflow. Those least likely to use Stack Overflow for learning were the oldest group (81.2%) followed by the youngest (86.6%).

MOOCs were used by 51.6% of respondents with those in the 25 to 34 age range being above average users (51.3%) and those in the two oldest groups below average with around 45%.

Where habits differed most were You Tube and Books. To quote the report:

There is, however, a clear age group divide between YouTube and books as the second favorite resource for learning to code. The very nature of learning is changing; younger generations are flocking to YouTube while older generations prefer books to learn new skills.

The biggest contrast is between the youngest group - almost 70% of whom favor You Tube whereas only 55% turn to books - and the over 45% of whom around 70% opt for books while 53% log on to You Tube.

However ongoing learning is important for all developers, whatever their ages. 



hackerrank logo

More Information

2018 Developer Skills Report

Related Articles

UK Micros of the 1980s

Where To Find Top U.S. Developers

Where to Find Top Women Coders

HackerRank Reveals Where To Find Programming Talent 

HackerRank - Advance Your Coding Through Problem Solving


To be informed about new articles on I Programmer, sign up for our weekly newsletter, subscribe to the RSS feed and follow us on Twitter, Facebook or Linkedin.

C book



or email your comment to:

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 29 January 2019 )