JavaScript: Why every rookie web developer needs to learn it

- select the contributor at the end of the page -

Whether you’re new to JavaScript or a seasoned vet, here’s a little fun fact you  might not know: JavaScript was originally thrown together in about 10 days in 1995 to bridge the gap between Java and scripting language. Now, some 20 years later, JavaScript has grown into the most popular programming language on the web. According to the TIOBE Programming Community index, JavaScript currently holds the top position, in terms of ratings, and was named TIOBE’s 2014 programming language of the year. Because of this (and other factors we’ll discuss), one of the most important decisions you can make is to learn JavaScript, especially if you’re just breaking into the world of web development. Let’s dig in by first covering some of JavaScript’s basic elements, and then we’ll answer some of the most common questions for first-timers.

Javascript is perfect for beginners
Many programing languages require quite a bit of knowledge and programming understanding just to get started—JavaScript doesn’t. It requires no installation or configuration. You don’t even have to buy it! If you want to get started with JavaScript this very second, all you need is a web browser (all modern browsers support JavaScript without the need for plug-ins). This makes it possible for you, right now, to open the JavaScript console in your favorite browser and begin changing aspects of the pages you visit. Check out some of our entry-level courses on basics and fundamentals.

JavaScript is as accessible as it is because it’s built directly into the browsers that most of us use to access the internet. Bottom line: If you have a browser, you have the tools you need to write and execute JavaScript code. As for additional tools, you can find a number of free resources and online script libraries to help you get even more out of your experience. With JavaScript you can watch in real-time as your code modifications affect the pages you visit. Ultimately, the best way to really grasp a new concept is by experimentation, and JavaScript gets you to that point far more quickly and easily than any other programing language.

JavaScript has hundreds of resources

As easy as it is to jump into JavaScript as a beginner, there’s no reason for you to retain your rookie status for too long. Advanced JavaScript techniques can easily be learned through online resources and courses, and there are many sites, tutorials, books and online classes available that can help you become a JavaScript expert, fast. Taking your first steps into the world of web development can be a blast, but if you don’t quickly make it past those first steps and into more advanced stages, you’re wasting valuable time. JavaScript’s additional resources make it easy for you to continue to see results as you progress in your abilities.    

JavaScript is extremely versatile

If you think that JavaScript is only useful for creating interactive website elements, think again. Sure, there was a time when JavaScript was somewhat limited to front-end uses, but that time has passed. Now, JavaScript is found everywhere, not just in browsers. From games to countless other examples (including home automation devices, microcontrollers, and even robots), JavaScript is quickly becoming the de facto programing language for everything technological, and the ever increasing scope of the mobile web is constantly opening up new frontiers for those who understand JavaScript and want to see its full capabilities.

This means that whatever your web development goals may be, JavaScript will give you the tools you need to help realize them. And, should you decide to move beyond web development, your knowledge of JavaScript will be something valuable that you can take with you.

JavaScript is incredibly lucrative

Thanks to its limitless versatility, it’s no surprise that organizations are pushing hard to find prospective employees skilled in JavaScript. According to SkilledUp, JavaScript proficiency is the most sought-after skill by those currently looking to hire web developers. Additionally, average salaries for those proficient in JavaScript are consistently high across multiple fields. Considering that we’re only now really getting into the new era of mobile apps and web page interactivity, you can be sure that the demand for JavaScript is only going to become more pronounced in the coming years.

Of course, if this is your first introduction to JavaScript, you probably have some questions. Thankfully, you’re in the right place—we have a good idea what those questions might be, so we’ve decided to lay it all out here.

Is JavaScript the same as Java?

Nope; JavaScript and Java are not the same thing. The name “JavaScript” is mainly a product of smart marketing—let us explain. When JavaScript was first released, it was originally called LiveScript, but creator, Brendan Eich, realized that Java was an increasingly popular programming language at the time. In order to increase the marketability of LiveScript, Eich gained legal permission to change the name to JavaScript.

But wait—there are some similarities between Java and JavaScript. For one, both are object-oriented languages, and each have some syntax that, at first glance, appears similar. OK, that’s actually about all that Java and JavaScript have in common. Java was designed from the ground up to create complex computer programs, while JavaScript was designed originally to create web applications. The fact that they don’t really have all that much in common can be confusing at first. If you’re coming from another programming language such as Java or C++, you’ll see a lot of familiar concepts, but keep an eye out for a number of new things that may surprise you.

You also want to keep their differences in mind while researching what courses to take. The last thing you want to do is accidentally sign up for a Java class, when JavaScript is actually what you need.

What about career opportunities for JavaScript coders?

As the online landscape continues to change and thrive, JavaScript is becoming even more important. This is mainly thanks to AJAX. Back in the day, JavaScript was only used for coding the front end of websites. It was great for interactive pieces and visuals, and still is. However, it has recently become quite a bit more. AJAX now allows JavaScript to work with data on the backend, rather than just the front end. This has allowed developers to create seemingly complex applications that load new data quickly.

A good example of this in action can be seen in Gmail. Thanks to AJAX, Gmail can now perform near-instantaneous updates on your email, which means that you don’t have to refresh your browser page every time you want to see if there’s anything new. The same type of AJAX code allows Google to pull live tweets into its search engine. AJAX has allowed for big new developments in the industry, and developers need to be more than just passingly familiar with them in order to stand out. It’s safe to say that if you don’t know JavaScript, you’re lagging behind.

 

How do I learn JavaScript?

One of JavaScript’s best features is the fact that it's been around for such a long time. There are plenty of online JavaScript courses that can be accessed at the click of a mouse, and a number of insightful and helpful books have been written on the subject. Most schools now have fully-fledged JavaScript programs, and there are plenty of tutorials and classes available online (Hint: here are some of our JavaScript courses). With this in mind, your best bet is to choose a good beginners course from which to learn the basics. This way you’ll understand what JavaScript is doing, and you’ll become familiar with its basic syntax. Then, as you work on projects, you can look up tutorials on specific ideas and concepts. Once you begin creating web applications, you’ll also want to consider taking other advanced courses to help you level up.

And let’s not forget that JavaScript is commonly written into HTML pages, meaning that no compiler is required to be able to process the code (read: you can get started immediately). However, it should be noted that just because JavaScript does not require a compiler does not mean that it can’t be used to write complex programs.

Should I learn anything other than JavaScript?

It depends. If you’re just starting out in web development, there are a few different languages you’ll want to have in your arsenal. The obvious are HTML and CSS; these can be taught quickly and should be learned even before JavaScript. After JavaScript, you’ll want to consider learning PHP and ASP.NET. You should also learn AJAX (mentioned earlier), and get familiar with MySQL.

To sum it all up, the future belongs to JavaScript. So, if you want to really make it as a web developer, you need to acquaint yourself with the programing language upon which the entire web is built. And while there’s no denying that JavaScript is not the only programing language out there, it may be by far the most important.

Get our content first. In your inbox.

Contributor

Pluralsight

Pluralsight is the technology learning platform. We enable individuals and teams to grow their skills, accelerate their careers and create the future.