Code School Study Shows How to Spot a Future Programmer

A recent Code School survey offers information on traits in youth that may indicate a future in computer science.

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Most programmers find their interest in computer science before age 16 and carry this passion into their professional life, according to a recent survey.

A Code School survey of 2,200 coders and developers reveals some specific traits and tendencies that may predict that a youth has a future career in computer science. The survey polled current coders and software developers and asked them to recount personal traits, tendencies and preferences from their younger years.

Code School, a Pluralsight company and online learn-to-code destination, conducted its survey in July 2015 to explore behaviors in children and teens that correlate to a future in a computer science profession. The results show that most coders and software developers form hobbies and interests in computers before the age of 16, and their interest carries into their college and professional years. The study also looked at coders' hobbies, work ethic and academic achievement during their formative years.

The Code School survey comes at a period of need in the IT industry, as well as other industries – because every industry has become software intensive.

Indeed, "Students who pursue computer science as a career will notice that 67 percent of software jobs are outside the tech industry,” said Hadi Partovi, founder of, in a FAQ of sorts about his organization. “These jobs are in every state and country. Silicon Valley struggles to hire software engineers, but so does the rest of America, and the world.”

Partovi estimates that 1.4 million programming jobs will be needed over the next decade, although analysts estimate that only about 400,000 STEM and computer science majors will graduate in the U.S. Yet, studies like the Code School survey provide information to help identify and support future programmers at an early age.

“We conducted this survey to shine a light on what future coders and developers look like at a young age so we can identify budding computer scientists and cultivate their interests and talents early on,” said Gregg Pollack, founder and CEO of Code School, in a statement. “Understanding and identifying these traits and tendencies is important in helping parents, teachers and professionals prepare kids for potential future careers in the rapidly growing computer science and technology fields.”

The study helps to create a picture of what budding coders look like during their formative years. The survey also revealed gender-specific traits that may predict a future in coding. For instance, more than half of the men polled said they got into computers at age 15 or younger, while two-thirds of women became interested in computer science at age 16 or later.

More than 83 percent of men listed computers as their top hobby growing up, with sports (61 percent) and music (59 percent) next in line. For women, music was preferred over computers at 63 percent and 52 percent, respectively.

In addition, the study showed that women were less likely to drop out of college than men -- 7 percent versus 14 percent. The majority of women (51 percent) received bachelor’s degrees and 30 percent completed graduate degrees, while only 42 percent of men received a bachelor’s degree and 27 percent a graduate degree.

Women also appear to focus on getting work done early, according to the survey. Women were less likely to procrastinate and more likely to turn in work on time with the best quality, while 41 percent of men admitted to waiting until the last minute to do school assignments. Boys tended to be good students -- two-thirds had high school GPAs of at least 3.6 -- but prone to procrastination. However, girls tended to be excellent students -- 81 percent had GPAs of at least 3.6 -- and be extremely conscientious about turning in assignments on time and in the best quality.

Women also are more likely to have steady middle-class incomes with 32 percent making between $50,000 and $99,999 per year, yet they are less likely than men (17 percent) to make more than $100,000 annually. Men tend to live at both extremes of the annual income scale, with one in four men earning $100,000 and one in five making less than $25,000.

“Current trends suggest that jobs in the industry will continue to grow at a faster-than-average rate through at least 2022,” Pollack said. “Parents, teachers and community leaders should look for these traits and tendencies in youth and nurture them. The world has never provided more opportunities for kids to get more involved in computers through coding boot camps, online tutorials and gamified training, and now we're learning more about what kinds of behaviors predict a potential future in these important careers.”