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Software Engineering

Coding vs Programming: The Crucial Differences

Paul Larkin - July 17, 2020


Coding vs Programming: Simply put, coding means writing code for programs or web development. On the other hand, programming looks at the bigger picture when creating apps, while coding is only one aspect of their work.


If you’ve spent time around the development world, you’ve likely heard the terms coding and programming used interchangeably. In most people’s minds, coders and programmers are the same thing and bring to mind a person using a language only computers can understand to create automated tasks. That notion isn’t wrong, but it isn’t the whole story of coding vs programming. In truth, computer programming and coding are distinct from each other. So, what are the differences between the two?

Our guide includes vital information that will get you informed and ready to start making decisions about your career. We’ll show you the differences in programming vs coding and examine how these activities work together to create the apps and sites that make the modern business community tick. And most importantly, you’ll find out how coding plays a critical role in the overall programming process and how coding can contribute to your career growth.

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What is Programming?

A sign with the words "Questions" and "Answers"

Before you decide to enroll in a coding bootcamp, it’s wise to learn as much about the profession as possible. A well-informed developer bootcamp candidate has a better chance of finishing their studies, landing a rewarding programmer gig, and changing their career for the better. That means getting the basics down about programming and learning all about the job’s duties and goals.

The definition of a programmer is someone who creates complex programs that machines can read and execute–that is, programming involves providing a finished set of instructions for computers to perform. If you can build such a program and ensure that it doesn’t have errors, you can wear your programmer badge with pride.

What is Coding?

A person coding at a computer workstation

At its most basic level, coding is the act of translating from a human language to a machine-based one. A coder is multilingual and works with the same attitude as someone who facilitates communication between people who speak different languages. When you work with code, you make sure that the computer receives the instructions and information you provide. Coding, in other words, refers only to the act of writing code.

Programmers look at the bigger picture when creating their apps, and coding is only one aspect of their work. When you work as a programmer, you juggle complicated tasks along with coding, like debugging, testing, and implementation your code with the end goal of winding up with a quality software product.

A good way to look at the setup is sort of a parent-and-child situation, with programming playing the role of the parents to the child that is the lines of code themselves.

Coding vs Programming Skill Sets

A mechanic working on a vehicle
Every profession comes with a particular set of skills.

By now, you can appreciate that programming and coding require different skill levels of knowledge and ability. A coder has it easier in this capacity—to learn how to code, you need to be a beast at one or more programming languages. Your main task when coding is to communicate, and so the more ways you know to do so, the more in demand you’ll be. However, it’s in a coder’s best interest to develop their logic and development chops, too. A coding bootcamp or self-study regimen with online courses are great ways to get started with coding.

Programmers have a lot more to learn. Because you have a responsibility to ensure that the program you develop works and performs as intended, the more you understand about the process, the better. In addition to being an ace coder, programmers also need to rock math and science and have a true grasp of how their applications integrate into existing systems. You can become a full-on programmer through self-development, a college education, or advanced programming bootcamp. That said, to be a successful programmer, it often takes years of experience.

How Coding and Programming Work Together

A team of people stacking hands in a huddle.
One big, happy app-building family

You’ve made it this far, and you now have a decent idea of what the whole programming vs coding deal is all about and how they fit into software development industries. But to understand the similarities and differences, it’s best to watch them in action. Let’s imagine that a programmer just got a commission to create a mobile app to monitor monkey sightings in Central Park. What’s the development process, and when do coders enter the picture?

The programmer begins by stepping back and planning out the application from soup to nuts. They design the program to pull reports of monkeys from different online sources and determine output and interactive components, along with a zillion other factors. Then, the coder (who is often the programmer) transforms those ideas into code that the computer can digest. Once the coder does their magic, the programmer can polish and publish the final product. Real-world apps all go through much more sophisticated versions of this process.

While they might seem to be the same profession, the differences between coding and programming are real. We look into the two fields and show you how they work together to create the software that keeps our planet turning. With our assistance, you’ll be ready to pick your career path with confidence.

About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.

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Paul Larkin

About the author: Paul Larkin has years of experience in the tech industry and writes about cybersecurity and future of work.

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