Busted: The 5 Worst Excuses for Not Learning JavaScript

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Learning something new is hard. Acquiring new skills requires focus, drive, and a certain bit of unfettered optimism—the belief that you actually can remember everything you’re studying. That’s especially true when it comes to programming in JavaScript, a complex language full of often-abstract new concepts.

Unfortunately, for as difficult as it is to commit to learning, it’s equally easy to make up excuses for why you can’t or haven’t even started. Here are 5 too-common excuses that people make to put off learning JavaScript:

1. “I didn’t take computer science in college, so I’m already too far behind.”

Only about three to four percent of all Bachelor’s Degrees awarded in the U.S. are CS degrees, so you’re certainly not alone—and you may be just as well off without a computer science degree. Most computer science (CS) programs focus on teaching students programming concepts, algorithms, and paradigms. While those all are invaluable as supplemental knowledge, a CS degree won’t make you an expert in any one language; it won’t even necessarily prepare you with real-world exposure to today’s most widely used languages, including JavaScript.

So if you’re one of the 96 percent of us who didn’t major in CS, consider how you want to use JavaScript, whether you’re transitioning careers into web development or simply looking to level up in your current role in another field. Luckily, JavaScript is one of the easiest languages to start learning: there’s nothing to install. All you need is a text editor and a browser.

2. “It’s too flexible and not a lot of structure, so beginners can’t understand it.”

JavaScript’s so-called “lack of structure” is a double-edged sword. While this is admittedly troublesome in more complex applications, the language’s flexibility actually offers new developers a boost.

For instance, pop open a new tab in your browser and, using the keyboard shortcut cmd+option+j, open the JavaScript console. Now, type following onto the first line: document.write(“Hello, World!”) Hit enter—et voila! If it printed the words “Hello, World” in the browser, congratulations; you just wrote your first line of JavaScript.

You don’t need a lot to get started in JavaScript, but if it is your first programming language, learning bits and pieces from online tutorials won’t be enough. While these are great as supplemental resources, they won’t give you a well-rounded knowledge of the languages. Instead, focus on learning some basic concepts, such as variables and control structures, along with the basic syntax. I recommend Eloquent JavaScript as an amazing resource.

3. “I’m not good at math so I probably can’t understand JavaScript.”

The big myth around programming is that it’s a field only for the mathematically minded. So if the word “variable” conjures images of college calculus class—or maybe just high-school algebra—in your mind, you may be tempted to run from JavaScript. Don’t.

Being a JavaScript developer means honing your problem-solving abilities, dialing up your patience level, and paying attention to tiny details. If those are skills you have, you’re in luck. There are plenty of algorithms to memorize and basic math is often necessary, but when it comes to JavaScript, nothing beats a patient mind and the eyes of a hawk.

4. “I’m not a web developer so I wouldn’t use JavaScript very much.”

Maybe you won’t use JavaScript every day—but what if you could save several hours a week by automating a report? (You could use JavaScript to write functions directly Google Spreadsheets.) What if you could quickly close a sale by adding a data visualization to your next proposal? (You could use HighCharts to add a simple, interactive chart that quickly pays major dividends.)

No matter your ultimate career goals, JavaScript will help you level up right where you are. In fact, one of the best ways to learn JavaScript is to use it to solve a real problem you face in your current role.

“JavaScript is changing too quickly for me to really learn it.”

All languages would die if they didn’t evolve to meet users’ needs over time, and JavaScript is no different. Unlike most spoken languages, though, JavaScript has a governing body, called ECMA International, that defines what JavaScript is and isn’t. The latest release of these specifications, known as ES6, became public in June 2015—the first update since 2009. By web standards, JavaScript itself isn’t changing very quickly at all.

Rather, JavaScript is changing the ways in which we experience the Internet, and talented developers use JavaScript to develop new technologies every day. Many of these applications boil down to the same JavaScript code and concepts, which are almost universally supported in all web browsers.

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About Melissa Steffan

Melissa Steffan is a web developer at the Washington Post and a WDI D.C. graduate. She is proof that you don't need to meet all of a job post's "required skills" in order to get hired because she still doesn't know Java. Prior to the Post, she worked as a digital marketer, content editor, and reporter—sometimes all at once. You can view her personal website here, or read more of her writing on Medium.