The Background…
The sporting industry is consumed with delivering its content, branding and messaging to fans through every possible avenue. As a result, careers in web and mobile application development are readily available to those with the ability and experience to make an impact. Websites and mobile apps – created for teams, leagues and media partners – are more dynamic than ever, requiring a staff of skilled developers to build, maintain and enhance them on a frequent basis. Developers are in high demand across all major industries but the opportunity to mix a passion of programming with the love of sports makes the sporting industry an intriguing option.

Web development has come a long way since programmers put static text on a plain white screen. This broad term involves a variety of tasks that go into building a website. While site design, content creation, server management and network security are sometimes lumped into this category, the truer aspects of web development include markup and code creation. Most people can create a wireframe (i.e. high-level website sketch) but developers build the foundation that allows rich content to be distributed to thousands of people a day. Markup language – like HTML, XML, CSS – sits around the text displayed on a web page while coding, both server-side and client-side, builds the foundation that the content sits upon. JavaScript, HTML5, Perl, PHP, Python and .NET are sample code languages most typically used for building websites. Client-side configuration is limited but allows development of page navigation, ad presentation and certain website formatting. Server-side development, being much more powerful, allows a website to tap into data stored on the web and interface with other websites. Sports-related web developers use this code to create embedded video players, real time game score updates, dynamic ad displays and content creation tools.

Global smartphone sales are expected to top 900 million in 2013 and will make up more than 50% of the mobile phone market, beating out feature phone sales for the first time ever. With smartphones proliferating everywhere from the first world to emerging markets, quality mobile app developers are in high demand. Coders with the ability to create exquisitely designed and efficiently run mobile and web apps are being hired by major sports and sports media companies who must infiltrate the mobile market in the struggle for new ad revenue and handheld screen time. Mobile apps are applications created for specific operating systems like Android, iOS, Windows Mobile and Blackberry, whereas web apps are coded to provide an application-like presentation within a phone’s web browser. In the sports realm, mobile developers create apps to provide content and push relevant ads to fans. While coding platforms vary, Java, C, HTML, C++ and HTML5 are a few example code languages used by mobile developers. Smartphone applications are all about user mindshare so developers who create slick apps that don’t drain battery life will go far.

The Path…
General public perception tells us a college degree is now required to enter the white collar workforce. But the reality is, much like the board game LIFE, multiple roads can lead you to a career in website or mobile app development. The college path certainly has its positives, providing a structured, step-by-step way to learn coding theory in a risk-free environment while simultaneously enhancing both your resume and professional network. A computer science degree gives you a computing foundation including algorithms, program design and mathematical application. Through its coursework, you will learn fundamental coding languages but, more importantly, you will be taught how to learn a programming language. This knowledge allows you to self-study any programming language and, with the right amount of practice, become a proficient coder. The type of courses vary from school-to-school so, if you decide to take this route, study course catalogs and talk to advisors and recent alumni to ensure the degree will meet your needs. The downsides of the college route are the rising cost of a degree and the opportunity cost of the time that could have otherwise been spent gaining valuable real world, hands on experience. Scores of developers – mobile and web – never set foot in a university classroom. While those of you that choose this alternate path won’t have a built in network or degree to hang on the wall, you can become an equally skilled and well paid programmer. Self-discipline is vital for people that skip the structured path of college. Many self-taught programmers read books and websites, watch videos and practice various languages to reach professional status. Many in this group do freelance website programming or publish their own mobile apps to make money and hone their skills. Once they’ve built up a cache of experiences to draw from, a resume can be created and employers will start paying attention.

In the world of web and mobile application development, there is no path of least resistance. College educated and self-taught developers alike face their own respective challenges entering the competitive information technology workforce. But, unlike some careers that are headed the way of Pascal and Fortran, web programmers are in heavy demand across the spectrum of industries, including sports and sports media. Detailed focus, a keen eye for interface design and tenacious, sticktuitive-ness will allow you to make your mark on the web and catch a viewer’s eye, no matter how you choose to get there.

The Money …
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated, as of 2010, that a computer programmer’s median pay was over $70,000 annually with many earning into the six figures. As the internet reaches ubiquitous status globally and processing power allows for more dynamic website functionality, web developers and creators of mobile applications will only be in higher demand. Every major sports league, team and media outlet not only wants a stunning website but they want an icon on your smartphone’s home screen right next to your Facebook app. The extra ad revenue and mindshare captured by these web tools are worth the large salaries paid out to those that create and maintain a company’s internet-based software. Web programming in the sports industry is a lucrative career path for people that enjoy its fast paced work environment and constantly changing set of tools.

Found It:
The Economic Times
Bureau of Labor Statistics  

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