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By Tom Rickert

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Coding, programming, and computer analytics don’t seem like very sexy careers. Having Applications Software Developer etched in the nameplate on your desk? Perhaps even less so. But did you know that developers and programmers are among the highest paid members of the workforce, right out of college?

Forbes’ list of the college degrees with the highest starting salaries puts computer science at a solid number two, right behind engineering, with an average starting salary of $58,500 in 2013.

UC San Diego’s Hot Careers for College Graduates tied applications and systems software developers for the number one spot in their 2013 annual report, which evaluates careers based on current employment in the field, projected growth, salaries, and workplace environment. The report clocks systems developers at an average yearly salary of $102,550, while applications developers have to settle for a mere $97,550.

That old saying that nerds rule the world may or may not actually be true, but they sure make a lot of money.

How do kids and young students, equipped with one-in-a-million aspirations of rock stardom and Hollywood, embrace a profession with great growth rates and quite a bit higher than average income?

CodeDay Philadelphia is an all-day hackathon taking place on May 24th to 25th, noon to noon. This is the first year that Philadelphia will be holding a CodeDay, joining 25 other cities across the country in 2014.

Brian Haug is the regional manager for CodeDay and marketing director for StudentRND, the non-profit that hopes to get kids interested in coding.

“For 24 hours we invite students ranging from middle school through college level, of all experience levels, whether you don’t know anything about programming or you’ve been doing it for several years, to just come, build something cool, whether it’s a game or an app, meet other programmers in the area and network across the country,” Haug said.

CodeDay isn’t just a day of programming practice, Haug stressed. Networking is a real benefit for participants as well. “A lot of our graduates from CodeDay actually go on to get their foot in the doors with career opportunities from professionals that visit our workshops.”

(Credit: Provided by Brian Haug/Code Day)

(Credit: Photo provided by Brian Haug/Code Day)

The event is geared toward students of all ages and abilities, and there’s no such thing as too young or inexperienced.

Haug shared a story about a younger coder from a previous hackathon held in Seattle. “Our youngest participant was 11 or 12 years old. He and his friend decided to come over with his older brother, and they actually ended up making their own first-person stick RPG game. Obviously, while it wasn’t as complex as our other coders, these two students who had just gotten into junior high were able to build their first fully functioning game within 24 hours, with almost no learning of programming prior to the event.”

During the event, participants are offered several workshops, each designated toward a different experience level. First, a beginner workshop introduces inexperienced programmers to HTML, JavaScript, and CSS.

Intermediate students can sign up for a workshop designed for their skill level. “This workshop is for the users who’ve had a little bit more exposure,” says Haug. “Maybe they’ve been involved in robotics club, or have mild exposure to CS programs in their schools or extra-curricular activities.”

Haug says their most popular workshop is for the students who have a bit of experience under their belts. “Our advanced workshop is for the programmers or tech engineers who’ve been doing it for a bit more time. We allow them to just kind of explore what skills they already know, figure out what direction they want to go in, and develop a workshop around them.”

This year, CodeDay Philly is going to be hosted at Venturef0rth, a co-working space located at 417 N. 8th Street. This being CodeDay’s first year in Philadelphia, Haug expects anywhere from 25 to 50 participants. “We’re expecting about a medium-sized crowd for Philadelphia this time around,” he said. “A couple local businesses from the area, maybe a few food sponsors.”

Haug says getting kids interested in coding and programming can have very positive effects for both the students’ future and the workforce in general. “A lot of people have caught on that most businesses are looking for product designers and innovators,” he said. “Anyone who can program or code or even do basic web management are in high demand right now. Why not be exposed to an environment that helps develop that, as well as network with all these people who have their foot in the door and get these amazing opportunities?”

To find more information about CodeDay, check out the event’s website. Other information regarding the hackathon and its parent non-profit can be found at StudentRND.org.

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