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Learning JavaScript Frameworks Will Boost Your Job Prospects—But Which One Should You Learn First?

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If you’re interested in learning to code, you’ve probably noticed that JavaScript (JS) is a hot topic. JavaScript—a scripting language used to build dynamic web content (animated features, interactive forms, scrolling video, etc.)—is a pillar of web development, which means JavaScript developers are in high demand (Indeed lists over 28,000 JavaScript jobs as of this writing) and JavaScript jobs are lucrative (Glassdoor lists average JavaScript developer pay at $72,500 as of this writing).

But you might have also noticed a lot of talk (particularly in job listings) about JavaScript frameworks. JS frameworks are collections of pre-written JavaScript code used to make the development process easier and more efficient. Because so many coding tasks are repetitive and appear consistently across development projects, coding every single routine task from scratch soon becomes a ridiculous time sink. Frameworks act as a skeleton that allows you to easily implement the basic parts of your website so you can spend more time adding unique, project-specific features. But where exactly should you get started with frameworks? Is there a specific framework that’s a must for learning first?

Kavitha Balachandran, Senior Software Engineer at software development company Fingent Technologies, says to keep in mind that at the end of the day frameworks are tools developers use to make their job easier. This means your specific needs should always be the main criteria when selecting one web framework over another. And, Balachandran says, the first framework you start learning doesn’t mean a whole lot in the bigger picture—whichever framework you start with won’t lock you into a path for life, it will simply get the ball rolling en route to learning other frameworks should the need arise.

Meanwhile, Balachandran recommends that new coders should make sure to log time with JavaScript lin general before getting too bogged down with JS frameworks. “Once you’re familiar with the underlying JavaScript programming language,” Balachandran says, “picking up any JS framework should be a walk in the park.” However, she adds that mastering JS frameworks WILL immediately improve your developer job prospects after you’ve handled JavaScript, so the best thing you can do is to simply get started experimenting with a framework—any framework. Remember: Bogging yourself down with concern over which framework is the magical right one to start with means you’re not learning any of them. That being said, if you’re looking for a nudge to get you started, there are two quality framework options you can’t go wrong with: Vue.js and React.js.

Vue.js

When I posed the question of which JS framework to learn first—both internally to Skillcrush developers and externally to other JS pros—Vue.js was consistently mentioned as a solid option. Although Vue was first released in 2014, its popularity has skyrocketed over the past couple of years. In 2017, Vue was “starred” by users 40,000 times (up from 26,000 in 2016) on the code hosting site GitHub, making it the site’s most popular JavaScript project category. With the second place framework on that list (React.js) coming in at 28,000 stars, you can get a sense of just how hot Vue is right now with developers. But what exactly is all the hubbub about?

According to Balachandran, Vue’s relative simplicity and gradual learning curve makes it a perfect starting framework for new JavaScript developers. Vue’s syntax (the set of rules defining which combinations of symbols make up properly structured code in a programming language) is HTML-based, allowing users to call upon their HTML knowledge to write pages (versus having to learn framework-specific languages when working with some framework options). A framework like Angular.js, for instance, requires learning a JavaScript variant called TypeScript, making it more of an unwieldy choice for beginners.

Still, Vue’s ease of use doesn’t mean it’s sitting at the kids table of JS frameworks. Balachandran says that—in addition to its beginner-friendly perks—Vue is versatile enough to play as big or small a part in a website’s user interface layer (the parts of a site that a user interacts with through their browser) as you see fit. Vue templates can be written as HTML files or as JavaScript files, giving programmers options when it comes to how much of their site they want controlled by the framework—Vue can produce a template for an entire website, part of one webpage, or all points in-between depending on how much of a site requires your own unique code. Finally, as an open source project with an enthusiastic user base, Balachandran says that Vue has a thriving peer community, making it a snap to find answers to your questions.

React.js

Ask a developer which JS framework to learn first and you’re likely to hear React.js mentioned in the same breath as Vue. In fact, it’s almost a toss up between the two—while Vue may have surged in popularity recently, React has been at the top of the JS framework popularity charts for years now—which means it comes with the benefits of industry-wide adoption, big company backing, and a large job market. According to programming Q&A forum Stack Overflow, jobs targeting developers with React skills rose over 150 percent on their job boards between 2015 and 2016. So, if you’re looking to work in front-end development with a speciality in JavaScript, you can see how you could do worse that starting off learning React as your first framework.

Similar to Vue, React is designed for gradual implementation, meaning you can use as little or as much React on your website as your particular needs require. React can be added directly to HTML pages, after which it can be expanded throughout the page or limited to specific interactive widgets. Balachandran says that—like Vue—React has a relatively even learning curve and a supportive developer community. Vue may be edging out React as the framework darling of the moment in some quarters, but its strength in the job market makes it another worthy choice for a first framework to learn.

Don’t Forget About jQuery

In the midst of looking into JavaScript and JS frameworks you’ll also see mention of something called jQuery. jQuery might sound like another framework, but it’s actually considered a code library. Balachandran says that when she started working in development, frameworks hadn’t yet come into their own and jQuery was considered the Swiss Army knife of JavaScript. Even today, that utility still stands. Where frameworks like Vue and React provide extensive templates to organize a website’s JavaScript code, they can be overkill if all you need is a quick solution to a specific JS coding problem, and that’s where jQuery comes in. The jQuery library is made up of JavaScript functions that can be accessed through a single line jQuery command (as opposed to the multiple lines of code it would take to perform the same functions by hand). jQuery can also be used to simplify JavaScript tasks like AJAX calls—using JavaScript to communicate with a server and update parts of a website without users having to reload the entire page. Unlike a framework, jQuery doesn’t provide a structured environment for your code (it simply provides shortcuts for individual functions), but—with a jQuery search bringing up over 13,000 job listings on Indeed at the time of this writing—it’s still a critical skill to add to your JavaScript development toolkit.

The takeaway? Whether it’s a framework like Vue or React, or a library like jQuery, go ahead and start getting your hands on JS tools and seeing what you can do—just as soon as you’ve established some foundational JavaScript knowledge. If you’re looking for places to start learning both JavaScript and JS frameworks, try dipping your toe into online tutorials from resources like Coursera and Udemy. And if you’re ready to take your JavaScript skills to the next level, consider paid, instructor-led classes from an online coding school like Skillcrush. Either way, getting started is your first key step.

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3 comments

  1. Mercy Replied

    I love this. I’m just starting out on JS libraries though. Thank you for the insight.

  2. Chris Farley Replied

    This article is a must read for every new front-end developer out there.

  3. Constance Replied

    Scott Morris, thanks! And thanks for sharing your great posts every week!

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