Java is one of the most widely known programming languages in the world. If you learn how to code in Java, you will have access to a wide range of opportunities.
Behind every piece of technology—from smartphone applications to websites—is a programming language that instructs a computer to perform a certain set of actions. These actions collectively comprise the application, which could be as simple as a to-do list or as complex as a smart home controller.
Java is a versatile and widely supported programming language used for everything from software development to mobile application development. In fact, as of 2019, 88% of the market share of smartphones was held by Android, and Android is written using Java.
That’s not all. Many companies—from Netflix to Spotify to Amazon—all report using Java for something business-related. With this in mind, the importance of Java is clear.
But how do you learn to code in Java? That’s the question we will tackle in this article. We will break down our top tips for how you can start your Java journey. We will also give you a list of actionable recommendations on topics you can explore. By the end of reading this article, you’ll have a clear roadmap to guide you through learning Java.
Why Learn Java?
Java is widely used. Because Java is so popular among both new and experienced programmers, learning the language is a great way to break into a career in technology. It will open up a number of paths that you can explore in your future.
The wide use of Java is not the only reason to learn it. Another reason is this: Java is considered a relatively easy language to learn for beginners because it has simple syntax. This means that if you invest the right amount of time, you’ll have no trouble getting started, and you will be able to quickly progress to more advanced projects. So, whether you are completely new to programming or you already know a thing or two, Java can be a great place to start.
In addition, the popularity of Java means there is no shortage of resources online to help you learn it. There are many communities online dedicated to Java development, making it incredibly easy to find quality help if you get stuck along your journey.
How to Learn Java Fast
We’ve only scratched the surface of the reasons why you should learn Java, but if you’re still reading, we will assume you are already convinced of the value of learning Java.
Therefore, now we can delve into the steps you should follow to master Java. Here are five steps that we will discuss in greater detail below:
- Reflect on your motivation. Set a goal.
- Learn the basics of Java.
- Create your own projects.
- Ask for help and join communities.
- Practice, practice, practice.
Step 1: Reflect on your motivation. Set a goal.
Before you start any new educational journey, consider taking some time to reflect on your motivation for it. In this case, consider asking yourself the question:
Why do I want to learn Java?
By thinking about this question upfront—and coming up with a clear answer—you will be setting a North Star to which you can look along your journey. That way, if you ever get stuck, you’ll have a reason (or reasons) to continue.
In addition, consider setting a clear goal for what you want to accomplish. Are you interested in pursuing a career in software engineering? Great! In that case you should focus on Java and software. Are you looking to build mobile apps on the side? If so, you’ll want to master the basics of Java, then explore Java and mobile application development.
Step 2: Learn the basics of Java.
One mistake that many new developers make is to delve headfirst into learning a programming language, without first taking the time to reflect on what skills they need to learn. This can be a problem because, if you don’t master the fundamentals at the beginning, you may lack the knowledge you need to explore more advanced topics further down the line.
You can learn the basics of Java through a structured online Java course, books, or Java tutorials.
The Java programming language encompasses a wide range of concepts, and even expert Java developers are still learning how to best use the language. With that said, there are a few key topics that you should master at the start of your journey. Let’s explore these one by one.
The first step of learning any programming language is to master the syntax of the language. Developers use the word “syntax” to describe the way they write code. Syntax refers to, among other things, how code is written, what characters are used and where, and how to add comments to a file.
Here are Java syntax basics you’ll need to learn before going further:
- How Java programs are run
- The data types used in Java
- Java operators
- Java expressions
- How to write comments in Java
Once you develop a fundamental understanding of these, you will be better equipped to understand elements of Java syntax, including conditionals, loops, arrays, and others.
A conditional is a feature of programming that allows you to perform certain actions depending on whether a specific condition or set of conditions are met.
The main subtopics to study are:
When programming, you may decide you want to run a block of code multiple times. That’s where loops come in. Loops allow you to automate repetitive tasks. They reduce the need for duplicate code. The main subtopics relevant to Java loops are:
An array is a data type that stores multiple values. These values must be of the same data type. For instance, an array can hold a list of student names or a list of employee email addresses.
The main subtopics of Java arrays to study are:
- Declaring an array
- Indexing arrays
- Manipulating data in arrays
- Declare multidimensional arrays
- Copying an array
Classes and Objects
Java is an object-oriented programming language. In Java, classes and objects are used to break down complex problems into simpler components.
Classes are blueprints for objects. For instance, a class could store details about a car, such as its tire type, the supplier of the car’s wheels, and so on.
Objects use a class blueprint to create an individual item. For instance, an object could store details about a specific car, like a Lotus 72 or a Porsche 959.
The main topics you need to master in this area are:
Inheritance, Polymorphism, and Encapsulation
Object-oriented programming languages like Java have many features that allow developers to improve code efficiency and reduce code repetition.
In Java, once you learn about classes, there are three core object-oriented concepts you need to know. These are:
- Inheritance: describes how you can define a new class using properties of an existing class.
- Polymorphism: describes how an object can take on many forms in a program.
- Encapsulation: a technique used to bundle fields and methods in a class.
In addition, spend time learning about method overriding and the super keyword, both of which are related to Java inheritance.
Data structures refer to systems that allow you to store information in specific ways. An array, which we discussed earlier in this guide, is one example of a Java data structure. Java offers a wide range of other data structures you can use, too.
Here are a few of the most common data structures you should learn:
- List interface
- Queue interface
- Map interface
- Set interface
- Java ArrayLists
- Java Vectors
- Java Stacks
- Java PriorityQueue
- Java LinkedList
- Java Deque
- Java HashMap
- Java EnumMap
- Java TreeMap
- Java HashSet
Even the best programmers make mistakes at some point. Programmers use debugging to identify and correct errors in their code. Being able to effectively debug a program reduces the impact of errors in your code because it enables you to find and solve those errors quicker.
To better understand debugging in Java, study the following topics:
Step 2 Final Words
Before moving on to the next step, let’s review. In our list above, we covered most of the fundamental components of the Java programming language. Given how widely used Java is, there are so many other topics you can learn, but understanding the ones mentioned above will give you a solid foundation as you progress on your journey to learning Java.
Ultimately, mastering the fundamentals will give you a greater grasp of how the Java programming language works. So, if someone asks, “What does encapsulation mean?”, you’ll be able to answer them effectively. Furthermore, once you’ve mastered the basics, you will be ready to take the next step on your journey to learning Java: building projects.
Step 3: Create your own projects.
While learning theory is important, there is no substitute to building your own projects. Doing so will reinforce the skills you are developing. This is because building your own projects encourages you to think about a problem in depth and use analytical thinking to come up with a solution.
The best way to learn Java is to, after mastering the theory, move on to building practical projects. Even working on small and simple projects can give you a new take on the theory you learned, thereby allowing you to improve your knowledge of how the Java programming language works.
After working on a few basic projects, in addition to continuing to build on your existing projects, start new ones that require more advanced technical skills. For example, you may consider building a habit tracker app or an app that helps you with your exercise routine. Once you master the basics, you can build any project with Java. In addition, the versatility of Java means there are so many opportunities for you to build something you find interesting.
Here are a few more ideas of what you could build:
- An online trivia game for programmers
- A tool that tracks your favorite books
- A simple online chat application that allows you to communicate with your friends
- A currency conversion mobile app
- A flashcard tool to help you revise your knowledge of Java
But don’t let our suggestions limit you. If you have an idea, try and build it! When you’re getting started, you should start small to make sure you are working toward goals you can meet. Then, once you build up your confidence with Java, you can take on new challenges.
Step 4: Ask for help and join communities.
Another common mistake new programmers make is to code in isolation. When you’re interested in learning a new skill, you may say to yourself, “I’ll learn this by myself, then share my skills with others when I’m done.” This may make you feel more comfortable, but it also means that when you hit a roadblock, you’ll be less likely to seek support.
It’s important that you take control over your own learning, but you should not be afraid to ask for help when you need it. It is very likely that another programmer at some point faced the problem you encountered! Asking people for help is a great way to find a solution to the challenges you are facing.
You may be asking, “Where can I find people who can help me on my journey?” Well, luckily for you, the internet is filled with communities for programmers of all aptitudes—from beginners to experts.
As a beginner Java developer, you can join communities like Dev.to, CodeGym Help, and Stack Overflow, which all have areas dedicated to Java development. You could even subscribe to the learnjava subreddit on Reddit. While you’ll likely encounter people who are not helpful every now and again, these communities are great places to meet fellow developers who can assist you on your journey to mastering Java.
If you have a question, don’t be afraid to ask someone for help.
Step 5: Practice, practice, practice.
Practice is the key to learning any skill, but it’s especially important when learning a programming language like Java. If you’re not convinced, here are a few reasons why practice is so important when you are learning Java:
- Practice makes it easy to find your mistakes. As you develop more experience, you will find it easier to identify and correct your past mistakes.
- Practice encourages you to keep going. The more you practice, the more likely you are to continue your journey to learning Java.
- Practice helps you master best practices. The only way to know how to write effective Java code is to try writing code your own way, then to update your work as you learn about new techniques and best practices.
As the adage goes: practice makes perfect. No matter what challenges you encounter on your journey to learning Java, know that, with practice, you’ll be on your way to mastering the language.
If you’re struggling to make a schedule, there’s one rule that can help: code every day. Try to get in as much practice as possible, whether that means coding small programs each day, taking on mini-challenges, or working toward one larger project.
Java is an excellent programming language to learn, whether you’re new to programming or whether you are already a seasoned programmer. Java is widely used by developers, which means there are many companies actively hiring developers, and there is also a wide range of resources on which you can rely to help you learn to code in Java.
At the start of your journey, you should focus on mastering the fundamentals: syntax, conditionals, loops, debugging, and so on. After you are familiar with the basic concepts of Java, you can start working on a few projects to which you can add new features as you build up your confidence working with the language.
The benefits of learning Java are clear. You’ll learn a new skill that can help you start a career in tech, and you can also use Java to solve the problems you have with code. With the advice we have covered in this guide, you’re ready to start your journey to learning how to code in Java.
Career Karma has built a directory of Java resources which can help you start your journey. Find these resources on the Career Karma blog here.