How to Learn Java
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.
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.
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. Your skills in Java will take you a long way in your career. This is because companies of all sizes, even companies like Netflix, report using Java. Listing Java as a skill on your resume is a good way to get yourself into a software engineering interview.
Java is considered a relatively easy language to learn for beginners. This is because Java has simple syntax. If you invest the right amount of time and effort. Whether you are completely new to programming or you already know a thing or two, Java can be a great place to start.
There is no shortage of resources online to help you learn Java. There are many communities online dedicated to Java development, making it incredibly easy to find quality help if you get stuck along your journey. In addition to communities, you’ll encounter comprehensive guides and tutorials that can help you master the fundamentals and debug errors.
Is Java Hard to Learn?
Learning Java can be tricky depending on how much experience you have. You’ll encounter many challenges along the way, but none that cannot be overcome. If you have some prior experience in programming, you’ll find it easier to learn Java.
Programming is a complicated skill, requiring you to think very carefully about the instructions you want to give to a computer. For all their dazzling sophistication, computers really just execute simple steps over and over again very quickly.
It doesn’t sound like it would be hard to break a problem into little steps, but it can be. As with anything else, you’ll probably find Java easier to learn if you have some contextual knowledge about programming.
What is Java Used For?
Java is a general-purpose language. This means it has a range of potential use cases. Java is commonly used in enterprise settings, like the financial industry. It is also used for developing applications for Android devices.
Because the Android operating system was built using Java, you’ll find millions of mobile applications around the world use Java.
Java is widely used in web development as a back-end server. This is because Java has a range of frameworks, like Spring and Struts, which were designed to make back-end web development easy.
Many modern-day desktop applications were written in Java. For instance, the video game Minecraft was written using Java. There are plenty of fameworks available that extend the functions of Java for desktop applications.
How Long Does it Take to Learn Java?
With the right amount of practice and dedication, you should be able to learn the fundamentals of Java in about three months. Expect to spend at least a year becoming fully familiar with the language.
Of course, this estimate depends on how much time you dedicate to learning Java. If you study for a few hours a week, learning Java in three months is a good estimate.
Those who enroll in a coding course may learn quicker depending on the pace of the course. Obviously, someone who studies part-time or full-time will learn quicker than someone who studies in their spare time.
How to Learn Java Online
We can now delve into the steps you should follow to learn Java online free. 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.
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, you will have 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.
Learn the basics of Java.
One mistake that many new developers make is to delve headfirst into learning a programming language. This is a problem. Ignoring the fundamentals may mean that 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 performs certain actions depending on whether a specific condition or set of conditions are met.
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.
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, 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:
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.
To better understand debugging in Java, study the following topics:
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.
Learn Java Online for Free
There is no need to spend money to learn how to code in Java. There are plenty of free online resources you can use to master the Java programming language.
To help you get started on your learning journey, check out the following resources that are recommended by beginners:
Online Java Courses
- Cost: Free
- Audience: Beginners
This online course covers the basics of Java and object-oriented programming. Learn Java takes 25 hours to complete. In this time, you’ll create seven projects that will help you practice your skills.
- Cost: Free
- Audience: Beginners
This course covers the fundamentals of coding in Java. You’ll work on a range of projects throughout the course to build your understanding of core programming ideas. Then, you’ll work on a capstone project to practice everything you have learned in the course.
- Cost: Free
- Audience: Beginners
This tutorial comes with over 16 hours of material on the Java programming language. You’ll cover the fundamentals of Java and how the Java collections data types work.
Online Java Books
Head First Java does what it says on the cover: it provides a detailed introduction to Java for beginner programmers. You’ll cover everything from the basics of programming all the way to inputs and outputs.
This book is a step-by-step guide on how to code in Java. With the help of 57 practical examples, you’ll go from knowing very little to nothing about Java to having a firm grasp of the fundamentals. This book talks about variables, the Java Development Kit, decision-making, and more.
Java: A Beginner’s Guide starts with the basics of Java and writing a program. Then, you’ll go on to discuss intermediate and advanced concepts. This will help you develop a well-rounded knowledge of Java.
The book comes with a range of hands-on exercises to test your skills. You’ll also find annotated example syntax that illustrates how particular concepts work.
Online Java Resources
This free online tutorial is aimed at beginners who want to start coding in Java. This guide walks you through all the concepts you need to master the basics of Java.
This website has a wide range of tutorials and code snippets which cover beginner, intermediate, and advanced concepts.
Java 101 is a free online course that gives you a taste of programming in Java. This course is great if you’re just starting out. There are plenty of examples to which you can refer as you build your knowledge.
Oracle has a free online Java tutorial covering both the basics and more advanced concepts. These tutorials are good if you are ready to practice your Java skills or if you need a reference guide for a particular concept.
You should explore a few different options before picking one so that you focus your attention on a tutorial that meets your needs. With so many options, you should have no trouble finding a tutorial that works for you.
The Best Ways to Learn Java
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. Building your own projects encourages you to think about a problem in depth. You’ll learn to use analytical thinking to come up with a solution to the problem you are tackling.
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. This will allow you to improve your knowledge of how the Java programming language works.
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 to 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.
Ask for help and join communities.
Another common mistake new programmers make is to code in isolation. “I’ll learn this by myself, then share my skills with others when I’m done.” is a common refrain.
Learning alone make you feel more comfortable, but it also means that you’ll struggle to find support as soon as you need it.
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 learn java Subreddit on Reddit. These communities are great places to meet fellow developers who can assist you on your journey to mastering Java.
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, you can update your work as you learn about new techniques and best practices.
As the adage goes: practice makes perfect. 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 so that you have frequent opportunities to flex your coding muscles.
Java is an excellent programming language to learn, whether you’re new to programming or whether you are already a seasoned programmer.
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.
The benefits of learning Java are clear. You’ll learn a new skill that can help you start a career in tech. 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.
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