Behind every piece of technology is a programmer who worked to build it. A programmer was behind the payment you made to an online retailer, for instance. Programmers use computer code to create solutions to problems. Due to the complexity of some problems, programmers often work in teams to solve them.
To build applications, programmers use programming languages. One of the most popular programming languages is Python—a general-purpose language used in a wide variety of contexts. Learning how to code with languages like Python is an increasingly valuable skill.
In this guide, we provide tips for how to learn Python and what to focus on to master the basics.
Why Should You Learn Python?
Python is used for many things—from building web applications to analyzing data and solving mathematical problems. It is well-loved among both experienced programmers and beginners alike. There are many reasons to learn Python.
Learning Python will keep you relevant. Learning how to code will help you keep up as the workforce evolves. Jobs in software development alone are expected to grow in the U.S. at a rate of 21% over the next decade. This rate is described as “much faster than average” by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Given how many developers use it, learning how to code in Python will give you a solid foundation for a career in tech.
Python is similar to English. Many developers describe Python as easy to learn because it resembles the English language in many ways. Python was designed to be concise, too. If you’re looking to learn how to code, Python is a great language to begin with.
Python is widely used. Organizations like Quora, YouTube, Dropbox, and IBM all rely on Python as part of their businesses because it is versatile, simple, and powerful. You can use it to solve complex problems. Once you learn Python, you’ll have a skill relevant to any career in technology.
How Long Does it Take to Learn Python?
The length of time it will take to learn Python depends on your schedule, and what you mean by ‘learn.’
Few people can be said to know all of Python. How much you need to learn will depend on what you plan to accomplish with it.
If you’re looking to become a Python expert or get into machine learning you have a much longer path ahead of you. For now, we’ll just look at how long it takes to get a basic, well-rounded understanding of the language.
On average, it takes about 6-8 weeks to learn the basics. This will get you far enough to understand most lines of code in Python. Python developers have spent much more time in the field. If you plan on getting into data science or another specialized field, counting in months and years is more appropriate.
One option is to stick yourself on a five-month schedule. This schedule is far better suited for those of you who work full time. The plan is fairly straightforward: spend 2-3 hours a day on the computer. One day, learn something; the next day, practice.
You must practice daily in order to make sure you learn in a decent amount of time. However, this schedule is fairly easy to maintain. You may need to sacrifice the time you spend watching Netflix, but it’s well worth it for a stellar new career!
What is Python Used For?
Python is general-purpose, which means it has a wide range of uses. Python is commonly used for data analysis, back-end web development, scientific computing, and system scripting.
Python has a massive repository of libraries that extend the language. As a result, you can find big communities that use Python for a range of disciplines. Libraries like matplotlib are used for data science whereas tools like Click are used for system scripting.
How Long Does it Take to Learn Python?
It will take you at least three months to learn the basics of Python. This assumes that you devote about ten hours a week to learning the language.
Three months is not a hard number. If you want to delve deeper into Python libraries, you’ll quickly find your journey time will extend. Learning a library like matplotlib alone may take you weeks, and that’s only one external library.
The more time you devote to learning, the quicker you’ll learn Python. It is possible to master the fundamentals, like variables, within a few days. But, if you want to be at the stage where you can write longer and more complex programs, three months is a good amount of time to devote.
The Best Way to Learn Python for Free
Have you decided that learning Python is worth your time? Great! Now we’re ready to talk about how to learn it fast.
Due to the vast number of developers who use Python, there is no shortage of resources you can use as you start your journey. However, if you’re new to the language, you may want guidance. The following are our top tips on how to start your journey to learning Python.
Step 1: Determine your motivation
Before you start learning how to code in Python, determine your motivation. Why do you want to learn how to code in Python? This may not seem too important. Over time, having a clear image in your mind of why you are learning to code is helpful.
Although Python is an easy language to learn, like any skill, it takes time and energy to successfully master it. If you have a clear motivation upfront for learning Python, you’ll find it easier to stay focused later on.
As you think about learning Python, ask yourself why you want to learn. Do you want to jumpstart a career in tech? Great! Do you want to tinker around with new technologies? That’s a good reason, too.
Step 2: Master programming in Python fundamentals
You may be tempted to start with a bold idea you want to develop and try to create an application with that idea. While that approach works for some people, most new developers should focus on learning the basics. There’s always time to work on more advanced projects later.
Let’s break down the main topics you should cover on your journey to learning Python:
- How a Python program is created
- Data types
- Printing statements to the console
- Arithmetic (basic math)
Conditionals help control the flow of a program. They tell a program that it should run certain code when a specific condition is met. For example, a conditional statement may tell a program to run a block of code when a user logs in.
The main subtopics related to conditionals for you to learn are:
When programming, you may want to execute the same block of code multiple times. For example, if you’re building a guessing game, you may want to allow a user five guesses. A loop is a Python feature that lets you run a block of code a certain number of times.
Functions are an essential aspect of Python. They help reduce repetition. By using functions, developers can write code that can be easily reused.
For example, a Python developer could create a function that adds two numbers. Instead of repeating the same block of code every time she needs to add two numbers, she could simply use the function she created.
The main function subtopics in Python to learn are:
- How a function works
- Formal and actual parameters
- User-built functions vs. system functions
- Importing libraries
- The basics of object-oriented programming
Lists and Dictionaries
After you’ve learned about functions, you’re ready to start exploring the list data type.
Lists store collections of similar pieces of information as a single variable. For example, a Python list could store a list of shoes sold at a department store. Another Python list could store a list of companies that supply food to a restaurant. Lists make it easy to store similar information in one place. They allow for easier manipulation of that information later.
Dictionaries are similar to lists. Dictionaries give programmers a way to store data with keys and values. Keys act as a label for the values that they store.
The main topics you should cover in these areas are:
- The basics of lists
- How lists are indexed
- The basics of dictionaries
- A comparison of lists and dictionaries
- Python data structures
- How to slice a list and a string
- How to iterate over a list
Objects and Classes
Python is an object-oriented programming language. Classes are blueprints for objects. Classes define how an object should be structured and what data it can store. Developers use classes to reduce repetition and increase efficiency in code.
Objects are individual instances of a class. For instance, a class may define the structure of a Player for a game. An object would be an individual player. This object would store values such as the name of that particular player and the date on which they registered to the service.
Working With Files
Files are used throughout Python programs. Developers use files to store and retrieve information. Read our guide on reading from Python files for more information on how to work with files.
These are only some components of the Python programming language. If you master the topics discussed above, you’ll be on your way to becoming a Python expert.
As you continue your journey to learning Python, you’ll encounter more advanced topics. All the more advanced topics are built on the principles we mentioned above. So, once you master the fundamentals, you’ll have no trouble tackling new and complicated aspects of Python.
Online Python Courses
- Cost: Codecademy membership (varies)
- Audience: Beginners
Codecademy has an interactive course for Python. In this course, you’ll master all the basics of coding in Python. You’ll be given a series of code snippets with which to work and challenges to push your knowledge.
- Cost: $60.00
- Audience: Beginners
This Udemy course has received over 250,000 enrollments in its history. In this course, you’ll learn how to code in Python 3. This course is aimed at beginners who are new to Python.
- Cost: Pluralsight membership ($24 / month)
- Level: Beginner/Intermediate
Python Fundamentals helps you learn the basics of Python. You’ll learn about the development principles behind Python. In addition, you will cover of the syntax you need to write applications in Python.
Online Python Resources
This site will help you learn Python whether you’re new to the language or already have some knowledge of coding in Python. You’ll cover topics like lists and loops.
Toward the end of the tutorial, you’ll encounter topics like sets and generators which will enable you to write more powerful applications.
If you’re looking for support in learning how to code in Python, check out Career Karma’s directory of Python resources. In this directory, we have dozens of articles that cover all the basic Python topics you need to know to master the language. Our resources will help you start learning Python for free, without having to sign up to a course.
Flask is a web framework. You can use Flask in your Python code to create websites. Flask is popular among web developers for server-side development. This tutorial is a detailed introduction to building full-stack web applications using Flask.
Online Python Books
This book, as you may be able to tell by the name, is designed to get you familiar with all the basics of Python. You’ll cover everything from if statements to tuples. You’ll even learn a bit about how to use external libraries with the Python language.
Python Cookbook contains a number of recipes for Python programming. You’ll learn the fundamentals of Python as well as how it is used in different contexts. This book comes with code samples to help you learn the Python syntax.
Automate the Boring Stuff is a guide for people who want to extend their knowledge of Python. This book is best if you’ve already got a grasp of the basics. In this book, you’ll learn how to write small but powerful scripts that automate boring computing tasks.
There is no best place to learn Python. With that said, the courses we covered above will let you learn Python online free. Each course and guide comes highly recommended by both beginners and experts.
Once you know the fundamentals, you can go on to explore topics such as data science and machine learning in more depth.
These courses mainly cover how to learn Python 3. This is because Python 2 has been phased out. You should focus your learning efforts on Python 3 if you want to learn the most relevant skills. There are plenty of free courses to learn Python 3 online from which you can choose.
Step 3: Build Projects
The best way to learn how to code is to build your own projects. Building your own projects allows you to apply your knowledge and learn through exploration.
Like any skill, if you practice coding in Python, you’ll be better able to maintain your mastery of it. If you start working on projects, you’ll be able to push yourself toward meeting a goal and will learn new things in the process.
That’s not all! Building projects will help you build a portfolio. You can use your portfolio to showcase your skills to prospective employers.
Before you decide to build an advanced project, start small. Work your way up to building projects that incorporate new skills you will learn.
Tips for Coming Up with Side Projects
The only limit to the type of project you build is your own imagination. You can build anything—a web application to share your favorite movies, a data science algorithm that predicts avocado prices, or something else. If you’re struggling to think of an idea, consider these tips:
- Research other programmers’ side projects online for inspiration.
- Look for open-source software to which you can contribute. GitHub has a great tutorial on how to contribute to open source here.
- Volunteer your skills to help a local nonprofit.
- Add new features to projects you already built.
- Join an online community like Dev.to, Indie Hackers, or Product Hunt to see what other makers and developers are building or have built.
The key to tackling your first Python language project is to start small. For instance, you may decide to build a habit tracker. This may not be a very complex project. However, you will refine your skills as you work on a small project.
Here are a few other ideas to help get your mind going:
- A tool that predicts the price of a stock
- A website that showcases a list of top movies
- An app that lets you share your favorite books with friends
- An app that displays election campaign contributions
- A website that allows you to track your habits
- A website for note-taking
- An interactive poker game
- A tool for shortening URLs
- A tool that aggregates content based on interests
These are just some ideas. Don’t let this list limit you. Build whatever you want to build!
Step 4: Progress to More Difficult Projects
Your first project may be as simple as a to-do list or a habit tracker. Once you’ve finished working on your first project, you can start to take on more difficult projects.
As we mentioned previously, you can also add new features to your existing projects to make them more technically complex and exciting.
Suppose your first Python project was a movie list site. Your next project could be to build a site that allows others to add to your movie lists.
Here are a few questions worth considering as you undertake more advanced projects:
- Can you improve the efficiency of your program?
- Could you add a new feature to your program to make it more functional?
- Can you add a payments feature into your app to allow people to purchase access?
- Is there a way to use an external data source to improve your app’s functionality?
- Can you use a Python library to make your code more efficient?
Ultimately, the projects you work on should be things you want to work on. As soon as you determine an interesting project you think you can build, give it a go. If you encounter a roadblock, ask for help. Review the Python fundamentals to fill in any gaps in your knowledge.
The only way to improve your Python skills is to constantly practice. Practice, practice, practice is the key.
When you start your journey, focus on learning the basics of Python. This means exploring topics like syntax, conditionals, loops, and lists.
Then, once you’ve learned the basics, you can start working on some simple projects. Doing so will help solidify and supplement your knowledge while also allowing you to develop a portfolio that showcases your skills.
Learning Python is difficult. With persistence, effort, and time, you’ll have no trouble mastering it. After learning to code in Python, you will have a new skill you can use throughout your life.
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