Behind every piece of technology—from email to the sites you use to buy clothes—is a programmer who worked to build it. 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.
It 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, which 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.
It will seem familiar. 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.
It 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 Do You Learn Python Fast?
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, but over time, having a clear image in your mind of why you are learning to code can be 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 Python fundamentals
When you’re learning a new programming language, 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 and working their way up to more advanced projects as they progress.
There are many concepts to learn in order to successfully master Python. Let’s break down the main topics you should cover on your journey.
Before you build any application with Python, you’ll need to learn the basics of how it works and how to use it to create a simple program. Developing a basic understanding of Python syntax is a good place to start.
In programming, the word
syntax refers to the customs used to code in a programming language. There are a few key topics you’ll need to explore to master Python syntax. These include:
- How a Python program is created
- Data types
- Printing statements to the console
- Arithmetic (basic math)
After reviewing these, you’ll be better prepared to learn about other important elements of coding in Python, including conditionals, functions, lists, and others.
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:
- The basics of program flow
- If statements
- Else statements
- Comparison operators (and, or, not)
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.
Here are the main Python loop subtopics to learn:
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 programmer could create a function that adds two numbers. Then, 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
- How to slice a list and a string
- How to iterate over a list
- The basics of dictionaries
- A comparison of lists and dictionaries
- Python data structures
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, which would store values such as the name of that particular player and the date on which they registered to the service.
The main topics you’ll need to master in this area of Python are:
- The basics of classes and objects
- How to declare a class
- How to initialize an object
- __init__() and self
- The scope of classes
Working With Files
Files are used throughout Python programs. Developers use files to store and retrieve information.
When it comes to working with files in Python, here are the main topics you’ll need to learn:
- The open() function
- Reading files
- Reading individual lines
- Writing to files
- Listing files in a folder
- The “with” and “as” keywords
These are only some of the many components of the Python programming language, but 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—such as list comprehension and lambda expressions—but all of those 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.
Directory of Python resources
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.
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; in building projects, you’ll be creating and adding to a portfolio that prospective employers in tech will likely be interested to see.
Before you decide to build an advanced project, start small. Work your way up to building projects that incorporate new skills you will learn.
Here are a few resources you can refer to for project ideas:
- Python Flask Mega-Tutorial. Flask allows you to build your own web applications using Python.
- Django tutorial. Django is a more advanced tool used to build web applications with Python.
- Pygame tutorials. Pygame is a library that allows you to build games using Python.
- Codecademy. Codecademy has a number of interactive lessons that can help you master the basics of Python while you build your own projects.
- Learning Python with Raspberry Pi. Learn how to code in Python while also learning the basics of Raspberry Pi, a microcomputer.
- Raspberry Pi Cookbook: This book covers how to build robots using Python and a Raspberry Pi.
After you explore a few structured projects, you’ll be ready to start developing your own projects. Working on projects from books and online tutorials is an important part of the learning process, but after a certain point you’ll have your own ideas for things you want to build. Once you’ve learned the fundamentals and begun writing some code, you can build a project that you want to build.
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 project is to start small. For instance, you may decide to build a habit tracker. This may not be a very complex project, but you will refine your skills as you work on it—and at least it’s something you want to build.
If you still need help coming up with project to work on, here are a few ideas:
- 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, but once you’ve finished it, 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?
- Can 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?
- Can you use an external data source to improve your app’s functionality?
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, and review 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.
There is no “right way” to learn Python. There are so many different parts to the language that even masters are still learning how to use it. However, if you follow the steps outlined above, you’ll be on your way to mastering the skills you need to develop great projects with Python.
When starting 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 can be difficult, even though we spent so much time discussing how easy it is to learn. But 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—whether you want to build cool websites and apps on the side or explore a new career in tech.