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Learn to Code: How to Start Learning Coding

Christina Kopecky - November 07, 2022


The tech industry has never been bigger, which is why so many people are learning to code. Everything we interact with, from cell phones to cars, relies on technology. There are many ways to learn to code, including coding bootcamps, computer science degrees, and online coding courses . This article explores all of the ways you can learn to code and enter the industry.

Everyone’s journey to learn how to code is different, which is why there are so many pathways. The best way to learn to code is to decide which path is best for you and your career goals. Read the guide below to see how to learn coding, network in the programming field, and get a job as a coder.

Step 1: Ask the Right Questions and Establish Your Motivation

A professional thinking about how to learn to code while researching on a laptop.
Before enrolling in an online course to learn to code, consider what type of learner you are and what type of code you want to learn.

There are many entry points into the industry, and there is no best way to start coding. However, if you do want to start learning coding, the first step is to evaluate what you would like to get out of the experience. As you decide where to start to learn coding, ask yourself the following questions.

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What is my learning style?

Are you able to evaluate how you approach learning something new? Think about the last couple of projects you have done. How did you tackle those projects? How do you approach new skills and tasks? Did you learn while doing, or do your research first?

Knowing these answers will help you craft a journey into coding tailored to your learning style. Learning to not fight with your learning style and instead work with it is imperative to your success. The best way to start coding and learning to code is to evaluate your own needs.

If you haven’t done a project lately, you should complete something new and take notice of how you approach the project. This kind of initiative will help start to learn to code and identify what your learning style is. Then, you can research where to start learning coding in that style.

What am I interested in?

Part of what makes coding so much fun to learn is its versatility. Do you like fishing? Make an application that tells you local species of fish, where you can legally fish for them, and what their characteristics are. Prefer lifting weights? Make an app that tracks your progress and tells you how much weight to use based on your energy levels and mood.

Should I learn to code?

In short, yes, you should learn how to code. However, you should remember that learning to code isn’t for everyone. The more you enjoy it, the more effort you will put in, so keep that in mind. While you don’t need all the answers upfront, asking yourself these questions about your goals and skills will help you decide whether you should learn to code.

Why learn to code? You should learn to code because it’s a growing field with lots of job opportunities and rewarding projects. All of the best apps that we use today came from coders who were beginners once, too. Great developers combine existing ideas with out-of-the-box thinking to create useful new programs.

For example, Facebook is a very successful website. Platforms like Myspace existed before, but Mark Zuckerberg saw a gap, built upon existing ideas, and created something even better. Not everyone will be as successful, but Facebook is a great example of innovation in the tech industry. Just imagine what you could do if you knew how to code.

What skills do I already bring to the table?

It’s helpful to look at the skills you already have, whether they are coding skills or otherwise. Your existing skills can translate well into learning how to code. Make a list of what you can do, using your previous experience and strengths, to eventually learn how to improve your coding skills. See if you can match that with any of the pathways into the tech industry.

  • Data Science – Likes to find patterns in data, a natural organizer.
  • Backend Engineer – Crafting things comes naturally, enjoys puzzles.
  • Frontend Engineer – Likes to perform or be creative.
  • Full-Stack Engineer/Mobile Engineer – Feels equally comfortable in being creative and solving puzzles.
  • User Experience Designer – Artistic and creative, likes the psychology of why and how a user feels about a website or application.

These aren’t the only qualities you need to get these coding jobs. However, they can help you inform your career goals and find which path best suits your hard skills, soft skills, and coding skills. Hopefully, this gives you a bit of insight into the type of qualities you may already have.

How much time and attention can I devote to this pursuit?

Coding is like playing a musical instrument or competing in a sport. You have to practice in order to succeed, and you should always challenge yourself to get better. It will be important to devote consistent time and practice to build your coding skills. Consistency is key because you are developing a habit to learn new things and think like an engineer.

Knowing how much time you can devote to learning to code will be key in finding an approach that’s right for you. For example, if you can only learn for a few hours a week, try an online coding course. If you have more time to learn how to code, try a full-time immersive bootcamp.

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Thinking upfront about what part of the tech industry you would like to see yourself in will save you time down the road. That said, it’s perfectly normal if you’re unsure of what you want to do with the coding knowledge you will gain. These are just questions you should think about as you traverse your journey and explore how to learn coding.

Step 2: Learn Coding Basics

Lines of code on a laptop screen.
Before enrolling in an online coding bootcamp, be sure to educate yourself with the coding basics.

One of the biggest mistakes someone new to programming can make is not learning coding basics from the start. Learning programming is always cumulative, so you can’t start with more difficult content. Step one is to learn the basics of coding and the terminology that will be used in any programming tutorial.

An introductory computer science course will teach the basics of coding for beginners. If you want to learn how to program, you will need to start by understanding how a computer works, how a program works, and the terminology to go with it. Below is a list of coding basics and the core principles of programming that you should familiarize yourself with as a beginner:

  • Variables . A variable is a coding value that can change, and it is essentially a piece of information with a specific purpose or name. Once you label and change variables, they can be used for different things in your code.
  • Syntax . Similar to spoken languages, the syntax of coding languages is the structure of variables and information. Your code needs to be in the right syntax for the language you’re using so the computer can understand it.
  • Data Types and Structures . In coding, data types and structures are the ways in which data is classified. Data needs to be in the right category so the code can use it properly.
  • Flow Control Structures . The flow of control in a program is the order in which information and data are presented. Control structures are blocks of code that will, essentially, tell information where to go to serve its purpose.
  • Functional Programming . Functional programming is a type of programming that uses functions to organize and write code. Functional programming languages include Erlang, Python, and Lisp.
  • Object Oriented Programming . Object oriented programming is an essential part of most popular programming languages today. It has reusable pieces of code that can help programmers save time by labeling and organizing individual data. Object oriented languages include JavaScript and C++.

Step 3: Choose a Coding Language

Before you dive headfirst into a particular career track, you should choose a programming language and learn it. If you want to choose a programming language, do your research first. Find the best coding language to start with for your goals and go from there.

While there are many programming languages, most of the concepts and vocabulary mean the same thing across all of them. A variable in JavaScript, for instance, is the same as a variable in Python. Once you sit and learn the concepts for one language, it’ll be a little easier to learn to code in other languages. At that point, only the syntax is different.

You can start learning programming terminology even before you choose a career path. To start learning to code, beginner-friendly languages include Python and Ruby. If you’re struggling to choose a programming language, these are both good places to start.

There’s not one language that’s particularly better to learn over the other, except that Python is a little more popular. However, this could change depending on the software engineer technologies that are popular in the area you live in. If you want to learn to code, read the list of programming languages below to help you choose a programming language to start with.

HTML/CSS

HTML is one of the most crucial skills when learning to code for web development projects. HTML’s collection of tags and elements creates the main structure of a website. It will be a little more challenging to apply the concept of JavaScript frameworks down the road without knowing HTML and CSS .

If attending a coding bootcamp is part of your career plan, many will require some pre-course work in HTML or CSS. You may even need to know a bit of JavaScript before you start. If you’re looking to choose a programming language, HTML and CSS are two to consider to learn how to code.

JavaScript

JavaScript is one of the most popular scripting languages in the world. It brings together HTML and CSS codes so users can interact with web pages. Because of JavaScript’s flexibility and relatively recent changes in syntax, it is not always the most beginner-friendly pathway into coding. However, it is still a good choice if you want to learn to code to become a web developer.

Python

According to Statista, Python is the fourth most-used programming language in the world , and for good reason. It is a general-purpose, open-source programming language that supports multiple paradigms, which means it is very versatile. It is also known for being easy to learn, so if you want to choose a programming language to learn, Python is a good option.

Java

Java is an object oriented programming language that has been around since 1997. Java is used to create applications for many different types of hardware, including cell phones, laptop computers, scientific computers, and game consoles. If you want to become a mobile app developer , this language is the best coding language to start with.

C#

C#, sometimes styled as C Sharp, is another general-purpose programming language, and it is part of the C family of languages. Although it is difficult to learn, many people choose this programming language because it is used in the Unity game engine. It is also used to develop apps for desktop, web, and mobile.

Step 4: Set a Goal

A chalkboard with the word possible written on it.
Choose attainable goals when determining that it is time to learn to code.

Learning programming takes commitment, so you should have a specific goal in mind once you start learning to code and choosing a coding education path. Having a specific goal will keep you moving forward as you learn how to code.

Do you want to program mobile applications? Do you want to help small businesses design functional websites? Whatever your preference, it’s a good idea to start mapping out your career and finding out which programming languages you’re most likely to use. Then, you can pick one of the most popular languages in your field and start learning to code.

Step 5: Choose a Coding Course or Bootcamp

Coding courses and coding bootcamps are some of the top ways to learn to code. The best coding bootcamps teach an industry-led curriculum and help you network with like-minded professionals in the field. Similarly, online courses are a great choice if you want to learn to code online.

Read below to explore more about how to learn coding with different methods. These include everything from video tutorials to immersive online bootcamps. Learning to code is easy if you assess your skills and choose a pathway that works best for your needs.

Enroll in a Coding Bootcamp

If you find yourself struggling to learn programming through online resources and videos, you might consider a coding bootcamp to learn to code. These intensive programs take you through the coding process with classes led by an experienced instructor. You will have a dedicated cohort and programming projects to complete as you progress through the coding bootcamp.

Coding bootcamps are not for everyone. Coding bootcamps are intensive and can be expensive, but they pay off in the long run by giving you the skills you need for a new career. A coding bootcamp is a great choice if you want support while learning to code.

Take Online Courses

Online coding courses are some of the best ways to learn to code. You can find online coding courses for any level and any subject. For example, there are beginner coding courses for people who don’t know anything about coding, and there are advanced coding courses on specific subjects for experts who want to harness their craft.

You can find online coding courses on websites like Coursera and Udemy. There are also free platforms that can help you learn to code, such as The Odin Project. Online courses are one of the best options for learning how to code because you can tailor your education to exactly what you need.

Watch Video Tutorials

Video coding tutorials are another great way to learn to code for free or for a very low price. Online coding tutorials are available on YouTube and other platforms. All you have to do is search for a topic, and you’ll find myriad video tutorials for coding and other tech skills.

There are lots of video coding tutorials available on YouTube. You can subscribe to channels like Academind and The Coding Train to stay up-to-date. As well, websites like Udemy have affordable video courses and online coding tutorials for visual learners.

Read Books

It might seem old-school, but coding books are another good option if you want to learn to code. The best books to learn how to code will give in-depth tutorials and troubleshooting guidance on a specific language. For example, the best book to learn how to code with Python is Python Crash Course by Eric Matthes.

Step 6: Get Familiar With Coding Tools

When you start learning to code, you will need to get familiar with popular coding tools. Tools such as IDEs and online code editors will help you write, organize, and publish your code. Read below to learn more about the coding tools you need to learn how to code and start your journey.

Coding Tools for Beginners

  • Code Editors. A desktop or online code editor is one of the most important things you need to get started. These are like regular text editors, but they are optimized for coding. Sublime Text and Visual Studio code are two popular code editors that can help you edit your code.
  • Web Browsers. You also need a web browser to learn to code. Some web browsers have been created specifically to help web developers, like LT Browser and Polypane. There are also online code editors that you can use from your web browser and don’t have to download.
  • IDEs. IDE stands for Integrated Development Environment, which is a type of software that is used to build applications. You need an IDE to edit and test source code. IDEs provide many different tools in one environment, which makes them a great choice for beginners.
  • Compilers. A compiler is a coding tool that translates code that was written in one language into another language. Usually, you will translate code from a high-level language to a low-level language, the latter of which is easiest for computers to understand.
  • Software Testing Tools. If you want your code to be bug-free, you will have to test it. You can use unit testing frameworks and other tools to run your code and spot errors.

Step 7: Use the Best Coding Resources

The best coding resources will help you learn different coding skills and connect you with fellow coding newbies. These resources include free websites, forums, and tutorials that can help you learn to code or become a better programmer. Read below to learn more about the best resources to learn coding for beginners.

Top Coding Websites and Resources for Beginners

  • StackOverflow
  • GitHub
  • freeCodeCamp
  • W3Schools
  • Code Forum
  • Mozilla Developer Network
  • Codecademy
  • MIT OpenCourseWare

Step 8: Practice Writing Your Programs

Like all other new skills, practice makes perfect. Coding practice will help you learn to code more quickly and with fewer mistakes. There are lots of websites that provide code practice online, like Coderbyte and CodeChef. These sites offer coding challenges and tutorials to help you practice coding online and hone your skills.

Step 9: Join a Coding Community

Along with practice, talking to other coders will help you get better at coding. Find a coding community that suits your needs and career goals. For example, you can find coding communities for website design or game development specifically. Join Slack and Discord groups and online forums to network and meet other coders.

How to Learn to Code: Top Tips to Learn Coding

Learning how to code can be difficult, but it is easier if you create a plan for yourself. Do your research beforehand and make sure you know all the best tips to learn to code. Read below to see how to learn coding as smoothly as possible.

Tip 1: Be Methodical

Once you’ve found the right language for your professional track, you need to begin the education process. It might seem simple, but it is easy to get off track while you’re learning to code. Programming languages are daunting, and you have to get used to the programming cycle and what goes into it.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, try breaking down your training into more manageable sections. Get started with coding basics and work your way up from there. Take shorter online coding classes for complete beginners so you can learn programming foundations on a smaller scale.

Tip 2: Don’t Jump Around

One of the biggest mistakes you can make in your learning journey is to skip steps. If you are having a hard time understanding a concept, don’t move on right away. Find comprehensive tutorials and code challenges to help you. If you move on without learning that concept, other programming topics will be harder to grasp.

Tip 3: Ask Questions

One of the best tips for learning to code is to continuously ask questions. The best thing about programming today is that there is lots of online support when you learn to code. You can go to language-specific forums or Discord groups to meet other coders and troubleshoot your coding problems together.

A popular place to get help is Stack Overflow. Stack Overflow is a gathering place for coders to exchange reference materials, best practices, and code examples. If you want to see how to learn coding, Stack Overflow is a great place to start.

Another good resource that can help absolute beginners learn to code is coding meetup groups. Not only can you get help with your code, but you can meet people in your area who could potentially help you find job opportunities. Finding a coding community is a vital part of your learning path, whether it’s online or in person.

Coding Career Paths

Is coding a good career? Yes, and there are lots of different coding career paths you can follow. Once you learn to code, you can use your technical skills for a high-paying job. Below, we’ll go over the three main tracks that most coders follow: web development, mobile development, and data science. Choose a coding career path that suits your skills.

Web Development

Web development , the process of creating websites, is a popular path for people who learn to code. Web development includes front end and backend development. Many coding bootcamps and web development courses include both topics, which means you’ll graduate as a full stack developer.

The learning content for full stack web development typically includes HTML/CSS, JavaScript, a JavaScript framework or library, and Node.js. If you want to become a web developer , look at helpful tutorials on tech topics like object oriented programming and web design. You will learn how to build intuitive websites in a hands-on way.

Mobile Development

Mobile application development is the creation of apps for smartphone operating systems. Most companies specialize in either Android or iOS development, but some developers choose to do both. Mobile app developers have to create apps that meet user expectations without losing efficiency or app design.

In this section, we’ll talk about the differences between learning Android and iOS development. We’ll discuss the languages you’ll need to start learning to create mobile applications. Android training courses and iOS specialization courses can help you get programming experience and learn all of these skills.

Android

Android development usually uses the Java programming language to create applications. However, Google has started to encourage Google developers to use its newer language, Kotlin, for Android apps. Should you learn Java or Kotlin? Either is a good choice, but Java is a more popular language and might prove to be more helpful in the future.

Learning Java will make learning Kotlin easier since Kotlin is essentially a more efficient way to write Java. Java and Kotlin share many of the same concepts, but Kotlin is less verbose. Try looking at job postings in your area and see what language is more popular. Then, you can start taking introductory courses for beginners and learning real code.

iOS

Apple’s mobile operating system (iOS) is featured on all of its portable devices. Apple used to use Objective-C for iOS apps, but now a language called Swift has replaced it. Similar to the relationship between Java and Kotlin, Swift is like a more user-friendly version of Objective-C. Learning Swift is an important step if you want to create apps for iOS.

Data Science

Data science involves coding, though it is quite different from web development and app development. It is a combination of computer science and statistical modeling, so it requires an understanding of both statistics and programming. Data scientists code using Python and R. Below is a list of data science libraries that you should learn:

  • NumPy
  • pandas
  • Seaborn
  • TensorFlow

There are many other tools for data scientists out there, but these are the main tools you should learn as you learn to code. Data science and data analysis are in high demand, which makes them good career choices. To become a data scientist , you should learn computational thinking, deep learning, SQL, and machine learning.

Top Free Online Courses to Learn Coding

The best free online coding courses can be found on websites like Codecademy and freeCodeCamp. These resources offer self-paced coding lessons that are usually free of charge. Read below to learn more about online courses and which one you should choose to learn to code.

Learn HTML | Codecademy

Codecademy is a popular platform that offers coding videos and comprehensive tutorials. Its Learn HTML course is offered for free or with a paid pro account, the latter of which will give you a certificate at the end. Codecademy courses have a built-in IDE to help you as you progress. The HTML and CSS courses offered here give a great basic understanding of these languages.

HTML Concepts to Start Your Web Development Journey | Career Karma

Career Karma has published guest blog posts on Replit that cover checklists of fundamentals for HTML and CSS . If you prefer to learn by reading and researching before you start practicing, these articles cover the essentials of web development. This free resource is a good place to start before you begin online coding classes.

HTML and HTML5 Lessons | freeCodeCamp

freeCodeCamp offers HTML and CSS tutorials to help guide you through the basics. This is a great tutorial for people who are completely new to coding. freeCodeCamp uses a lesson-based curriculum with mini-quizzes that you need to pass to move on to the next lesson. It is a popular online learning platform that is completely free.

Flexbox Froggy

If you are looking for a more interactive tutorial on how to use Flexbox and CSS, Flexbox Froggy is a great learning portal. The addictive learning experience includes a game that can help you understand Flexbox in a fun way. This is one of the best online coding courses out there for learning CSS skills.

Flexbox Zombies

Flexbox Zombies is another interactive game for learning Flexbox. Your objective is to use Flexbox to aim your crossbow or your laser weapon to do away with the undead. This basic guide will help you start building projects with HTML and CSS and understand how to learn to code.

Basic JavaScript | freeCodeCamp

freeCodeCamp’s basic JavaScript course teaches you the programming language with ES5 syntax. After that, you can graduate to a separate curriculum with ES6 syntax . The learning platform is very similar to the platform used for freeCodeCamp’s HTML and CSS lessons. If you want to learn JavaScript, this is one of the best online coding courses to do so.

Learn Java | Codecademy

Codecademy offers this great tutorial to help you learn the basics of Java. It has an interactive environment that has an IDE and comprehensive tutorials to lead you through a basic Java curriculum. With this short course and additional learning resources, you can learn everything you need to know about Java.

Java Programming Basics | Udemy

Udemy has a short free course on Java programming that starts with beginner concepts such as variables, types, and classes. The video tutorial will teach you how to get started with the Java SDK so that you can quickly practice coding. This is a helpful primer to help you get started before you get to more difficult topics.

Kotlin Tutorial for Beginners: Basics and Fundamentals for Android | Smartherd on YouTube

This is one of the only tutorials that discusses general programming basics while teaching the Kotlin language. This works great if you need a lecture-style video to help you along. YouTube is not an online learning platform like others on this list, but the video tutorial is a good way to get started with learning to code.

Kotlin Bootcamp for Programmers | Google

This course is for people who already know Java and want to learn Kotlin. Students who want to become Google developers will benefit from this course because it comes straight from Google. You will learn programming foundations and other tech topics that you can use for coding with Kotlin.

Learn Swift | Codecademy

Codecademy has a comprehensive introduction course on Swift that will get you started on your iOS development career. This detailed guide will teach you everything you need to know about learning to code with Swift. As with other Codecademy courses, you can get a certificate of completion if you pay for the pro version.

100 Days of SwiftUI | Hacking with Swift

100 Days of SwiftUI focuses on building applications with Swift and learning programming concepts from the ground up. You will learn basic programming concepts and how to achieve them in Swift. After that, you will learn more about user experience design (UX design). This free coding bootcamp is a good choice to learn to code at advanced levels.

Top Books to Learn Coding

It may seem outdated, but the best books to learn how to code offer in-depth instruction. These books are detailed and have different tutorials that can teach you the basics of coding. Many coding books have insider tips and coding project ideas to help you. Read below to see some of the best books to learn how to code.

Head First Python: A Brain Friendly Guide by Paul Barry

This book offers a comprehensive way to learn Python. It covers all the basics of coding with Python and has project ideas at the back of the book. Learning the basics via projects is a good idea because it helps you get hands-on experience. Head First Python also has quizzes, stories, and code snippets.

Invent Your Own Computer Games with Python by Al Sweigart

This book is a fun and interactive way to learn to code with Python for all skill levels. In its fourth edition, the lessons are updated for Python 3. The book teaches concepts like flow control and data structures. You’ll also learn how to choose the right tool for solving a problem.

Introduction to Programming with Ruby by Launch School

Introduction to Programming with Ruby by Launch School is great for code newbies who have never programmed before. It covers setting up a development environment and the basics of Ruby syntax. This is not a physical book, but it is published on the Launch School website, which means it’s accessible to anyone for free.

Eloquent JavaScript by Marijn Haverbeke

Eloquent JavaScript is one of the best references for learning how to write JavaScript with best practices. This book is a fantastic resource for solidifying concepts that you might have already learned with JS tutorials. It is in an online book format with a built-in IDE for end-of-chapter exercises. If you prefer a tangible product, there is an option for purchasing as well.

Should You Learn to Code?

Yes, you should. Learning to code is vital if you want to get a job in tech, so you should start sooner rather than later. There are lots of ways to learn to code for free online. With a little time and patience, you’ll build the skills you need to become a web developer, mobile developer, or data scientist. Once you see how to learn coding, you can start your career journey.

Find software testing tutorials and online coding communities to learn best practices and make your code the best it can be. Create an account on Codewars or HackerRank and start to practice simple algorithms and code challenges. Once you learn to code, you can build a portfolio and start interviewing for tech jobs.

Learn to Code FAQ

Is coding hard to learn?

No, coding is not hard to learn as long as you prepare yourself and create a learning plan. It is not hard to learn how to code as a beginner if you join a bootcamp program or take an online course. This is because online courses are usually tailored to coding newcomers, which makes it easier to learn to code.

How long does it take to learn coding?

It takes a few months to learn coding, depending on your prior knowledge. The time it takes to learn coding can vary from a few weeks to nearly a year. If you want to learn coding fast, a coding bootcamp is the best choice. This is an immersive program that can teach you everything you need to know in just a few weeks.

Where can I learn coding?

You can learn coding from a degree program, coding bootcamp, or online course. You can also learn to code from coding books, video tutorials, online forums, and free coding websites. The places where you can learn coding vary quite extensively, so do your research to see which might be best for you.

Can you teach yourself coding?

Yes, you can teach yourself coding. If you want to see how to learn how to code on your own, try talking to peers in the field who have done the same thing. Learning coding on your own is easy if you do your research and make a plan.

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Christina Kopecky

About the author: Christina is an experienced technical writer, covering topics as diverse as Java, SQL, Python, and web development. She earned her Master of Music in flute performance from the University of Kansas and a bachelor's degree in music with minors in French and mass communication from Southeast Missouri State. Prior to joining the Career Karma team in June 2020, Christina was a teaching assistant, team lead, and section lead at Lambda School, where she led student groups, performed code and project reviews, and debugged problems for students. Christina's technical content is featured frequently in publications like Codecademy, Repl.it, and Educative.

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