Learning to code is a gateway to many new tech opportunities. At Career Karma and Replit, we see every day how learning to code can transform lives and open up new career paths.
Given the popularity of learning to code, we wanted to learn more about what the average experience of learning to code looks like. To approach this question, the Career Karma and Replit teams came together to design and conduct a Learn to Code Survey.
Learn to Code Survey: Methodology
Career Karma and Replit created an online survey and distributed it to our member communities. Typeform, the platform used to conduct the survey, estimated the survey would take seven minutes to complete based on the questions included. We received 270 qualified survey responses.
In this study, we placed emphasis on the following questions:
- What resources do people use when they are learning to code?
- How long does it take to learn to code?
- When are people introduced to coding?
- What technologies are most popular among developers right now?
Using these questions, we came up with a full survey. Our report is divided into the following sections:
- Key Findings
- Introduction to Coding and Key Milestones
- Professional Experience
- Deciding to Code and Key Challenges
- Formal Education and Its Influence on Learning to Code
- Coding Resources and Top Technologies
Below are the main findings from our Learn to Code Survey:
- 85% of respondents were introduced to coding in school. Of these, a majority started coding sometime before college.
- 57% of respondents started coding in primary, middle, or secondary school, while just 28% of respondents learned to code at a college or university.
- 69% of respondents learned to code by the age of 25.
- The average respondent felt comfortable using 3.4 programming languages.
- 69% of respondents spent less than one year learning to code.
- 85% of respondents said they wrote code outside of work.
- The most common reason respondents decided to learn to code was that it “looked fun.”
- “Understanding where to start” was the biggest challenge respondents faced in learning to code.
- For those who decided not to attend a training program, the most common reason was that they “prefer to learn independently.”
- Online tutorials, Stack Overflow questions, and documentation were the three most popular learning resources.
- Personal projects, tasks in tutorials and courses, and coding challenges were the three most popular learning methods.
- Node.js was the most popular web framework among respondents, followed by Express.js and Next.js.
- MySQL was the most popular database tool among respondents, followed by MongoDB and PostgreSQL.
- 64% of respondents were planning to learn a new programming language within the next year.
Introduction to Coding and Key Milestones
At the beginning of our survey, we asked a few questions about when people were introduced to computer programming.
When were you introduced to computer coding?
We found that a majority of respondents were introduced to coding in school. However, no one stage of school clearly emerged as the most common time to be introduced to computer coding. While “secondary / high school” received the highest number of responses, this stage did not introduce significantly more people to coding than elementary or middle school.
Only 15 percent of people were introduced to coding outside of school, which suggests that all stages of school play a big role in introducing people to computer coding.
What age were you when you started learning to code?
Sixty-nine percent of the people who filled out our survey learned to code by the age of 25. This tells us that coding is a skill that a lot of people pick up at a young age. Our chart below illustrates that many people pick up coding at young ages.
Whereas 36 percent of respondents said they had learned to code by the end of middle school, 45 percent said they had learned to code by the age of 14. The difference between these two numbers suggests that the beginning of high school is a fairly common time to learn to code.
How long ago did you learn to code?
“More than 4 years ago” was the most common response, at 31 percent. However, this number is roughly equal to the total percentage of people who learned to code within the last year.
What programming languages do you feel comfortable using?
How many programming languages do you feel comfortable using?
On average, people who filled out our survey felt comfortable using 3.4 programming languages. The most common answer to the question “How many programming languages do you feel comfortable using?” was two. Overall, almost 79% reported knowing more than one programming language. This tells us that many coders do not stop learning new languages when they have learned their first one.
How long did it take you to learn to code?
The most popular answer was “1-2 years,” which only accounted for 15 percent of responses. Only 16 percent of people spent over two years learning and 33 percent spent between two and nine months learning. The broad distribution of responses tells us that there is no specific timeframe in which you can expect to learn to code. Different learners take different amounts of time to build their coding skills.
That being said, 69 percent of people said they spent less than one year learning to code. So while different learners take different amounts of time to build their coding skills, most people are able to learn to code within a year of starting.
On average, how many hours a day do you spend learning new coding skills (outside of work)?
Twenty-eight percent of participants spent “between 1 and 2 hours” per day learning new coding skills outside of work, which was the most common response to this question. More than half — about 53 percent — spent one hour or less per day learning new coding skills.
We asked survey respondents about their professional experience so we could learn about the extent to which our survey respondents used code in their jobs. We also used this section to gather information about the relationship between work and coding.
Do you have any professional coding experience?
Thirty-seven percent of survey respondents reported having professional coding experience. These respondents were given an additional set of questions related to their work.
What is the nature of your professional experience?
Of those who filled out the professional experience section, 85 percent were employed in part-time or full-time work. Full-time work was the most popular type of professional experience, in which 57 percent of respondents to this question were engaged.
What is your job title?
People who filled out our survey had a range of job titles. “Software developer / engineer” was the most common job title, which was held by 27 percent of people who answered this question.
Collectively, however, web development occupations were the most common job. Thirty-four percent of respondents indicated they were either full stack, backend, or front end web developers.
How long have you been coding for work?
Seventy-six percent of respondents have been coding at work for more than a year. The most common answer was “3-4 years,” which was given by 27 percent of respondents.
Do you write code outside of work?
Nearly 85 percent of people who responded to this question indicated that they coded outside of work. This tells us that coding is not just a skill people use professionally: developers code off the job, too.
How long did it take you to find a job that involved coding from when you started to look to landing the job?
About 52 percent of respondents landed a job that involved coding within three months or less of the time they started looking. Only eight percent of people took 12 months or longer to find a job that involved coding.
Deciding to Code and Key Challenges
In this section, we explore why people choose to code, what job in tech our survey respondents are interested in pursuing, and what challenges respondents have faced when learning to code.
Why did you decide to learn to code?
For this question, participants were allowed to select multiple answers. People decided to learn to code for a range of reasons. The most popular reason was that it “looked fun,” an answer given by 53 percent of respondents. The next most popular reason was “to build (their) own projects,” which was cited by 49 percent of participants.
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This shows that coding is not a skill that people pick up solely to advance their career prospects. Indeed, only 27 percent said they decided to learn to code in order to find a job, and only 17 percent highlighted a different career-related reason. More important for many learners is that coding looks fun, which makes sense given the wide variety of projects one can build with a little bit of programming knowledge.
What job in tech are you most interested in pursuing?
The people who filled out our survey want to pursue jobs in a wide range of fields, from technical writing to IT management. At 21 percent, “software developer / engineer” was the single-most popular job that participants wanted to pursue.
More people overall said they wanted to pursue an occupation related to web development, but different disciplines of web development attracted different levels of interest. Collectively, 23 percent of respondents said they were interested in pursuing a job in web development. Of these, full stack web development was the most popular.
What were/are the biggest challenges you faced / are facing when learning to code?
For this question, respondents were allowed to select multiple answers. Respondents faced or are facing a wide range of challenges in their journey toward learning to code. According to our data, the top challenge people have faced when learning to code is understanding where to start. Nearly 20 percent of respondents reported understanding where to start as their top challenge.
Finding the right learning resources was the second most common challenge people faced, which 18 percent of participants gave in response.
Formal Education and Its Influence on Learning to Code
Many coders choose not to pursue formal education, opting instead for other methods of learning. We wanted to know why people who did not enter into any training or postsecondary education chose not to do so. We also wanted to know the extent to which programmers participate in coding communities.
Please state the type of training program(s) in which you have enrolled.
Only the respondents who said they participated in a professional training or education program were shown this question. We wanted to learn exactly what type of training they had participated in.
Fifty-five percent participated in a degree program of some kind, which makes degrees the most common form of coding training for those who decided to pursue education for their careers. Twenty-six percent of respondents said they participated in a certificate program, which is less than half of the number of people who attended a degree program.
Why did you choose not to attend any professional training?
We asked the people who did not pursue any professional training about why they did not consider this path. We found that the most common reason why people chose not to pursue any professional training was that they prefer to learn independently. The next most common reason was that participants had been “learning well using existing online resources.”
Are you part of any coding groups or online communities?
With so many coding communities on the Internet and in person, we wanted to learn more about how many of our respondents participate in these communities. Fifty-eight percent of respondents said they were part of a coding group or online coding community.
Coding Resources and Top Technologies
Toward the end of the survey, we asked participants a series of questions about the resources they used when learning to code. We also asked questions about web frameworks, database tools, and whether respondents intended to learn a new programming language in the future.
What resources did you find most helpful when learning to code?
The type of resource participants found most helpful when learning to code was online tutorials. However, participants relied on a wide range of different resources. At least 100 respondents indicated they used the following resources when learning to code:
- Online tutorials
- Stack Overflow questions
- Online courses
- Interactive coding exercises
Except for the final four, all resources on the chart below were used by at least 50 respondents. The least popular resource participants used when learning to code was podcasts. Participants were allowed to choose multiple answers in response to this question.
What methods do you use the most to practice your coding skills?
Developers use a variety of methods to practice their skills, as noted in the chart below.
The most common method respondents used to practice their coding skills was personal projects. Sixty-seven percent of the 270 people who participated in our survey said that they worked on personal projects to practice their coding skills.
Personal projects had a great lead over the next most popular method of practicing coding skills, which was “tasks in tutorials and courses.”
Participants were allowed to choose multiple options in response to this question.
What field of coding are you studying at the moment (if any)?
Web development (full stack, front end, and backend, combined) was the most popular field of coding our respondents were studying. Forty-seven percent of respondents indicated they are studying web development. However, our respondents did indicate interest in a range of other fields as well. Three fields are being studied by at least 50 survey respondents:
- Web development
- Software engineering
- Mobile application development
Participants were given the freedom to select multiple responses.
What web frameworks do you want to learn / are you learning at the moment?
Node.js is by far the most popular framework respondents wanted to learn or are learning. Forty-four percent of survey respondents indicated they wanted to learn or are already learning Node.js.
This question was only displayed to people who indicated in response to the previous question that they were a web developer of some kind. Participants were allowed to select multiple responses.
What database tool do you want to learn / are you learning at the moment?
MySQL is the most popular database tool that respondents wanted to learn. Twenty-four percent of people who responded to this question said they wanted to learn or are learning MySQL. However, there is still a lot of interest in various other database tools.
Do you intend to learn a new programming language within the next six months?
Sixty-four percent of participants indicated they want to learn a new programming language, which tells us that developers do not stop learning new languages once they have already learned a language.
We received 270 qualified responses from people all over the world. Below are the demographics for the people who filled out our survey.
Participant Age Groups
Sixty-three percent of survey respondents were under the age of 30. The most common age groups reported by our respondents were “23-30 years old” and “12-14 years old,” which were reported an equal number of times in response to the question, “How old are you?”
Coders and aspiring coders from 48 countries filled out our survey. Forty-nine percent of respondents were based in the United States, which was the country from which we received the most responses.
Conclusion: What We’ve Learned About Coding
Coding is a skill for life, which is a trend highlighted throughout our survey. We found that most developers who write code for work also do so in their spare time. We discovered that many people learn to code “for fun” and so that they can build their own projects, not just to pursue a job that involves coding.
We found that coding is a skill that many people are now learning at a young age, with many respondents indicating they started learning to code before the age of 18. In fact, 56 percent of people were introduced to coding in elementary, middle, or high school.
Learning to code does involve overcoming challenges. We found the top challenge people faced when learning to code was understanding where to start. Other challenges participants faced included not being able to find the right learning resources and not having role models around them who knew how to code. This tells us that there is a great opportunity in the market to develop more resources around coding education, especially aimed at a younger audience.
Perhaps our greatest finding was that all coding journeys are unique. Participants came from many different countries, educational backgrounds, and age groups. Some participants had professional experience whereas others did not. There is no one-size-fits-all path to learning how to code: everyone learns in different ways and is fuelled by unique motivations.
About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.