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How To Learn Coding [9 Places to Start in 2024]

16 minute read | November 21, 2023
Sakshi Gupta

Written by:
Sakshi Gupta

Ready to launch your career?

There is a good reason why so many people today are asking how to learn coding when contemplating a career change. Especially when it comes to getting hired as a software engineer, your skills often matter more than your resume.

Better yet, the abundance of free resources available means you don’t have to invest a fortune to get started in this high-paying industry. If you’re interested in learning to code, we’ve compiled a list of the best places to get started. 

What Is Coding?

Coding, also known as computer programming, is how you tell a computer what to do. When you code, you’re creating a set of instructions for the computer to follow so that it performs a specific task. 

Although Siri might have you convinced otherwise, computers don’t understand human language. Computers only understand  “on” and “off.” It may sound simple, but it would be extremely time-consuming to give your computer instructions in this low-level binary language.

Computer languages simplify this process by allowing programmers to translate commands into binary code. From the simplest operating system to the most complex, every computer application runs on coded software. 

Is Learning To Code Hard?

The omnipresence of the “Learn to Code” mantra has done much to make coding more accessible, but learning to code is not as simple as it may seem. The initial learning phase often consists of simple, scripted exercises that can give you unrealistic expectations. Understanding the basics of coding and learning some fun tricks is fairly effortless, but becoming “job-ready” as a developer is more difficult. 

Many beginning coders find that once they finish basic tutorials and begin to deal with more complex challenges, they hit a wall. This is the point where many realize that learning to code isn’t as easy as they thought, and if you reach this place, you may be tempted to give up. And if you stick with coding past this phase, it will only keep getting harder, at least for a while. 

But if you push through that intermediate stage, you’ll gain the skills and confidence to tackle more challenging problems. At its core, coding is a process of problem-solving. It’s never going to be easy, but you’ll be good enough to do the hard work involved. So while coding is hard to learn, some paths make learning easier than others. 

How Long Does It Take To Learn To Code?

Most experienced developers would agree that learning to code is a lifelong process. After all, programming languages wax and wane in popularity as the tech industry is always at the forefront of innovation. You get out of coding what you put into it. The more time you devote to coding, the faster you’ll learn. 

You can generally expect to pick up the basics of coding in three to six months if you:

  1. Spend around 10 hours a week studying.
  2. If you have no experience with coding, fret not! Expect it to take the full six months or even longer.
  3. If you’ve dabbled in programming before, you’ll probably pick it up in three months or maybe less.

This will get you to the junior developer stage, but becoming an expert will take much longer. 

Learning To Code: How To Start 

  1. Take a Fee Course

  2. Utilize Free Resources

  3. Do an Internship

  4. Get To Know Your Own Computer Terminal

  5. Participate in a Related Project That Involves Coding

  6. Try an Interactive Coding Game

  7. Learn on the Job

  8. Complete a Bootcamp

  9. Get a Certification

Part of the problem when it comes to learning to code, is the seemingly infinite number of programs that claim to be the best. Indeed, Google returns almost five billion results for the search “learn to code.” The best path for you will depend on a variety of factors. Here’s how to start learning to code: 

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1. Take a Paid Course

If you’re willing to pay, there are plenty of courses that cover the basics of programming. Udemy offers a complete web developer course that promises to teach you everything you need to know to become a full-stack web developer in one course.  It’s taught by the lead instructor at App Brewery, one of London’s most popular in-person bootcamps. 

You’ll get the same curriculum and materials covered at App Brewery but for about $12,000 less. The listed price of the Udemy course is $119.99, but it frequently goes on sale for $20.99, so it’s worth waiting a few days for the sale price. This option is great if you’re looking for a solid foundation that will let you apply for junior developer roles when you finish. It’s also a good choice if you’d rather spend a little money for a well-organized curriculum than try to cobble together resources yourself. 

2. Utilize Free Resources

If you’re trying to find the cheapest way to learn, or if you want to get your feet wet before you invest, there are plenty of free options available. Codecademy offers courses for almost all languages and skill sets. It’s one of the largest online coding schools. They offer pro plans that you can pay for, but much of their content is free. 

Another well-known free option is freeCodeCamp. You can earn completely free certifications in skills ranging from responsive web design to machine learning. A unique feature of freeCodeCamp is its local study groups. It’s a good choice if you’re looking for a free resource and like the accountability and camaraderie of a study group.

Don’t stop at free programs, though. Numerous YouTube channels can help you learn to code. Programming with Mosh is a YouTube channel with 2.9 million subscribers, and it covers several different languages and industry tools. 

3. Do an Internship

If you have a bachelor’s degree in an unrelated field, taking an internship with a tech talent development company can be a great opportunity to get paid while learning to code. Companies like Revature provide tech talent to some of the biggest companies in the world. They hire college grads and pay them to learn some of the most in-demand skills during one of their in-person 10-to-14-week programs. Once you’re job-ready, they’ll place you with a company that needs your newly acquired skills. 

4. Get To Know Your Own Computer Terminal

All operating systems provide a text-based user interface that lets you type in instructions for immediate execution. After typing a command, you execute it by pressing enter. When you see hackers in movies typing commands in that little black box with a blinking cursor, they’re using the command line. While you probably won’t land a job based on your command line skills alone, you can learn a lot about programming and how your computer works by exploring this tool.

Django Girls has a quick tutorial that will help you start working with the command line. Once you’ve mastered the basics and want to take a deeper dive, the Command Line Power User’s video courses can teach you command-line skills that many experienced developers don’t even know about.

5. Participate in a Coding-Related Project 

Completing tutorials just for the sake of completing them can seem pointless and boring. However, learning to program to solve a real-world problem is extremely motivating. Without the guardrails of a scripted online course, you can learn a lot in a real-world context and help create something useful. 

Start by thinking about your daily life and what would make things easier for you. Maybe you want to get a text message when concert tickets for your favorite band go on sale. While there might already be an app for that, building your own can aid your learning process and result in something to be proud of. Here’s a list of examples to get you started. 

6. Try an Interactive Coding Game

It should come as no surprise that programmers have created an amazing gaming option for learning to code. CodinGame is not only a place to level up your coding skills and have fun; it’s also a great place to get noticed and land a job. This platform lets you compete in challenges, play with friends, engage with a community, and get feedback on your progress. CodinGame is an excellent option if you want to learn to code but don’t want a more structured class. At the end of a long day, playing a game can be a lot more fun than finishing an assignment. 

7. Learn on the Job

Many employers are taking advantage of platforms like freeCodeCamp to upskill their workforce. If your company doesn’t offer this option, but you think it might be beneficial, you can take some information to your HR department to see if they’re interested. You might even be able to land a job with your current credentials and learn to code there.

8. Complete a Bootcamp

Bootcamps offer an intensive program that usually requires a full-time commitment in addition to a hefty up-front expense. But if you need a more structured option, or some help landing your first job, they can be a great path. It pays to do your research when you’re deciding on a bootcamp, though. There’s a huge variety in quality among programs, and you want to find one that has a good track record of post-bootcamp employment.

Springboard is one of the only bootcamps that offers a job guarantee with some of their courses. In addition to coding, they offer courses in data, design, and cybersecurity. Their job and tuition guarantee make learning to code risk-free. You’ll also be assigned your own mentor, who will offer feedback and direction in weekly, one-on-one sessions. With a variety of tuition payment options, including deferred tuition, Springboard provides an affordable path to a promising career.

Codesmith has an excellent record of turning out mid-level and senior-level software engineers. While their on-campus immersive software engineering program tuition costs  $19,950, they have a range of financing options, including scholarships. They also offer other programs that aren’t as comprehensive or as expensive. Their results are impressive, with 92% of graduates finding employment in their field, with a  median salary of over $115,000.

Devmountain is another bootcamp with a good record of helping graduates find employment in their field. They offer courses in a range of tech topics. Their coding basics course, for example, is $49 and is a good option if you want to try out coding before investing a lot of money. Though it’s not currently available due to COVID, they normally offer free housing to their full-time, in-person students at their Texas and Utah campuses. An impressive 87% of their graduates are employed in their field of study. 

Tech Elevator boasts a 90% job placement rate. They offer in-person and live online courses in several different cities. Course options include Java, .NET, HTML, CSS, SQL, API, and JavaScript. In addition to coursework, Tech Elevator provides personalized coaching sessions, interview practice, and six months of placement support after graduation.

9. Get a Certification

If you’re self-motivated, you can work through a certificate program on your own. You likely won’t have the connections or career placement support offered by a bootcamp, but you will end up with a credential that you can showcase on your resume. Google offers several tech certificates, but their only developer option right now is an Associate Android Developer Certification

Coursera offers certificates for almost every coding language and tech skill. And they partner with well-known universities to offer more specialized certificates too. Each certificate consists of several courses. When you complete all of the courses, you earn a certificate to showcase your new skills and land a job.

Examples To Follow When It Comes to Learning To Code

There are an infinite number of ways to learn how to code.  While your individual journey will be unique, you can derive inspiration from people who have already learned how to code. Hearing other people’s stories can help you avoid common pitfalls and find useful shortcuts. You can learn about the paths that others have taken by scouring  YouTube videos, blogs, and forums. 

From Zero Experience to Software Engineer at Google in Six Months

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Six months before he landed his job as a software engineer at Google, Clément Mihailescu had never written a line of code. He graduated from college with a degree in math but found it hard to find a job without coding experience. So he applied to four coding bootcamps and did the preparatory work to learn the basics before starting the Full Stack Academy in-person bootcamp in NYC. 

The bootcamp was an immersive three-month experience. During the bootcamp, he spent 14 hours a day coding, going beyond the curriculum’s eight-hour-a-day workload. Clement’s experience is a great example of what’s possible when you devote yourself to learning to code. He threw himself into the experience wholeheartedly. His story proves that you get out of your programing journey what you put into it.

From Bootcamp Dropout to a Lead Engineer at Udacity

Brad Crispin’s coding journey wasn’t an immediate success. After experiencing burnout in his previous career, he decided to learn to program. He drained his savings to pay $10,000 for a General Assembly bootcamp but dropped out after the first semester. While he learned a little and afterward managed to find sporadic work as a freelance Javascript contractor, he put his coding dreams on pause and went back to a career in his former field. 

However, after a year at his new job, he still couldn’t let go of his desire to become a programmer. Brad was over 30 by this point and worried he might be too old, but he formulated a plan. He decided he would persist no matter what, find a mentor, and even work unpaid if the experience was worth it. He reached out to an old contact and was hired for a nominal salary as an intern. 

In Brad’s opinion, the key to his success was immersion. He became  100% focused on coding. He cut out socializing and other distractions that took his attention away from his goal. During his internship, he also took courses from Udacity. By the time he was ready to apply for full-time positions, he had the skills to land a job at Udacity. 

Brad’s story is an excellent reminder that one failure doesn’t have to define you. Failure can be a great stepping stone for future success. Coding is a complicated skill that takes time to learn, and Brad also shows that you’re never too old to begin. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you’ve missed out if you don’t start early, but that’s rarely true.

From Psych Grad to Developer

Cindy Lin shares how she found a job coding after graduating with a liberal arts degree. She first took a complete web developer course but didn’t feel ready to start looking for work yet. Instead, she took a volunteer position to get some real-world experience. In the meantime, she took a job as a campus coordinator at a digital training bootcamp. However, her job wasn’t a technical role, so she eventually quit and took what was intended to be a short vacation to Taiwan. 

This was the beginning of 2020, and she wound up stuck in Taiwan because of the COVID-19 pandemic. While in Taiwan, she tried to make the best of it and took some Python courses. After returning home, she dabbled in some other areas, such as machine learning, but discovered that her real desire was to become a web developer.

Energized by her renewed commitment, Cindy focused on learning the skills that would help her reach her goal. She started her days with a coding challenge and kept track of her learning progress with a spreadsheet. Using LinkedIn, she shared useful content to increase her visibility. She also took another volunteer opportunity while she kept looking for work. After sending out over 50 resumes and getting only two interviews, she was too nervous to even solve the coding challenges. Ultimately, the organization that Cindy volunteered with offered her a full-time position. 

Cindy’s story showcases how persistence pays off. It also illustrates that learning to code is rarely a straightforward journey. You may start thinking that you want to go in one direction, but as you learn and gain more hands-on experience, you may find you want to do something completely different. Growth is part of the process. 

Self-Taught Coders Who Landed a Good Job

Self-Taught Coders Who Landed a Good Job

This thread on Reddit is full of coders who taught themselves coding and went on to find good jobs. From high school dropouts to people with advanced degrees in other fields, these responses show that there isn’t a  singular path to becoming a programmer. Some respondents transitioned to a developer role in the company they were working for, but many started working at a new company once they could prove their qualifications. 

Most of the advice included being persistent in the face of rejection, using feedback to hone your skills, and tailoring your application to the position you’re applying for. Some people advise applying for a job regardless of whether or not you fit all of the requirements. Many respondents also recommended doing personal projects to show off your skills. Another often-cited option was doing low-level work on a freelance platform like Upwork to gain experience. 

The most important thing isn’t how you learn to code but that you pick a method, see it through to completion, and apply what you’ve learned to demonstrate your skills.

The Benefits of Learning To Code

“Everyone in this country should learn how to program because it teaches you how to think.” 

– Steve Jobs. 

Despite Steve Jobs’ famous quote, it’s doubtful that everyone will learn to code. However, learning to program has broad benefits that go far beyond having a marketable skill, although that’s certainly one of the major perks. 

In-Demand Skills

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to more and more employers and schools going remote. Though there were many horrible aspects to COVID and the lockdown, the convenience of online working, learning, and shopping wasn’t one of them. And options for grocery delivery, remote working, and telehealth visits are here to stay. 

These conveniences are powered by the Internet of Things (IoT) along with a rapidly growing set of complex tech skills. This rapid innovation has led to a widening of the tech skills gap, which has been apparent for over a decade. In our digital-first era, where all industries are making data-driven decisions, there is no reduction in the need for programmers. And so people with tech skills can be choosy about which jobs they want in this market. 

Applicable to Any Industry

The rise of big data, and the rush to provide every imaginable service online, means that every industry is now a tech industry. Even industries that have been traditionally low-tech now depend on advances in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotics. Computer programming is more frequently becoming an expected part of many different job roles. 

Whether you’re interested in business, arts, environmental science, or another seemingly unrelated field, you can be sure that they need programmers. Learning to code is an excellent way to give yourself an edge over the competition when applying for almost any job. 

Build Your Own Applications, Programs, and Web Pages

You’ll invariably run into situations where there isn’t “an app for that,” at least not yet. When you know how to code, you can build your own apps. You aren’t at the mercy of someone else’s skills and motivations. You can put your knowledge to work solving your own problems or solving them for other people. 

If you can’t find a high-paying job with your coding experience, you can always branch out on your own. The ability to create your own apps, programs, and web pages means that you build your own solutions and take them directly to the market if you choose. If you aren’t interested in being an entrepreneur, you can also work as a freelancer providing these services to other companies. 

High-Paying Jobs

Of course, one of the biggest reasons that people learn how to code is the hope of getting a high-paying job. It’s a reasonable hope, indeed. Computer and information technology jobs are among the highest-paying fields. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these are the average salaries for some of the most common coding-related jobs: 

  • Software developers: $107,510
  • Web developers: $73,760
  • Computer programmers: $86,550
  • Database administrators: $93,750

An Ever-Changing Industry That Rewards Curiosity and Creativity

Although most people think of technical skills as being the opposite of creativity, creativity is a huge part of coding. Steve Jobs was right about how coding teaches you how to think. Programming is all about using creativity to solve problems. Far from being the monotonous, repetitive job, many imagine, coders are constantly challenged to think of new ways to approach even the most mundane tasks. If you want a job where you’ll be able to use all of your skills and talents and continue to develop new ones, programming is a great career option.  

FAQs About Learning To Code

Can You Teach Yourself How To Code?

You absolutely can teach yourself to code. You can use tons of resources to teach yourself, from structured classes that cover high-level concepts, to YouTube tutorials that cover very specific issues. No matter which option you choose, resources are available to fit your learning style. 

Can You Learn To Code for Free?

Yes. You can pick from one of the many programs available, or gather your own resources. For inspiration, try reading about how other people taught themselves for free. There are also free resources that are fun for practicing your skills, such as CodinGame and Codewars. The coding community is supportive and helpful if you get stuck on something. Joining forums such as Stack Overflow will give you a place to ask questions about anything you don’t understand. 

What’s the Easiest Way To Learn To Code?

There’s no easy way to learn to code. Be prepared for the challenges involved so that you won’t be surprised and discouraged when you inevitably encounter them. Finding the learning program that works best for you will make the process easier. Most people will find that following a structured step-by-step program is the easiest way to learn, while some people may find that the gamified approach ignites their competitive instinct and better holds their interest. 

Is Coding a Good Career?

Coding is an excellent career. You will be paid well, and have a lot of flexibility in your working environment as well. All industries need programmers, so coders will be in demand no matter what field you’re interested in. There is also plenty of opportunity for advancement. If you choose a career in coding, on-the-job learning won’t ever stop.

The fast-paced, rewarding, and challenging nature of coding makes it perfect for smart, motivated people who want to continue developing their skills throughout their careers. 

Does Coding Pay Well?

Yes, coding pays well. The median salary for web developers is $77,000. As your skills grow, so does your income potential. Software developers and testers have a median annual salary of $110,140. Coding careers pay much higher than the median yearly salary of $35,977 for non-coding occupations.

Since you’re here…
Interested in a career in software engineering? Join our mentor-led Software Engineering Bootcamp or our foundational Software Engineering Course if you’re just starting out. We help people make the switch every day (just peep our reviews). You can do it, too!

About Sakshi Gupta

Sakshi is a Managing Editor at Springboard. She is a technology enthusiast who loves to read and write about emerging tech. She is a content marketer with experience in the Indian and US markets.