Person Coding On Their Computer

The idea of learning how to code is fascinating. It can lead to a creative, fulfilling, well-paying job that you’ve dreamed about. Or it can be as simple as building something from the ground up. But learning how to code can also be overwhelming.

If you break it up into smaller milestones with a clear roadmap, it’s easier to get started and stay on the path to proficiency. Let’s break down what it means to code and how to pick your first coding language.

Jump to section:

  1. What it means to code
  2. How long learn how to code takes
  3. How and where you can learn how to code
  4. Tips on learning how to code

What does it mean to learn how to code?

First, let’s start with the basics. Learning how to code isn’t just learning a single programming language. Learning how to code often boils down to learning how to learn. There are after all more than 700 programming languages. Don’t let that scare you. Just start with one. Some languages are used for web development, others for data science, while others are optimal for mobile apps, video games, and software.

At its core, coding solves problems.

Every time you create a website, application, or data science project, you aim to resolve a pain-point. Since there are hundreds of coding languages, endless problems to solve, and technology is constantly evolving, you’re committing to the process of learning continuously when you start down the path of learning how to code. You’ll master skills like how to fix a bug, use frameworks and libraries, how a certain language ticks, how to structure a website or data project, and specific methodologies. But you’ll also need to grow and evolve with each new project, technology, or job.

With so many languages and specializations to choose from, how do you know which one to start with? Here’s a simple break-down of the languages you should consider learning first and what they’re used for.

Coding’s most in-demand languages:

Code on-screen of programming languages

  • HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). These are the building blocks of the web; HTML determines what is displayed by the web browser while CSS tells the browser how the content should look.
  • JavaScript: JavaScript is a scripting language that is used for web development. It can be used to create a dynamic website through animated graphics, buttons, photo slideshows, pop-ups, autocomplete text suggestions, interactive forms, and more.
  • Ruby: Ruby is a back-end programming language that is often paired with the Rails framework to create web applications. It works behind the scenes as the liaison between the database and the user.
  • Python: Python is a versatile programming language that can be used for everything from web development to machine learning. It’s most common in data science.

You can choose between web development and data science and choose which languages to learn first based on your specialization. If you want to learn web development, start with HTML and CSS, then work your way up to JavaScript or Ruby on Rails. If you want to get into data science, start with Python. Once you’ve covered the basics, you can start to implement frameworks and libraries like a pro.

How long does it take to learn how to code?

It’s hard to say how long it will take you to learn without knowing more about your goals. Do you want to change careers or do you already have a job and you just want to upskill? Do you plan to go to college or do you want to dive into a tech career as soon as possible?

If your goal is to learn to code as quickly as possible, you can become proficient in as little as 3 months.

If you’re looking to change careers, then you can become proficient in coding for web development or data science in 3 months or more through a coding bootcamp or self-teaching.

Maybe you’re looking to change careers but you can only commit to part-time learning. You can begin your coding journey in as little as six weeks, but a career change might take you up to a year.

Ready to head to university? Expect to learn how to code in your first six-months of school, but your program will be about four years. University students usually attain a solid proficiency in multiple coding languages within the first year but a job and graduation is a few years off.

Already have a job? You can upskill in as little as a few weeks by learning how to code in a specific language that will help your career. If you work with data or in human resources, you could start by learning Python. If you’re a designer or writer you could learn HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to venture into web design and development.

Not sure what your goal is? That’s okay! Coders are sought after in today’s market and this means an abundance of different jobs to go after. From full-time jobs at big companies to freelancing, applying coding to an HR job to coding up email campaigns for a digital marketing role, you’ll probably be able to find a trajectory that fits your passion.

How and where can I learn how to code?

How To Learn To Code There is no one way to learn how to code.

You can learn quickly via a coding bootcamp, or self-teach at your own pace. Given these options, how do you know which one is best for you?

Let’s break down the pros and cons of each type of coding education, how much it will cost, and how to choose based on your goals.

Coding Bootcamp

Coding Bootcamp at Lighthouse Labs Coding bootcamps are the most efficient way to prepare yourself for a job as a junior developer. You can be a proficient, job-ready coder in as little as three months with a coding bootcamp. You can choose from in-person, asynchronous online, or live online coding bootcamps. Most bootcamps offer full-time and part-time options.

Bootcamps like ours constantly update the curriculum to teach you the most relevant and marketable skills for today’s tech careers. You’ll be able to lean on the support of a proven curriculum roadmap, mentors, career services, your cohort, and instructors to accelerate your learning and increase your chances of getting a job when you graduate.

Who should go to a coding bootcamp?

  • Anyone who is looking to learn relevant and marketable coding skills as efficiently as possible
  • Someone who learns best with hands-on experience
  • Someone who can handle long hours

As with all learning, you should figure out how you learn best and what your goals are for after bootcamp before you commit to a program. Try our prep modules, and dabble with a bit of code to see if you enjoy the process.

How much does coding bootcamp cost?

Coding bootcamps start at about $10,000 total and may cost up to $13,000 or more. Bootcamp payment options vary: a payment plan, a student line of credit, scholarships, discounts, student aid, ISAs, your current employer, and workforce subsidies and grants.

Check out our comprehensive financial guide. This is a must-download to help ease the financial burden of education.

Self-Teaching

Teaching yourself is the cheapest and most flexible option. It can take as little as 3-6 months or over a year to learn how to code this way, depending on how much time and money you have to dedicate to your education.

You can rely on Google searches, Stack Overflow forums, online courses on a platform like Udemy, books, and apps to fuel your learning. You can also use free websites like W3 Schools, Mozilla Developer Network (MDN), or Free Code Camp to find documentation, cheat sheets, project ideas, and tutorials.

The biggest downside to self-teaching is that you must be disciplined enough to be consistent on your own. Only you can hold yourself accountable, provide yourself with structure, and find a roadmap. If you want to change careers, you’ll also need to learn how to write a strong resume and build a well-rounded portfolio.

Above all, you may not have the support system (career services, alumni network, and referrals) of an established bootcamp.

Who should learn how to code through self-teaching?

  • Self-motivated
  • Don’t mind spending extra time on research
  • Good at keeping a consistent schedule for yourself

Try to plan out a roadmap before you start and adjust it as needed along your journey. You should also schedule time for learning, projects, and practicing. Scheduling is the best way to make sure you stay on track.

How much does it cost to teach yourself how to code?

Teaching yourself how to code can cost anywhere from $0-$300. Or more. It largely depends on the resources you choose to spend money on, how quickly you want to learn, and what your previous coding knowledge includes. If you think you’ll need some assistance with self-teaching, you can budget for an online class, a book, or pay for coding mentorship.

University

University vs. Coding Bootcamp Learning To Code Universities are typically four year programs. In a computer science degree, you’ll likely learn how to code within your first six months. Some universities offer strong career assistance while others offer almost none. You might be able to find a mentor within your faculty, but there is no guarantee.

University has the added benefit of a degree, theoretical computer science, and a broader understanding of computer programming. But university is the most expensive way to learn how to code, sometimes has outdated curriculum, and takes the longest of any method.

Who should attend university to learn how to code?

  • You have the time and financial means to pursue a college education, it may help your career in the long run to have a degree
  • Enjoy lecture-style teaching
  • Long-term learning
  • In search of a degree

With a university degree, you’re getting a more traditional approach to education. That said, you may have to do more leg work to get the experiences you need to be successful in a coding career like internships, finding a mentor, or creating a portfolio.

How much does a computer science degree cost?

If you’re a Canadian citizen, a four-year degree at a university can cost up to $8,000 per year. If you’re an international student, expect to pay up to $20,000 per year.

Tips for learning how to code

Learning how to code can be tough. You’ll definitely face challenges and roadblocks on your journey. But those “ah-ha!” moments along the way make it all worthwhile!

The two best ways to solidify your learning is through:

  1. Practical application
  2. Teaching

Here are a few tips for you to learn how to code:

  • Having projects to work on, however small, and outlets to practice what you’ve learned is the key to retaining your skills long-term
  • Practice the skills you're learning on projects and exercises.
  • Teach a friend the skills you’ve learned. Teaching someone else what you know is an excellent way to stay sharp, and to figure out how much you do or don’t know
  • Remember that learning is incremental. There are ups-and-downs from day to day, but aim to be 1% better every day and you’ll see long-term results
  • Avoid memorizing, and focus on learning how to problem-solve. Be prepared to learn continuously and try to fall in love with the process of learning

Resources for Learning How to Code