Two people in front of computers coding with HTML, CSS, JavaScript and Ruby on Rails in Vancouver, Canada

There's no longer any doubt: coding is the most crucial skill of the 21st century. Developers are needed in every industry, and entirely new industries are being created from emerging technologies.

With this increase in demand has come an increase in learning alternatives, and we are proud to be part of that at Lighthouse Labs.

Traditional, in-person shops moved everything online in 2020 so there are more online coding courses available now than ever before! Online coding courses, technical certificates, and coding bootcamps have helped change the face of developer education - what was once only the domain of computer science majors and highly specialized tradespeople is now available to anyone with the will to learn.

But the question is, which learning method is best for you? Everyone has different needs, learning styles, and ambitions; there's no universal "best way" for learning to code.

We've rigorously researched each method of learning to code (sources at the bottom), to create an easy way for you to compare your different options side by side.

From formal university degrees to free online courses, follow the list below to get the details on every option to learn to code and their unique set of pros and cons. Once you’ve read through them all, you should have a clear understanding of which option is the best one for you.

  1. Computer Science Degree
  2. Technical Diplomas
  3. Coding Bootcamps
  4. Technical Certificates
  5. Paid Online Courses
  6. Free/Self-Directed Online Resources

1. Computer Science Degree

Best for: High school standouts Information about Computer Science Degree options at universities and colleges in Canada

Examples: UBC, U of Toronto, SFU, UVic, Queen's, U of Calgary

Length: 4 Years

Cost: $35,000-$150,000

Instructor Ratio: 1:40

Pre-Reqs: Honour roll-level grades

Career Assistance: Co-op Placement

Time Commitment: 50-70 hours/week

Instructors: Faculty of professors (Academic researchers), and TAs (Graduate researchers)

With regards to coding, a computer science degree can be seen as the ultimate foundational prep course. The emphasis is theory, and students learn the underpinnings behind computer architecture itself. The programming languages they learn (Java, C#, etc) aren't used as frequently in the workplace, but students do gain a strong enough theoretical background to pick up new coding languages relatively easily.

As our instructor Don Burks said in Mashable, a computer science degree is "great for people who want to build the next Windows or OS X", but "for someone who wants to build websites, apps, or startups, what they need is a practical understanding." When combined with one of the other options below, a computer science degree is a formidable asset for a coder.

Pros

  • Great baseline of practical knowledge: Students learn the basic foundations of web development theory and programming languages in which they can easily build off of as their careers progress.
  • Co-op placement: Top universities will place students in co-ops where they get the opportunity to work and use their skills in different industries before going out into the real world and choosing where they want to start their career.

Cons

  • Cost: Tuition for a computer science degree is not cheap. Students may be required to take out a student loan or take on a large amount of debt to complete the program.
  • Time commitment: Four years is a long time, and the weekly requirements are not ideal for someone who needs to work a part-time job at the same time.
  • May limit career options: Not ideal for those who want to build websites or apps since minimal programming languages are learned.
  • Instructor to student ratio.
  • Continued learning likely required after graduation.
  • No resume prep, mentorship, or full-time placement.

2. Technical Diplomas

Best for: IT specialists A breakdown of the various technical diplomas available in Canada for learning to code and becoming a web developer

Examples: Lighthouse Labs, Sheridan College

Length: 6-12 weeks

Pre-Reqs: G.E.D.

Career Assistance: Mentorship

Time Commitment: 10-30 hours/week

Instructors: Full-time instructors, Part-Time TAs (developers and IT Specialists)

Cost: $7,000-$9,000

Instructor Ratio: 1:20

Technical diplomas are the traditional way to learn about specific technologies. These diplomas are offered as trade skills by public institutions, and their graduates are often employed by large companies. The focus of these programs is usually on learning to maintain and operate within things that are created (i.e network infrastructure), as opposed to building new things.

Pros

  • Cost: Technical diplomas are very affordable, costing around $1300 to $5000.
  • Time commitment: The time commitment of 8 months to 2 years is very reasonable. At 40 hours per week though, students may not be able to balance work and school and may have to focus solely on the program until it’s completed.
  • Good instructor to student ratio.
  • Some career assistance: Most colleges will help students with co-op placements and resume preparation which will help get them ready for the real world.

Cons

  • Minimal programming skills: Technical diplomas will not cover the full scope of programming skills and teach maintenance over building skills.
  • Limited career growth: Limited skills also means limited career growth. Anyone looking to become a senior web developer will likely require continued learning on top of this type of diploma.
  • No mentorship or full-time placement.

3. Coding Bootcamps

Best for: Hands-on learners A list and information about the top Canadian coding bootcamps including Lighthouse Labs

Examples: Lighthouse Labs, Juno College, Brainstation, General Assembly

Length: 8-12 weeks

Pre-Reqs: Written Test, Personal Interview

Career Assistance: Resume Prep, Mentorship, Co-op placement, Full-time placement

Time Commitment: 70+ hours/week

Instructors: Full-time instructor, Part-time TAs (all senior developers)

Cost: $9,000-$13,000

Instructor Ratio: 1:8

Coding bootcamps like Lighthouse Labs teach students everything they need to know to become a professional web developer, and aim to do it as quickly as possible. Unlike other programs, which are run outside of the tech industry, coding bootcamps are run from within the industry.

These types of bootcamps will cover computer science fundamentals, HTML and CSS, data modeling, JavaScript, Ruby on Rails, and more.

This means students are immersed in work of the developer from day 1 of class instead of waiting until they find a job. The accelerated pace means it isn't for everyone, but for those willing to put in the hours, it's the fastest and most efficient way to learn to code.

Pros

  • Cost: With a reasonable price range of $7,000 to $13,000, coding bootcamps are an affordable option for aspiring developers.
  • Length of the program: In a short 8-12 weeks, students can be done quickly and start working in the industry sooner.
  • Instructor to student ratio.
  • Career assistance: Bootcamps will often set their students up with co-op placements, resume preparation, mentorship,and even a full-time placement to make the transition from student to professional much easier.

Cons

  • Accelerated pace: Completing the program in a short period of time is certainly a pro but the amount of work that needs to be done in that short period of time can be all consuming and very overwhelming.
  • Time commitment: The time commitment for most coding bootcamps is around 70 hours or more. Taking that into consideration, there will be little time for a social life and it is not recommended to work while pursuing such an intense online course.
  • Entrance qualifiers: A written exam and personal interview can be a barrier or even an intimidation factor for some.

Online coding bootcamps

If you’re up for the challenge and want to get your career started right away, Lighthouse Labs offers a 12-week web development bootcamp and a 30-week Web Development Flex Program through our online platform.

4. Technical Certificates

Best for: Technology generalists A breakdown of technical certificates in Canada, where to get them, and the pros and cons of getting a technical certificate if you want to learn to code or become a web developer

Examples: Sheridan College, Humber College

Length: 8 months to 2 years

Pre-Reqs: G.E.D.

Career Assistance: Resume Prep, Co-op placement

Time Commitment: 40 hours/week

Instructors: Full-time instructors, Part-Time TAs (developers and IT Specialists)

Cost: $1,300-$5,000

Instructor Ratio: 1:7

Many people who do not want to become a web developer, but simply want to add the skill to their repertoire. Or maybe they know some code (for example, HTML and CSS) and want to supplement that with a technical certificate in another area (for example, iOS development). Others still aren't sure if a career in coding is right for them. Introductory technical courses, such as our own Intro to Web Development course, can help them decide.

Pros

  • Cost: The cost for these programs is reasonable, ranging from $7,000 to $9,000 in total.
  • Short learning period: Most technical coding certification programs run from 6 to 12 weeks in duration.
  • Manageable time commitment: With a requirement of 10 to 30 hours each week, students won’t need to completely sacrifice their social lives or ability to work while learning.
  • Mentorship included.

Cons

  • Further education and learning required to pursue a senior web development career.
  • No career assistance: Technical certificates will not offer much to prepare students for the working world. Things like resume prep and co-op or full-time placement will not be included in these types of coding courses. This might not be a major disadvantage though if the student has already spent some time working in the field.

5. Paid Online Courses

Best for: Multitaskers A list of the top paid online coding courses in Canada

Examples: Thinkful, Bloc.io, Lighthouse Labs

Length: 8-36 weeks

Pre-Reqs: None

Career Assistance: None

Time Commitment: 10-40 hours/week

Instructors: Remote mentor (developer)

Cost: $1,500-$5,000

Instructor Ratio: 1:1

For those that are serious about learning to code but aren't able to commit to full-time or in-person learning, a paid online course is a strong option. Many of these coding courses offer online mentorship to help students through their program. For those who want to code, but aren't ready to quit their day job, this can be a great way to learn.

Pros

  • Length of learning: Online coding courses run between 8 and 36 weeks.
  • Varying weekly commitment: Depending on the courses, students will be required to commit between 10 to 40 hours each week to their studies. This means maintaining a job and a social life are possible in some cases.
  • Good instructor to student ratio.
  • No prerequisites.

Cons

  • Cost: Online coding courses cost between $1,500-$5,000.
  • No career assistance.

Paid online coding courses

Lighthouse Labs offers a number of different online course options for those looking to code.

Intro to web development

For a balanced introduction into the world of computer programming, Lighthouse Labs offers paid intro to web development courses. This online coding course covers all the basics including HTTP, HTML & CSS, Ruby, GitHub, and more.

This course is 6-weeks long with a required commitment of 3-hours a night, two nights a week.

Front end development

For those who are looking for something a bit more specific and specialized, we also offer a front-end developer course. In this course you will learn how to build and style websites and landing pages using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

This course is 6-weeks long with a required commitment of 3-hours a night, two nights a week.

Flexible web development program

Somewhere between a traditional bootcamp and a typical paid online course, Lighthouse Labs offers a 30-week Flexible Web Development Program. This online course covers Javascript, Node.js, React JS, Ruby on Rails, HTML, CSS, HTTP, and more. No previous experience is needed to begin this course; it will set you up with the experience and outstanding career support to start a career in web development.

The flex is that students get a choice between two different lecture schedules and a less concentrated timeline than our more accelerated bootcamps. Although it is flexible, we still recommend setting aside 25 hours a week for this program.

6. Free/Self-Directed Online Resources

Best for: Autodidacts A resource for top places to learn to code online

Examples: Code Academy, Stack Overflow, Lighthouse Labs

Length: Up to you

Pre-Reqs: None

Career Assistance: None

Time Commitment: 0-20 hours/week

Instructors: None

Cost: Free

Instructor Ratio: None

There are a ton of incredible online resources for learning to code. Most people that do any of the above options start with these, and we fully support that. We've even included our favourite ones in our prep course. However, for these courses to take anyone beyond "copy-paste" coding and have them code at a professional level is a rare feat. For most, this is the starting point, not the finish.

Pros

  • Cost: Obviously, since they are free!
  • Flexible time commitment and length: Students can learn at their own pace and maintain a full-time or part-time job and social life while learning.
  • No prerequisites.
  • Great place to start when getting into the world of coding.

Cons

  • Further learning will be required: To build a career as a developer, students will need to pursue further education after taking free online courses.
  • No career assistance.

Free coding courses

If you’d like to dip your toes into the world of computer programming, Lighthouse Labs offers free coding courses to help you get started. This is a great way to see if coding is for you before making a major commitment to formal education or training.

Lighthouse Labs

And that's it! We hope you enjoyed this comprehensive guide on online coding courses in Canada. Hopefully it helps give you clarity in your journey on learning to code.

If you think a coding bootcamp or technical certificate is the route for you, we suggest you apply to Lighthouse Labs now! We have a great selection of full-time and part-time online coding courses available for aspiring developers.

canada online coding courses infographic comparing universities, colleges, bootcamps, and free directed courses for those who want to learn how to code

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