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How Long Does It Take to Learn to Code?

With code becoming the language of the modern world, learning how to write code has become an essential skill. And the job market reflects this demand. So, what do you need to start learning, and how long does it take to learn to code

In recent years, artificial intelligence, software engineering, and data science roles have topped LinkedIn’s Emerging Jobs Reports, all of which require coding skills. To get your foot in the door for some of the best tech jobs, let’s explore the answers to the above questions in our article below.

Does It Take a Long Time to Learn To Code?

So, how long does it actually take to learn to code? It is a common belief among most coders that the process takes anywhere from four to six months, on average. However, there are a lot of factors to be considered here.

What learning path do you wish to take? How quickly and effectively do you understand the concepts? Learning to code is an ongoing process. At the end of the day, it’s not the time that you spent learning that will matter but your ability to apply what you learned well.

How to Learn to Code: Three Main Pathways

There are a lot of ways to learn to code. You can teach yourself, take courses online, earn a degree in computer science, or join a coding bootcamp. Whichever path you take, all these can lead you to a coding career. Let’s go over these pathways one by one.

Learn to Code Through Self-Study

Self-study is the most common way to start learning to code. This is primarily because it’s the cheapest and most convenient method among the ones we mentioned.

Pros of Learning to Code Through Self-Study

Through self-learning, you can leverage books, online courses, and resources to make the most out of your time while saving money in the process. It’s also the smartest route to take if you’re unsure of whether you want to launch a career in coding.

Learning coding languages, for instance, is easier than ever because of the variety of resources available on the Internet. You can start online learning through programming tutorials on YouTube or from learning platforms like Coursera, Udacity, and Khan Academy.

Cons of Learning to Code Through Self-Study

The biggest downside to self-study is it requires a high degree of discipline and focus. Learning in a silo means not having a structured environment that supervised learning provides. 

This means you’ll have to create your schedule, set, and accomplish your learning goals. You’ll also have to be diligent in finding answers yourself to questions that you may have.

Self-directed study is one of the longer and more challenging routes to take when learning to code. If you dedicate long hours of your day learning to code, then you might be able to do it in about 10 to 12 months. Of course, finding a job without formal credentials to show for is another challenge in itself.

Learn to Code Through a College Education

Earning a bachelor’s degree in computer science is the traditional way of learning how to code. That means it’s the route most people take when thinking of launching a career in tech. Generally, you’ll need four years to complete an undergraduate degree. This may extend to six years if you’re thinking of studying part-time.

Pros of Learning to Code in College

A college education is a good indicator of one’s comprehensive understanding of all things coding. After all, you do spend years learning about the fundamentals of coding and everything else that relates to it.

College-taught coders also enjoy increased access to job opportunities. This is because most employers still look, or at least show strong preference, for degree-holders when recruiting for technical roles. In most cases, degree-holders also enjoy a higher earning power than candidates who only hold a high school diploma.

Cons of Learning to Code in College

Earning a bachelor’s degree takes years to accomplish; not to mention the thousands of dollars you’ll be spending to fund your education. This makes it an unsuitable option for those looking to quickly reskill or upskill in tech.

Another concern is the ballooning cost of attendance in colleges and universities. Undergraduate degrees are generally expensive. Just look at the sky-high debt students in the United States have accumulated just to afford their education.

Lastly, because a degree takes years to complete, whatever you’ve learned in your earlier years may be outdated post-program. This is especially a risk when studying for an industry as dynamic as tech.

Learn to Code Through a Coding Bootcamp

Coding bootcamps are quickly gaining traction as a viable pathway to mastering coding skills. This is because coding bootcamps combine the benefits of the above-mentioned methods. They’re fast-paced yet rigorous and less expensive yet more structured. 

More importantly, coding bootcamps are getting more and more recognized by employers. These include tech giants, such as Google, IBM, Apple, and Facebook.

Pros of Learning to Code Through a Coding Bootcamp

Coding bootcamps offer specialized training in programming. Attending one hones your fluency in programming languages in as short as three to eight months. The advantage of learning through a coding bootcamp rests on the emphasis the bootcamp gives to hands-on learning. You don’t just learn how to write code, you also learn computer programming or by building applications and web pages through coding.

Most coding bootcamps are offered in both online and in-person formats, increasing their accessibility and reach to aspiring coders. They’re also much cheaper than university costs and consume the least time among the three options.

Furthermore, some provide the much-needed attention needed by a beginner through 1:1 mentorship, 24/7 access to their online community, or initiatives like pair programming. For other bootcamps, the guidance doesn’t stop after the program. They offer career services that help you secure a job using the coding skills you acquired.

Cons of Learning to Code Through a Coding Bootcamp

A coding bootcamp is not for everyone. If you thrive in learning under pressure, then a coding bootcamp is for you. If you, however, prefer learning in a more relaxed structure then the first two options may suit you better. And although a coding bootcamp education costs thousands of dollars less than a college education, it still doesn’t come cheap.

The Most Essential Coding Skills

A man working on a computer
Learning to code has become an essential skill in this digital world.

A computer programmer needs a certain skill set to thrive in a coding career. Below are several of the most sought-after coding skills:

  • Problem-solving skills. The ability to solve problems efficiently is more of a life skill but it is exceptionally useful in the field of coding. As a coder, you must solve bugs and come up with solutions within a short period. This requires excellent logical thinking and the ability to stay calm under pressure. Coding hackathons are a great way of developing this skill.

  • Adaptability. As a professional coder, you have to be very adaptable. Technology evolves every second. If you don’t catch up, you’ll be left behind. As a coder, adapting to the latest tools and technologies is a must to stay relevant.

  • Attention to detail. Attention to detail is extremely important to create a seamless user experience whether in applications or websites. Web developers and software engineers spend a lion’s share of their days debugging codes and making minute changes to make sure a product functions well.

  • Communication skills. Contrary to what most people may believe, computer programming involves a lot of collaborative work. Knowing how to communicate and work well with your peers is essential to get your projects done.

  • Fluency in multiple programming languages. Being fluent in one language is good; more than one, even better. You can choose between scripting languages or general-purpose programming languages. Both take you to different paths and have different uses.

Under scripting languages are JavaScript, HTML, and CSS. If you want to be versatile in both client-side and server-side web development, learn how to write JavaScript code. If you want to build and format web pages, learn HTML and CSS. 

Now you might be wondering: How long does it take to learn JavaScript? What about HTML and CSS? JavaScript can be learned in six to nine months. Learning HTML and CSS, meanwhile, generally only takes a month.

Under general-purpose programming languages, meanwhile, is the object-oriented Python. Python’s relevance extends beyond web development. Its support for data structures and algorithms makes it a great language for data analysts and scientists. If you want to work in data science or artificial intelligence fields, learning Python is imperative.

The Most Essential Coding Tools

To optimize the above skills, the use of multiple coding tools and technologies will come in handy. Below are a few of the best open-source tools and resources for coding.

Text Editors

Text editors are simply programs used to edit textual code. While their purpose may sound simple, text editors are a pretty important tool for coding. That’s because coding involves long lines of code, making it tedious to make the necessary edits. 

In situations like this, a text editor can come in handy to optimize your overall process. Some of the well-known text editors are Notepad++, Vim, and TextMate.

Code Browsers

Code browsers are simple and efficient programs that help in navigating and optimizing code when it gets too long. It uses various techniques and algorithms to manufacture an overview of the code, making the editing and debugging process much faster and easier.

REPL Programs

REPL stands for Read-Eval-Print-Loop. These programs give you access to relevant features of the programming language and operating system such as instantaneous prototyping. It is, in general, free but some exclusive features do require membership.

Conclusion: Assess Yourself Before Learning to Code

If you’re thinking of learning to code, evaluate yourself on the following grounds.

  • Learning style. Do you prefer learning in a silo or a more interactive environment?

  • Coding language. What programming language do you want to learn? What’s its level of difficulty?

  • Time to learn. How much time can you afford to spend learning to code?

  • Availability. Will you be studying full-time or part-time?

  • Financial resources. How much can you afford?

  • Learning materials. What materials do you need and how accessible are these?

  • Career goals. Do you want to make a career out of coding?
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