A boy in headphones using a laptop and a textbook to teach himself how to code.

How to Learn Coding on Your Own: a Comprehensive Guide

As a beginner, the idea of trying to learn coding on your own might seem daunting. The vast number of languages and tools out there, plus the rapidly evolving technology landscape, can make the subject appear daunting. However, the truth is that teaching yourself to code is far more manageable than most people realize. 

This article will walk you through all the steps it takes to become a self-taught programmer, including all the best resources available to make the process simple and engaging. With the right attitude, you can teach yourself to code in just a few months. If you’re wondering how to learn coding on your own, you have come to the right place. Let’s get started. 

Can You Teach Yourself Coding?

Yes, you can teach yourself coding, even if you don’t have experience with technology. Many people have successfully become expert coders using online resources, books, tutorials, and practice. It requires dedication, self-discipline, and patience, but with the vast amount of free and accessible learning materials available today, self-learning coding is entirely possible for motivated individuals.

In fact, the decision to learn coding on your own comes with its own set of unique benefits. Not only is it usually the most affordable and flexible option, but it also allows you to perfectly customize your learning goals to suit your interests. If you teach yourself to code, you have the freedom to explore projects that excite you and slow down when you hit a roadblock without fear of falling behind. 

10 Steps to Learn Coding on Your Own

Every self-taught coder has their own unique learning journey. With so many resources available, you can largely customize the process, deciding how quickly you want to progress, whether to follow structured courses or explore independently, and dozens of other factors. With that said, here is a quick overview of the steps it will take to teach yourself coding: 

  1. Identify why you want to learn to code. The tools you should focus on will largely depend on your ultimate goals. Data scientists, game developers, and web developers all use different technologies. 
  2. Select a programming language. Some of the most common languages for beginners include Python, JavaScript, and Ruby. 
  3. Research learning resources. Find a selection of online courses, tutorials, books, or educational apps that cover your chosen programming language. 
  4. Start with fundamentals. Begin with basic concepts like variables, data types, and control structures before moving on to complex topics.
  5. Practice regularly. Set up a schedule to ensure you code consistently. It is important that you continue to reinforce your skills as you progress to prevent getting overwhelmed. 
  6. Join coding communities. Engage with online forums and communities where you can ask questions, seek guidance, and learn from others. 
  7. Build projects. Create personal projects to apply what you have learned and utilize multiple skills at once. Choose projects that are engaging and enjoyable to make the process more satisfying. 
  8. Seek feedback. Share your code with others for feedback and code review to improve your skills. You can also participate in hackathons to practice programming on a team with other developers. 
  9. Expand your knowledge. Explore more advanced topics and libraries relevant to your chosen field. Most coders know multiple languages, so you can also begin tackling your next language at this stage. 
  10. Stay updated. Coding is a dynamic field, so keep learning and adapting to new technologies and trends. 

How to Teach Yourself Coding: The Best Resources, Methods, and Platforms

Now that we have covered an outline of what it takes to learn programming on your own, it’s time to take a closer look at some of the best resources available to self-taught coders. 

Ultimately, the best way for you to learn will depend on your unique situation. If you’re working toward a career, you might benefit from the structure of an online course, whereas someone learning just for fun might prefer an interactive app. 

Free Online Coding Platforms 

The best place to start if you want to teach yourself coding is often a free coding platform like Khan Academy or Codecademy. This will give you a chance to familiarize yourself with different coding languages and practice the basics with very low stakes. Many of these platforms provide free coding courses, tutorials, and interactive assignments. Here are some of the best options: 

  • Khan Academy. Khan Academy has a free computer programming course with eight units, each complete with easy-to-digest video tutorials and interactive challenges. It covers the basics of JavaScript, HTML/CSS, SQL, and jQuery. 
  • Codecademy. Codecademy hosts a huge archive of both free and paid coding courses, challenges, cheat sheets, and projects for over 10 languages. Its 6-hour Learn to Code course is the perfect place for beginners because it covers foundational skills that will be essential to whatever language you choose. 
  • freeCodeCamp. If you are ready for a more extensive program, check out freeCodeCamp. The platform provides a comprehensive curriculum designed to transform beginners into job-ready software developers. You will earn free certifications as you progress and complete the required projects for each skill.
  • Coursera. In addition to paid degree and certificate programs, Coursera provides a wide variety of free coding courses created in partnership with leading universities and large tech companies. These courses usually take a few weeks or months to complete, depending on how many hours you dedicate each week.
  • edX. edX is another platform where you can find free full-length courses on a range of computer science topics and programming languages from well-respected institutions like Harvard University or companies like IBM. 
  • The Odin Project. This platform is another great option if you are hoping to become a professional web developer. It offers an organized and project-based curriculum made up of top resources from all over the Internet. You can move through at your own pace with the support of The Odin Project community. 

Using Books to Learn Coding

Books and ebooks might seem old school, but they can still be invaluable resources if you want to teach yourself to code like a professional. Books often hold more context and detail than anything you can find in a short online course, plus the information is organized and easy to revisit as needed. Here are some of the best books to learn coding for beginners.

  • Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs. This book contains a wealth of information for coding beginners. You’ll find practical explanations that will improve your skills, as well as big-picture context to help you think more like a programmer and understand software like an expert. It is available for free online. 
  • Automate the Boring Stuff With Python. This easy-to-digest book will walk you through all the basics of Python and how you can use it to make your life easier. It includes practice exercises at the end of each chapter and is also free to access online. 
  • The C Programming Language. This book is one of the most widely recommended within the field. Although C is not as commonly used today, it makes up the foundation for various popular languages and will help you understand programming on a deeper level. 
  • The Pragmatic Programmer. Beginners and experienced coders can both benefit from the analysis and tips within this book. It examines coding independent of any particular language, with a special focus on best practices that will ensure your code is highly maintainable. 
  • Think Like a Programmer: An Introduction to Creative Problem Solving. This is an essential read for new coders because it teaches the crucial skill of problem-solving in addition to technical tips. By emphasizing problem-solving strategies, the book equips beginners with the mindset and tools needed to tackle real-world coding challenges. 

Self-Paced Coding Bootcamps 

Coding bootcamps are short, project-based programs designed to prepare students with all the technical skills and career support they need to land a job in the tech industry. While most online bootcamps feature live online classes that simulate an immersive environment, some schools also provide programs that you can complete entirely on your own, progressing at your pace.

Teaching yourself to code using a self-paced bootcamp is one of the more expensive options, but in return you will get a high-quality curriculum that will prepare you for the job market in less than a year. Depending on the program you choose, you might also have access to optional office hours and professional career services. Here are some of the best self-paced coding bootcamps

  • App Academy Open. App Academy is a leading software engineering bootcamp primarily known for its in-person and immersive remote courses. However, it also offers a tuition-free program called App Academy Open, which is functionally the school’s entire full-stack curriculum in a completely self-directed format. 
  • The Tech Academy. This school offers over 10 different self-paced bootcamp programs, allowing students to specialize in the specific field they are interested in. Your options include software development, Python, JavaScript, and front end web development. The school also offers the same programs in an instructor-supported format. 
  • Code Platoon. Code Platoon is a bootcamp that primarily caters to military veterans and their spouses. In addition to in-person, remote, and part-time options, it provides its full stack web development curriculum for free in a self-paced format. While the lessons and challenges are the same, self-paced students don’t have access to faculty. 
  • Springboard. Springboard is a completely online bootcamp that offers self-paced programs in software engineering, cyber security, design, tech sales, and data science. All Springboard students work one-on-one with a mentor and the programs come with a job guarantee. 
  • Coding Temple. Coding Temple is another online coding bootcamp with courses in a range of topics. If you choose its self-paced option, you have six months of access to your chosen curriculum. Self-paced students also have access to graded projects and weekly code war sessions. 

Additional Resources for the Self-Taught Coder

If you are learning how to code on your own, online coding platforms, courses, and books will likely be the backbone of your self-education, as they provide structured learning paths and cover a wide range of topics. However, exploring additional resources like apps, podcasts, and online forums can be extremely beneficial in making you a more dynamic coder. 

  • Coding apps. Downloading apps that teach coding is a great way to encourage yourself to practice your skills while you are on the go. CodeGym, Codemurai, Enki, and Encode are a few examples of coding apps that make coding fun and engaging. 
  • Coding challenges. CodinGame, Codewars, and HackerRank are three of the many platforms that regularly host coding competitions and challenges. You can practice your skills, solve puzzles, and test your abilities in a supportive environment. 
  • Online coding forums. Stack Overflow, Reddit’s programming subreddits, and Github Discussions are three active coding forums that are the perfect place to ask questions and engage in coding-related conversations. You can also join Discord servers dedicated to helping coding beginners. 
  • Open-source projects. Open-source projects are projects that anyone can access, modify, and enhance. As a new coder, they are a great opportunity to gain practical experience and collaborate with experienced developers. Look to platforms like Up For Grabs, Ovio Projects, and CodeTriage to find active projects. 
  • Coding blogs, newsletters, and podcasts. A great way to get good at coding is by listening to the advice, stories, and opinions of experienced developers. Even as a beginner, it is a good idea to stay on top of new developments in the field. You can find blogs, podcasts, and newsletters dedicated to whatever language you are studying. 

Learning Coding on Your Own: Tips to Remember

While you absolutely can learn coding on your own, that doesn’t mean the process will always be easy. All new programmers have roadblocks and frustrations that are difficult to work through. Here are some important tips to keep in mind to make your learning experience as painless as possible.

1. Practice Regularly

Learning how to code, like most things, requires consistent and sustained effort. It might help to set aside a certain amount of time each day or to create a schedule with clear goals for yourself. Coding regularly, even for just a few minutes, will help keep the knowledge fresh in your mind and can prevent the frustration of having to re-learn concepts you already covered. 

2. Use Tools That Make Learning to Code Easier

Familiarize yourself with tools like code editors, version control systems, text editors, and debugging tools. These are essential elements of a coder’s toolkit that can significantly boost your productivity and efficiency. 

Code editors and integrated development environments (IDEs) offer features like syntax highlighting and auto-completion, making code writing and editing smoother. Version control systems like Git help you manage code changes, collaborate with team members, and track project history effectively.

3. Use Multiple Resources 

For beginners learning how to code, it can be tempting to stick with only one resource because it feels familiar. However, once you start to master the basics, it’s important to branch out and experiment with a mix of online courses, books, videos, and coding challenges. 

This will give you a chance to think about coding in a new way and benefit from multiple perspectives. It also ensures that you gain a more well-rounded education, since some programs don’t have time to discuss all important topics. You might also find that a learning method is more useful than you expected. 

4. Build Projects That Interest You

The best way to learn how to code properly is by putting new concepts into action by working on personal projects. Don’t let yourself be limited by whatever hands-on practice is included in your lessons. Get creative with your projects and design them to fit your interests. 

Not every aspect of teaching yourself to code is going to be interesting and engaging, but you will find that you enjoy practicing far more if it involves working on a project you are excited about. Think up simple apps that can address a problem you experience in your own life, create a basic computer game, or create a program that ranks episodes of your favorite TV show. 

5. Seek Help and Feedback

It can be intimidating to reach out to other coders, but building a sense of community can make your learning experience much more enjoyable and fruitful. Feedback from those more experienced than you will accelerate your learning and talking through roadblocks with other new coders will help you deal with frustration and find new solutions. 

Take advantage of online coding communities, coding meetings and events in your local area, online forums, and platforms that host coding challenges and competitions. The more people you get to know in the programming community, the more support you will have. 

Can I Learn Coding on My Own and Get a Job? 

Yes, you can learn coding on your own and get a job. In fact, self-taught programmers are able to launch successful careers with major tech companies as software developers, web developers, and mobile app developers. Depending on the languages you focus on, you could even become a data analyst or machine learning engineer. 

Getting hired as a self-taught programmer will be more difficult since some employers require certain educational qualifications like university degrees, but it is certainly possible. Enrolling in certificate-granting programs like online courses or coding bootcamps, ensuring you have an impressive portfolio of projects, and passing certification exams will help improve your chances. 

Should I Teach Myself to Code?

Yes, you should teach yourself to code. Whether you are curious and looking for a new hobby, serious about starting a career as a developer, or anything in between, there are countless benefits to gaining coding skills. It fosters creativity, enables you to bring your ideas to life, connects you to a global community, and is unarguably an asset to your professional life. 

If you are wondering how to learn coding on your own, remember that there are plenty of resources available that will meet you exactly where you are at. You can try out different platforms and experiment with different languages to identify where your skills and passions lie. 

How to Learn Coding by Yourself FAQ

How long does it take to learn to code?

It can take anywhere from five months to one year to learn how to code, depending on how many hours you spend practicing each week and which language you are learning. You can often pick up the basics fairly quickly, but it will take several months, or even years, of practice to become an expert.

Can anyone learn to code?

Yes, anyone can learn how to code. While programming might come more naturally to some than others, it is a skill that anyone can pick up with practice and dedication. With the plethora of resources available, you can teach yourself to code regardless of your background or level of experience. 

Can you get paid to learn how to code?

Yes, it is possible to get paid to learn how to code. Companies like Google, IBM, and Microsoft regularly provide software development apprenticeship programs, during which participants earn a salary while training in new skills in a real-world environment. Some companies also offer tuition assistance benefits that you can use to cover the cost of a coding course or bootcamp. 

How hard is it to learn to code?

If you choose a good beginner language and are naturally inclined toward activities that require attention to detail, problem-solving, and persistence, you will likely find that it is not hard to learn how to code. At the same time, some languages are more complicated than others, and many self-taught programmers need time to truly understand more advanced tools and techniques. 

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