A Step-By-Step Guide to Learning How to Code

While coding used to be a field only a few people went into and specialized in, it has grown to become one of the most popular career choices today. Almost every business model includes space for programmers, meaning that your job security will be fantastic and your growth potential will be high. Not to mention the fact that many are opting to teach themselves how to code, skipping the pricey college education in favor of late nights hunched over a programming course. Here are the steps most programmers choose to take when they decide to self-teach a coding language.

1. Know Your "Why"

This tip is applicable to pretty much any area of life where you want to tackle something difficult. Knowing your "why" for doing that thing is going to help you stay focused on your goal, in spite of any obstacles that come up. Knowing why you're learning to code will also help you gain direction in what languages you want to learn and how much time and money you're willing to spend on the process.

For example, those who want to design and develop websites will need to learn different languages and low code from those who want to create apps or become software engineers. Knowing how much time and money you're budgeting will help you decide whether or not you want to take an online course or Bootcamp since they require a certain time commitment and can be pricey. It might sound cheesy, but it's worth taking the time to write down what your goals are so that you'll have that touchstone during the tough parts of this process.

2. Pick a Language

As mentioned in the previous tip, you're going to need to choose a specific coding language to learn. This choice is really important since it'll shape your entire coding education and will limit your eventual career options. For website development, HTML, Java, and CSS are popular choices. App developers, however, need to learn either Java or Swift, depending on whether they're developing apps for Android or iOS.

As you can see, Java has a bit of crossover and is considered the most functional language by many programmers. It's also fairly beginner-friendly, so it's a popular choice for self-teaching code. However, each language is going to have its pros and cons depending on your particular goals and learning style, so it's important to do your research before settling with one choice. 

3. Get the Right Tools

Once you've got your goals figured out and chosen the language you want to learn, it's time to figure out how you want to start learning. Many self-taught coders actually use a course, at least starting out, because it helps structure your learning experience and makes sure that you're getting enough practice before going on to the next concept. Courses can help you stay on track and can also make the process a lot more enjoyable. Plus, for a fee, you could earn certifications that could be a valuable addition to your resume. Not many people know this, but there are actually scholarships available for online courses that can make it affordable even if your budget is limited. 

If taking a course is out of the question, there are tons of great coding textbooks out there. Combining a quality textbook with YouTube tutorials and videos can help you get started. For many, using these resources alongside an online course makes for in-depth and well-rounded programming education.

4. Find a Code Editor

You've probably seen programmers writing in neon letters and numbers on a black text box - this is the code editor. Some courses will allow you to do your homework in a browser window. However, if you want to be well-prepared for the real world, it's important to get coding experience writing in a real code editor. You'll usually have to go to the language you're writing in and download your editor from them, while simpler languages like HTML allow for coding in a text document, which some old-school coders prefer.

5. Get Lots of Practice

The importance of getting a lot of practice in coding can't be understated. By creating and working on your own programming projects, you'll be getting valuable experience as well as creating content for your portfolio. For those who are learning how to program for websites, it's often a popular choice to create your own website. You can even use that website to show off your coding projects! It can also be fun to come up with and create your own app. Be sure to get lots of feedback from friends and family so you'll understand the importance of beta testing and how that process works.

6. Ask For Help

You will inevitably run into barriers and roadblocks during your journey as a programmer, even once you've nailed the language and gotten a lucrative job. This is why it's important for coders to have a community where they can ask questions and give advice on how to solve problems. There are tons of online forums where you can find support and get some fresh eyes on projects when you're stuck. These are also great places to get encouragement from more experienced coders who have been in your shoes and can reassure you about the process.

7. Continue Your Education

Once you've learned a language, you might feel like the process is over and it's time to look for a job. While you might be ready for a career in coding, it's important to continue your education beyond this point. Many programmers choose to challenge themselves by hacking another person's code.

Platforms like GitHub will give you access to complete code that you can then open in your editor and attempt to hack. Reading someone else's code and attempting to understand it is incredibly difficult and a great mental workout. If you can make recommendations for improvements, your code could end up being added to the finished product! 

And don't forget to constantly strive to improve your methods as a programmer. There is always a better way to do something, and keeping your knowledge fresh is going to help you stay inspired and enthusiastic. You can do this by learning new syntax or debugging processes, or by going on forums and answering questions and working out issues that other coders are having. Continuing your education is going to help you stay focused on the "why" that started this whole process in the first place. At the end of the day, if this process doesn't challenge you and leave you with the satisfaction of a job well done, it's not worth starting in the first place.