How to Learn How to Code and Where to Start

How to Learn How to Code and Where to Start

April 25

Ever wonder how your favorite websites, programs, and video games go from concept to reality? The simple answer is coding. Coders are the Picassos of IT and the most highly sought after professionals in the field, according to an annual report by Computer World.

To know that skilled coders are compensated nicely for their expertise is great news if you possess the knowledge. Heck, it’s even inspiring if you’ve been looking for a hot tech arena to break into. For beginner’s sake, let’s take a look at some ways one can get started with coding from scratch.

Join an Online Academy

Online coding academies strive to arm aspiring coders with the skills needed to thrive as professionals in the wide world of programing. Codecademy is one of the most popular of these academies and a great place for rookies to start. A totally free resource, Codecademy offers interactive tutorials and an active community environment that gives you the opportunity to learn from countless coders around the world. The cool thing about the academies is that they allow you to sharpen your skills at your own pace, which could be considerably quicker and cheaper than taking the traditional route.

Take Coding Classes

Coding has been taught at the university level for decades. Of course the training material has advanced alongside the evolution of the computer programming landscape. Whether it’s taught in a mainstream university like USC or a local school like the ITT Technical Institute here in Michigan, the traditional route offers the face-to-face element online academies can’t replicate. Some people absorb information more efficiently in an intimate environment where they can communicate and interact with their instructors one-on-one. Plus there’s the possibility of hybrid training delivered both on and offline.

Challenge Yourself

Even the most grueling tasks are generally easier to cope with when mixing in some fun challenges. Coding is no exception, it seems. Microsoft is on this kick with its Hour of Code campaign, which teaches both youth and adults how to create games, mobile apps, and the programming fundamentals via three user-friendly frameworks: Kodu, TouchDevelop, and Small Basics. Each framework offers its own learning content and through the Hour of Code program, challenges beginners to devote an hour to learning the craft. If you normally flourish when matched against the fellow man, these sort of challenges may be what the doctor ordered.

Breaking the Language Barrier

Photo Credit: Michael Himbeault via Flickr

Photo Credit: Michael Himbeault via Flickr


No matter where you pick up the trade, you must decide which type of coding you want to learn or better yet, which language you want to master. There are numerous programming languages and no two are exactly the same. Here are some popular languages you can benefit from learning:

HTML. HTML is good to know for the simple fact that it is the language of the web and lies at the heart of virtually every website. This language has a reputation for being very easy to learn and providing a great introduction into the world of web development. Some say you can get by without it, but others recommend learning it to get a better handle on all the other languages that interface with it.

C. C is one of the oldest programming languages in existence. As a result, there is a lot of source code, tutorials, and other educational material available to help reduce the learning curve. C is also an ideal path to many of the more advanced languages it helped inspire, including C++, Java, and JavaScript.

Java. Java is a robust programming language commonly used to build games and enterprise applications. Due to its portability, it allows you to simply compile your code once, and then reuse it for other projects, on other platforms. Speaking of platforms, Java can run in virtually any environment regardless of the underlying operating system or hardware.

PHP. PHP is one of those server-side languages that works with HTML to deliver web pages and dynamic content to users. This language is incredibly flexible, able to perform simple tasks such as collecting data, or go more advanced by creating standalone programs. PHP is the driving force behind some of the web’s most popular open source platforms, including Drupal, Joomla, and WordPress.

JavaScript. When developers are worried about the workload server-side languages like PHP have to deal with, they often rely on a client-side language like JavaScript to pick up the slack. By executing code on the user’s computer, it helps servers use less bandwidth while still delivering a relatively fast experience to the end-user. JavaScript is considered one of the easiest languages to learn due to a syntax or composition structure some have compared to the English language.

SQL. Instead of developing applications or websites, administrators use SQL to manage databases.  Knowledge of Structured Query Language enables you to quickly and efficiently retrieve large amounts of data as well as manipulate the data handling capabilities in WordPress and other web apps that run on a back-end database. SQL expertise is quite valuable in an era where everyone and their cousin is stressing the importance of using data in decision making.

I sometimes tell myself that I should learn how to code. Just in case being a writer/author doesn’t pan out. Then I think about how involved it is, tell myself I don’t have the time, and eventually chicken out. I sure can’t blame my chicken-ness on lack of market viability or educational resources because there are plenty of both available for those determined to grab this thing by the throat. On that note, are you up for the coding challenge?

Top Photo Credit: Bernd Eckenfels via Flickr