Best Way to Learn Programming in 2023
By The Fullstack Academy Team
Best Way to Learn Programming in 2023
Most high-paying occupations require years of schooling before a student can get a job and start earning a living. A major exception is programming, a field that offers several paths for individuals to gain a professional skill level through intensive, specialized training without a formal degree.
The median annual pay for computer programmers was $93,000 in 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Although most programmers have at least a bachelor’s degree, 18% of them have no college degree.
Many dedicated and disciplined students have learned the basics of programming through self-study. For many of them, the best way to learn programming is to go online, which offers a wealth of coding resources.
Knowing how to find and use those resources can lead to an entry-level coding job. The first step is to learn some programming fundamentals.
When learning a musical instrument, students don’t start with a concerto; they begin by learning notes, chords, and rhythms: the fundamentals of music.
Likewise, newcomers to coding need to learn programming fundamentals. Those concepts create a foundation for mastering more advanced skills, starting with a programming language.
Among these programming fundamentals are data types, variables, control structures, syntax, functions, and tools.
Data is the raw material on which a computer program operates. Once data is input, the program can store it for retrieval later as well as manipulate, organize, or combine it with other data to output new data.
Although data can come in many different forms, it falls into three basic types:
Text, which programmers call strings
Numbers, used in calculations or algorithms
More specialized forms such as Boolean values, which mark a statement as true or false
A variable is like a folder for holding a particular kind of data. When a user enters a first name into a box, that name might be stored under a variable called FirstName.
Later, when the program needs to retrieve the first name, that variable points to its location in the computer’s memory.
As a program executes commands, it often comes to a point at which it has to decide which parts of the program to execute next. Control structures are rules for making those decisions.
For example, if a website determines that the current user is a member of an organization, it routes the user to one part of the site. It routes nonmembers to a different part of the website.
Just as syntax in language (the arrangement of words in a particular order) shapes the meaning of a sentence, syntax in coding (the arrangement of values in a sequence) shapes the command of a line of code.
Syntax is the grammar of a computer language. It requires that the elements of a command be written in a particular sequence. If they’re out of order, the program may misinterpret the command. It may not produce the desired output, or it may produce no output at all.
A function is a single command that contains a whole series of commands: a series that’s used many times in the program to perform a particular task.
Rather than write out the whole series each time, a programmer can simply name a function, and the set of instructions will execute automatically. Many programming languages include built-in libraries of functions to simplify a programmer’s work.
Just as a hammer makes it easier to drive a nail, programming tools help to make coding easier, more efficient, and more accurate.
One example is a debugging program. It’s difficult for a programmer to read over thousands of lines of code and catch every potential mistake. A debugger analyzes the code and identifies syntax errors or broken control structures so that the programmer can go back and fix them.
How to Learn Computer Programming Basics
As students become familiar with programming fundamentals on a conceptual level, they can move on to the next steps in self-study: the basics of programming itself.
Learning computer programming basics starts with considering career goals and selecting an in-demand programming language. As a student acquires basic language skills, they proceed to build those skills, working on projects to put them into practice.
Step 1: Consider Career Goals
Before committing hours to learning a specific language, it’s a good idea for students to consider their choice. Different career goals might lead to different programming languages.
Front-end web development—creating user interfaces for websites
Back-end web development—programs running on servers, unseen by users
Python and C# for PCs; Swift for Apple products
Another possible goal is to become a full stack developer gaining some familiarity with several different languages. Such a choice can open up more work opportunities, particularly for jobs that use multiple languages.
Step 2: Study a Language
As students focus their career goals, they can choose an initial language to learn. Below are some of today’s most in-demand languages, according to a 2022 survey of developers by the networking site Stack Overflow.
Flexibility. It’s compatible with all major browsers.
Speed. Applications load and run rapidly.
Beginner friendliness. Its forgiving, flexible syntax makes it easy to learn.
HTML and CSS
HTML is the backbone of a web page. It lays out the page and tells browsers how to display it. An especially useful feature is the ability to hyperlink to other web pages and media files.
CSS are shortcuts for websites with multiple pages. They apply certain HTML design elements to every page to give the entire website a consistent look and feel.
Anyone who speaks English can learn Python, used by 48% of developers. Its syntax is similar to English, making it an intuitive language for beginners.
Besides being learner friendly, it’s versatile and powerful:
On web servers, it runs Google searches and displays YouTube videos.
It runs desktop applications of companies like Microsoft and Cisco.
It offers a wide range of scientific applications for uses such as data science and machine learning.
Java is employed by 33% of developers. Besides being straightforward to learn, with syntax similar to English, its programs are modular and self-contained. A Java program can be nested within a larger application, and a programmer can fix a bug without disrupting the larger application.
A Java program can also run on any platform, so a programmer doesn’t have to rewrite code for different devices. That feature has helped to make it the basis for the Android operating system, which runs on a wide array of mobile devices.
C#, used by 27% of developers, is a recent addition to the C family of languages. Microsoft designed the original C language for building the Windows operating system and applications.
Compared with other languages in the family, such as C++, C# (pronounced “C Sharp”) is easier to learn and faster for writing code. It’s particularly common in virtual reality (VR) games and other VR applications.
Although only 5% of developers use Swift, it’s a must for programming Apple devices and writing apps for them. Apple’s phones, tablets, watches, desktop computers, and TVs all run Swift.
Learn by Doing
As students learn computer programming basics, the next step is to put them into practice by applying them to programming projects.
Designing a simple app can test how well a student comprehends a language, as well as enhancing skills and providing a glimpse of how software development works. Projects might include the following:
Creating a visual project, such as a website or a slideshow
Building a simple game, such as chess or tic-tac-toe
Making an app, such as a calculator or a weight convertor
As students gain confidence, they can try more ambitious projects in online coding contests, many of which offer prizes. Such contests can also offer ways to network with other programmers, potentially leading to collaboration, mentoring, and job leads.
Online Coding Resources: How to Use Them
For anyone who wants to teach themselves programming, the web offers a rich array of educational materials. Online coding resources come in many different forms, with various ways to find them and take advantage of them.
Kinds of Online Coding Resources
Different students have different learning styles. Whatever a student’s style, it’s possible to find a type of online coding resource that fits.
E-courses. For students who like a highly structured and interactive learning experience, many sites offer free or low-cost courses. Some let beginners get a taste of programming and find out whether they want to pursue it. Others go into depth, testing a student’s knowledge with exams and challenges.
Videos. Visual learners can find tutorials for any level. Some cover fundamental programming concepts or teach the basics of a language. Others address specific topics and problems, such as responsive web design or splash screens.
Podcasts. Some students prefer learning by listening, such as while they’re walking or driving. Podcasts can come in many forms, from introductions to languages to interviews with experts, stories of self-taught programmers, and tips for finding programming work.
Books. Students can buy courses and workbooks from online sellers. They can also find libraries of free e-books on sites such as GitHub and Reddit.
Games. Another option is learning through play. Many programming sites provide games and challenges to help develop skills. Some also promote collaborative problem-solving and networking with other learners.
Finding Online Coding Resources
Whatever topic a student wants to learn, online coding resources aren’t difficult to find. Two useful strategies for locating them:
How to Become a Better Programmer
For students seeking a coding career, learning the basics of computer programming is just the beginning. The next step is to improve programming skills.
That’s just as true for veteran programmers. The rapid changes in the tech industry and the development of languages require coding professionals at large to continuously hone their skills and learn new ones.
A number of activities can help developers take their programming to the next level.
For beginning programmers, particularly those who aren’t ready to leave a steady job in another field, freelancing can provide some income while putting their skills to work on real-world projects.
A wide variety of websites match freelance programmers with employers who have projects. Three common kinds of sites:
Job boards are collections of job listings; jobs are added to them daily. Freelancers can filter for jobs that require particular languages and skills. They can apply for jobs through the site or directly with the employer.
Freelance marketplaces are similar to job boards, with the additional requirement that applicants bid on jobs by quoting their rates.
Vetted talent networks are more like employment agencies. They screen programmers before letting them apply for jobs to verify both their technical skills and their ability to work remotely.
Much of today’s software is democratically designed by communities of programmers working from far-flung locations. Some prominent examples are the Mozilla Firefox browser, the Python programming language, the WordPress web design platform, and the Android mobile operating system.
Contributing to open-source projects can build programmers’ skills and reputation, as well as connect them with other contributors and potential employers. Repositories like GitHub contain millions of open-source projects of all sizes, for programmers of all levels of ability.
Novice programmers may have questions about a programming problem. Other programmers are often happy to offer solutions in knowledge-sharing communities like Stack Overflow.
Such platforms let a programmer post a question and receive a range of answers, sometimes highly detailed. A programmer can also answer other users’ questions, which helps to increase visibility and network with others who share similar interests.
In some respects, few pieces of software are ever complete. They contain sections of code that work adequately but could work better. Refactoring code means rewriting it—not to add new functions, but to perform its existing functions more rapidly and efficiently.
For a programmer, refactoring can improve both analytical and problem-solving skills. It can benefit the software, too, making it easier to maintain and update in the future.
A faster and more structured path to becoming a better programmer is to attend an online coding bootcamp: an intensive program that can prepare a student to seek a coding job in four to six months.
Bootcamps exist for coders at various career stages, from beginners to those who have some experience and want to program at higher levels. They can also be full-time or part-time.
Learning programming fundamentals through self-study can be an excellent way to prepare for a bootcamp. Some bootcamps offer preparatory classes that can help students get into a more advanced program.
Learn Programming and Pursue a Dynamic Career
Learning computer programming can open the door to various rewarding careers for workers without college degrees. For students who’ve acquired basic skills, an intensive program like one of Fullstack Academy’s live online coding bootcamps can advance their abilities and prepare them for higher-level tech employment.