Programming is lots of fun and extraordinarily useful. It allows you to be creative while opening up a wide range of new career opportunities. You'll need to choose a coding language to study before taking advantage of all the available online resources. Learning how to code is like learning a language; you'll need to be consistent, disciplined, and open-minded! This minHour will show you how to get started on learning computer and software programming.
Choosing a Language
Choose a language that’s relevant to what you want to do.
What types of programs do you want to write? Think of your favorite applications and websites, and research the programming languages their developers used to create them. Different languages are used to create different types of programs, so choose a language that is relevant to what you want to do.
- Computer programming is a set of written instructions that the computer follows. These instructions can be written in several different “languages”, or which are simply different ways of organizing the instructions and text.
- If you decide that a language does not suit your needs, you can always move on to a new language.
Consider C, C++, C# and related languages
These languages are mainly used for creating standalone computer applications such as games. C and C++ are difficult languages to learn for a beginner, but not impossible. Learning them will give you an in-depth understanding of not only programming, but also of how a computer works. Starting with a C-based language will also be helpful as you start learning other languages, as most programming languages inherit concepts from C and C++.
Python is a very versatile language used widely across several platforms. Despite being extremely powerful, it is an easy language for a beginner to pick up, so give it a try!
PHP stands for PHP: Hypertext Processor. It is a web programming language and relatively easy to learn due to its weak typing and popularity (popularity means there will be several useful tutorials on the language). It is a great language for server-side programming.
Don’t limit yourself to these languages!
There are tons of programming languages, all with varying uses. If you want to work as a programmer, you will need to know more than one, so learn as many as you can.
- Your best bet will be to look at ads for the sort of jobs you want to get and look for the common languages that they ask for.
Learning the Language
Think about going to college or university.
While most companies hiring a programmer will care more about your skills than the college you went to or your grades, it greatly helps to have a college degree in a field like Computer Science to point to. You will learn more efficiently than if you teach yourself, all while getting expert guidance from your teachers (and maybe your friends).
- There are often scholarships and grants available to those doing degrees in this field. Don’t feel intimidated by the price tag of a degree: it is possible!
Learn from online universities, coding schools, and bootcamps.
Whether you do an online degree with fees and an actual degree or certificate at the end like MIT’s wonderful Coursera, or an online coding school or bootcamp like Code Academy, Fullstack Academy, or Flatiron School, you can learn a lot about programming from these structured courses.
Try a coding bootcamp.
Coding bootcamps are designed to immerse you in coding so you’ll learn fast. At a coding bootcamp, you’ll be expected to devote all of your time and energy to learning how to code for the duration of the program. The programs are pretty short (typically anywhere from 12 to 25 weeks long). Many coding bootcamps offer career assistance, which can be helpful if you want to dive into your career as a developer right away.
- If you’re looking for a free and far more casual bootcamp experience, check out Free Code Camp.
Learn using online tutorials.
There are loads of programmers with websites where they will teach you the individual basics, as well as a few tricks. Look up tutorials on the language you want to learn to find these.
- Many free online classes are available to learn to code from. The Khan Academy teaches computer coding, with easy tutorials and videos. Codecademy is another free site to learn from, with step-by-step tutorials.
- Sites like Learn Python, Ruby in Twenty Minutes, and Learn Java Online are great language-specific tutorials to help you on your journal.
Start young if you can.
There are several programs designed to teach kids to program. Programs like MIT’s Scratch are very helpful and the younger you are, the easier it will be to pick up (like any language).
- Avoid kits, as these rarely teach anything useful.
Start with a good book or tutorial on programming.
Get a good, current book on the programming language you want to learn. Reviews on Amazon or similar sites will usually help you identify helpful books from unhelpful ones.
Get an interpreter for that language.
An interpreter is just another computer program but it will convert ideas you’ve written in a programming language into “machine code” so you can see things work. Lots of programs are available and you will need to choose one that is appropriate for you.
Use online resources and communities as you learn.
There are many free coding resources online, including Mozilla’s Developer Network, Stack Exchange, and Try Ruby to learn more about programming and test your code. These sites want more developers to help their platforms flourish and their resources can be some of the best on the web.
Read the book!
Take examples of the programming language from the book and put them into your interpreter. Try changing the examples and making the program do different things.
Try putting together your ideas to form a working program.
Start with simple things, like a program to convert currencies, and work your way up to more complex things as you continue reading and learning about your programming language.
Learn another language.
Once you start actively programming in your first language, you may want to learn a second one. You’ll get the most out of learning a second programming language if you pick one that uses a radically different paradigm than the one you started with. For instance, if you started in Scheme, you might try learning C or Java next. If you started in Java, you could learn Perl or Python.
Continue programming and trying new things!
To be a good programmer, you, at the very least, have to keep up with changing technology. It’s a constant learning process, and you should always be learning new languages, new paradigms, and most importantly: programming new things!
- Being a successful programmer means learning to think like one. You’ll need to look at challenges as learning opportunities, desire to improve your skills and be open to new ways of improving your programming process.
- Don’t start with a complex language like Java, but start with an easy language like Python. Python encourages beginners and is composed of almost every aspect of programming.
- By heart, the syntax is a must. You are free to apply it in your way. Study some sample programs then start coding your own.
- Start with something fun, motivate yourself to solve challenges, progressing your skills in logical problem-solving.