Every line of code is a set of instructions for the computer to perform a certain task. It could be anything – taking a screenshot, changing the size of an image, or applying filters to a photo. Needless to say, anyone who can code quickly and efficiently is invaluable to their organization, and will earn the high salary to prove it.
If you’re interested in learning to code, you might be wondering how long it’s going to take before you’re bragging about your Java skills to all your techie friends. Most coders agree that it takes three to six months to be comfortable with the basics of coding. But you can learn coding faster or slower depending on your preferred pace.
We’ll take a look at the key skills, tools, and lingo you’ll use as a coder, as well as the best learning options currently available.
Skills Needed for Coding
Coding is a skill you’ll have for life. There’s no limit to what can be automated by putting together lines of code in the right programming language. But when you’re just starting out, it can feel a little daunting. Below is a brief guide to the key skills you’ll need to bring to the table as you get a handle on coding for the first time.
- Ability to learn code concepts – The basic skill required to become a coder is, simply put, your ability to learn and memorize code concepts. Coding involves learning computer languages such as Python, Java, C++, and HTML. It’s a fast-paced learning environment, and the world of computer languages is changing and evolving at a rapid pace.
- Ability to adopt new technologies – Consider the video games that were popular in the 80s and 90s. Now, compare them with today’s graphic intensive video games run on hi-tech, advanced gaming consoles. It’s hard to comprehend the advancement in the level of coding and programming that led to such leaps from the older technologies. Everything is quicker, more user friendly, and more impressive today—and there is no knowing how things will seem a decade down the line.
To be an excellent coder, you need to be prepared to evolve with the times and keep abreast of what is in vogue in the tech world. You’ll need to keep an eye out for what is—or is about to become—obsolete, and change tack accordingly. Change is the name of the game. If you want to be successful and remain relevant in the field, you have to be able to keep up with new and emerging trends.
- Problem-solving capability – As a coder, you’ll benefit from quick thinking and fast learning abilities. You’ll need a problem-solving attitude to predict problems even before they arise. It’s a particular mindset that will help you remain in step with the rest of the tech world.
- Attention to detail and editing skills – The details are important when it comes to code. A missed colon will change the entire command you’re trying to send to the computer. So it’s important to always double-check your work and pay attention to the smallest of details, whilst keeping an eye on the big picture too.
- Other essential skills – You’ll also benefit from developing skills such as:
- excellent typing speed;
- proficiency with numbers;
- database management; and
- communication skills.
How to Learn Coding
Now that you have an idea of the necessary skills required for coding, let’s take a look at some of the learning options out there for aspiring coders. The good news is you don’t necessarily need a degree to become a coder. You can also pick up coding proficiency through online courses and self-learning resources. But whether this is the right option for you will depend on a range of factors.
Learn Coding through a Degree Program
In the past, it was the norm for most employers to require coders to have at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information systems, or mathematics. This is changing as employers are beginning to learn that coding is a skill requiring more practical application than classroom learning.
That said, a bachelor’s degree will always remain a strong starting point, and will set you up with a strong theoretical knowledge base. A bachelor’s degree is typically completed over a four-year period. If you’re aiming for a managerial position, you might consider going for a master’s degree in a coding or programming field such as design, security, or mobile computing.
Earn a Certification in Coding
If a traditional degree program is not an option for you, you can instead invest in a short certification course in coding. There are a broad range of courses available—including a wealth of 100 percent online options—that will cover all the essential aspects of coding.
Signing up for online courses, such as those offered by Thinkful, are a fast and effective way to get job-ready skills at a fraction of the cost of a traditional degree. You’ll be learning from experts in the field and you’ll receive mentorship and one-on-one support too. Be sure to speak to others already in the field and read up about the best coding courses available.
Teach Yourself to Code
It’s true that you can learn programming languages on your own, but it won’t be easy. Coding is a highly technical job that entails different algorithms and complex data structures. On the flip side, learning by yourself allows you to set the pace of your education. You can devote proportional amounts of time to subjects that you feel you need more practice in.
Some of the options for self-learning coding are online resources like YouTube video tutorials, programming websites and books about coding. Once you have the basics down, it’s important to put your knowledge into practice. Join online communities and forums for coders, where you can bounce questions and gather valuable learning tips.
The Pitfalls of Teaching Yourself to Code
Learning for free of course has its drawbacks. Some of the pitfalls to be aware of include:
Source reliability – It can be difficult to tell whether a source or tutor really knows their trade when it comes to free online tutorials. A teacher or a professor in a college, on the other hand, is thoroughly vetted before getting employed so you can rest assured that they are experts in the field.
Knowledge gaps – A structured education ensures disciplined learning, whereas going it alone can lead to gaps in your theoretical knowledge of the subject. Be sure to consult a few different learning platforms in order to cross-check your knowledge.
Language choices – In a formal education setting, you’ll follow a focused curriculum comprising the most relevant languages based on current market trends. On your own, you might find it difficult to figure out which language is the best to learn. Choosing the wrong one may jeopardise your career, so it’s important to verify the choices you’re making along the way.
Key Coding Terms
Coding is the language of computers, but there’s also a fair bit of lingo that goes with learning code. As you become more familiar with coding, there will be a few key terms you’ll need to add to your vocabulary. As a coder, some of the oft-used expressions you may come across are:
Algorithm: Any collection of steps or instructions that are performed to complete a task is called an algorithm.
Binary: This word comes from a Latin term ‘bini’ meaning two-by-two. Simply put, anything that is represented in a set of twos is a binary. The computer language is written in binary codes of 1s and 0s.
Bug: This is an error in a program that prevents it from running correctly or as expected.
Data: This is simply information. Any character, symbol, or quantity entered into the computer (input) or which results from a function (output) is data.
Function: This is a block of reusable code that you can call over again and again to perform a single related action. Functions are sometimes called procedures, methods, or subroutines, and are based on different programming languages in use.
Tools Used for Coding
Every industry has its essential tools. As a computer programmer, you’ll want to be armed with the best software that allows you to write code, check your work and test the results quickly and efficiently. Let’s take a look at some of the most common ones.
Text Editors: A text editor is a program that edits plain text in a computer. Some of the commonly used editors are Sublime Text, TextMate, and Vim.
REPL Program: Short for read-eval-print loop, this is a simple and interactive computer programming shell that takes single user inputs and runs them. It then returns the results to the user.
Code Browser: A code browser is an editor designed to structure code from its source or extension. It’s beneficial in presenting an overview of code from large projects as it utilizes a variety of techniques to make navigation and cross-referencing between codes fast and easy. Having a good browser is essential for coding and developing programs.
Ready to Learn to Code?
Hopefully this article has given you a better idea of how long it takes to learn coding, and the best ways to go about it.
With growing demand for these skills in the job market, there’s never been a better time to learn to code. But before investing your time and money, make sure you thoroughly research your options and chat with industry professionals. Like us! If you’re ready to find out more about our part-time and full-time course options, schedule a call with a member of our team. You won’t just learn how to code: you’ll change your whole career.
Learn to Code with Thinkful
Take the proven path to a high-income career with professional mentorship and support, flexible ways to pay, and real-world, project-based learning.