How to Learn Computer Programming: Beginner Tips

edited June 16 in Acer Corner

The world is going through a digital transformation unlike any we’ve seen in previous eras. Computers have slowly trickled into every facet of our lives, from what we buy, to how we work, to how we travel, and even what we do in our alone time. Because of this reason and various others, coding is one of the most important skills you can learn for your professional and personal development.

Learning how to code can seem very daunting. However, it is actually a lot easier than you think. There are tons of free and inexpensive resources you can use to make learning how to code a fun and enjoyable experience. But before you start, here are some of our best tips and resources to set you on the right track.

Why do you want to learn coding? 

Before we start, it is essential to ask yourself why you want to learn computer programming. Do you want to learn coding to get a new promotion, to pivot your career, or simply to learn as a hobby?

Your answer can help determine which computer language you should learn as well as how much resources and time you should commit. The best way to learn to code is by first understanding your goals. By knowing what you want, you can craft and tailor a learning process that best suits you.

For example, if you want to work in cutting edge artificial intelligence technology or cyber security, you would benefit from a formal computer science education that teaches you multiple computer languages and complex topics like algorithms and data structures. However, if you are a mid-career professional looking for a switch into a tech career, a coding boot camp can easily prepare you for the skills and education you need to make that switch. For those looking to build websites or code as a hobby, a mix of free online courses and interactive tutorials might be enough to get you rolling.

Choose a programming language

C/C++ 

C is a general-purpose computer programming language and a popular choice for introductory coding. Compared to other popular coding languages, C is a little bit complicated because it requires the user to write more lines of code to achieve the same things. But, the extra work will undoubtedly help the user better understand abstract concepts. 

C++ is the successor to C. C++ syntax is like C with the addition of objects, a powerful variable type that makes programming complicated applications easier. 

Use: game programming, software engineering, data structures, developing browsers, operating systems, applications 

Python

A much more friendly version of C and C++, Python is a popular programming language because of its user-friendly syntax and versatility, and how similar Python code reads like English. This is all very helpful for beginners and lets them quickly grasp fundamental concepts like functions. In addition, Python has a robust code library that contains pre-built functions that you can plug into your code without writing them out yourself.

Use: website creation, software, task automation, data analytics

HTML and CSS

While technically not a programming language, Hypertext Markup Language, or HTML, is the backbone of the internet; it’s used to set the content of webpages. HTML is the easiest language for you to try out and extremely useful for those who are looking to build websites or want to understand the internet.

CSS, Cascading Style Sheets, is HTML’s sibling language. Like HTML, CSS is not technically a computer program but is essential for website creation. HTML handles what content appears on a web page and CSS affects how the content appears. This means CSS code will dictate features of the site like colors, sizing, fonts, and layout.

HTML and CSS are both easy to learn largely because they don’t require you to think through the computational logic of programming languages. For those looking to create websites or do coding as a hobby, HTML and CSS is a great starting point.

Use: website creation

JavaScript

Like HTML and CSS, JavaScript is a web focused programming language. JavaScript is a language that turns static web pages into dynamic ones and enables page elements to do things like move or react to user actions. Having knowledge of JavaScript, HTML, and CSS will make you an excellent web developer. Together, these three languages make up most of the web content you see online.

Use: adding interactive behavior to web pages, web and mobile apps, web servers, server application, game programming

Java

Not to be confused with JavaScript, Java is a general-purpose object-oriented programming language. Java and Python are similar in that they are both easy to read and understand by human programmers and can handle complex tasks with one command. Java is a popular language in android mobile app programming, about half of all android apps are made with Java.

Use: GUI applications, web servers and applications servers, middleware applications, web applications, mobile applications, embedded systems, 

enterprise applications 

SQL

SQL, short for Structured Query Language, is domain-specific language used in programming and designed for managing data. SQL is the standard language for relational database management systems. For those who work in data heavy industries like consulting, finance, or business, SQL is the most useful computer language for you to learn.

Use: data management

Check out some free/paid online sources

Now that you have a better understanding of the different types of languages and narrowed down your choices, you can start learning how to code with free coding sites/courses like freeCodeCamp, The Odin Project, or W3Schools. For those looking for courses similar to ones taught at a university or college, Harvard has a free Computer Science course available on edX and YouTube.

If you’re really dedicated or have the extra dollars to spare, there are also plenty of paid courses available for you. Codecademy, Coursera, and Udacity cover a wide range of beginner, intermediate, and advanced CS topics. Make sure to check out their free trial first before fully committing. 

Attend a boot camp

If you want to switch careers and become a full-time developer, an in-person coding Bootcamp might just be able to help you out. Bootcamps are great for those looking to learn a lot within a short period of time. However, graduating from a boot camp doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be guaranteed a good job. In addition, boot camps can also be quite pricey with tuition costs around $15,000 per semester, plus living expenses for a few months until you graduate. Make sure to think things through before you make such a costly investment.  

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