How do I learn how to code?

So you’ve decided to learn how to Code…

Learning how to code can be intimidating. When we think about coding, many of us will imagine a programmer typing out entire lines of what appears to be an unintelligible combination of letters, numbers and symbols that appear to have more in common with egyptian hieroglyphs than the English language. If you are determined to learn how to code we can assure you that those first impressions will pass, and with the right resources and support you’ll be able to confidently pick up coding and become a programming whiz in no time. 


What exactly is Coding?

First – let’s start with the basics. What exactly is coding? The term tends to be thrown around quite loosely and usually refers to any activity that involves the composing and the manipulation of HTML Code. Coding is an umbrella term that can be simply described as a way of communicating with a computer. The code tells the computer or software what to do, almost like a set of instructions that cannot be understood by those outside of the coding space. Learning coding is just like learning another language except you use it to communicate with technology. 

Coding, or programming, can be utilised in infinite ways, it can be used to make websites or apps, process data, create software or algorithms. This is one of the reasons why coding or programming is so in demand right now. The Code is the skeletal structure of the majority of digital products and services, and in a world where the digital field is growing at exceptionally fast rates, there is more of a need for programmers and coding experts than ever in order to supply digital solutions to meet growing demand.

Coding consists of a variety of programming languages. Programming languages can be simply described as different sets of rules which define how to write code. Each programming language has its advantages and disadvantages, and can be utilised for different purposes. There are thousands of programming languages, however only a handful are widespread enough to be incorporated in a professional setting. Some of the most popular programming languages include:


  • Python –  One of the most common programming languages, favoured due to its simplicity and integration with other programming languages such as C and C++. It is a popular programming language particularly among startups, hence why Python coding skills are in high demand. 


  • JavaScript – JavaScript is the most popular choice when building interactive websites. Enriched with the wide variety of available add ons, JavaScript is versatile and can be easily used to produce web content on a server before a page is sent to the browser. The main drawback of JavaScript is that internet browsers can disable the code from running, as it has a history of being used for pop ups which can contain malicious content.


  • Java – Java is one of the more versatile programming languages out there as an application written in Java can run on any platform that supports Java. This is why it is commonly described as a ‘write once, run anywhere’ programming language. Its main drawback however is that it is not ideal for applications that run on the cloud – it is most commonly found among android application systems.


  • C# – Developed by Microsoft as a faster and more secure variant of C++. It is mostly utilised in the development of apps for Windows, browser plug-ins and mobile devices. C# is considered to have a steep learning curve and be one of the harder languages to learn, due to being less flexible than C++.


How do I learn how to Code?

There are plenty of free resources you can use to teach yourself how to code. The main benefit of choosing to learn coding and programming languages is that you can teach yourself how to do so at your own pace online. Some online resources state that with enough determination and time you can teach yourself how to code in as little as three months, however if you are dedicating only a few hours a week to learning it can take anywhere between 6 and 12 months to become proficient. 

If you decide to learn how to code through a University Degree or Further Education College, you can expect to focus extensively on coding throughout the first year of your degree or course. To start your coding journey, we recommend using one of these trusty free resources, which can get you up to speed in a matter of months:


  1. Free Code Camp 

Free Code Camp offers a plethora of resources you can utilise to teach yourself how to code. You can learn at your own pace, and receive a certificate upon completion of the training. You will get to utilise and practice your new coding skills by building real-world projects for not-for-profit organisations. Free Code Camp is an open-source community which makes thousands of coding challenges and projects available to aspiring programmers. 


  1. Code With Google 

Code with Google provides resources aiming to help individuals explore, advance and succeed in a career in computer science. There are a number of courses aimed at different age groups, with resources available to kids aged as young as 9 to spark their passion for programming. Code With Google also offers a free mobile phone app that lets you learn JavaScript with fun quick lessons which can be completed on the go. 


  1. Codeacademy 

Codeacademy offers hundreds of real life coding projects that you can complete to polish your programming skills. If you decide to sign up for a ‘Pro’ Account, you will be able to take advantage of the multiple long term coding and industry specific courses they have available. The site contains plenty of free materials you can utilise during your learning process, such as blogs, videos and cheat sheets to help you get your head around basic coding principles


  1. The Open University

The Open University offers a variety of short free courses aimed at beginners who need to get their head around I.T concepts. ‘Simple Coding’ is one of many free courses which will help you get a grasp of coding in Python, as well as give you an understanding of sequences and instructions as well as repetition in Python programming language. 


If you find that online learning might not be for you, research free coding courses and classes in your local area. Currently in Northern Ireland, there are plenty of free I.T focused programmes and courses run in partnership with the Universities and Further Education Colleges. The Skill Up Programme offers a wide variety of courses including Level 2 and Level 3 courses in subjects such as Cyber Security, Cloud Computing, and more. 

There are also fantastic apprenticeship opportunities run annually at some of the leading I.T organisations in Belfast, which will help you work towards a formal qualification while earning a salary and utilising your programming skills on the job. Keep an eye on our social channels as we highlight these opportunities throughout the year!