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What is the easiest way to get into programming?5 min read

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So you are a high school or college student and have just finished watching videos of young coding prodigies, a few tech visionaries and, of course, googled the industry salary at least once. You are sold on the idea of becoming the next Steve Wozniak, Tanmay Bakshi or Gennady Korotchevich and I applaud your determination and curiosity in the field but…

The question remains, how do you get started?

Quite frankly most people’s journey stops shortly after when they get overwhelmed by the number of conflicting opinions on where and how to start your programming career. After trying a course or reading a book it just doesn’t get you in the “zone” and you give up shortly. This is especially true for the younger audience because early on there are no time constraints or responsibilities adults are faced with so there is no pressure in sticking to it.

A common misconception is that you have to learn a programming language in the beginning which is not the right way to go about it. You want to learn to program itself, a programming language is just a tool and like any tool, you can change it and learn to use others with time. You need to remember the concept of how a program works and from there start expressing it into a programming language.

That is why I think the most important thing at the beginning is starting with the right way of learning how to code for YOU and come in with the right expectations. Coding is not for everyone and that is OK. After getting that part figured out you will eventually decide what language and field to work in – these are not priorities right now. 

Concentrate on enjoying the start of your journey because it is going to fuel the rest of your career whatever direction you choose later.

Without going too much into my boring backstory here is a list of the most popular ways developers get into programming and my take on what to expect from each. Feel free to jump to the one you are interested in.

The classic – university degrees

Do you like vanilla ice-cream? Do you want to make your grandma proud? Got a few spare years of your life? Then the university degree is just for you! Not so fast. 

I’m currently studying for my degree that has a lot to offer besides the piece of paper that gets me a job. However, I am strongly against starting a Computer Science degree as the entry point in your coding career. It’s a huge time and money commitment to just find out if you like it. 

Unlike Law or Medical School, you can start with coding from home using any of the next methods and try it out for a few months. Computer Science courses, in the beginning, go over the same topics as an online course does.

This being said, it is a great stepping stone to launch your career when you are sure you want the coder’s lifestyle. It’s easy to find good support and most importantly the environment to thrive.

The prodigy – competitive programming

The more obscure side of programming that takes it to the level of an Olympic sport, you probably heard of it in high school or college. Platforms like HackerEarth, Codeforces or HackerRank are among the many places you can practice and compete with others while solving interview level problems and more.

A thing to keep in mind is that this is not “real” programming as some say. It teaches you the thinking and logic behind a multitude of algorithms which of course are great to know especially for coding interviews but there is more to being a good programmer. Just be ready to later explore software design, collaborative tools and the other aspects of being a professional developer.

It is good to know this because some youngsters (like me) get easily discouraged in this competitive environment. No matter the coding skills, you are guaranteed to hit big walls while climbing the ranks and not everyone is cut out for this challenge.

With the right mindset though, competitive programming is a great way to build excellent fundamentals and provide you with constant challenges and feedback on your progress. If you like the competitive aspect, you can confidently start with it.

The bibliomaniac – books

The good old Introduction to Algorithms is waiting to find its cosy place on your to-read list. By far the best way to load your mind with theory but if you don’t intend to apply it immediately don’t expect it to make you a good developer. Like universities, it’s not the best entry point as it is not going to give you a good understanding of what it means to code. 

Nonetheless, later down the line, they are great at explaining more advanced concepts in a structured way and are a relatively cheap resource in general.

The professional – coding bootcamps

So you got lucky or got some money on your hand and found a good coding bootcamp to apply for. Before you pull the trigger, especially for the paid one, think about a few points.

If it is an online bootcamp (in the COVID reality at the time of writing) you are technically getting an online course with mentors that in a lot of cases promises employment. Think twice before going for it and compare it directly with online courses (even paid ones) in the same field – they may be much cheaper to start with. 

But what about getting a job after that? Well, as this article points out, the employment rate is not as high as they want you to think and in most cases, you are almost guaranteed a low-end job.

All things said it is not the worst way to start a career in programming but a bit overkill for what you need to start with. If, however, the bootcamp is free of charge, definitely go for it if you have time. My experience in such a bootcamp in the early stages was a HUGE boost to my coding journey.

Just be ready for a challenging and equally rewarding path that gives you a pretty good understanding if this field is for you. Also, choose a book to fill the theoretical gap these bootcamps prefer to skip over.

The millennial – online video tutorials

By far the most popular way to start with programming. There is not much to say about it – YouTube got hundreds of videos on all the topics covering Computer Science. It is a great place to start with and dip your toes in the basics before you decide that you want more. 

Before you jump in your first tutorial remember a golden rule: If you haven’t used it, you haven’t learned it yet. There is something magical about coding videos (even videos in courses) that makes you think that you can use the concepts explained without actually writing code but it is an illusion. 

After each tutorial, remember to put what you have learned into practice, play with it and make changes to the original code. I can promise that, at first, you will always encounter a couple of issues you never thought about. If you follow this rule you are good to go.

The technician – documentation

Some may think that this is a joke but some people start their journey by going through the documentation and taking notes. I have seen myself, people online describing this way of learning how to code.

I want to make it clear: This is NOT a way to learn how to code! Almost anything is better to start with. Reading documentation and understanding it is a skill in itself. Later on, it becomes a great place to get an understanding of the tool you are using and how to set it up but it is definitely not meant for those starting and it is not structured appropriately.

For starters avoid documentation for questions related to concepts as it is not going to help you with that. Come here when you want to learn another language to print “Hello World!” with.


I hope this guide helped you better understand where to start with programming. I haven’t covered some other ways of learning how to code like StackOverflow or other forums because these are more resources to learn from while programming rather than learning how to program. 

Of course, there are exceptions to these “rules” of getting in the field and I love to hear others’ stories of how they became a developer but generally, these are the main entry points. 

All that is left for you is to pick your “weapon” of choice and start writing code as THE BEST way of learning is by doing.

Happy coding and a good day!

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