If you remember 1993’s Jurassic Park, you probably recall the moment when young hacker Lex saved the day with her kick-butt computer skills by successfully hacking and reactivating the park’s security system. (And if you don’t remember it, refresh).
Call it prophetic, but “hacking” skills are the common currency of the future. With an increasing interest in computer programming and the growth of tech-sector jobs, the time is now to learn a thing or two about 0s and 1s.
Maybe it was tech-of-the-future movies that got you interested in coding as a kid, or maybe you’re developing a passion to learn mid-career. Whatever the reason, it’s time to go back to school — and with the right resources, you can learn a host of new language skills (no verb conjugating required).
So what is coding? (If you’ve got some time, start here). Simply put, code is the set of instructions given to computers to perform specific functions. With lines of code, programmers develop the software that powers the devices you encounter every day — from your smartphone to your microwave.
The good news is you don’t have to live in Silicon Valley or have expensive, high-tech gadgets to learn how to code. Self-taught programming is on the rise, and you can join the masses that are taking to the web to learn the next universal language.
With the click of a mouse, you can develop a whole new repertoire of programming skills. And we’ve got all the resources to help you start the digital school year.
Brrrrring! School is back in session.
But First, Meet a Self-Taught Programmer
Before I inundate you with stellar programming resources, allow me to introduce you to a real-life, self-taught coding graduate. Meet Ryan Hanna.
Hanna began teaching himself to code in January of 2012 using Codeacademy, out of a desire to start creating his own projects.
“I was tired of just consuming things that other people were building and wanted to try building something of my own,” he says.
“I transitioned from an IT specialist to a full-time junior developer in the same company I worked for after one year of learning and had started building my own project in my free time,” Hanna says. “This project ended up replacing most of my resume and helped me get my first non-junior developer role where I worked for two years.
“Along the way, I had met Benjamin Young of Nexercise at a conference, and we ended up deciding to work together on Sworkit full time. His and Greg Coleman’s company Nexercise bought Sworkit and hired me to continue working on it. We’ve since grown to an amazing team of seven and have one of the top workout apps on the market.”
The growth of Sworkit proved to Hanna — and it should prove to you — that building something amazing is only a few steps away.
“You can build anything you want,” Hanna says. “Starting with any idea or any design, you can just start building it without any limitations. That feels amazing to go from nothing to something.”
And it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Start with baby steps, Hanna says.
“Learn a broad spectrum of languages and topics at the start, but then pick something small to work on with what you have learned,” he says. “It will help you start something from scratch and get that feeling of adding one little piece at a time. You start to focus on figuring out how to complete each step in sequence and then you have something to show for it at the end as well.”
Here is a list of free or low-cost ways (and more) to get started.
Self-Guided Tour: Our Complete List of Coding Resources
We know gaming isn’t time-wasting — rather, it’s an engaging way to learn and practice new concepts. Use these online activities to sharpen your skills.
Explore programming in your preferred coding language and on your own time. Whether you’ve got five minutes or five hours, Code Fights allows you to practice for job interviews, play arcade-style coding games, and compete in screen-to-screen challenges
A collection of beginner-to-advanced practice problems that allow you to earn certificates and hone your skills. Consider it a type of fun homework.
Choose a coding language and solve challenges; accompanying solutions and tutorials help you cement crucial programming skills.
Utilize Reddit’s user-based forums to try challenges in a range of different levels and applications — everything from Scrabble-like tests to mazes.
Play virtual coding games (think: destroying enemy ships with code) that can teach you essential skills and can get you noticed by companies.
See how you stack up against other coders with a large library of dynamic coding challenges while building a profile and attracting the attention of programmer-seeking companies.
Coding activities with purpose. Help solve real-world problems for businesses with innovative programming solutions while joining a community of coders and utilizing practice problems.
Unearth your inner coding competitor and solve challenges while interacting on a leading recruitment site for companies (meaning, it’s a resume builder!)
Become the Obi-Wan of programming by testing out problems and offering your own solutions, while participating in a unique coding community.
Enhance your development skills by taking Microsoft’s fun and creative coding projects for a spin.
Train yourself, collaborate with others, and create in a variety of programming languages.
Practice problems (consider them mini-quests) for newbies and experts, tailored to your interests, whether you want to learn to code, increase fluency in your chosen language, or develop clean code. Just submit your solutions and get helpful feedback. Works through GitHub.
No boring, dusty textbooks here — these programming tomes can provide you useful reading material.
The perfect manual for self-studiers, written by one of coding’s own amateur-turned-professional graduate.
Cost: $4.99 Kindle Book
A countless collection of ebooks on every possible programming topic, whether it be Python or PHP.
Cost: Many free — prices vary
Another exhaustive collection of online resources to help you increase your coding knowledge.
Cost: Many free — prices vary
Want to meet with like-minded individuals? Find a mentor or coding event in your area.
Virtual classified ads for programmers; identify programming comrades that match your unique skills and interests and collaborate on personalized projects.
A matching platform that connects users in a myriad of different fields; outfit a profile with what you offer and what you want to learn and begin sharing knowledge with other groups.
Utilize the site’s Pair With Me button to encourage collaboration from your own website or contact form. Also, check out the provided collection of resources and guides for programmer pairing.
This social media handle hosts a live, weekly chat every Wednesday where users can ask questions and converse with other programmers — beginners and experts alike.
A general connection platform that allows you to tailor specific meetup requests in your area. A good place to start? Tech Meetups.
Cost: Prices vary
Not unlike a hip, adult slumber party; these all-night coding parties allow you to gather with like-minded learners and develop new skills as you tackle team programming projects.
Cost: Prices vary
For those looking to feel like a student again. Another Code.org resource that allows you to find computer science courses local to your area.
Cost: Prices vary
A female-focused nonprofit that provides resources for computer science-interested women. Find your local chapter and attend programming events.
Cost: Prices vary
Link your GitHub account to find coding buddies that share similar programming goals and projects.
A large community of programmers who connect via Slack and organized study (screen-sharing) hangouts. Make your hangouts as unique as your project.
Hunker down: it’s movie night. Time to break out the popcorn and watch as YouTubers — and others — share their knowledge. (Bonus: No Redbox fees).
A Google employee shares weekly videos that address topics of web design and development.
The YouTube channel of a matching site that addresses much more than just CSS.
Your wish is Derek Banas command; the YouTuber makes tutorials based on the requests and questions from viewers, so ask away! His tailored videos also include multi-weekly live streams. Along with an extensive collection of programming tutorials, he’s also got in-depth guides on how to create video games. Score!
Helpful step-by-step web development tutorials covering everything from responsive web design to splash screens.
Covering all things computers, The New Boston offers detailed videos for every step of your programming journey — even for beginners.
A great starting point for beginners; these easy-to-digest video help learners manage the ins-and-outs of different programming languages.
A playlist of seven top-tier talks from Ted Talks’ best speakers, covering topics like teaching kids to code and improving government through programming.
A handy video series for web developers learning how to interact with computer programs.
Looking for additional coding movie makers? Here are a few more you can check out.
Choose from a handful of virtual courses — at free or budget-friendly costs.
Open Source Projects
A coder-must platform that helps programmers collaborate with each other as they save code online, view changes, and discuss issues.
Cost: Paid (from $7 a month) and free plans available
Another resource that makes coding a team effort; works in conjunction with Git to help programmers work jointly on projects.
Cost: Paid (from $10 per month) and free plans available
Online Coding Courses
A full list of all kinds of online computer courses from distinguished universities — available in various formats for easy accessibility.
Moana, Star Wars, and Minecraft — all subjects incorporated into one-hour tutorials provided by nonprofit Code.org. These easy-to-digest courses are accessible for learners of all levels and ages.
Not just a programmer’s favorite; this Reddit page has a collective list of interactive coding tutorials gathered from around the web on various topics, from mobile app development to info on different programming languages. (Plus, you can even watch people code!)
Another exhaustive list of coding resources, plus, a helpful introduction that guides beginners on where to start.
Ryan Hanna’s alma mater is helping educate the world in programming; choose from a catalog of courses that meet your learning needs and get coding.
Web developer Walsh shares a host of programming tutorials in addition to sharing demos and info about coding conferences.
A collection of computer science courses and resources available right from your screen and in multiple formats.
A course-focused site that offers resources for learning, practicing, and earning badges that boost your skills. Learn anything from app-building to website-creation.
Cost: Free 7-day trial, $25 (Basic Plan) or $49 (Pro Plan) a month after
Take courses straight from actual universities in a variety of specializations. This site partners with top schools to offer education in programming, data science, business, and more.
Cost: Prices vary
Choose from a large collection of self-paced computer science courses fueled by university curriculum — it was founded by Harvard and MIT in 2012.
Cost: Free, professional certificates at cost
Complete challenges and building projects that can help you build skills, even acquire developer jobs. Plus, Free Code Camp tasks have practical applications, like aiding nonprofits with open source projects.
Cost: Per its name, free
Learn coding basics from your browser — the step-by-step guided fundamentals can aid you in building your next super-site.
Earn a nanodegree — an online certification with provided course materials and instructor guidance — in one of seventeen available tech tracks. Learn in-demand job skills at your own pace.
Cost: Prices vary (but plan for a cost of at least a few hundred every month).
Learn to code on the go with online courses or a travel-friendly app. Topics feature tons of courses and quizzes, plus social learning components; there’s even a “Code Playground” for experimental development.
Choose from more than 45,000 courses tailored to your own personal programming syllabus rated and reviewed by peers.
Cost: Prices vary
A learning platform filled with engaging courses taught by industry gurus.
Cost: Free 30-day trial, prices vary after
Email courses designed to help you launch a career in web development and propel your ideas into real-life web applications.
Cost: Prices vary, some free
An HTML and CSS tutorial that starts at the web’s bare bones and gets gradually more detailed as the course progresses — an easy-to-understand intro for beginners.
A smart guide with an abundance of helpful resources for every step of your self-taught programming journey.
Haven’t found your perfect fit? Try this: a few more places to code for free.
Load up your device with audio coding lessons and listen on your commute or during your workout.
Shop talk about development best practices relevant to a number of different programming languages.
A by developers, for developers podcast that shares up-and-coming programming news. Cost: Free
Featured interviews with experts that touch on tech topics like mobile app development and developer testing.
A snackable-size podcast designed for busy schedules. Listen to quick bites on all kinds of developer-designed details.
A perfect podcast if you want a little taste of everything; each show covers a different programming language so you can expand your coding knowledge with each episode.
DYK? There are others like you. This weekly podcast features stories and useful lessons from other individuals who are on their self-taught programming path.
Laurence Bradford’s weekly podcast helps self-taught coders transition to the tech field with useful tips on developing marketable skills and enhancing your resume.
Need more earworms? Try additional podcasts here, including language- and task-specific channels.
Turns out, it’s never too soon to start introducing your tots to their first bytes.
A book series designed to help your little ones make connections to computer science principles during early development.
Cost: Prices vary
A three-volume collection of board books that introduce your infants to computer science fundamentals. In conjunction with site Code Babies.
Cost: Amazon, $1.73 each
Tips for helping kids to get a start in programming.
A youthful resource for finding online courses or local classes. Includes games and activities.
A record-setting event for Code Club where kids ages 7-18 around the world join together to tackle projects — MoonHack’s or your own (moon-themed, of course). 2017’s MoonHack event brought together more than 28,000 youth.
Our collection of resources provides a comprehensive list of places to initiate your self-taught programming journey, from beginning fundamentals to jump-starting your coding career. But along the way, you might hit a few roadblocks. Well, we’re here for you.
Maybe you don’t know what programming language to start learning. Easy. Try an interactive quiz or infographic that guides your journey based on your individual goals and interests (like, creating a game, or developing an iOS or Android app).
Struggling with framework questions, or need to fix a bug or in your code? Try utilizing Stack Overflow, a coder’s knowledge-sharing community.
Or perhaps you’re looking for useful apps or a development environment to practice in? We’ve got you covered. Try some note-taking apps that help while you code and useful coding playgrounds like Code Pen or JSFiddle to get your feet wet.
Any more questions? Let us know.
Ready for your homework? Time to get coding.
Pick a course, a video, a podcast, or a coding game. Start there and start small. With our complete guide to coding resources, you have everything you need to start building your own projects and becoming fluent in your new language.
Fill Us In
Are you a self-taught programmer? How did you learn? What advice would you give to other wannabe coders? Share your story — and your advice — in the comments below.
— Reporting by Kasee Bailey