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Can You Learn Coding on Your Own?

careers learning Oct 02, 2020

Note: As you may know, Framework Television runs an online training program. While this is a great option for some people learning to code, it’s not for everybody. In fact, for many, other learning options are better. This article is designed to look at several methods of you can use to learn coding– including learning on your own, so you can decide for yourself what works best for you.

There are several ways to learn to code. Traditionally, coders went to college. They then received a degree and were qualified to go into the workforce. Today, with an increasing need for coders, fewer people willing to (or able to) get a four-year degree. Alternative methods of learning codings are becoming more prominent. Many people are asking: Can you learn coding on your own?

Can you learn coding on your own? Each year thousands of self-taught developers enter the industry.

Let’s break down the ways people typically learn to code.

Traditional College or University

The college/university path is the most traditional route. If you’re eighteen years old with funding, probably the most effective. A strong, accredited university computer science program is the best avenue to prepare you for a career in coding. It’s not the only way to move into a career in computer science, and it certainly comes with drawbacks.

The most serious drawbacks of a traditional college or university computer science education are time and costs. At a minimum, a community college program will take two years and likely cost you over $10,000. Community college graduates are minimally qualified for some entry-level coding jobs. Some community college graduates have found that they still need to complete a boot camp program to secure entry-level employment.

A four-year degree, which would qualify you for most entry-level openings, can cost $50,000 or more. In addition to cost, four-year degrees take a great deal of time. While there are hundreds of accredited programs in the country, there isn’t one in every community, and many have to move to a new city to study.

Despite the drawbacks, one can’t forget the value of an actual degree, however. The degree itself is a qualification for some jobs. (Due to the shortage of developers, this has become less the case.). The degree is an accomplishment you’ll always have, and one that represents a level of achievement that your competitors for jobs won’t always have.

The simple fact is that many simply don’t have the time or financial means to pursue a college or university degree, but, would still like to be coders.

Bottom Line: If you’re of traditional college-age and want to get a degree, and live the college experience, this option is for you.

Online Colleges and Universities

Twenty years ago, when the idea of attending college online was still new, many frowned on obtaining a degree from an online school.

While much of the stigma behind online colleges and universities has evaporated over the years, some still believe an online education to be inferior to the traditional classroom/lab-based model. However, if there is a single degree program that should lend itself to an online college, it’s a computer science degree!

Online college can be isolating for some learners.

For an older learner, or, a non-traditional student who wants a degree in computer science, online colleges can be a great answer.

Online colleges provide the flexibility of learning from your home or local coffee shop. However, online colleges still have many of the same drawbacks as traditional college programs. The online degree programs can be just as expensive as the offline, traditional option– although a few lower-cost programs are appearing. They also tend to be linear, so you do have the semester or trimester oriented calendar, which people who are already working can find challenging to complete.

If you decide that an online degree is for you, some of the best options are traditional universities that have online programs. For example, Arizona State University has some degree plans available through its online division that run parallel to computer science-related programs offered on their Tempe, Arizona campus.

Bottom Line: If you want the parchment, but can’t attend a traditional program this option is for you.

Boot Camp Programs

Boot camp programs have developed to meet the growing industry need for coders. Some of these can be quite good, and all are very intense. Some even guarantee a job placement when the program is complete. Others, like Holberton School, also defer tuition until you get a job. Let’s divide boot camp programs into two categories– online programs and offline programs.

In-Person Boot Camp Programs

In-person boot camp programs are springing up in nearly every major city. The biggest of these is General Assembly. These programs can vary in quality. As a rule, the most intensive and hard-to-access programs generally yield the best results. The intensity of these in-person boot camp programs can be both their most significant asset and their greatest weakness.

Because in-person boot camp programs tend to be so intense, you’ll find that you can progress to job-ready very quickly. These programs tend to compress years of learning into a few months. Programs tend to be as short as 8 or 14 weeks. That’s not a lot of time to learn an entirely new skillset. Due to the compressed nature of the in-person boot camp programs, many drop out before completing. When considering an in-person boot camp, it’s essential to ask about completion rates.

The cost of in-person boot camp programs varies greatly. Many programs have financing options available to make the programs more affordable. Research the programs you are considering carefully as some have run into regulatory trouble. A few years ago, in California, a couple of programs were even regarded as fraudulent.

Bottom Line: If you’re going with this option, make sure you’re prepared for the intensity. Buyer beware as the quality of these programs and their reputation with employers varies.

Online Boot Camp Programs

Online Boot camp programs are more varied than in-person programs. Some of these programs are synchronous. In a synchronous program, you’ll follow a calendar and syllabus. Others are entirely free-form, where you’ll choose what you want to learn and when.

When it comes to cost, there is also a great deal of variance. Free code camp, is free as the name implies. Other online boot camp programs cost as much as their offline competitors. The level of support provided also varies a great deal. If you feel like you need the support of peers and instructors, ensure the online program you are considering has a robust community.

To be successful in most online programs, you have to be a motivated person. No online program is going to make you accountable for doing the work… That’s on you. If you’re the type of person who needs a lot of prodding to get your work done, this may not be an option for you.

Bottom Line: Make sure you choose a program that has enough support to get you through the program. With many programs, you’ll be on your own, so online boot camp programs work well for the motivated.

Self-Teaching: So, Can You Learn Coding On Your Own?

It is entirely possible to learn coding on your own. There are thousands of resources that are available. YouTube alone has thousands of and thousands of free coding videos. Udemy has free (or ultra-low-cost) courses that are as good as many of the paid courses.

A Google search for free coding courses will yield dozens of entry-level classes that will get you started.

The advantages of self-teaching should be apparent. The cost can be meager or even free. The resources are out there. Of course, those who are self-teaching can also ultimately choose their schedule with no pressure to complete modules according to any calendar.

All of the resources available for free online have a downside. One of the things I hear from people trying to learn coding on their own is that they aren’t sure where to start, and don’t have a clear learning path that results in a full skillset. I have rarely met a self-trained developer who didn’t have holes in their knowledge because they didn’t know what was essential to learn and what was extraneous.

Self-teaching significantly increases the timeline for being job-ready. You may spend time learning skills that aren’t relevant in the current job market. We recently published an article discussing how long it takes to learn to code.

Also, putting self-teachers at a disadvantage is the fact that they don’t have proof of learning. Degrees, technical certifications, and boot camp completion certificates provide employers with some measure of comfort that you know what you claim, you know. A portfolio of project work is often helpful to new developers looking for their first job in coding. Self-learners often don’t have reliable project parameters to aid in building a portfolio, also placing them at a disadvantage.

Bottom Line: You have to be very motivated to successfully teach yourself to code. If you are organized, motivated, and prepared to make a few wrong turns, self-teaching the least expensive way to go.


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