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How Long Does it Take to Learn To Code?

learning Oct 02, 2020

One of the most common questions I get is:  How long does it take to learn to code?

The best answer, as it is with most things is:  It depends.

While there are lots of books and programs making promises like “Learn Python in 24 Hours,” the truth is the amount of time it will take you to learn coding depends on a number of factors.  Let’s go through the factors that will impact how quickly you can learn.

There are a few factors that determine how long does it take to learn to code.

Your Goals

When people say that they want to “learn coding” that often means different things to different people. Does that mean you want to be a professional level coder able to complete enterprise level projects? Or, perhaps, you just want to learn enough to create a website that you have in mind. 

Once most coders start learning, they never stop. The industry changes too frequently to succeed without being a life-long learner. 

If your goal is simply to understand the basics, you’ll reach your goal before you know it. If your goal is a professional level of mastery, you can expect a timeline that reaches across (at least) a couple of calendar years. 

When it comes to your goals impacting your learning timeline, it’s best to have a number of intermediate goals so you can assess your progress and give direction to your learning. Your first goal might be to learn HTML coding, followed by learning JavaScript. Add to that goal set the CSS language and you have a complete set of skills for client-side web development. As you complete your smaller goals, you’re building professional-level skill sets with a number of demarcations of your progress.

Your Schedule

When you’re a child, you have all the time in the world to devote to learning. The reality of adulthood is that there are trade-offs when it comes to your available time. Time dedicated to learning has an opportunity cost. If you spend time learning JavaScript, that might mean fewer nights out with friends. You may be giving up on your favorite show on Netflix, or even another shift at work and the extra money that provides.

Your schedule, in fact, indicates your priorities. Some priorities are unavoidable— We all have to put food on the table and pay for the roof over our heads.  

In the end, you’ve got to decide how much time you can dedicate to learning coding. The optimal situation is to be able to consistently set aside the same times each week in your schedule to dedicate to your work. 

Daisy R.,  a Boston-based flight attendant, scheduled her learning for her evenings spent in hotels as she flew around the country. She says, “I became a slam-clicker.  When I reached the hotel it was slam the door, click the lock and, instead of watching movies, I’d work on my coding. In the end, I’m glad I did. After a year, I was doing freelance web design on my days off and nights in hotels.”

Ultimately, you have control over most of your schedule. If you want to learn to code, besides work, sleep and family, everything else is negotiable.

Your Background

Some people who want to learn coding come from a related field. Others come from a background where they hardly used a computer. The team at Framework Television has a core belief that anyone can learn coding skills if they make an effort. However, that doesn’t mean that the road is the same for everyone.

If you’ve worked in a related field like IT, graphic design or even content development, you’ll find that the skills you develop when learning to code have a context for you based on your previous experience. If your career has been in something totally unrelated, that context doesn’t exist, making it more time-consuming to learn development skills. 

That does not mean that if you’re coming from a field that is unrelated to development that you shouldn’t learn to code. It means that you should expect to schedule more time to learn basic skills as you develop a context for your learning. 

The millennial generation was the first generation known to be “digital natives.” Digital natives grew up with the computer technology that has become ubiquitous in our lives. Many of us did not. While not a major factor, your level of comfort with general computer technology can also impact your timeline when learning to code.

When thinking about how long it will take you to learn to code, you need to assess your background and think honestly about how it might impact your learning timeline.

Your Path

There’s an annoying myth that is prevalent when it comes to learning coding skills. The myth is that learning to code means just one thing.  As discussed earlier, learning to code has multiple dimensions. The first dimension of learning to code is the actual skills you’re looking to acquire. Learning to code web sites is decidedly different than learning to code artificial intelligence apps or games. 

If you want to learn to develop mobile apps, for example, while still a significant undertaking, it will take you decidedly less time than learning to create artificial intelligence applications. 

The second dimension to learning to code that impacts your timeline is the depth of skills you wish to master. For example, learning to develop websites for small companies with WordPress is an entry level skill set that can be acquire more quickly than developing enterprise level e-commerce applications. 

It is best to set your expectations based on your experience level. If your goal is complex enterprise programming for a major tech firm like Google, you can get there. However, your path should allow you to acquire the necessary lower-level skills first. The experience you develop will make learning the more complex skills easier, and you’ll feel the rewards of accomplishment as you master different skill sets along your path.

Learn To Code Faster: 5 Tips

Most people who are learning to code want to reduce the amount of time it takes to achieve their goals. We’ll conclude with a few tips that will help you learn to code more quickly.

  1. Put Specific Time on Your Daily Calendar that you will Dedicate to Learning.  Treat the time you need to dedicate to skill acquisition like any other appointment on your calendar. If a trip to the dentist is on your calendar, you go. Why should your prioritized learning be any different?
  2. Break Your Learning into Milestones.  You’ve probably heard before that big, hairy, audacious goals are easier to reach if you break them down into smaller goals.  Learning to code nicely lends itself to setting up milestones. For example, learning CSS is a milestone, followed by learning JavaScript as another milestone.  These smaller milestones add up into one larger valuable set of skills.
  3. Share your Learning Goals with others— Be Accountable. Most of us know too well that being accountable only to yourself is a recipe for disaster. It’s too easy to allow other “priorities” to slip in and fail to move forward. Make a trusted relative or friend a learning partner and ask them to hold you accountable for your weekly, scheduled learning time(s).
  4. Participate in online communities learning with you.  Learning a skill set such as coding outside of the traditional school setting can be very lonely. However, there are online communities filled with people who are experiencing the same struggles and successes. Get involved in these communities and support others who are learning along with you.
  5. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of done.  You don’t need to get an A+ in every skill set to progress. Don’t give in to the temptation to tie up every loose end before moving forward.  Often you’ll find that future lessons will give context for the past and enhance your understanding of the material you just learned.

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