A Beginner’s Guide for Learning How to Code

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learning how to code, particularly if you’re a beginner, can be challenging. Use this helpful guide to learn more about what coding is, discover different coding languages, explore the benefits of learning to code, and more.

[Featured Image] A dark-haired programmer turns away from their laptop and computer monitor while learning how to code.

As the world becomes more digitized, learning how to code has become a priority for many people, from computer science students and app developers to business owners. Some basic information can help get you on the right track toward becoming a skilled coder. Read on to learn more about coding and explore ways to build your knowledge.

What is coding?

To understand coding, consider it a translation method between humans and computers. In other words, code allows a human to tell a computer what to do in a way the computer understands. Coding plays a vital role in everyday life because it drives many of the products we use regularly, including calculators, cellphones, laptops, TVs, kitchen appliances, and cars. 

Common coding languages and what they're used for

Understanding coding better helps you learn about different coding languages and why or how you might want to use them. Some common examples include:


C# (pronounced C sharp) shares similarities with other programming languages in the C family. However, many users have an easier time learning it over C and C++. Created by Microsoft for use on their .NET platform, this object-oriented language (one that organizes code and data into objects versus functions) makes a common choice for developers of apps, games, and websites due to its simplicity and speed.    


A group of Google employees created Go (short for Go language or Golang) as an open-source coding alternative for front-end and back-end developers. New coders often appreciate Go’s flexibility, simplicity, and potential for use on any operating system.  


Coders use Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) to create the structure and format of web pages. As implied by the name, HTML uses markup language rather than a programming language, so it doesn't operate in a logical sense, meaning it contains no if-else statements, and it doesn't calculate equations or manipulate data. Even though it's not a programming language, HTML is a helpful skill for you to add to your resume as a new coder.


In 1995, Sun Microsystems developed Java, an object-oriented, open-source programming language. Users of Java find it easy to learn and use, and it's robust, which means you can use it on many different computer systems. Varied uses for Java include data processing and analytics, software development, and Android app development.


Many coders use Python for its friendly syntax, which means it's simpler to read, write, and learn and quicker to use than many other programming languages. This open-source language has varied frameworks and libraries, which makes it a popular language for many tasks, including data analytics, machine learning, and web development. You'll also find Python used across many industries like aerospace, business, finance, health care, retail, and tech.   

Ruby and Ruby on Rails

Available to the public since the mid-1990s, Ruby features an intuitive yet effective design. This open-source, object-oriented scripting language offers a popular option for front-end and back-end web developers. Many users appreciate Ruby's popular framework, Ruby on Rails (RoR), which blends Ruby with CSS, JavaScript, and HTML to simplify web application development.

Benefits of learning how to code

With modern technology advancing rapidly, coding skills have become more critical than ever. Consider these benefits of learning how to code: 

High job demand 

If you're interested in technology, various fields require employees with expert coding skills like computer and information research science, computer systems analysis, and web development. Also, job prospects should remain high in these fields for years to come. 

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) anticipates 23 percent in the growth of jobs for computer and information research scientists between 2022 and 2032, a rate that’s considerably faster than the average for all US jobs [1]. BLS also predicts a 10 percent rise in job growth for computer systems analysts and a 16 percent rise for web developers during that same time frame, both rates also exceeding average job growth [2,3].

It's important to note that coding skills benefit more than just people working in tech. As other types of industries begin to rely on AI, employees with coding skills become more valuable. Some industries currently using AI include agriculture, education, finance, government, health care, manufacturing, and telecommunications.

Good earning potential

Working in the IT field often correlates to higher earning power compared to your peers working in non-technical sectors. According to the BLS, computer and information technology employees make a median annual salary of $100,530, which compares to a median annual salary of $46,310 for all occupations combined [4].

Career flexibility

Many companies that hire coders or programmers offer flexibility regarding where and when employees work. As a coder or programmer, your employer may allow you to work remotely, create your own working hours schedule, or both. 

Enhanced critical thinking and problem-solving

Coding can help develop your critical thinking and problem-solving skills in a few ways. Learning how to code requires attention to detail, and can help you solve problems logically by breaking them into parts and analyzing each step. 

Ways to learn to code for beginners

The best way for you to learn coding depends on how much time you have to commit, the type of method you prefer, and your learning style. Explore these different ways to learn to code as a beginner to find one (or several) that might work for you. 

Enter a degree program

You might choose to earn a college degree in computer science or programming if you want to have a variety of choices when it comes to your career. In a degree program, you'll get exposure to app design, coding, software development, web development, and more. You can opt for a two-year associate degree or a four-year bachelor's degree.

Enroll in a coding bootcamp 

You can learn coding online through a coding bootcamp or attend one in person. A coding bootcamp features a focused, condensed curriculum designed for quick learning. Classes involve different programming languages and real-world applications. Coding bootcamps typically last from three to six months, depending on the specific program. 

Learn to code on your own

Various methods can help you learn to code independently and give you an idea if you want a coding career. You can purchase coding books, view instructive videos, take a free online coding class, explore websites, or download a coding smartphone app.    

Complete a coding project.

Completing a coding project allows you to get the skills you need for a future career. For coding project ideas, you can look online, choose a fun project, or challenge yourself with one that might help you.

Examples include:

  • Designing a simple game or web application

  • Developing your own responsive website

  • Creating an online store for yourself or someone else

  • Participating in an open-source project with other coders

Tips for beginning coders

By fully embracing the process, you can make learning to code more straightforward and enjoyable. Consider these tips:

  • Get a solid grasp of the fundamentals.

  • Practice coding every day.

  • Take a break when needed.

  • Reach out to experts for help, like teachers or mentors.

  • Join forums to become part of a coding community.

Your next steps on Coursera

To start your coding career, consider taking the Crash Course on Python offered by the experts at Google on Coursera. You'll learn about programming fundamentals, understand essential functions and keywords in Python, explore how to write scripts that perform simple actions, and much more. Toward the end of the course, you'll be ready for a final project challenging all the skills you've learned.

Article sources


US Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Occupational Outlook Handbook: Computer and Information Research Scientists, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/ computer-and-information-research-scientists.htm." Accessed April 1, 2024.

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