It’s borderline cliche to tell someone who’s considering switching careers to consider they may want to learn coding. The only thing keeping it from being an annoying cliche is that it’s often good advice. Companies across all industries are constantly searching for talented software developers to build best-in-class products and usher their organizations into a (very) digital future.

But the issue with telling someone to consider coding is that the conversation usually ends there. There are so many resources that can help you learn how to start coding, but where do you begin? Which programming languages do you need to know to have a career in software development? And how do you start coding from scratch?

Not sure of the answers? You’re probably not alone. That’s why we put together this guide to help you figure out how to start learning coding.

How Do I Start Coding From Scratch?

Step 1: Ask Yourself Why You’re Considering Programming

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you shouldn’t learn how to start coding just because the salaries are high. Coding is hard work, and if you’re not actually interested in all of the nuances of writing clean code, it won’t be long until you’re considering another career change.

Let’s assume that your motivation goes beyond the potential paychecks. What about programming gets you excited to dive into a lot of coursework and learn the tools of the trade? Do you want to build better user experiences on B2B websites? Are you curious about how the most popular apps on the planet work behind the scenes? Do you want to make it easier to share money with friends? Ask yourself why you’re even considering a career in programming before you invest the time and money to figure out how to start learning coding.

Step 2: Start With the Basics of HTML and CSS

I’m not a programmer, but my job requires me to at least understand a basic web document. Thankfully, I spent a lot of time inside when I was in high school and tinkered with HTML and CSS. While you won’t get a job as a professional coder if you only learn how to code in those languages, knowing the basics of HTML and CSS will demystify a lot of syntax you’ll see down the road.

Step 3: Pick a Programming Language to Explore

Once you’ve gained some experience with HTML and CSS, many experts suggest diving right into the deep end and choosing a programming language to explore. There are a few fundamentals that you’ll need to know to be a professional programmer, but choose just one and focus on it as you learn how to code. 

We’ll get to the various options in a minute, but personally, as you start to learn coding, I’d suggest starting with JavaScript. Experienced developers like to joke about how outdated JavaScript is and would probably tell you to learn how to start coding in Java. Still, JavaScript it’s often the first (and easiest) language for newer developers to digest after learning the basics of HTML.

Step 4: Ask a Lot of Questions

This step is admittedly dicey. There are a ton of online communities designed for programmers to ask and answer questions. Some of them are huge repositories of information and are ideal ways to learn coding for free, but you’ll come across some community members who are less than friendly to new developers.

Still, as you experiment with programming languages, seek out a few people (or a community) of programmers you can trust—and ask them a lot of questions. You’ll discover that even though your code is technically correct, there are always better and faster ways for programmers to build an application.

Step 5: Build Something and Share It

Writing code is an art. And like any artist, programmers tend to be nervous about sharing their work until it’s perfect. If you’re working on a critical business application, that mentality is probably the right one. But if you’re just diving into how to start coding for beginners, don’t be shy about building an application or website with the knowledge you have—and then share it with the people you trust. While you might get some harsh feedback (especially from fellow programmers), you’ll also learn a lot about what you can improve and which programming languages make sense for you to explore next.

What Coding Languages Are Good for Beginners?

Speaking of programming languages, new coders often ask which ones are good for anyone discovering how to start coding for beginners. And like many questions in programming, the answer is complicated. Do you want to work on front-end experiences and build elegant websites? Or do you want to be on the back-end side of programming and work behind the scenes?

I could stop there, but that would be mean. Instead, here are five programming languages that are incredibly popular for anyone who wants to learn coding:

  1. JavaScript. JavaScript is one of the most widely used languages on the planet. It’s often used to build websites and games—and it’s a must-have for anyone who wants to build something on the web. It’s also a must for anyone who wants to learn how to start coding in Java.
  2. Python. This is a pretty high-level programming language, but it’s also widely used by pros. Folks who are learning how to start coding in Python like this language because it’s simple and often requires fewer lines of code to accomplish a task. 
  3. Ruby. Learning Ruby is a similar experience to exploring how to start coding in Python, at least in terms of simplicity. It also boasts a friendly community that includes a lot of free resources for beginners.
  4. PHP. Here’s one for those of you looking to work on back-end servers. PHP is essential for anyone looking to write code that retrieves and stores data.
  5. C and C++. These are really important programming languages, and both are fairly advanced. Why? They require the programmer to be very exact. If you’re not careful, you could access an incorrect portion of your server’s memory. 

What Are Some Helpful Coding Classes to Take?

For a profession that’s in such high demand, there’s a surprising amount of content available for anyone who’s interested in joining the ranks—and especially for anyone looking to learn coding for free. While there are an overwhelming number of options by way of programming boot camps and free coding classes, there are several great choices available on Skillshare. 

To help you get started, we’ve culled a few of our favorite coding classes:

Even More Coding Classes to Choose From

Beginner to Expert Programming Lessons

Written by:

Richard Moy