Learning How to Code: The Beginner's Guide to Coding

Updated 20 July 2023

Code is the language necessary to program and operate computer software, hardware and systems. Coding allows programmers to create the script needed for the different technologies, websites, games and apps that many people use daily. Learning how to code is an important skill to have if you're pursuing a career in the technology or computer industries. In this article, we define coding and explain why it's beneficial to learn and how to learn it.

What is coding?

Electronic devices like computers, mobile phones and digital cameras all require software to operate. Computer programmers, software engineers and coders may design this software using coding languages, which allow them to communicate with and operate electronic devices and computer systems. The coder writes a complex series of coding scripts that act as a set of rules for the device to follow and carry out specific functions. The device reads this code and translates it into visual elements, such as a web page, or into functions, such as gameplay.

Learning how to code may involve learning several coding languages, each of which has its own rules and symbols. A coder writes a script using one of these languages, and the electronic device then converts this script into a machine code it understands and may process. Programmers use these coding languages to build the software necessary to operate everything from smart televisions to aeroplanes. Examples of common coding languages include HTML, CSS, JavaScript and Python.


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How to code

There are several ways to learn how to code, and there's no single established career path that you may follow. You could study for a degree in computer sciences at university and then apply for jobs at computer companies. You could learn coding skills using online courses and tutorials. With many different options for coders to take, here are some general steps to follow to start to learn to code:

1. Learn the basics

If you haven't coded before, then it's useful to start learning the basics on your own. This may help you decide if you enjoy coding and if a career in coding is a good fit for your interests and skills. Many resources explain the basics, including tutorial videos on video streaming websites and websites dedicated to coding. These resources provide you with the chance to try coding before committing to more expensive or time-consuming training.

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2. Seek advice from coders

You may find it helpful to ask coders for advice when you're starting. If you know anyone who works in a computer-based role or who has studied coding, they may offer insights into their career path that you can learn from. They may provide tips on which coding languages to learn or which resources helped them most. As your coding skills progress and you begin to pursue a career, you may find it helpful to have a mentor who offers guidance and support.

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3. Choose the best learning path for you

After deciding you'd like to pursue a career in coding, it's important to work out the best learning path to take. This may depend on factors such as your existing skill level in coding, your education and qualifications and the resources you have available to spend. If you wish to be a computer programmer designing new software and systems, then the best option may be to pursue a bachelor's degree in computer programming. If you're looking for a part-time job fixing software glitches, then an online training course may be more appropriate for your goals.


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4. Decide on your preferred coding language

There are several coding languages you might learn, but it's often best to devote your time to learning one first. Become proficient in one coding language, and you may find with your expanded skills and knowledge base that it's easier to learn others afterwards. Coders often start with languages such as HTML, CSS or JavaScript, which have widespread applications and uses. These coding languages provide you with a base knowledge of coding scripts that may assist with building websites and designing computer software.

Related: What Is JavaScript?

5. Learn your first coding language

Once you've decided which coding language is best to start your career, it's time to start learning. This may take time and patience because each coding language comprises different letters, symbols and numbers that you combine into a script. You start by learning the function of each letter or symbol and how different combinations produce different commands. While many of the letters and symbols may be familiar to you, they may have different uses in the context of coding.

6. Discover how to create complex scripts

Learning the language of coding is the first step in learning how to create scripts. Once you're proficient in basic commands, you can then write more complex coding scripts. You may combine these scripts into larger and ever more complex codes that create the basis for computer software programs. As you learn more complex script writing skills, you also learn how to fix software and problems and develop existing programs further.

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7. Expand your coding knowledge

If you become proficient in one coding language, you may choose to expand your skills and knowledge base by learning a second or even a third. There are more advanced coding languages you might require in certain roles or for specific tasks. For example, if you're developing mobile phone apps, then it may be useful to learn Java. If you're planning on learning advanced coding for computer software, then Python is one of the most important coding languages to learn.

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Why learn to code?

Learning how to code involves knowing the different languages required to write different commands and doing so in a coding language that the electronic device can translate and follow. For example, you may write a script that tells a webpage which images to show the reader, or you may create a script that tells a character where to stand in a game sequence.

There are many applications, and learning coding languages allows you to program and control a vast range of technological devices. Coding is a useful skill that may help you pursue a career in computer engineering, software programming or technology. Here are some of the important reasons learning coding may be beneficial:

Helps you qualify for varied career opportunities

Coding skills are necessary for a variety of different jobs, so learning coding languages offers a range of potential career opportunities. They may help when applying for roles in companies that build mobile apps, design computer software solutions and create websites. Examples of specific roles that may require coding skills include:

  • Computer software engineer

  • Computer programmer

  • Front-end developer

  • Back-end developer

  • Computer systems engineer

  • Data scientist

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Provides technological self-sufficiency

You likely use electronic devices and computer software at home and in the workplace, so knowing coding provides you with a way to fix glitches or software issues when you encounter problems. Given how widespread the use of electronics is, you may also help friends and families with technology issues that you can fix with this skill. Learning coding helps to encourage technological self-sufficiency and empowers you to have a deeper understanding of the technology you use daily.

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Develops transferable skills

Coding skills are incredibly useful if you're pursuing a career in technology or computers, but they're also highly transferable skills. Learning to code may teach you how to find solutions for problems, be creative and follow logical sequences to predictable outcomes. Working on collaborative coding projects may demonstrate skills such as teamwork, communication and project management. Many other roles may benefit from these transferable skills, while coding skills themselves may prove useful in any career that involves computers and technology.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.


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