Learning How To Program By Teaching Yourself

Interested in becoming a programmer, but not sure if you can do it own your own?  A lot of the best developers out there learned how to program by teaching themselves.  Hackernoon even wrote an article “Are Self Taught Programmers Actually Better?”

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Why are self-taught developers considered to be better?  Well, I think because of their passion.  If someone is dedicated enough to teach themselves how to program and make it despite struggles, their going to make it in the industry.  Just take a look at self-taught programmer David Karp  – he became the founder of Tumblr.

I’m a self taught programmer myself.  I knew I wanted to become a programmer and about five year ago I made the transition from recruiting to coding.  I started out learning by taking courses on Lynda, and eventually learned enough to get my first job programming.  Fast forward to today and I’ve been working as a programmer for over 5 years.


Here Are Some Benefits From Teaching Yourself How To Program


Learning How To Program On Your Own Will Save Money

Not in a financial situation to pay for a four-year degree?  That’s totally fine.  You will save a ton of money by learning how to program on your own.  I’m not even kidding.  You can save thousands by teaching yourself with online resources instead of getting an official degree.

In fact, a survey by StackOverflow stated that 41.8 percent of developers learned how to program on their own.  48% of developers reported that they didn’t have a degree in CS.

I recommend going through a coding bootcamp.  They often teach the same fundamentals you would learn at a college but at an accelerated rate.  Coding boot camps are also much cheaper than what it will cost you to get a degree.  Other alternatives to coding boot camps would be courses.  There are tons of different websites offering courses including Coursea, CodeAcademy, Lynda, Udemy and more.



A huge advantage of teaching yourself how to program is flexibility.  You’ll have the freedom of being able to learn at your own pace.  If you aren’t quite grasping a certain area or topic, you can spend extra time focusing on that.  This is something that you wouldn’t be able to do if you were taking tradition courses at a university or college.

A huge benefit to learning how to program on your own is that you can learn at your own pace.  In addition, you can choose to learn when it benefits you.  Already have a job?  No problem, you can fit in studying and doing courses at night or own the weekends.


Tips To Be Successful As A Self-Taught Programmer

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Set Goals

The key to becoming successful as a self-taught programmer is having goals for yourself from the start.  For example, when I was teaching myself how to program, I knew that I wanted to land a software job within six months.  This gave me a specific window for the time limit I had to learn.  Teaching yourself how to program will require a lot of discipline.  If you’re struggling in a particular area, don’t give up.  Take a break and come back to what you’re working on with a fresh mind-set.  Figure out different methods that might work to help you reach your goal and get over obstacles.


Manage Your Time Well

The best way to stick to your goals while you are learning how to program is to perfect time management.  I know that if I have a goal in mind, the only way I don’t procrastinate is by setting a schedule and time blocking.

For example, when I was starting out I would schedule specific times when I would work on learning programming.

  • Four day per week
  • 1 hour per day
  • One day on the weekends and three nights after work

If you aren’t able to commit to an hour per day, you could study in smaller increments.  For example, try setting aside 30 minutes every day.  Different schedules work better for different people.  It all depends on your schedule and learning style.  I don’t recommend trying to cram 10 hours into one day and taking off from coding for the rest of the week.  Try to be consistent, but also go at your own pace.  In the end, it’s all about how well you can manage your time.


Network With Other Programmers

Networking with other developers can go a long way when you are teaching yourself how to program.  See if you can find a mentor in your area.  Maybe they have advice on how to speed up your learning, what jobs you should apply to, or other career recommendations.

There are networking websites where you can find other developers in your area.  For example, Meetup.com is a popular site.  On HackPledge you can sign-up and get a mentor or opt to be a mentor for someone else.  LinkedIn is another great resource to network and also have others contact you for jobs and advice.  Join online communities like Stackoverflow, and start talking to other developers.


Try To Figure Things Out On Your Own

If you get stuck, don’t immediately get frustrated and give up.  Try and take a break and go back to the problem later.  Sometimes clearing your mind can go a long way.  In addition, if you try and solve problems on your own rather than resorting to Google for the answer, you will improve your problem-solving skills.  I wait until I’m positive that I’m completely stumped before I try and look up an answer on Google.


Make Sure You’re Grasping Programming Fundamentals

Some programming languages are easier to learn than others.  For example, learning Python or SQL will be much easier than trying to learn C# or Swift.  Make sure that you’re grasping the fundamentals of a language before moving on to another one.  If it helps, take a course on the basic fundamentals of a language or on computer science.  An intro to computer science course would be a great idea when you’re first starting out.

I suggest choosing a a programming language that comes naturally to you.  You want to feel confident in what you’re doing when it comes time to interview.  Remember, there’s no programming language that really better than another.  What matters is picking one that comes more naturally to you.  Sure, you want to pick a somewhat popular language so you have an easier time getting a job.  However, if Ruby comes easier to you than Java, focus on that.

Of course those who start programming earlier in life will pick-up new languages more quickly than others.  According to MIT Technology Review, 25 percent of developers learned to code before they could drive.  That’s insane!


Work On Side Projects

A great way to practice learning how to program is to pick up a side project.   Why?  Well for me, the best way I learned was by practicing and actually doing a job.

Try to apply to jobs when you have free time on sites like freelancer, upwork, and weworkremotely.   You can even find small programming gigs on Craigslist or network with others to land a job.  If you have trouble finding jobs on any of those platforms, try applying to companies directly.  I did this and was able to land a great job at a high paying rate!  If you’re getting into Android or IOS development, try working on a project creating an app.  Maybe you’re learning Java?  Well then you could do a side-project focused of web development.

Getting a side gig is a great way to make money, gain experience, and get some practice.  They also are a great way to boost your resume.  It should help with your confidence overall before you dive into getting a full-time programming job.  In addition, you should be able to gain some skills to add to your portfolio.

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When Should You Get Your First Programming Job?

You should get your first programming job when you feel like you’re ready.  Don’t wait too long.  Start applying to entry-level or junior developer types of positions and see what happens.  Using a recruiting agency is a good idea as well, because they have access to a lot more clients.

Keep in mind, you may have to take a bit of a pay cut for your first job in the industry.  My first programming job as a self-taught developer I wasn’t making a ton.  Now I’ve basically doubled my salary from where I’ve started.  Once you have experience you will be able to get higher salaries and rates.  In the beginning, I would present a copy of your portfolio to hiring managers along with your resume.  This will help illustrate that you know how to code and show off your work.  Prepare for interviews by doing mock interviews.  In addition, I always research common interview questions for the company that I’m applying for.  A lot of people report questions they were asked on sites like Glassdoor or GeeksforGeeks.

Overall, don’t be discouraged from applying to jobs because you feel like you “aren’t ready”.  In fact, a lot of employers find self-taught programmers admirable.  Teaching yourself how to program shows dedication, passion, and commitment.  All of those factors can work in your favor when it comes to getting your first programming job.


You Can Become A Self-Taught Developer By Teaching Yourself How To Program

I was able to become a developer by teaching myself how to program and you can too!  Don’t sell yourself short.  It might take you a year to get your first programming job or it may only take you three months.  It all depends on how much time you’re able to dedicate to teaching yourself how to program.  Go at your own pace and keep your focus on your overall goal.  Who knows, maybe you’ll even become one of those self-taught programmers running their own company some day.