How to get started with programming (as an absolute beginner)

Programming, coding, software development or engineering, whatever you call it, it’s the practice of writing code to deliver a set of instructions to make something run, whether that be a website, an app, a discord bot, a real robot, or even your Roblox game.

But with so many different development fields and programming languages out there, it can be a bit daunting to understand where to start.

That’s what I’m here for today. If you’ve taken computer science at school (or are currently doing it), that does help but if you haven’t, that’s ok. Programming is such a field where you can go from beginner to pro completely on your own without any formal qualifications.

Pro tip: formal qualifications matter very little in the world of programming

So I’m gonna take you through a few of the different development fields so you can find out what you might be interested in, after which we’ll talk about how to get started, where to start learning, and how to progress through the start of your programming journey.


Common Programming Fields

black remote control on red table

Web Development – the development of websites. This is a very fast moving sector so it’s a must to be always learning new things as a web developer. Programming languages are HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

Mobile Development – the development of mobile apps for either Android or iOS. You would normally specialise in programming for either one, but hybrid mobile development exists too. For Android, the language would be Kotlin, and for iOS, it’s Swift.

Backend Development – the development of server code where data gets processed and delivered for websites or mobile apps to use. There’s a massive choice of programming languages for backend development, but common ones are Python, Java, and JavaScript.

Game Development – the development of games. It’s common to use a game engine like Unity or Unreal as the foundation to creating your games. Unity is the easier one of the two and uses C#, while Unreal makes use of C++.

Desktop Programming – the development of desktop applications you’d see on your pc. Again, there’s a wide array of languages that can be used for this but the most common are C# and C++.

Data Science – the use of programming to analyse large sets of information in order to help businesses make decisions and solve problems. Common languages for this are Python, Java, and R.

Robotics – the creation of real-life physical robots and the programming needed to control them. The programming needed for robots tends to be harder to perform than other programming fields as it uses low-level languages like C and C++.

AI / Machine Learning – the development of code that can build improvements to itself with prospects of replicating human intelligence (although that goal is still somewhere in the future). The leading programming language for this is Python.

It’s not even nearly limited to these sectors above either. Programming can also be used to do cloud infrastructure, discord bots, graphics rendering, and so much more.


How to get started?

After you decided where your interest lies, there are a number of ways to get started as a programmer.

School – one of the most common ways people get into programming is by taking Computer Science at school and college. While this is a great way to get a broad knowledge of the world of programming and tech, it’s best when supplemented with some self-learning on any of the ways below.

Online Courses – sites like Udemy, Udacity, and Coursera offer online courses (free and paid) that teach programming at any level, beginner to advanced. Some of these even offer certificates and degrees that could increase your prospects with future employers, though they don’t carry the same weight as a standard university degree.

YouTube – plenty of YouTubers put up their own courses that teach programming at a beginner level such as freeCodeCamp and Programming with Mosh. This is a great way to learn programming if you don’t want to pay for anything.

Official Websites – The official websites of each programming language and technology may also offer free courses on how to get started with them, though the quality of them may vary, and they tend to be more on the text side instead of the video side. As an example, look at this one from Android.

How to learn quickly?

One of the quickest ways to learn programming at a competent level is to learn the basics of your programming language and technology using one of the methods above, then start creating your own project.

I cannot stress how powerful this is for learning. When you start your own project, you’ll figure out the entire process on how to code a complete product, be it a website, a command line tool, a bot, a mobile app, literally anything.

There will be plenty that you still don’t know. Coding your project will reveal these to you and encourage you to look up those problems on StackOverflow or other coding blogs. By the time you finish your project, you will be a million times more skilfully equipped as a programmer than you were when you started.


To Go University or Not To Go?

group of fresh graduates students throwing their academic hat in the air

This is a huge debate in the world of programming, as it’s a career where you can easily get by without going to university, and some argue that it could be even more beneficial to not go to university for computer science and instead, focus your time and energy on other things.

There’s arguments to both sides:

Going to University

  • Broad understanding of low-high level programming
  • Strong knowledge of theory and algorithms
  • University Degree
  • Uni-life

Not Going to University

  • Strong niche understanding of chosen technology
  • Quicker potential progression with learning
  • No payment / debt
  • More freedom on what to learn

At the end of the day, there’s no definite answer that suits everyone. You have to evaluate on an individual basis what you feel would work best for you.


Now you know of the different fields of programming, how to get started with them, how to progress quickly with your learning, and whether or not you should go to university for it.

If you still have any questions, reach out to me on my Instagram. It try to answer every question I get.

And if you want to enjoy some of the memes that come with programming, check out my TikTok.

I hope you have an amazing start to your programming journey. Happy coding ༼ つ ◕_◕ ༽つ


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