We talk about it ad nauseum, but it bears repeating: the demand for software engineers is so high, over one million jobs go unfilled every year at companies willing to pay good money for talent.
The pool is small for a number of reasons, though.
Reasons why tech jobs are going unfilled:
- Significant barriers to education, including cultural and racial ones
- Lack of confidence or understanding from potentially strong candidates about the role and industry
- Inability or unwillingness to pay for additional training
While we’re still pro-bootcamp (for obvious reasons), we understand that one or more of these barriers may be at work here for viable candidates — and that’s okay. It’s why, in recent years, a growing number of resources have hit the market to help folks learn to code for free. These resources remove financial barriers and expand access to important education. Having working coding knowledge and having basic programming skills will likely become a “must-have” rather than a “nice-to-have” sooner than we think.
Free learn to code programs allow everyone, everywhere to access this information, in real-time.
Not all learn to code for free programs are created equal.
In fact, not every program has an end goal of getting folks a job in tech; some are designed to teach the fundamentals of coding, with the expectation that you’ll go on to other methods of study once you’ve built a base. Others are broken out by particular languages, skills, or frameworks, but it’s hard to apply skills that were learned in a silo.
The beauty of having so many different options is that there’s something for everyone. Regardless of your end goal, learning style, and preferred method of delivery, hundreds (if not thousands) of programs are available to help you learn to code.
Before we jump into what those resources are, let’s talk about why you should learn to code for free.
Why you should learn how to code
Not everyone has the means or the desire to pay for a bootcamp program or a computer science degree. Free programs exist for this reason, as well as others:
Coding is modern-day literacy.
Tech rules everything around us, and that’s not about to change anytime soon. In fact, it’s only going to further dictate how we communicate, shop, work, play, receive and share news, and spread information. The number of mobile internet users continues to steadily increase, but web apps on desktop and laptop devices continue to create web-based experiences for millions of users every year.
In fact, as Interesting Engineering points out, its importance is now so undeniable, many educators have argued it should be part of traditional school curriculum on par with other STEM subjects in math and science:
“We are surrounded with electronic devices each running uncountable numbers of software that run on code of some kind. Our modern world is also heavily reliant on the internet with workforces being required to be more and more computer literate with each passing year. It is, therefore, as important to making a living in the modern world as having a good grasp of grammar, spelling, and numeracy.”
Even those not in tech should have coding acumen.
Software engineers, programmers, and web developers aren’t the only ones who should have working coding experience. Everyone from marketers developing landing pages to administrators organizing a significant amount of data to e-commerce professionals creating seamless customer experiences should (and will eventually need to) have experience in key languages like:
You can learn it on your own time.
Because most free programs are self-paced, you’re able to work through modules when you have spare time in your day. Particularly for those who work traditional 9-5 hours, waking up early or clocking a few hours after the work day allows you to learn without sacrificing your income.
Learning at your own pace is notoriously difficult, though, so it’s recommended that you make a study schedule. Those who sololearn tend to seek out communities on Reddit or Discord to have camaraderie throughout their studies.
People who learn to code for free can actually get a job.
A new career is possible — and, depending on the program, highly attainable — for those who choose to learn to code for free. Those who complete our free program, App Academy Open, leave with such a solid foundation in coding that they’re able to apply for and take jobs as a software engineer:
Free programs don’t have to be your end-all-be-all, though; what’s nice about starting with a learn to code for free resource is that you can get your feet wet and determine if this is something you see yourself doing long-term before making any real commitments to a bootcamp or other coding classes.
We’ve compiled a list of 11 different free coding courses worth considering for your needs. As aforementioned, they aren’t all created equal; some make lofty promises of helping you launch a career in software engineering, but their curriculum isn’t expert-backed nor industry approved.
Consider what your end goal is and determine which program is the best fit to help you meet the goal. Chances are, one of these courses is the right choice for you.
Learn to code for free with App Academy Open
When we opened our doors nearly a decade ago, it started with a commitment to increasing access to programming education for anyone who sought it out. We’ve never wavered from that commitment, so it’s why we introduced App Academy Open — our open source response to the learn to code for free movement — in 2018.
Today, it’s still available for everyone, everywhere, entirely for free. Once you sign up, you unlock over 1,500 hours of industry-backed, expert-led curriculum that’s identical to that of our Campus Hybrid Program. Within it, you’ll dive into machine learning, data science, data structures, computer programming languages as well as how to build frameworks for iOS and Android mobile apps. We’ll also teach you how to apply these skills, step-by-step, in real-world applications that are especially helpful in a portfolio or interview.
There’s strength in numbers and in community, particularly when you’re teaching yourself something new and unfamiliar. For those looking for additional support, we offer a mentorship program (at $29.99 a month) to unlock access to an instructor-led chatroom and work alongside other App Academy Open students to peer program and problem solve.
On average, it takes about a year to complete the material. There’s a lot to learn, and chances are you’ll need to go through certain sections more than once to solidify coding skills. Many learners cite the mentorship program or other offline communities as the reason they were able to finish the course quicker or see more success after.
App Academy Open is in the company of these 10 other free coding programs on the web, among many others.
10 other free online courses where you can learn to code in 2021
1. MIT Opencourseware
Massachusetts Institute of Technology — yes, the real deal — is one of many schools that offer free courses on a number of different subjects; naturally, this acclaimed technology university has a range of courses around computer science, programming languages, and algorithms.
While a few courses are designed for complete beginners, others require some prior experience or understanding. There are even some courses fit only for advanced, experienced engineers. The idea with MIT’s Opencourseware is not to necessarily help you find employment in a particular field, but rather to continue learning and broadening your understanding of different subjects.
It’s also important to note that not all of these programs are up-to-date nor standard to what’s currently practiced in a rapidly changing world of tech; for example, MIT’s Introduction to Computer Science and Programming in Python is the curriculum that was taught during the Fall 2016 semester, nearly five years ago.
2. Harvard University.
MIT’s equally prestigious neighbor, Harvard, is another institution that offers a selection of courses in programming, game development, — even computer science for law students. The school offers one introductory programming course that takes approximately 3 weeks to complete then sends the learner off for other, more advanced courses that narrow focus on a particular skill or idea, like data science or app development.
Much like MIT’s Opencourseware, those hoping to land a job as a software engineer may want to look elsewhere or combine efforts with another, more robust program. One strong point: Harvard does offer a certification for completing their courses… you just have to pay for it.
3. Learn to code for free with Udemy (except it’s not free).
“A jack of all trades is a master of none”, and that’s where Udemy falls in the conversation around free coding courses.
They have hundreds of thousands of lessons around everything from languages to music to business administration and office productivity. Naturally, courses dedicated to programming, software engineering, and web development found their way into Udemy’s offerings — but their lack of specialization in the area puts them at a disadvantage.
Another con: most of Udemy’s courses in this space aren’t free at all. Some will even run you upwards of $200. The courses themselves have solid reviews (and a lot of them), but we can’t even really qualify them as a learn to code for free resource because it’s actually not.
Coursera doesn’t create their own proprietary material; instead, they compile courses from colleges, universities, and companies directly. For example, you can become certified in Google-specific tools and processes, or you can earn a certification from University of Michigan in a particular subject.
Much like Udemy, they offer a lot of courses across a broad range of subjects. The computer science umbrella is no exception, and narrowing it down to software development doesn’t help either. Only a small handful of those courses are free, focused predominantly on learning Python. While it’s a useful language to know, learning Python in a silo isn’t productive for anyone who wants to gain full-stack experience.
5. Khan Academy.
Another large database of courses in everything from K-12 studies to life skills and economics, Khan Academy’s mission aligns closely with that of App Academy Open; provide high-quality access to education to people around the world. That part is awesome.
The courses don’t offer quite enough information and practice to make one proficient in any of these languages, but they offer a solid foundation from which to continue learning with another program.
6. Learn Python for free with LearnPython.org.
Leanrpython.org has one good thing going for it, aside from it not costing learners anything: Python is a great language for new coders to learn. It’s user-friendly, clean, and easy to work with. Plus, proficient Python developers have pretty decent earning potential.
Using Learn Python’s free tutorials and joining their Facebook group for community support can set you up to have working knowledge of Python and potentially even get a job if your portfolio shows strong examples. There’s not much room for upward mobility if your skills are limited to one language, though, and you’ll ultimately need to expand your skill set with other languages.
Codewars assumes you’re coming in with the skills in an array of languages ahead of time with the intention of helping you really fine-tune them.
The upside is they have challenges in everything from Java to Swift to to C and C++. The downside is it’s not for beginners who have never written a line of code before.
freeCodeCamp is a non-profit program that’s comparable to App Academy Open, but the objectives and outcomes of the two courses differ from ours.
In this App Academy Open Versus freeCodeCamp comparison, we compare the amount of material learners receive (~1,500 hours’ worth of material for App Academy Open learners, ~300 hours’ worth of comparable material for FCC studiers), the curriculum, and what you can expect when you complete the course. Ultimately, freeCodeCamp is a great tool for those who want to learn how to write code and build a foundation in programming. What it lacks is instruction and inspiration for applying your newfound knowledge to getting a job in the field.
Like freeCodeCamp, Codecademy bears some important similarities to App Academy Open for folks who want to learn to code for free.
Both Codecademy and App Academy Open have completely free options as well as mentorship opportunities. The biggest difference is that App Academy’s curriculum doesn’t change whether you access the mentorship or not, where Codecademy requires you to pay for comparable material and resources.
Both programs provide a similar amount of material but because you have to pay to access job seeker resources, Codecademy may not be the best option for folks who are serious about learning to code for free as a means to enter the industry.
Read more about the differences and similarities between Codecademy and App Academy Open here.
10. The Odin Project.
The final free coding resource on our list was actually created by an App Academy grad. Users notice how The Odin Project has heavy App Academy Open influence, though App Academy’s learning platform uses video to explain concepts where The Odin Project doesn’t. If you work better by reading rather than watching, that could help you choose a program.
Bonus coding tutorials for other types of students:
Free online courses for kids learning to code.
We purposely excluded programs that were catered to kids, like code.org or Code Avengers. Either option is great for children, as the gamify the learning process.
Free online courses for students focused on front-end web development.
Because we’re in the business of creating full-stack software engineers, we included courses on our list that had similar offerings. Front-end web design roles are everywhere, though they typically focus on particular front-end languages like PHP, node.js, and CSS3.
Consider W3Schools and edX to get your feet wet, then use App Academy Open to solidify any other skills or take them to the next level.
With thousands of options on the web, selecting the right course that will help you learn to code for free can be daunting.
By determining what your end goal is, you can find a program that will fit your needs and availability. Not everyone wants to be a software engineer, and there are courses that will teach you the skills you need for your particular career track.
For those who are interested in becoming a software engineer and kickstarting a career in tech, App Academy Open boasts the best curriculum in the industry, seeing constant iteration to provide the most relevant, up-to-date information for those who seek out our material.
Sign up today, entirely free of charge.