There Are 4 Basic Ways to Learn To Code. Which is Right For You?

You already know that you need to learn to code. The question is, how are you going to do it?

In ancient times (way back in the 1980s), getting a degree in computer science was the only option for people who wanted to learn to code.

In recent years, though, many new resources have become available. You can learn to code online — for free! Or you can dive into an intensive 12-week bootcamp. You can even learn to code while working at your day job, by attending classes at a nearby code school in your spare time!

Today, there are four basic paths that people take when learning to code:

1. Online

2. Bootcamp

3. Code School

4. CS Degree

#1) Learn to Code Online

learn to code online

Learning to code online is a very attractive option for many people. You can do it from the comfort of your own home, or from wherever you are in the world. Forget about commuting, traffic, social anxiety, and unpleasant weather. You don’t even have to put on pants in the morning!

At first glance, learning to code online seems faster & easier (not to mention cheaper) than having to go through the trouble of signing up for, commuting to, and attending, in-person classes. However, many people who try to go it alone end up finding that it’s not as quick & easy as it seems.

Learn-from-home autodidacts often spend hours (or even days) trying to figure out what’s wrong with their code — googling, analyzing, and squinting at the screen — when a teacher could have pointed out the problem in a couple of minutes. This wasted time can add up quickly. You may end up finding that it takes you two or three times longer to learn to code online, than if you would have spent the money to learn with a teacher.

Many would-be-coders simply give up in the face of endless hours, confusing concepts, and frustrating obstacles. Humans are social creatures — we’re not designed to labor endlessly in isolation. Frustration builds, motivation wanes, and many who thought it would be easy end to learn to code from the couch end up dropping out of the race.

In the end, it all comes down to your own personal attributes. Are you the kind of person who can sit for hours, days, weeks, months in front of the computer, alone in your bedroom, reading tutorials, books, and documentation? Can you maintain motivation on those days when your code doesn’t work and you can’t figure out why? Would you prefer to spend extra time learning by yourself, instead of paying for a teacher to accelerate your education?

If so, then learning to code online may be the right path for you. You can certainly save a lot of money by using free online resources. And who doesn’t love being able to learn from the comfort of their own home?

#2 vs #3) Bootcamps vs. Code Schools

learn to code bootcamps

Bootcamps & code schools make up the middle ground between learning to code online and getting a CS degree.

Bootcamps and code schools cover similar materials, but on very different timelines. Both will teach you how to code. Generally, you’ll learn the basics of web & mobile development, programming, and app development. However, bootcamps are generally short and intensive, cramming everything into your head in 8-12 weeks. Code schools, on the other hand, take a more relaxed pace. You’ll learn the same things as you would in a bootcamp, but gradually, in your spare time, over the course of 8-12 months.

The advantage of going to a full-time, intensive bootcamp is clear. It’s the fastest way to get into a new career.

Bootcamps do have a couple of downsides, though. Cramming all that material into your head doesn’t always work very well. The human brain can only absorb a finite amount of information per day. Learning quickly is nice, but you don’t always retain what you learn.

Bootcamps also require you to put your life on hold for 8-12 weeks, which is something that many people don’t want (or simply cannot afford) to do.

Code schools, on the other hand, don’t offer the instant gratification of a 3-month bootcamp. Instead, they take a more relaxed approach. While this requires you to wait a bit longer to get started in your career, you can retain more of the information and skills that you learn, since you learned them over a longer period of time. And since you can attend code schools in your spare time, you don’t have to put your life on hold. You can keep your day job while shifting gradually into your new career.

Bootcamps and code schools offer more structure, guidance, assistance & stability than learning to code on your own, while requiring far less time & money than a full 4-year CS degree. They can help your code career get up and running in a matter of months, rather than years. They are arguably the fastest and most efficient pathways to launching a career in tech.

#4) CS Degree

learn to code cs degree

Getting a Computer Science degree is a major undertaking. It requires four years of your time, and often many thousands (or tens of thousands) of dollars.

Getting a CS degree has several advantages. You’ll have a leg up on your competition when trying to get jobs. A CS degree looks great on a resume`. It might even help you get VC funding for your first world-changing app idea.

Of course, you can still get jobs & funding without the fancy piece of paper you get from a university. Perhaps more important than the degree itself is the education you’d gain by going through four years of CS schooling. If you really put in the effort to receive what’s being offered to you, a four-year CS degree can put you on a level of knowledge that’s a step above your competition. You’ll gain a deeper understanding of data structures and algorithms, which can help you write faster, more powerful & more efficient programs.

Lastly, if you’re interested in continuing along the “academic” path, a CS degree gives you the opportunity to advance to the Masters or PhD levels. This can give you the opportunity to become a professor at a University, and maybe, if you’re really talented, to create new technologies & push the boundaries of computer science as we know it.

However, the obvious downside of getting a CS degree is that you need to invest a lot of time and money in order to get it. Coders who come out of bootcamps and code schools have opportunities to earn money much faster than students who are stuck in 4-year degree programs. If all you’re looking for is a high-earning tech career, it may be more sensible to take a shorter and more direct path.


TechLaunch is a 9-month code school in Miami, Florida. If you’re in the neighborhood, or if you’re interested in learning to code in your spare time, in a beautiful, tropical location, feel free to send us an email!