UPDATED: June 22, 2022

So, it’s settled – you want to build a career in programming. But, maybe, your current job just doesn’t cut it for you. Maybe, you’re still a student, and you’ve realized you don’t want to work a single day in your degree’s domain. Maybe, it’s even both.

Whatever your reasons may be, there are multiple ways you can become a developer. Still, you must’ve done your fair share of research to know that taking a programming course is by far the most cost-efficient one.

But if you open, for example, Udemy and type in “programming course,” you’ll get overwhelmed fast. There are hundreds of courses to choose from. So how do you pick just one – and make sure it’s worth your time and money?

Know What You’re Looking For

First, think about the practicalities and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Budget. How much can I afford to spend on a course? How much can I pay in one installment?
  • Pace. How much time can I set aside for this course? Would I need to pay someone to write my paper to make time for it? Or make other adjustments?
  • Length. How fast do I want to develop basic programming skills? How realistic is my estimate?
  • Format. Do I want to have one-on-one mentoring sessions or feedback from the tutor? Do I prefer tutorial videos, live video classes, or learning by doing?

Pinpoint Who You Want to Become

Programming is a vast domain. You have programmers who create mobile apps or websites and others who work in cybersecurity or game development. Each of those jobs requires a different set of skills, and it takes years to polish those off.

For example, HTML coding skills are a must for web developers. But in other jobs? They won’t matter. You’d be wasting your time with HTML if you’re preparing for a Windows application development career.

Don’t have a clear idea of the specialization you want to pick? Here’s a short overview of different fields that comprise programming:

  • Mobile app development;
  • Desktop app development;
  • Game development;
  • Machine learning;
  • Data science;
  • Web development;
  • Cybersecurity;
  • Network architecture and management.

Understand What Skills You’ll Need

Let’s say you’ve chosen web development. That answer alone might still not be enough. For starters, you have two major vectors of work in web development: front-end and back-end. And, you’ve guessed it, each of them requires mastering different programming languages, libraries, frameworks, and tools.

So, do your research to get the lay of the land in the field you’ve chosen. Narrow down what you’re interested in the most. Then, understand what tech skills you’ll need to succeed.

For example, if you choose front-end web development, you’ll have to know your way around HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Bootstrap and React libraries are also often a must.

Consider Starting with Free Resources

Are you 100% certain that programming – and that field you’ve chosen – is your cup of tea? But before you answer, remember: you can’t know for sure until you’ve tried to write at least one simple program!

So, before making any sort of investment, take your time tinkering with development tools. Don’t know where to start? Good news: the internet is full of free resources and courses for beginners like you! These five platforms are a good place to start:

  • freeCodeCamp;
  • Codecademy;
  • edX;
  • Udacity;
  • Khan Academy.

Shop Around

Alright, you know what you want, and you’re sure it’s worth your resources. Now, it’s time for you to shop around and see what’s out there for learners like you.

Where should you start? Well, Udemy offers tons of online courses on just about anything (and they’re often affordable, too). You might also want to look for boot camps – they can be both in-person and online.

Put together a list of all the courses that might interest you. Then, compare and rank them using the following criteria.

Review the Curriculum

Programming is a field where most information and skills get outdated fast. So, take a look at the curriculum and make sure it’s up-to-date.

If you’re looking for a pre-recorded course, it’s easy to check it: just pay attention to when it was published and whether it was updated. In other cases, you’ll have to compare the versions of programming tools used in the curriculum against the latest versions available.

Apart from the content, don’t overlook the format of the course – it matters just as much. Make sure there’s enough practice. Without it, you won’t ever acquire the skills you need to become a developer. So, look for words like “projects” and “assignments” in the curriculum.

Do a Background Check on the Tutor(s)

Most of the time, the course is only as good as the person or people behind it. So, don’t overlook the “about me” or “about us” section.

First of all, you have to verify that they’re real pros in what they’re teaching. And being “real pros” means having worked in the field for years – and keeping doing so. How do you check this? Find them on social media platforms like LinkedIn or Twitter!

Then, there’s the delivery. The tutor has to be able to break down complex concepts in an easy-to-understand way. Sometimes, you can see if their delivery works for you by finding their YouTube channel and watching a couple of videos.

Check the Reviews

If you’re looking for a course on a platform like Udemy, this will be a piece of cake. The reviews section is right on each course’s page.

In the case of online degrees and boot camps, you’ll have to go to review platforms like TrustPilot, Review.io, and GoodFirms. It’s also a good idea to look for the name of the course on social media and see what people have to say about it.

Take reviews and testimonials with a grain of salt, though. Not because they might be fake (although that can still happen), but because the teaching approach might suit some people – and not you. That said, if there are too many negative reviews, it’s still a clear red flag.

Give It a Try Before Committing

At the end of the day, the best way to see whether a course is worth your time and money is by trying it. That’s because there are many things you can’t evaluate before you start the course.

Plus, sometimes, you might expect a certain learning format to work for you. But, in practice, it may easily turn out that it doesn’t.

Whether it’s a paid course or an online degree, there can be several ways you can try it before buying:

  • A free trial;
  • Money-back guarantee;
  • Free demo lessons.

Don’t see how you could try this or that course without fully paying for it? Turn around and walk away. It’s a clear sign that the creator(s) don’t have confidence in its contents’ quality – at least, not enough to let you have a look at it and decide if it’s worth your money.

In Conclusion

This has been your short guide on finding the best programming course possible. But before you close this tab, here’s one more piece of advice you should keep in mind. The title of the best is completely subjective. So, what’s best for you depends entirely on your needs and preferences.

Plus, don’t forget: even the best programming courses won’t make a developer out of you if you don’t commit to it. So, remember to keep yourself motivated and disciplined throughout the course. Invest as much of your time and energy as possible in building your skills. Good luck!