In our tech-obsessed world, anyone who knows their way around a computer (or website or app) has a definite advantage over the computer illiterate. So if you’re not already tech-savvy, consider taking on a challenge: Learn to code. There are a lot of resources for learning to code out there, many of them free and online. Whether you’re an absolute beginner or someone looking to build on knowledge you already have, you’ll be able to find a program that suits your needs.
Learning to code would be useful for anyone, but it represents an especially important opportunity for women. Information technology is currently the fastest growing industry in the United States, but many women are missing out on the financial and career opportunities that this industry affords. The prevalence of women in tech is actually declining, with women holding only 26 percent of American computing jobs in 2013, down from 35 percent in 1990, according to a study by the American Association of University Women. There are a whole host of issues, from negative stereotypes to bias in the workplace, that keep women out of STEM, but incompetence isn’t one of them. (In fact, one 2016 study found that women may create better code than men.) Bringing more women and girls into programming could go a long way toward reducing the gender imbalance in STEM, and, in turn, narrowing the wage gap.
Gender inequality aside, knowing how to code is an incredibly handy skill to have, whether you’re interested in a career in programming, or you simply want to be able to design your own website. Even if you’re starting from scratch, it’s never too late to learn a new skill, and the resources I’ve listed below will let you set your own pace. All of the programs below are free, though many offer upgrades and extra learning materials for a fee. So what’s stopping you? Check these out:
Codecademy offers more than two dozen free coding courses, many geared toward beginners, on topics ranging from “Make a Website” to “Learn HTML & CSS” to “Learn Responsive Design.” Each course comes with a syllabus, lessons, exercises, and “badges” to keep you motivated. Though Codecademy courses are free, you can upgrade to Codecademy Pro for a monthly fee; the pro version includes additional learning materials and access to live help.
If you like a little competition as you learn, check out Codewars, a martial-arts-themed coding “dojo” where you learn by completing challenges called “kata.” As you progress, you earn honors and rank; eventually, you can even develop your own kata to challenge other users.
3. Free Code Camp
Free Code Camp is an open source community that offers hundreds of tutorials and challenges to help people learn to code for free. Free Code Camp also lets you put your practicing time to good use; once you’ve logged in 1,200 hours of challenges, you can practice coding on projects for nonprofits, which gives them free coding, and you valuable real-world experience.
4. The Odin Project
The Odin Project is a free resource geared toward beginners, created by the folks behind the Viking Code School. The curriculum starts with “Introduction to Web Development” and “Web Development 101” courses, and then moves on to focus on specific coding languages and other key subjects in web development.
Founded by MIT and Harvard, EdX offers online courses in a variety of subjects — including computer sciences — from universities around the world. EdX lets you access more than a hundred intro-level coding courses. The courses are free, but you can get a “verified certificate” (proof that you’ve passed the course) for a fee, usually somewhere between $50 and $100.
6. Khan Academy
Khan Academy offers free online classes in subjects ranging from math to art history, for students in kindergarten and all the way up to people applying to grad school. Khan Academy has computer programming courses that start with the basics and go on to more advanced lessons in coding languages and other specialized topics.