Coding 101: The Why, What, and How of Learning to Code

Coding may seem like an abstract concept, but if you take things step by step and start learning the basics, it becomes easier to understand. In this article, we’ll cover the coding 101 essentials: why it’s important, how to learn programming, and the possibilities of a career in coding.

Why Learn Coding?

Coders are currently in high demand; in Canada, for instance, coding is among the fastest-growing employment avenues across countless different industries. Governments, schools, financial institutions, utility companies, security firms, retailers, and more need coders to help run their infrastructure, build their websites, and secure their information.

In fact, the Government of Canada expects demand for people with computer skills to outpace supply. For instance, the Canada Job Bank projects 27,500 new openings for software engineers and designers annually — with only 24,000 skilled workers to fill them. The Canada Job Bank further predicts that the labor gap could widen as industries expand into artificial intelligence, blockchain, and other emerging technologies.

As a result of these projections, the coding industry is currently one of several fields attracting immigration to Canada. To that point, Canada Immigration says web developers, in particular, are in high demand. Plus, with Canada’s Global Talent Stream processing applications in two weeks, web developers “have a sure pathway to a Canada work permit.”

The potential for earning competitive wages accompanies this demand. According to the Canada Job Bank, the median hourly wage for computer software engineers is CA$45.67. Some provinces offer even higher wages. In Ontario and British Columbia, the median hourly wage is above CA$46, and in Alberta, it’s CA$48.08

Of course, salary and employment opportunities can vary depending on a candidate’s skill level, company size, and other factors. But for those who wish to pursue coding opportunities in Canada, the job outlook is particularly strong.

Coding vs. Programming vs. Software Engineering

While these terms do carry some similarities, they actually represent different stages in a computer program’s cycle.

Coding is the process of writing a series of instructions that can be understood by a computer. Think of coders as translators; they work to translate instructions from their language to the computer’s language of 1s and 0s.

Coding is typically considered as a component of programming. Sure, programmers will write code, but they also implement those pieces of code into a complete program. Programming requires experience with analysis and modeling tools as well as testing frameworks. Just as coders need basic knowledge of language and syntax, programmers also need to know how to create algorithms and test programs.

Software engineers, meanwhile, carry additional responsibilities. They are the architects of a software project, using principles of engineering to design a complete package. Software engineers work with clients to determine a project’s needs, consider the required hardware and software, implement its design, and test the final product. Software engineers usually hold engineering degrees and bring strong leadership and communication skills to their team and organization.

Coding Fundamentals

When you open a web page, take notice of the little touches: the sharp graphics, clean layouts, easy-to-use prompts, and fast response times. Coders and developers made all of that happen, but they did so in varying roles — both on the front and back ends of the page.

Most web development work can be split into one of three categories: front end development, back end development, and full stack development.

Front End Development

The front end of a website consists of what people see on the screen: the text, graphics, video, and menus that compose a page. Front end developers use programming languages such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to build the visual end of websites and make them usable. Essentially, front end developers are the interior designers of the internet.

Back End Development

The website’s back end serves as the foundation for the front end design. It consists of the code that communicates with servers and databases to make the website run. Back end developers write and debug that code which makes the site operational. These developers use different programming languages, including Java and Python, and also must be comfortable working with databases.

Full Stack Development

As websites and applications grew more complex to build, developers began concentrating on just one side: the front end (client-facing side) or the back end (the server side). However, full stack developers work on an entire website or application, making them the most versatile professionals in web development.

Full stack developers are comfortable programming in multiple languages, working on the front and back ends of a project, and moving fluidly between tasks. Thanks to their expertise, full stack developers shepherd site and application development from the design phase through testing and rollout. They are vital in uncovering errors and producing a smart, functional finished product.

Career Opportunities for Full Stack Developers

Since their skills are cross-disciplinary, full stack developers are valued in the job market. According to Stack Overflow’s 2020 survey regarding developer roles, 54.9 percent of responding developers said they were full stack, just below back end developers (55.2 percent).

Full stack developers are in high demand in Canada, according to a LinkedIn list of emerging jobs. With their versatility and expertise, full stack developers have a variety of career opportunities with promising salary potential.

What Coding Careers are in Demand?

Here are some coding-related careers to consider, with all salaries provided by the Canada Job Bank.

Web Developers

Web developers design and develop websites, work with clients on website requirements, write code, and test site efficiency. Their median hourly wage is CA$29.59, with Ontario reporting median wages as high as CA$33.65.

Software Design Engineers

Software design engineers design and maintain software programs, operating systems, and mobile applications. Their median hourly wage is CA$45.67. Alberta, British Columbia, and Ontario report median wages above CA$46.

Database Administrators

Database administrators design and develop databases, operate database management systems, and are involved in developing company policies around data administration. Their median hourly wage is CA$35. Saskatchewan and Alberta report median wages above CA$40.

Data Analysts

Data analysts design and maintain data management solutions, analyze data through mining and other techniques, and work with data security. Their median hourly wage is CA$35.

Mobile Application Developers

Mobile application developers produce applications for mobile devices, developing apps from initial concept to the testing and implementation phase. Their median hourly wage is CA$37.95. In British Columbia, the median wage is CA$42.

Do I Need a Degree in Computer Science?

While not always necessary, a degree in computer science can be valuable in a coding, programming, or development career. Traditional college education also remains a popular method for learning computer science skills; according to the Stack Overflow developer survey, 75 percent of respondents held at least a Bachelor’s degree in the field.

However, computer science degrees aren’t right for everyone. For aspiring coders looking to change careers quickly or who already have a university degree, a coding bootcamp may prove a more sensible educational path. These programs emphasize practical learning over instruction alone, merging real-world experience with foundational knowledge-building in a variety of key areas. Plus, they typically offer flexible part-time scheduling and only take from 12 to 24 weeks to complete.

Basic Programming Languages to Start Coding

Hundreds of programming languages exist, but fortunately coders don’t need to know them all. Depending on the route they take, coders can find success by learning a handful of languages and accruing in-demand software developer skills.

Some languages are more important than others, of course. According to a 2020 HackerRank developers’ survey (PDF 2.4 MB), 57 percent of hiring managers in the Americas cite JavaScript as their top-priority language when screening new candidates. Python ranked second (51.6 percent), followed by Java (38.1 percent).

A chart that depicts what languages hiring managers look for when hiring developers.

That said, about 20 percent of hiring managers in the Americas called themselves “language agnostic,” meaning they don’t recruit based on a candidate’s fluency in a particular language. With that understood, here are some of the best programming languages for beginners to learn.


HTML stands for HyperText Markup Language, and it serves as the primary scripting language in web page design. Before HTML, online documents consisted solely of plain text. HTML allows people to format text and share images.

Developers use HTML to format web pages and tell browsers how to display their content. HTML coding consists of tags and elements that define how a document will appear. HTML is important for many coding positions but is particularly necessary for web developers. It is generally considered easy to learn and access.


CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets, and it is another primary language for building web pages and applications. It is a companion markup language to HTML but serves a different purpose in terms of style.

Here’s the comparison many developers draw: They use HTML to build a site in the same way a contractor would use tools to build a house. Then, developers use CSS to design the style and look of the site, just like an interior designer would do in the house.

CSS controls aspects of a site such as page color, font, and text size. It is also used to determine page layouts and where images appear on the screen. As with HTML, CSS is a must for web developers, particularly on the front end. Being able to write code in both is necessary to build and design effective websites.


JavaScript is responsible for numerous website functions like animated features, interactive maps, and media players. This high-level scripting language is important to coders and developers because with it, they can make sites more interesting for users.

JavaScript works with HTML to make web pages responsive to user commands. When you click on a drop-down menu or video, it’s highly likely that JavaScript was involved in constructing it. Developers use the language to create photo slideshows, graphics presentations, and automated forms.

JavaScript’s uses go beyond building websites; programmers use it to build mobile and desktop applications as well as online games. It also can be customized with libraries of prewritten code to perform a variety of functions.


Node.js is an important companion to JavaScript — one that brought the hugely popular language to the server side of programming. Node.js is a runtime environment that allows JavaScript code to be executed beyond a web browser.

This is important because with Node.js, programmers can do much more with JavaScript than simply make websites more interactive. Node.js is considered event-driven, meaning the server reacts only when an event occurs, making Node.js fast enough to handle a large number of operations, which is useful for a real-time application such as a chat room. Node.js is also used to build sites that support video streaming.

Like JavaScript, Node.js has become omnipresent. It makes coding in JavaScript possible on both the front and back ends, thus increasing efficiency in developing applications. It is also highly scalable and is employed by small startups and huge technology and commercial sites alike.


Python is considered a general-purpose language, which means it can be used for multiple projects. Programmers use Python to develop desktop and web applications, perform data analysis, and produce scientific applications. It is also considered easy to learn because it allows coders to write in English keywords rather than using punctuation, which makes code simpler to read and debug.

Python is among the most-used languages in programming. It shows up on platforms from mobile device apps to large servers. In addition, Python is a popular language for scientific computing, and many scientific libraries work with it. Additional libraries support game programming, animation, and many other uses.

What’s more, Python is used by major companies like Google and NASA, and is also a popular language at studios that make computer-animated movies.


First released in 1995, Java is part of nearly everything on the internet today. It is an object-oriented programming language and is different from JavaScript, which is a scripting language. JavaScript code runs only in web browsers, while Java applications run on multiple platforms.

Java is considered easy to use and is quite versatile. It shows up in websites, online games, mobile technology, and even televisions and refrigerators that have screens. Java has also helped revolutionize online banking and shopping.

Another feature that makes Java popular is its versatility. With Java, programmers write code on one system, knowing it can run on any other Java-enabled system without needing to be adjusted.

If you want to learn more than just the basic programming languages, you might want to consider a coding boot camp program.

Get Program Info


Step 1 of 6


Coding Software and Tools You’ll Need to Get Started

With the right resources and a desire to learn, you can begin building experience as a coder in a relatively short amount of time. When starting out, here are some key tools and software to consider.

Basic Computer Specifications

Desktops and laptops are updated constantly, so consider buying the latest Windows or Mac system you can afford. In addition, look for a high-resolution monitor: a 1920×1080 screen helps ease the task of reading lines of code. As for choosing a Windows or Mac system, go with your personal preference.

Basic Text Editors

Text editors are the software of choice for writing code because they handle plain text files. Word processors and coding don’t mix; word processors add formatting to text documents that interfere with code translation. You’ll have a much easier time using a text editor.

Since they spend so much time working in a text editor, coders and programmers can be picky about their choice. Windows and Mac devices are usually pre-equipped with a free version — Notepad for Windows and TextEdit for Mac. In addition, many other free and paid text editors are available.

Web Browsers

Coders and developers have different requirements for web browsers than general users. They use browsers that support multiple platforms and plugins, and include toolkits for developing pages and applications.

Here are some of the best-known browsers:

  • Microsoft Edge: This browser, installed with Windows, has a wide range of developer tools available.
  • Safari: If you’re coding on a Mac, you’re most likely using the default Safari browser. Apple also describes Safari as being “designed for developers.”
  • Mozilla Firefox: The Firefox Developer Edition includes a code inspector, debugger, and many more valuable programming tools.
  • Google Chrome: Google Chrome is updated frequently and equipped with multiple developer toolkits.
  • Brave: The makers of Brave bill their browser as faster and more private than others.
  • Opera: Some of the tools Opera advertises are built-in messaging and VPN.
  • Chromium: An open-source browser that has become popular with developers, Chromium makes it easy to browse and contribute to its code.

Local Web Server

Websites are hosted in one of two server environments: local or remote. A local web server hosts the website on a computer, making it easier to edit pages and test sites without uploading them to a remote server. Setting up a local web server requires installing software on your computer.

Graphics Editors

Developers use graphics editors to work with images, generate illustrations, and perform animations. Many different editors are available — from free versions to professional design tools rich with features. GIMP is a popular free, open-source image editor, while Adobe and CorelDRAW offer a series of graphics suites.

Best Ways to Learn How to Code

The road to becoming a coder isn’t one-way — two primary paths exist: getting a formal education (through a college program or bootcamp) and adopting a self-taught format.

While the formal education pathway requires a strong level of commitment and autonomy, the self-taught process warrants its own form of diligence — particularly in sourcing the right material to study.

Where Can I Start Learning?

The resources below provide an instructional framework on how to code for beginners.

Video Tutorials: ProgrammingKnowledge offers many videos for beginners and crash courses on language learning. offers free tutorials in web development, site design, and more. DevTips is a weekly show that covers all things programming, including languages, databases, and business-building.

Coding Books to Read: In The Self-Taught Programmer, Cory Althoff offers what he calls “the definitive guide to programming professionally.” The Beginner’s Step-By-Step Coding Course breaks down coding through compact explanations and tutorials. Danielle Park’s Under One Condition is a thorough introduction to Python. The Pragmatic Programmer seeks to illustrate best practices and mistakes to avoid within coding.

Online Content: Nonprofit-based resources like and freeCodeCamp expand access to computer science education among young underrepresented groups, while Github is one of several sources offering a large collection of open-source books and guides that are frequently updated.

What’s the Next Step?

After being introduced to coding, learners can deepen their education by pursuing a degree in computer science, enrolling in a coding bootcamp, or engaging in independent learning. What’s the best way to learn how to code? Each route has its pros and cons so your answer will depend on your preferences and goals

Computer Science Degree

Pursuing a four-year college degree certainly is a tested method of becoming a programmer or developer. Individuals who earn a computer science degree hold proof of their skills and can benefit from their university’s rich assortment of resources: internships, career services, job fairs, and networking opportunities.

Of course, depending on your personal needs, four-year degrees can be more costly and time-consuming, and might not be the right path for everyone. Those making career changes or who want to learn specific skills in a shorter amount of time might be better suited to a different learning direction.

Coding Bootcamp

Bootcamps are intensive, short-term educational programs that deliver concentrated skills in a specific field. They are available in a variety of technical disciplines — coding, data analytics, and cybersecurity to name a few.

In a coding bootcamp, for instance, participants learn the Coding 101 essentials, starting with the fundamental concepts of web development (HTML, CSS, JavaScript). They also study full stack development, explore servers and databases, and ultimately build and test a web application. Bootcamps normally run 12 weeks for a full-time program and 24 weeks for part-time study. They are conducted online, include access to a tutoring network and career services, and cost a fraction of a four-year degree.

Successful bootcamp learners are also seen as strong job prospects. According to HackerRank (PDF 2.4 MB), 32 percent of hiring managers have hired bootcamp learners. And 72 percent of those hiring managers said individuals who have completed a bootcamp were at least as qualified as other employees. In fact, 33 percent said candidates who completed a bootcamp were more qualified.

A chart that shows what hiring managers think of successful bootcamp learners.

Yet bootcamps aren’t for everyone. They are fast-paced and intense, requiring a diligent daily commitment to study. But for those looking to immerse themselves in coding, bootcamps provide an accelerated learning path.

Independent Learning

Online coding tutorials, both free and paid versions, offer an inexpensive education path, especially if you thrive in an independent learning environment. Although they don’t come with the same resources and structured environment that a bootcamp or college education does, self-guided classes can be an alternative way to learn the tools of the trade. Before embarking on this educational path, it’s worth being honest with yourself about what kind of learning environment is best for you.

To help you on your way, check out these tips for effective online learning. Here are a few self-guided educational options to get you started.

  • freeCodeCamp: Students can engage with tutorials on responsive web design, data visualization, data analysis with Python, and more. The site also offers free forums and study groups.
  • W3Schools: Students are given access to a wealth of coding tutorials, including those on programming languages, web building, and artificial intelligence.
  • Khan Academy: Through personalized learning and an array of online tools and tutorials, students and teachers alike are empowered en route to broader coding knowledge.

Create Your First Coding Project

Coders learn by doing, and the best way to do that is with a project. Building a project not only creates experience, but also helps you to develop a tangible product to show potential employers.

To get started, pick your favorite from this list of coding project ideas for beginners and follow this step-by-step process:

  • Set a schedule: Keeping deadlines with each project phase allows you to set attainable goals and measure progress.
  • Outline your project’s features: Will your web page include a lot of graphics or interactive buttons or forms? Will it need a login/password feature for multiple users? Listing these features in advance will help in the coding phase.
  • Devise your code: Before you start writing, list all the functions you want to include in the project. This helps compartmentalize each section of code, making them easier to write.
  • Write and debug your code: Errors are to be expected, and checking for them can be difficult. This might be a good time to seek help from a mentor or join a community forum to ask questions.
  • Deploy your project: Ready to show the world your finished project? Set the website to go live on the internet or submit your app to an online app store.

Should I Learn Coding?

For many people, coding is more than a job. It is a way to deliver an exciting new product, change the way companies do business, and have a tangible effect on society. Further, coding has become a lifestyle with a vibrant community of fellow coders and developers.

Coding provides job opportunities in multiple industries, and hiring prospects look strong for the remainder of the decade. As mentioned earlier, some industries even expect to have more job openings than skilled coders and developers to fill them. Additionally, coders with an independent spirit can keep themselves quite busy working in freelance roles.

Coding requires analytical skills, deep attention to detail, and a willingness to keep pace with changing technology. And, for the curious and devoted, it can be a satisfying pursuit. Programs like UofT SCS Coding Boot Camp represent an exciting next step into a promising new career path — contact us to learn more or apply now.

Get Program Info


Step 1 of 6

Get Program Info


Step 1 of 6