How to Become a Coder: A Step-by-Step Guide

Headshot of CareerFoundry contributor Alex Williams.

Coding is an excellent career choice for anyone wanting to enter the tech industry. 

One reason for this is that in the last few years, there has been a high demand for programmers and a severe talent shortage in the industry. For instance, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job market for web developers should grow by an average of 16% between 2022 to 2032, compared to the average for all jobs of 3%. And how to become a coder has never been easier.

Getting a job should be easy if you have strong coding fundamentals and a little experience. Furthermore, coding is one of the most exciting career choices available since it puts you at the heart of the current digital revolution.

A wealth of learning material is available if you choose to become a coder. However, with so many resources to choose from, picking a starting point can be a challenge. To help you on your journey, we’ll tell you what a coder is, how to learn coding from scratch, and the various roles coders have in the industry.

If you’d like to skip ahead to a certain section, just use the clickable menu:

  1. What is a coder?
  2. How to become a coder: Step-by-step guide
  3. Coder FAQs
  4. Wrap-up

1. What is a coder?

The simplest description of a coder is someone who tells a computer what to do and how to do it. This professional builds websites, mobile apps, firmware, native applications, and more using code.

Despite the name, a coder does much more than write code. In addition, they also have to design software architecture, test systems, manage databases, and debug code. Daily, a coder carries out the following tasks:

  • Conceptualizing software architecture for various types of systems
  • Producing the specifications for software projects 
  • Writing pseudocode and algorithms that depict a program’s logical flow
  • Writing code and implementing software systems 
  • Testing new software
  • Reviewing and debugging code 
  • Analyzing software performance and recommending optimizations 
  • Building and optimizing databases used by the software and apps to store and retrieve data 
  • Analyzing digital systems’ security features and implementing protective measures

Now that we’ve learned what a coder is and what they end up doing in their day-to-day, let’s dive into how to become a coder yourself. 

2. How to become a coder: Step-by-step guide

Are you ready to be a coder? Follow the steps below to launch your career:

Step One: Try it out

Generally, your experience with digital solutions and specific interests determine where you start your journey on how to become a coder.

If you already know programming fundamentals, you may want to start taking formal coding classes immediately. 

On the other hand, if you are a beginner or hobbyist, you may prefer spending your time exploring the basics online to help you decide if it is something you want to pursue.

In either case, one of the first steps you should take is to take advantage of the many free resources online. Countless online sources give valuable career advice, provide additional insight into the theoretical underpinnings of computer science, and host project-based learning opportunities.

Still unsure of where to start? Why not try out resources like our free 5-day coding short course to give you a handle on the basics of coding. 

You can get a sneak-peak at the first video lesson here, as Mozilla engineer Abhishek Nagekar talks you through your first steps in building a website:

Step Two: Get coding

Now that you’ve got a taste for the coder life, it’s time to throw yourself into it.

It’s important at this stage to get into the habit of building things and playing around with code. It doesn’t necessarily matter what you’re building, just that you keep trying things out. All of this will stand to you later on as you become a coder.

Who knows—maybe some of these projects will even make it into your web development portfolio?

At this point, there are many online resources on how to become a coder which offer introductory courses that make it easy for you to transition to more advanced computer programming and software engineering. 

Best of all, the foundation lessons are not only more affordable than advanced courses, but you are also free to take them part-time.

An excellent example is CareerFoundry’s Introduction to Frontend Development course, which helps you develop fundamental web development skills. It gives you hands-on experience in designing and building websites with HTML, CSS, and the Bootstrap framework. By the end, you’ll have a complete mobile-responsive website that you built from scratch.

Step Three: Get an education

Once you’ve mastered the basics and decided that a career in coding is for you, the next step is to enroll in advanced coding courses.

These courses are thorough programs that help you to build on your foundational knowledge of core technologies. These programs differ from college computer science courses because they emphasize the hands-on experience and practical skills employers look for when hiring for open positions.

Additionally, many of these programs are highly flexible—you may attend a virtual class on a part-time or full-time schedule to fit your availability and other responsibilities.

Step Four: Build your skills

Once you have the basics required to launch a career in coding, the next step is to explore new areas of knowledge and hone your skills.

A great way to do this is by ensuring you learn sought-after programming languages and technologies. This is a core part of learning how to become a coder, learning the nuts and bolts of code.

Thankfully, many online communities are available where developers from around the world come together to help build stronger, better software and share advice. These include places such as StackOverflow, codementor, and the /r/learnprogramming subreddit.

Additionally, many of the web’s most significant projects rely on open-source code developed by large communities of contributors that you can join.

Some of these developer groups even host events, hackathons, and conventions that give coders excellent networking opportunities and chances to improve their skills at all levels.

Step Five: Build your portfolio

Once you’ve got several coding projects to your name, it’s time for you to build a portfolio.

A portfolio is a document or website that lists all your projects, providing all the details regarding frameworks, programming languages, and problem-solving approaches you used to build a website or piece of software.

Your portfolio is crucial to land a coding job, so you should tailor the project list to the positions you are applying for. For instance, if you’re applying for a frontend developer role, you should highlight the UX and web design projects you’ve completed.

If you’d like to learn not how to make an eye-catching one, we’ve created a web developer portfolio guide with 38 examples.

Step Six: Get applying

When you’re ready to start applying for employment as a coder, having a network could help you land the job of your dreams. 

Take advantage of websites like LinkedIn to connect with fellow software engineers and recruiters and ask if they have any openings at their companies. Local industry events and conferences also offer great networking opportunities.

To apply to any job, you need a resume. As a new programmer, you should prepare a document that highlights your strengths and skills without paying too much attention to how long you’ve been developing software or the fact that you have limited experience.

Finally, apply to a range of online websites and job boards to get your resume into the hands of as many recruiters as possible. You may use larger sites like, but you should try smaller sites too.

A coder communicates to a colleague in a start-up office.

3. Coder FAQs

Want to know more about how to become a coder? We’ve got the answers to some of the questions you may have about this lucrative and satisfying career:

What skills do coders need?

All successful coders have certain in-demand technical competencies and soft skills. They include:

  • In-depth knowledge of data structures and algorithms
  • Database management
  • Skill in object-oriented programming (OOP)
  • Integrated development environments (IDEs)
  • Expertise in cloud computing
  • Verbal and written communication skills
  • Conflict resolution and teamwork
  • Time management

What does a coding career path look like?

Now that you know how to become a coder, you’ll need to have thought about what kind of coder you’ll like to be. There are several career tracks you could take. The main ones are:

Frontend developer

This kind of programmer is in charge of building the user interfaces, interactions, and views that application end-users see and use.

You can learn more about what they do and what to learn in our full guide to becoming a frontend developer.

Backend developer

In some respects the opposite to the frontend, a backend developer deals with everything that goes on “under the hood” of a website or app. These coders requiring proficiency in core programming languages and in-depth knowledge of API design, database administration, infrastructure, and client-server interaction.

Find out out more about what they do and what you’ll need to become one in our complete backend developer guide.

Full-stack developer

As you might have worked out from the two roles above, full-stack developers work on both the front- and backend of applications. What’s more, the full-stack developer is responsible for database administration. 

Learn more about this exciting, well-paid role in our guide to what a full-stack developer is.

Software architect

This advanced coding role requires expertise in high-level architecture design of an entire system. Responsibilities include setting the bar for the quality of code and technical standards and choosing tools and platforms. 

Learn more about what they do in our full software architect guide.

What’s the average coder’s salary?

According to job site Glassdoor, the average salary for a junior developer in the United States with less than a year’s experience is $72,096. Not bad for starting out, eh?

What’s more, when you specialize in a particular coding area, you open up the potential for a significantly higher wage.

Your coder salary expectations may differ depending on your experience level, position, and job location. You can dive deeper into this in our ultimate web developer salary guide.

4. Wrap-up

So there you have it, everything you should possibly need to know about how to become a coder! Hopefully by now you should have a clear idea of what you need to do next.

There are countless alternative learning opportunities if you want to become a coder without a university degree. What’s more, with online courses and training programs, you can achieve success in the industry within a relatively short time. Simply follow the six step process that we outlined above. 

CareerFoundry’s fully mentored web development program provides you with both a robust educational background and a firm grasp of the fundamentals of coding. For those studying full-time, you’ll emerge after just 5 months with a professional-quality portfolio and a whole host of projects under your belt.

If you’d like to read more about the world of coding, check out these articles:

What You Should Do Now

  1. Get a hands-on introduction to web development and build your first website from scratch with our free, self-paced web development short course.

  2. Take part in one of our FREE live online web development events with industry experts, and check out recent graduate Tanimara’s successful career-change story.

  3. Become a qualified web developer in just 5-10 months—complete with a job guarantee.

  4. This month, we’re offering a partial scholarship worth up to $1,365 off on all of our career-change programs to the first 100 students who apply 🎉 Book your application call and secure your spot now!

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