Is Coding Hard to Learn? Here’s What You Need

Author profile photo for CareerFoundry author Nicole Abramowski.

Coding has a reputation for being hard. Why is that, and is it even true?

For one, most of us weren’t introduced to programming in school like we were other subjects.

Learning anything new takes time and dedication and feels hard in the beginning. Topics we have exposure to feel less overwhelming. We already understand the gist of them.

This is one reason people wonder is coding hard to learn, due to the lack of exposure.

But is it true? We’ll consider whether programming is difficult and take a look at the reasons for this. You can click on a heading below to jump right to that topic if you’d like.

  1. Is coding hard to learn?
  2. Programming is hard considering these factors:
  3. Easy coding languages and hard coding languages to learn
  4. How to learn coding fast
  5. Final thoughts

1. Is coding hard to learn?

Well, yes and no. In the end, learning anything new is hard. When learning to ride a bike, you probably fell off a few times and had some moments of despair.

One reason programming seems difficult is that most of us were never exposed to it in school. Topics like history, algebra and literature are more common. This makes them more approachable and also more normalized.

It doesn’t help that the media portrays coding as something for a few select geniuses and nerds. If you don’t fit that stereotype you might assume it’s not for you.

A lot of people also relate programming to math, which has its own set of trauma associated with it. Truth is, coding doesn’t always involve a ton of math! It’s often more about logical thinking.

Yes, learning coding will take some time and persistence. This is because learning anything new takes time and effort. Whether that new skill is coding, playing the piano or roller skating, you’ll need to put some work in.

Like anything, though, learning coding is a series of steps and practice. You don’t need a background in math or computer science. People with all different skills and experiences can learn to code.

2. Programming is hard considering these factors:

Let’s go through a few common assumptions about learning to code. Knowing them will definitely help answer the question of if coding is hard to learn, as afterwards you’ll have some more context.

It requires persistence

Learning coding does require persistence. That is, putting time aside each day to practice and learn.

This doesn’t mean you have to be perfect and all-knowing to enter the job search. Even senior engineers don’t know everything in the field. There are always new developments and technologies are always changing.

It’s more about being good enough. Having an understanding of the basics of your language, best practices, common frameworks, and tools. Along with having some projects under your belt.

Again, like learning any new skill, coding is no different. If you break the process into steps and take them one at a time, you’ll get there.

Resources at intermediate level

If you’ve ever searched for resources on how to code you might have been bombarded with choice. There are tons of options for beginners learning programming out there. Online courses, apps, gamified programs galore.

The issue is that once new coders get past this structured hand-holding phase, it can feel like you’re on your own.

And in some ways, you are. There are definitely less resources for intermediate coders than for beginners online.

Part of this is because as you edge closer towards real world projects, no one project is the same. Each codebase has its own combination of front and backend technologies, packages and frameworks. This means there is no longer any one-size-fits-all.

Learning to code at the intermediate level is less about memorizing syntax, and more about learning to think like a programmer. When an obvious answer is not provided for you, you need  to troubleshoot and come up with a solution. This can feel uncomfortable if you’re used to a straightforward solution.

At this point, community is often the answer. Websites like Stack Overflow, Slack channels, and online forums. Don’t be afraid to seek out and lean on your community at this point, and ask for help. Sometimes it just takes a change of perspective to come up with your solution.

It takes time

How much time does it take to learn to code? The answer is, it’s up to you.

If you’re doing 20 minutes here and there, it could take awhile. People who do an intensive program like a coding bootcamp often study for 3–4 months. By then, they come out ready to prepare for the job search.

There will always be more to learn, so it’s not about being perfect. Most important is to choose a first language and commit to it. Learn 1–2 popular frameworks and build a few projects. You don’t need to know everything there is to know.

You don’t need years and years to learn to code. You just need enough time to familiarize yourself with the basics and get some practice.

You’ll need math skills 

People often relate coding to math and the truth is, they are not the same thing. Sure, there are programmers who might use math heavily in their work. These roles are specific and not the most common. 

Most software will of course require basic math. But, then again, most jobs tend to. Here’s an example:

Let’s consider an e-commerce company. You would do basic addition and subtraction when adding or removing items to a shopping cart. Another example is calculating percentages for widths and heights of menus. Here you need to determine how much space they take up on the page.

As you can see, nothing too wild!

Hopefully these helped clear up some of your doubts and defang a lot of the hype around if coding is hard to learn. if you’re thinking programming is hard considering all of the numbers involved, you can see that sure, there are numbers, but more often it’s about using logical reasoning to solve things.

Now that you have some context to why it’s perceived as difficult, let’s now look at which technologies might be easier or harder than others.

A woman stands with a laptop in a garden centre, wearing an apron.

3. Easy coding languages and hard coding languages to learn

To disappoint you right off that bat—there is no one perfect coding language to learn. Which programming is the best to start with depends on your background, your needs and your goals.

If you want to become a web developer, the best language to start with has one answer, while if you just want to learn some code to customize your WordPress website, that’s another answer.

If you’re worrying is coding hard to learn, then it can really depend on the language as much as your learning methods.

We’ll break the languages into two groups here. The easiest and the hardest languages to learn, with the reasons why.

One thing that makes a programming language seem easier is how quickly you can see results. If you can start writing snippets of code and see them in action, that is very motivating.

Another factor that determines how easy it is to pick up a language is syntax. This is how readable a language is for humans. If you constantly have to look up syntax to understand what a piece of code is doing, that makes it more slow going.

Easiest coding languages to learn

  • For web developers, HTML and CSS is usually a great start. Although it’s debated whether these are considered “languages”, regardless, with HTML and CSS you can make some changes that very quickly adjust the design on the page. They are also a big part of frontend web development.
  • JavaScript is another great place to start. It’s beginner-friendly and you don’t need a compiler to see your (vanilla) JavaScript code run, i.e. you can see results instantly. We’ve created a great beginner’s guide to JavaScript to get you started.
  • Python is another language that is widely used by web developers, data analysts, and Machine Learning/AI professionals. It’s easy to learn as the language prioritizes code readability. Learn all of the ways in which Python is used for web development.
  • On the object-oriented programming side, Java is class-based. It’s easy to learn as it’s a very structured language. This means there are strict rules for how to write Java code. It’s one of the most popular languages among backend developers and security applications.
  • C is also considered easy to learn due to its simple syntax with only 32 keywords and data structures that are easy to understand.

If you’re looking for a more extensive tour of these and others, as well as how to go about doing them, check out this guide: What’s the easiest programming language to learn?

Hardest coding languages to learn

Just as everyone is different, so too might you struggle learning some languages which others find “easy”. By the same token, while it’s worth treating the following selection of languages with due respect, don’t be dreading them if you have to learn them.

  • On the flip side, C++ is considered difficult to learn. It is one of the hardest programming languages because it has a complex syntax for flexibility. You need to learn C before C++ as well, since, as the name suggests, it’s an extension of it. Applications such as Google Chromium and a few Microsoft applications are developed using C++.
  • Prolog is one of the first logic programming languages used mostly in artificial intelligence applications and natural language processing. It is hard to learn because its data structures are unlike other programming languages. It forces developers to really consider their logic upfront. This means you can’t apply snippets you see online for your program without seriously considering your specific needs.
  • Haskell is also considered quite hard to learn as it follows a 100% functional paradigm, unlike most modern languages. It can be hard to troubleshoot bugs as you need to understand the nuances of compilation and error fixing in this language. It also uses a lot of jargon which can put off beginners.

4. How to learn coding fast

Hopefully by now you’re convinced learning to code is not as impossible as you think. So where to start? Here’s some ideas to dip your toes in and quickly see if programming is for you.

Get an intro to coding, try exercises, and learn about career change with short courses such as CareerFoundry’s free web development short course. It’s a great way to start building things in code without investing too much time in it.

Take a peek at the first lesson, where our in-house developer Abhishek introduces you to some frontend coding:

Enjoyed that and looking for even more? There are loads of resources out there and it can be hard to sort through them all. We’ve created a list of the best free coding classes and what to look for in a course.

Don’t forget that even if you want to learn coding fast, it’s important to be patient—there will be slower moments of learning in your journey.

Ready to take the plunge and want something more structured? Maybe you want something accredited or more mentorship? Browse our recommended list of best online coding schools.

5. Final thoughts

Learning any new skill feels overwhelming. Don’t worry—many have learned to code before you and persevered!

It’s all about breaking it into manageable steps, and finding help when you need it. Most of us were not exposed to coding in school. This means it’s easy to feel like you’re on your own path at first. Just because the people around you aren’t all learning coding like English or History, doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

The resources and path might just take a different, more interactive and hands on form than you’re used to.

Is coding hard to learn? In the end, “hard” is only relative.

If you’d like to learn more about the world of programming and web development in general, check out these articles:

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