Is programming difficult to learn? It’s no walk in the park, but it can open up a six-figure career

For the past decade or so, learning to code has somehow been synonymous with paving the way to a stable, well-paying career. Coders, or coders, have found work at numerous tech companies in Silicon Valley and beyond, working for the likes of Apple, Google, Meta, and many, many more. But these days, companies of all kinds are hiring coders and programmers, which means it’s a more ubiquitous and in-demand skill than ever.

But learning to program, like many other disciplines, isn’t exactly easy. Many people learn to code by earning a computer science degree, and in some forms, it is even taught to middle and high school children across the country. So, if teens learn to code, how hard can it be?

Answering this question is a little more difficult than you might think.

Is programming difficult to learn?

Learning to code can be difficult, but many factors must be taken into consideration to determine how difficult it may be for any individual. But experts who teach programming say it’s more or less a process of trial and error.

“There’s a lot of failure — you learn through failure,” says Sandra Hartman, an information technology and media design teacher at the East Stroudsburg Area School District in Pennsylvania. Hartman teaches middle school students (grades 6-8) some basic programming skills and says programming comes naturally to some students, but not to others. With this in mind, there’s no way to tell whether learning to code will be easy or difficult for any individual – it just depends on the individual.

This also applies to students of all ages. But a student who may have a natural talent for math or problem solving may find it easier to learn to code than a student who does not.

“One person who is likely to have an easier time is someone who enjoys solving problems because, at the end of the day, that’s what programming is,” says Dr. Sriram Mohan, Ph.D., head of our Department of IT and Information Technology. Software engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Indiana. “If you are naturally curious and like to learn,” says Dr. Mohan, “you will naturally gravitate to computer science.”

While not everyone has a knack for programming, it’s clear that many people have been willing to learn it over the past decade or so. The most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that nationwide there are more than 147,000 coders or coders earning an average annual salary of nearly $98,000.

So while programming may be a difficult skill to learn for some people, the prospect of a relatively well-paying job may be enough to get them through.

How long does it take to learn to program?

For those starting out as complete beginners in programming, it may be reasonable to expect that you will get the hang of it within several months. But again, there are many variables at play.

Hartman says most of his students, for example, can do simple programming or coding after one semester in his computer science course. Arjun Chandrasekhar, assistant professor of computer science at Southwestern University, says many college students in the classes he teaches are able to create interactive games after a semester, which would involve a few lessons a week.

Therefore, students will likely need to dedicate several hours a week to learning to code, and they will also need to take into consideration whether they have any background in coding or programming and how much natural ability they have. have for this. Again, some students will learn faster than others, but others may just need a little more time and practice.

3 ways to learn to program

Like any skill, there are several ways potential programmers can learn to code. Some of the main ones include taking a course, using one of the many online learning platforms on the market, or doing self-study.

Attend a course

Younger people may end up learning computer science and programming as part of their education. Some states, like North Carolina, even mandate it. But for people who may have graduated college or are older, colleges and universities nationwide teach programming and computer science courses, and there are even programming “bootcamps” that may interest some potential students.

Use an online platform

There are also numerous online platforms designed to teach programming: a list that includes Codecademy, Treehouse, Khan Academy, and others. Of course, your mileage may vary when using these platforms and will require students to have some self-discipline to stick to the schedule and practice. But many of these platforms are available and many of them are even free.

Teach yourself

Truly disciplined students can learn on their own: download some software, consult a book or a YouTube tutorial, and start typing. There are numerous tutorials and manuals out there for those who want to try teaching themselves, but, again, students will need to be disciplined and able to stick to a schedule; they’ll want to make sure they get enough repetitions per week to actually learn something.

3 easy to learn coding languages

Experts say there are some languages ​​that may be a little easier to learn than others, including Scratch, Python and Java.


Hartman says his students start playing with Scratch to get comfortable with programming. Scratch is a visual programming language and involves users connecting “blocks” which can help some people learn more effectively. Scratch was developed by the MIT Media Lab to teach children to code, and Hartman says that visually “it’s almost like puzzle pieces,” which may be more intuitive for young programmers.


Python is another programming language that is ubiquitous and relatively easy to learn. This is mainly because it is a “high level” language, meaning it is more similar to the English language spoken by students than to the binary code used by computers to communicate. “Python closely resembles human language,” says Chandrasekhar, and is therefore widely used in programming courses and teaching materials.


Chandrasekhar says Java is another popular language in his classroom, as being a high-level language may be easier for some students to learn. “It’s a pretty simple language,” he says, and “it’s the one the AP (high school) test uses, and it works well because students taking CS1 (in college) will have some knowledge of it.” Java is an older language, having first been developed in the mid-1990s. It is also widely used in commercial contexts, not just educational ones, such as Scratch.

3 Coding languages ​​that are difficult to learn

While languages ​​like Scratch or Python may be geared towards entry-level programmers, there are other more advanced languages, such as C, C++, and Assembly.


C is what’s called a “low-level” language, meaning it’s actually closer to binary than the English language. “It speaks more directly to the hardware,” in other words, Chandrasekhar says. Therefore, it can be difficult to learn and understand, especially for beginners. Originally created in the 1970s, C is used in numerous industries, but students would likely find it too advanced for learning purposes.


Despite its name, C++ is not the same as C, although there are some similarities. And like C, C++ is a low-level language, meaning it will be harder to learn and understand than higher-level languages. “It’s much closer to the track,” Hartman says. “You’ll have a lot more punctuation and a lot more short, short descriptions” when you write code in C++. This can be difficult for students who are still finding their feet when it comes to programming.

Assembly languages

An assembly language is “a step above binary,” says Chandrasekhar. Using an assembly language essentially means having a direct correspondence with a computer’s hardware, rather than executing instructions through another language. “You need to be very granular” when writing code in assembly language, he says. There is no single assembly language, but for the purposes of students, they should know that assembly languages ​​will likely be the most difficult programming languages ​​they will encounter.

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