A modern understanding of tech career paths would be incomplete if it did not include online training options for software developers. These options are increasingly varied and respond to very different needs, both personal and professional, which makes discerning between them sometimes difficult and confusing.
In this article we will explain which options exist to learn software development online, and relate them to your profile so that you can make an informed choice.
We will look at the best options for free software developer online courses, then at paid software developer online courses, and finally at coding bootcamps.
By the time you have finished reading, you will be in a position to choose the optimal path towards becoming a programmer – and to start following that path today.
- What is a software developer and what do they do?
- Can a software developer be self-taught?
- Can you learn software development online?
- How fast can you become a software developer?
- What is the difference between frontend, backend and full-stack software development?
- Which tools must you learn for software development?
Which course is best to become a software developer?
There are three main learning paths towards learning professional software development, which can potentially overlap in places and even be combined:
- Online courses
- Coding bootcamps
What is the difference between these, and which one is right for you?
University courses are typically the most thorough, as well as the longest learning programs and those that put the heaviest emphasis on theory. You’ll want this option if you’re looking to get a wide understanding of software development and its various branches, as well as the concepts and history that underlie it. There exist literally tens of thousands of university courses in software development, so we will not be looking at them in this article.
Online courses come in a wide variety of types, but most consist in prepared material with little or no support from instructors. If you don’t mind the idea of learning by yourself and you want to customise your learning journey as much as possible, these are a great option. In this article we will explore in detail which options exist – both free and paid – to take an online course in software development.
Coding bootcamps are intense training programs usually lasting a few months, typically focused on picking up practical skills and entering the world of work. They are distinct from online courses by the high levels of support you get while learning (from instructors, career services, community managers and other staff), as well as the fact that you will usually learn as part of a class. We have already explored all of the top coding bootcamps in our dedicated guide, but we will provide a summary of the information in that article here.
Free software developer online training courses
Learning Path: N/A
- Responsive Web Design
- Scientific Computing with Python
Duration: approx. 30 hours (self-paced)
Notes: One the most famous and one of the best free online courses for software developers. Unlike many other providers, freeCodeCamp does not offer discrete, self-standing modules but an entire sequence of courses which, taken together, are intended to provide a comprehensive overview of the field of software development. The two courses we listed above can be taken by themselves, but are intended to work with the remained of their 300-hour long learning path.
Learning Path: Computing
Course: Computer programming
Duration: Not provided
Notes: Like freeCodeCamp above, Khan Academy offers a comprehensive sequence of lessons meant to work together and provide an overview of the field of software development. However this provider distinguishes itself by a more ‘academic’ approach, and is probably the closest to a university course in terms of content, exploring in detail not just the practice but also the theory and underlying concepts of software development.
Learning Path: Online Software Development Course
- Advanced Diploma in Python Programming for the Novice to Expert
- PHP for Beginners
- Introduction to Software Project Management
Duration: respectively 15-20 hours, 1.5-3 hours, 4-5 hours.
Notes: Alison’s courses in programming are relatively basic and beginner-friendly, but the platform is also one of the most business-oriented out there, with courses designed specifically for professionals who want to quickly put their skills to use in their line of work. It’s a good starting point if you want to pick up some basic tech skills to enhance a non-tech professional profile.
Top software developer online training courses (paid options)
Learning Path: Programming Foundations
Course: Programming Foundations: Beyond the Fundamentals
Duration: 2 hours
Price: €39.33 p/m or €235.92 p/y
Notes: LinkedIn offers an outrageous amount of learning content, divided in very short lessons that can be consumed in bite-sized chunks. This abundance of content makes the LinkedIn library sometimes intimidating to navigate, but considering the first month of membership is free, a savvy user who wishes to introduce themselves to software development can draw tremendous value from the platform. Note that the learning path Programming Foundations is a subsection of the broader path called Software Development, which includes many more courses, even some fairly advanced ones.
- Learn to Program: The Fundamentals
- Python for Everybody Specialization
- IBM Full Stack Software Developer Professional Certificate
Duration: respectively 25 hours / 8 months / 4 months at 10 hours per week
Price: €36 / €53 p/m depending on subscription type
Notes: Coursera’s distinction, as a learning platform, is that it hosts courses from a variety of external institutions, including some among the most reputable and prestigious in the entire world of tech. The IBM Certificate we mention here is one example, but they also collaborate with prestigious universities and tech companies like Microsoft and AWS. If you’re looking for an official certification, Coursera can definitely provide that.
Learning Path: Coding & Programming
- Computer Programming for Everyone
- Introduction to Programming with Python
- Learn to Code for the Web
- How to Program in C++
Duration: 2 weeks at 2 hours p/w, 4 weeks at 3 hours p/w, 2 weeks at 3 hours p/w, 5 weeks at 4 hours p/w.
Price: €36 per month for standard membership or one-off €144 payment, €79p/m for premium membership.
Notes: Future Learn is one of the more customisable options out there, with alternatives for the beginner and the professional alike, as well as the possibility of selecting different payment options – monthly, premium or one-off – to suit one’s learning path. The types of topics they treat is pretty wide as well (although note that their courses tend to be relatively short by comparison with some other options).
Learning Path: Online software development
- IT Fundamentals for Business Professionals: Software development
- Software Engineering: Introduction
Duration: 3 weeks at 3-6 hours p/w, and 6 weeks at 8-10 hours p/w.
Price: €70 and €117
Notes: This provider is not subscription-based and offers courses on a one-off payment basis, which can make time management easier. Importantly, edX also allows you to sample some of the course materials for free, so you can try things out before committing to the purchase, and it partners with some good universities to offer options for the more advanced learner (we listed the Software Engineering course above as an example of such an option – note that it’s not for the total beginner!).
Learning Path: N/A
- Introduction to programming
- Learn C++
- Full-Stack Web Developer
- Data Structures & Algorithms
Duration: 4 months for all
Price: €359 per month or €1236 for 4 months
Notes: While Udacity is among the more expensive options out there, it’s also the one that comes closest in contents and nature to an actual coding bootcamp (see the list of bootcamps below). These lessons are very clearly oriented towards developing professional skills that will prepare you for the industry and get you a job.
Learning Path: Software development courses
- How to Become a Senior Developer – Beyond coding skills
- Software Development From A to Z – OOP, UML, Agile, Python
- Software Development and IT – complete guide to key concepts
Price: Variable by course
Notes: Udemy can be a bit difficult to navigate, as the courses on offer are highly variable, numerous and sometimes overlap with each other. In addition, the duration indicated on their course descriptions is misleading (it only refers to the aggregate length of their videos, not to the time it takes to complete their courses). However, the platform’s seasonal discounts mean that some remarkable opportunities open up for those who keep a close watch on them, with detailed programming courses discounted sometimes by as much as 80%.
Learning Path: Beginner Software Development Core Courses
- Learning To Program – Part 1: Getting Started
- How Git Works
- Supercharging Your GitHub Workflow
- Understanding AWS Core Services
- Java: JSON Fundamentals
- Microsoft Azure Developer: Connecting to Storage
Duration: 1.5 – 3 hours
Price: €26 p/m
Notes: True to its name, Pluralsight may not be the best place to get started with programming per se, but it’s excellent to get started with the plurality of tools that make up programming, as evidenced from the selection of tool-specific courses we list above. It’s also remarkably affordable, although their courses do tend to be very short.
Top software developer online bootcamps
Coding bootcamps exist both on-site and online, or as hybrids of both options. Compared to the online courses we listed above, they tend to be a lot more intensive, as you will be enrolled in a class and expected to show up every day. However, they also provide much greater levels of personal support, in the form of instructors, career services and other staff.
We have dealt with the topic of the top coding bootcamps of 2023 in our exhaustive guide, but for ease of reference, we will republish our rankings here. Please refer to the guide for more in-depth details.
The columns “Funded” and “ISA” refer to modes of payment made available by the bootcamp itself – see the next section of the article for a detailed explanation.
|Provider||Program Name||Price||Funded||ISA||Full Time||Part Time|
|WBS CODING SCHOOL (Germany)||Full-Stack Web & App Development Bootcamp||€10,500||Yes||Yes||15 weeks||24 weeks|
|Coding Dojo (USA)||Software Development Bootcamp||$16,995||Yes||No||16 weeks||18-34 weeks|
|Le Wagon (France)||Web Development Course||Variable||Yes||Yes||8 weeks||24 weeks|
|Ironhack (Germany)||Web Development Bootcamp||€8000||Yes||Yes||9 weeks||24 weeks|
|Springboard (USA)||Coding Bootcamp Online||$16,200||Yes||No||N/A||36 weeks|
|Wild Code School (France)||Web Development Course||€6000||Yes||Yes||12 weeks||20 weeks|
|Flatiron School (USA)||Software Engineering Bootcamp||$17,900||Yes||No||15 weeks||40 weeks|
|Altcademy (USA)||Full-Stack Web Development||$1490||No||No||N/A||20-25 weeks|
|Spiced Academy (Germany)||Web Development Coding Bootcamp||€8500||Yes||No||12 weeks||N/A|
|General Assembly (USA)||Software Engineering Immersive||$15,950||Yes||Yes||12 weeks||24 weeks|
|Primathon Academy (India)||Frontend Developer||₹75,000||No||Yes||24 weeks||N/A|
|CareerFoundry (Germany)||Full-Stack Web Development Program||€8990||No||Yes||20 weeks||40 weeks|
|upGrad (India)||Full Stack Development Bootcamp||₹225,000||Yes||No||N/A||48 weeks|
SOFTWARE DEVELOPER ONLINE TRAINING FAQ
What is a software developer and what do they do?
A software developer creates and/or maintains the code that makes computer software work, either individually or (more often) as part of a team. This apparently simple definition belies the wide variety of software developer types that exist, from web & app developers through to data scientists.
Numerous other job titles linked to software development exist, such as software engineer, software architect and software analyst. These all have a relation with software development, but represent distinct branches of specialisation and involve different skills.
Can a software developer be self-taught?
Yes, it is possible to leverage learning material found in online courses, videos and books in order to learn software development entirely independently. However, while the available material is abundant, the topic is complex and consistently challenging.
Learning software development purely by yourself will require exceptional personal drive and discipline, and is typically the longest route to actually getting a job in the field, taking as it will several years in most cases before paid work is found.
Can you learn software development online?
Yes! As a matter of fact, a great deal of the resources available to learn software development, including many of the best courses and bootcamps, are available on a fully remote basis.
How fast can you become a software developer?
It can take as little as 3 months of intensive training in a coding bootcamp to 1-3 years of independent or university study. Bear in mind that the path into professional software development varies tremendously depending on both the specialisation and the learning paths that are chosen.
That said, software development is a field a little bit like music: reaching a level of proficiency sufficient to start performing it does not at all mean that one no longer has anything to learn, because the field is so extraordinarily deep and expansive. Indeed, mastery of software development as such is a bit of a chimera: while the better you get at it, the more valuable you will be as a professional, you will never reach a point where you can no longer better, nor should you expect to.
What is the difference between frontend, backend and full-stack software development?
Frontend, backend and full-stack software development are distinctions especially prominent in the field web and app development, that is to say, the creation of web pages and mobile apps. However, these terms also apply to other kinds of software development as well. A Windows user program, or a videogame, will also have a frontend and a backend, for example.
Frontend development refers to the creation of those parts of a program that a user can interact with, or at least which they can see or hear, such as buttons on a page or animated effects. Backend refers to the data, the logic and the information around which the frontend is built. So, for example, a mobile app that displays live sports results will have a frontend displaying the results, and a backend collecting those results and feeding it to the frontend.
Full-stack development represents the combination of frontend and backend, and a full-stack developer will be one who is proficient in both of those fields.
Which tools must you learn for software development?
The question of which tools one should learn for software development does not have a simple answer and depends entirely on the type of software developer one wants to become. Speaking broadly, one can say that you should start by learning one general purpose programming language, ideally one that is highly popular in the tech world, and then complement that with other tools related to the subject you are studying.
Thus, a good starting point may be to learn a language like Python, C++ or Java. Then, someone who wishes to specialise in data science may want to pick up tools like SQL and Tableau, while an aspiring game developer may want to become proficient with a game engine like Unity.