How To Start Learning Software Engineering for Free

December 16, 2020
woman learning to code

Software engineers are responsible for building and maintaining the software we use every day, from desktop and web browsers that make our lives easier, to the network and operating systems that make healthcare successful and security robust, to the mobile apps that rule our lives and schedules. One thing is certain, as technology becomes more integrated into our lives, the demand for qualified software developers will continue to increase.

Whether you are a seasoned programmer or a coding newbie, becoming a software engineer is easier than ever before thanks to free coding bootcamps and online coding programs. So, is it really possible to become a software engineer without paying anything upfront? This post will help break down your options and help get you started… for free!

What is a software engineer?

Software engineers build digital products, database programs, and computer systems for businesses by applying programming languages to user-focused applications. Some software engineers hold degrees in computer science, information systems, information technology, or software engineering, while others are self-taught or have endorsements or certifications from coding schools or online coding programs.

Software engineers work in collaboration with designers, data scientists, and project managers to identify methods to support their processes and projects. In addition, they review code, fix bugs and programs, design prototypes, analyze and identify client needs, develop functional software to test, and meet with other developers, clients, teams, and stakeholders. Software engineers may work with artificial intelligence, servers, or anything in between, but regardless, they write and maintain code using programming languages.

Pro Tip: Despite popular myths online, anyone can become a software engineer, regardless of background. Although jobs of the past required a college degree, today’s job market requires robust and comprehensive soft and technical skills, which will be put to the test in any technical job interview coding challenge.

That said, when deciding on a free coding camp, be sure to invest your time wisely in a program that will not only get your feet wet, but immerse you in content.

How to become a software engineer for free 

Becoming a software engineer requires discipline and commitment, but if you are ready to dive in it is also one of the most sought after and highest earning tech jobs in the market. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of software engineers is expected to grow 21 percent by 2028, and last year US News & World Report ranked software developers as the #1 best job in the world. It’s no wonder, then, that there are many free, low-cost, and low-risk ways to get started on the path to becoming a software engineer. 

Today you will find many free coding schools and free coding bootcamp options available through a simple google search, but it is important to vet your options. Take note of which have quality instruction, which will be worth your time, and which will satisfy your educational criteria in meeting your end goals.

First, consider which free web development courses will teach you the skills you need to master to become a software engineer. For instance, some programs focus mainly on the fundamentals of software engineering such as interfaces, conventions, layering, algorithmic complexity, hashing, caching, concurrency, cloud computing, security, and relational databases, and focus less on newer programming languages, frameworks, and libraries. Some may move faster than others and programs may be part time, full time, or self-paced. Regardless, each will have unique benefits to the individual. 

Some free coding bootcamp courses may fit your needs, and you can compare these against bootcamp ratings lists like SwitchUp, but be aware that while these courses are commonly only 2-3 months, they may only teach a few specific programming languages. Programs like Udacity and Coursera offer free courses such as “Version Control with Git”, which can be helpful introductions to version control systems and other basics, although not all program offerings are free and not all courses offer certifications. Other free services such as HackerRank and CodinGame can help you learn algorithms, assess your problem-solving skills through problem solving challenges, and improve programming skills, but for most aspiring software engineers they may be best suited as refinement and practice tools to master individual skills.

Self-paced options like FreeCodeCamp are popular for individuals looking for a self-directed experience with a certification option. This is often a useful teaching tool for those new to coding who wish to learn enough to pass entrance exams for other online programs, and although not as rigorous as other programs, it can be useful on the path to becoming a software engineer. Keep in mind, however, that many self-paced programs may not include real world experience, portfolio building opportunities, and computer science curriculum, so even if you complete a free code camp, you may need additional training to be prepared to interview or present your portfolio.

Other options, like Bloom Institute of Technology’s (formerly known as Lambda School) Full Stack Web Development Program, take a more comprehensive approach, teaching fundamentals along with known and new languages and frameworks. Schools like BloomTech teach students how to become a web developer by modeling the skills to learn new languages and frameworks as well, not just the ones taught in the program, giving alumni a useful edge in the field.

While some free code camp and online programs are one hundred percent free, others have additional paid certification options or even Income Share Agreements, making traditional loans or tuition models a thing of the past. Take HarvardX for example. Their free, 12-week CS50 Introduction to Computer Science course teaches computer science basics with the option to purchase a $90 certification. Their course provides a broad and dense spectrum of information and familiarity with concepts, frameworks, and languages, but may not provide the time needed to grasp and practice all concepts used in software engineering. 

BloomTech takes a different approach. By providing a direct path to a high paying tech job without the time commitments and financial risks of traditional higher education, BloomTech's tuition payment options enable you to fund enrollment in BloomTech’s quality programs in a way that makes sense for your circumstances, needs, and ambitions.

At BloomTech, we invest in you. With our popular ISA, you invest in yourself, too. When you pay for your BloomTech education with an ISA, you’ll start by paying for a fraction of your tuition up front. Once you graduate, we’ll help you land a well-paying job—and then you’ll pay for the rest of your tuition with a percentage of your income for a limited time. 

At BloomTech, we are committed to providing more people with a direct and lower-risk path to a rewarding tech job. That’s why we offer flexible options to pay your tuition—and launch your new career.

To learn more about BloomTech's innovative Income Share Agreement, Outcomes-Based Loan and other payment options, visit our website.   

How to choose the best free coding course for you 

With so many free, low-cost, and low-risk online choices, knowing where to begin your journey toward software engineering can feel overwhelming. When working with little or no budget, it can be important to select the best choice that will hold you accountable, keep you motivated, teach you the most up-to-date languages and technologies, and prepare you for the job market. 

While an online coding camp certification may sound good on paper, consider what skills you will actually come away with and bring into a real-world setting. Ask yourself the following:

1. How will your program help build your portfolio? 

2. How will your program give you opportunities for critical testing steps throughout to refine your skills and build your confidence?

3. How will your program support you beyond the data (mentorship, peer-to-peer support, portfolio help, job coaching, and a professional software engineering community for networking)?

4. How will your program prepare you to interview or quickly adapt to new technologies once you are in the field? 

5. What will the real costs be to your time and learning potential if you select the wrong program? 

Explore BloomTech

BloomTech offers several comprehensive online learning options. BloomTech's Backend Development course and Web Development and Data Science courses include high-quality, real-world job training including live instruction, Computer Science coursework, technical resume and interview preparation, group labs projects which can be used for an individual’s portfolio, and an invaluable peer-to-peer support network. Furthermore, BloomTech partners with a network of companies to match students with potential employers, giving BloomTech alumni a leg up in comparison to bootcamp students who may be learning and networking completely on their own. This means a BloomTech Alumni may have a greater chance at landing a job and may have higher earning potential as a software engineer.

Whether you are new to coding or a seasoned pro, your path to becoming a software engineer is in your hands but does not need to impact your pocket book. If you are ready for the challenge, BloomTech's here to support your dream. To find out more, visit our BloomTech admissions process page or apply now.