Online Coding School vs Teaching Yourself to Code: Which Way to Go?

February 23, 2022
A student working on multiple  laptops

A few years ago, Nate got an idea for what he thought would be a great app. “I talked to investors but I had no leverage, technical skills, or money to bring to the table,” he remembers. “Once I saw how much the developers were making I said, ‘I'm in the wrong business.’”

Nate began watching free coding videos online. “I quickly found out how hard it was by trying to teach myself on the side,” he says. Dipping his toes in didn’t teach him enough to program an app—but it set him on a new path. “Coding was something I could see myself doing for a long time. That was the spark,” he says.

Nate went on to study full stack web development at BloomTech (FKA Lambda School). He is now a full stack developer, creating apps using Node, React, SQL, and other technologies. 

Nate began his tech career by going the self-taught route, but he didn’t DIY for long. If you’re weighing going to an online coding school against teaching yourself to code, you’ve come to the right place. Here, we’ll outline what Nate and many others consider when deciding how to learn to code.

Can coding be self-taught?

In a nutshell: absolutely. People can, and do, teach themselves to code.

In fact, several of the technology industry’s most influential game-changers were self-taught. Consider Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Margaret Hamilton (who, with her team, programmed software for the Apollo space program), and Turing Award-winner Fran Allen. They all taught themselves to code without formal computer science education, at least at first. 

Not everyone successfully teaches themselves to code, though, and not everyone who does teach themselves to code becomes the founder of a tech company that earns billions of dollars each year. (If only!)

Those who teach themselves to code rather than learning in a more formal setting, such as online coding school, may bump up against obstacles. 

Maintaining motivation when teaching yourself to code

People teaching themselves to code said that maintaining your motivation was one of the hardest parts of learning on their own, according to one survey. That’s not surprising, since going your own way can feel isolating. 

When you teach yourself to program, you may not be surrounded by others in the same boat. You may not have an encouraging voice cheering you on when you’d rather stop for the day—or forever. 

That’s also why here at BloomTech, we see community—not just curriculum—as an important part of learning to code. 

“Learning is a team sport,” says Mari Nazary, Chief Experience Officer at BloomTech. “Humans are social creatures, so we’ve designed an interactive and supportive learning experience. The BloomTech community helps learners stay motivated—whether that’s through academic support from industry expert instructors, coaches who have experience with what it's like to transform your life, or your fellow learners.” 

Learn the skills needed for tech jobs

Teaching yourself to code online is a bit like eating at a buffet: You have so many choices that it can be difficult to know where to start.

An online coding program like BloomTech’s designs the curriculum so you don’t have to wade through thousands, or even millions, of websites, videos, podcasts, and other free resources. That way you can focus on, practice, and master the most important skills needed for jobs like data scientist and web developer. 

That approach worked for Jen. She stumbled across tech while working in a part-time job, which inspired her to stay up late doing free online coding tutorials. Self-teaching was going slowly, though, so she signed up for BloomTech. 

“Within the first two weeks, [instructors] were talking about things I hadn't come across in three years of studying on my own,” Jen says. BloomTech provided a faster and more direct path to her goals. “That meant I could start saving for my kids' college and family vacations and take pressure off my partner, who was working 12-hour days to take care of us.”

Get the skills that translate to the workplace

When you’re looking for a job in tech, you’ll absolutely need to show your technical skills. It’s much harder to learn other in-demand skills from an online tutorial. 

Employers want workers who demonstrate leadership, excellent communication, and teamwork skills as well, according to the job search platform Indeed. BloomTech’s online tech training programs include projects where you can practice these skills as well as improve your coding, product design, and critical thinking. 

For example, BloomTech learners work in teams to complete projects just like ones that are typical in entry-level tech jobs. Graduates can talk about this experience during interviews or in a cover letter to demonstrate their communication, teamwork, and leadership abilities. This helps a hiring manager better understand how a candidate could meet the needs of a job opening.

Including these projects on a resume or job application can help you stand out among a sea of other candidates. 

Choosing between teaching yourself to code and going to coding school

Going back to school can be a big choice. You’ll want to weigh your options carefully when deciding between teaching yourself to code and going to an online coding school like BloomTech.

Remember, these are a few of the factors to consider:

  1. How confident are you that you can stay motivated when teaching yourself to code?
  2. If you use free coding resources, will you be sure to learn the skills needed to work in the tech field?
  3. Will learning to code by yourself teach you skills like teamwork, leadership, and communication—the skills employers are looking for?
  4. Will you have opportunities to gain hands-on experience if you DIY your coding education?

Temsy thought about the pros and cons of enrolling in coding school vs teaching herself to code. She says, “I had friends telling me, ‘Why go to a school? All this education is free online. You could just self-teach. [But} in that year you self-teach, you might not really get it and might get really frustrated with yourself.” That’s why Temsy chose to learn to code online. 

“BloomTech helped,” continues Temsy, who went from a stay-at-home-mom to a data engineer after graduating from the BloomTech Data Science program. “They have the big picture in mind. They know why I’m learning each of these things. Whereas if I were a self-taught person, who knows if I’d ever get the big picture. If I had to do it all over again, absolutely I’d do it the BloomTech way.”

Are you ready for a direct, lower risk path to a better future? Enroll in a BloomTech course to get one step closer to your next career!