If the only thing stopping you from learning how to code is time, join the club: When we recently surveyed 3,000 Codecademy learners, we found that not having enough time to commit to learning was the most common challenge that people faced during their coding journey. So how much time do you really need to learn how to code?
The answer, as you might guess, isn’t straightforward. But to put it into perspective, most American adults have an average of about 5 hours of “free” time each day to spend on leisure activities, like socializing, exercising, or watching TV, according to the latest American Time Use Survey findings. Of course, those 5 “free” hours could look vastly different from person to person depending on their individual circumstances and resources — and for many people, coding can be a substantial time commitment.
Take it from Elena Gorman, a UX Designer in the U.K., who took the Codecademy courses Learn Python 3 as well as Introduction to UI and UX Design. Finding time to learn how to code with two young children at home was “an absolute juggle,” she said.
The only time Elena had to squeeze in study sessions was in the early morning before her kids woke up, and then late at night after they were asleep. “I was literally up until 1 or 2 in the morning studying and trying to learn,” she said. “But I loved it so much that I had to pull myself away from the computer to go to bed. Learning is like a luxury for me.”
The good news is that all Codecademy courses and paths are designed for self-guided learning, meaning you’re in charge of setting a pace and schedule that works for you. You have the freedom to take breaks, stop and start lessons, and adjust your weekly learning target at any time. Whether it takes you 5 hours or 5 years to reach your coding goals, we’re here to help you every step of the way.
Here are a few tips for how to figure out how much time you should (realistically) spend each week learning how to code.
Work backwards from your goal
Broadly speaking, the more ambitious a goal is, the longer it will take to reach it. In our learner survey, we found that most people who are job-seekers (meaning they’re learning to code so they can get a new job) spent between 1-3 hours a week learning to code. On the other hand, we found that technologists learning to code so they can grow in their existing role spent less than an hour a week learning.
A lot depends on the end goal that you’re trying to achieve by learning to code. You may have heard about the SMART — short for “specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound” — framework for setting goals. The last parameter, time-bound, is important because it helps you set your pace and stay focused.
Figure out how you can structure your goal around a timeframe. For example, maybe your goal is to participate in a #100DaysofCode challenge, where you get in the habit of coding for at least one hour every day for 100 days and post about your progress on social media.
Or, if you want to learn to code so you can get a coding job, set a deadline for yourself to start applying and build in check-in points along the way. Full-Stack Engineer Andrew Polemeni learned how to code with Codecademy while he was in college studying IT, and set a goal to be ready to apply to software engineer jobs by the time he graduated.
“I just spent pretty much all my free time learning nothing but coding, so that way, I could be job-ready,” Andrew, who is now a Senior Software Engineer at Ford Motor Company, said. “I mostly learned to code after I was done with my classwork. I would shovel food in between, and then just go back to doing Codecademy.”
You can also explore Codecademy career paths, which are designed to guide you through everything you need to know in order to land an entry-level position. (Take a look at popular career paths like Front-End Engineer or Data Scientist: Analytics Specialist to see the syllabus and portfolio-ready projects you’ll complete.)
Make the most of the time you have
When Codecademy learner Doug Henderson was first learning how to code, he would mark off 20- and 30-minute increments of time on his Google Calendar that reminded him to take a break and work on a Codecademy course. Throughout the day, those chunks added up, and enabled him to spend 2 to 4 hours a day coding. Check out this blog post to discover even more genius time-saving strategies that Codecademy learners use.
There are ways that you can make the most of your coding time, even if you only have a few minutes scattered in your busy day. For example, did you know that taking a 10-minute break for mild physical activity (even a walk counts) can boost your memory function, making it easier to pick up new information? Other research has shown that just telling yourself, “I am excited!” about a goal can be enough to make you feel like you have more time on your hands. Be sure to read this blog post about other simple strategies that will make your learning sessions more effective when you’re short on time.
Measure your progress with other metrics
Try not to get too hung up on how many hours you spend learning, and instead focus on what you’re learning in the process. If you’re a total newbie, acknowledge when you reach common coding milestones, like writing your first line of code or finding (and squashing) your first bug. You might be surprised how much you’ve accomplished in just a short amount of time.
Software Engineer Shadow Smith still remembers the a-ha moment he experienced building his first website with HTML/CSS. “I got that endorphin rush whenever I first wrote a
There are a few other tangible ways that you can check in on your progress outside of Codecademy courses and paths. Consider tackling a practice project to get experience applying coding concepts to practical problems. Or, you might want to test your skills by completing a coding challenge that’s based on real-world technical interviews.
The bottom line
In truth, there’s no strict rule for the precise amount of time you need to learn to code, because everyone has different schedules, lives, and goals. As a realistic starting point, we typically recommend spending anywhere between five and 15 hours per week on coding if you’re looking to make a career-change, fast — but remember, everyone is different.
Curious how people like you make it work and find time to learn how to code? Connect with other coding enthusiasts by joining a Codecademy Chapter near you, or check out Codecademy Forums for coding advice, tips, and encouragement. And read more success stories from Codecademy learners to find out how people found new passions and rewarding careers by learning to code.
You can start learning how to code today by signing up for a free Codecademy account and browsing all of the beginner-friendly Codecademy courses. No clue where to start? Take our programming personality quiz to get recommendations for programming languages and careers that match your interests and preferences — the quiz only takes a few minutes to fill out, and could be the start of a fulfilling new career in tech.