Let’s talk about algorithms today. Do you really need to learn algorithms to become a programmer? Many people starting their programming careers ask this question. I’ll tell you my thoughts on algorithms and whether they are necessary or not.
Are algorithms really important? The answer to this question varies according to different circumstances.
If you want to learn computer programming, you need not know algorithms. You can get along without algorithms and learn a programming language, and even build software. But, knowing algorithms will help you solve several problems easily.
When you are starting your career as a programmer, I would suggest not giving too much focus to algorithms. Especially if you’re doing web development or mobile app development. You can definitely build software applications without the help of algorithms nowadays.
In the old days, technology was not as advanced as it is now. Hence, programmers needed to learn algorithms to implement several features. But, now we have a lot of libraries and tools that make everything easy for us. So we can make apps even without the help of algorithms.
That doesn’t mean you should not learn algorithms. I mean that it’s okay to be a programmer without knowing algorithms. But, learning algorithms can take your programming skills to the next level. If you know a programming language and can create some basic programs, it is worth investing some time to learn algorithms and data structures.
Why Learn Algorithms?
An algorithm is a finite sequence of instructions that are implementable in a computer to solve a particular problem. The main purpose of algorithms is to solve problems in the most efficient way.
There are several types of algorithms in computing that are already defined. It’s not infinite. There are only a certain number of important algorithms in computer science. If you do a degree in computer science, “algorithms” is one of the important subjects you should learn.
When I was doing my degree, I learned it in the second year. I didn’t enjoy it at first since I didn’t know how to use it practically. Later, I found it interesting, and it became fun.
If you know algorithms, you can recognize several problems where algorithms can be applied, which you might not even know if you didn’t know algorithms. When you see a certain problem, you can recognize that the problem is actually solvable using a particular algorithm. Then you can apply the algorithm and solve it much faster.
Ever attended any coding interviews? You need to know algorithms to pass a coding interview, especially for big tech companies. Companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc., conduct whiteboard interviews where you would need to solve a problem using algorithms. If you know algorithms, it will be easy to pass this kind of coding interview.
Also, when you write a program or build software, you can apply your knowledge of algorithms to solve several tasks easily. You can make your code efficient by reducing its time complexity and space complexity. That means your program will run within less time by taking less memory space.
How To Learn Algorithms?
First of all, select a programming language, learn it, and stick with it. Do not juggle too many languages at the same time. If you’ve some basic knowledge in programming, then we’ll start learning algorithms and data structures.
There are several great resources available to learn algorithms and data structures. I’ll recommend some of them that I think are the best ones out there.
First of all, I would recommend a great book called “Introduction to Algorithms” by Thomas H. Cormen, Charles E. Leiserson, Ronald L. Rivest, and Clifford Stein. This book was a reference for me when I was learning algorithms in college. But I don’t know how many people like reading books nowadays. If you’re good at learning from books, this book is a great choice.
I’ll recommend one more book, which is “Cracking the Coding Interview” by Gayle Laakmann McDowell. This one is a great resource if you’re preparing for coding interviews. This book will help you solve problems easily.
I know that many of you don’t like learning from books. Hence, I’ll also recommend some online resources that you can follow.
One great course I found on algorithms and data structures is on the LearnCodeOnline website. They have Data Structures and Algorithms courses in Python, Java, and C++. If you’re using one of these languages, you can get the corresponding course, and it is pretty cheap as well.
Two more great courses on Algorithms that I found are the “Algorithms Specialization Course” offered by Stanford at Coursera and the Udacity course “Intro to Data Structures and Algorithms” offered by Google.
However, the best way to improve your skills in algorithms and problem solving is by taking part in coding challenges. There are several online platforms where you can do coding challenges, and that will help you a lot.
I’ve participated in several coding challenges on various online platforms, and it is actually great fun. Some of the best online websites offering programming challenges are:
You can select one of these platforms and participate in coding challenges. I used Hacker Rank a lot for improving my skills and participating in competitive programming challenges. These kinds of challenges are fun and competitive, and they will help you sharpen your skills.
I haven’t used all the other websites. But I often hear about these resources from some other software developers. You can select any of these, and stick with one platform for a while. You can start as a beginner with easy challenges. Later, when you progress, you can try solving complex coding problems.
If you’re not sure about starting coding challenges, I would suggest you read this article to understand why programming challenges are essential.
I would also recommend you check out Interview Cake and AlgoExpert, two great platforms if you’re preparing for a coding interview at a big tech company. These are not free, but still worth investing some money if you need a job at giant tech companies.
I hope you got some value out of this article. If you have any doubts or anything to add to this article, feel free to drop a comment. I’ll be happy to respond.
I would appreciate it if you would be willing to share this article. It will encourage me to create more useful tutorials like this.