How to Become a Self-taught Software Developer

The world is fast-changing, and almost everything is geared towards technology. We’ve seen significant technological advances that have changed lives forever. One of the areas that are fast-growing and highly rewarding is software development.

For many of us, getting a degree is not our thing. This may be out of boredom or financial constraints. In case you would like to become a software developer but are uninterested or unable to travel the degree way, I have good news for you. You can still be one by learning it yourself.

It is a good thing that entering the tech world does not need a college degree. Most people can teach themselves new programming languages and web-related projects. I will, therefore, take you through how to become a self-taught software developer and build a career on it.

1. Online Learning

The web contains a lot of information. I believe that you can be anything you want by adequately utilizing it. In case you want to build a career as a self-taught web developer, you must undertake online education.

Indeed, most people are nowadays shifting to online learning due to a variety of reasons, and with this, the information base keeps expanding. There are several free online courses available and several videos you can get online.

Software development is all about coding, and therefore, that should be your top priority. You, however, need first to re-evaluate your goals and understand why you want to be a software developer.

If it is out of passion, the learning process will be easier and enjoyable. Contrary to most people’s beliefs, you do not need a computer science degree to learn how to code. You, however, need a few basic computer techniques and fundamentals, which I believe you have a hint about.

If not, get to learn how a computer works first. Once you have a basic understanding of that, pick a technology and start learning. Most people have not written code in their life.

To help you with this, take an HTML and CSS Course. These are the fundamentals of web development. The reason why I’m recommending HTML and CSS is that writing them is fun and easy. You’ll get a feel of coding, and you’ll get a glimpse of the creative power programming possesses.

Code requires practice meaning that you need to be consistent. Make sure that you take a couple of hours every day writing code. You also need a peaceful environment devoid of any distractions. Writing code requires optimum keenness.

Have in mind that programming never stops. You only get better by practicing. You, therefore, need to put a lot of work, practicing and writing codes on a daily. Once you are done with the basics, it is time to upgrade.

Also, remember to watch a lot of tutorials from self-taught web developers. This will help you get a one-on-one on how to advance and improve on your learning. By watching tutorials and videos, you get to interact with people who have been in your place before.

2. Choosing a Programming Language

You only get to select a language once you are conversant with HTML and CSS, which basically are the cornerstone of web development. If you’re not cool with web development, then choose mobile application development or any other field that you’re interested in.

If you ask me to recommend a programming language, I would recommend either Python or Javascript for the general audience. Also, these are the trending languages in the tech field in recent times.

I recommend Python because it has a ton of in-built libraries that can simplify several complicated tasks. The reason why I chose Javascript is that with one language, you can accomplish both Front-end and Back-end tasks.

However, if you’re interested in a field where Python and Javascript aren’t the main players, don’t choose them. For example, if you’re interested in Android development, then choose either Java or Kotlin. Don’t go for Python. If you’re interested in iOS development, Swift language would be your best option.

3. Taking Action

You have to put whatever you have learned into effect if you want to be an excellent self-taught software developer. Watching a load of tutorials will not materialize if you do not act on them. The best way to learn any discipline on your own is by doing.

Act on what you have learned. You need to copy and follow along. Online classes are different from physical courses, and therefore, you have to go the extra mile.

To perfect, you have to practice. Programming is usually a broad concept where you get to solve several problems. You, therefore, diversify applications into features and then the features into problems after which you break them down.

It is only by breaking down the problem that you get to build anything. Make sure therefore that you act on what the tutorials, books, and videos say and develop practical applications. An essential way of mastering content is through internalizing.

I would also advise you to take the teacher route. What does this mean? You need to be so good at it that you can explain it to others. Do not, therefore, rush to master content. Take your time and be good at it.

You can teach other people and earn money via online platforms such as Wyzant, Takelessons, and TeacherOn. You don’t need to be the expert to do it. You just have to be one step ahead of your students.

4. Joining Online Communities

After learning on your own for a while, the next step is to join an online community. This is an integral part of self-learning that introduces you to numerous new ideas. Some of the online communities you can join include Stack Overflow.

Make sure that you engage with the community you join. You can ask questions if you are stuck, and if you have a problem, you can post it to the members who will help you come up with a solution. You, therefore, get better through networking.

How does engaging with the community help you? You get to learn more about program-related problems from different people. You, however, need to ensure that you do not give up on writing code.

You only get to identify your mistakes through constant practice. Online communities also help build confidence since you learn how to tackle different problems while coding. You will also get to interact with diverse sets of skills, from amateurs to experts.

5. Overcoming Your Fear

You will only create new things and solve problems if you get rid of your fear. While starting, most people feel that they are not as good. Some may also think that they are less adequate compared to those with degrees in computer science and software development.

The thing is, coding and software development never ends. You cannot, therefore, master everything. Every career has its challenges, and this is one of them. Even experienced programmers have their fails, just that they shield most of them from the world.

Ensure that you interact with other software developers. You can do meetups or attend seminars. There are websites such as that will help you with this.

6. Building Something Valuable

Once you are comfortable with your learning, build something that makes you proud. The best thing to do is to think of a project idea and come up with something that is in line with whatever you are learning.

I would advise that you pick on a blog website or a portfolio website for yourself. You can also build a game or a web feature. You can, therefore, publish your projects, sharing them with your online community. Implement the feedback you get.

When do you apply for jobs? Once you have several projects and you are pretty confident about your work, you can apply for jobs using your projects to sell you. To publish your projects, you can open an account with Github. It is an online platform where you can host your projects for free.

What are some of the things that you need to know as a self-taught developer?

For a self-taught software developer, you may have missed the privilege of being exposed to some of the guiding lights of successful software development. Here are some of the things that will answer your question on how to become a self-taught software developer:

Pick a discipline and Specialize

When starting as a self-taught software developer, you need to select a discipline and stick with it. There are several disciplines you can pick such as front-end development, back-end development, machine learning, mobile app development, etc.

Specialization is key. You need to be the big fish in the small pond, not the small fish in the big pond. That means that you should not be a generic software developer like everyone else. They are everywhere. The industry needs specialists with specific skills.

Software Development Principles

For a self-taught software developer, you may not have had the chance of going through the software development principles. These principles will help you when writing code.

Important concepts such as software development lifecycle, design patterns, etc. are some things you should try to learn. You should also learn about some programming styles.

Data Structure and Algorithms

I’m a college graduate, and if you ask me, the best subject that I learned from my degree is data structures and algorithms. These are the ones that self-taught developers skip most often.

Data structures and algorithms are such key topics in software development so that every interview you’ll attend will have some questions from these subjects. So, find some time to learn these subjects.

The database management system is also yet another important computer science subject that you don’t want to skip. You can find online materials for all these subjects.

Read Documentations

When starting, you need to read documentations, however scary. This might be quite a task, especially for beginners, but it will help you a lot. Ensure also that you react to the documentation.

It is always a good skill to have if you’re able to understand concepts from reading documentations. If you can’t, you can always look for online tutorials that are simpler than documentation.

Building Good Habits

You need to be aware of good development habits when practicing. When developing software, the chances are that you will not work alone. Coming up with an application or a project may require the collaboration of several developers.

Here are some of the habits that you should perfect on:

  • Ensure that you deliver high-quality codes.
  • Equip yourself with good management practices.
  • Have proper code review habits.
  • Always provide value to the customer
  • Try to learn from your mistakes (don’t repeat the same mistake again)

These habits are also important when building a career.

Asking Questions

You will only be good at what you do when you inquire. It is, therefore, crucial that you ask questions where you find a challenge. Most people shy away from questions because they fear being seen as stupid.

Do not beat yourself when you do not understand something. Seek help for others, learn from your mistakes, and try to help other people by answering their questions.


Becoming a self-taught software developer is not mission-impossible. It is possible to be an expert developer through self-education, self-discipline, and good programming practices.

I hope that this article will be useful in your quest to conquer the world. If you have any doubts, feel free to ask them in the comments. I’ll be happy to help you.

I would appreciate it if you would be willing to share this article. It will motivate me to create more helpful articles.

Happy coding!

Ashwin Joy

I'm the face behind Pythonista Planet. I learned my first programming language back in 2015. Ever since then, I've been learning programming and immersing myself in technology. On this site, I share everything that I've learned about computer programming.

6 thoughts on “How to Become a Self-taught Software Developer

  1. This is probably one of the best articles I have read, this is definitely talking to me. thanks for the straight points raised.

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