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How To Teach Yourself Computer Science. What You Need To Know

Updated: September 22, 2023 | Published: February 1, 2019

Updated: September 22, 2023

Published: February 1, 2019


Do you want to teach yourself computer science? Here’s everything you need to know to successfully learn computer science on your own.

So you want to teach yourself computer science, but you don’t know where to start. Don’t worry — by the end of this post, you’ll know exactly what you need to do to get started. Here’s an easy to follow step-by-step guide to becoming an expert in computer science completely on your own…plus some advice on an alternative option that can guarantee you learn everything you need to know without any of the guesswork.

Why learn Computer Science?

Before jumping into how to learn computer science, it’s important to know why you want to learn computer science. Turns out there’s a lot of great reasons to get into this vast and versatile field.

In the US alone, over half a million new computer science jobs are expected to open up over the next few years. That means those knowledgeable in this field are in very high demand, not just in the US, but all over the world.

In our increasingly technological and globalized world, computer scientists are vital to the functioning of pretty much every business and industry out there, and they’re only going to become more important over time, meaning high job security.

The job prospects that open up to you once you are qualified in this field are mind boggling — and as technological innovations continue to be made, new and exciting fields keep being created. Perhaps you’d like to become a software engineer, making an average salary of over $107,000 a year. If data is your thing, you could be a data administrator earning around $96,000 a year. Or if you’re interested in artificial intelligence, you could go on to be a machine learning engineer making more than $144,000 a year, based on national averages in the US.

If you decide to learn computer science, a lot of new, exciting and lucrative doors could open up for you.

Some different CS subject areas

In order to get a well-rounded education and a holistic understanding of all things computer science, it will be important for you to learn about each of these subject areas as you go through your journey to become a computer scientist. Every good computer scientists has studied the following areas in some form.

It’s also a good idea to pick one or two that highly interest you and delve even deeper into these areas of study so you become an expert in a specific field. It’s impossible to be an expert in everything, so choosing a specialization is helpful.

  • Programming
  • Computer Architecture
  • Algorithms and Data Structures
  • Mathematics for Computer Science
  • Operating Systems
  • Computer Networking
  • Databases
  • Languages and Compilers
  • Distributed Systems

Source: Unsplash

How to teach yourself computer science: Step-by-step guide

Step 1: Learn to code

Every computer scientist has to know how to code, and it’s the first place to start your journey of becoming a skilled computer scientist yourself. Knowing how to code allows you to know how to speak the language of computers and give them commands on how to function. You will be able to build new computer programs as well as fix issues in already existing ones. It’s a crucial skill to have in the computer science world.

There’s many different coding languages out there. First, start with the basics, which are HTML and CSS. Then you can soon move on to more complex languages, but are still relatively easy to get a hang of, like Python and Java. These are two very useful computer programming languages to know, as they will provide you with a very solid idea of programming concepts that you will need in every other programming language, and they are both heavily used in the industry.

Teaching yourself a new language sounds hard, right? Luckily, there’s a wide range of options available out there for teaching yourself how to code online, and many of them are free. Some of the most popular options are Codeacadamy, Codewars, Free Code Camp, and Khan Academy. Check some out and dive in!

Source: Unsplash

Step 2: Learn the ins and outs of programming

After you know how to code, it’s important to understand why and how your code works. There are a lot of layers underneath code, all the way down to the hardware.

To get a better understanding of all the layers of the stack, you’ll need to study the interactions of the hardware, software, compilers, and operating systems that make up computers. The Elements of Computing Systems is a good book to read to get a good feel for how computing systems function.

Once you feel you have a grasp on those concepts, it’s a good idea to start learning about algorithms and data structures. Knowing these concepts will help you write code that’s far more efficient. There’s lots of helpful books out there on this subject, as well as online courses. Find something that suits your learning style best.

You’ll also want to learn about how computer networks function, since most programs you will be working on will be communicating with other computers either through a local network or through the internet.

Once you’ve completed this step, congratulations! You are now a full-fledged computer programmer and you know a whole lot about computer science. You are now qualified for a wide range of in-demand jobs all over the world. If you want to go even further, however, continue onto step 3 to become a highly specialized computer science master.

Source: Unsplash

Step 3: Choose a specialization

It’s very hard to gain a deep understanding of every aspect of computer science since it’s such a huge and vast field of study.

That’s why it’s good to choose a specialization that really allows you to delve deep into and become an expert in a certain area. As you learn, you will probably find yourself gravitating towards certain subjects over others that interest you more.

Some specializations within computer science are:

  • Computer and Network Security:

In this field, you would be addressing software vulnerabilities and mitigating security risks. This is a very in-demand field to get into. To specialize in computer and network security, you would want to learn about database management, advanced operating systems, cryptography, and advanced encryption strategies.

  • Mobile and Web Computing:

Focuses specifically on the design and development of mobile devices (such as smartphones) and web-based applications. It would be smart to study interface design (UX/UI) for this field.

  • Human-Computer Interaction:

HCI focuses on user-centered design to develop computers and systems that are more user-friendly. As a result, you should focus on studying different aspects of design in particular for this field.

  • Bioinformatics:

If you’re into biology and science, consider this specialization. You’ll be working on computer programs designed to mine and interpret biological data, like genome sequencing.

  • Information Management and Data Analytics:

This wide field is focused on the design, development, management, and use of information in order to better understand and utilize the data in the real world. You’ll need to have a solid understanding of algorithms and database architecture in particular.

  • Artificial Intelligence:

AI focuses on computer systems that are able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as decision-making, speech recognition, translation between languages, etc. You should focus on learning about robotics, machine learning, and probability and modeling.

Source: Unsplash

Step 4: Keep learning

A computer scientist’s education is never over, even once you’ve found a job. It’s important to always keep learning new things, especially in such a fast-paced field that’s constantly evolving. There’s always more to learn in the field of computer science. That’s what makes it such an exciting and challenging field to get into!

Alternative Option: Get an Associate or Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science

While some people are able to succeed in teaching themselves computer science completely on their own, it’s a very tricky and complex subject to master without any guidance.

If learning computer science by yourself sounds overwhelming, and you’re not sure you want to go it alone, you may want to consider going to school for it and getting a degree in computer science. This would ensure you will learn everything you need to know without any guesswork on your part.

You would be taught by highly knowledgeable professors and be able to network and make connections with others in the field, which is always an important aspect during job hunting!

Having a degree also proves to the world that you have completed a rigorous training program and are highly qualified.

If you’re trying to teach yourself computer science, it may be because you don’t have the money to invest in an expensive university program, or you don’t have the time to dedicate to going to school on campus.

If that’s the case, enrolling in a computer science program at University of the People may be just what you need. UoPeople is tuition-free and 100% online, so you can study when and where you want, and you don’t have to take out giant student loans just to get your education. We offer both an associate program and a bachelor’s program in computer science.

With UoPeople, you will gain a strong academic foundation with real-life applications. We prepare our students for employment through plenty of hand-on experience, specialized internships, and mentoring programs. Choosing a computer science degree with UoPeople can set you up for a successful future in the computer science field of your dreams.

No matter which way you choose to learn computer science — on your own or through a university program — we wish you luck on your learning journey! It’s a long road to becoming a master in computer science, but a very interesting and rewarding one.