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Is JavaScript a Hard Programming Language to Learn?

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If you’re thinking about a learning to code and you’re wondering exactly what coding languages to start with, you might want to bump JavaScript (JS) to the top of your list. JS is a scripting language used to build and control dynamic website content (things like animated graphics, interactive forms, and scrolling video), and it’s been charting as developer forum Stack Overflow’s most popular programming language since 2014. This popularity has only increased with the widespread use of JavaScript frameworks—collections of JS code libraries allowing developers to perform routine tasks without rewriting code every time—and it’s a sentiment that’s echoed in the JavaScript-related job market. As of this writing, Indeed lists over 28,000 JavaScript developer jobs, while Glassdoor lists average JavaScript developer salaries at $72,500 per year.

But while the need to learn JavaScript sounds like a lock, how achievable of a goal is it really? In order to get a sense of the answers to these questions, I spoke to two JavaScript experts. Here’s what they had to say.

Expect to Spend Months (Not Years) Learning JavaScript Basics

One of the first questions people ask about learning a coding language is how long it takes. While JavaScript is a step up from the most fundamental web development skills (languages like HTML and CSS, which can be learned in under a month), you can still expect to learn JS basics in a matter of months, not years—and that’s whether you learn through online classes or teach yourself through book study.

The amount of time it takes to learn JavaScript has a lot to do with your methodology. Choose between online courses, in-person classes, or books depending on what’s the best fit for your life.

Arielle Kimbarovsky, Digital Marketer at UX design and mobile application development agency Codal, went the online class route and says it took her just about a year to get the hang of the language. Kimbarovsky learned at her own pace as a side project (resulting in the year time frame), which is one of the benefits of online classes—learning JS wasn’t her primary focus so she was able and willing to take her time. However, if learning JavaScript is higher on your priority list, online courses like Skillcrush’s Break into Tech Blueprint are designed to teach JavaScript in as little as three months (if you pace yourself at an hour a day).

Mara Behles Dean, QA Engineer at financial data software company MX, learned JavaScript as part of a coworker study group. This group met a few times a week over the course of several months to work through Eloquent JS (an intro to JavaScript book). Dean says that the group included experienced JS developers as well as total beginners, highlighting the kind of ongoing learning and up skilling that can take place even after you’re working at a tech job. Dean was able to follow up her participation in this study group with an apprenticeship on her company’s front-end development team and hopes to transition to a junior front-end engineer role.

So, Is it Easy to Learn JavaScript?

If the timeframe for getting up to speed with JavaScript fundamentals is a manageable matter of months, does that mean it’s easy? Kimbarovsky says that from her perspective JS definitely isn’t the hardest programming language out there, but she also says to keep in mind that everyone faces different barriers to learning.

According to Kimbarovsky, one critical thing to keep in mind when learning JavaScript (regardless of your own learning needs or style) is to resist the temptation to go too fast and speed through the fundamentals. For Kimbarovsky, her own JS leaning woes stemmed from moving on to new concepts too quickly and forgetting simpler things she’d already learned. “JavaScript is a language that builds on itself,” Kimbarovsky says. “This makes more involved JavaScript code a lot harder to write and understand if you don’t have a solid handle on the basics.”

The good news is: Resources abound to help you stay current with changes and to get past any JavaScript challenges you might face—though for Dean, this was a problem in itself. Dean says the JavaScript resource field is so well-populated that it actually intimidated her when she was trying to get started. In retrospect, Dean recommends that new JavaScript learners simply pick one resource at first, commit to it, and move on from there. Some of these resources include participating in developer forums like Stack Overflow, Codepen, and Github, using online tutorials from sites like Codeacademy and Coursera, or taking paid, instructor-led online classes from coding schools like Skillcrush. Dean also says—when it comes to specific concept-related challenges—to be persistent and to keep working through any frustration or confusion that might arise. “Programming gets easier with practice, no matter what language you’re learning,” Dean says. “The more you do it, the better you get.”

The Next Step: JavaScript Frameworks

Part of JavaScript’s growth as a leading programming language among web developers is the rise of JavaScript frameworks. In basic terms, JS Frameworks are collections of pre-written JavaScript code that can be used to execute basic and repetitive development functions versus coding each of these functions on your own every time they appear. By giving JavaScript coders a skeleton to work with, those coders can spend more time and energy on the complicated parts of a website (instead of getting bogged down creating the nuts and bolts from scratch). But with so much pre-written code available through frameworks, does that mean aspiring developers can bypass learning JavaScript as a whole?

Kimbarovsky believes that understanding JavaScript as a language before tackling a JS framework is extremely important. Without a higher level view of JavaScript, Kimbarovsky says, you won’t truly understand how a JS framework works—meaning you’ll ultimately be limited in what you can use it to do. However, Kimbarovsky says to also keep in mind that this works both ways—understanding JavaScript as a language doesn’t mean you won’t have to spend some time familiarizing yourself with how specific JS frameworks operate. “At the end of the day, learning to use frameworks is like learning lots of different language extensions,” Kimbarovsky says. “Luckily, there is plenty of documentation and support for popular JS frameworks. And—if you understand JavaScript concepts—it really does make researching those frameworks a lot easier.”

The takeaway? Learning JavaScript won’t necessarily be the easiest thing you’ve done in your life, but it will be far from the hardest. Persistent practice and work over the course of months should put you in a position to have the basics handled—and if you hit any roadblocks along the way there’s plenty of documentation and community support to help you.

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