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How to Learn Python: A Complete Guide

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Get Our Free Ultimate Guide to Coding for Beginners

You don't need need to be a math whiz to learn Python—but a few beginner coding skills don't hurt. Use this FREE guide to get started!

If you’ve spent any time researching web development and programming, you’ve seen or heard people talking about the programming language Python.

According to The Economist, Python is surging toward the title of the world’s most popular programming language. That matters because the more popular a coding language is, the more employers start using it as their language of choice—and that means knowing how to use Python gets you hired (particularly important if you’re looking to recession-proof your skillset). 

“Great,” you say, “that all makes a lot of sense.” But there’s one problem: how do you start learning Python? 

We’ve put together this guide on exactly how to learn Python. From what Python is, to how it’s used, to where to learn it (and much, much more), this guide will explain everything you ever wanted to know…and then some. 

By the way, don’t feel like you have to take it all in in one sitting. Bookmark this page, come back as often as you like, and take your time working through all the other linked articles and resources. Next thing you know, you’ll be a Python pro!

Table of Contents

  1. What is Python?
  2. What is Python Used For?
  3. What are Some Python Jobs?
  4. How (and Where) Do I Learn It?
  5. Bonus: Python Programming Examples, Resources, and Some Python Tools

What is Python?

Python is a general-purpose coding language—which means that, unlike HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, it can be used for other types of programming and software development besides web development.

What kinds of things, you ask? We’ll go into even more detail about what Python is used for later in the article, but the general list includes: 

  • Back end (or server-side) web and mobile app development
  • Desktop app and software development
  • Processing big data and performing mathematical computations
  • Writing system scripts (creating instructions that tell a computer system to “do” something)

But Why is it Called Python?

One quick note that we need to add here:

Python’s name is neither a complicated tech metaphor nor a complicated acronym. Python is named after Monty Python.

Yes, THAT Monty Python.

According to Python.org, “When he began implementing Python, Guido van Rossum was also reading the published scripts from ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’…he needed a name that was short, unique, and slightly mysterious, so he decided to call the language Python.”

You’ve got to love a programming language built with a sense of humor, right?

Who Should Learn Python?

So, does Python’s broad range of uses mean tech newbies should stick to more familiar-sounding web development languages? No way! Python’s range might sound intimidating, but it’s known for being an easy-to-learn, easy-to-use programming language. And that means Python is a good language to learn for:  

  • Beginning coders
  • Web and mobile app developers
  • Software engineers
  • Data Scientists
  • Anyone else working with or learning about computer programming!

Why You Should Learn Python

You can read a whole lot more about exactly why YOU should start learning and using Python here, but for now, consider these top four reasons:

1. There Are Lots of Python Jobs

As of this writing, Indeed.com lists almost 69,000 Python-related job openings in roles ranging from quality assurance engineer and entry-level software engineer positions to high-level jobs like machine learning and artificial intelligence engineers.

2. Python Doesn’t Take Long to Learn

For as powerful a language as Python is, it’s also surprisingly easy to learn. Industry professionals say you can learn Python basics (Python’s syntax, keywords, and data types) in as little as 6-8 weeks if you have previous experience with coding languages. 

3. You Can Learn Python Basics For Free

No! It’s NOT too good to be true! You can learn those Python basics without spending a cent. Don’t believe us? Check out this comprehensive (and FREE) Python tutorial directly from the Python Software Foundation’s official website. Also, you can check out even more free Python resources here.

4. Python is the Popular Kid

Like we mentioned earlier, Python is quickly becoming the world’s most popular coding language. The last thing you want to do is invest the money and time to learn a language that isn’t widely used enough to land a job. With Python, that’s NOT going to be a problem.

Bonus Read:

Tech 101: What is Python? Plus, 13 Reasons Why You Should Learn It

What is Python Used For?

Now you have an idea of what Python is— and why it’s a good idea to start learning how to use it—how about some clearer examples of what it’s actually used FOR? You can take super-deep dive into Python, its uses, and the industries that rely on it here, but here’s the TLDR version.

Python’s primary uses include:

1. General Web Development / Building Web Apps

One of Python’s main gigs is as a scripting language, helping to build websites and web applications. “But wait a minute,” you might say. “Isn’t JavaScript a scripting language used for web development? If I already know JavaScript, does that make Python redundant?”

Not at all!

Yes, both JavaScript and Python are used to write web dev-related scripts, but while JavaScript is most commonly used on the front end of websites and apps (the parts that people see on their screen and interact with), Python is put to work on the back end (building and maintaining the unseen infrastructure that makes websites and applications work).   

Python’s combination of being simple to use (based on its English language-oriented syntax) and the availability of Python libraries and frameworks like Pyramid, Django, and Flask, all combine to make it a ubiquitous presence in back end web projects.

2. Scientific Computing + Data Science + Machine Learning

Python is also used for scientific computing and data science. It even has several science-friendly or science-specific libraries including:

And if data science isn’t sciencey enough for you, Python is also a mainstay language for machine learning (a tech field focused on artificial intelligence). Python’s machine learning libraries and frameworks including scikit-learn and TensorFlow.

3. Startups

Startups, and especially tech startups, love Python because it’s easy to use and scalable. Meaning Python can be used to build a digital product that serves a handful of people…and still be used to update and maintain that product when the customer base grows to hundreds, or thousands, or even millions.

4. FinTech + the Financial Industry

Wondering which programming language the financial industry prioritizes when it comes to hiring developers and engineers? You guessed it. Python. Python’s ability to crunch numbers makes it a perfect fit for FinTech and means it should be at the top of your list of languages to learn if you’re interested in working in finance.  

Bonus Reads: 

What Is Python Used For? 5 Industries That Can’t Do Without It

Tech 101: Python vs JavaScript—What’s the Difference?

What are Python Jobs?

So the next question is: how exactly does Python translate into jobs?

Python-related jobs are a little different than jobs tied to more specific-use coding languages. While HTML and JavaScript jobs, for instance, tend to be variations on web developer roles. Python jobs are more varied, which makes sense when you think about all the different ways Python can be used.

When you search for Python jobs on a site like Indeed, you’ll find:

Junior Positions

  • Quality assurance engineers 
  • Entry-level software developers 
  • Junior Python developers

Higher-Level Positions

  • Data Scientists 
  • Artificial Intelligence Researchers 
  • Machine Learning Engineer

The sheer range of Python jobs can be confusing, but the best way to navigate these listings is to narrow down the kind of work you want to do and what your current experience level is. To decode the Python job market, here’s a breakdown of some common Python roles, their general job focus, and average salary.

Common Python Jobs

Entry Level Software Developer

As the name suggests, this is an entry-level position. Software developers work on team-building software programs and web applications. Developing software doesn’t always mean using Python, but Python is a common language used in the software development process, and Python knowledge and experience is one piece of the puzzle for landing your first software developer job.

Average Salary:  $52,491

Quality Assurance Engineer

QA Engineers are an entry-to-mid-level role that tests software programs and web applications. QA Engineers don’t build the software they’re testing, but they DO use scripting languages like Python to automate and execute their testing process.

Average Salary: $61,459

Junior Python Developer

This entry-level position is one of the most familiar roles if you have any background in web development. Python developers are Python specialists who use Python to build websites, mobile applications, or software. This role differs from the more general software developer above, in that the focus is entirely on Python and Python-related aspects of a development project. 

Average Salary: $80,994

Senior Python Developer

This is the mid-to-senior-level variant of Python developer. Same focus, but after you have 3-5 years of Python development under your belt.

Average Salary: $117,822

Data Scientist

Data Scientists are mid-to-senior-level roles responsible for interpreting and extracting meaning from fields of data. Data scientists typically have backgrounds in mathematics, statistics, computer science, or other quantitative fields. Python is one of data science’s go-to programming languages due to its ability to automate and analyze data.

Average Salary: $121,031

Machine Learning Engineer: $141,029

Machine learning engineers are another mid-to-senior level Python role. These engineers develop machines, software programs, and other computer systems capable of “learning” and applying learned knowledge without specific instructions. Machine learning engineers often have deep mathematical and computer science backgrounds that can include college degrees. Similar to data science, Python’s ability to handle algorithms and data automation make it a primary programming tool for machine learning.

Average Salary: $141,029

Where Can You Find Python Jobs?

Once you’re ready to look for Python jobs, where can you find them? That part’s easy. Here’s a list of go-to sources for Python job listings:

Bonus Reads: TK Python Jobs Post

How and Where to Learn Python

Sold on Python? Great! Wondering how to start learning it? Even better! 

As flexible and powerful a programming language as Python is, you might think it takes years to learn. You’d be wrong. Similar to languages like JavaScript, the consensus is that Python basics can be learned in under a year, and sometimes in as little as a month or two (depending on how many hours you dedicate). I repeat: you can learn Python in a matter of months

Not only can you learn Python in a very reasonable time frame, but you can also start learning it for FREE. 

How? Just like other coding languages, free, quality resources abound for learning Python basics, including:

Again, all of these beginner Python courses and tutorials are free of charge, and you can take them online from the comfort of your couch. Still, to master Python you’ll eventually want to invest in a paid, instructor-led class. When that time comes, look no further than our own brand new Skillcrush Python Course launching this Fall.

Bonus Reads:

80+ Ways to Learn How to Code for Free in 2019

Bonus: Python Programming Examples and Python Tools

If you’re ready to start learning Python for yourself, we’d like to leave you with a few bonus resources to help you out: a collection of actual Python code snippets to show you how the language actually works (and to inspire you to try some beginner projects of your own), and a list of Python IDEs and Code Editors that will make your Python coding process that much easier.

Python Programming Examples

You can read our full list of over 25 Python Programming examples here, but here’s a top-five to get you started.

Each of these examples includes its source code, which you can edit and tweak to see how the script works, and how you might modify it to work differently.

Python IDEs and Code Editors

IDEs (or Integrated Development Environments in developer speak) are software programs that combine tools for writing and testing software, websites, and mobile apps into one efficient platform (you know, an “integrated development environment”). 

Code editors are lighter weight text editor programs that are optimized for writing and editing specific coding languages. 

We put together a list of the best Python-specific IDEs and code editors here, but you can get started with this “greatest hits” list.

Idle (Python IDE)

Who It’s For: Beginning Python users

Pricing: Free (open source)

Thonny (Python IDE)

Who It’s For: Beginning Python users

Price: Free (open source)

PyCharm (Python IDE)

Who It’s For: Intermediate to advanced Python users

Price: Freemium (free limited feature community version, paid full-featured professional version)

Sublime Text (Code Editor)

Who It’s For: All Python users

Price: $80

Visual Studio Code (code editor)

Who It’s For: All Python users

Price: Free (open source)

Vim (code editor)

Who It’s For: All Python users

Price: Free (open source)

Bonus Reads:

25+ Python Programming Examples

The 13 Best Python IDEs and Code Editors

 

To learn more about making a roadmap for learning Python and beyond, check out our Courses page. And remember to sign up to be the first to know when our new Python Course launches!

 

Get Our Free Ultimate Guide to Coding for Beginners

Get Our Free Ultimate Guide to Coding for Beginners

You don't need need to be a math whiz to learn Python—but a few beginner coding skills don't hurt. Use this FREE guide to get started!

Scott Morris

Scott Morris is Skillcrush's staff writer and content producer. Like all the members of Skillcrush's team, he works remotely (in his case from Napa, CA). He believes that content that's worth reading (and that your audience can find!) creates brands that people follow. He's experienced writing on topics including jobs and technology, digital marketing, career pivots, gender equity, parenting, and popular culture. Before starting his career as a writer and content marketer, he spent 10 years as a full-time parent to his daughters Veronica and Athena.