How to Learn Java

Instructor: Jessica Keys
While it was first released in 1995, Java remains a popular mainstay for computer programmers. There are plenty of resources and methods out there for those who are interested in learning the language. Here are a few suggestions to help get you started!

How Can I Learn Java?

Java is a very robust language and is used in all manner of industries, from science to video games to global finance. However, when you're just starting out, you can keep it local. Try to think of ways you can work computer programming into your daily routine. Maybe you'd like a specific kind of calculator, a die generator for games or even something to help with your math homework? A great way to learn Java is to just do it--design your own algorithms, write your own code, make a lot of mistakes and learn from them!

Of course, to just do it is one thing, but what do you do if you don't know where or how to begin?

Try Taking a College Course

Always a good choice for a complete newbie! An introductory Java course usually assumes that the student has no programming knowledge at all, so it will introduce you to everything you need to know to get started. After getting to know the basics of programming and the tools of the trade, you'll begin by writing very short and easy programs, then working into more complicated algorithms. Writing and experimenting with your own code is a great way to familiarize yourself with the language; rest assured, you will get to do a lot of this in a college course!

If you're studying computer science, chances are you're already working with an object-oriented programming language. Even if you were taught a different language (say C++, Ruby or Python), simply understanding object-oriented programming on the conceptual level will help with Java. As such, you may be allowed to begin your Java studies at a higher level.

Note that some Java courses have computer or math-related pre/co-requisites. If you are unsure whether these apply to you, check with your advisor.

Check Out an Online Course

If attending a college is not an option for you, or you are simply looking for something less formal (or less expensive!), you can learn the basics of Java online, often for free.

  • Online university resources like MIT OpenCourseWare and Stanford Engineering Everywhere offer free introductions to Java in a more traditional lecture format. You don't have to be enrolled at MIT or Stanford to attend, and there are no prerequisites or grades. However, the course content is exactly the same as the material offered for credit at these institutions, so expect a rigorous study!
  • Javaworld, a developer's resource and newsfeed, offers a series of Java 101 lessons for beginners, in addition to its range of useful articles and Q&A features for students of all levels.
  • Oracle has its own series of tutorials that cover the gamut, from writing your first Java program to networking and creating Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs). While thorough, these may be best for those with some prior programming knowledge or experience.
  • CodeAcademy specializes in teaching coding, from HTML and CSS, to SQL, Python, Ruby and yes, Java! Its interactive interface lets you write real working programs while you learn. Note that while some lessons are free, access to the full course requires paying a monthly subscription.

Follow Along With a Book

While it seems old-fashioned, there are several books that contain complete Java courses, plus practice exercises, source code, glossaries and more. Studying with a book means you can practice at your own pace, and since there are so many different books out there, chances are you'll find one that really clicks with your learning style and skill level. One caveat: If you get really stumped, you may have to turn to outside sources for help. Still, a book can be a useful reference for your own coding and experimentation.

Try's comprehensive resources in Introduction to Programming and Java Programming are divided into fast and fun video lessons (transcripts included) you can access on your computer, tablet or mobile phone. Work from the basics to advanced topics at your own speed, and test your knowledge every step of the way with our practice quizzes. With these online lessons, you can hone your programming knowledge anywhere, anytime!

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