Learn to code, they said. You’ll make six figures, they said. Then you looked into coding bootcamps and found out they cost thousands of dollars — yikes! Don’t give up. Not all coding programs cost money. If you want to learn how to develop apps, build websites, or manage databases, there are resources available for 100% free.
Cody Loyd was a high school music teacher; now, he’s a full-time web developer making, in his words, “way more money.” He didn’t achieve that by signing up for a $20,000 bootcamp.
“Just about the only resource I used was Odin,” Loyd wrote in an email. He’s referring to the Odin Project, a free, open-source web development curriculum.
Free online coding resources like the Odin Project can teach you everything you need to know to become a programmer.
“Hundreds (at least!) of people have successfully used our material to change careers,” said Loyd, who is now a member of the Odin Project’s core administration team.
If you have a laptop, internet connection, and a serious work ethic, a free coding bootcamp could get you on track to make an average of $81,707 per year. Ready to get started?
Free Online Coding Bootcamps: What to Look For
A free coding class might not cost money, but it’s still an investment. You’ll be spending months of time and effort on it. Before you choose one, ask yourself:
How much time will it take? A free coding course can be just as time-consuming as a traditional college class. Harvard CS50, for example, takes 10-20 hours per week for 11 weeks.
If that time commitment is way out of reach, pick a self-paced option that allows you to do a little bit at a time. (If you don’t mind missing live lectures, CS50 actually lets you spread out your coursework as much as you want.)
Is there an active community? It can be hard to stay motivated to complete a free online course. It’s easier with friends. Look for coding courses with big, active communities. They can keep you accountable (and help with your homework).
What material does the course cover? “Learning to code” is pretty vague. Do you want to build Node apps? Understand machine learning? Design websites? All of those options are valid. Just double-check that the material matches your goals.
Is it free or Free™? If you Google “free coding bootcamp,” you’ll get tens of thousands of results. But not all of them are actually free. “Bootcamps can be very expensive, and often hide their expense behind a ‘you only have to pay once you get your job’ type deal,” Loyd said.
That arrangement is called an income share agreement. ISAs allow students to attend bootcamps at no charge – until they get a job. Then they’re expected to pay back a percentage of their income. Before you agree to give up 14 percent of your income for the next two years, consider taking a no-strings-attached class first.
The 5 Best Free Online Coding Bootcamps
There are tons of free coding classes available online. We collected the stand-outs.
You don’t have to be a brainy 18-year-old to take a Harvard computer science course. CS50 is available for anyone to take on edX. Set aside 10-20 hours a week for 11 weeks. By the end, you’ll have a solid foundation in compsci.
Just make sure to request a free CS50 certificate instead of a paid edX certificate when you’re done. The former is totally free, while the latter costs real cash.
Covers: Web development, Python, SQL, and more
Community: A presence on every conceivable social media platform, plus live lectures
Cost: Free, with optional edX or Harvard certifications
2. The Odin Project
To complete the Odin Project’s learning paths, you have to actually build working projects. For some people, this is a breeze; for others, it’s a slog. That is reflected in the time it takes to complete the curriculum – one Redditor reported two weeks, while another said 10 months. Either way, if you stick it out, you’ll have a ready-made portfolio to show employers.
Community: Over 90,000 active members in its chat server
Cost: Free, with optional donation
#100Devs isn’t just a free coding bootcamp – it’s a free job-hunting bootcamp. Lessons about how to build an API are mixed in with lessons on how to crush a technical interview. The aim is to get you “from zero programming skills to employable” in 30 weeks.
To get started, you have to follow instructor Leon Noel’s Twitch, YouTube channel, X (formerly Twitter) account, and newsletter; plus join the #100Devs Discord server. The course starts in January, but you can catch up on coursework later if you want.
Community: Strong at the beginning of the year, less so after the live lessons end
freeCodeCamp offers thousands of hours of coding classes, with certificates, for free. If that sounds like charity, well, it is: freeCodeCamp is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
The breadth and depth of freeCodeCamp’s coursework is hard to beat. Whether you want to analyze scientific data with Python or design websites with CSS, it has a course for you. There are also plenty of extra coding challenges and video tutorials if you want to keep learning.
Covers: C#, data visualization, back end development, machine learning, and more
Community: Hosts one of the biggest developer forums around
Cost: Free, but you can donate if you want
5. App Open Academy
App Open Academy uses the same curriculum as App Academy’s $20,000 bootcamp. What does that 20 grand get you? Instructors, pair work, and assessments, for starters. But if you’re confident you can work your way through 500 hours of material on your own, you can get trained as a full-stack developer for free.
Community: You’ll have to find your own – pair work is reserved for the paid bootcamp
In-Person Coding Course Options
Online courses have their advantages: They’re flexible, accessible, and rarely require an application. But there’s nothing like face-to-face learning. Believe it or not, there are some free in-person bootcamps available.
Women and nonbinary people can attend Ada Developers Academy in Seattle, Washington, and Atlanta, Georgia; Mississippi residents can sign up for Mississippi Coding Academy. Depending on where you live and who you are, there may be a place for you.
What Happens After You Choose a Coding Bootcamp?
Don’t let the many, many free coding courses overwhelm you. The most important thing is to start learning. The second most important thing is to stick with it.
If one program isn’t working for you, supplement it with another. You might get a great computer science foundation in CS50, then level up with freeCodeCamp. Supplement both with free coding mobile apps.
Whichever courses you complete, make sure to save your projects in a portfolio. Tech employers don’t care about where you learned to code – they care about what you can do. Build an impressive app or two, and you’re one step closer to a six-figure salary.
Contributor Ciara McLaren is a freelance writer with work in Insider, HuffPost and elsewhere. You can follow her on Substack (@camclaren).