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How Long Does It Take to Learn Python Basics?

Chances are you've heard about the infinite possibilities Python gives you both in your professional and private life. When you sit down at your desk, full of motivation and eagerness, the question that probably comes to your mind is: how long does it take to learn Python? You'll find the answer here!

Professionals around the world love Python. According to IEEE Spectrum, an industry magazine issued by the largest international engineering organization, Python is the most popular programming language (see how others were ranked here). This is because Python is simple yet versatile, a perfect combination.

Why Should You Learn Python?

Python is used in many industries: banking, insurance, healthcare, business services, marketing, etc. Your industry's professionals most likely write code in Python, since it's a standard language for developing machine learning models (according to McKinsey & Company, almost 50% of companies already use machine learning or plan to implement it). Moreover, Python—together with R—are the most frequently used programming languages in data science. This discipline has a marked presence in almost all industries, enabling us to collect and process huge amounts of data. Python is also commonly used in web application development. It's the programming language behind YouTube, Instagram, and Spotify.

Python's simplicity and "elegance" often mentioned by developers make it a perfect match for programming beginners. Nowadays, top world universities list it as the first programming language to be taught in their computer science courses (rather than C). It's easier to learn than other languages but provides similar possibilities. To cut a long story short, you can write a program in Python with fewer lines of code compared to Java or C#. This, combined with the fact that programming in Python is reported to be one of the most demanded professional skills, is why you need to start learning it ASAP.

How Fast Can You Learn Python? Learning Factors

Unfortunately, answering this question is no simple task. Just like mastering any other skill, learning programming in Python depends heavily on your background and individual abilities. Below are the factors I find most important for learning Python.

1. Learning Method

When it comes to learning a new skill, there are no golden rules. We all have preferences: learning methods that make us engage more and obtain better results. It is crucial to choose learning methods that fit us best and support the learning process instead of hindering it.

You should also keep in mind that some skills require specific training. For example, if you wanted to write exciting short stories, you'd be advised to write as much as possible. The same applies to programming: to become a Python expert, you should write a lot of code. Sticking to theory will make you understand the language but not write the actual code.

Choosing a learning method adjusted to your abilities and a skill-specific training technique will have a huge impact on how fast you learn Python.

2. Cognitive Abilities

As human beings, we differ (to a great extent!) in our mental capabilities: visual memory, computational skills, ability to grasp abstract concepts, etc. Some of them are given to us at birth while others are developed throughout our lives. All of them impact our learning style and make us understand some concepts faster than others. No one is good at everything, and it's absolutely OK. Even when someone's having difficulties in learning a new skill, the things that matter more are motivation and engagement (I'll discuss them in a moment).

Because of the innate and acquired differences between us, it's difficult to assess the universal time needed to master a programming language such as Python.

3. Previous Programming Experience

A person that has never written a line of code before will find learning a programming language more difficult than someone who's enriching their programming portfolio after several years of professional development. All programming languages have similar logic behind them, so once you start thinking like a developer, you'll find it relatively easy to master a new one. This applies to everything we do: once you've mastered drawing, it'll be easier for you to learn to paint, and if you're a yogi, you'll feel comfortable with pilates.

However, this doesn't mean that someone without programming experience won't be able to learn Python. What I want to convey is that previous experience will shorten the process. Python is a perfect choice for programming newbies because it's simple and helps you develop good programming habits, so don't worry if you're new to this world.

4. Time Devoted to Learning

Obvious yet still forgotten: the time needed to learn Python depends on the time available for learning. If we had two people with equal programming experience and other characteristics mentioned above but different amounts of free time (e.g. 3 hours a day vs. 3 hours a week), they won't need the same number of weeks to start writing the code.

Moreover, the frequency and regularity of practice impact the whole process as well, favoring the ones who do it more often (it's another component of your learning method).

5. Motivation and Engagement

There's a reason why teachers around the world spend hours discussing how to keep their students' motivation high. Some even say that engagement makes up for lack of talent. What is certain is that if you don't engage in the learning process, you'll probably fail to master programming. So, you should set a clear goal and follow a defined path towards achieving it. All in all, if you don't know why or what for you're learning, you won't be able to recognize the finishing point of your Python journey. Try to define the level of expertise you want to reach and do everything to keep your motivation high. It's good practice to write down your goal and keep it within your sight while learning.

Remember that you probably won't be engaged in learning something you simply don't like. I've heard thousands of times that because of my back problems, I should do swimming, but I despise it. Therefore, I was never able to keep a routine (although I dance regularly). There are professional reasons for learning to code. However, if you find learning programming tedious and discouraging, it will be difficult for you to finish any Python course or book. If that's the case, focusing on your goal will be especially important because it will keep your morale high in difficult moments.

The time you need to learn Python depends on your level of motivation and engagement, which are connected with setting goals.

What Does It Mean to Learn Python?

There's one more item in the "How long does it take to learn Python?" list. It's your definition of learning a language, i.e. the level of programming in Python you wish to reach. To establish it, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I need Python for private or professional use?
  • Will I use it on an everyday basis?
  • What kind of tasks will I perform using Python?
  • How complex will the problems I'll have to solve be?

Once you answer these questions, it will be much easier for you to assess the amount of time you'll need. All in all, learning to automate simple Excel tasks will be much faster than mastering professional software development.

If learning a programming language meant being familiar with its syntax, keywords, and basic functions (in theory), you would know Python within an hour. You would be able to print 'Hello, World!'. But it doesn't mean that you would be able to analyze real data because the theoretical knowledge of Python is different than writing the code. Therefore, it's much more reasonable to say that you've learned a language once you feel comfortable solving real problems.

Estimation of Time Needed to Learn Python

Because there are many factors, estimating how long it will take to learn Python is difficult. Remember: these are just rough estimations that you should adjust considering your experience and personal abilities.

Recently, we created a bundle of courses called Python First Aid to give you a thorough understanding of the essentials of Python. After completing the courses, you'll be able to start working with Python, writing interactive console apps, conducting simple data analysis, and automating tasks. The bundle includes the following courses:

  1. Python Basics. Part 1: In this online course, you'll get the hang of Python syntax and keywords, conditional statements, loops, and writing functions.
  2. Python Basics. Part 2: After completing this course, you'll be familiar with the concepts of lists and dictionaries as well as working with files.
  3. Python Basics. Part 3: Thanks to this course, you'll learn about the concepts of tuples and sets and working with date and time data.
  4. Python Data Structures in Practice: In this course, you'll have a chance to work with lists, tuples, dictionaries, sets, and nested lists.
  5. Built-in Algorithms in Python: After completing this course, you'll know how to use built-in functions, search and sort, and specify your own sort orders.

According to our estimates, completing the bundle takes approx. 67 hours. There are a lot of interactive exercises, but remember that to master a programming language, you should practice writing the code as much as possible. So, it's recommended to add some hours of individual practice to this estimate. Because our courses are designed for people with no previous programming experience, we can assume that getting from zero to hero (where "hero" means using Python without assistance) takes 70-80 hours. If you learn for 2 hours a day on Mondays and Tuesdays, it will take approximately 2 months. If Python is not your first programming language, it will most likely take much less time.

Remember that after this time, you'll be able to start working with Python, which doesn't mean that you'll be an expert in it. To become a professional Python developer and write code with minimal mistakes, you'll need much more time. Unfortunately, it's impossible to give exact figures here: this is the type of expertise you gain in practice (i.e. at work or developing individual projects), and it's extremely context-dependent. In a challenging environment, you'll become an advanced Python programmer after two to three years. In other cases, it will probably take more time.

Don't Hesitate: Start Learning Python Now

If you want to give your career a boost or make a pivot, learning programming is definitely something to consider. As I've mentioned, Python is a perfect choice for beginners, so you already know where to start. If you still have questions regarding the learning process, our team is here to help: just drop us a line, and we'll be happy to help you!