How Long Does It Take to Learn JavaScript?

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JavaScript is a crucial language for building dynamic websites. Learn JavaScript online and you can set your own pace. If you feel confident with the material, you don’t need to wait for the rest of the class to move through the easy stuff. If you need a little extra practice, you can go slower where you need to.   

Along with HTML and CSS, JavaScript is one of the building blocks of an effective website.  It’s a programming language that lets you implement complex, dynamic features on web pages. Once you learn it, you can call yourself a web developer. You can update content, control multimedia, animate images, and so much more.

Using JavaScript, you can:

  • Provide interactive maps

  • Animate 2D and 3D graphics

  • Offer scrolling jukeboxes

  • Manage a website’s back-end

  • Get really creative

Using JavaScript, you can provide interactive maps, animate 2D and 3D graphics, offer scrolling jukeboxes, manage a website's back-end, and get really creative.

‌JavaScript is extremely popular, but it can be difficult for beginners to get started. With a bit of tenacity and the proper guidance, however, you can learn JavaScript and start to create your own JavaScript programs to make your web pages pop.

‌How long does it take to learn JavaScript from scratch? 

Learning JavaScript isn’t like picking up HTML or CSS. You’re learning a programming language, although it’s one of the easier ones to use. 

If you’re learning on your own, it can take six to nine months to become proficient in JavaScript. Some of that time is spent learning how to think like a programmer — helpful for when you move on to learning other programming languages.

If you need to learn JavaScript faster than that, consider taking an intensive coding bootcamp. It does require a financial investment, but you can learn to code in as little as 15 weeks and start building a portfolio. 

sign up for a free JavaScript workshop from Flatiron School

There are also lots of online tutorials, such as this free Learn JavaScript tutorial from Flatiron School that covers all the basics of JavaScript in about 4 hours. 

But don’t let the time investment stop you. Learning JavaScript pays substantial dividends that make the effort more than worth it.

What should I know before starting to learn JavaScript?‌

Before trying to learn JavaScript, you should make sure you have decent computer literacy. Since JavaScript is used to create dynamic websites, it’s also helpful to have a basic familiarity with the other web page building blocks, HTML and CSS. You don’t need to know any other programming languages to learn JavaScript.

Once you have JavaScript under your belt, you can use your newfound programming skills to pick up other languages. You will notice many similarities between them.

How hard is the JavaScript programming language?

JavaScript is one of the easier programming languages to learn, particularly if you’re a complete beginner. It’s also updated regularly, so you need to continue learning to keep your skills up to date once you have the basics. 

Becoming an advanced JavaScript developer can take more effort because it allows multiple ways to accomplish the same task. Learning which is best for your situation requires you to take time to build your expertise. However, once you begin working on a project, it’s not difficult to understand where everything fits.

How long does it take to learn JavaScript if I already know HTML and CSS?

If you already know HTML and CSS, you probably have a pretty good understanding of how a website works and what it would take to make it better. Also, understanding those tools shows you have the computer literacy needed to add to your repertoire. You’ll be able to skip some of the easier parts, shaving a few weeks off of your learning time.

That being said, JavaScript isn’t just another markup language. It’s a programming language, which takes longer to learn and master. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources to help you practice, including books, forums, and online information.

For now, let’s get you started with some basics.

Getting started with JavaScript basics

Programming languages come in two flavors: interpreted and compiled. JavaScript is an interpreted language, meaning the program runs from top to bottom, start to finish as written. The computer doesn’t need to take the intermediate step of compiling the language.  

Because the code is run from beginning to end in order, you need to plan carefully. Placing instructions in the proper order is critical. The script won’t operate if a couple of steps are in the wrong order. Instead, you’ll see an error in the browser developer console, the environment where you test your code.

Think of it like teaching someone how to tie their shoes. You can’t tell them to tie the shoes until they put the shoes on. If you leave out the instructions for donning the shoes, the shoes aren’t there to tie.

Common features
Server-side vs client-side
Dynamic vs. static
Basic syntax
Statements and functions
Keywords
Values, variables, operators, and expressions‌
Objects, primitives (data types), comments, and identifiers
JavaScript frameworks

Here are some of the basics of JavaScript that are important to learn: 

  • Common features

  • Server-side vs client-side

  • Dynamic vs. static

  • Basic syntax

  • Statements and functions

  • Keywords

  • Values, variables, operators, and expressions‌

  • Objects, primitives (data types), comments, and identifiers

  • JavaScript frameworks

Common features

JavaScript has several standard features. It stores useful values inside variables. These variables can be changed at any time. Operations can run on pieces of text referred to as “strings,” allowing you to manipulate a sequence of characters. 

When a specific event occurs on a webpage (like a user clicking on a button), JavaScript can also be used to trigger an operation in response (like showing a popup window).

‌Server-side vs. client-side

If you work in web development, you may hear the terms server-side and client-side code. 

Client-side code runs on the user’s device as they view a web page. The code is downloaded, run, and displayed via the web browser on the device. When you learn JavaScript, most of your practice goes into client-side coding. 

Server-side code runs on the server, which is the computer that provides web pages to a user’s browser. The results download and display in the browser. Other popular server-side languages include Python and Ruby.

JavaScript is used for both server-side and client-side coding.

Dynamic vs. static

Dynamic and static are more than descriptors for engaging or boring web pages. They also describe how JavaScript, HTML, and CSS function on a website. 

A static web page is one that never changes. There is no interaction, just display. You create static pages using HTML and CSS, which is fine for a simple page containing text information or an image. If you need to make changes, however, you have to rewrite the HTML or CSS layers manually.

A dynamic page is one that changes in response to user input or contains animated displays or other interactive elements. HTML and CSS alone cannot provide a dynamic experience. JavaScript layers neatly onto the HTML and CSS base to create a web page that does more than just sit there.

Basic syntax

Every language, whether spoken, written, or programmed, has its own syntax. One syntax rule in JavaScript concerns the letter case which in JavaScript is case-sensitive. For example, lastName and lastname are two different variables. As another example, a prominent keyword in JavaScript is function. If you type Function or FUNCTION, JavaScript will not recognize it. 

Over time, programmers have come up with various ways to join multiple words into a variable name. Some use hyphens between the two words. Others use underscores between the terms.

JavaScript programmers tend to use something called camel case, which involves beginning each meaningful term in a variable with a capital letter. In JavaScript, the first term is generally lowercase. One example of this is the variable lastName above.

Statements and functions

A computer program is essentially a list of instructions to be executed by a computer. In computer programming, the instructions are called statements. A set of statements makes up a function, which performs tasks and calculates values.

JavaScript statements are composed of, among other things:

  • Values 

  • Operators 

  • Expressions 

  • Keywords 

  • Comments 

Statements are separated by a line break. For example:

let x,y;

x = 3;

y = 6;

Keywords

Keywords are tokens that have a special meaning in JavaScript. Statements may begin with a keyword to identify the action to be performed. 

Keywords are reserved words, meaning they can’t be used to name a variable. 

Examples of keywords include:

  • break — terminates a loop or switch

  • debugger — stops the execution of JavaScript and calls the debugging function if it’s available

  • for — marks a block of statements to be executed as long as a condition is true

  • function — declares a function

  • return — exits a function

  • switch — marks a block of statements to be executed depending on different cases

  • let — declares a variable

Remember, JavaScript is case-sensitive. If you capitalize any letters in keywords, JavaScript won't recognize them.

Values, variables, operators, and expressions‌

Values can be fixed or variable. A fixed value is called a literal. Two essential literals are numbers (with or without decimals) and strings. Strings are text written within double or single quotes.

In JavaScript, variables are the names (identifiers) you can give to values.  A variable declaration is a container for storing data values. In JavaScript, the keywords for declaring variables are let, const, and var

As for operators, there are two types. Arithmetic operators are used to compute values. For example:

(5 + 6) * 10

Assignment operators are used to assign values to a variable. For example:

let x,y

x = 5

y = 6

‌Expressions are combinations of values, variables, and operators with the end result computing a value. Computation is called an evaluation. As an example, 5 * 10 evaluates to 50. Expressions can also contain variable values.

Objects, primitives, comments, and identifiers

Objects in JavaScript are like objects in real life. In fact, everything in JavaScript is an object except things called primitives, which are data types that store simple values. Primitives can’t be altered — they’re hard-coded and immutable. 

Objects include:

  • Dates

  • Numbers 

  • Regular expressions

  • Arrays 

  • Functions 

  • Objects 

Primitives include:

  • String

  • Number 

  • Boolean 

  • Null 

  • Undefined 

Comments are not part of the functional language. The browser ignores them and moves to the next line of code. Comments are used for documentation to benefit the human reading the program. They can help with maintaining and updating the program later or explaining variables.

To create a single line comment, place two slashes in front of the text ( // ). Otherwise, place the comment between /* and */ for multiple lines of comments. For example:

// Change Heading

or

/* The code below will change the heading with id = "myH" and the paragraph with id = "myP" in my web page:*/ 

Always consider the developer who may follow you in updating and maintaining your code. Give them a helping hand using comments, especially if something isn’t apparent. On the other hand, if you find yourself adding comments like crazy, your code may be overly complicated. In that case, you might want to go back and rethink your process.

‌Identifiers are names that you can give to data types so you can refer to them later in your code. Here are the rules for creating them.

  • The first character must be a letter, a dollar sign ($), or an underscore ( _ ).

  • The subsequent characters can be letters, digits, underscores, or dollar signs.

  • Numbers are not allowed as the first character so JavaScript can distinguish between identifiers and numbers.

‌When creating identifiers, remember that JavaScript is fussy about letter cases. But don’t complicate things for yourself by creating two identifiers that look the same aside from one being in upper case and the other in lower case. 

‌JavaScript frameworks

JavaScript frameworks are collections of pre-written JavaScript code that expedite the development process and separate responsibilities. 

Frameworks are used to execute basic and repetitive development functions so you don’t need to code each one every time they appear in your project. They provide a skeleton to work with, allowing you to spend more time putting meat on the bones rather than building the bones over and over. It saves time for the complicated parts of the website.

There are several JavaScript frameworks available, such as Angular, Vue, and React. 

Frameworks are important, but you’re better off if you learn JavaScript without them first. Unfortunately, if you learn JavaScript within a framework, you’ll never achieve a higher understanding of the language and you’ll limit your ability to code. 

Also, while you’re learning JavaScript, don’t rush through the lessons or exercises. Embed the early concepts into your brain before trying any shortcuts. It may seem easy when you follow the example on the screen, but you need to be able to call forth the code without help.

There are plenty of online spaces where you can practice your skills. Repetition, along with exercises in building a variety of dynamic web page elements, is the only way to master JavaScript skills.

Learning JavaScript with Flatiron School

One such online space is Flatiron School, which offers a free “Intro to JavaScript” workshop. Using extensive experience in online learning and computer language education, Flatiron School developed this free 4-hour class to teach aspiring programmers the fundamentals of JavaScript.

The course assumes no prior programming experience — just work through the tutorials, exercises, and other materials to learn all the basics you’ll need to know. 

Once you complete Flatiron School’s course, you’ll have a working knowledge of basic JavaScript. Also, you’ll have a better idea of whether computer programming as a career field is right for you.

After your JavaScript workshop, check out a coding bootcamp if you’re serious about starting a career in coding. 

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Blair Williamson

Content Marketing Manager

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