Should you pay for programming courses?

Published: 2023-11-05

Written by: Jessica Wilkins

5 min read




I currently work full time for freeCodeCamp which is a platform where you can learn to code for free. While there are incredible resources out there to learn to code for free, I don’t think we should always discount the value of paid courses. In my opinion, it comes down to where you are at in your programming journey and what your goals are.

Should you pay for courses while initially learning to code?

If you are interested in learning how to code, I strongly suggest starting with free courses just to see if you like programming. As I mentioned earlier, freeCodeCamp is a great place to start learning web development basics. That is how I got my start back in 2020.

Some people will choose to go into a bootcamp because they want more structured learning and accountability. I have had a lot of friends who spent a couple of months self-learning before going down the bootcamp path.

My advice here is to do thorough research and make sure you have the financial resources and time to dedicate to that bootcamp.

Should you pay for online certificates?

I think this highly depends on the type of certificate you are aiming for. When it comes to web development certificates, I don’t think you need to pay for those. There are plenty of free resources out there that will teach you the same skills and provide free certificates. Plus, hiring managers are more interested in your portfolio and what you can do rather than what certificates you have.

Now, if you are doing something like the AWS Certification, then I think it is worth it to pay for the certificate. Before you pay for certificates, make sure you do your research first and see if that certificate is worth it. Unfortunately, there are a lot of scams out there so you want to make sure you are paying for something that is going to help you.

Should you pay for Udemy courses?

At the beginning of my learning journey, I purchased a couple of Udemy courses from highly rated teachers like Brad Traversy and Anglea Yu. I thought those courses were well done and learned a lot from them.

My advice here is to always aim for the sales. Udemy has sales all the time where you can get courses for $10-15. Also, make sure to read the reviews and see what other people are saying about the course. Typically, if a course has a lot of reviews and a rating of 4.5 or higher, it is probably worth it.

Should you pay for Coursera or edX courses?

I have audited a few courses on Coursera and edX and I think they are great resources. I have never paid for a certificate on either of those platforms, but I think it is worth it to audit the courses and go through the complete material.

Should you pay for a Frontend Masters or subscription?

I have subscriptions to both of these platforms and I think they are worth it. I would say that these platforms are more geared towards intermediate to advanced developers.

If you are just starting and limited on financial resources, then stick with the free material. You can learn the basic skills and build projects to get your first job without paying for courses.

Then once you are settled in your first job, you can consider paying for a subscription to one of these platforms. All of the courses that I have done so far have accelerated my learning and provided a deeper understanding of the programming topics.

Should you pay for other course content like Kent C. Dodds’ Epic React or Josh Comeau’s CSS for JS devs?

Similar to my comments on Frontend Masters and, I think these courses are worth it if you are already working in the industry and looking to level up. I have purchased both of these courses and they have been incredibly helpful in my growth as a developer. But I bought these courses once I was already working full-time as a developer.

If you have the financial resources as a beginner, then I think these courses are worth it. But if you are limited on financial resources, then I would stick with the free material until you are settled in your first job.

Should all programming education be free?

Simple answer, no.

The reason is that it takes a lot of time to create high-quality content and individual course creators should be compensated for their time and effort. If a course creator wants to charge for their content they should be able to do so without judgement.


I know that everyone can’t afford to pay for courses, and that is why it is important to have a mix of free and paid content. There are plenty of free resources out there to learn to code, build projects and land an entry-level developer job. But if you want to deepen your learning and grow in your career, then I think it is worth it to look into certain paid options.