DEV Community

Cover image for How Long Does It Take to Learn Java? A Lifelong Challenge
John Selawsky
John Selawsky

Posted on

How Long Does It Take to Learn Java? A Lifelong Challenge

Are you about to start coding and gravitate towards an easy, reliable programming language that can be learned in a short time and used for creating a plethora of applications and programs? If yes, you just can’t go wrong with Java. But how long does it take to learn Java to become proficient in it? To estimate the approximate time you may need, let’s answer some essential questions.

Q: What does it really mean “to know Java”?

A: Whereas some consider they have already got the hang of coding once they have created their first project, others believe they should become job-ready and get their first offer from a company to treat themselves as developers.

I believe that the main purpose of learning Java is to get a job as a Java developer. And to motivate you a bit, just browse through popular job websites like Indeed or Glassdoor and consider that the average Java developer earns more than $50.000 per year, and in the USA, the salaries go as high as $100.000+. From this, I can conclude that a starting point from where you’ll be able to say, “Yeah, now, I know Java” is a real job offered to you and a real project made by you.

Q: What does it mean “to learn Java,” and what resources to use?

A: Well, learning Java involves everything from creating your own plan to writing creative projects (no pun intended). Which tools and resources to use is up to you, but my recommendation here is to gravitate towards online courses rather than offline ones. They are not only more affordable and typically more engaging but also very tolerable to any skill level. In addition, online courses let you study at your own pace and proceed with the practice only when you feel you’re ready for this. With that, online sources often boast a user-friendly environment where your codes will be checked immediately — just like a real tutor would do, but faster and cheaper (not to mention many online programming courses are completely free).

Q: How many hours per day can you spend learning Java?

A: For sure, everyone absorbs information differently. But, roughly, an average student should be able to devote 2–3 hours a day to learning Java. Also, it’s important to adjust your theory-practice balance and distribute your time wisely — try sticking to the 80/20 learning principle with 80% of its content focused on practice and 20% on theory.

Q: What is your background? Is Java your first programming language, or you’ve already learned others?

A: No denying, those who are already familiar with other languages often learn at a faster pace. However, in order to get a more or less realistic answer to this question, let’s take a complete newbie who is going to study Java from scratch as a basis.

Total score

On average, if you have absolutely no experience and have never learned programming languages before, you will need 12–18 months to become a Java programmer (provided that you spend at least 2–3 hours per day). And the key to successful learning lies mainly inconsistency, motivation, a rich database, and, most importantly, a well-thought-out plan.

Ahead, I’m going to give you an effective learning plan and useful resources that will help you reach your goals with ease and enjoyment.

Draw your learning path

As a Java tutor, I recommend newbies stick to the following path:

  1. Get familiar with Java syntax first. Pretty much like learning “ABCs”, Java syntax can give you an understanding of the programming language and how to use words and letters within its structure. Don’t go hard since you’ll gradually absorb Java syntax during practice later.
  2. Puzzle out OOP principles. OOP is a very important topic and, luckily, not very difficult. At this stage, you may need to read useful books like Core Java or Object-Oriented Analysis and Design, as well as practice OOP concepts.
  3. Java collections come next. Learn the data structures using the Java collections interface and Map interface.
  4. After Java collections, it’s natural to proceed with Java exceptions (abnormal situations that you may face during the execution of your projects). Java exception mechanism can significantly simplify bug catching in your future programs.
  5. Input/Output streams can be quite tricky for beginners but this topic is essential and there is no reason to dally it out.
  6. Algorithms are not crucial for a newbie, but I suggest learning them to think like a proficient software engineer. Plus, they can help you solve difficulties easier.
  7. Java multithreading is a more advanced phase in your learning path. Yeah, it’s quite daunting, but no successful Java programmer can do without multithreading.
  8. Java patterns. Ideally, at this stage, you’ll already know how to write programs. Here, you can use a trial and error method to improve your skills.
  9. Unit testing is the next important level for any Java programmer who’s going to write unit tests for their code. Once you get the hang of writing tests, you’ll be able to apply them to your projects. Hence, avoid mistakes.
  10. Lambda expressions. Today, even Java Juniors should be able to perform manipulations with lambdas, so you should add this topic to your learning plan.
  11. Serialization in JSON, RMI, HttpUrlConnection, socket. This is the last step that is more suitable for intermediate-to-advanced Java programmers, which requires deeper knowledge and experience.

It’s quite an important topic, which should be highlighted in a separate post. Luckily, I’ve already written one. Now you won’t be caught off guard by tons of different topics since you’ll be able to follow this clear and concise plan.

Useful Resources: Theory

No denying here, a theory is an essential step to start with. Luckily, the Internet is overcrowded with plenty of useful sites. To save your precious time, I suggest going through the top collections and reviews of the best books for Java programmers like:

Also, you may benefit from online resources that offer hands-on tutorials and can help you build a practical approach to learning and quickly get you in the habit of coding. Among the best content-rich websites, I can highlight, Codecademy, and FreeCodeCamp. Whereas the latter two portals cover a wide number of different programming languages including PHP, Python, and some others, specializes solely in Java.

Useful Resources: Practice

That just being said, boasts the 80/20 principle to teaching, with 80% of its content focused on practice, which you desperately need to become a successful Java developer. So, after covering the theory, it’s essential to move to practice and hone your skills.

Understanding that practicing is very different from passive learning, the folks behind have done their best to make the course intuitive, even for 100% beginners. All the lessons are well-structured and are made with step-by-step instructions to guide you through the whole learning process.

You can also take advantage of such resources as ZetCode, Coderbyte, JetBrains, and GeeksforGeeks. They are full of different techniques to help you learn Java without getting overwhelmed with lots of information, as well as engaging coding challenges to keep you motivated and focused. I usually recommend my students to try multiple practice-oriented sources and stick with the one that speaks to them.

Enter the Community!

Still, if you feel stuck or frustrated at some point, you can always refer to special platforms where programmers from all across the globe discuss ideas, solve each other’s problems, and share their experiences. Such communities as Stackoverflow, GitHub, Slack, and Reddit can help you find the support you need and learn from each other’s mistakes, thereby speeding up your learning process. Also, you can find some useful tips, which are not necessarily relevant to learning Java directly — lots of successful Java developers share not only their experience but their lifestyle as well. For example, you may learn the basics of time-management and build your schedule based on your needs and pace.

Ideally, you should be able to devote 20–40 minutes to theory daily to get a familiarity with the language and a general aptitude and passion for programming. Afterward, you need to nail down the knowledge and perfect your new skills by practicing. Towards the end of your “window” of studying, you’ll be able to create a project or game to work on. That’s it!


In all, I really believe that even a complete newbie can get the basic knowledge about Java programming language and start applying for jobs in about a year, provided that you have the right attitude to learning.

Start slow with learning terminology, and then proceed with practice, practice, practice… oh wait, and again practice to get your foot in the door as a junior developer and arrange your first job interview.

Also, remember that in order to stay popular and demanded, you need always to be open to something new and don’t stop perfecting yourself in coding. Just like Java is continuously changing to stay relevant (even after 25 years of existence), any good developer should constantly upgrade their skills to stay in demand.

Anyways, the sky’s the limit when it comes to learning codes and there’s always room for improvement.

First published at Quick Code.

Top comments (0)