Is Learning Software Development Expensive?

It’s all about choosing what and when to buy

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Whether we like it or not, money is a fundamental part of our everyday lives. We earn it through hard work (or luck) so we can spend it in products and services which we believe will give us value. The value that we get from our money can depend on many different variables and finding a way to get the most value is often difficult.

Traditionally, learning was something you could only do in a school or in a job, in the form of experience. If we consider that actually doing something is the best method for getting better at it, this meant that the only ways to improve were going to a school (university, if you wanted to learn a profession) or getting a job, where you must have previous experience in order to be hired.

Confused guy staring at a laptop
Confused guy staring at a laptop

However, online learning has become immensely popular over the past years, transforming into a credible and effective learning method that is also getting more and more accessible, no matter who you are or where you live. I mean, technically speaking someone could learn software development using just a laptop, electricity and an internet service.

But what’s the real cost of learning software development online? Is it cheaper than going to a university? The answers to both questions heavily depend on how you do it and what resources you use. For instance, you can learn data science using a $200 laptop, but you can also do it with a $3000 one. Maybe you want to take a paid online course, or you’d rather use completely free resources. No matter what suits best to you, the base process is about identifying your needs, making a budget and searching for the right offer.

What should you buy

There is an vast range of devices, gadgets, extensions and software available in a lot of different shops, so finding the best option is usually a time-consuming, exhausting task. Thus, knowing what you are looking for ahead of time is really important to not only make the process more efficient, but to also help you pick the right product.

As mentioned before, even if it’s possible to learn software development on a $100 laptop, you’d probably like to consider other options.

A laptop, a mobile phone, a smartwatch and a pair of headphones
A laptop, a mobile phone, a smartwatch and a pair of headphones

For instance, if you want to specialize in web development, you don’t need the best computer in the world, just one which can run a text editor and a browser. Similarly, if you’d like to also be able to design, create 3D models or use a device emulator maybe a more powerful equipment is the right choice.

Extra stuff can really depend on a lot more things. I’d say that having a comfortable keyboard and mouse will make the most difference in your daily tasks, but there’s so many different possibilities and products that can really make your life easier in certain situations.

Free vs. paid resources

Landing page of skillshare on a laptop screen
Landing page of skillshare on a laptop screen

Another kind of product is software, such as courses, applications and assets. All of these can range from free to a thousand and from a one-time payment to a subscription, so it gets a little harder to compare prices between them.

To keep things simple, whenever I consider buying something like a course I keep in mind that in the end, what I’m looking for is a good resource from which I can learn a new subject. I tend to not focus only on the price (only if it’s way too expensive), since honestly there’s free applications and resources that are even better than it’s paid counterparts.

Some tips for choosing

Overall, when it comes to getting the most value out of your money in each purchase, the most consistent tip I can think of is to take your time to compare and think about the product or service you want.

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Some questions you can ask yourself are:

  • Can I afford to buy this?
  • How am I going to use this product or service?
  • Is this really the best option in terms of price-quality?
  • Is there some way I can get my investment back?

For example, imagine you’d like to purchase a complete course in Python 3 for $20. By dedicating more time before you purchase it to consider if it’s the right choice, you might be able to know beforehand if you are even going to follow through it or if you can maybe make money using the python knowledge you will get.

Furthermore, as a rule of thumb I’d strongly recommend to trying a product first. Most software lets you do this and in physical stores you can get a feel of the product, even if the store’s objective is to convince you to buy it.

It also helps if you know someone who has purchased products of the same type before and can give you a meaningful opinion on the matter.

In terms of money, and more specifically for purchasing things, a lot of factors come into play. These factors can be abstracted into the quality of the product, making the task of considering the overall value of the product easier.

However, there’s no way to tell for sure if the product is the best option out there. This means that you’ll likely come across some problems along the road and maybe some of your purchases will turn up to be a waste of money, yet there’s always something to learn from these frustrating situations.

In the end, learning software development can cost hundreds or millions. The real question is how to stay within your budget while learning the most.

Written by

Software developer & student

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