Learn Python: A Master Guide

According to this 2019 StackOverflow survey, Python is the “fastest-growing major programming language”. No surprise there: Python is easy to read and has a vast community and many applications. If you’re here then you probably already have Python installed on your machine. Here are the basic steps to get Python on your machine if you haven’t already:

  1. Install Python. You can use it on your terminal/console/Command Prompt by typing python in your console to enter the Python interpreter. This is the application that takes your typed-in commands and runs them. You can run calculations and print statements, among other things.
  2. Make sure you have a code editor handy to write and store your Python coding projects. Save your file names with a “.py” extension so the interpreter knows it’s a Python file.
  3. You can now run the code in your files by simply typing the name in the console while you are in the directory where the file is located.

What You Need to Know About Python

Python is a backend programming language. It’s great for beginners because it’s very readable, with a syntax that is very similar to English. Python is not really “strict” as you don’t have to declare a variable type like you would in Java. It is used for web development, scripting, creating data sets, web scraping, and automation. The following are topics you need to know to build a good understanding of the Python language:

  • Object Oriented Programming. Python is an OOP language.
  • Python indentation. Indentation is meaningful in Python; it separates each block of code.
  • Variables. Unlike other languages, you don’t have to declare a variable type in Python.
  • Data types. There are different Python data types in the text, numeric, sequence, mapping, set, boolean, and binary categories.
  • File handling. Python has several functions for creating, updating, reading, and deleting files. 
  • Working with arrays. Arrays aren’t supported but Python lists are used instead.
  • For loops. Used for iterating over lists. 
  • While loops. For executing statements while a condition is true.
  • If…else statements. Conditional statements that first test logical conditions.
  • Functions. Know the syntax for creating and calling a function. 

Skills Needed to Learn Python

Below you’ll find the general skills needed to succeed in your Python basics learning journey. As you decide which specific field you want to go into, there will be more you’ll be required to learn, but a strong grasp of these three skills will always be helpful. 

  • Analytical skills. You must understand algorithms and conditional statements. You should also be able to make the most “pythonic” programming decisions, which means using clean, sound code that makes sense.
  • Design skills. Know how to use web frameworks to make sure you are creating a scalable product. 
  • Logic skills. Many beginner programmers make the mistake of just coding away without making a plan first. Your time is valuable, and planning out and thinking through your code beforehand will save you time. Writing pseudocode is a good way of getting into the habit of planning. Good logic skills will also help you to follow the logic and flow of the program. 

Why You Should Learn Python

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Google, Pinterest, Netflix, Quora, Dropbox, and Spotify use Python as part of their tech stack. These and many other companies use Python as a backend language to build deployment scripts and migrate data. 

Python is used with frameworks like Jupyter, Django, and Flask. Even if you don’t end up using Python in your job, you will have grasped many core programming concepts, and your knowledge of OOP will help you learn other languages quickly.

Python is not just one of the most popular languages. It is for many a gateway into data science. Python is the language to learn if your end goal is to go into the field of machine learning, neural networks, deep learning, or artificial intelligence. If this is the road you want to take, dive into Python packages like NumPy, Matplotlib, scikit-learn, and pandas. 

How Long Does it Take to Learn Python?

The basics of Python do not take long to learn. In fact, many recommend learning Python as the first programming language because of its simplicity. Seven weeks of study should be sufficient to learn the basics. You can start writing programs on your first day! Try these simple programs that take only a few minutes to write and go over some of the basics. 

If you already know another OOP language, learning Python will be much easier. The major OOP concepts and a programmatic way of thinking will already be part of how you work. With Python being a relatively easy language to learn, you will not have to spend much time to become proficient.

Learning Python: A Study Guide

First, you want to install Python and read more about the basics. Mastering the basics first, before diving into paid certification classes, is the recommended way to go, even though most certification classes will start off with the basics. 

Some, when diving into more advanced material, often seem to forget the basics because they’re not being applied in simplified examples like they are used to. You must internalize core concepts before moving on.

Learn Python The Hard Way 

  • Resource type: Book
  • Price: $26.46
  • Audience: Beginner and intermediate

Learn Python The Hard Way walks you through the basics and has “study drills” to practice the concepts discussed. You learn through 52 practice exercises. You will be guided through the basic setup, then work with files, looping and logic, modules, classes, and objects. There are sections that go over math and OOP principles as well. There is even a project to create your own web game! You can purchase the paperback version on Amazon and other online shops.

Automate the Boring Stuff with Python

  • Resource type: Book
  • Price: Online version available for free
  • Audience: Beginner 

You can get access to this book for free here. It covers Python basics and goes into web scraping, working with Excel and Google spreadsheets, scheduling tasks, etc. The files used in the book can be downloaded from the site as well. Although anyone can learn from this book, it caters more to any person, with or without a technical background, that uses a computer and wants to automate simple tasks. Examples of such tasks include moving and renaming hundreds of files at once, filling out forms without typing, updating and formatting Excel sheets, and having your computer text you notifications. 

Codecademy Python Course

Image from Codecademy’s Site
  • Resource type: Online tutorials
  • Price: Free (paid option also available)
  • Audience: Beginner and intermediate

Codecademy has a free online course to help get you started with the basics of Python. You will learn about queries, aggregate functions, and handling multiple related tables. They have a built-in programming sandbox environment, so there are also projects to help you get hands-on practice. Every section has a project, including one on Lyft Trip Data, that can be added to your portfolio. There’s a paid “pro” version if you want a certificate. 

Real Python Tutorials

Image from the RealPython site
  • Resource type: Online tutorials
  • Price: Free
  • Audience: Beginner and intermediate

Once you feel comfortable with the basics and want to work on interesting mini-projects, check out this page by Real Python. This site is full of tutorials for different experience levels. You can find videos on basics such as dictionaries and arrays, and on more advanced topics like data sorts with pandas.

Edureka Python Programming Certification Course

From Edureka’s Site

  • Resource type: Course
  • Price: $314
  • Audience: Beginner and intermediate

This course covers both core (e.g. variables and loops) and advanced Python topics such as Matplotlib, pandas, NumPy, and visualization using Bokeh. This is a live, instructor-led course running for four weeks, two days a week. By the end of this course you will be comfortable with data and file operations, Python libraries (Pandas, NumPy, and Matplotlib), functions, and OOP. The last two sections are really interesting, with projects like developing web maps with plots based on a Titanic dataset, and a face-detection exercise using OpenCV and Bokeh. 

Communities for People Studying Python

One of the great things about Python is that it’s widely used and has a big community around it, which makes for well-maintained documentation. This means that if you are facing some issues or have questions, chances are someone has already logged a solution for that somewhere on a site such as StackOverflow. If you have questions on how to use certain libraries, you can check out the documentation on it. 

Getting a community to help you in your learning journey as well as in your professional life is key. Making connections is as easy as joining an online community, so you have no excuses not to build your network! 


There are various conferences and events centered around Python, such as PyCon. Python’s official site has a page dedicated to events, with topics ranging from delivering technical presentations to Python for machine learning and artificial intelligence. You can filter events by location, and even subscribe to the calendars or Twitter feeds so you are kept abreast of events. 

Online Communities

Communities built to empower people to learn Python also hold meetings and have Slack channels. Other online communities are more general and not managed by any organization. An organization with a large online community is PyLadies. A worldwide organization with meetups all over the world, PyLadies welcomes coders of all skill levels.

PySlackers is a Slack channel for enthusiasts of all levels. There is even a pyslackers GitHub account. Here, you’ll find a lot of collaboration and projects as well as general discussions; check them out! 

Python Discord channel is for anyone that wants to work on projects, or just talk about Python and related events and news.  They organize events like code jams, hackathons, and challenges. This large community even has sponsors which make it possible for some events to include prizes for winners and participants!


If you prefer meeting in person, you can check Python-related Meetup groups in your area. Some of these groups are currently opting for online meetups. Groups such as Women Who Code hold various in-person and online events in different locations. This is a list of upcoming events and informative mini-sessions hosted by Women Who Code Python.

PyLadies holds regular get-togethers and you can check their current meetup schedule here. If there is no Python-specific meetup group in your area, PyLadies also helps you create one with their “PyLadies Kit”.

How Hard Is it to Learn Python?

Learning Python is not too hard because the language is easy to read. In addition, Python does not have many of the restrictions other programming languages have, like declaring a variable type. If you are already familiar with another programming language, you will find the Python basics to be a breeze to learn. 

Something Python does enforce, however, is indentation. In other languages, indentation in your code is mostly a suggestion so readers do not struggle to find and follow certain code blocks. In Python, indentation is meaningful: if you are indenting something it means that it is part of the previous line of code. 

The hard part comes if you decide to go into highly specialized fields related to Python, such as machine learning. That’s because machine-learning courses will often contain a lot of math concepts.

Will Learning Python Help Me Find a Job?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of job opportunities for software developers in the next few years is set to rise by 22% (the average growth rate is 4%). There are now 17,150 Python developer roles on Glassdoor. If you do a more general search for “developer” you’ll see that number skyrockets to 73,797

Companies know that Python skills go a long way. With a strong foundation in Python, you can even go into machine learning. Some companies offer to pay for their employees’ advanced education. This means that you could potentially take an advanced Python or machine learning course at no expense to you. 

If you master Python, you can choose to become a Python developer, a data scientist, or go into web development. 

Conclusion: Python Is Popular!

Learning Python is a good introduction to programming because its syntax is not very strict. There is a lot of documentation around it due to its popularity so you can find answers online for almost any question. If you learn Python, learning other OOP languages will be much easier, as the major concepts translate over. 

Python isn’t just useful in tech companies. It is also popular in the scientific community. It is so popular for managing data in scientific communities that there are even libraries for sharing these kinds of projects in Python. There is a lot of buzz around big data in the tech world. Python is lauded as the perfect fit for big data and its popularity keeps rising. 

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