From Stanford University to SitePoint, both the offline and online worlds offer an array of paid resources for learning programming languages. A programming language is just what its name implies: a formal language comprising a series of commands that expresses algorithms and/or controls the behavior of computers and other technological machines.

Learning one programming language or several can provide the technical skills you need to build a website or application from the ground up, debug a program or devise creative solutions for automating previously manual tasks. While several reputable websites and online schools offer free instructional material for beginner programs, paid resources present the added benefit of professional certifications or degrees showcasing the breadth and diversity of your skills.

Lynda.com

Lynda.com is a website offering thousands of video tutorials moderated by experienced, trained instructors. Besides offering courses on subjects ranging from photography to design, Lynda.com provides a full library of online tutorials for programming languages, such as “Objective-C Essential Training” and “Up and Running with Java Applications.”

New courses are added weekly and can be accessed via mobile devices and computer tablets. To watch any of the site’s self-paced tutorials, you must subscribe to one of Lynda.com’s membership packages, which range from $25 per month to Annual Premium membership at $375 per year (as of November 2013). Certificates of completion are also offered for completed tutorials and can be shared via a PDF file or email.

SitePoint

For a similar alternative to Lynda.com, SitePoint offers a mix of both free and paid online resources for building skills in programming languages, including HTML, Cascading Style Sheets, JavaScript, PHP and Ruby on Rails. The site offers articles, books, courses and tutorials covering web design, development and mobile technologies. You can gain unlimited access to courses, Q&A forums and SitePoint books, as well as two monthly downloads from its sister site Learnable, for $9 per month.

O’Reilly

You may be familiar with O’Reilly’s extensive book series and videos on programming, data, networking, security and web development topics. For a monthly subscription fee, you can take advantage of O’Reilly’s community-knowledge base and “Answers” platform for user questions, access blog and video news content as well as their Safari Books Online service. In addition to accessing thousands of technology books from major publishers, O’Reilly also offers online IT courses and certificate programs through the O’Reilly School of Technology. O’Reilly Certificates of Professional Development are available in programming languages, including:

Each program consists of a series of courses focusing on beginner to advanced scripts and applications for specific programming languages or general programming for websites and databases. The tuition for O’Reilly’s certificate programs ranges between $1,300 and $2,000, plus applicable registration fees (as of November 2013).

The Flatiron School

Known as the “Harvard Business School of Coding” due to its highly selective admittance rate (the school accepts about 10 percent of applicants), the Flatiron School teaches coding similar to traditional creative writing programs. Started in July 2012 by co-founders Adam Enbar and Avi Flombaum, Fast Company describes the Flatiron School’s education as somewhere “between a self-taught prodigy and four-year computer science degree.”

Located in New York City’s Flatiron District, the school offers a 12-week adult curriculum aimed to transform students with little to no programming experience into full-fledged coders. Instructors teach students entry-level coding skills in Ruby on Rails as well as classes in knot tying and lock picking to strengthen problem-solving skills. The school’s approach is built on a collaborative model that focuses on leveraging students’ different learning styles. In fact, 80 percent of the school’s student body has a background in music, photography or writing.

As a prerequisite, Flatiron School students are required to complete 100 hours of coursework from sites such as Code School and Treehouse. Tuition for the Flatiron School’s 12-week coding program is $12,000 (as of November 2013). However, you’ll be refunded $4,000 of the tuition if you’re hired through the school’s job placement program after completing the coursework.

Learn Code the Hard Way

Learn Code the Hard Way (LCodeTHW) offers users free online books on Python, Ruby and C languages for beginning programmers. LCodeTHW also provides full PDF and e-book versions of its online tutorials for prices ranging between $2.99 and $6. Additional resources are available for C language students, such as online courses in Unix and Windows commands for $6. Students interested in taking their Python programming skills to the next level have the option to purchase LCodeTHW’s redesigned “Learn Python the Hard Way” video and book series for $29.95.

Code School

Code School offers online courses in programming languages, including HTML, CSS, JavaScript and Ruby. Additional “Electives” in the R language, Git version control (a source-code management system) and other programming tools provide students the opportunity to enhance existing programming skills. Code School also caters to iOS users with courses in Objective-C for building Mac and iOS mobile applications. By paying a monthly fee of $29, you gain full access to Code School’s video lessons, coding challenges and screencasts.

Treehouse

If you want a more structured format for learning programming languages, Treehouse provides a wide range of educational and professional resources for aspiring developers, designers and even entrepreneurs. Treehouse organizes its courses along “tracks” that focus on everything from Android apps, HTML/CSS and Ruby on Rails, to web development, web design and PHP.

Users can sign up for Treehouse’s silver ($25 monthly) or gold ($49 monthly) subscription plans. Annual subscriptions are available under the silver and gold plans for $250 and $490 respectively. In addition to access to over 1,000 online videos, coding challenges and a user forum, gold subscribers receive professional career advice through workshops and conference talks by industry experts.

Degree Program in Computer Science

After scouring the bookstore and web for courses and certificate programs, you may decide to invest in a university-level education in computer science. While time-consuming and expensive, a graduate degree in computer science immerses students in several programming languages rather than a single area of web development.

Degree programs comprise electives in other areas, such as humanities and social sciences, which complement more technical courses in math and science. Additionally, a bachelor’s or graduate degree often positions candidates competitively when bidding for consulting projects, applying to jobs or marketing services to clients.

Schools with top programs in computer science, software engineering and other related degree programs include Carnegie Mellon University, Stanford University, U.C. Berkeley, Cal Tech and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Tuition and fees at these schools range from as low as $14,000 for in-state students at U.C. Berkeley to as high as $47,000 at Carnegie Mellon. For a complete list of top-ranked colleges and grad schools in programming languages, visit the U.S. NewsNational University Rankings.

Conclusion

As the demand for programming professionals has risen exponentially during the last decade, so has the number of educational resources for entry-level students and seasoned professionals. Before you decide whether to pay for a course, certification program or formal degree, consult free resources offered by reputable schools and universities for students who wish to “test the waters” in programming. MIT offers its OpenCourseWare (OCW), which publishes all of MIT’s course materials online and free of charge. Likewise, Codecademy is an online website that gives users the opportunity to learn code for free within an interactive and fun setting.