a woman in a yellow chair coding on a MacBook with a Python book next to it

How to Learn Python for Programming, Machine Learning, and Data Science

The world is full of programming languages, each with its own use. Among the most popular and easy to learn is Python. It can be tough to decide which language is right for you. But based on its popularity, learning Python is a great way to get started in programming.

What Is Python?

Python is an open-source, high-level programming language that can be used in a number of applications. It is an object-oriented language with an extremely capable standard library for building out applications from scratch, or for connecting different pieces of existing code.

The Python syntax is notably human-readable which is what makes it one of the easiest programming languages out there. You don’t have to work as hard to remember the steps you’re taking and what they mean when working in this language.

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If you do make a mistake while writing out your Python code, you can debug quickly with its internal debugger. Usually, if there’s an error in the code, the program itself identifies exceptions. These exceptions take the form of stack traces, which highlight the problems in your code and where they took place, making them easier to find and fix.

All of this is made possible thanks to the hard work of the Python Software Foundation, the organization responsible for promoting, protecting, and advancing the cause of Python around the world. They support the programmers who work constantly to tweak and update the language, enabling it to be everything it can be.

Python is one of the most popular programming languages in the world due to its approachable coding syntax, easy debugging process, and supportive community. It is easy to learn, and can be useful in ways that both beginners and experienced programmers can take advantage of.

What Is Python Used For?

Python is used for applications ranging from machine learning and data science to controlling NASA’s space equipment. As Python’s popularity has grown, so has its use across industries. Below are a few of the ways people are using this language in everyday situations.

Machine Learning

Machine learning is a branch of artificial intelligence (AI). In machine learning, computers built to resemble the human brain take information and use it to find patterns. The machine, or a group of humans working with the machine, then use those patterns to perform a particular task.

Python is great for coding the machines that do this work, as well as building up the filters and input nodes that take in the information and decide what is important. After the input nodes build the patterns, they’re put into output nodes, where the Python-coded machines decide which information about the pattern is worth sharing.

Game Development

Plenty of games use Python as part of either their source code or as a basis for the modding community to make the game their own. The Python frameworks pygame and pyglet are probably two of the most widely accepted libraries. Pygame turned 20 years old last year and is still going strong.

When you install Python on your machine for the first time, you will also be installing the turtle module. Though this simple program is mostly designed for drawing shapes and pictures, it can also be used to create graphics for games.

Web Development

Python has overtaken Java as one of the most popular languages for building websites in recent years. Because it is so easy to learn and there are so many other users, there is a wide support network for new users to rely on when picking up the language.

Developers enjoy Python’s quick setup time for websites and its simple debugging setup as well. The debugging setup makes fixing any problems during site development a breeze. If you plan on looking for jobs in this field in the near future, don’t be surprised to see Python listed as a skill required in every job listing.

Learn Python: Step-by-Step

a man taking notes in a journal while the other hand navigates on the MacBook on the table in front of him
Map out a plan before you start learning Python.

There are plenty of ways to learn the basics of Python. If you follow these steps, you can be building out sites and games in no time.

1. Decide Your Field and Map Out a Plan

As Python has so many different uses, there are many ways to use Python skills. Decide where you want to focus your efforts and use your skills in the future before you take the plunge and start learning.

Of course, you can always change your mind once you actually begin studying Python’s basic syntax. But this step will at the very least allow you to make a plan with a solid beginning, middle, and end, so you won’t be overwhelmed trying to learn everything all at once.

2. Learn the Basic Syntax

No matter the Python tutorial that you decide to take, you will probably be required to know the basic syntax of Python before you get started. This is not a hard step, but it is a necessary one if you want to continue advancing as a Python expert.

This step shouldn’t take too long, as you will learn much more about Python during your coding adventures than you will during this phase. But you’ll be happy that you’ve laid the groundwork once you get your lessons up and running.

3. Specialize in Your Chosen Field

After you’ve developed your plan and learned the basics of Python, it is time to go and learn by doing. Whether you’re trying to build a smart toaster or help NASA’s navigation instruments work perfectly, you are going to learn more by using Python than by studying in an isolated environment.

So take the course that gets you closer to a career in tech. After you’ve finished your course, you should be well on your way to landing a job that allows you to achieve your career goals.

The Best Python Courses

The best Python courses are those that lead you down the path you want. Below are a few courses to help you grasp the basics, and a few that will cover some of the more common uses of Python. 

Python Basics

This course from the University of Michigan on Coursera will get you started with the basics of Python 3, the latest iteration of the language. You will learn everything you need to know about the syntax, control structures, and the debugging process, along with a little bit of instruction on drawing with turtle. 

This short course is part of the Python 3 Programming Specialization, but it also serves as a self-contained way to find your footing.

Professional Certificate in Introduction to Python Programming

Georgia Tech offers this course on edX, which is essentially a deep dive into Python and its role in the future of computer science. You will be developing programs as soon as you master the basics. The course focuses on teaching you the structure of the language so that you know how you will be employing it on a day-to-day level.

It starts with an overview of computer science in general, then shows you how to deploy that knowledge in Python. This course is perfect for beginners interested in staying in computer science who need to figure out a way to get a job in tech.

Python for Data Science and Machine Learning Bootcamp

This course is a good way to start working towards becoming a Python expert. You will learn about multiple tools that Python can use to complete a variety of tasks. This class is unique in that it shows how data analysis and visualization can work in tandem with a well-trained machine to make the job of a data scientist easier.

An Introduction to Game Development in Python

If you’re interested in using Python to build your own games, this course is exactly what you need. Basic knowledge of Python is required to start building 2D and 3D games with pygame and Godot. The GDScript language you will pick up in this course also has implications for VR gaming, so you’ll be on your way to a future-proof career.

Is Learning Python Right for You?

Learning Python is right for you if you’re a budding programmer who’s looking for a language that’s easy to learn and versatile. In this article, we’ve only scratched the surface of what Python can do.

The job market for Python professionals continues to grow as the language evolves. But even if you’re set on remaining a hobbyist, you will find plenty of creative ways to use your coding knowledge. Once you’ve mastered the basic syntax and know your next steps, the sky’s the limit for your future Python career. 

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