Whether you want to advance your career as a software developer by picking up a second or third language, make the switch from data analyst to data scientist or break into tech, Python is a great language for beginners and experts alike.
As a general purpose programming language, you can do almost anything with Python—from building websites from scratch to face detection to 3D game development. Even NASA uses it to create its space flight software.
Since it’s one of the easiest languages to learn (and one of the fastest-growing tech skills), Python is a great starting point for your coding journey. And if you already know other programming languages, you’ll pick up Python quickly. Not to mention, you’ll stand out to companies that value polyglot programmers.
So to help you level up in your current role, qualify for roles that better match your career aspirations, make a career change or whatever your goals may be, we’re breaking down the best Python courses to take based on your skill level, as well as the certifications that are available (and if you even need to get one).
Table of contents
- First, is a Python certification even worth it?
- Beginner Python courses
- Beginner Python certification
- Intermediate Python courses
- Intermediate Python certification
- Advanced Python courses
- Advanced Python certifications
First, is a Python certification even worth it?
For many IT/sysadmin careers, certifications are valuable (certified professionals typically earn more than non-certified professionals). But for programmers, certifications are a bit more of a grey area. For example, if you already have an impressive GitHub profile filled with Python code samples and a track record of contributing to open source projects, a cert may not be worth it. Your code speaks for itself. But if you’re new to Python (or don’t have a lot of projects under your belt), a Python certification can help you verify your skills to potential employers.
In other words, a Python certification can be a great substitute for education, experience and projects, but if you already have proof of your skills, a cert may not be necessary.
If you decide that a certification is right for your career, it’s important to choose the right one based on your skill level and goals (and to get the most bang for your buck). In the next section, we’ll take a look at what online courses are out there, plus the certifications you should consider based on your career stage.
The best way to learn Python
The best way to learn Python is by doing. If you don’t have the time (or money) to attend a coding bootcamp or four-year college program, learning Python online is a great alternative.
There are tons of Python courses to choose from—some free, some paid. Here are a few online courses to investigate further, based on your skill level (beginner, intermediate or advanced).
Beginner Python courses
Never coded a day in your life? Want to brush up on the basics? In these courses, you’ll be introduced to basic programming concepts, Python syntax and commonly used packages for data manipulation, analysis and exploration.
Taught by a professor at the University of Michigan, this course will teach you how to write your first Python program. It’s a good starting point for absolute beginners as it requires zero programming knowledge. And as part of a Coursera learning track (Python for Everybody Specialization), you can continue on to more advanced topics (e.g., data structures, databases, data visualization) if you want.
Cost: $49 per month with a Coursera subscription
Time commitment: 128 hours total (Suggested break down: eight hours per week for four months)
Unlike other Python tutorials, this course focuses specifically on Python for data science, making it a great option if you’re looking to move into that field. Starting with the basic concepts of Python, you’ll learn how to store and manipulate data, as well as how to use Python functions, methods and packages to conduct your own analyses.
Cost: $33.25 per month with a DataCamp subscription
Time commitment: Four hours
A mix of theory and practice, this course will give you a complete understanding of Python from the ground up. You’ll start off with the basics and work your way up to more advanced topics like building web apps with Django and visualizing decision trees. Free of “fluff,” you’ll find real-world examples, hands-on exercises and step-by-step solutions.
Time commitment: 12 hours
Want an impressive Python portfolio to show off to employers? In this course, you’ll build over 12 real-world Python 3 projects, including a Twitter bot, a secure password checker and automation tools using Selenium. You’ll also get access to a private Discord where 100K+ members share studying tips, help each other solve problems and more.
Cost: $29 per month (or $264 per year) with a Zero To Mastery Academy subscription
Time commitment: 30 hours
Beginner Python certification
Once you’ve got the basics of Python down, consider proving your new skills with PCEP – Certified Entry-Level Python Programmer, a certification for coding newbies. Get this certification and you’ll show employers that you know basic programming concepts (e.g., data types, functions, conditions and loops), as well as Python specifics, including the language syntax and runtime environment.
It’s a great starting point if you want to launch a career in software development, but consider skipping this one if you’re already working in tech.
Exam price: $59
Bonus tip for beginners
Pick a project you’re passionate about and start working on it. Figure out the best way to implement it, find useful modules, read up on anything you’re not sure about and work from there.
Intermediate Python courses
Learning Python as your second or third language? Want to to level up your skills as a developer? Already have a math or computer science background? These courses build upon Python basics, introducing you to intermediate topics in machine learning and data science, and helping you write more readable, clean code.
As the name suggests, this course teaches intermediate Python concepts and best practices, from regular expressions to type hinting to Python decorators. You’ll even build a command line diary app that stores journal entries in a SQLite database and gives you the ability to review, edit, delete and search through them (a great addition to your Python portfolio).
Cost: $25 per month with a Treehouse subscription
Time commitment: Nine hours
In this course, you’ll learn how to use Python for gathering, cleaning and analyzing data. Taught by a professor at Columbia University, the course covers concepts like web scraping and crawling, text mining, data analysis, natural language processing and machine learning in Python.
Cost: Free, but you can get a verified certificate of completion for $249
Time commitment: 8–10 hours per week (for 12 weeks)
Clean, efficient Python code can help reduce runtime and save computational resources. Targeted at data scientists (and aspiring data scientists), this course will teach you how to use Python’s built-in data structures, functions and modules (e.g., pandas, range() function, NumPy arrays) to write more elegant code.
Cost: $33.25 per month with a DataCamp subscription
Time commitment: Four hours
Intermediate Python certification
Got a solid grasp on Python? Look into the PCAP – Certified Associate in Python Programming cert, which dives into object-oriented concepts and covers intermediate-level concepts like Python functions, modules and more advanced comparison operators, loops and file operations.
This is a great option for programmers switching languages to Python, new CS grads or those who plan on pursuing more advanced Python certifications in the future.
Exam price: $295
Bonus tip for intermediate learners
Read Automate the Boring Stuff with Python by Al Sweigart, a well-loved book in the Python community. It focuses on using Python for real-world applications to help you build up a solid portfolio.
Advanced Python courses
Already developing full Python apps? A more advanced course might be what you’re looking for (and your current employer might be willing to pay for it). Before taking an advanced Python course, you should be familiar with the language’s syntax, as well as programming concepts like expressions, data structures, basic algorithms and lambda functions.
A course that goes beyond everyday Python, you’ll learn the advanced techniques used to implement sophisticated frameworks, like SQLAlchemy and Django. Other concepts on the syllabus: abstract base classes, byte-oriented programming, advanced flow control, instance creation, class decorators and much more.
Cost: $29 per month with a Pluralsight subscription
Time commitment: Four hours
Most of us think of Python as an object-oriented language, but Python functions are also useful tools for data scientists and programmers (and require less code). In this course, you’ll learn how to approach functional programming in Python, including how to use immutable code to represent data, as well as how to use filter, map and reduce to avoid side effects.
Cost: $19.99 per month with a Real Python subscription
Time commitment: One hour
What makes a good program? Intended for experienced Python programmers, this course gives you a process for thinking about the design of programs using advanced features of Python. You’ll learn how to go from the uncertain stage of not knowing what the problem really is to working your way to a solution (including when it’s okay to use brute force).
Time commitment: Two months
Advanced Python certifications
There are two advanced-level Python certs available through the Python Institute: PCPP-32-1: Certified Professional in Python Programming 1 and PCPP-32-2: Certified Professional in Python Programming 2. The first focuses on math, science and engineering modules, and requires you to have expert-level OOP skills and GUI programming expertise. The second focuses on architecting and deploying entire enterprise-level Python apps.
PCPP-32-1 is a great option for experienced Python programmers who want to prove their skills, while PCPP-32-2 is best if you want to move into a leadership role (e.g., team lead, engineering manager, DevOps).
Get both PCPP certifications and you’ll automatically become a Certified Expert in Python Programming (CEPP), which shows employers that you’re prepared for any senior-level Python role.
Exam price: $195 each
Bonus tip for advanced Python programmers
Sort Stack Overflow Python questions by most votes and go down the list. How many of these can you answer? Brush up on the rest. This technique is especially helpful because you can check your solution against others and see different ways to solve challenging problems.
Take your career further with a Python course (and maybe a certification)
Taking a Python course can help you advance your career by filling your portfolio with projects that attract recruiters and opening up opportunities that better match your career goals.
But while courses are often a worthwhile investment, certifications aren’t for everyone. A Python certification is rarely (if ever) required for any tech job. However, some recruiters use them as screening tools to decide who to bring in for an interview. And when you’re new to a field, anything you can do to set yourself apart is worth considering.
That said, it’s important to think carefully about your experience level, background and career goals to determine if you actually need a Python certification or if your code is proof enough.