How do I become a full stack developer without going back to college or attending a boot camp?

Erik Katzen Answered June 24, 2015 13.04.2020

 I challenge the way others think and I love when others challenge my thinking.

For reference, I taught myself full stack development on my own without a bootcamp or a university. I recently went through this learning process, so I can share what worked and what did not work.

Disclaimers: I did receive a computer engineering degree. This was way before I had any interest in web development. I learned a ton of the programming fundamentals in school that you already probably know. My degree serves as a nice foundational base for my programming endeavors, but it is, by no means, a pre-requisite for learning full stack development. Also, I’m not a full stack guru. But, given enough time, I could hack a full stack web application together.


My Step 1: HTML/CSS

As other people have mentioned, start with HTML/CSS. Since you are already learning these, you are on the right track.

I went bare bones learning here with this tutorial off the Odin Project:
Web Development 101

I learned much of the front end by actually building prototypes and small examples (see Step 4/5)

What I recommend: Learn the basics of HTML/CSS, then move onto the next step. Don’t get too bogged down here – you can always go back and take another course if you’re understanding of these languages is lacking down the road.


My Step 2: Ruby on Rails

I learned a ton of C++/Python in school. So, I thought Ruby would be a good next step. I picked up Ruby fast, and began diving down into Ruby on Rails.

In the end, Rails did not stick with me. There was too much “magic” happening for me at the time. I prefer completely understanding how an application works before beginning to learn something new. Rails is a massive web framework (100k+ lines of code), and that made it tough for a beginner.

This is not to say that Ruby on Rails is bad. It just did not vibe with a beginner like myself. Perhaps, down the road, I will get back into Rails when I appreciate more of the “magic” that happens. In the tutorials I went through, I did create some awesome and complex apps rather quickly. The conventions just did not manage to stick.


My Step 3: MEAN Stack High Level

After a small break, I wanted to try something that I could grasp easier. Javascript on the frontend and backend seemed like something more manageable for something learning full stack development on their own time. However, it is not an advantage: NodeJS vs. Rails: How to Learn Web Development the Smart Way

I began with the popular, MEAN (MongoDB, Express, Angular, Node.js) stack. It is a fantastic stack to start with while learning full stack development for the first time.

Basically, I read a few high level blog posts about what to expect. It is probably worth your while to spend a few hours watching YouTube videos: Page on

But if you ever want more resources, here is an endless supply of MEAN stack resources:


My Step 4: MEAN Stack Tutorials

This step is where the MEAN stack began resonating. I went through dozens of tutorials. In order to save you the trouble, here were the top three tutorials I went through (in the order that I went through them):

Tutorial – Getting Started With Node.js, Express, MongoDB
Setting Up a MEAN Stack Single Page Application
Node and Angular To-Do App: Application Organization and Structure

You need to make sure that you are not just copy/pasting code. Truly make an effort to understand how the code works, and it will save you countless hours down the road. You can always download the source code of these tutorials and compare to see if you did everything correctly.

Here is another tutorial that is longer, but still very helpful:
How to get started on the MEAN stack

These tutorials should give you the fundamentals that you need to start building on your own.


My Step 5: Projects

Now, I’d recommend following your interest. Come up with apps that would be cool, and try to build them yourself. If you need some sample projects to get started with, look at this Quora post:
What is the best way to learn web development?

At this point, you should be off to the races. If you make it this far and still need help, come back to Quora and I would be more than happy to help out further.