At Curricular, my team and I spend hundreds of hours every month reviewing courses and programs from around the web to recommend the very best. Our goal is to help developers cut through the marketing hype, make quick and confident buying decisions, and get the most from their time and money.
You can check out all our learning guides at curricular.dev.
Whether you're looking to launch a career as a Fullstack Developer or round out your skills, here are the best self-paced full stack courses and programs for every budget (even free) and learning style.
We independently test and review every course that we recommend. If you purchase a course we recommend, we may earn a commission. Our team includes developers and learning experts who have worked at most of the major learning platforms, but we don't have active employment relationships with any.
Udacity's Full Stack Developer Career Track
$249 per month | 6-10 months at 10 hours per week
This is the best self-paced full stack program money can buy. It's expensive, but well worth the cost for the quality of instruction and the quality of feedback on your work. The emphasis on practice exercises and real-world hands-on projects are standout features.
- Hands-on Learning
- Frequent Practice
- Graded Portfolio Projects
- Built with Industry
Completing each Nanodegree will take 3-4 months, and at 10 hours per week, the recommended path should take about 10 months to complete. Udacity's subscription model gives you the option to pay monthly, and only pay for what you need.
The topics build upon one another, so you can take your time and make sure you understand the concepts before progressing to the next course.
The content consists of videos, readings, quizzes, hands-on exercises, and projects. You'll spend a lot of time practicing and developing skills, both by coding in the browser and on your own system.
Udacity's projects are the standout feature. These projects are based on real world situations, and are designed to test your mastery of each course's major skills. Each project is graded by humans, who provide personalized feedback.
Another cool feature is Udacity’s classroom app has integrated ChatGPT, so you can get instant help on each course. Additionally, you can get 24/7 technical support from a network of mentors.
We didn't find the community particularly valuable. You'll get more mileage by finding an alternative community.
Get it at udacity.com
Free | 10-12 months at 10 hours per week
Tremendous free curriculum for learning the foundations of fullstack software development, from one of the top-rated coding bootcamps. Not as seamless an experience as our other recommendations, and lacks assessments and feedback on your work, but it's an excellent option.
- Methodical Practice
- Rigorous Projects
- Engaged Community
This course consists of readings, quizzes, exercises, some guided projects, and 4 capstone projects covering the major technologies.
Each lesson in the course includes a hands-on practice project to synthesize the material. These are fairly meaty exercises that frequently require that you do some outside research when you get stuck.
Along the way, the curriculum also covers web security, test-driven development, clean code, and other best practices that will help you prepare for professional web development.
App Academy also provides a Discord community specifically for its Open curriculum, where you can gather with other users. It’s a fairly active community, and there are occasional live streams and accountability checks. Most users in the community seem to be early in the program, but a dedicated few are progressing steadily through the material. And occasionally there are people self-organizing study groups, which we highly recommend participating in if you can.
The design of the learning management system can be frustrating. Often there's just too much navigation information on screen, various elements in the interface are sticky when they don't need to be, and the in-browser coding environment sometimes gets squished so it's difficult to work with. The curriculum is great, however.
Be aware the curriculum was written for live instruction, daily pair programming, and weekly assessments. The curriculum does not include the assessments or feedback on the capstone projects.
It’s important to note that this curriculum was written for a full time study program. Each section assumes that you’ve completed the previous section, and there are occasionally references to previous sections. So if you jump right into one of the later courses (e.g. Python) you may find the adjustment difficult.
Get it at open.appacademy.io
Free | 13 weeks at 10-20 hours per week
An impressive free, text-based curriculum developed in partnership with tech companies, that offers feedback on coding exercises and certificates of completion. Probably not enough to land a job as a full stack engineer, but enough to start building professional-grade portfolio projects.
- Novice Coders
- Traditional Academic Style
- Hands-on Practice
- Learning without Videos
The curriculum guides you through the fundamentals of full stack web applications, starting with basic client interaction and increasing in complexity. There are in-depth readings, supplemental materials, and hands-on exercises.
The explanations are thorough and well-designed to progress from topic to topic. The authors also include some spaced repetition to reiterate key concepts, and hammer home best practices like logging everything to the console as you’re building.
The curriculum is structured in parts - each designed to take about a week if you put in 10-20 hours. Each section is designed to build on previous sections, and the exercises in each section add functionality to an example application.
You can also submit exercises for grading and feedback, which is incredibly valuable for learning, and required if you want to receive a certificate of completion. You can get a certificate for completing parts 0-7 (the base curriculum), and a certificate for each of the subsequent elective parts.
Overall, one of the drawbacks to the course is its lack of real-world projects. You'll want to supplement the curriculum by building a full stack application on your own, to synthesize what you've learned and apply it in a new scenario, and to build a portfolio.
If you like learning through videos, you probably want a different solution. The text-first format is excellent, but not for every learner.
The community has a high noise to signal ratio, so it's not very valuable.
Get it at fullstackopen.com
$199 each for course certificates (free option available) | 5-6 months at 10-20 hours per week
The gold standard of open online courses, Harvard's CS50, provides one of the best ways for programmers to learn programming as well as the basics of full stack web development. Probably not enough to land a job as a full stack engineer, but probably enough to start freelancing on smaller projects.
- Beginners and Novice Programmers Alike
- Stellar Lectures with Polished Videos
- Frequent Coding Challenges
- Rigorous Projects
These courses are quite rigorous, just what you'd expect from Harvard. Each module contains one video lecture supplemented by detailed lecture notes and a project. You'll need the lecture notes as reference when completing the projects, along with supplemental resources from around the web as well, particularly documentation.
We absolutely love the rigor of the projects. The projects are mostly building full-featured clones of well-known websites, like a front-end for Google Search, a Wikipedia-like online encyclopedia, and an eBay-like e-commerce auction site.
Each project assignment includes specs that your deliverable needs to meet in order to receive credit. If submitting your project for credit, you’ll also need to record a 5-minute screencast demonstrating the functionality of your project.
The course is designed to fit a wide range of learners. If you're not already familiar with some of the concepts, the course starts from scratch, but you may need to spend a little extra time, as it covers a lot of ground fairly quickly.
CS50 also includes one of the most robust and active communities around an online course. There are tens of thousands of active members on the Discord, and if you have a question, you typically don't have to wait long to get a solid answer.
You won’t be eligible for a certificate until you complete the entire path, and you must receive 70% on all projects.
Note: the Web Programming course materials were created in 2020. While the foundations haven't changed, the course doesn't teach some of the latest features of React. So you'll want to supplement with at least some additional review of each technology's documentation.
Get it at edx.com
Codecademy's Full Stack Engineer Career Path
$240 (monthly subscription available) | 6 months at 10 hours per week
Solid hands-on learning option for the core concepts of fullstack development. Also a good option for supplemental practice or knowledge checks. Probably not enough to land a job as a fullstack engineer, but probably enough to start freelancing on smaller projects.
- Hands-on Learning
- Novice Coders
- Starting Quickly, Without Setup
Codecademy's fullstack material consists mainly of readings, in-browser coding exercises, quizzes, and step by step projects. You'll spend the majority of your time with your hands on the keyboard.
Each course within the path is broken up into smaller modules and lessons, so it's easy to pick up where you left off.
The learning path contains both guided projects and portfolio projects. Guided projects provide a lot of hand-holding, so they're more like step-by-step tutorials.
The 5 portfolio projects are much more rigorous, including a final capstone project that is totally open-ended. You receive basic requirements the project is supposed to meet, like creating a front end with React, server using Node and Express, and tests to ensure code integrity.
The curriculum is light on coverage of DevOps technologies. Instead, the curriculum mainly covers DevOps philosophy. You'll want to supplement this curriculum with self-study of cloud platforms and CI/CD technologies.
Codecademy does not list estimated times for lessons and sections, so it can be difficult to anticipate how long a particular section is going to take.
By default, you can't freely navigate to sections within the curriculum. The platform forces you to complete each task in succession, and once you've completed a particular task, you can navigate freely past it. This is frustrating if you already know the material and just want to go back to a few particular topics for review or practice.
This curriculum was built using some legacy versions of technologies (e.g. Node 14, free Heroku hosting). So you'll have to find alternative solutions to hosting your applications, and may find some code start to break.
Get it at codecademy.com
Free | 8-10 months at 10 hours per week
Another stellar free, self-paced bootcamp curriculum. While not quite as in-depth or comprehensive as our other recommended resources, it's still a great option to learn full stack development foundations.
- Learning Through Reading
- Curated Supplemental Materials
- Real-world Projects
Each lesson primarily consists of curated tutorials from around the web, with a range of readings, videos, and documentation. It’s all relevant and well curated, but you may be a bit disappointed that you’re being passed to different resources and official documents, vs. other resources we recommend that have authored all the material. As a professional developer, you’re going to spend a lot of time reading documentation and piecing together knowledge from a variety of resources. So the structure of the Odin Project is actually great for teaching you how to understand and digest technical documents and how to learn from introductory overviews.
We really like the structure of the hands-on projects, where you receive base requirements along with some suggested extra credit features that you can add to your project to go above and beyond.
We also like that students can post their solution to a project and like other’s submissions. This is great for learning, as you can see how others solved the same problems you've tackled.
The Odin Project's maintainers also participate in the Discord community, which makes it fairly easy to get answers to your questions.
We found that the Odin Project's structure emphasizes recall and project application more than practicing techniques. This has its advantages, but be aware going in, you won’t get nearly as much built-in practice with Odin Project as you’ll get in other platforms.
The curriculum doesn’t go into some important concepts you’ll need to be familiar with, including DevOps essentials like Linux, AWS, and CI/CD. You’ll want to supplement the curriculum with some additional study in these areas.
Get it at odinproject.com
As a fullstack developer, you'll need skills that span the entire scope of a website's functionality. You'll need to understand and influence how data moves from the server to the user, and vice versa.
- User Interface Design - HTML and CSS, Responsive Design
- Version Control - Git and GitHub
- API Development
And you'll also need to understand the basics of the following topics:
- Web architecture (MVC and microservices)
- Website hosting and delivery - cloud computing (AWS, Azure), containerization (Docker), continuous delivery and continuous integration
- Software quality - writing clean code, testing and test-driven development, debugging strategies
- Software development practices - Agile (Scrum, Kanban), pair programming
Roadmap.sh, has an incredibly helpful step-by-step skill tree. Their Fullstack Developer Roadmap learning guide is a helpful reference for up-to-date skills, and the order to learn them in. However, don't use their linked learning resources. We've found their suggested learning resources are frequently very surface level and middling-quality YouTube videos or articles.
There are also some skills you'll need for the job that can't be learned from a book or a course.
- Pair programming
- Problem solving
The best way to learn these skills is by doing - dive into professional software engineering as soon as possible.
Companies prefer to hire people who are currently working. Whether right or wrong, gaps in a resume are question marks for recruiters and hiring managers. You can combat this by becoming entrepreneurial - contributing to open source projects, finding local clients to build solutions for, or taking an unpaid internship.
The benefit of any of these is that you're adding real work to your resume. School projects are great, but there's no substitute for real applications that have real users.
Another great way to learn these soft skills is to participate in hackathons.
There are some additional skills you'll need specifically for the job search.
- Writing cover letters
- Data structures and algorithms
- Solving take-home challenges
- Confident communication
Those skills will be the subject of a future post.
If you found this post valuable, please let me know in the comments. And head over to curricular.dev for more in-depth course recommendations.