First, let’s define what I mean by learn Node.js. When I say learn in this context, I’m referring to a level of competence where you can research, code, and understand any application with a low-to-moderate complexity. For example, building an API server that converts currencies.

What this doesn’t include is all the other utility skills required to deploy any production-ready Node.js application. This includes packaging and deploying Node.js to servers, application security, debugging, monitoring performance and more. For those already familiar with the DevOps world, you know that deploying and maintaing applications is a separate set of skills altogether.

So how long does it take to learn Node.js? The answer is, it depends. If you already have a strong programming background and you are familiar with JavaScript, you can learn Node.js in a few days. If you have good development experience but no knowledge of JavaScript (the programming language of Node.js), it may take around 2-6 weeks to learn Node.js and JavaScript. Finally, if you have very limited development experience programming and are just getting started, expect it to take around 2-12 months or longer to learn Node.js.

What does learning Node.js consist of?

An important part to understand is Node.js is a JavaScript runtime for computers. JavaScript was born in the web browser and web browsers provided the runtime for JavaScript code to be executed. What Node.js did was make it so JavaScript code could be executed outside of the context of a web browser. For example, directly in your Windows or Linux operating system or mobile phones.

So when we say “learn” Node.js, we mean 2 things. First, it means learning the programming language JavaScript. Second, it means learning the specific functions provided by Node.js for interacting with a computer using JavaScript. These functions provided by Node.js are known as APIs. So to learn Node.js, you first need to learn JavaScript and then the Node.js API.

How long does it take to learn JavaScript?

It depends. If this is your first programming language or you are in the early stages of your learning, where programming hasn’t “clicked” for you yet, it can honestly take between 8-52 weeks. I know that’s a broad spectrum, but for many, programming initially makes very little sense.

It’s hard to see the big picture of how some simple variables, if statements or for loops end up creating the amazing applications we all love today. Until you can bridge that gap and understand the fundamentals of code and how simple building blocks create complex applications, you will struggle to program in any meaningful way. For some people learning this may be quick and easy, for others, it can take a long time. For me, it took around six months before I started to get it. So don’t be discouraged if it takes a long time.

If you already understand the fundamentals of programming, expect your learning process to take around 1-2 weeks before you become familiar with the syntax and some of JavaScript’s features. While every programming language has unique aspects, mostly, things operate the way you might expect.

How long does it take to learn Node.js once you know JavaScript?

If you already have knowledge of JavaScript, then learning how to use Node.js is a much more straightforward process. All you need to do is familiarise yourself with some common API’s exposed by Node.js such as the HTTP server API.

Typically, people learn Node.js to learn backend web development, such as building web servers. Backend web development concepts are fundamentally almost the same across all programming languages. If you are already familiar with these backend concepts and how web servers to function, you can become competent with Node.js for backend programming within 1-2 weeks of work.

If you have no familiarity with backend programming concepts, you will definitely need a lot more time to become productive with Node.js. Having a strong understanding of JavaScript alone won’t be enough. Understanding the fundamental patterns that govern backend web development is essential before you can truly be productive with Node.js. This can take anywhere from 2 to 10 weeks.

If you want to use Node.js for basic computing tasks that aren’t backend web development related, it’s much faster to read through the Node.js documentation, find the API you are looking for and implement it as per your requirements. The Node.js API documentation is in depth and explained well.

Keep in mind, none of this really accounts for the time to learn the various libraries of the Node.js ecosystem. Node.js thrives on its NPM package repository, which has a ton of tools and frameworks. Becoming familiar with a particular framework can take just as much time as it would to be familiar with the Node.js API. Thankfully, most of the popular packages in the ecosystem have many fantastic tutorials online. You should have no issue for the most part finding a package you need and learning how it works.

Is it necessary to learn and remember all the Node.js API's?

One important thing to keep in mind, you are never expected to know all the Node.js or JavaScript’s API’s off the top of your head. What is important is that you are familiar with the fundamental parts of both. You must also learn to be an expert at reading the documentation for both Node.js and JavaScript. That way, when you need to solve a particular problem, it’s easy for you to scan through the documentation, find which API to use and how to implement it. This also applies to various frameworks and tools in the ecosystem.