Prep Courses

Preparatory Courses

Required prep-work for the Core Curriculum

Free, self-paced courses to help orient you for programming at Launch School
4+ weeks (~50 - 100+ hours)

Whether you are ready to study at Launch School or would just like to try it out, our free preparatory courses are the best place to begin your learning journey. No matter your programming background, each prep course is designed to give you everything you need to get started in programming and is required coursework for Launch School’s Core Curriculum.

Course Outline

Launch School’s prep courses are comprised of 2 detailed courses that aim to walk you through an overview of software development, the developer job market, learning at Launch School, and essential programming skills you’ll need for the Core Curriculum.

1. Orientation

The Orientation course explains in detail what Launch School is about, who it is for, and how to get the most out of our program. You’ll also cover what software development is, what skills are required for a career in software development, and be provided guidance on how to pave a learning path. After this course, you should have a good understanding of how to structure your own learning path, and know the differences between various languages and frameworks.

Major Topics:

  • What is software development?
  • How to launch a career as a software developer
  • Which language track should I choose?
  • Our teaching philosophy
  • Frequently asked questions
  • Our curriculum
  • Your learning path

2. Programming & Back-end Prep

The Programming & Back-end Prep course guides you through everything you need to get started, from setting up your development environment to the basics of a programming language of your choice. You'll work through simple code exercises, and learn about fundamental programming language constructs including variables, methods, loops, iterators, etc. After working through fundamental topics, you will be ready to start the core courses and tackle more complex exercises.

Major Topics:

  • Understand job roles as a backend developer
  • How to use a cloud based development environment
  • Introduction to the Command Line
  • Introduction to git and pushing code to
  • Set up local development environment
  • Introduction to Programming and exercises

Student Support

Community Chat

Though it is not required, we encourage all prep students to familiarize themselves with Launch School’s community chat. Powered by Slack, our chat is free to join and often attracts friendly, like-minded individuals. We have a dedicated channel for prep students (#prep-course-questions), which you can use to ask questions about Launch School, Prep course material, or to reach out to fellow Prep Course peers.

Programming Workshops

Launch School offers a set of free 1-hour workshops to provide extra support while you are working through our preparatory courses. For a more interactive experience, each session is taught live by a dedicated team of presenters. Topics are designed to enhance your programming studies, and help clarify what is expected of students undertaking Launch School’s Core Curriculum.

Smooth Start

We understand that reaching out in forums and asking questions on Launch School’s community chat can be intimidating for newcomers. We created the Smooth Start program to complement the preparatory courses. With the help of an experienced Core student lead, you’ll be guided to meet the community, build study habits and gain clarity and focus at the start of your Launch School journey.

Additional Support

In addition to the above services, Prep students also have access to the following community resources to help support their learning journey:

  • Medium Publication and Student Articles
  • Launch School Podcast
  • General Forums
  • Launch School Reddit community
  • Launch Schools Facebook, Twitter/X and LinkedIn pages
  • Youtube Channel


Are the Prep Courses Mandatory?

Yes, all preparatory courses must be completed prior to commencing Launch School’s Core Curriculum. As the name suggests, the prep courses are designed to prepare you for the programming skills you’ll learn in our Core courses, and to also expose you to the format and pedagogy found in the Core Curriculum.

Why are the Prep Courses Free?

Sometimes courses that are considered “free” might often contain less value, but this is not the case with our Prep courses. There has been a great deal of care put into creating them, which we hope you’ll find valuable. We are able to make these courses free because they are designed to be self-paced and are not led by instructors. Having free courses encourages you to try out Launch School and decide if it is a good fit for you.

How long does it take to finish the Prep Courses?

While most people on average take about a month to complete the prep courses, we’d like to stress that each students’ prep course duration will differ and can take more or less time to complete. There are several factors that are based on duration, including but not limited to: number of hours of study per week, prior programming knowledge, aptitude, learning styles, study habits, etc.

Who can I reach out to for questions about the Prep Courses?

for general Prep course enquiries please send an email to If you have specific questions regarding any prep material or exercises, we encourage you to join our Slack community and ask the question in our #prep-course-question channel.

How do the Prep Courses differ from Smooth Start?

Smooth Start is a 4-week program designed to complement the Prep courses, which encourages students get to know the Launch School Community, build study habits, and learn about the study resources that are available to them. The Prep courses on the other hand are designed to give you everything you need to get started in programming and are required coursework to begin Launch School’s Core Curriculum.

How do the Prep Courses differ from the Workshops?

Similar to Smooth Start, Launch School’s 1-hour workshops provide additional support to you while you are working through our preparatory and core courses. Topics are designed to enhance your programming studies and are taught live, but unlike the Prep courses, they are not required coursework to begin Launch School’s Core Curriculum.

I’ve been self-learning for some time, can I skip the Prep Courses and jump directly into the Core Curriculum?

It is not possible to skip courses. It is very important to have completed— and have an understanding of— all Prep course material before you start the Core Curriculum. We've been teaching people programming since 2012, and the number one mistake beginners make is attempting to learn more advanced topics without an understanding of the basics. Our courses are designed so that you'll have well-rounded skills when you finish, and if you want to take the Capstone program, you'll really fly. If you've been self-learning and feel you are ready, you may be able to go through our prep courses faster and begin the Core Curriculum sooner.

Next Steps

If you’re ready to get started on Launch School’s Prep Courses you can begin by creating a free account here.