7 Courses That Turn WordPress Users into Developers (Free and Paid Options)

7 Courses That Turn WordPress Users into Developers (Free and Paid Options)

You’re not a beginner anymore. You don’t need to watch another tutorial on how to install WordPress, set up a theme, or find and install plugins. But, that doesn’t mean that you know everything.

Maybe you’ve built a simple theme or plugin, but not the sort of thing you’d consider submitting to WordPress.org. Or maybe you’re pretty good with HTML and CSS but struggle when it comes to writing PHP. If that sounds like you, then you’re probably a lot like me: stuck in the middle. Not a beginner, that’s for sure, but it’d be a real stretch to call yourself a developer.

Over the past couple of months, I’ve come to realize something about WordPress education: lots of WordPress courses are designed exclusively for beginners. Finding quality education for advanced WordPress users and budding developers isn’t as easy as you might think.

I’ve taken the time to research the available sources of WordPress education and have come up with I think are seven of the best online training programs that can help experienced WordPress users make the jump from user to developer.

What Sort of Courses are on this List?

There are a lot of WordPress blogs, tutorials, podcasts, presentations, training programs, and so forth. And if learning WordPress in-depth is your goal, you should consult a variety of different types of resources. Since you’re reading this article, it’s safe to say that you have blogs and tutorials covered. However, the best way to make a lot of progress quickly is by completing structured training courses, and that’s what you’ll find on this list: formal WordPress training programs for intermediate and advanced WordPress users.

What do I mean when I say formal training programs? By using that terminology, I am referring to structured, WordPress-specific, developer-oriented programs that consist of some combination of videos, articles, code-alongs, discussion opportunities, and projects. In selecting programs to include on this list, I’ve used those criteria as a filter:

  • Structured: This rules out great resources like WPSessions that don’t provide a structured program of study. I’m looking for structured programs that provide structured courses.
  • WordPress-specific and developer-oriented: This rules out great courses like Wes Bos’s React for Beginners that aren’t WordPress-specific, as well as resources like BobWP and WP 101 that are primarily beginner-oriented.
  • Uses a variety of videos, audio tracks, articles, code-alongs, discussions, and projects: This rules out one-dimensional resources like the many WordPress blogs that you probably frequent.

So without further ado, here are the seven best online WordPress training programs for experienced WordPress users that want to level-up their skillset.

The Academy from WPMU DEV

theacademy website screenshot
WPMU DEV Academy

The Academy launched in April and has enjoyed a warm reception among WPMU DEV members. The program is conceived as being a sort of Bachelor’s of WordPress, with the idea being that students will go through a progression of courses over time and turn into well-rounded WordPress professionals that are fully-equipped to develop themes, create plugins, build WordPress websites, and run a WordPress business.

A Structured Program

Academy courses are different from anything else you’ll find on this list because they run on a set schedule. Every other option I found and considered was self-paced. Depending on your personal preferences, that may be a strike against the Academy, but in my book, it’s a major plus.

I’ve signed up for a few different self-paced programs over the years, and the truth is that my life is too busy and my self-discipline too weak for me to consistently work on a course that is completely self-paced. I need weekly reminder emails and a firm due date to help me push forward and make consistent progress. I get that with the Academy, and I haven’t seen that anywhere else.

Topics & Courses

Academy courses are WordPress-specific. WPMU DEV is a WordPress business that offers premium WordPress plugins and expert support, so would you expect anything else? Courses cover WordPress development and the business of running a WordPress products company with course titles such as:

In the future, additional courses will cover Advanced WordPress development, third-party APIs, using JavaScript for WordPress, and more.

How Does it Work?

Well, first you have to join WPMU DEV. Since you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance you already are a member. So, congrats! The Academy won’t cost you a dime! If you aren’t a member, your membership comes with the Academy, and all of our plugins, so you can check things out thoroughly before committing a dollar to your education and success.

After joining WPMU DEV, you have to wait until the enrollment window is open for the course you wish to take. Since Academy courses run on a set schedule, courses aren’t open all of the time. There are specific enrollment periods, and then each course runs for 5 to 9 weeks.

While a course is underway, each week a new module will become available and consist of a video tutorial or presentation, reading assignments, a quiz, and a discussion. To move on to the next module you have to complete every part of the current week’s module. This ensures two things:

  • First, that you make consistent progress. You learn better by learning over time, not by cramming.
  • Second, that you cover the content in each module before moving on to the next module.

Each course concludes with a final assignment that can be quite challenging. Students who successfully complete the assignment on time are awarded certification which they can use to advertise in our Jobs & Pros section and on their own website.

Who is the Academy For?

Academy courses are designed for WordPress users at a variety of levels. However, they are all geared towards current or aspiring WordPress developers. I just completed the beginner’s course, and as a fairly advanced WordPress user with limited PHP knowledge, the course was a real challenge. I’ll be starting the intermediate development course shortly, and anticipate another steep learning curve.

There’s nothing self-paced about the Academy. That makes it a unique offering in the WordPress education space, and in my opinion, increases the chances that you will actually learn some new skills.

JavaScript for WordPress

JavaScript for WordPress
JavaScript for WordPress courses

My journey into tech started in 2013 at Treehouse. There I learned HTML, CSS, basic PHP and JavaScript, principles of web design, and quite a bit about WordPress. However, in December of last year in a move that surprised many–myself included–Treehouse dropped WordPress from their roadmap and amicably parted ways with their extremely talented and effusively optimistic WordPress educator Zac Gordon.

While that was bad news for WordPress students at Treehouse, it was great news for WordPress students everywhere else. Looking for a new way to continue teaching WordPress, Zac took seriously Matt Mullenweg’s charge to “Learn JavaScript, deeply and launched JavaScript for WordPress.

Zac, a gifted and unique educator, serves as the instructor for the course. His enthusiasm and energy are contagious. Once you’ve taken a course from Zac you’ll know exactly what I mean. Zac has also pulled together a group of WordPress and JavaScript rockstars like Rachel Baker (WP core contributor and WP REST API lead), Wes Bos (popular JavaScript instructor), and Kevin Stover (lead developer of Ninja Forms) to serve as program advisors.

This is a serious deep-dive into JavaScript for WordPress developers who want to build cutting-edge JavaScript applications on top of WordPress.

Courses & Topics

JavaScript for WordPress offers twelve courses. Topics covered by courses include:

  • JavaScript programming: Language syntax, the document-object model (DOM), object-oriented programming, functional programming, and asynchronous JavaScript.
  • JavaScript libraries and frameworks: Backbone, Angular, Ember, React, Redux, Node, and Express.
  • The WordPress REST API: Connecting to WordPress with OAuth, accessing WordPress with the REST API, parsing JSON data, building decoupled web applications with JavaScript and WordPress.
  • JavaScript and WordPress real-world projects: How do real-world JavaScript and WordPress web applications work?

How Does it Work?

JavaScript for WordPress courses can be purchased individually or as a monthly or annual membership which provides access to all courses.

The courses provide an advanced self-paced program and if purchased as a membership students shouldn’t plan on bingeing their way through the content. They are too advanced and in-depth for rapid consumption. Zac recommends setting aside regular time every week to work through course content and to plan on investing more than a month–and maybe several months–to work through all of the content.

Who is it For?

JavaScript for WordPress is designed to be accessible for developers who don’t know JavaScript. However, students do need to have a solid foundation in WordPress development and be comfortable with HTML, CSS, and PHP. To get the most out of the courses, Zac recommends completing a traditional WordPress development course before enrolling in JavaScript for WordPress.

Pippin’s Plugins

pippinsplugins website screenshot

Do you want to learn WordPress plugin development from the developer behind plugins like Easy Digital Downloads, AffiliateWP, and Restrict Content?

Of course you do.

Pippin Williamson, the developer behind all of those plugins and many, many more, offers a variety of plugin development articles and twelve different courses (referred to as series). Some of the content at Pippin’s Plugins is free and some require a paid membership. Access to course videos does require a paid membership to the site.

Topics & Courses

Pippin’s Plugins series cover plugin development in depth. Series include titles such as:

Each course consists of multiple tutorial videos, short articles, and links to related content such as Codex documentation and articles from Pippin’s blog and other WordPress blogs around the web. All of the series are self-paced and available for immediate consumption, which is great if you’re ready to jump in right now, but not so great if want or need a drip-feed education system and the accountability of a set schedule.

Who is it For?

If you want to build plugins that could conceivably be submitted to the WordPress.org repository, or if you just want to learn from a very successful plugin author, Pippin’s Plugins might be right for you. And at just $6 per month, it’s an investment you can make without sweating the cost.

Envato Tuts+

envato tuts website screenshot

You’ve probably visited Envato Tuts+ before. They offer articles, tutorials, and short courses on virtually every popular web technology. They boast quite a few laser-focused WordPress training courses from recognized WordPress experts like Tom McFarlin and our own Rachel McCollin.

At Envato Tuts+ you won’t find the sort of immersive, comprehensive, two-month courses that are offered by WPMU DEV’s Academy. Instead, you’ll find short courses designed to address a specific topic in just an hour or two.

Topics & Courses

Envato Tuts+ WordPress courses are laser-focused on specific topics such as:

These aren’t long-form courses that will teach you everything you need to know to be a WordPress developer, but you can use them to learn specific skills.

How Does it Work?

First, you’ll need to join Envato Tuts+ at a cost of $15 per month. Then you can sign up for a course. All courses are self-paced and you can watch the videos, read related content, and discuss the course in the forums at your own pace and on your own schedule.

Who is it For?

Envato Tuts+ works best as a supplemental resource for picking up specific skills.

Browse their WordPress offerings to see if anything piques your interest, but don’t forget that members also have access to related topics such as PHP, jQuery, JavaScript, HTML, CSS, and Web Design.

From my perspective, Envato Tuts+ works best for established professionals who want a place to learn new skills on an ongoing basis, rather than aspiring developers who need to develop a broad base of WordPress knowledge.

Know the Code

know the code website screenshot

Know the Code was created by Tonya Mork to teach code. While the site definitely focuses primarily on WordPress topics, it is not marketed as a WordPress training course but as a general programming course that happens to use PHP and WordPress as the primary teaching and application medium.

Topics & Courses

Know the Code offers a variety of courses–referred to as labs–covering PHP, jQuery, JavaScript, WordPress, and the Genesis theme framework. Examples of course titles include:

There are many courses at Know the Code that cover Genesis framework topics such as the Developer’s Guide to Customizing Genesis which includes 18 videos and nearly 3 hours of content. That’s a mountain of content covering a fairly narrow topic and drives home the key thing you know about Know the Code: these are not overview courses. Courses from Know the Code are comprehensive and go into a great deal of depth.

If you just want to make things work, Know the Code is not what you’re looking for. However, if you want to know why things work, Know the Code is a compelling option.

How Does it Work?

Know the Code memberships range from $19 to $29 per month. Upgraded plans provide additional content that goes into greater depth into the why of coding rather than the how. So if you really want to become an expert developer, the more expensive plan is the one you’ll want.

Once you sign up, you have immediate access to all of the content that is available at your subscription level. There are no code-alongs or quizzes. Each course, or lab, consists of multiple videos and links to detailed documentation. All courses are self-paced–a blessing or a curse depending on your schedule, self-discipline, and work-ethic.

Who is it For?

If you just want to make things that work and look nice, skip Know the Code.

If you’re serious about becoming a qualified developer–even a software engineer–who writes clean, maintainable code, Know the Code is a really interesting option. This is especially true if you’re interested in the Genesis theme framework.


lynda.com website screenshot

Lynda.com is probably the most well-known option for anyone in a modern profession who is looking for online professional development courses. You can learn just about any modern creative or technical skill at Lynda.com, and a membership gives you access to a huge catalog of courses on a stunning range of topics.

Topics & Courses

Lynda.com has a pretty decent selection of WordPress courses on tap. These courses are from respected WordPress educators like Morten Rand-Hendricksen and Carrie Dils, and cover topics such as:

Most of these courses are short, ranging in length from one to two hours, with a handful of longer courses thrown in the mix. You should be aware that of the 85 available WordPress courses, only 33 deal with WordPress 4.x. The rest deal with older versions of WordPress, meaning some of the content may be outdated.

How Does it Work?

A Lynda.com membership ranges from $19.99 to $29.99. If you sign up, you should probably go with the pricier plan since you’ll gain access to quizzes and code practice exercises at that price level. Once you sign up, you have access to all of the content and can work through it at your own pace.

Don’t forget that a Lynda.com membership doesn’t just include their WordPress content. It also comes with access to their entire library, including courses like PHP for Web Designers with nearly 5 and a half hours of video content.

Who is it For?

Lynda.com is similar to Envato Tuts+ in terms of content and structure. Both offer short (for the most part) courses that address specific skills in just an hour or two. Both offer courses that cover a wide range of topics and offer them on a completely self-paced basis. This means that you have to have the foresight to seek out the courses that address areas of deficiency on your own, and the discipline to keep learning without a deadline or schedule to keep you on track.

This begs the question: How would you pick between the Lynda.com and Envato Tuts+? If I were considering both of these options I would employ the Twitter vs. LinkedIn test. It goes something like this. Do you like Twitter or LinkedIn better? If you prefer Twitter, go with Envato Tuts+. But if you’re more of a LinkedIn person, Lynda.com is probably a better fit.


ostraining website screenshot

OSTraining, short for Open Source Training, teaches students how to make websites with open-source content management systems Joomla, Drupal, and WordPress. OS Training is geared towards results-oriented learners who want to make solid websites on top of their favorite CMS, not necessarily students who want to become exceptional all-purpose code-wranglers.

Topics & Courses

OSTraining offers more than 35 WordPress courses, most of which are taught by Topher DeRosia. More than half of those courses are designed for intermediate and advanced WordPress users and include titles such as:

In addition, students have access to a library of Joomla and Drupal courses if they want to master building sites with more than one CMS.

How Does it Work?

An OSTraining membership costs between $25 and $37 per month and the upgraded plan gives you the chance to screen-share with OSTraining staff if you get stuck and the ability to download course videos for offline viewing.

After joining OSTraining, you have complete access to the courses, which include a mix of video lessons and quizzes. All courses are self-paced, so check your self-discipline gauge when signing up.

Who is it For?

OSTraining is for results-oriented WordPress students. If you want to become a PHP and JavaScript developer who just happens to use WordPress, look elsewhere. However, if you want to get really good at building WordPress websites, and possibly learn how to do the same with Joomla and Drupal, OSTraining is worth checking out.


Diving into seven different online programs would be a mistake. If you want to grow as a WordPress user and developer, pick one program that fits you needs and preferences and stick to it. Each of these options might be the best option depending on exactly what you’re looking for.

  • Do you want to become a well-rounded WordPress professional, learn theme and plugin development, and learn how to run a WordPress business with the added accountability of a set study schedule? The Academy was made for you.
  • Do you want to learn theme and plugin development with a focus on producing results rather than theory? Check out OSTraining.
  • Do you want to become a competent programmer and build technically sound WordPress products with Genesis? Know the Code might be just right.
  • Do you want to learn how to build interactive, cutting-edge JavaScript web applications on top of WordPress? JavaScript for WordPress is perfect.
  • Do you want to build plugins for the WordPress.org plugin directory? Pippin’s Plugins can help you do that.
  • Are you an established WordPress pro wanting to keep your technical skills sharp by investing a couple of hours into training every week? Check out Lynda.com and Envato Tuts+.

There are a lot of great WordPress courses available online. Anyone with the desire to become a WordPress developer can do so on a budget without leaving home. All that remains is to pick the right program, set a study schedule, and stick to it.

Which of these programs have you tried in the past? What was your experience? What other great training programs did we leave off this list?
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Jon Penland
Jon Penland Jon manages operations for Kinsta, a managed WordPress hosting provider. When he isn't figuring out the ins-and-outs of supporting WordPress-powered businesses, he enjoys hiking and adventuring in northeast Georgia with his wife and kids.