How to Learn Ruby on Rails

Ruby on Rails has taken the web development community by storm. Initially released 16 years ago, Ruby on Rails is now used by Twitter, Shopify, GitHub, Dribble, and many other websites. But how do you go about learning to code with Ruby on Rails?

In this guide, we’re going to discuss what you need to do to learn Ruby on Rails. We will talk about the basics of Ruby on Rails, what jobs you can get with this skill, and what resources you can use to learn this framework.

What Is Ruby on Rails?

Ruby on Rails (RoR) is a backend web development framework written in the Ruby programming language. This framework follows the model-view-controller architecture and can be used to interface with databases and serve webpages. Ruby on Rails was initially released in August of 2004 by David Heinemeier Hansson.

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RoR has become popular because it is efficient for creating backend web architectures. Due to the architecture of Ruby itself, and the design of RoR, you can do more with less code using this framework. In addition, RoR is well documented so there are a lot of examples of how to make the best use of the language.

Jobs that Require Ruby on Rails Skills

The job that requires Ruby on Rails skills the most is backend developer. Many companies looking for backend developers ask for experience specifically with Ruby on Rails. However, not all backend developer positions require Ruby on Rails experience.

You will also use a lot of Ruby on Rails if you join a team as a full stack developer, a position that tackles both the front and backends of a website. This assumes, of course, you join a team that works with Ruby on Rails.

What Companies Use Ruby on Rails?

Are there any examples of companies that actively use Ruby on Rails? Yes, there are plenty. Ruby on Rails has been around for a long time. In the time since the release of RoR, many companies have adopted this framework on their technology stacks.

Here are a few companies that use RoR:

  • Dribbble
  • Airbnb
  • Bloomberg
  • GitHub
  • Hulu
  • Twitter
  • SoundCloud
  • Kickstarter
  • GoodReads

These are only a few names that use Ruby on Rails. Many more companies, large and small, use this technology because it is powerful and has a logical architecture. From the list above, you can see that Ruby on Rails is used by many prestigious names, from book-reviewing sites (GoodReads) and finance companies (Bloomberg) to networking platforms (Dribble).

Salary for Ruby on Rails Developers

According to Glassdoor, the average salary for a Ruby on Rails developer is $75,526 per year. Senior Ruby on Rails developers earn an average of $87,712, which shows that there are clear opportunities for salary increases as you develop more experience building RoR apps. These salaries are commensurate with those offered by a lot of web development jobs.

What Skills Do I Need to Master Ruby on Rails?

To learn Ruby on Rails, you must have a working knowledge of Ruby. RoR is based on the Ruby programming language, after all. If you do not learn Ruby first, you will probably get confused at many points in your journey learning RoR. You may also come to associate with RoR concepts that are actually part of the Ruby language, not the framework.

You will also need a working knowledge of HTML and CSS. Ideally, you will also know JavaScript. You will use these technologies to build the front end of the websites you develop on RoR.

Good knowledge of the model-view-controller architecture is helpful because this is the structure upon which RoR was designed. However, you can learn this architecture when you start researching RoR; the model-view-controller architecture is mentioned a lot in RoR tutorials and courses. 

Where to Learn Ruby on Rails

Ruby on Rails is a well-documented framework and has a strong community of developers who have produced their own content on RoR.

As a result, you have plenty of resources you can choose to learn. Because it can take a while to find a resource that is right for you, we have prepared a list of some of the top RoR learning resources out there:

Ruby on Rails Tutorial Book

  • Author: Michael Harti
  • Price: $39 (with free chapters)
  • Type of Resource: eBook

The Ruby on Rails Tutorial is an ebook that covers most of what you need to know about the Ruby on Rails framework, from setting up an example app to building dynamic pages. Each tutorial has a conversational tone and comes with code snippets that are explained in depth. These two features make it easy to follow along with what the author is saying in each tutorial.

Most of the tutorials in this book can only be accessed after paying for the ebook.

 Learn Ruby on Rails for Beginners

  • Author: Go Rails
  • Price: Free
  • Type of Resource: Course

This course will get you up and running with RoR by walking you through the development of a web application. The tutorial starts at the beginning with a guide on installing RoR and setting up your application. Then, you will learn more theory that is grounded in the examples that accompany each tutorial.

Tutorials range from using routes to the link_to method to creating a User model to store data in your application. Each tutorial is only a few minutes long so you can quickly start practicing a topic after watching the video.

Learn Ruby on Rails

  • Author: Codecademy Pro
  • Price: Pro membership ($19.99/month)
  • Type of Resource: Course

Codecademy’s Learn Ruby on Rails course is a good way to get started with RoR. You will start by learning how to set up an application from scratch. You will then move on to adding a database to your project. Later, you will learn about the ways in which you can build relationships between models in your applications.

This course features three portfolio projects on which you can work to practice your skills. For example, you will create a website for a static landing page.

Code School: Rails for Zombies

  • Author: Gregg Pollack (on Pluralsight)
  • Price: Pluralsight membership ($29/month)
  • Type of Resource: Course

This course will teach you how to build a web application with Ruby on Rails. You will start by learning how to set up an application and create a database. You will then learn about models, views, and controllers, with reference to how they are implemented in an application. By the end of the course, you should have a good understanding of how to use RoR.

Agile Web Development with Rails 6

  • Author: Sam Ruby, David Bryand Copeland, and Dave Thomas
  • Price: $29.95
  • Type of Resource: ebook

According to the authors, this book will help you learn RoR the way the core team intended. You will start by installing Rails and slowly work your way through the theory of RoR apps and building an application. Later in the book, you will be tasked with creating an application step-by-step over the course of several sections.

Learn Ruby on Rails – Full Course

  • Author:
  • Price: Free
  • Type of Resource: Video

Taught by freeCodeCamp, this video walks you through the basics of using Ruby on Rails. You will start by installing Rails and learning a bit about the framework. You will go on to build your first webpage and learn about the model-view-controller architecture.

Later in the application, you will learn how to style the application you have built, use Active Record, and more. You will find all of the source code for this course in a dedicated GitHub repository that you can refer to throughout your learning.

Ruby on Rails Tutorials

There are many tutorials that teach Ruby on Rails. These tutorials are ideal if you prefer to learn from articles rather than videos or like to supplement your learning with written content. Below we have curated some top Ruby on Rails tutorials for you to take a look at.

Ruby on Rails Guides

The Ruby on Rails Guides website is a repository of tutorials that will help you get started with various Ruby on Rails features. The first guide tackles getting started with Rails. Later guides talk about using Active Record, views, and more advanced topics.

Each guide features extensive descriptions and code snippets that you can use to inform your own work. Guides are produced in accordance with a strict contributing guide so you can be assured the material you read has been well thought out and tested.

The Odin Project Ruby on Rails

The Odin Project has a dedicated section on their website to Ruby on Rails tutorials. The Ruby on Rails tutorial directory is split up into sections like “Rails Basics” and “Active Record Basics”, each of which features a set of tutorials and projects to reinforce your skills.

The tutorials on The Odin Project do not stop at beginner concepts: later you will find guides on advanced forms, APIs, mailers, and more. The tutorials on this site contain detailed explanations of each programming concept as well as code snippets.

A Guide to Learning Ruby on Rails Basics

What topics do beginners to Ruby on Rails need to know? This is an important question to answer because starting at the wrong place can make it more difficult for you to advance your knowledge of RoR. Below we have listed some of the key topics you will need to learn about at the start of your RoR learning journey.

  • Architecture: What is Ruby on Rails? Why is the framework used? What architecture is RoR based on? These are all questions you should be able to answer before you start coding with Ruby on Rails.
  • Starting a Project: You should learn how to initialize a new project with Ruby on Rails and create a webpage using routes and a controller.
  • Views and Controllers: Views and controllers are essential components in an RoR app. You should learn how to create, modify, and delete views and controllers.
  • Routes: You should feel comfortable creating and managing routes in a web application.
  • Active Record: Once you have created your first application, you should familiarize yourself with the Active Record database system. This includes learning about how to create a migration and an association and run a query. Once you have learned these concepts, you should study how to create many-to-many associations in Active Record.
  • Forms: RoR forms are usually built upon Active Record. You should learn how to implement forms in your website once you have set up an Active Record database.

The above topics are a taste of what you will need to know as you begin learning RoR. However, the above list is by no means a complete syllabus. There is a lot to learn about RoR; you will discover more topics to study as you keep learning.

How Long Does it Take to Learn Ruby on Rails?

It usually takes around one or two weeks to feel comfortable with the basics of Ruby on Rails and perhaps about a month before you can set up an application without having to refer too much to notes or guides. Expect to spend about two to four months refining your skills. If you want to use Rails in a job, you will probably need to study it for about six months.

Should I Learn Ruby on Rails?

Ruby on Rails is a popular technology for backend web development, used all around the world by companies like Twitter and GitHub. Rails is based on a model-view-controller framework and gives you the features you need to build powerful web applications.

If you want to become a full stack or a backend web developer, Ruby on Rails is a great skill to have. Not all companies use Ruby on Rails but those that do will almost certainly require at least some experience or projects you can show them to prove your knowledge of the framework.

Even companies that do not use Ruby on Rails will see your knowledge of the framework as an indication of your interest in web development, which may take you further in an interview process.

Spend some time pondering whether you see yourself as a backend or full stack web developer, the people who help create the logic behind web apps. If you do see yourself in this position, learning Ruby on Rails may be a good investment of your time.

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