Justin Woodring

Justin Woodring

PhD student at LSU

Getting Started in Quantum Computing


So you've decided to learn about quantum computing. This is the first step of a major journey on which you have just embarked that will potentially determine the course of your professional and academic future. But what next? What does someone who wants to learn about quantum computing do to learn about quantum computing?

Well it's a good thing you're here because this post contains the answers to your questions. Before we begin let's discuss prerequisites. Anybody can learn quantum computing, yes even your 80-year old grandmother, but that doesn't mean it's easy. Like any discipline, understanding the intracacies of quantum computing can take an entire lifetime because there's always more to know and the field is still rapidly expanding, but you don't necessarily need to worry about being the next Dr. Feynman, a simple practical understanding will do and can be achieved within a few months.

Getting Started

There are a lot of conflicting opinions on the prerequisite knowledge necessary to get started. Hopefully, in the future the people that say you don't need decent math skills will be right, but for now they're wrong. The truth you and your 80-year old grandma probably don't want to hear, is that you'll probably need to brush up on your math skills. At the bare minimum to get started, you will need a high school level comprehension of linear algebra and statistics.

The Good News

Now I know you're probably disgruntled at the unfortunate news, but it's not all bad. In reality, the necessary math may have rattled it's way out of your brain but it's not complex and certainly it's knowledge that can be refreshed within a quarter of the year or less. It doesn't get much more difficult than this.

Getting Into Quantum

Now that you've refreshed your math skills you're ready to start your quantum journey. This is the fun part. With the most of the world calling for a quantum-ready workforce almost evey major tech company is either creating resources for or keeping an eye out for people like you who are going to lead tech into the post-quantum era.


Tutorials and hand-on exercises are fun but the bread and butter of any discipline is textbooks. And I've personally identified three textbooks aimed at various levels of quantum proficiency to get you started and let you progress steadily in you quantum studies.

  1. Introduction to Classical and Quantum Computing (By Dr. Thomas G Wong) -- Highschool to Early College Level
  2. Quantum Computation and Quantum Information (By Isaac Chuang and Michael Nielsen) -- College to Early Graduate Level
  3. Classical and Quantum Computation (By Kitaev et al.) -- Graduate and Heavy Mathematics Level

These three books are ideal for any collection and will serve well to introduce and reinforce well-known quantum computing concepts. The 1st book is very approachable for beginners and the 2nd book serves as the de facto standard for college level quantum computation textbooks.

Online Resources

There are four really good courses online that offer hands-on exercises labs and opportunities to experiment with real quantum hardware!

  1. IBM Quantum / Qiskit (Big Blue is leading the pack by far in creating educational content and making quantum publicly accessible)
  2. Xanadu's Pennylane (Xanadu's Pennylane Cookbook is a book of hands-on exercises that walk you through a programmatic understanding of quantum concepts)
  3. Amazon's free Introduction to Braket Course and Badge! (Shorter course but it walks through using Amazon's Tech)
  4. Microsoft's QDK, Q#, and Introduction to Azure Quantum (Microsoft despite not bragging too much about quantum has silently been building and accruing a collection of useful resources and documentation for any quantum beginner. They even have their own language!)

I personally recommend spending time on all of these not only does it look good to be well-rounded but learning different toolsets will help you to distinguish more abstract quantum concepts from implementation specific features.

Events and Other

There are several events that occur throughout the year that you can either participate in at low cost or simply for free. It's worth keeping an eye on these. One such event that comes to mind is QHack, a worldwide quantum hackathon / distinguished speakers event put on by XanaduAI.

Aside from events, depending on your interests it may be worth keeping up with research papers to get a better understanding of the current state of quantum tech. An IBM interns and quantum advocates put together a really valuable collection of quantum research papers, https://github.com/mgg39/Quantum-tech-papers.

In Summary

There's no super easy way to get started in quantum but it's certainly doable. In my opinion, you should read the textbooks, complete the courses, get hands-on experience, and keep with the latest research as much as is feasibly possible. If videos are more your speed, there are several provided in the various courses and as extra educational resources by various outlets. All this being said, it's an amazing time to get started and you shouldn't let your doubts or fears or even imposter syndrome hold you back. I wish you the best of luck on your journey and hopefully this and more content I'll produce later will be an invaluable asset to you!