Learning programming is hard work, we know that. Most guides explaining how to become a programmer may try to intimidate you or even suggest taking up expensive university programs! Not here - in this short guide we will help you hone your programming skills on a budget!
Many people nowadays are becoming master programmers without any official degree and getting lucrative job offers in the process. Hopefully, you’ll be one of them!
Without further ado, here are the main steps on how to become a programmer:
- 1. Choose a project you wish to complete
- 2. Select the programming language
- 3. Use the right learning materials and tools
- 4. Practice - and dedicate your time for it
- 5. Join a community
- 6. Start building a project
- 7. Build a professional network of people that can help you.
Step #1: Choose a Project You Wish To Complete
Before starting the process you need to think it through and completely commit to it. The learning curve may be scary and the first lessons may be difficult. Hey, nothing in life is trouble-free.
However, once you're past the basics, you'll start to enjoy programming. From there, it gets easier!
And the one thing that will help you go through the difficult times is setting up an end goal, a checkpoint to go towards.
It doesn't have to be anything huge, like getting hired by Google. Instead, aim at something achievable, but still exciting. Here are some end goals you may look to reach:
- Get an app published on Google Play/Apple App Store.
- Create a simple, yet original video game.
- Build a smart, responsive, beautiful website completely from scratch.
- Make household items smart (a blind that automatically closes, when it's dark outside? Just a thought!)
An end goal is a very good approach to learning things, because you'll be able to easily track your progress and see what new things have you learned. Also - when you'll finally achieve your goal, it'll be a massive achievement and motivation to go forward.
Step #2: Select the Programming Language You Want To Learn
When learning how to become a programmer, choosing which programming language to learn is, naturally, a very crucial step.
Depending on the goals you set yourself, your programming language of choice may and will vary.
- On the other hand, if you're looking to build things from scratch - Python is an all-around option. It's very friendly for beginners and is very easy to real. So, it's a good fit for people who want to learn programming but are intimidated by massive walls of code.
- C++ is used to develop desktop and web applications, as well as video games. It's difficult to learn and may appear intimidating - but the payoff is huge.
- If you wish to focus on mobile applications, there are some other, easier options you can pick. Swift is a programming language used for MacOS, iOS, and iPadOS applications.
- Java is one of the main languages in the world, used for many purposes, so it's a good one to learn, too. It's also the primary language of Android apps, but currently, it's being replaced by a very similar Kotlin language.
- C is probably the most popular and widely used programming language. It’s the foundation for Linux/GNU and is a “machine level” language, so you’ll be learning how a program interacts with the hardware and the fundamentals of programming at its lowest level. That said, coding in C is stricter and has a steep learning curve. While it’ll teach you how to write efficient code, it’ll take a while to learn enough to make anything useful.
But these are only a few of the options - really, we just scratched the surface.
Definitely make sure to do your research when choosing the first language - look at its pros, cons, and how could it be used to reach your specific goals. Truth is, there's no language that's perfect for everything and everyone. So, choosing right from the very start is a great way to avoid disappointment later on.
Step #3: Use The Right Learning Materials and Tools
This is one of the most important steps of our how to become a programmer guide. Finding the right tool that you’re comfortable with will help you implement it in real life.
For instance, Codecademy is one of the greatest free resource platforms. You'll only be typing into a browser and get scores based on your performance.
It's really more of a game, not really how the developers actually work. And if that's not great for you - something like Udemy may be quite useful instead. Such learning platforms include video and text-based tutorials, teaching you to learn things step by step. Some of those tutorials are free - most of them will cost a few dollars though.
Once you get the very basics of the language, I suggest using an IDE - an integrated development environment. It's essentially a piece of software that includes a graphical interface, debugger, and many other tools guaranteeing that your code is actually good.
For Apple app development, Xcode IDE is the primary option.
For Python, I suggest using something like Atom or Thonny. For your preferred language, there are several options available.
Step #4: Start Practising Real Hard
This seems obvious, right? But it's easier said than done.
In the first couple of weeks, people learning how to become a programmer tend to be very fired up and well motivated. However, once the initial enthusiasm fades - this is where most of the people stop learning. How can you avoid it?
The secret is simple - follow a schedule. Learn programming for at least a few hours a week, and do it constantly, so your brain has enough time to memorize everything.
Missed a day? Put just a bit of extra work later. The payoffs won't come quick, but they will - as long as you work.
You don't become a great programmer overnight. If you would, everyone would do it.
But don't get scared, too. Experts say it might take a student 4-10 months to learn a language based on their studying time. And those months will pass by long before you know it.
Step #5: Join a Community
When learning how to become a great programmer, joining a community is perhaps the best thing you can do.
When you're a part of a community, you'll get the push you need to succeed on this long and sometimes difficult road. Working with a group makes the learning process a bit less painful - and you can learn from the mistakes of others.
If you get stuck, you can get help to solve the problem. Although in-person groups are great, they might not be available all the time, that’s why you should try out online communities where you’ll find support 24/7.
Some experts may be rude to you - but that's just how life goes. There are still always going to be a lot of amazing people that will go head over heels to help you out. And finding them makes it all worthwhile.
I recommend using Stack Overflow, Reddit, and The DEV community as a start. These communities have a wide range of devs starting from beginners to absolute superstars advanced level.
Step #6: Building time!
Once you have all the tools at your disposal and have a basic grasp at how your language works - you're good to go.
It's time to build that end goal project I mentioned previously. Watching tutorials on YouTube and getting mauled on Reddit sure is fun, but it won't get any actual work done.
Start building your project - if possible, I suggest searching for existing projects which have their code made public.
You'll be able to edit the existing content and adjust everything to your needs. It won't be the same as building from scratch - but it's also much more simple, and it's a great stepping stone.
Try out solo projects first before joining a group. After a few successful projects, you can join a group and work on a project together!
Step #7: Build Your Own Professional Network
Joining a community or building projects will surely help you grow your network. Well, the end goal is to have a career, right?
Most people looking at how to become a programmer attempt to have development as their primary source of income. Well, none of that may happen if you don't meet the right people.
For some, the best way to start a network is to try and join an intern/junior position at an established company to learn from experts. For some, it will be all about freelancing and building personal connections.
Which is the better way? The one you like more. Either way, working together with people is the right way to become a serious programmer.
How to Become A Programmer: Final Thoughts
Skilled programmers are greatly appreciated all around the world, and the demand isn't slowing down anytime soon.
Luckily, there are plenty of tools and tutorials that will help you on how to become a programmer. There's only one variable - and that's your own will and desire to be great.
By finding out the right tools to learn your desired language from, and getting into the right communities, you still won't be there yet.
So put in some hard work, and then, your new career may be on its way.
Good luck in learning how to become a programmer!