How to Be a Professional Programmer

Technology has become an integral part of our everyday lives, thanks to devices such as smartphones, smart home appliances, connected cars, and many other being used by billions of people worldwide. All these devices run on software created by programmers, and due to high demand for software engineers, there is a lot of interest in mastering the art of good code.

In fact, software engineering has become a popular and sought-after career choice around the globe. Demand remains robust and this is a long-term trend.

It is tempting to think that you merely have to learn how to code to become a software developer, but like in many other careers, it takes more than a single skill. To be a really successful programmer, there are a few prerequisites you'll need.

How to Become a Professional Programmer

Basic Skills

Becoming a programmer will definitely be easier if you have the right educational background in the basics of computer technology and logic, and mathematics (obviously). If you lack this educational foundation, you can learn things on the go, but that will require more time and more effort on your part.

In addition to having a solid educational background, programmers have to master other skills as well. It may come as a surprise to people who view programmers as eccentric geeks, but communication skills are very important.

Programmers are usually portrayed as loners, spending endless days in front of the computer screen, but in reality, any serious programming project involves a lot of communication and teamwork.

Communicating with clients and stakeholders can be a daunting task, but it is crucial in understanding their needs and all aspects of the software project at hand. Due to the sheer amount of written and spoken communication in programming, these skills are very important, even more so if you are outsourcing the work overseas, or working with remote talent in your own neck of the woods.

Problem-solving skills are another integral part of programming, and this is where a background in computer technology and logic comes in very handy.

Computers are great at solving simple, repetitive tasks, and it is up to your problem-solving skills to break a complex task down into simple, easy to code steps. Think of software as a puzzle — small parts put together the right way create a bigger picture. If a single one of these small elements doesn't perform as expected, the "big picture" can unravel in a matter of milliseconds.

Problem solving is a difficult skill to learn, and practice is key here. Therefore, novice developers should get to grips with simple tasks and incrementally raise the bar as they get better.

Debugging

Debugging is a process of removing errors from program code.

Debugging basically involves examining the execution of the code, reviewing the code itself, and it is a very important part of programming. We all make mistakes, and software errors are inevitable. Even if your piece of code is 100% perfect, it will interact with code written by others, or rely on third-party services and components, allowing unforeseen errors to occur. These errors can only be solved by testing and experimentation, i.e. debugging.

Here are some of the common ways of debugging code and examining the execution of a program:

  • Using a debugging tool. Debuggers are software tools which enable the programmer to monitor the execution of a program, stop it, restart it, set breakpoints, and view or change values in memory.

  • Printlining includes making modifications to the program code to add lines that print out (or display) information such as values of the variables.

  • Logging creates a log file with the description of the execution of a program.

The first step in debugging is usually to attempt to reproduce the problem. When the problem is successfully reproduced, the input parameters of the program and values of the variables are analyzed using a debugger tool and breakpoints, until the origin of the problem is pinned down and corrected.

Motivation

While it doesn't involve much in the way of physical activity, programming can be extremely hard work, especially for developers rushing to meet hard deadlines, as they often work long hours and may experience burnout.

Sure, it is fun when you are having a good day and everything is going your way, but that's no ordinary day in the life of a software engineer. Bad days can be painfully dull or hectic and frustrating. Programming is a mental exercise, and if you do it the wrong way, you won't get very far.

Maintaining motivation is extremely important in programming, as your mood greatly affects your work. Writers can experience "writer's block" and developers can easily end up in a similar situation, especially after weeks of hard work, with little progress to show for it.

One way of making it easier and fun for yourself is to get organized before diving into coding. Break the task down into smaller parts, write them down, and start dealing with them, for example: "create an input form", "validate the user input", "save the input to the database".

Dealing with small tasks is easier, your work will be more organized, and checking of these small individual tasks from your list will give you a sense of accomplishment. That's pretty much what the Agile methodology is all about.

Also, ensure that your work environment is distraction-free as much as possible, allowing you to concentrate on your work.

There is no such thing as a rule for motivation, as it's entirely subjective. Some people find it motivating when they find out that their code is not as good as they expected, and get valuable input allowing them to optimize it.

Others are motivated by a little bit of friendly competition, some like to work on satisfying cutting-edge solutions, while others are just in it for the money. Find something that works for you and stick with it.

Motivation is very powerful. If you can manage to stay motivated for the task at hand, you will be able to do it better, faster, and enjoy it more along the way. It's not just about making you feel better at work. A motivated team tends to be more productive and waste fewer person-hours, which means motivation can save you time and money.

On top of that, programmers have to keep track of the latest industry trends and developments. They have to refresh their skills on a regular basis, master new technologies, frameworks, and methodologies.

Developers have to constantly hone their skills and adapt new ones. They can't afford to stop learning, which requires a fair amount of motivation in itself.

Working in a Team

Like all other activities, programming can also be a social exercise. If you are a software developer, it is very likely that you have already worked in a team, and if you have not, you probably will at some point. Every team is comprised of different people with different habits, different skills, different personalities, levels of motivation, and different levels of technical proficiency.

Almost all serious programming projects are handled by teams rather than individuals. Team structure and organization can be defined in many different ways. Two common team structures are the Chief programmer team and the egoless programming concept.

A Chief programmer team has a defined structure — it is organized and lead by the Chief programmer, while the other team members have strictly defined roles. This structure is good for straightforward tasks, emphasizing work in a disciplined way, with a clear "lead" at the top of the pyramid, but cooperation and communication are limited.

The Egoless programming concept defines a decentralized team, where leadership rotates between team members. The entire team participates in setting goals, minimizing the constraints of hierarchy and status, and enabling free exchange of ideas and improvements. The downside? Lack of effective control can result in lower productivity and efficiency.

Traditionally, programming projects are divided into smaller tasks, and one development team member is responsible for the task that is assigned to him, i.e. they assume "ownership" of that particular part of the project.

Pair programming is a newer programming technique in which two programmers work together at one computer unit. One of them writes the code, while the other one reviews each line of code, and they swap roles frequently.

Pair programming has many benefits over the traditional single programmer method. A pair of programmers produce code with fewer bugs, they find solutions to problems, work faster and provide more design alternatives.

Productivity can also be higher, as programmers working in pairs are not going to check social networks, personal e-mails, or surf the web during office hours. However, pair programming can also be ineffective in some situations, for example, if one programmer is less experienced than the other, or if the pair of programmers constantly argues and does not function as a team.

Source code control systems, or versioning systems, are an essential tool for teams of programmers. These systems keep track of all changes to the source code, where all change`s can be described and given meaning. Changes to the code can also be undone, making sure the functionality of the code is not lost by allowing developers to revert to a previous source code version.

Project Management

In the early days of computing, the software industry grew quickly due to the relatively low cost of software development compared to hardware production. At that time, it also became clear that efficient software development project management was the key to success.

The ability to manage and balance the three main factors in software development determines the success of the project. These factors are: Features, Resources and Time, and they are inseparable.

Features represent all of the options and functionality of the software being developed, and they are directly linked to the amount of work that needs to be done.

Resources are the tools for accomplishing the task, like people, computers, training, and all of these mostly equate to money. More resources will cost more money.

And, of course, time represents the available time to project completion.

Efficient project management is a fine balancing act between the aforementioned factors. If you add more features to the project, for example, you will need more resources and/or more time to finish it, and you may encounter feature creep.

Adding new developers to an overdue project in order to speed things up can often result in even slower work. The main reason is that new team members need some time to fully on board and become productive.

This time is called ramp-up time, and it involves introducing the new team member to the work already done and the project goals and details, which in the end also takes time from the development team.

Project management should be handled by a person with programming skills, so he or she would have a good understanding of the tasks and individual skills of all team members. Project management tasks include dividing the project into tasks and assigning them to team members, scheduling the project and defining code standards.

It is also a good idea to use specialized project management software in project management tasks, such as Kanban boards in Agile development.

Coding for Adults

In some circles, it is thought that in order to be a developer you need to learn to code in your teens and twenties. However, that's a theory that's been soundly debunked by adults who have undertaken the task of learning to code at 40, 50, and beyond.

They've proven that anyone willing to put in the time and effort can learn to code and even transition into a career as a developer, if so inclined. The key factor here is the willingness to put in the work. Like most things worth doing, learning to code takes a lot of time and effort.

In this section, we'll consider the reasons why you might want to learn to code as an older adult and we'll explore three learning strategies commonly used by adult coding students. While we're at it, we'll point out resources you can use to implement each of the three learning strategies.

Why Would an Older Adult Want to Learn to Code?

There are a lot of possibilities and benefits that come into play when learning to code, and older adults are generally motivated by one or more of them.

  • Learning a new, complex task like coding helps you keep mentally sharp. In addition, once you've learned to code, building digital products exercises creativity and intellect.

  • Code is the language of the information age, and learning to code helps you better understand how the modern world works.

  • With just basic-to-intermediate coding skills, you'll be able to build websites and simple web applications for yourself, friends, family, or a local budget-starved non-profit.

  • If you put in the effort, then you can even go on to transition into a career as a developer at virtually any age.

That all sounds great in theory, but in reality, you can't learn to code if you don't know where to start. Let's solve that problem by looking at three learning strategies you can use to learn code: self-teaching, plugging into a coding community, and joining a code bootcamp.

Self-Teaching is the Norm

Ken Hart started teaching himself how to code at 43 because he was no longer happy with the blog he had built using a free website builder.

For Hart, the process of learning to build a personal blog sparked an interest in web design and development.

He started out self-teaching with YouTube videos and tutorials and eventually learned enough to land an entry-level web design position with a local web design and development firm.

Like Hart, the majority of coders, even professional software engineers, spend a lot of time learning on their own.

Developers use a combination of books, online courses, tutorials, and personal projects to develop new competencies and keep their skill set sharp. As a matter of fact, self-teaching is so common that in 2016 close to 70% of developers surveyed by Stack Overflow acknowledged spending at least some time self-teaching, while 13% reported that they were entirely self-taught.

Self-Teaching Resources

Learning to code on your own is a perfectly valid way to learn. It's also possible to do so without spending a dollar on learning materials.

Recognizing how important self-directed learning is to developers, we've put together dozens of programming resource guides you can use to track down tutorials, ebooks, and online courses — most of which are free.

If you aren't sure where to start, here are a few suggestions:

  • If you want to learn how to build websites or web-based applications, then you need to start by learning HTML followed closely by CSS, and you'll ultimately need to learn JavaScript as well.

  • If you want to build dynamic websites, then you'll also need to learn server-side programming and how to work with databases. We recommend learning the most common server-side language, PHP, and the most common database management system, MySQL.

  • PHP is far from the only server-side language, and if you aren't sold on learning PHP you may be interested in learning ASP.NET, Java, or Node.js.

Learning is Better in Community

Learning to code can be a lonely endeavor, and it's easy to get bored, stuck, or frustrated. However, this needn't be the case.

Coding communities abound both online and in person. By being in a community you'll have access to experienced developers when you get stuck. And you'll enjoy the camaraderie that will help you keep pushing when the subject matter gets hard.

This was certainly the case for Laurie Alaoui, who learned to code at the age of 57. For Laurie, coding meetups were the next natural step once she was ready to move beyond self-teaching.

How to Find a Coding Community

So where can you find a coding community to get plugged into? Well, you've got some options.

First, if you go through any sort of structured online course such as Free Code Camp, you'll find that the course probably already has a robust student community. Just plug into that community using whatever methods your particular course provides.

Second, if you want to find a local tribe of developers and code students to rub elbows with, look for a local meetup group.

There are thousands of code-focused meetup groups spread all over the world that meet on a regular basis. Joining one will give you the chance to build in-person relationships with professional developers and other code students in your area.

Accelerate Your Learning with a Bootcamp

Many learners find that they need a structured learning environment and one-on-one mentorship to get over the hump from coding tinkerer to junior developer.

That was true for Patricia, who learned to code in her 40s. In her case, the solution was to enroll at Bloc, an online code bootcamp.

If you're serious about making a career out of coding, there's a good chance that at some point you'll decide you want to accelerate your learning trajectory.

When that happens, a coding bootcamp, either online or in person, can be an ideal solution.

Coding bootcamps represent a major commitment of time and money. Bootcamp students invest anywhere from 8 to 26 weeks fully immersed in the process of learning to code, and they often pay upwards of $10,000 for the opportunity.

Why do they do this? Because good bootcamps have a proven track record of providing a valid path to a career in web or software development.

How to Find a Coding Bootcamp

If you're interested in finding a coding bootcamp, there are almost certainly several within a reasonable drive time from wherever you happen to be right now and a few bootcamps even operate entirely remotely.

There are several bootcamp directories you can use to locate candidate bootcamps and compare them based on a wide variety of factors. Three of the best code bootcamp directories are:

Conclusion

Whether your ultimate goal is to become a professional developer or just to learn enough code to build out your own digital projects, it's never too late in life to learn to code.

Coding education is incredibly accessible. You can learn on your own, join a community of developers and programmers, or join a fast-paced code bootcamp and drastically shorten your learning curve.

The key is to get started and to consistently work towards your goals. Just do that, and you can learn to code at any age.

Coding for Felons

Even though many felons have done their time in the prison system, they still have to deal with the crime they have committed.

Even after serving a prison sentence, many felons have trouble finding long-term, satisfying work as a result of hiring restrictions or background investigations. Some of the great jobs out there require college degrees that cost a lot of money — something out of reach for most felons.

Fortunately, there are great opportunities in creating software for the web or other platforms which do not require a college degree. With a few online courses costing relatively little compared to a degree, ex-felons can get back on track and contribute to society.

State and Local Resources

Often times, the states provide several resources which give counseling, basic skills development, and some job training specifically for individuals who have been incarcerated.

Some states partner with the Department of Labor specifically advertising opportunities for ex-felons. Here are some examples of links some of the states have to help released prisoners:

  • Operation New Hope is a program based in Jacksonville, Florida that partners with potential employers to give former convicts employment opportunities as well as links to educational resources available at the local community college or library.

  • Career Connections is another program based in New Jersey designed to help ex-convicts get access to jobs, perform networking activities, and get job training.

  • Workforce Investment Works is a program based in Maryland that provides access to job boards and resources dedicated to finding jobs easier.

Similar resources from the state or local governments can be found online with a simple online search.

In addition, ex-felons should examine cost-effective educational opportunities from local community colleges, some of which offer the chance to get an associates degree in computer science. If access to the Internet is a limiting factor, many public libraries and restaurants offer free WIFI access.

Online Resources

Though resources provided by the state or local entities are free for the most part, there may be a long process or waiting list to get the help needed.

Though many of the resources available online are not necessarily catering to felons themselves, they still provide the background necessary to learn the skills that are in demand to help land a rewarding software development job.

Coding Tutorials

The links below provide a great starting point in learning about software development and include many in-demand languages for traditional and web development.

A great strategy is to pick an development area and focus. If you are interested in web development, stick with learning PHP and SQL syntax and modify the exercises presented in the tutorials.

Use a free web host to showcase your projects and refer to them in interviews.

  • LearnJavaOnline is a website that includes many tutorials on the basics of the Java programming language. The website not only contains tutorials, it also has an application which allows you to type in Java code yourself and see the results on the web page itself. Currently, many web and enterprise solutions use Java so taking a look at this tutorial is a step in the right direction towards finding a job.

  • TutorialsPoint — Java has an extensive collection of Java tutorials covering many aspects of the programming language ranging from basic data types to object-oriented programming (OOP). This is a great resource to check out since it covers a breadth of topics.

  • Codeacademy Java Tutorial is a tutorial that covers data structures and types. Users of the site can create and compile code as well as see the results on the site itself. Codeacademy also includes several projects which can be modified and potentially be used as part of a portfolio to help convince employers to hire.

  • Building Your First App is a great introduction to mobile phone application development on the Android platform. It shows how you can setup your environment and create your first project. The great news is that gaining app development skills allows you to potentially perform freelance projects which usually don't require any background checks.

  • TutorialsPoint — Android provides an extensive resource on Android development with tutorials ranging from environment setup to basics of UI design. App development on Android platforms is in demand and thousands of apps are released every year. Also, app developers can potentially earn a great salary which provides great motivation to master this skill.

  • W3Schools PHP Tutorial is a great set of tutorials on PHP covering topics ranging from basic syntax to creating code to handle forms and connect to databases. PHP is a great language to learn because many pages on the web use this language and a lot of jobs are available. Also, many online applications such as WordPress rely on PHP, making it a worthwhile language to learn.

  • TutorialsPoint SQL Tutorial provides a great set of articles on SQL syntax. You can set-up a MySQL server for databases and start using these commands right away. Many applications, including those on the web, rely heavily on databases so understanding the related syntax will go a long way with your development and job hunting efforts.

Video Tutorials

Though articles on various development languages provide a great way to learn, some individuals may find they learn better through video tutorials.

Also, the video links posted here are part of a series of videos which provides a structured way to learn various technologies. Here are some tutorials on in-demand technologies today.

  • Java Tutorial for Beginners is a series of videos outlining how beginners can install Java on their computers as well as tutorials covering various topics including basic syntax and creation of GUIs. This provides a step-by-step resource filled with information which can be helpful for ex-felons just getting started in development.

  • Java Enterprise Edition Tutorial is another series of tutorials that covers the Java Enterprise Edition technology which is in-demand and used by many corporations. The tutorial presents videos on various topics including Oracle database setup and basic java servlets.

  • Android App Development for Beginners is a tutorial with 77 lessons on developing Android applications and covers topics such as different GUI layouts, working with databases, and creating animations.

  • Start Developing Android Apps Today! is an 8 hour video that contains step-by-step instructions for creating your first Android application.

  • The Ultimate Web Development Course is a series of videos that shows you how to get started with development using the full stack including PHP, MySQL, HTML, and CSS.

  • PHP MySQL Development is another series of tutorials focused on MySQL and PHP development, both of which are really popular technologies used on the web.

Online Courses

Online courses provide a structured, yet flexible way to learn coding for ex-felons especially if they need to hold down a day-job. Even though these are paid courses, they are inexpensive compared to university fees and provide a better value in terms of skills learned.

  • The Complete Java Developer Course is a course on Udemy that presents a complete introduction to Java, a programming language used in web and mobile app development. Plus, the course also helps prepare you to get Java 8 certification.

  • Advanced Java Programming is a programming course for those who are ready to go beyond the basics and learn about topics including using the ODBC interface to connect with databases, creating web applications, and multithreading.

  • Web Developer Bootcamp is another course on Udemy that covers web development languages including HTML5, CSS, MongoDB, and JavaScript. The course not only teaches the core languages, it also combines the concepts into creating real world projects such as a browser-based video game and yelp-style project.

  • Java Android Development Complete Guide is another programming course that teaches both the fundamentals of Java and uses those fundamentals to create Android apps. If you are a beginner with no programming experience, you can still go through this course and start creating apps on the Android mobile platform.

  • Perfecting Apps as an Android Developers is a course on Udacity that introduces Android App development. If you wish to get a certificate of completion or instructor feedback, you must sign up for the "nanodegree" option. With the slightly more expensive "plus" option, you can get a job offer guarantee.

Online Forums

Being an ex-felon trying to break into a competitive industry like software development can be tough. You have a criminal record to deal with along with stiff competition from others.

To help you get through your situation and see what others have done about it as well as answer coding questions you may have, post questions to the forums below.

Books

If you are an ex-felon looking to find work in the software industry, then you need to build up your skills quickly. Books offer the cheapest and least time-consuming option for doing so.

Though this is the cheapest option, you must be disciplined to complete the book and finish the exercises. Since you won't get a certificate of completion, you will probably need to create projects to present to prospective employers or clients.

These books may help you master the skills necessary to land that coveted coding job.

  • Learning PHP, MySQL & JavaScript: With jQuery, CSS & HTML5 (2016), by Robin Nixon, goes through web development concepts and teaches the basics of various languages including PHP, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. The reader will take the lessons learned and build a social networking site.

  • Java: A Beginner's Guide (2014), by Herbert Schildt, is an in-depth guide to the Java programming language. Various concepts are covered including beginning concepts such as compiling and running Java programs all the way to advanced concepts such as threading and graphics. To help the reader better understand concepts, the author has included Q&A sections as well as programming exercises.

  • Learning Web Design: A Beginner's Guide to HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and Web Graphics (2012), by Jennifer Robbins, is an in-depth book focused primarily on front-end development and includes lessons on HTML5 and CSS. Additional topics on JavaScript are covered to help you build more interactive pages.

  • Head First Android Development: A Brain Friendly Guide (2015), by Dawn Griffiths and David Griffiths, provides a friendly and easy to understand guide on developing mobile phone applications for the Android platform. The book discusses app structure, use of databases, and various GUI elements and illustrates concepts using pictures.

  • Python Crash Course: A Hands-On, Project-Based Introduction to Programming (2015), by Eric Matthes, covers how to write Python scripts. Matthes's book covers various concepts including basic syntax, reading and writing to files, and plotting data. This book is a must-read since software development work involves writing scripts to process data and generate reports.

Further Actions

Going through the resources listed above is only a starting point in terms of learning about software development.

As an ex-felon, you will need to pick an area of software development you can still do despite a criminal background. This may involve the ability to do contract work for fixed period of time that pays an hourly rate or freelance projects for local businesses or online clients.

Once you pick an area of software development, learn as much as you can about it and post projects online through a web hosting account (many are profiled on WhoIsHostingThis).

Even if you don't have a web development project, post screenshots of applications you have written on your website. When you are looking for work either online or offline, refer to these projects to impress your potential employers.

Finally, when looking for work, visit traditional job posting sites like Indeed and CareerBuilder.

As a former convict you may also need to consider alternative ways of finding work including looking on Craigslist or Upwork. These sites present freelance opportunities where you generally just need to demonstrate that you can complete the work.

As an ex-felon, use these resources to help find the work you need and get back on track!

Coding for Immigrants

Immigrants face many barriers when attempting to adjust their lives to a new country. Not only do they face major culture shock, they also face issues trying to master a new system and overcome economic difficulties.

In an attempt to attain a better quality of life, immigrants look for steady employment or attend school. Currently, a great career path with many options includes coding jobs.

Compared to other occupations such as nursing, jobs in software development takes much less schooling and can help individuals land a well-paying job quickly. How exactly can an immigrant learn to code and land these lucrative jobs? Explore the resources below!

Local Resources

One of the best ways an immigrant can start their software development journey is to start with local resources especially if money is tight.

A major barrier to entry in learning to code is steady access to a computer and the Internet along with the latest coding books. One of the best places to get access to these is the local library. Many libraries throughout the country offer both free internet and computer access.

To get access to these resources, all that is needed is to get a library card that may be free or low cost depending on the location. Once cards are issued, users can either bring their own laptop to get online or use the library's freely available computers.

With access to the Internet, immigrants can take advantage of freely available coding articles, video tutorials, or low-cost online courses which can teach coding fundamentals.

Another great resource from the library is the library's own collection of technical books. Even if the books are dated, they still have fundamental information applicable to current programming languages.

Besides libraries, other excellent local resources to learn coding are community colleges. Unlike their university counterparts, community colleges have less costly courses that introduce coding basics.

These courses introduce building blocks and provide hands-on experience crucial to mastering advanced courses. Some colleges even offer an associates degree in computer science which is a step in the right direction for landing a development job.

In addition to libraries and colleges, other local organizations may offer free classes in the local area for software development.

For example, Code the Dream offers free training for mobile phone and web software development for immigrants in the Durham, North Carolina area. The group is sponsored by major technology companies such as Google and meets a few times a week.

Another program called New Americans Code also targets immigrants. Though these programs may be outside their local area, immigrants should try to find similar programs in their city.

Online Resources

Though local resources can provide a great way to learn software development, they often required a physical presence during specific times. Immigrants often must work to support themselves so making every class may prove difficult.

Some alternatives include online resources which allow immigrants to learn at their own pace and help meet the demands of life and work.

Coding Tutorials for Immigrants

Many of the resources online do not target immigrants. However, immigrants who want to learn code should take a look at some basic tutorials that give a great starting point including some online coding tutorials for children.

  • Open University's An Introduction to Software Development course provides a free introduction to the concept of software creation from an engineering perspective. This is a great starting point for immigrants thinking about pursuing a software engineering or computer science degree.

  • Code Conquest's Coding Introduction Tutorial gives the beginner a definition of coding and provides a high-level overview of web development, web design, and mobile applications.

  • Introduction to Computer Programming by TutorialsPoint gives a thorough introduction to many coding concepts suitable for immigrants. It walks through all the basics of programming and illustrates examples with C++. Many topics are covered including syntax, data types, and software compilation.

  • What is Computer Programming? is a detailed tutorial on the basics of computer programming by Guy Haas. It covers a ton of topics that explain the fundamentals of coding and the basic process involved in creating software. Some of the topics covered include high-level programming languages, low-level languages, bits, and debugging.

  • Code Monster Interface: Though this is a tool aimed toward kids, immigrants can use this platform to learn the fundamentals of coding through hands-on experience. This website shows the visitor two sections. The box on left is where the code is written while the section on the right shows the results. Visitors can select different lessons to see features of the programming language used. They can also change the code and immediately see the effect of their changes.

  • The Web Design Tutorial by How-to-Build-Websites.com provides a thorough introduction to web development. The tutorial covers basic concepts such as hosting plans and teaches basic HTML, javascript, and CSS to help beginners including immigrants learn how to create basic websites.

  • Learn to Code HTML and CSS is a tutorial by Shay Howes that teaches beginners basic web design using HTML and CSS. This is an ideal source of knowledge for immigrants since this tutorials covers many concepts including basic syntax and prepares them for jobs in the lucrative web design field.

  • Beginners PHP Tutorial From Home and Learn is a complete PHP tutorial suitable for both beginners and immigrants. It walks through all aspects of the language including basic server setup on Windows and execution of PHP programs along with syntax. Since PHP is used for development of many popular platforms such as WordPress, it has high demand and is an ideal skill for immigrants to learn.

Video Tutorials

Another great way to learn coding basics is to watch video lessons. Immigrants who want to understand coding basics should take a look at the video tutorials listed below.

  • Introduction to Programming — Basics is a video lesson by the TDChannel which walks the viewer through the features present in many programming languages. The video covers topics such as the need for coding and data types. This serves as an excellent introduction for anyone serious about coding.

  • Learn the Basics of Coding is a video introduction to coding basics presented by LifeHacker. The video demonstrates how beginners can select the appropriate programming language and get started creating programs. It emphasizes that it is important to outline a project then learn the code to complete the project.

  • How to Learn to Code (The 3 Main Ways) outlines ways anyone can learn to code. The paths discussed include getting a degree, attending a boot-camp, and learning by oneself. The video examines each path and presents the pros and cons of each. It is ideal for immigrants who want to understand their options to learn coding.

  • Learn the Basics of Any Programming argues that it is possible to learn any programming language because of common features such as variables, flow control, and scope. This is an excellent resource for immigrants because the video gives a great introduction to coding fundamentals and provides examples. The concepts presented in this video lay the foundation for learning any programming language.

Online Courses

To help understand coding concepts, immigrants can take basic coding classes online or select a course on a particular programming language. Online courses can either be free or paid but give a great deal of flexibility over in-person classes. Check out some great online courses below.

  • Introduction to Programming Level I is a course on Udemy which takes students through various coding exercises using HTML, Python, and CSS. Students get to see immediate results and build on their knowledge through exercises. The course also introduces many programming concepts including the use of variables and the command line. This course is definitely a great, low-cost resource for immigrants wanting to learn coding.

  • Kids Coding — Introduction to HTML, CSS, and JavaScript is another introductory course aimed toward teaching programming concepts to children. Kids get introduced to variables, loops, and arrays among other fundamentals. These concepts are then reinforced with programming exercises utilizing HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Though the course targets children, it still provides a fun and low-cost introduction to coding for immigrants.

  • Codecademy provides a high quality and free resource for immigrants who want to learn web development languages. This resource features several courses in various programming languages including HTML, CSS, PHP, and JavaScript. Many of the courses provided are free and include code examples. Students can modify code and see results instantly while taking lessons without having to set-up their own environment.

  • Learn to Program: The Fundamentals is an online course on Coursera that teaches programming to beginners through Python. Students of the course are introduced to various concepts and demonstrate their mastery through exercises. Though some parts of the course can be viewed for free, students who pay fees to enroll in the course will get their assignments graded and earn a certificate. This provides a great starting point for immigrants who want to understand coding basics.

  • Introduction to Computer Science and Programming Using Python is a free course offered through MITx that introduces coding concepts. The course covers a wide range of topics and includes video lectures and programming assignments that use Python. If students are willing to pay extra, they can earn a "verified certificate" or earned course credits through a university partner (not necessarily MIT).

Online Forums

The best way for anyone, including immigrants, to learn coding is to implement projects using the target programming language.

Often, people run into trouble when trying to resolve issues with their code or set-up their own environments. Getting help from others will help ease frustration and fill in knowledge gaps.

A great way to resolve issues and get help is through the forums below. Simply register at these sites to post a question or search through the questions answered.

Books

Many introductory books on coding provide an inexpensive way to master programming features and give examples in languages such as C++, Java, or Python.

Though some of the books are geared toward children, they are still a great starting point especially for immigrants who may not have basic computer knowledge.

  • Python for Kids: A Playful Introduction to Programming (2012), by Jason Biggs, provides an excellent introduction to coding using the currently popular Python language. He illustrates programming language features in a fun way for kids through colorful drawings and funny examples. Though the book may seem kiddish, it is also a great book for adults who are not familiar with programming.

  • Coding for Dummies (2016), by Nikhil Abraham, is part of the Dummies series of books which provides an introduction to coding that is tailored to individuals with no coding experience. The book explores some concepts and introduces them using programming languages such as HTML, Ruby, and Python. The idea behind the book is to help individuals write simple examples and see quick results.

  • Learning to Program (2014), by Steven Foote, is a book written by a self-taught programmer himself who currently develops web applications. In the book, Foote covers many aspects of programming including writing functions, testing programs, programming automation, and creating code that is easy to read. The goal is to get people started on the road to software development even if they are confused on where to start.

  • Beginning Programming All-In-One Desk Reference For Dummies (2008), by Wallace Wang, covers many coding concepts and introduces the reader to several programming languages including C and Basic. It is a general book that does not go into many technical details and is ideal for the immigrant with no coding background.

Is Coding Worth Learning?

The resources above are a great starting point for immigrants to learn the basics of coding. Though some of the concepts are difficult to master, learning to code is worth the time and effort even if you don't end up in a software development career.

No matter what profession you choose, every industry uses software tools. Knowing how to write code can help you write quick scripts to create reports or analyze data. It will also make you more valuable leading to more stable careers and thus a better life, which is what all immigrants strive for.

Coding for Veterans

Veterans who leave the military and enter the civilian workforce do so with valuable skills such as proven leadership skills and the ability to operate in high-pressure situations. However, many veterans find that they do need additional education to round out their skill set as they transition out of the military and into civilian careers.

Computer programming or coding is a career path with strong job prospects and excellent earning potential. In addition, thanks to the availability of free online learning resources and short-term intensive coding bootcamps, it is a viable option for technically-inclined veterans with the proper motivation.

There are many different types of organizations that are dedicated to making coding education accessible to the nation's finest. So if you are a veteran who is looking to learn to code, these organizations and resources can help you make that dream a reality.

Organizations that Support Veterans Learning to Code

There are a few different organizations that exist purely to empower veterans who want to learn to code and transition into a career in the technology industry.

VetsinTech is one such organization. It works with veterans who have displayed an interest and aptitude in learning to code and helps connect them with educational and career resources through a network of local chapters. Currently, there are chapters in California, the pacific northwest, Texas, New York, Washington DC, and New England. Connect with one of these local chapters to find out more about the resources and opportunities VetsinTech affords to veterans.

The most successful organization in this category is Operation Code. Operation Code was founded in 2014 by retired US Army captain, David Molina. Initially, the organization was founded to work on getting the GI Bill requirements changed so that code bootcamps could be covered by the educational assistance afforded to veterans. However, over time Operation Code has transformed into a mentorship and collaboration hub that pairs veterans who aspire to learn how to code with experienced programmers who provide mentorship on a volunteer basis.

Code Bootcamps for Vets

Code bootcamps are full-time immersive educational programs that teach the basics of programming over the course of anywhere from two to six months. These programs provide a quick path into coding careers for students without a computer science degree. This makes coding bootcamps an ideal choice for technically-minded veterans with little or no formal education in computer science. There are at least two coding bootcamps specifically geared towards veterans.

Code Platoon is a code bootcamp for veterans based in Chicago. The program teaches a Ruby full stack over the course of 20 weeks. The first six weeks are completed online and the next 14 weeks are completed onsite in Chicago. Like any reputable code bootcamp, Code Platoon expects a serious, full-time commitment from their students.

Code Platoon is a non-profit organization and the program is largely funded by scholarship donors. As a result, the program costs dramatically less than comparable programs that are open to the general public. In addition, veterans who successfully complete the program are usually offered a three to six month paid internship with one of the program's corporate partners, giving students real-world, resume-building, hands-on experience in addition to a coding education.

Vets Who Code is another veterans-only coding education program. The organization's website indicates that it is a highly selective program and details are scarce. If you're interested in learning more, visit the organization's website and select the option to apply for the next session.

Code Schools that Accept the GI Bill

The GI Bill is one of the most valuable benefits afforded to veterans and it can be used to help fund a computer science education at a traditional college or university. However, due to the requirements that apply to the bill, it generally cannot be used to pay for unaccredited programs such as coding bootcamps.

However, there are a few bootcamps that have jumped through the hoops necessary to qualify for the GI Bill. The first bootcamp to be eligible to receive VA funding was Skill Distillery, who earned that approval in the summer of 2015. Since then, several additional schools have joined Skill Distillery in meeting the requirements necessary to qualify for GI Bill funding. That means that veterans who are eligible for GI Bill benefits can use those benefits to pay for part or all of the cost of attending one of these programs:

  • Code Fellows: a full-time web development program in Seattle, WA that teaches a JavaScript fullstack and Python programming.
  • Deep Dive Fullstack: a 10 week, full-time, PHP full stack coding bootcamp in Albaquerque, NM.
  • Nashville Software School: a six month, full-time web developer bootcamp in Nashville, TN.
  • Sabio: a six month, full-time, full stack web development training program delivered in partnership with Antioch University in Los Angeles, CA.
  • Skill Distillery: a 16 week, full-time Java full stack coding bootcamp in Denver, CO.
  • Turing School of Software and Design: a seven month, back-end or front-end engineering program in Denver, CO.

Code Schools that Offer Partial Scholarships for Veterans

Not all veterans are eligible for GI Bill benefits. In addition, you may find that none of the bootcamps that do accept GI Bill benefits fit your unique needs. If you find yourself in this category and are still committed to attending a coding bootcamp, then you should consider this next set of coding bootcamps. While these organizations do not accept the GI Bill (yet), they do offer scholarships for veterans, which in some cases can reduce the cost of attendance considerably.

The scholarships offered by each coding bootcamp do change. While we've reported the scholarship amounts below, you will want to contact each bootcamp you are interested in attending to confirm the details surrounding the scholarships they offer to veterans.

  • Bloc: $500 scholarships awarded to two veterans each week.
  • Coding Dojo: the Military Retraining Scholarship awards up to $1,500 to veterans.
  • Digital Crafts: the Military Personnel Scholarship awards between $500 and $2000 to veterans.
  • Fullstack Academy: a $1,000 scholarship is automatically awarded to all veterans.
  • Thinkful: all veterans receive a $100 discount off of part-time tuition or a $300 discount off fulltime tuition.

Resources for Learning to Code on Your Own

Every year Stack Overflow publishes a developer survey. In 2016, they found that 69% of survey respondents had self-taught at least some portion of their coding education. In addition, 13% of respondents reported that self-teaching was the only educational method they had employed. That means that self-teaching is a valid and important option for aspiring developers.

Recognizing the value and importance of self-teaching, we have put together a large library of programming resource guides that can help you find tutorials, books, and online courses you can use to teach yourself how to code. While attending a full-time coding bootcamp will almost certainly produce faster results, if a coding bootcamp isn't something you can work into your life, then you can get started down the road of teaching yourself to code by checking out some of our resource guides:

Becoming a Veteran Coder

There's no doubt that coding is one of the most in-demand skills on the planet. Thankfully, learning to code is also a very viable option for veterans.

Organizations are working in a variety of different ways to make a coding education accessible to veterans. By partnering with these organizations and diving into self-teaching when necessary, veterans can successfully navigate the transition from military life to a career as a professional web developer or software engineer.

Conclusion

Please keep in mind that this is merely a brief overview of a very broad topic. The sad truth is that there is no easy way to become a professional software developer.

Aspiring developers may face countless additional challenges along the way, depending on their skill-set, choice of industry, personal affinities, and so on. If you're after easy money, software engineering is not a career for you.

However, demand for software engineers, designers, and tech talent, in general, remains strong. The industry needs a constant stream of talent, which means skilled and experienced software engineers can charge a lot of money for their services. It's easy to see why countless people around the globe are interested in becoming programmers.

This also means that developers entering the market can face stiff competition. If they lack references and experience, they might be compelled to accept jobs that don't pay much, in the hope of gaining on-the-job experience. However, this should not dissuade you from pursuing a career in software engineering.

The industry recognizes talent. If you have the right stuff, your skills won't go unnoticed, and you could advance quickly.


Other Interesting Guides

We have more guides, tutorials, and infographics related to coding and website development:

  • Proramming Resources: this is our programming page, with a chronology as well as over materials on how to start learning over 100 programming languages. This is an essential reference!

  • CSS3 — Intro, Guides & Resources: this is a great place to start learning webpage layout.

  • ASP.NET Resources: this guide will get you going with Microsoft's .NET framework for creating webpages.

  • C++ Developer Resources: if you'd rather stick to a more traditional language, this page provides you with all the tools you need.

What Code Should You Learn?

Confused about what programming language you should learn to code in? Check out our infographic, What Code Should You Learn?

It not only discusses different aspects of the languages, it answers important questions such as, "How much money will I make programming Java for a living?"

HTML for Beginners — Ultimate Guide

If you really want to learn HTML, we've created a book-length article, HTML for Beginners — Ultimate Guide And it really is the ultimate guide; it will take you from the very beginning to mastery.


Main text written by Nermin Hajdarbegovic with additional material by Jon Penland and Brian Wu. Compiled and edited by Frank Moraes.