A Beginner’s Guide to Programming: Everything You Need to Know

A beginner's guide to computer programming

Are you contemplating a career change? In a boring job that is clearly taking you nowhere? Have you been wondering how you can become a programmer and build some cool stuff or how to learn programming? Well, if your answer is yes to these questions then this post is for you. Read on.

In this post, we look at the different topics related to programming, how to get started, what and where to learn from and what to expect. By the end of this post, you should be able to answer these questions:

  • What does a computer programmer do?
  • What do you need to learn to become a programmer?

We will introduce you to the different types of computer programmers, the main programming languages you should learn based on the kind of programmer you want to become, as well as the best programming languages you need to learn. You will learn everything you need to know until you land your first programming job. We have even included a few bonus tips.

So, what does a computer programmer do?

Before you start figuring out how to become a programmer, you need to be certain that you have a complete understanding of what you will be doing as a computer programmer. Basically, a programmer is an individual who writes computer codes that instruct a computer or some other device to perform certain tasks.

As a software developer, on the other hand, you will be taking a concept or design and write the codes that instruct a computer how to execute this concept. In the case of a web developer, you will be building a website by writing the necessary codes. As a computer programmer, you will be creating or building applications based on your clients’ design parameters.

Now that we have taken care of the question, “what does a programmer do?”, let’s move onto how you can learn programming and become a great computer programmer.

A step by step guide to becoming a programmer

Here is the truth: learning programming can be hard. However, compared to other skills and career paths, becoming a programmer will be one of the smartest choices you make! Here are the reasons why:

  • As a programmer, you will be working in a very exciting field that brings new challenges and knowledge every day.
  • As a freelance programmer, you will have the opportunity to work for yourself, setting your own work schedule, and working from any location.
  • Compared to other skills that can take three or more years at the university to learn, programming is quite easy to master. Sure you can spend years at the university learning how to program, but why would you when you can spend a few months learning how to program online?

As you can tell, there are plenty of inviting reasons why you should consider becoming a computer programmer. Luckily, this post will show you in seven simple steps how you can do exactly this. By the way, one of the best things about programming is that there are multiple ways of learning it. You can enroll in an IT bootcamp or learn on your own with online programming courses, exercises, and peer help.

1. Get to understand why you want to become a programmer

The first and, clearly, one of the important steps on becoming a programmer is identifying your motivation for starting. Sit down and reflect on the following questions, as your answers will help you decide the right path to take:

Why do you want to learn programming?

This is a very crucial question that you need to ask yourself before taking any step. Are you planning on making a career out of it? Do you have a project or concept that you wish to turn into a reality on your own? Or, do you just want to learn programming because it is something “cool” at the moment? It is important that you honestly answer this question, because the programming language you will choose to learn depends on how you answer this question.

What do you hope to do with your programming knowledge?

Again, it is important that you are clear about how you want to put your programming knowledge to practice. For instance, the courses you will need to take and the languages you will need to learn to become a full stack web developer will be quite different from the skills you will need to acquire to become a Machine Learning expert or Data Scientist.

How serious are you about learning to program?

This is yet another very important question to ask. How serious are you about learning programming and making a career out of it? If you are serious, then it is important that you come up with a learning schedule so you can start learning ASAP!

What kind of programming do you want to do?

More of this in the next step, but it is important that you have a clear idea of the programming you wish to do as well as the field you want to specialize in. Do you want to become an android or iOS app developer? A full stack web developer? Or do you want to focus on something like deep learning or some emerging technology? The answer to this question will help you define your learning pathway, so it is important that you are honest with yourself.

Once you have answered these questions, you need to move on to the next step: identifying the programming your need to do to realize your dream.

2. Decide what programming field you want to venture into

There are different types of programming out there. As you figure out how to learn programming, it is also important that you carefully think about the field you are interested in working in. Here are some of the most popular types of programming:

Web development

Web development can further be classified into front-end (client-sided) and back-end (server-sided) developers. As a front-end programmer, you will be responsible for writing the codes that dictate what a website looks like and how its content is presented to users. A back-end programmer, on the other hand, is required to write applications and other complex programs that provide the framework for the website to run on.

Software development

As the name suggests, a software developer or programmer is responsible for creating software applications. These programmers take a concept or design that someone else has created and write the code that is capable of turning this concept into a working product.

Data scientist

This is a professional who works in research or academia, where they use Python programming language to analyze and make sense of scientific data. To become a data scientist, it is important that you start off by knowing how to program. A data scientist is often a researcher in their own right, often using codes to make their work easier.

Database administration

A database administrator can perform multiple roles. Basically, they are responsible for handling large amounts of company data and organizing, securing, and analyzing it. If you love statistics and consumer data analysis, it is important that you take a closer look at the job of a database administrator.

Mobile application development

With the growth in use of smartphones, the demand for new and exciting mobile applications is also on the rise. Mobile application development is quickly becoming one of the most sought after programming skills, especially among those who love working on their own. There are hundreds of freelance job opportunities out there for mobile app developers.

Other programming roles

Learning how to program opens up plenty of opportunities. The aforementioned are just a few of the most common programming jobs. If you do not find any of them appealing, do some homework and discover the other opportunities that are available out there. As the technology evolves, new job titles and roles are created all the time, so be sure to follow the latest industry news and network with other programmers to learn about emerging opportunities.

Step 3: Sign up for and learn a few programming languages

Once you have settled on your preferred programming field, you need to sign up and learn the languages that are relevant to that field. For instance, you will need to learn SQL to become a database administrator, HTML, CSS and JavaScript to become a front-end web developer, and something like Java, Swift, or Python if you want to start building mobile applications.

Below are some of the most popular programming languages and their applications. It is important that you do your research to ensure that you sign up for the right programming language for the field you are interested in mastering.

Python

Learning programming with Python is one of the most important skills for a modern-day programmer. This is because Python is one of the most versatile and popular programming languages around. It is a great programming language of choice for people who want to learn data science, software development, or just about any other programming field. Python skill is also required in emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Learning Python has never been easier than it is today. There are several online Python courses that you can sign up with and master this programming language from the comfort of your home. Here are some of the top rated online Python courses worth considering:

HTML/CSS

If you want to get into any sort of website development, then HTML and CSS skills are a must. Although these are two separate languages, they are always used together when creative engaging, and appealing webpages. Here are some of the top rated HTML and CSS courses for your consideration:

JavaScript

JavaScript is yet another versatile programming language used for multiple applications. This could be a great starting point if you really want to learn programming. It is applied in interactive-front end web design, full-stack web development, back-end web application development as well as robotics. There are several online JavaScript courses out there that you can sign up with based on your skill level. Here are some of them:

Java

Want to learn how to become a programmer in record time? Learn Java! This programming language only rivals Python as one of the most versatile languages around. It is quite easy to learn, reads like English, and is highly recommended for beginners. Java programming language is used for accomplishing pretty much everything, from Android app development to full-stack website development. Here are top online Java courses:

Swift

Swift was recently released by Apple and it makes iOS application development much simpler and straightforward. It is a lot easier to use than C#- the programming language that is traditionally used by Apple. It allows beginners to build iOS applications without much trouble. If you want to learn how to be an iOS mobile app developer, then learn Swift. Here are top online Swift courses worth considering:

Solidity

Do you want to become a programmer that specializes in blockchain technologies? If your answer is yes, then you need to learn Solidity. This is probably the least known and least popular programming languages out there. It is used for developing smart Ethereum blockchain contracts. And the rise of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology has resulted in an increase in demand for Solidity developers, which is why it has made it into this list. Here are top online Solidity courses you should consider if you want to learn programming with Solidity.

Ruby

Ruby has risen in popularity thank to its application in full-stack web development. Originally designed for building games, Ruby is yet another versatile programming language with multiple applications, and it is worth learning if you want to specialize in game and web development. Here are top online Ruby courses for your consideration:

Step 4: Practice, Practice, Practice

So you want to become an adept programmer, right? Well, here is a little secret for you: Practice, Practice, Practice…a lot!

Yes, the key to becoming a great programmer is practice! Practice writing codes from the moment you begin your learning. Set up a code editor in your browser and practice writing little programs. Share them around and ask others to critique your work. Commit to learning something new every day, and practice as much as you can until you are fluent in every aspect of your chosen programming language.

Step 5: Start building your portfolio

While you are practicing, it is time to start building your portfolio. Want to become a ninja web developer? Well, one of the keys is having a stunning portfolio that you can refer prospective employers or clients to.

When you apply for a job as a junior web developer, keep in mind that there will be several other people seeking the same position. It is important that you do something that will make you stand out of the crowd. And a portfolio is a great way to do this.

While learning how to become a programmer online, save all the codes that you will be writing. Keep them somewhere, and make them accessible to potential clients and employers when applying for a job.

Step 6: Time to apply for jobs

By now, you are well on your way to becoming a kick-ass programmer. You have identified a programming field, you have signed up for online programming courses and are learning the languages you need to master, and you have started practicing your code-writing skills. You have put together a portfolio to showcase your finest creations, and you have (hopefully) updated your resume.

Well, it is time to start applying for work! Search for entry level programming jobs at the local job directory that are related to the languages you have mastered and the kind of programming you want to do. Submit your resume and any other relevant documentation that potential employers are asking for, and cross your fingers while you wait for feedback.

Even if you do not get a favorable feedback, the simple act of applying is great practice. A big part of becoming a programmer is learning how to present your skills to potential clients and employers. In the same way, it is not unusual if you do not land a job from your first application or interview. If you have never interviewed for serious job before, you will probably be anxious and make mistakes. Do not give up though. Keep on applying and practicing possible interview questions, all the while polishing your resume and portfolio. Keep on sending out applications, you will eventually find your first job as a professional programmer.

In the meantime, be sure to take up freelancing gigs to hone up your skills.

Step 7: Do not stop learning!

As you might already know, programming is a rapidly developing field with new applications emerging every day. Learning programming skills today may not necessarily give you everything you need to remain a great programmer for the next few decades or years. It is important that you keep learning new concepts, skills, and languages as they come.

It is a good practice making it a duty to learn something new every day. This could be a new piece of syntax, a new tool that you can use with your programming language, or a new and smarter way of writing a code. It does not matter as long as you make learning a continuous process.

Bonus: Practical tips for becoming an effective and efficient programmer

Congratulations! By now, you should understand exactly what you need to do to become a computer programmer. Following tips are for individuals who truly want to learn programming but do not know how to get started. Whether you are lacking the motivation or are simply having trouble learning the syntax, or are simply clueless where to start, the following five tips should help you understand how to kick-start your programming journey:

  1. You can never know too much, but it is important that you start simple. Start off by focusing on one programming language, and do not move on to the next until you have a good mastery of the first. Otherwise, you will get confused and frustrated.
  2. Start taking up freelancing gigs as soon as you can. Look at freelance platforms and apply for gigs that suit your skill level. Remember, even having a little bit of programming knowledge means that you have something to offer.
  3. Stop worrying about how you can become a computer programmer and start learning right away. There is no doubt that it will be a challenge getting started, but things will begin making sense as you learn. Just be sure to come up with a learning strategy that works for you and stick with it in order to get the most out of your online course of choice.
  4. It is ok to ask for help. The coding community is one of the most friendly you will ever come across and your tutors and peers will most definitely be glad to help you learn. Once you have signed up for a course in an online learning platform of your choice, be sure to join a discussion forum or forum and participate in the discussions.
  5. In the same way, do not shy away from sharing your codes and asking your peers to critique and improve it. In fact, most people will jump at the chance because it will help them learn something in the process too!

Get started today!

It does not matter if you are going to spend months figuring out how to become a computer programmer, or if you have just come across this post today. Programming is a very diverse and exciting field. It does not matter if you are an 18-years old high school graduate or a 50-year old tradesman – if you are willing to give it a shot, you can learn to become a computer programmer. This step-by-step guide should give you all the information you need to start your programming journey. It has outlined the different opportunities available for programmers, some of the most important programming languages you need to learn, as well as important things you will find useful as you start your coding journey.

Keep in mind, anyone can learn to be a programmer. The toughest part is getting started, so find the right online course for you and hit the road today. And here is the good news! Coursera is offering hundreds of FREE programming courses right now! Rush over there, sign up for one and get started today!

Happy learning!

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