By John Sonmez September 29, 2016

How To Become A Software Developer

In this post I'm going to talk about three different ways that you can become a software developer or software engineer.

Then I'll touch on the most important part, actually getting a software development job.

A lot of people dream about becoming software developers. They see the potential that becoming a programmer can have and the amount of impact the coding can have in companies and the lives of people all around the world. However, becoming a software developer is not that easy. This programming road is hard and it can take you some time to get into this field.

Basically, if you choose to become a software developer, you'll be a student forever, and you'll have to be constantly improving and keeping up with your education.

While there are a lot of different tutorials on software development, the information about becoming a programmer is still blurry and newbies might find it difficult to cope up with all this blurry information.

Due to that, I decided to create a post with the top 3 ways on how to become a software developer. There are many many roads you can follow if you want to become a software developer, but in my opinion, these are the top three.

College

The first way is to go to college. This is the traditional way. If you want to become a software developer. If you want to become a software engineer. If you want to become anything. You go to college. This is the “standard method.”

With this, you're just going to enroll. You're going to pick your courses. You're going to pick your major. Computer science major. Maybe computer engineering. Some colleges now offer software development majors or maybe you could go to a game programming college, there's options like that. There's more variations than there were when I first enrolled in college where it was just computer science. Maybe there was computer engineering degrees, I really don't know. You're going to choose one of those paths and then you're just going to do what your teachers and counselors tell you.

If you choose the College path you're going to sort of have the path laid out for you as far as the basics of what you need to learn. At least a good college education will give you those basics. That's not enough. I mean in the real world, you need to know more than what is going to be taught in college. Some degree programs are getting better at making it like the real world. Let's be honest here. There are some improvements, but still there's a huge, huge gap and it's going to be up to you to fill that gap.

You can't just say I'm going to go to college and become a software developer. That's not going to happen. You're going to have to be doing some things on your own time. You're going to have to have a little bit more enthusiasm than that and you're going to have to have a plan. If you're going the college route, I would highly recommend that as soon as internship opportunities are available to you that you start prepping and applying for those, so that you can be ready and that you can get your foot in the door. Because one of the most difficult things is even if you have the knowledge, even if you understand how to program and programming language and how to use the tools and technology. No one is going to give you a chance. It's really hard to get your foot in the door without experience and internships are a good way to do that.

The thing to really take to heart here is: you're still responsible for your own education. There's pros and cons of that, but overall I think this is okay. I think most people are probably going to choose this path and go to college, but I'm not a big fan of institutionalized education or compulsory education. You can see a video I did on Why our School Sucks. I've talked about gatekeepers and what not, but I feel like learning to learn on your own is really important. In fact, I created a course on that called 10 Steps to Learn Anything Quickly to teach you how to teach yourself because I think this is probably the most valuable skill that you could have in life, honestly. Get it here: 10 Steps to Learn Anything Quickly.

College is also extremely expensive in most cases. You can make it cheaper if you go to community college first. Or go part-time and work while you study. That way you get into the work force and you can keep your debt levels down.

That's why I'm sort of—I don’t want to say I'm anti-college. But I think you could get a degree and still learn in other ways and a degree is a good kind of safety net for a lot of people. So I understand that. I'm not going to discourage you from going to college. There are a lot of other paths and lot of other ways. You check some of my other videos probably in the college and education playlist, and you can find some of my opinions on that. I don’t want to go too far off track. The topic is “how to Become a Software Developer”, not “John's reasons not to go to College”.

Coding Bootcamps

Coding Bootcamps have only become an option in the last few years. I did a really good interview with Engineered Truth on Coding Bootcamps. The channel owner, Matt, is a really awesome guy and he’s got an awesome YouTube channel. You can check out the interview there where he talked about going to coding boot camp, and we dissected this a little bit. You can also check out, of course, my blogpost which is the chapter in my book on this option of doing coding boot camp. I think this is a fairly good option. I'm honestly thinking that this—if you've picked a good coding boot camp and you're willing to do the work, this might be the best option because I feel like it can accelerate your pace to learn software development very quickly.

Even if you attend a coding bootcamp I still recommend doing some self-study ahead of time, but I think a coding boot camp can get you around the people that can answer the questions quickly, can streamline your path to be able to build software applications. Not necessarily know software engineering or computer science. There's a distinction there.

If you do a coding boot camp, you're going to get the basics. You're going to know how to write code, how to develop an application, but you might not have the engineering. You might not have the architectural and the background that you need in order to really be successful. You're still going to have to go back and plug in this information. This is where a lot of, sometimes, senior developers get all upset because they think, “Oh, you can't learn how to program in 3 months.” You can. You definitely can. You can't learn how to be a really good programmer and to have experience, and be able to solve complex problems and to be able to design things well in 3 months. That's true and that's going to take some experience and some knowledge you're going to fulfill in the background. If you're dedicated you can make a coding bootcamp worth while.

You need to be self-motivated because this is going to be a compressed timeline, maybe like a couple months or maybe like 8 or 10 weeks and you're going to be busting your ass. This is hard. This is like 8, 10-hour, 12-hour days. I would encourage you to just go in full board. Don’t try and do anything else in your life and just focus. If you really want to do this, it depends on how bad you want it.

Coding bootcamps are fairly cheap compared to college. In the United States a College education might cost 20, 30, 40, 50 or even 60 thousand dollars by the time you're done. That's a lot of money. In some cases it's even more. If you take the coding bootcamp route, you're probably looking at 10k – 20k, which is still much cheaper than college.

Teaching Yourself

Teaching yourself is the option that I used to recommend all the time, but I think coding boot camps are a little bit better than that. It's still totally doable, but you have to be a super self-motivated self-starter person. This is not for everyone because a lot of people get stuck. They get lost. They don’t know what to learn. They can't keep up the momentum. They can't create a learning plan for themselves. But if you don't struggle with self-motivating, this is probably the best option. You can learn the most in the shortest period of time. And it's by far the cheapest.

If you do struggle with self-motivating or self-learning, but you want to try the self-learning path to become a software developer – I recommend my 10 Steps to Learn Anything Quickly course. It's fairly cheap and it has the potential to change your life if you're able to break down some self-learning barriers. It's especially cheap when you compare it to a formal education. I've learned so many things. I taught myself so many things and then taught them to other people. I did 55 Pluralsight courses on a whole bunch of different technologies. Not getting to all the details here, but essentially it's a skill to learn how to learn. If you develop and have the skill, you can learn programming on your own. There's really no reason why you can't. You can be creative about it. You can be smart about it. You can look at college curriculums. You can look at boot camp curriculums and you can try to duplicate and try to build your own information, your own course and study program from that, but, again, you got to be self-motivated.

I pretty much learned how to program on my own. I was tinkering around. I didn’t have a very structured approach, but it took me longer than it should have, but I pretty much have self-taught and I think a lot of programmers are. There is so many online video sites. Pluralsight for example has thousands of courses that you can access for only $30 a month or something. When you step back and really think about that, that's insane. If you spent 1 or 2 years just grinding through online courses you might spend a total of $1000 (on the high end). And you'd very likely come out with a better education than a 4-year computer science degree. You can check out my courses on Pluralsight by starting a 10 day free trial: Pluralsight 10 Day Free Trial. I'm not just saying that because I'm an author, but you can check out. I've done a whole bunch of courses there to help you get started if you're interested. There's other sites. I mean there's what, triOS and Lynda.com and Code School, and like tons of other sites like that as well. There's YouTube videos, there's tutorials that are free on YouTube. There's just a ton of information out there to be able to learn on your own, as far as books and all the stuff and it's all relatively cheap. In fact, there's a lot of free resources out there.

One thing I would say though is that since you are saving a lot of money already, pay for the premium content that's going to accelerate the pace. If you can get stuff that's going to help you to learn faster and you're not going to have to sort through a whole bunch of stuff that might be good or might not be good. It's worth the investment. Unless you have a crap load of time and very, very little money, you want to invest wisely. Investing in yourself is always smart.

If you do decide to learn on your own just realize that it's going to take some time that you're going to have to have a plan for it. You're going to have to come up with your own schedule and maybe you’re going to study like 3 or 4 hours a day, or maybe it's going to be 2 hours a day if you're doing it on the side. You've got to have a schedule. You got to stick to it and you got to realize that it's just going to take time. You got to be actively doing. You got to be creating projects, creating software, jumping in a little bit of water that’s a little bit above your head and you're going to have to learn how to swim and figure out how to do this stuff. You have to do it by taking action.

Getting a Job

There's another hurdle that you're going to face – and that's actually getting a job.

This might even be the most difficult thing out of everything I mentioned today. Even if you follow everything I've talked about and are truly a great programmer, no one's going to give you a shot unless you position yourself properly. I'm actually not going to get into the details in this post but I dedicated a large portion in my new book, The Complete Software Developer's Career Guide, specifically to this topic. There's so much to it but I have a lot to say about it. The book is also available on Audible.com if you prefer AudioBooks.

 

How to Become a Software Developer Summary

I'll say that no matter how you learn how to become a software developer, it still requires taking action, writing code. Just reading academically—going through the motions is not enough. You need to be creating some real applications and there's opportunities today in the mobile development world. It’s very easy for someone to create their own mobile application. Even web applications are fairly easy compared to what they used to be in the past. You could actually create a working application that you could actually sell and make some money off of and build a business off of, and things like that.

You can check out the videos here, of course. There's tons of videos that talk about that. The book, like I said, is designed to be a guide book to show you how to do that specifically. Yeah. Good luck. If you have got some questions, the best thing to do, especially if you'd like me to answer via YouTube, just email me at john@simpleprogrammer.com. If you're new to the channel, if you haven't seen my videos here—talked about a lot of stuff, and not just career but life in general and self-development. I'm a big believer in that. If you feel like you could benefit from these things, then go ahead and click the subscribe button. Just go ahead and do that now. This way, you can check out some – More of the videos that I've created. There's a whole bunch of videos on a whole bunch of different topics. Yeah, I hope this is helpful to you and I'll talk to you next time. Take care.

Wanna know more about becoming a software developer? Watch this video and find out!

About the author

John Sonmez

John Sonmez is the founder of Simple Programmer and a life coach for software developers. He is the best selling author of the book "Soft Skills: The Software Developer's Life Manual."