In an increasingly tech-driven society, having skills in programming is not just handy in your day-to-day life, but it’s also a great way to find a new job. Globally, companies are looking for individuals skilled enough to design software, build programs, fix web pages, and more, making programmers an integral part of almost all businesses. Nonetheless, not everyone necessarily has training or education in computer science already, which can make programming seem intimidating and difficult. 

Even so, learning to program doesn’t require years of courses and training to give you the skills you need. Instead, if you’re committed to learning and prepared to practice, you can easily teach yourself to program. By breaking programming down to the skills and abilities you need, you can learn how to do these by yourself and become a programmer. This guide gives you an idea of how to get started in becoming a self-taught programmer.

What is a Self-taught Programmer?

The main difference between a self-taught programmer and any other programmer is that by self-teaching you can have more ownership and input into the skills you learn. Particularly if you’re looking to become a specific type of developer or programmer, you can use your time and resources wisely, prioritising the languages and skills you’ll use most frequently. This helps you to specialise in your programming sooner, giving you more focused knowledge.

Programmers come in many forms, performing different tasks for businesses and clients, and requiring various coding basics. All these roles can be self-taught using research skills, short courses, and practice on coding projects. Displaying these on your CV show you are a capable programmer with fluency in various programming languages, an understanding of concepts such as the beta software testing process, and the ability to perform a range of functions.

How to Become a Self-taught Programmer

Although there’s no set process to becoming a self-taught programmer – that’s one of its benefits for those switching to a tech career – there are some skills you should master before others. This helps provide a foundation for you to build on, as some skills are easier to pick up if you know the basics of another. With this in mind, we’ve provided some steps you should take when learning. As you progress, you have more freedom to adapt your learning to your preferences. 

Learn a Programming Language

You won’t get far with programming if you can’t understand the language it uses. There are some options for coding languages, but to begin with, you should learn either Python or C++. Both are object-oriented languages and are commonly used within programming, making them easier to pick up and more widely applicable. 

To learn them, you can use online tutorials and practice solving basic issues to teach yourself how they are applied in real situations. 

Understand Algorithms

Even before you start creating mobile apps and PC programs on a regular basis, you’ll find that many rely on algorithms to inform what they present to users. As a programmer, you need more than a basic knowledge of what algorithms are and how they work. Learn more about them through research, understanding the mechanism behind them, and practising to make your own. 

To expand your algorithm knowledge, look for programming videos or free computer science resources.

Recognise Data Structures

Similar to understanding algorithms, you need to do the same with data structures. These enable your program to access data efficiently, so knowing how to create one that works well can improve the functioning of your app or software. 

Once you’ve researched and learned how to use data structures, use questions or quizzes to ensure your knowledge is thorough. This will form important background information as you learn skills and programming abilities.

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Develop Your Problem-Solving Skills

The need for programming comes from technological problems that need to be solved. By being able to recognize the issues and effectively tackle them using the appropriate skills and solutions, you become a skilled programmer. 

To further develop your problem-solving skills, practice using your coding skills and languages with projects and competitions, before using an Ad-Hoc testing example to find any weaknesses that you could further improve on. 

Practise Other Computer Science Skills

As you become more proficient in using a programming language, you can build on this by learning other skills. In particular, you want to grasp the basics of HTML, as this is most frequently used to write websites and functioning webpages. Along with this, CSS is useful for styling and presenting your pages. An open-source framework for CSS is BOOTSTRAP, directed particularly at mobile optimization, which also is useful to have the skills for.

Other similar languages and concepts may be useful to learn, building on the knowledge you already have and providing you with alternatives to use when problem-solving. However, be aware of what languages and concepts work together, as not every skill is useful with all languages or frameworks. Especially when you’re new to programming, you might decide to stick to the main languages as these are more widely used, learning others when you’re specialising your skills.

Decide What Type of Programmer You Want to Be

Within programming, there are multiple paths you can take. At this point in your learning, it’s useful to decide what type of programmer you want to be, as this informs the next skills you should learn and what will be relevant to the programming you want to do. In particular, there are three main types of developers you could learn the skills for and become. Although there is some overlap between the three, they also have some key differences.

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Front-end developers focus on how applications and software look, using their coding and programming knowledge for web design projects and building user-friendly interfaces for apps. Learning JavaScript can be helpful for this role, as well as how to use frameworks that use it, such as ReactJS or AngularJS.

Back-end developers instead work on how the application or software runs. This may require more problem-solving with the coding to create functional projects and web pages. Along with Python, you should learn to use Django. Alternatively, if you understand JavaScript, you may prefer to learn NodeJS.

Android developers create programs specifically for the android open-source operating system, used for mobile app design, computer software, and programs on other devices. For this, you need to understand how Java works. From this, you may also learn Kotlin, another programming language for building apps.

Specialise in Languages and Functions

Whatever path you choose in your programming journey, the more languages you have, the better. However, what you choose to specialise in will affect which languages are more useful for your purposes. Likewise, for your projects, there are specific functions that you need to know about and be able to use correctly. Depending on the systems you use and the programs you design, work out which concepts you need to do more research into and practice them.

Within programming, you should pay attention to object-oriented programming (OOP), based on the concept of ‘objects’ that can contain data and code. These help with designing functions and constructing your programming. 

You should also cover database management systems and operating systems, helping you organise your programming and logging data in science effectively so that your program can access everything it needs. Also, researching computer networks teaches you how this interacts with other applications.

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Create Projects Using Your Knowledge

The best way to get better at programming is by practising it. Keep inventing and developing new projects, reviewing and improving these as you learn new skills or concepts. This helps you work on your quality assurance testing and translate the theory you’ve learned into its real-life application. You can also enter competitions to challenge yourself to use your skills in a different environment, showing areas where you need to research and learn more.

Keep Learning

You don’t wake up one day as a fully-fledged programmer with nothing more to learn. Programming languages are constantly adapting and changing, as well as the capabilities of software and applications. Regularly review your programming knowledge to find any gaps and keep updated on innovations. There are various forums and groups you can follow to find out any programming news and discover new ways of resolving problems.

Teach Yourself Programming Today

Hopefully, after seeing the steps to becoming a self-taught programmer, you’ve realised there’s not a lot to it. Once you start learning programming languages, the potential of what you can create is opened up to you and it’s not long before you can develop a fully functional web page or application. Similarly, there’s always more to learn, providing you with new concepts, ways of coding, and solutions to any software proposal examples a company may come up with. 

To be a good programmer, you don’t need to enrol in a time-consuming course or fork out on expensive equipment. All it takes is a commitment to learning, as all the information you need is available online with some research. If you’re ready to practice and hold yourself accountable, you can soon find yourself fluent in key programming languages and ready to start on projects. So, why not get started and become a self-taught programmer today?

About the author:

Matthew Cooper is the Marketing Automation & Operations Manager at Global App Testing, a best-in-class software testing company that has helped top apps such as Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Craigslist deliver high-quality software at speed all over the world. Matthew has over 14 years of experience in the I.T Networking, Software & Services Industries. He is highly skilled in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Content Marketing, Digital Advertising, Social Media Management, WordPress, Email Marketing, Marketing Automation, CRM, and People Management.

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