It’s hard to imagine the modern world without computers. We use these technological wonders in almost every part of our life. It’s little surprise that people are interested in learning how to work with them. When we learn software development, we’re essentially learning how to build functionality for every part of our lives.
Programming gives us the ability to expand on one of the most important aspects of the modern world’s infrastructure. The scope of the subject extends from the phones in our pockets to the servers running websites. This also brings up an important question. What’s the best way to learn computer programming? Can we learn software development on our own or do we need formal education? And what’s the best way to go about the process?
Self-Taught Knowledge Provides a Solid Foundation
We can learn some of the basics of software development on our own. However, it’s important to keep in mind that self-taught software development is often quite different than what we learn in an academic setting. We usually teach ourselves new skills in a goal-oriented manner.
In the scope of software development, this means that we usually begin learning new techniques to make our software accomplish a specific task. Early on we set up a development environment and make a simple program. This eventually grows into a desire to make small programs that can help us in various aspects of our life. For example, we might write a small program to replace specific path strings within a configuration file.
This method of learning can provide us with a great foundation to build upon. And in fact, it’s how a lot of programmers cultivated their love of the discipline. But at the same time, it’s important to keep in mind that the tech world has changed a lot since the days when there were only a few programming languages and platforms to choose from. More complex times call for better organized methods of learning.
Finding the Best of Both Worlds
Up until the 1980s, programming was almost always self-taught. The people who built the foundation for the modern programming world typically picked up a lot of their skillset in their own homes. This was generally done with computers that were painfully slow in comparison to what we have today. The people who learned to code with microcomputers were using machines roughly 2,000 times slower than today’s mid-level machines. The options available with these machines were usually limited by the constraints of their specs. For example, one of the biggest leaps forward came from an expansion to Apple II machines which let developers write code in Pascal.
Today’s advanced machines provide us with a wealth of options for software development. This bounty can be seen as both a benefit and detriment. The wide variety of languages and platforms gives us more options. But it also makes learning on our own an exponentially more difficult process.
In the end, the best way to handle this increased complexity is by using the best of both worlds. We can typically build up our enthusiasm and basic skillset by learning programming languages and the techniques that speak to us on the deepest level. We might find a tutorial that we can easily relate to or know people who have skill in a particular platform that want to help us along.
Whatever topic we decided on, we’re typically in a very good position if we can learn the basics on our own. This also provides us with the perspective to understand just how much we still have to learn. And we can then apply that understanding to an academic software development program. This can be better understood by looking into some of the subjects taught within such a program.
We’ve touched on the fact that self-taught software development is usually goal oriented. We decide on a goal and then work toward it. This is about as close to solid software design as self-taught programming ever becomes. And it points to one of the most important reasons to work on an actual diploma or degree in software development.
Computer science as a whole is an engineering discipline. When we’re working on software development in a professional setting, we’ll approach it in a similar way to physical engineering. Someone working on a building or bridge will create highly detailed blueprints beforehand. Likewise, we get the best results from software engineering when we create detailed plans and frameworks. This also allows us to work on larger projects where multiple developers are working on individual components.
An academic program can teach proper design principles in a way that we seldom pick up on when we are self-taught. One of the very first things students are taught in a formal setting is the proper use of pseudocode, flowcharts, and input-process-output charts. These are the software developer’s blueprints.
From Pseudocode to Scripting and Compiled Languages
Another benefit of academia is the curriculum is designed to ease students from one subject to the next. This is seen quite clearly with the way basic design principles transition into scripting languages. The programming used during an initial design phase won’t actually run on computers. It’s not even what would be properly considered as a prototype.
Pseudocode should be thought of as a highly abstracted shorthand. But it’s a shorthand that’s quite similar to a number of higher-level programming languages. This makes it a perfect bridge to go from design principles to programming with those scripting languages.
Today the scripting language of choice is Python. Python is a high enough level language for the syntax to be fairly readable to novices. But at the same time, it can be easily wrapped around components written in other languages. What’s more, it’s not an entirely scripted language. The modern Python system typically uses just in time compilation to turn an original Python script into bytecode. Taken as a whole, we then have a language similar to pseudocode that also has hooks in compiled languages. This helps lead into compiled languages like C++.
C++, C#, and Java are all excellent next steps from Python. It’s true that Python is object oriented. But these three languages take that to the next level. What’s more, they each have something special to offer. C++ in particular can mix quite well with Python code to create an excellent stepping-stone.
Databases, Internet, and the Web
We see how topics can transition into each other when looking at the relationship between the object-oriented languages and databases. Databases aren’t inherently tied to object-oriented programming. However, database systems and structured query language (SQL) are highly analogous to each other. Creating and using databases feels quite natural after working with something like Java. And this will in turn naturally lead into programming for the web.
By this point we’d have gone through scripting, compiled languages and databases. It’s no coincidence that this is the toolset used for programming web related content. Compiled languages can be used to run directly on a server. And most web frameworks tie in with SQL databases.
Mobile Apps and the Most Ubiquitous Platform
All these skills relate to what’s become one of the most popular and complex platforms, mobile operating systems. Despite the name, mobile operating systems run on far more than our phones. We find iOS and Android on a wide range of different products. Mobile operating systems power everything from tablets to media centers.
Mobile operating systems also leverage everything we’ve looked at so far. They’re particularly noteworthy for their ability to use always on mobile data to create hybrid applications that use both client and web-based systems. The fact that they’re such high-tech marvels makes them an appealing target. But it’s clear why mastering mobile development is a longer path than most other subjects.
But the longer road to mastering mobile development also shows why a degree-based approach to software development is so important. A developer often picks up passion and a foundational understanding of the subject all on their own. But mastering the most advanced subjects requires solid guidance from a formal education.
Have you learned a little bit about software development on your own but not sure where to go next? If you are ready to get a formal education in software development, then it is time to learn more about ATA College today. In a little over a year, you can get fully trained with a diploma in software development. The best part is it is fully available online. Start compiling your education today and executing your program for tomorrow.
Want to Learn More?
After completing the diploma program at our El Cajon | San Diego software developer school, students have the option to continue in the Software Development & Programming, Associate of Applied Technology program. The associate degree can be completed in an additional 6 months and contains general education courses, along with advanced Microsoft certifications.
Contact us today to learn more about software developer career opportunities offered at ATA College.