Software development has become a hallmark of the modern world. Computers have made their way into almost every facet of our lives. Desktop and laptop systems are ubiquitous, and everyone has a surprisingly powerful computer in the form of a smartphone. It’s no wonder many people start learning about these systems and developing a love of software development.
Many people who’ve learned about software development independently decide to pursue it professionally. However, they’re often uncertain about how far they can alone take the skills they’ve developed. In short, can you become a professional software developer with the skills you’ve picked up as a hobbyist programmer?
So, Can I Become a Software Developer on My Own?
The question of how well self-taught programming techniques transition into a professional career is far more complex than The question of how well self-taught programming techniques transition into a professional career is far more complex than it might seem. One of the biggest reasons is how people learn to program independently. Self-taught programmers usually begin out of curiosity. They might wonder what would happen if they tweak the performance of a program they regularly use, or they might have a specific need that just isn’t met by any of the programs available.
Self-taught programmers usually have unique criteria that guide their learning process. For example, imagine someone who wanted a program to rename and organize files on their computer. They will learn many programming techniques, but ultimately, they are not trying to learn how to program.
Learning to program to meet a specific need, or satisfy curiosity, creates a very focused understanding of software development. The person in this example knows much about the string-matching techniques and decision logic used intelligently to rename files. However, they would need more clarification in their understanding of anything related to, for example, multimedia or database management.
The knowledge gaps become even more significant when looking at areas related to professional collaboration. It’s rare for modern software development to happen in a vacuum. Workplaces have entire teams of programmers working together, and there’s a solid expectation that code will be written according to standard practices and with documentation matching industry standards.
Valuable to Start
Self-taught programming skills are valuable, and they can contribute quite a bit to your path toward becoming a professional software developer. However, self-taught development almost always has some significant knowledge gaps that need to be remediated before entering the job market. Of course, that brings up the question of how you can do so.
What is an Easy Way to Become a Software Developer?
Thankfully, there’s a simple way to take care of knowledge gaps while also building up some new skillsets in valuable areas. Formal education within a software developer program is an easy way to become a professional software developer. The program also makes it easy to leverage what you’ve already learned within the context of more advanced programming projects.
What Do You Learn During a Software Developer Program?
One of the most valuable parts of a software developer program is its scope. The program doesn’t simply expand on skills you might have already picked up as a hobbyist, and it will provide you with the coding skills you need to tackle almost any software development task you could imagine. The program will typically focus on the following development languages and platforms.
Web development is one of the more surprisingly complex subjects within software development. When you use a website or web app, it appears to be a singular entity. However, web development is best seen as a melding of several disparate technologies.
HTML5 and CSS3
But modern HTML5 provides a full range of advanced components. If you’ve ever watched a streaming video online, then you’ve probably benefitted from the multimedia capabilities of HTML5. CSS3 works alongside it to add additional stylistic options. It can essentially change almost any visual element displayed within the context of HTML5.
This gives you the power to add animation, GUI components, and more to a website or app. And XML is a markup language that lets you easily store and send data online like what you’d use in a database. When you use these technologies, you can create websites, web apps, and even frontends to programs written in other programming languages.
Java is often used as a language to teach various principles used in modern programming. Java has an extensive history, resulting in a tremendous amount of programming libraries for software developers to choose from. It also popularized many of the concepts used in later programming languages. The most important is called JIT or “just-in-time compilation”.
The JIT and platform-agnostic nature of Java originally led it to a prominent position on desktop and enterprise-level servers, which is still true today. However, these traits have also been shown to be prominent on mobile platforms. Java is the best way to write apps for Android phones and tablets.
Doing so involves some small changes compared to standard Java syntax, but for the most part, when you learn to write Java for one platform, you’ve mastered skills that will extend to all the others as well. Java also stresses proper object-oriented design principles. This is found in most modern programming languages, but it was arguably done right for the first time in Java.
The C#/C++ pairing is another popular and important option taught in software developer programs. Java is arguably the language that optimized and popularized object-oriented programming, but C++ is where it all started. It’s the modern iteration of another language, C, which was among the first human-readable programming languages to combine power and ease of development.
C++ took that to the next level by adding object-oriented design principles, among many other improvements. Today it is one of the most computationally efficient languages in the modern coder’s toolset.
C# isn’t considered an official successor to C++, but C# does build on top of many ideas pioneered by C++. It also adds some of the best features from Java.
Finally, VB.NET is a programming language that adds unique options to a software developer’s repertoire. VB.NET is like C++ because it’s the next-generation version of a popular language. In this case, Microsoft’s Visual Basic was enhanced and reworked to run on the .NET platform.
The original Visual Basic was an incredibly easy-to-use language that let people put together graphical programs on Windows without worrying about the operating system’s complexities. VB.NET isn’t quite as easy to use as its predecessor, but it’s still a fantastic way to quickly write a program when you don’t need to worry about the underlying efficiency.
How Long is the Software Developer Program?
All these languages and methodologies might seem like they’d take an incredibly long time to learn. However, that’s also where one of the strengths of a formal education in programming comes in. Software developer programs take a unified and logically structured approach to the subject. So, you can learn a lot about programming in a surprisingly short amount of time. Though the speed at which you can learn these programming techniques is only the start of the benefits provided by formal education.
What are the Benefits of a Formal Education?
The most significant advantage of formal education is that it fills in all the knowledge gaps as you teach yourself elements of software development. Self-taught software development can focus on building specialized skills with a single programming language. However, there’s a lot more to software development than a single programming language.
Every programming language mentioned to this point provides some unique advantages. VB.NET allows for rapid prototyping. Web-focused development gives you the ability to create code that runs in browsers. C++ can develop programs that run with unmatched efficiency. And this holds for everything taught in a software development course.
The methods used to teach those languages are also important. Experienced instructors with solid experience in the industry lead the courses. They can instruct how software development works within a larger corporate model. This includes subjects like prototyping, documentation, and applying engineering principles to software design.
Learning software development in this environment is inherently conducive to exercising those skills professionally within a larger group environment. Likewise, the course is an excellent tool for networking and career services.
Industry Standard Tools and Software
Finally, a software developer program also gives you access to the most important tools of the trade. Development environments, dedicated client hardware, and various other resources are available. This allows you to write and test code on platforms often rare in the consumer space but popular in corporate environments.
When learning about the latest hardware and software, you’re prepared for all of the cutting-edge technology in enterprise environments. Likewise, you’ll have the practice and experience needed for those platforms to feel as natural as your computer.
Want to Learn More?
After completing the Software Developer Diploma program at our school in El Cajon, San Diego, 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 six months and contains general education courses, along with advanced Microsoft certifications.