I am a web developer. Although, this was not always the case. Years ago, I took a two-year course which resulted in a certification to be a software specialist – software that was and still is used primarily by banks. It was employed by a number of other industries at the time, but no longer. My career options were pretty minimal, so going back to school was a no-brainer. Because I had always been a bit fascinated with code, web development seemed the natural choice.
Little did I know that becoming a developer would be so easy. Instead of returning to a college campus for night classes, I discovered a wealth of training, much of it free, online. Way to give the traditional brick and mortar schools some competition! And given the potential salary for developers, this was like finding a pot of gold.
Today, life is a lot better – great company, great salary, and great fun doing what I love. For those of you who are toying with the idea of a career in web development, I say “toy no more.” Here are nine websites where you can get web development training on your own time, choose as few or as many languages as you want, and emerge ready for a great career.
Codecademy was by far my most favorite learning website. The courses are well structured, and the explanations are basic and easy to understand. And it’s interactive. As you practice, you are told where your errors are and then gives hints of how to fix them. Once you access the site, (very simple and sleek – no frills), you register, take a look at the courses, and decide where you want to begin.
TreeHouse is truly “learn by doing.” The teaching is project-oriented, so anyone wanting to build a website or an app can focus just on that. All code instruction is project-based too, and it is video based with practice to follow, along with quizzes. You have access to all of their courses for $25/month (650+ courses) or, as you become more adept, you can upgrade to the $49/month plan for more interaction with experts and access to workshops.
There are three levels of training for each language, and the average time is about 10 hours per level. A very comfortable learning environment for beginners. This one’s a freebie too.
Instruction delivery is through screencasts, and the practice afterward is pretty challenging. You do get hints and can access the answers and can see where you went wrong. Most courses are free, but others you will eventually need to pay a $25/month fee for access.
Highly interactive and for intermediate to advanced learners. Udacity is where you go once you have the basics down. What you get are great video lectures from industry veterans, including employees from Google. You get a screencast and then quizzes.
This site provides more videos than other sites, and you have real-life experts providing the instruction. You have the choice of taking specific courses or enrolling in one of their “nanodegree” programs. These programs are tuition-based, but you get half of your tuition back if you finish the program – a pretty big incentive. There are some beginner degree programs too.
But wait – you do not have to be a teacher or a high school student to benefit from these courses. You will, however, need to pony up some money – ranging from $25 – $75/month. If you really want to develop games and apps, this is a great site for beginner to intermediate levels.
MOOC’s have become a hugely popular source for students who want an academic environment and the chance to learn from real professors from top-name universities. With Coursera, students in both web design and web development can take basic programming and/or more specialized courses from such universities as John Hopkins, Stanford, and MIT.
While you will probably pay for certificates for some of the courses, many are free. A beginning student can get all of the introductory courses for free and then move on to the specializations that are fee-based.
Coding Boot Camps
Boot camps are not online courses; however they are short-term total immersion programs that usually last 2-3 months. Students emerge from these as true experts. They are great alternatives to college courses and are the perfect solution for the newly unemployed that wants to train towards a new career.
They can be a bit pricey, but if someone will get right on it and get through a course before that unemployment insurance money runs out, these are great options. Once finished, a graduate will find a high demand for developers or freelance work. Some of these include generalassemb.ly, startupinstitute.com, appacademy.io, fullstackacademy.com, and flatironschool.com.
Obviously, no list would be complete without a mention of Khan Academy. While there are no structured curricular programs, students can pick and choose and have great video tutorials. This is a great source for beginners who can take a programming basics course and then move on from there based upon their individual goals.
Today, life is a lot better for me – great company, great salary, and great fun doing what I love. For those of you who are toying with the idea of a career in development, I say “toy no more.”
The resources are out there, even if you have no money to spend. And unlike so many other fields, getting a job or striking out on your own doesn’t require that piece of parchment we call a degree. If you have mastered the skills and can demonstrate them, you will be in demand.