Becoming a programmer is one of the very best ways to futureproof your career, guarantee a great salary, and enjoy rewarding and challenging work. This is a job you can do from anywhere, that will challenge you with creating powerful software tools and apps that increasingly run our lives and businesses. If you work as a programmer online, you’ll also have the luxury of being able to work from anywhere, while picking and choosing the types of work you want to take on.
In this post, you’ll learn what it takes to be a programmer, how to work as a programmer from home, and what you need to do to get started.
Is Programming Right for You?
There are many perks to programming as a career. The demand for software developers is constantly growing, as is the sheer variety of work available. This is well-paid work too: Glassdoor reports that the average software developer makes $92,046 per year, all the way up to $134k!
But is this kind of work right for you? You’ll be a good fit if you:
- Are self-motivated and able to work alone
- Work well as part of a team on group projects
- Have a logical mindset
- Enjoy problem-solving
- Are willing and able to learn new concepts quickly
While it is possible to find work as a software developer working solo, the higher paid jobs will normally involve working as a member of a team on huge projects. That means contributing code to a large system and using version control software such as Github.
This presents unique challenges: you will need to write smart, efficient, and readable code with lots of comments and annotations to help others understand it. On the flip side, you’ll often need to interpret the code of others and understand how it fits into the big picture. This type of work is often referred to as “software engineering” as opposed to “software development,” though the two terms are often used interchangeably.
A freelance software developer who works on their own will be challenged to complete simpler tasks such as building apps for small companies, making changes to WordPress themes, or building portals. The type of work a solo developer can take on is inherently limited, but this also provides the worker with more freedom and flexibility in the way they approach tasks.
A third option is to work as an entrepreneur: creating apps and games on your own, then selling them directly to users. This is a far less stable form of income, but has limitless potential for profit!
What programming languages should you learn?
The key thing to understand if you want to work as a programmer online or in any other capacity is that the work varies depending on the projects you’re given. The best programming languages and certifications will likewise vary wildly.
Consider the following types of work and skills required for each one:
Application software engineer
An application software engineer is a developer that will work on a variety of different programs and tools. These can range from mobile apps to Windows utilities, to operating systems. In-demand programming languages for this broad job description include Java, C++, and Python. You will often be working as part of a team and may spend a lot of time working on updates and new features to improve existing products.
Mobile developers are application software developers that build and maintain apps for Android and iOS. These may include simple utilities or entire social networks.
While there are many paths to working as a mobile developer, the most obvious options are to familiarize yourself with:
- Java, Kotlin, and the Android SDK for Android development
- Swift, Objective C, and XCode for iOS development
It’s also possible to create cross-platform mobile apps using tools like Xamarin, combined with C#.
Working on mobile apps is a good option if you want to work as a programmer from home, as you’ll be able to find smaller app projects on freelancing sites like UpWork relatively easily. Likewise, you can try approaching small businesses and websites directly to offer your services.
A game developer will work either in a team or as a solo indie developer. They will usually be required to use one of the bigger game engines, those being Unity and Unreal. C# and C++ are popular programming languages for game developers, and complementary skillsets such as 3D design can also be useful.
As a web developer, you will be tasked with creating, updating, and maintaining websites. This will involve the use of various programming languages and common tools, as well as a familiarity with servers and databases in many cases.
Web development jobs are once again well suited to those who wish to work as a programmer online.
That said, depending on your level of programming expertise, your specific requirements as a web developer can also vary significantly. Here are three types of a web developer:
In short, a front-end developer will be required to build websites that showcase work, or that provide information: rather than web apps that provide interactive features.
A back-end developer handles the more programmatic aspects of a website. That means helping to create the CMS (content management system) that allows users to log in to their sites and add new content. At the same time, it might also involve the creation of entire “web apps” such as social networks or SAS (Software As a Service) tools.
A “full-stack developer” is an increasingly rare individual that possesses all of the skills of both the front-end and back-end developer. They will be able to build entire web apps and handle every step of the process, from managing databases to creating beautiful user interfaces.
Keep in mind that these are not strict definitions, and you will come across many more job descriptions and roles as organizations create them to fit their needs.
It’s also useful to remember that programming can be a useful skill for many other roles. For instance: data scientists and machine learning engineers can benefit greatly from coding skills.
Qualifications, certifications, and getting started
Now you know what it takes to work as a programmer online, the question is how you get started.
If you have no prior coding experience, then this is the first thing to address. To do that, you should look at getting certification and qualifications.
It is possible to become a programmer without a degree, though a computer science degree will provide a big advantage over the competition. It is possible to find undergraduate and even master’s degrees in computer science online through sites like EDX.
However, as these types of qualifications involve a large financial and time commitment, many candidates will prefer certification programs. There are many such programs offered by official channels. A game developer may look for Unity certification directly from Unity for example, while a mobile developer might benefit from becoming an Associate Android Developer. These certificates can help to demonstrate a candidate’s expertise and gain the trust of the potential client/employer. These programs are far more affordable, and typically only require a few months of part-time training to complete. Certification programs can also be excellent supplements to a computer science degree, especially for developers who wish to specialize in particular types of work.
Padding out your resume
It’s also advisable to build a portfolio of work that you can use to demonstrate your skills. When you first start, you can do this by taking part in hackathons or working on solo app projects. This way, it is possible to land a job with no official coding qualifications, but it’s certainly easier if you have some papers to back up your claims.
Whenever you work as part of a team, you will likely be required to use several additional tools that supplement your coding skills. These include the likes of Github and Phabricator for version control, alongside project management apps (like mercurial), debugging software such as Sapienz, and more. Being able to show experience with these tools in your applications will help you to stand out to a great degree.
So, there you have it: that’s what you need to know if you want to work as a programmer online. The key to success is to recognize the myriad different options for developers, then to find the one that works for you. By choosing a particular type of work you want to specialize in, you can build a portfolio and skillset to match: and become a shoo-in for nearly any job in that field!