If attending a four year college and getting a degree in Software Engineering isn’t an option for you, don’t despair. The world of software development is full of people who learned the trade through alternative means. Not only can you do the same, you can also customize your learning experience so that you develop skills leading to the ideal career path for you.
Where do you get started? There are scads of online education options for developers. There are also multiple certifications that you can pursue. Below, we will give an overview of several websites that offer online education for developers.
Microsoft Virtual Academy
Microsoft offers free, self-directed courses for new and experienced IT professionals. These courses cover topics including security, development, frameworks, and a variety of other relevant topics. Students may pick and choose courses that fit their needs. They may also select specific learning paths in order to earn badges. While these badges are not the same thing as the more well-known Microsoft certifications, they still hold value as proof of skills learned and developed.
There are currently 11 learning paths offered. Some of which are geared towards developers, while others are intended for other IT experts. The available learning paths are as follows:
● DevOps For Developers
● Mean Stack Development
● Office 365 Development
● ASP.NET Core
● Intro to WinServ 2012
● Security For IT Professionals
● PowerShell Beginner
● DevOps for IT Pros
● PowerShell Advanced
● WinServ 2012 R2 Compute
These could be a very feasible option for students who wish to develop new skills and learn new technologies. However, these are more likely to be beneficial for someone at least in the early stages of a development career than someone who is seeking an entry level position.
Codecademy provides students with interactive web and app development courses. Their offerings range from simple HTML to Ruby on Rails. Depending on the student’s needs and preferences, they can choose between taking free courses or upgrading to a professional membership.The courses do a very good job of introducing new concepts in easy to grasp ways. Even better, courses such as Ruby on Rails are designed in a way that the
Codecademy offers programs of study for brand new coders on up to advanced developers. This makes it an excellent option for anyone no matter where they are in their career trajectory.
Udemy isn’t free, however it does offer a wide variety of courses in the categories of development, design, and software and IT. Under the development category alone, students can take courses in app development, web development, game development, software testing, and databases.
Interested students can keep in mind that what Udemy offers is a library of courses, designed, and created by teachers from all over the world. This means that quality can truly vary from course to course. Students should play close attention to the course reviews and rankings before choosing. In any case, with such a wide variety of courses, it’s fairly easy to self-design a program by selecting preferred courses.
W3 Schools does offer certificates of completion for all of its courses of study. However, in order to receive these, students must register and pay a fee. Then, they are able to take a quiz and receive a certificate upon completion. However, students should note that while these certificates may provide proof that they have completed a particular course of study, these are not given through any professional association or accrediting body.
Other Options to Consider
These are just three of many online study options available for beginning developers. Interested students should study all options that are available to them. In addition to this, local community colleges can be a great resource for both web based and in classroom options for coders. While their courses are not free, they are usually quite reasonably priced.
Another option is to seek out and join local or online groups dedicated to those interested in development as either a hobby or profession. These groups often sign up for web based training and are able to get group discounts. Some even bring instructors in for personalized, classroom training in a variety of topics.
Know The Kind of Training That is Right For You
When you begin any training program, you are investing significant time and likely money as well. Whether or not it’s worth it, depends on what you get out of it. This is why you must consider the following factors.
Your Own Learning Style
Unless you have a really flexible learning style, not all courses are going to work well for you. Some students need to dive in and work directly with whatever code and technology they are trying to learn. For them, interactive courses are probably best. Others are better off watching videos or lectures, taking notes, then working through coding projects or exercises. Then, there are students who truly need to interact with an instructor and other students. For them, live online learning may be the best option.
If you don’t know your learning style, consider looking for a couple of free or very low cost courses using different instruction and presentation styles. If that’s not an option, view course reviews and check out previews whenever possible. This will help you to determine if a class is truly a good fit.
Your Existing Skills And Abilities
Many online course providers don’t do a great job of indicating which skills or prerequisites you may need to succeed in a course. It’s important to ensure that you have any foundation skills you need before signing up. Language is another thing to think about. If the course isn’t in your native language, consider investing in a good translation service. Having course materials in your native language can make it that much easier for you to work through the subject matter quickly.
What The Course Will do For Your Marketability
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking a course simply because it interests you. Even if it doesn’t boost your career today, it could benefit you in the future. Still, most students pursue these courses because they are interested in increasing their marketability to clients or to advance their careers.
To successfully choose courses that will result in more marketability, promotions, or better pay it’s a good idea to understand the current developer’s marketplace in your area. Simply put, what skills are the most in demand at your place of work, on job boards, and in client work requests.
Finally, managing your expectations is key. You may pass a course with flying colors and feel absolutely confident in your ability to take on projects. However, that doesn’t mean that others will be as equally confident in your newly minted but largely untested knowledge. You may need to create some personal projects in order to develop a bit of experience as well as proof that you truly have the chops.
Whether or Not You Have The Time And Resources
You may find that even a relatively simple or short class can take up more hours of time than you expected. Remember that in order to succeed in many online courses, you have to study and work on projects on your own time as well. In addition to this, even free courses are not always free. For example, you may need to purchase software, setup development environments, register and pay fees, etc. Before signing up, find out if you will be out of pocket for anything above and beyond the fee to take the course. Also take time to learn what technology and equipment is required.
Is Certification Worthwhile?
Ultimately, if it earns you the promotion you wanted, results in higher billable rates, or helps you to land a great job then certification is worthwhile. Just keep in mind that not everyone holds certifications in the same regard. For some they are an absolute must have, and they won’t even consider you without them. For others, certifications prove absolutely nothing and they aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.
Be prepared to engage with clients and potential employers on both ends of the spectrum. For those who don’t value them, focus on what you’ve learned and how you’ve applied those skills. For those that do, try to lead off with the fact that you are certified. Then mention any certifications you are currently pursuing.
This is another area where research is key. If there simply isn’t much demand for certifications you might consider saving your money.
Which Certifications Are Available to You
Many online course providers offer certificates of completion intended to act as proof that you have completed the work and mastered the subject matter. However this section is intended to address professional certifications.
Five Hot Certifications
- Puppet Certified Professional
Puppet is an open source tool for managing software configurations. Currently it is in use in more than 36K companies. The ability to use this tool is clearly in high demand. The Puppet Certified Professional is a certificate that proves the holder has the skills to successfully act as a Puppet systems administrator.
- MCSD App Builder
It goes without saying that app developers are in high demand. This certificate offered by Microsoft allows students to develop their app development skills, take an exam, and earn this highly valued certificate. Microsoft partners with education providers to help students learn the skills required to earn this certification
This certificate is for SaltStack certified engineers. It is similar to Puppet in that the certification is intended to prove that the person who has earned the certificate has the skills and expertise to design and maintain the SaltStack platform.
Choosing the right courses is a matter of understanding what skills are in demand, then selecting the courses that are a right fit for your learning style. You should also carefully research course providers. They are so many out there, and there is a huge variance when it comes to quality and customer service.
As to whether or not you should invest money in earning professional certification that really depends. If your particular industry demands it, then by all means make the investment. Just be careful that you don’t fool yourself into believing that certification is a guaranteed meal ticket. It many not be the case, or it could take a significant amount of time for the investment to be worthwhile.
In the end, one of the benefits of pursuing a career as a developer or other IT professional is that you can use online learning to essentially create a course of study that qualifies you to work on the projects that are both lucrative and interesting for you.