Although many consider the start of the 21st century to have been the halcyon days of computer programming as far as job opportunities and salaries are concerned, demand remains strong for developers in 2016 and, according to industry observers, this trend looks set to continue for the foreseeable future.
The practice of offshoring software development positions has had an impact on the UK job market but this has been more than offset by an increase in the demand for capable programmers in key areas such as database-driven enterprise software and mobile application development. Research conducted by IT recruitment agencies shows rising salaries in 2016 and a skills gap that is not likely to close any time soon. With all of this in mind, now is as good a time as there has ever been to dip your toe into the industry and if you want to make yourself attractive to employers in all market sectors, there is no better way of doing so than by learning how to become an accomplished and innovative software developer.
Your Path to a New Career
Whether you are an amateur programming enthusiast with experience of developing small applications at home or completely new to the world of software development, the tips below will help you to forge a new career as a talented developer.
- Build a Firm Foundation – Whilst it is true that potential employers are likely to view certain programming languages and technologies as more desirable than others, the logic of computer programming and software design remains constant no matter which language and technology choices you make in the beginning. The most important thing on which you should focus when starting out is understanding the flow of logic throughout a basic computer program and learning to appreciate how your choice of programming constructs can affect this flow. Whichever of the high-level programming languages you start with, you will find that the design and development skills you learn can easily be transferred to other languages at a later date.
- Obtain Industry Recognised Qualifications – Your appreciation and understanding of programming logic and design will be your most important asset as far as your ability to develop new applications is concerned but in order to convince prospective employers of your expertise in these key areas, you will need something else: recognised IT qualifications. If you are still at school, you can look into studying IT at college before you enter the job market but if you have already started working, there are still plenty of highly regarded certification options open to you. If you are planning to develop for the Microsoft Windows platform, for example, you could enrol in an intensive training course with the aim of gaining the globally recognised Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD) qualification. There are certified course providers in all major cities across the United Kingdom and you can easily find IT learning centres in your area with Thomson Local online. If you are not sure which certification would be best suited to your future career plans, you can discuss your options with the advisers at the centres you contact.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Make Mistakes – If you are completely new to programming, you will most probably find the idea of writing your first application an intimidating prospect. However, writing a piece of software is not the same as building a house: you can make as many mistakes as you like in the first iteration and correct them as you progress. While this is not an acceptable approach for experienced development professionals to take, it is an excellent way to learn the ins and outs of any particular programming language, and programming logic in general. Every mistake that you make will bring you one step nearer to possessing the knowledge and expertise you need to make it as a software developer in a commercial environment: the best way to learn how to develop software is to jump right in and just do it.
- Monitor Software Development Trends – Once you have built a firm foundation of knowledge on which to base your new career, you should spend some time online researching the latest trends in the industry. Furthermore, you should repeat this process on a regular basis to ensure that you are aware of the most in demand programming languages and technologies at any specific moment in time. Armed with this knowledge, you can direct your attention to the most lucrative development platforms during your studies, thereby increasing your marketability to prospective employers in the United Kingdom and overseas. As mentioned earlier, the skills you learn at the very start of your learning path can easily be transferred to new platforms and technologies in the future, enabling you to familiarise yourself with the most in demand languages and development tools more quickly that you ever thought would be possible when you first began your journey.
If you are still not sure where to begin, the best thing to do is to pick up a book that covers basic programming techniques, or find a website with plenty of useful information on the topic, and download one of the free integrated development environments (IDEs) you can find online. Pick a language that you see mentioned often in job vacancies and install the appropriate IDE on your desktop or laptop computer.