How to Become a Web Developer

UPDATE: Check out a more recent post on the best way to learn to programming for beginners.

So you want to become a web developer? Smart move. The web is a growth industry and I don't know of any university curriculum that adequately prepares people for this career. A good web developer can pull in well more than the median annual wage and job benefits and promotion opportunity are great.

So what do you need to know?

  1. Programming 101
  2. HTML & CSS
  3. Read the Manual
  4. Pick a Content Management Systems (CMS)
  5. How Long Will It Take?

Programming 101

First things first, web developer is really code for web programmer. As a programmer you've got to know programming fundamentals. Concepts like an if statement and for loops allow you to create programs that do things. In my own personal experience learning programming fundamentals requires consistent exposure and rote learning followed by an epiphany, where you actually discover why you've been writing the things you've been writing down.

While you can certainly start with online tutorials, I think the best place to cut your teeth on these concepts is in a classroom, surrounded by people who are likely just as puzzled as you are. It's likely that these classes will be conducted in C, C++ or Java. Remember: you're getting core concepts, so the language doesn't matter much.


HyperText Markup Language & Cascading Style Sheets (aka HTML & CSS) are the most important elements in the display of every webpage you visit. While a basic well-formed webpage can be created in as few as 6 lines...

<!DOCTYPE html>
Hello World

...the art of HTML & CSS is a long and storied tradition. Hand-coded HTML/CSS (using a text editor) and getting websites to display consistently across web browsers (FireFox, Safari, etc.) is something akin to alchemy. No matter what you do in this regard, no matter how painful it is, stay away from WYSIWYG editors, like Dreamweaver (sorry Adobe!).

NOTE: in your browser, look for the command that reads "View Source" and start examining the HTML on the websites you visit the most.

Read the Manual

Now that you've got the basics covered, it's time to go back to the beginning and read the PHP Manual. Yes, read the manual. Not only will you get a thorough review of a true web-based language, but you'll also likely pick up some brand new concepts that will broaden your horizons.

Pick a Content Management Systems (CMS)

These days knowing web-fundamentals is not enough. If you want to be marketable, you need to pick a Content Management System. I am a huge advocate of Drupal, with WordPress coming in at a close second. Both of these CMSs are built on PHP, are on fast growth curves and boast strong communities. These communities mean there is plenty of contributed code and consensus around best practices, while the fast growth curves mean jobs.

How Long Will It Take?

Why I Wrote This Article
Those people who are regular readers of the Metal Toad Blog, may be wondering why I wrote this article. Our content, in general, tends to be very technical and targeted at people already in the industry. It's a tale of two worlds. As the rest of the economy has been faltering, the internet economy has been seeing a huge boom, from ecommerce to consultancies. Many of the services and tools traditionally practiced offline have increasingly become web-enabled, while the educational system has been falling short of providing people with a good inroad into what is becoming increasingly a closed loop system. People and companies are rewarded work, based on a track record of successful projects.

As an employer and as someone who cares about other people I would like to see a broader field of employees and companies competing with Metal Toad. I'd like more people riding the wave of web technology. If you are a web developer, encourage people to consider it as a career and give them pointers.

If you are transitioning to web development from another career, plan for a 3 year ramp up. Roughly speaking, Year 1, should be devoted to taking classes, stumbling around and being confused. Year 2, should be devoted to building websites for anyone and everyone who asks you for one (and there will be a lot of people) and contributing to opensource projects (like Drupal and WordPress). And Year 3, is when you should be able to expect to either start charging for your work as a freelancer or when you might be able to pickup an intro position (or internship) with a company.

No matter how far you make it in your journey to becoming a web developer, the above steps will open new doors and opportunities. You may find along the way, you prefer the discipline of Project Management or you might become an iPhone App developer or a blogger or an instructor. Pursuit of technology will enrich your life and broaden your horizons and just may put you on a career path in an industry that is destined for even more growth in the coming decades.

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Hi Joaquin,

thanks for the article. As someone who has (relatively) recently transitioned into a web career I think your advice has been born out in my experience. The exception is the classes part. I'd love to study, but (decent) opportunities to do so for people who have already studied an undergrad course other than CS seem limited. What are your thoughts on this? Was your advice targeted at younger people yet to go to university? And what kind of study opportunities did you have in mind?

Thanks again,


ps. just for context, I've looked at courses, but undergrads seem too expensive / long / low-level/ young (in terms of age). Masters, conversely, are either not very good, or impossible to get into without a CS degree/or perhaps some kind of maths/physics degree. (This is in the UK btw.)

joaquin's picture

Community College

Hi Nic,

The best investment seems to be centered around community college classes. Here in Portland at Portland Community College (for example) you can do programming classes for around $12 in fees per class. I haven't attended community college here in Oregon so I may be missing some costs, but this seems like an incredibly cost effective way of getting the basics under your belt, in a little more structured setting.

re: Community College

Hi Joaquin,

thanks for the reply. $12 a pop seems great value - I'll have to check for similar courses over here. I guess I was looking for a full on masters/course (with some heavy maths, algorithsm - big 'O' notation, etc.) but individual classes might be a better option (much more affordable and easier to mix with actual (paid) work.



dylan's picture

MIT OpenCourseWare

I think $12 is the lab fee; the actual tuition at PCC costs a bit more but is still a good value. On the other end of the spectrum, MIT offers many CS classes online for free at!

Also consider applying for Google's Summer of Code program. You only need to be enrolled at an accredited school on the start date of the current GSoC, and part-time status still qualifies.

erinnunn's picture

Good info

People are always asking about it; I think this is pretty dead on.


Nice post. A lot depends on your ability and background. But starting from ground zero 3 years seems minimum assuming average abilities and no background.

How long time to read PHP manual ?

Great article !
I completely agree with you.
Unfortunately, I did not find your post before but, Fortunately I figure it out by myself.

I'm glad to see that I've almost followed the path you describe. I'm currently reading through all the PHP manual and I will soon embark on the journey to get PHP 5.3 certified.

I was wondering how long time would it take to get through all the manual ? Any idea ?

And for the CMS my heart is going to Drupal 7. ;)


Can I ask you one question ?

Can I ask you one question ? There are many kinds of language like PHP ASP or Html etc ... that can also build website so why and which different of those languages that make developer choose one of them ? I'm a beginner developer.


I'm 20 with no idea what girection my life is heading. I was wondering if this can be a Career some one without a college degree could get into? I'm not able to afford Classes right now do to family troubles.

joaquin's picture

Self Education Required

Hi Donny - I have known a number of people who are very successful in the web development field who either have no college degree or nothing related to the web (music, philosophy, etc). That said, it is a career that requires drive and passion. It's a great career path for someone who finds themselves digging through websites to find out how they work, though if you don't have a computer science/programming degree it can be more challenging, because you need to get those fundamentals on your own.

Bachelors degree

Joaquin. I have a BS in information systems and a BA in journalism but have not used the BS in IS. Can I leverage the journalism degree much in the web development industry?
Thank you,

joaquin's picture


Hi Matt,

Sorry for the (very) delayed reply here.

Truth be told, degrees don't matter much in web development. As much of the technology turns over year over year, a general aptitude and interest in learning new things is much more important. A foundation in Computer Science definitely helps, but as a practical matter there's a lot of other things that you will learn that are more important.



hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm..... i love this jaoquin

agree with Joaquin

Hey Donny, I got into programming pretty late (22 in my case) so it is definitely quite possible! I do have a degree but not in CS or a programming-related course.

But I agree with what Joaquin says: a degree isn't required but you do need to be willing (and motivated) to learn as you go. If you enjoy learning and reading up on stuff then you can quickly catch up and even overtake many people who come from a CS background. Being a good programmer is about constantly learning and this can be fairly academic.

So while you don't need to have a degree you do need to enjoy learning and be willing to invest time in, as Joaquin puts it, getting the fundamentals.

Good luck!

Awww...the talk of learning

Awww... the talk of learning too late is very discouraging for me (and I'm sure I'm not the only one) as I'm 29 and just learning HTML & CSS. Why does the whole world make me feel like I'm useless after 25? I really hope I'm not too old to be doing this...

You aren't at all – I'm 29 as

You aren't at all – I'm 29 as well, and after years of doing graphic design-related stuff (my official career was as a book designer), my current job is encouraging me to do more web-related things. I find it really interesting and thrilling to do simple HTML coding, and my work – a small agency! – will be paying for me to take online courses for web design. But I've been reading up on development, and it seems so much more interesting to me. Long story short, eff the people who make you feel old – do what you want to do! You're never too old to change paths!

joaquin's picture

Never too old

You are never too old to try anything new; the only limit is your tolerance for feeling out of your depth.

To try something new, you have to be prepared to get things wrong and have things not make any sense. For people who are experts in other areas, returning to padawan status can be very uncomfortable.

I'm honestly shocked at the

I'm honestly shocked at the number of people thinking they're too old to learn programming. You have to stop believing the nonsense this culture tells people about aging. Ignore it and get to work.

Too late

I'm getting started at 54 and totally jazzed about this new direction for me. Btw, I'm a VP at a 100mm company and can't wait till I'm good enough at web dev. to make the change!

joaquin's picture

Too Awesome

Jim - it's great to hear about this. It's never too late to make a change and it's wonderful to hear about people doing what they love.

web site idea

I have several ideas for websites that I would like to persue but it's impossible to move forward without a website developer. I'm afraid I would be easily squeezed out of any project because I have no skills to bring to the table, only the idea and the vision. For this reason I'm considering learning website development so I can create the website myself, is this a good reason to get into this field? Is this a popular idea?

joaquin's picture

Actually no

If you have an idea for a website,it's a good reason to work with an established professional - even if you are interested in web development as a career long term. If you are serious about your idea, you don't want it to fall victim to bad development practices and die on the vine. Jason Duerr (Dropkick Design) has a great little video on why you should talk to a professional - in the video he's talking about designers needing to work with CPAs, but I think the same can be said about people with a web site idea. Talk to a professional.

What he said...

I'm not sure that I completely understand what the problem with bringing in a developer is. Most of the work that the majority of developers do is on behalf of a client. If you're worried that someone might think "hey, that's a great idea. I think I'll steal it.", just work with someone you trust and use a contract and NDA.

If you want to get into web development anyway, using personal projects as a platform to learn can be tremendously useful. Keep in mind that it takes time to build up some chops. I've been doing this for around 15 years and I'm certainly not an expert in every aspect of the development process. There are still plenty of situations that I work with other developers and specialists.

Thank you!!

First, I want to thank you for this article. I've been trying to get started as a graphic design for a few years now, but have been intimidated by web. Thanks to one of the comments, I'm about to start the MIT OpenCourseWare class in Computer Programming and will follow the suggestions you laid out in the article. I must admit however that I feel a bit daunted by learning this at the tender age of 38, but I am determined to not let that stop me. Thanks again!!!

joaquin's picture


I am very happy to hear that you were inspired by this thread. I think this is a great career path and I wish you the best of luck as you move forward. As you progress, it would be great to hear you weigh in from time to time.


OMG, AGE, people are we that insecure? I started college @ 25, got a A.A.S in Broadcasting Technology & Mngmt, B.A. in Music Industry. Now 13 yrs later @ 43 I went back to college to get a A.A.S in Web Design and will be graduating in the Summer.

However, I didn't know at the time the difference between being a Web Designer vs Web Developer. So just when I thought I was finished, guess what? Back to school, tutorials or whatever the hell else I gotta do to make it work for my goals / vision!! I could give a rat's behind what age I am, I still feel 25 but look 35, that's what my wife tells me. :)

So to all that have doubts of returning to school or advancing themselves through education, whether via online tutorial, classes etc... GO FOR IT!! Does your success have an age descrimination? Don't let fear dictate the rest of your life, cause before you know it, game over! I'd rather go out with a bang, then on my knees saying I should have...

Peace, Love & Development!!


Thanks a lot. I really love your article.
I really don't know how to begin. I know programming. (since when I was 11. and I have learned, QBX, VB6, C++, Python, HTML, PHP, JS ). but I'm new to rails and ruby. I don't know any CSS (I have never used it and I'm truly new to CSS) and although I know html PHP , and JS but I don't have enough experience with them. So what is your suggestion for me ? (I'm 19 yeas old and I'm kind of self-learner)

Thanks again

joaquin's picture

Read the manual

If you already have your programming fundamentals, and you are interested in getting into Ruby, read the Ruby documentation. It will give you a sense of whether you like the language or not and no matter what, reading a manual from A to Z will open a few doors in terms of techniques and best practices.

Never too old - agree

I am going to be 34 this year, and, while I studies some BASIC and Pascal at High School ages ago, and some HTML on my own about 8 years ago on one occasion, I am now determined to study and do what it takes to become Web Developer. Community College in my area offers Web Development sequence for 89$ an hour plus lab fees. Besides, I am studying some programming on my own - Python. I was wondering how relevant it is to know LINUX for web developers?

joaquin's picture

Front-end or Back-end?

These days, there's a very common specialization within the web development industry: front-end developer (HTML, JS, CSS) or back-end developer (PHP, Database, etc.). If you are planning on being a back-end developer - or a senior developer at some point in your career, I think Linux is an important fundamental. Ultimately, this career path is all about learning new things, so if you are looking for something you can learn and "be done with it" there are probably better career paths.

Age What Age??

Hi, just seemed to stumbled upon this blog; I am a 40 year old trying to break into the web dev free-lance world. I am a CS major but after graduation I worked in the corporate sector and 15 years later my skills include writing emails, conducting meetings and making power point presentations. After getting laid-off I wanted to learn a skill that'll allow me freedom and I decided to jump into the web dev world. So, my question; what would be the ideal learning path for someone like me? I learned some programming back in the day, cobalt, C, & C++ but never applied it. Currently I am learning HTML5 & CSS3 through books and videos ( & net tuts). I am totally into it and spend close to 12-14 hours a day on learning these skills. So, am I shooting too high? is it realistic to learn these skills in 6-7 months?? I know the learning process never stops but I want to have enough skills to start making decent websites & get some free-lance work. I will appreciate any positive feedback and the "too old" crap is just ridiculous!

What is the perfect path for me?

I have a diploma in CS and I understand programming basics. I know HTML & CSS, a bit of JavaScript, Java, C++ and PHP syntax. I am cool with VB.NET & VBA - programming is generally exciting to me. But I do not have any real world experience. I have learnt most of my skills by reading books and watching video tuts. I love Web Development but there seems to be too much to learn. I'm especially confuse about choosing what server-side scripting lang. to learn- Php, python, asp with C#, Ruby etc. I want to enroll for a training abroad, your suggestions will help me choose a good Training Institute based on their course modules or content. I'm 27yrs old from Nigeria.

What to Look for In a College

I've had some experience building websites (HTML, CSS and Wordpress) for fun and family. Now I'm thinking of making Web Development a career, but I know I need some training on the fundamentals. What would you look for in a college? Is a Bachelor's Degree worth the expense? I'm in Olympia, WA.

joaquin's picture

Not job training

Hi Kayla,

That's a great question, and it really boils down to what you are expecting to get out of the degree. Since it sounds like you are looking for job-specific skills, I would say it's not. There are two reasons for this:

  1. University curriculum is always out dated. I am actually not aware of any BA program that has a program that would set you up with what you need to be a developer.
  2. In general university programs are not skill-based, but rather provide environments that foster problem solving and creativity (in general) - as well as being excellent places to network at a young age.

Generally speaking, nothing about a university is something that can be practically applied as at a job, but it can make make things like finding an internship more feasible.

i hope this helps!

Make room for the old guy!

Greetings all you young people. Sometimes life likes to turn your world up-side-down. I have served in the military for many years until health issues got in the way. I went on to earn a BS degree in Information Systems. Eventually, I worked for a software company as a Support Analyst. However, I left a good paying job because of health issues and my family needed a parent at home. What a role reversal! I became a House Husband -- before it became fashionable. The time is quickly coming when I'll be able to go back to work. I can't do the physical work like I used to do. So, I need a career that I can work at well into my elder years. I have decided to turn my attention to Web Development (an interest of mine for many years). If I can do this at 55 (I think of myself as thirty-something), then you younger folks should have no problem. I appreciate the postings where other people share information on learning new skills. Please keep it up.

I want to be a developer


I am a business analyst and have been one for the past 4 years. I have a computer engineering degree but i was too interested in the wonders of the world and didn't focus on any technical aspects. Only thing i remember are the ifs and fors. Now i feel the need to be a developer, at least to the level where i can at least understand everything. I dont know where to start now? Where to brush up the concepts? where to begin learning development? which language to use? etc. Any help will be more than helpful as i am on the mercy of google without proper direction.


joaquin's picture

Code Schools

You may want to start looking for a code school to catch up on the basics. Here in Portland we have a program called epicodus which is designed to teach you how to program in four months. It's ambitious, but certainly a good compressed way to get caught up on what skills are needed to be a developer these days.

Our company is looking to this school as a potential source for new Junior Developer talent, though the jury is still how on how thorough a job they do in preparing people for the modern programming world.


Thanks for this wonderful article. I am beginner in the field of web programmers and I have some doubts;
first one; as a newcomer in this field I am not getting from where to start learning web programming and how?; second one, I am not understanding the terminologies like AJAX, JSON, JQUERY, OBJECT, DOM, where to use which tag and it's different attributes and properties; third one, I am not understanding the terminologies like tools that are been used for web developments, plugins, libraries; and last one; from where to find help if I get stuck to some problem. There are many confusion and I hope you can understand my problems. So my humble request is , please provide some solution. Once again thanks for this article.

joaquin's picture

Web programming & Wikipedia

There's not any great places to learn web programming specifically without first knowing something about programming. You may want to check out some beginning programming books, classes or web tutorials depending on how you learn best.

As far as the acronyms go, Wikipedia is a good place to start. Take this post for AJAX as an example. If you find you don't understand the post, you probably want to follow the terms up a level until you find a starting point that does make sense. Importantly, this kind of learning never stops in the web development field. There are always new things to learn. If that's frustrating or intimidating, you may want to rethink things and look at a different field.

Is C++ enough

I'm currently a student enrolled in computer science (getting really bored of it, found out I'm not much of a "school" person and I'd like to get way more creative) I've given web development/design a lot of though over the past year and decided that I was pretty much born for it. I'm in my second year of university and pretty much have C++ mastered, if statements and for-loops I know like the back of my hand. I'm just wondering if this would be enough of a programming background for me to be able to easily catch on to other coding softwares that I might need to use in my web development/designer career instead of wasting more money taking extra classes that I'll never need, such as Economics, Stats, Physics and all that lovely stuff that I could care less about.

Thanks, Mike.

joaquin's picture


My recommendation would be to look for an internship as a way to build some professional experience. Importantly, finding internships *while still in school* is a much easier process.

As an aside, if you ever want to work for yourself you may find those economics, stats, etc. classes not quite so useless.

B.A. - Best route for getting a good job in web development

I have a B.A. in English Literature and I want to become a Web Developer. I have some proficiency in HTML and CSS. A lot of the job postings for higher paying jobs require a B.S. in computer science. It seems like my options are the following: 1. Get another Bachelors Degree in Computer Science 2.Get a Masters Degree in CS 3. Get some sort of Certification Program. What would you recommend for a working professional who would ultimately like a high paying web development job?

Age not a drawback

First of all, thanks for this very informative post.

I've been finding the discussion about age both interesting and encouraging. Maybe it's in my genes,but I really think you can do anything you put your mind to at any age (my 92-year-old Dad just put down a hardwood floor). Many people assume that you have to be born into the Internet age (Generation X, Millenials) to be able to grasp concepts related to the web. They seriously underestimate us Baby Boomers.

joaquin's picture

You just have to like learning

I don't think age is a factor, rather it's whether you are the type of person who always likes learning. In this industry, you are never done or even a master of your craft in the same way you can be as a civil engineer or architect. Fundamentally speaking the "materials" we work with change much more rapidly that other industries. That said, time at the job does matter and learning gained in earlier situations definitely applies to later ones.

The only thing that matters

I agree with you 100%. I think the age factor is a huge misconception in the industry, and it doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is your desire to do it.

That's one of the great things about this field: age, background, education or socioeconomic status aren't barriers like they can be in other fields. The key to success lies with much you want it!


My community college in Miami Dade offers a 16 hour certification in Web Development Specialist.Would this be a good start to becoming a front end developer? here the link,


joaquin's picture

Good Start

Hi Jacob,

This is certainly a good start, but plan on keep going after this. Getting your skills up to a professional level may take several years depending on how much time you have to devote to this.


joaquin's picture

Code Schools

Hi all,

I little of a follow up on the education route. A Computer Science will certainly set you in good stead long term, though for specific web skills I've seen pretty good results from schools like Epicodus. It's essentially a 4 month web programming trade school. Also for online training there's Treehouse (paid) or Code Academy (free) - I have heard Treehouse is significantly better.


Late Bloomer In Turmoil!

Hi Joaquin,

I'm 22 years old and I've recently decided to go back to school and pursue a career as a web developer. My mind wasn't totally there the first time I tried school and I got discouraged and bailed. I've spent four years searching for an easy way out but to no avail, I ended up working at a few dead end jobs which became increasingly frustrating. I do enjoy computers but do not understand the basic fundamentals of web development or anything you mentioned in your article above. Do you think it is too late for me to learn the basics? Can I learn them in school? Will it be extremely difficult for me to grasp all that is required for me to earn a degree without prior knowledge? I'm really confused at this point in my life and it would mean the world to me to get some advice. Thanks

joaquin's picture

Time in the saddle

Hi Charles,

It's never too late to learn the basics - and at 22 years old you are still a spring chicken! :-)

Success in programming - and even understanding some of the basic concepts - boils down to time in the saddle. It took me two classes and a 6 month break between them before programming clicked for me, and I consider myself a quick study in most things.

If you are serious about evaluating web development as a career, you might want to look for a "white collar" vocational school like or Both of these schools offer in person, onsite learning here in Portland surrounded by peers. I think if you are going to seriously attempt this as a career that kind of immersion and commitment is important. They are also both in the 3 to 7 thousands of dollars price point and several month timeline. I think that's enough of a buy in that you'll be inclined to stick with in, but it's also not so much that you'd leave the school saddled with debt that would follow you for decades.

You are never too old. Figure out what next step is right for you, and move forward with it.


New to Programming/Development

Hi Joaquinn,
I am currently at a management position in my company. The only thing near to programming I know is Oracle SQL as I was doing my own reports for last couple of years. I am planning to start learning web development to facilitate increasing demand at my work as well as for self growth to do some free lance work. However, my issues are lack of time and lack of understanding of various programming languages out there. My ideal way to start learning would be something I can do at my own time, low cost (free is always good ;) ) and helps me learn the basics of whats current in programming in a matter of months. My aspiration is to build a web portal on my own! Please advise if what I am thinking is even possible or I am way out of my mind! If possible, how and where can I start? I am located in FL.

joaquin's picture

How disciplined are you?

Hi Darren,

It really depends on how disciplined you are. I feel that I know myself fairly well, and I am like most people when I say I'm not very disciplined. In the past I have tried to teach myself how to play an instrument (piano specifically) and I found even with the resources (internet, books, etc.) not having a regular structure meant I never progressed very far. Currently I can stumble my way through the most basic pieces, but I am sure my form is horrible and I have developed some bad habits that I may never break. And I certainly won't be playing professionally anywhere.

I would put learning to program and/or do web development in the same camp as piano in terms of complexity (though perhaps there are more professional opportunities with web development). With that in mind, how do you think you would fair in trying to teach yourself something like that?

After thinking about this a lot, I've posted an article on the best way to learn programming for beginners, where I am of the opinion that in-person vocational schools are really the best way (cheapest + fastest) to find your way into this industry.

I hope this helps!


Undergrad and switching careers

Thank you Joaquin,

My question to you is, if an online degree and certificate has the same value as attending regular classes in a college or university setting? For the past 3 years I have been attending an online university in a field that is not for me. There for I'm researching schools either campus or online that offer web development courses. And considering there's a long list that offers them, which one would you recommend for a novice?

Thanks in Advance!

joaquin's picture

Calling in the hiring team

Hi Ana,

That's a great question! These days I'm pretty abstracted from the hiring process, so I'm going to ask Randi King, our Talent Acquisition Manager to weight in here. I'm actually not sure what kind of weight is given to each of these types of degrees/certificates.



randi's picture

Calling in the hiring team

Such a great question! Education of any kind is always a good idea. Within the technology industry there tend to be a large number of very talented self taught developers. That being said, if development is your passion, then pursue it in all ways available to you. Online forums, meet-ups, community college, University, Code School. At the end of the day, its not so much about the certificate you hold in your hand, but the knowledge you have in your head. Having a deep commitment to continuing to improve and learn along with a general knack for development will take you far!

Active Brain!

I've enjoyed the discussion on the subject of age. I'm 47 and considering a new direction. That's not so hard, as I don't really have a direction at the moment! I've spent the past decade as a commercial pilot flying in southern Africa, but since leaving the profession a few years ago, I've been cycle touring, with the occasional work (anything) thrown in.

I have my own blog: This, I've enjoyed immensely setting up and running. I certainly have an interest in how it runs/programmes via the HTML coding and have spent sometime dabbling into it. At times making a mess, but then enjoy the challenge, where I went wrong, and learning from it.

I have an artistic schooling and an extreme propensity to detail. The age thing is certainly not a concern, as my grey matter is probably more inquisitive than it has ever been in the past. And, I look at it, I still have 20 years of productive work within me. When I'm not of cycling though.

So with this, I'm looking at the more traditional web developer route: HTML5/CSS/Javascript to start with, then, Python or Ruby added in due course. Or, perhaps, start the other way round? I also believe, HTML5 leads onto Windows Store Apps? So adding another arrow to one's quiver.

My search, so far, has taken me to Bob Tabor (through the Microsoft Virtual Academy) and I like the way he comes across, quality visual learning. And, the other obvious training routes: CodeAcademy and Treehouse.

Now, have I just waffled a load of nonsense and I'm wasting my time, and should just get back on my bicycle!?

Any ideas and direction, please throw at me :-)

joaquin's picture

Follow your passion!

Hi Nigel,

First - super exciting to hear your enthusiasm for this career path.

At this point, the best place to start should be heavily dictated by the resources that are available and how that maps with the way you like to learn.

If you have fulltime available, I'd look for a 12 week course, that provides a 40 hour week and a peer group to learn with. That's the model that they are pursuing at Epicodus and Portland Code School here in town. Between those two place you can find curriculums in Ruby, Javascript and soon Java and iOS.

If you are a good self-learner you could get your start in iOS, by following the iTunes University "Developing Apps for iOS" video content. The curriculum there is top notch and the job opportunities in mobile are significant - though you have to be able to learn from watching videos and tinkering on your own.

If you are looking for something you can do part-time, you can look to Thinkful or Treehouse, which offer online learning courses. Of the two, I know a little bit more about Thinkful which really pushes mentoring as a key factor.

At Metal Toad our very own Jason Rodriguez is a graduate of Epicodus, and Cesar Jimenez came to us from the Thinkful program (he was mentored there by Toad Alumnus Emeritus Ken Stowell). Maybe the three of them can weigh in here to tell you more about their experiences...

Enthusiasm = Learning

Thank you for the input and direction.

I've spent a week delving into the mine field of online training... OMG it never ends! So so much to choose from.

I had to look at what I'm already use to, what time I can offer and how much? That'll be Windows platforms. Part-time study. Cannot afford boot-camp fees (UK).

I found this chart that gave me a bit of direction:

Eventualy one has to stop, and start somewhere!

So starting with the 'real' basics:

Stanford Uni online 'Computer Science CS101'. Very basic, but filled in a few holes for me: FREE

Udemy and 'The Complete Web Developer Course'. Just started. Touches on a good many subjects and is very well put together by an ex Cambridge graduate and teacher: $69 (reduced from $199) Bargain!

Then I'll start over with Bob Tabor: $140 Life membership

At the same time I'll consider: Treehouse or Code School for those extras bits and bytes!

Most importantly get a portfolio together of work, network (meet-ups etc.) and code, code, code.

Empowering yours truly mid-life! :-)

cesarjimenez's picture

Follow your bliss

Thank you Joaquin! Hey Nigel, that is a great question, and one that I struggled with when I first started. In my experience all of the different venues for learning that you mentioned are amazing. I started by learning through the free resources you mentioned like Code Academy and Code School. To this day those are the most useful avenues of learning that I have come across. Mostly because they force you to put into practice what you are learning. After I felt comfortable and my thirst for knowledge deepened, I looked into Team Treehouse and the other paid services, and I got to say, those are one of the first places I go to learn. The well crafted tutorials and the way they structured the content is priceless and it's geared to help you learn in a more structured way.

Nothing that you mentioned was nonsense, you are a man with a goal and I say go for it! We are all with you!

As a side note, I just want to say that one of the major concepts here is the ability to learn on your own. In development there is a lot of documentation, and you will never know everything, and part of the charm is being able to read and understand that documentation to the point of making it work like you want it to. This is a skill you'll have to hone, and in the beginning it may seem a little more tricky than how it really is. But with passion, drive and patience you'll pick it up. It's nothing to be scared of, and with time you'll look forward to learning new things through it.

Also, for those of you considering a degree, I want to add my two cents based on my experience. I looked at that route, and enrolled in college again but as I was taking the classes it seemed like the pace of the curriculum was far too slow for the amount of relevant information I needed to acquire. In development is not so much about your fancy degree as it is about the actual technical knowledge you posses. This is one of the reasons why I truly love this career path. It's more of a meritocracy and actual skill than anything else. For this reason I enrolled in Thinkful, where they pair you with a mentor and their goal is to show you exactly what it is you need to learn and how to do it. This has the added benefit of not only exposing you to the brave new world of development through the eyes of a season developer but also grooming you to eventually join the profession.

With time, effort and of course after having different experiences with the different languages and concepts you'll naturally gravitate towards the languages that you like and makes sense to you. Hope that helps, if there is any other question I can help you with please feel free to ask. :)

I must add to that.

Don't think I'm trying to take the cheapest route. More a case of sourcing a quality provider at a reasonable price. At the same time, seeing after a few months if this is the bag for me?

Not wanting to, at this stage, to have a monthly or yearly subscription and finding I'm not utilising it sufficiently. I wholeheartedly think that a strong boot-camp course is the way to go and will give one a sound base to that first job. Thinkful is a great concept and something I shall certainly consider.

But, in the meantime, learn and feel comfortable with the fundamentals, plus finding ones direction. And with that, there are plenty of free or reasonably priced wares to be had.

I've started by putting my footprint out into the ether, with a Twitter feed (@SQ_Bubble) This is so I can show my cascade from abinitio into a flourishing 'Web Programmer'. We hope! LOL.

need your guidance

I'm 37years old ( hope age dose not matter?)& was in different fields previously. Currently working retail but I hate this job. I used to learn CS back in 2002 ( inc vb, java, html, oracle etc, etc) but I had to gave up due to personal matters ( did not have money to continue learning). Last couple of months I started reading about web development & completed few courses at codecademy. But I do not have a clear path to achieve my goal to be a web developer ( one day, dose not matter how long ) Can any body help me with a path or plan how to accumulate the knowledge & what are most essential skill need to learn before becoming a trainee/junior web developer please. Thank you.

Contractor for The Web

I am trying to learn how to become a web programmer.

I am about 6 months into my training looking up blogs like this one, following along with video tutorials, and asking a lot of questions to people who work in this field. Like Nigel I started with the fundamental Bob Tabor on-line courses, but everything I coded there looked like 1993 websites. Then I signed up for cs50 (computer science I) at edx where I was learning C language and compiling simple programs, it was really tough and it was moving too slow so I googled for faster paced web developer courses and found courses that can teach you how to make modern websites with bootstrap. I was able to put together a little portfolio of the things that I learned how to build, but left to my own devices I have not been able to do much of my own creations and or ideas. Wordpress has a ton of options and it can be a little overwhelming so I just made a simple homepage for now and added a blog that describes my journey up to this point. Now that I have a base of coding knowledge I need a place to help me expand on what I know now. I am in Los Angeles and I am curious about General Assembly. They offer Front-end and Back-end courses for $3500 each. It sounds like they want to help their students get a job after the course is complete. After reading reviews it sounds like having a wealth of experience is better then going in cold with little experience. There are cheaper courses if I stick to on-line classes, but I really think getting out of my cave and around people would help a lot. At the same time spending 3500 and not getting placed somewhere would not be good. I was wondering if there are better ways to guarantee you will work if you learn the things that are sought after in the industry of web programming. So far in my process I spend time learning what I enjoy and bootstrap I thought was really fun to work with and I notice a lot of websites especially the bootcamp ones look like bootstrap style sites.

May I also suggest those of you with the knowledge please try and do gatherings or seminars that may offer some more guidance. Because I don't just see this as a way to make more money, but this can offer a lot of hope for a rather dejected economy looking for a spike in jobs that offer wages that you can actually survive on.

Thank you! Read my full Web Developer article here at


Hey Ian,

I think in fairness to Bob his course is described as 'fundamental'. So rudimentary. This was compiled for Microsoft Virtual Academy. I have also used it in conjunction with Rob’s excellent Plus adding a book from Treehouse seems fill all the voids. Bob’s, Learn Visual Studios.NET has certainly moved up a gear. If one is looking at the ASP.NET route, then you should find his ‘Managed Learning Version’ (C#) very useful. It’s in ‘beta’ at this stage, but looking impressive already.

Checked your website out. Clean and tidy. Nice. That’s my next port-of-call too.

I look forward to following your endeavours.


Bob Tabor is a nice guy and an excellent teacher!

Bob Tabor's classes are great! Love that guy! I was just antsy to build something modern. I'm glad I took time to go through Bob's videos. Happy to see people put in that much time to teach such a valuable skill.

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