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How and Where to Teach Yourself Web Development and Programming

Thinking of taking a DIY approach to learning web development and programming? Smart idea. This is how to do it.

Think about how much time you spend online, of all the websites and apps you encounter each day. Huge part of life, right? So it’s no surprise that having the ability to create and update those apps and websites makes you an extremely valuable employee! Besides job security, web development can be a truly exciting career specialty. But even if you don’t want to be a full-time programmer, this skill area can enhance your attractiveness to potential employers. Smaller businesses and nonprofits, among others, may place special value on technical skill sets such as web design, and you might even benefit directly from those skills if you ever decide to start your own business.

The most common path to learning web development is a formal program offered by a college or trade school. But you might also be familiar with the many online “code academies” that will help you teach yourself web design. If you have the determination, the interest, and the ability to work independently, this could be a great option for you. You also might find these courses complement your existing college studies or lead you to a full-blown degree in computer science.

Many "teach yourself" opportunities actually involve completing classes but not through traditional courses offered by a college or other school. Instead, you can take advantage of a self-paced format where you work through various steps until you have mastered the needed skills. Sometimes this is done on an informal basis where you select tutorials or watch videos completely on your own. In other instances, you enroll in short courses and in some cases, receive one-on-one guidance from a web professional.

A good place to begin is the site operated by W3Schools. It offers tutorials and references on web development languages such as HTML, PHP, CSS, JavaScript, SQL, and JQuery, which cover most aspects of web programming. Tutorials start at very basic levels and progress to professional-level skills. Especially helpful is an online editor dubbed “Try It Yourself.” This tool allows you to experiment with computer code and see what works (or doesn’t) and edit before implementing. Best of all, this is all available to you for free.

Another free resource is phpacademy, where you can access hundreds of videos on web development as well as a forum on information of interest to web developers from a variety of backgrounds. There’s also Sitepoint, which operates an online learning platform while also offering tutorials, books, and articles. CodeSchool is another great resource with strong interactive tutorials; note, a number of the tutorials are free, but some do require a $29/month membership. For the creative, great online resources include Pixel2LifeWebProfessionals.org, DeveloperDrive, and the International Webmasters Association.

Not all of these websites are free, however. Some charge for courses or instructional modules. Others offer a combination of free and for-payment options. There may be blogs that anyone can read for free, but to enroll for courses at the same site you must pay a per-course fee. That being said, costs tend to be much lower those offered by postsecondary institutions for college credit. For example, some courses offered by udemy cost $199, with some going as low as $50. Depending on your goals—and, again, your level of dedication—a monetary investment of this type may be well worth making.

When it comes to fields such as web design and computer programming, a real plus is that you don't need special equipment or facilities. You can work at a desktop or laptop computer in your own home, at any time day or night, to enhance your knowledge and hone essential skills. In such a setting, the key is your willingness to stay on track while working independently. If you can demonstrate these traits, teaching yourself the right high-tech skills is a real possibility.

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