You Can Become a Computer Programmer In Months Or In Less Time Than Most People Think Is Possible

I have been receiving a number of questions from my readers about how much time it takes to become a computer programmer.

Looking back in time, I realize, I had this same conversation with a coach figure 12+ years ago when I was considering a career in computer programming. His advice was that it would take me at least 2 years of concentrated work to learn any new career. My coach figure at that time was a successful lawyer with more than 30 years of experience practicing law, so I took his advice to heart.

A few years later, I became a computer programmer. To my surprise, the actual learning and the period of time it took me to become a computer programmer was only 3 months.

When I say 3 months to transition to a career in contract computer programming, you have to realize that I was working a full time job while working transitioning to a career in computer programming.

I realize that my story is not the norm for everyone transitioning to a career in computer programming. Also, the fact that it took me 3 months to learn computer programming does not make me more or less smart than someone else who spends 6 months or 2 years doing the same.

Now, I will mention only 3 factors out of the several that helped me transition to a career in software development consulting in only 3 months.

  1. Short Learning Curve: Some programming languages take more time to master than others. For example, Visual Basic is remarkably easier for new comers to learn than say C++ or Java. When I was starting my career in contract programming, I realized at the time that all programming languages are not equal, and jumpstarted my new career by choosing a rapid application development language.
  2. Effective Study Habits: How much you get out of your study time depends on the effectiveness of your study habits. In college I noticed that while some students need 1 hour of study time to learn a new concept, others need 3 hours of study time to learn the same concept. So to shorten the time it takes you to learn computer programming you need to sharpen your study skills.
  3. Passion for Success: Before I actually learnt how to program computers, I was passionate about the subject of computer programming for many years. I have no doubt that this passion for computing helped me master the career in a shorter time. Being passionate meant that I hung out with programmers, tried to read their magazines and listened to their advice.

It all comes down to your career action plan. There is more to computer programming than simply learning a computer programming language.

For example, some programming languages are Rapid Application Development (RAD) tools. RAD tools are designed to help software developers create business applications in less time.

Some computer programming software comes with tools that make it easier for developers to find and correct mistakes in their software applications.

Some computer programming languages are in high demand while others are not. You may not want to learn a programming language for which you contact 10 hiring managers to get one technical interview if you could have had 10 interviews by learning a different computer programming language.

Finally, some programming languages are best suited for particular industries. You need to master one type of programming language to become a game programmer, another type to become a business software developer and yet another type of programming language to be a systems programmer.

The industry you work in may have a programming language best suited for it and it is your job to determine that.

Consider this advice from a good friend: Always Begin with the End in Mind.

To learn more about fast tracking your computer programmer career, visit this resource.

6 Responses to "You Can Become a Computer Programmer In Months Or In Less Time Than Most People Think Is Possible"

  1. DeLayne   September 14, 2010 at 5:09 am

    How can you launch a programming career in less than a year when every prospective employer requires 2 to 4 years of experience or more?

    • IT Career Coach   September 14, 2010 at 8:38 pm

      You can become there is a high-demand for Software Developer skilled in specific languages.

      It is those languages that make you marketable. If you are really skilled in those languages, you will get a job, because employers can’t find enough developers to quickly fill their positions.

      You can by focusing on sharpening your skills (which is within your control) knowing that you can do nothing about your experience beacuse experience is accumulated over time.

      You can because every in the space of a year, you can make your resume marketable by working on real-world software applications that you will add to your resume. It is the combination of those practical applications and learning a marketable skill … that “Pus Your Career In OverDrive!”

      • bwc   September 15, 2010 at 5:18 am

        No offense, but it’s harder than it sounds. Unless you work for a small company which desperately need people (which is not a bad thing) or contract job, it will be hard to find a permanent position.

        Nowadays in 2010 are different than the 1999 or 2000 when everyone who knows how to type HTML is a programmer whent they are not.

        The companies will give technical interviews. Then if you are competing with people who have more computing experience than you while both of you ace the technical interview, guess who are they going to hire?

        Basically for someone without experience in the real-world computing and want to do REAL development jobs in 2010ish, they have to either know someone, have to know your stuff, find a small company that needs someone badly now and no competition with other interviewees or it’s 3 months contract to see how you do. It’s a combo of the above.

        If you really want REAL development work, you should actually read up not only on the language syntax, but also some algorithms AND also know how to apply and code. (I seen people who knows the language inside out, but can’t program… it’s like knowing the french syntax, but don’t know how to speak french which is also possible btw).

        Maybe do some open-source coding or your own pet projects to make sure you do like it (most people think they do, but they then realized they don’t).

        finally, go for contract jobs as you will be more likely higher probability to be accepted than a permanent job.

        • IT Career Coach   September 15, 2010 at 5:36 am

          A little rebuttal: Most of the programming interviews have little to do with algorithms except if you are interviewing for Microsoft or applying for a systems engineering job.

          Most of the companies don’t do business like Microsoft’s anyway … they simply want business applications developers and not low level C / Assembly / C++ Programmers.

          Yes, you are right in advocating for open source coding or your own pet projects. Keep in mind that an open source coding project has a lifespan that spans years, so don’t wait before turning that experience into a job.

          Yes, contract jobs are actually easier because companies have a Try before you Buy experience.

          Nope, this has nothing to do with worrying about competition. And actually it is not different in 2010 … things are pretty much the same. That is why I am asking developers to learn a marketable skill ,,, the example you gave of HTML is not one of those marketable skill that gets you in through the door.

          Your views are typical of those who coming from perhaps C / C++ / Java backgrounds. They typically find jobs hard to get and I don’t classify those among the type of marketable skills that get you in through the door.

          What languages do you code with?

          • BWC   September 15, 2010 at 7:34 am

            Actually, I have to disagree with you about ‘have little to do with algorithms’. A lot of algorithms now are in a ‘black box’ where you just call APIs.

            But even in interviews, they will ask you the basics such as binary search and hashing. I never encountered linkedlist as interview questions, but have discussion with the interviewer about them along with space and time complexity, even though you can use the STL libraries for those which ‘optimized’ it for you.

            Knowing the basics of algorithms and how it’s structure will allow you to know when to use certain apis or when to code something to make the program more efficient and run faster when it has to do say 100k of calculations.

            (I worked with someone who wrote his own ‘vector’ because called push function without preallocated memory wastes space.)

            Note that these interviews are application developers for developing trading financial software used by banks.

            Yes, I did come from C/C++ background. But all in all, to being a developer is not just knowing the language. It’s also coding and knowing how to architect the system so it’s maintainable, extensible, etc. That should be applied to everything, not just knowing the language. This should be true even if it’s doing Excel programming although, architecting is not as a necessary. But the person still needs to at least know how to program.

            I mean I know a person who got a job doing access, vb, and excel as a contractor, but had no coding experience, but find it tough to when she has to really code something in vb even when she knows the language because putting things into sequence,which in a way is like an algorithm, has a different mentality set than knowing the language.

            Now I don’t know what kind of marketable language you are talking about.. maybe it’s C#, ruby, php. vb.. but I dabble in them as a hobby and the basics still applies to me.. you have to code, not only know.

  2. bwc   April 22, 2010 at 6:20 am

    It’s because of this short period of learning time that cause companies to give technical interviews because everyone can claim to be a C++ programmer with just 6 months.. but how in depth and how experience the person is is the question.

    Anyone can do If and write a few trivial classes.. but how many will know what reinterpret_cast is and also better yet.. the difference between

    struct testsize
    int a;
    double b;
    char c;


    struct testsize
    char c;
    int a;
    double b;

    besides of the obvious char c placed on top of int a.

    Those some people with 10 years experience still don’t know. Also when it comes to architecture software design so the software is flexible, extensible and maintable, those will require experence .. in YEARS..

    Tell a rookie to do that and tell an experience guy to do that and you will see one is building a dog house and the other a real residential house. Design comes with experience.. but learning a language can be just 3 months.. but a language is just a tool.

    What you are saying is like saying everyone can be a house builder by learning how to use a hammer and a nail and tools.. which means everyone can be a full fledge software developer who can build Excel software by just learning the language. That is absurd.

    There is way more to software development (notice it’s DEVELOPMENT) or programmer than learning a language. This is also way most company are giving incorrect technical test. Knowing is different than applying.. sigh.


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