How Should You Approach Software Development Training?
In the field of software development, it can be challenging to decide on how to invest in training. This article is a guide to set you on the right path.
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There’s an interesting challenge that budding programmers face when it’s time to further their software development training, or even start their training. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of different training and course options, and they vary widely in cost from free to hundreds or thousands of dollars. What’s more, some courses can be completed in weeks or months, while others require years and years of discipline. It’s even possible, and extremely easy, to invest in the wrong courses, depending on what your specialization or desired job will be.
So, how should you approach software development training? What are the best practices for choosing a school, course, or program, and what will that mean for your future career?
1. Calculate the Equitable Value
Step one is to utilize the Postsecondary Value Framework to discern the equitable value of your training or course. Fortunately, the U.S. government provides an incredibly useful tool for this, available at the Postsecondary Value Commission’s website.
The tool is designed to help you calculate whether a monetary investment in a school is worth the total cost while factoring in average program completion rates, scholarships, loan default rates, and more.
If the course or program you’re considering is free, the tool won’t help you. In that case, the best approach is to look at the time it takes to complete the program — meaning how much personal time you’ll need to invest — versus the outcome. If you’re investing hundreds of hours into a free course, that provides no certification at the end and doesn’t further your career prospects, it’s probably best to avoid it altogether.
2. Consider the Alternatives
The common practice is to go to a traditional four-year college or university and study under the appropriate program(s). But as many know, that’s not the only channel for programming and software development training.
There are many online courses and curriculums, which will net you the same knowledge and experience, that are cheaper and just as effective. However, there are also a handful of other alternatives to consider, like coding boot camps, which have become incredibly popular over the last decade.
The best approach here is to find a software development training program that matches your needs, interests, and learning style. It is absolutely possible to finish online courses through places like Coursera, Codecademy, Udemy, and beyond, and then secure an excellent position afterward — whether it’s an entry-level position or something more advanced.
Don’t just consider the monetary investment. You should also think about the time you’ll need to dedicate, how much time you have available between work or other obligations, and what the program will help you achieve when it’s all said and done.
3. Know the Requirements
You may be weeks, months, or years away from breaking into the industry. No matter what, spend some time looking up opportunities you’re interested in applying to. What are they looking for? Do they want you to have a bachelor’s in computer or data science? Do they call out a specific course or certification?
Take note of the requirements you’ll need to enter the field and plan accordingly. This is especially important if you’re taking online courses or attending alternative programs. You’ll want to make sure you choose the appropriate path for your career choice.
It doesn’t hurt to pad your resume with additional languages, certifications, or specialties. Some positions require you to be familiar with and trained in multiple software disciplines. If you’re considering IoT software engineering, for instance, some additional training in machine learning, information security, circuit design, and embedded software development can form a solid foundation — among many other skills.
4. Talk to Other Developers
While this step is more of an optional one, it can earn you crucial guidance and support to make your decision(s) and find the right program. It’s pretty simple. Network with other professionals and programmers, and briefly discuss their software development training. What route did they choose? How has that affected their career and job prospects? Would they do anything differently if they could start over?
You can use social media, like Twitter or Facebook, find supportive online communities, or just talk to people you know in real life that currently do programming and development work.
5. To Specialize or Not to Specialize?
Similar to technical training, it is possible to specialize in a particular form of programming or development, to both fast-track your career and stick with what you enjoy. For example, not all web developers work on websites, as some work on web applications, behind-the-scenes tools, and much more.
In a traditional four-year college program, you’ll start with the basics, namely computer science foundations and the like. Many online courses follow a similar format, but they don’t dive as deep, which is also why they can be completed faster. That may cause complications later, especially if you want to branch out beyond a type of development.
Regardless, you’ll need to decide if you want to specialize and stick within a particular niche of the programming and development world. If you do, you can almost certainly find an online course, program, boot camp, or other software development training resource that hones your focus area.
Continue Training Indefinitely
Finally, even after your initial training is complete and you enter the job field, you’ll want to continue that training for as long as you are a developer or programmer. Why? The world is constantly evolving, and software development will always be seeing new opportunities, new subjects, and new applications. From virtual reality and cloud computing to machine learning and artificial intelligence, the digital world continues to expand.
Self-learning is a critical element of your professional growth and software development training. Don’t forget that, no matter what stage of your career you are currently in, you'll be on track for success if you keep expanding your knowledge.
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