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How to make a career out of programming starting from scratch

Meira Leah
Greenhorn

Joined: Jul 27, 2003
Posts: 1
Hi everyone. I'm new here and I'm hoping what looks like a completely foreign language will start to make sense. I need to enter a new career field because the work I used to do is no longer in demand. Computer programming seems to be in demand and I'd like to go back to school to learn something that is marketable. I have no idea why one would pick Java over C++ or anything else and was wondering if someone could share prospective. I already have a BA, albeit a liberal arts degree and don't relish four more years of college. If I got a certification, which do you think is most likely to be marketable? And do you think that's worth anything in today's market with so many competitors overseas, in India in particular. Can one make a living starting with a certification? Can anyone advise on some sort of career path? Any advice would be much appreciated. Thank you.
Andres Gonzalez
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 27, 2001
Posts: 1561
Welcome to javaranch meira
If I got a certification, which do you think is most likely to be marketable?
I think it depends on where you like to head. If you like microsoft, C# (the "new" microsoft programming language) can be a good starting point. If you like Java, then SCJP is a good starting point.
This post gives you an idea of the main technologies around and how the market is going on.
And do you think that's worth anything in today's market with so many competitors overseas, in India in particular.
Of course it is worth the effort (even though you find many people here that don't agree with my point of view). If you are finding a lot of competition (we're all finding it), then you've got to be competitive. If you sit around and let the others be more competitive, then you're toast
Can one make a living starting with a certification?
No. Certification does not ensure you anything. Just because you are certified doesn't mean you will receive hundreds of phone calls from recruiters. Again, you're probably more competitive, giving you better chances of finding what you like to do.
If you're starting from scratch with programming then you have a long way to go (but again, you better start studying rather than sitting on the couch thinking whether you should start or not). buy some books, understand the concepts and.. hmm good luck , we're all here doing the same.
my $0.02
[ July 27, 2003: Message edited by: Andres Gonzalez ]

I'm not going to be a Rock Star. I'm going to be a LEGEND! --Freddie Mercury
Alton Hernandez
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 30, 2003
Posts: 443

I have no idea why one would pick Java over C++ or anything else and was wondering if someone could share prospective.

I think that a person's choice of programming language is a matter of style. If someone finds one programming language more intuitive than the other then that someone would probably prefer that language. Of course, the situation at work is very different. The chosen programming language for a project depends on a lot of factors, one of them could be the mood of your boss.

If I got a certification, which do you think is most likely to be marketable?

I have seen statistics based on the the no. of job postings which put Java way up there. So this might be a good indication how marketable Java is.

Can one make a living starting with a certification?

With no intention of discouraging you, I doubt that a certification would be enough - but it is a start. In a very bad job market, there are people out there looking for work that have certifications and n years of experience. Its hard to compete with them with just a certification.

Can anyone advise on some sort of career path?

Well, if you think you will like programming, and you have not done any programming before, you can actually start with any programming languages. What is important is you gain the basic understanding of programming.
In my opinion, I would suggest learning the following 3 languages:
1. C
This is my first language so I am a bit biased. But I find that C is just right there. It is not low-level like Assembly where you need to think in physical memory address. And it is not high-level where you don't need to think at all - where almost everything is done for you.
2. Python
Python, like Java, is OO. It is also interpretive which makes it very easy to use, and you can experiment very quickly with your programs. But mind you that it is very different from C or Java.
3. Java
I think from Java you will gain a good understanding of OO, which is not very obvious in Python and lacking in C. It also has a very good architecture, and of course popular.
Hope this helps.
Valentin Crettaz
Gold Digger
Sheriff

Joined: Aug 26, 2001
Posts: 7610
Moving this to Job Discussion. Please continue this discussion there. Thank you


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Billy Tsai
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 23, 2003
Posts: 1297
forget IT do something else instead, get into the commerce sector or something ,get a conjoint degree in commerce like marketing finance, economics,statistics,management etc...
there is no much future in IT


BEA 8.1 Certified Administrator, IBM Certified Solution Developer For XML 1.1 and Related Technologies, SCJP, SCWCD, SCBCD, SCDJWS, SCJD, SCEA,
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Jessica Lang
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 23, 2002
Posts: 61
Hi Billy,
It seems d sky is really GLOOMY on your side eh? What I can suggest is to be patient and stay strong.....d sky will turn lighter one day...
Stephen Pride
Ranch Hand

Joined: Sep 14, 2000
Posts: 121
Originally posted by Billy Tsai:
forget IT do something else instead, get into the commerce sector or something ,get a conjoint degree in commerce like marketing finance, economics,statistics,management etc...
there is no much future in IT

In a way, I agree with this poster. I would opt for something in the medical field right now (nursing?). IMHO, the tech industry will once again pick up, but be nothing like it was during the "dot-com boom" years. But if your are keen to programming, I would suggest knowing the basics first: data structures, discrete math, et al. I would concurrently learn a couple of programming languages such as C, C++ and/or Java. If your prgoramming is more web centric, I would also look into D/HTML, Javascript and XML. Its probably a lot all at once, but never, Never, NEVER choose only one path (ie, one programming language, one methodology, one design pattern). Afterward, you can excel at one or more, but always keep your proverbial eggs in more than one basket. In my 17 years in the computer industry, I have been on countless projects that require knowing just about the same number of programming languages.


SCJP
shay Aluko
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 01, 2002
Posts: 167
Originally posted by Meira Leah:
Hi everyone. I'm new here and I'm hoping what looks like a completely foreign language will start to make sense. I need to enter a new career field because the work I used to do is no longer in demand. Computer programming seems to be in demand and I'd like to go back to school to learn something that is marketable. I have no idea why one would pick Java over C++ or anything else and was wondering if someone could share prospective. I already have a BA, albeit a liberal arts degree and don't relish four more years of college. If I got a certification, which do you think is most likely to be marketable? And do you think that's worth anything in today's market with so many competitors overseas, in India in particular. Can one make a living starting with a certification? Can anyone advise on some sort of career path? Any advice would be much appreciated. Thank you.

Hi , since you already have degree why don't you go for a master's degree in computer science or information systems, a lot of colleges offer bridge programs
where you take introductory computer science/info system classes and then you "bridge over" to the computer field proper. I did it, i have a mechanical engineering background--i did little programming till i started the degree. I know the notion of a degree is hard but at times it may be the only viable way to get your foot in the door. If you excel the degree you definitely give yourself a good chance since the best way to get an entry-level job is usually through college.
Jessica Lang
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 23, 2002
Posts: 61
Hmmm...seems like d skies r pretty gloomy for more IT people. Is the programmer market's real bad in d States?
Thomas White
Ranch Hand

Joined: Feb 01, 2003
Posts: 32
Meira,
Like Shay said you might want to consider going straight into a master's program. I'm doing that right now. I have a b.a in psych but am getting a master's in comp. sci. Of course, I had to do some math and cs prereq.s but not as many as I would getting another bachelor's(I get to skip things like chem. and physics)
As far as languages to start with:
From my experience and that of many people I know, java is a good language to start with. Its very similar to C and C++ but you don't have to worry about all the pointer and memory allocation stuff.
Thomas
Carlisia Campos
sanitation engineer
Ranch Hand

Joined: Aug 22, 2001
Posts: 135
And if you go to a Masters in CS, you would learn tons about the basic theory that's required for programming, such as data structures, in addition to some languages and other good stuff. Maybe you should take a course in programming to see if you like it first. If you're artistic, you can learn how to design websites with flash, javascript and other technologies. But if you want a career in a field that has, and will have for a long time, a big demand, you should try a career as a nurse or another health care path. Unless you want to get into nano-technologies or quantum computing... those will be hot even by the time you come up to speed with the required knowledge base.


Carlisia Campos<br />--------------------------------<br />i blog here: carlisia.com
Tony Collins
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 03, 2003
Posts: 435
You'd be mad going into Software Engineering. I have 2 MSc's in the subject and 7 years experience yet I've been unemployed for a year.
It's not your outlook or grey skys etc, just no jobs at the moment.
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Hi Meira, welcome to JavaRanch. Most people in this forum tend to be pretty down on the whole job market. Be sure to survey a larger audiance then just who you find here.
Unlike most people here, I am very bullish on the IT market. I don't think offshoring is the death knell for out industry. I've also been around long enough to know that what we say in the late 90s comes long about once in a generation.
Ask yourself why you want to go into IT (which is different then why you want to leave your current profession). It's important that you go into it for the right reasons. (Money, btw isn't a good reason. While software developers traditionally have high starting salaries, they also tend to cap out early in their careers.)
Given that that you do want to go into IT, keep the following in mind.
Certs != jobs. If you search this forum on "SCJP" and/or "certification" you'll find many discussion about whether or not they have value.
I'd jump onto to C#. There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people with more Java experience then you. You can get an edge being early into C#.
Focus, focus, focus. There are plenty of out of work developers. They all have more experience then you. You need to have an edge in a particular domain: finance, medicince, CRM, supply-chain, accounting, whatever. Find an industry and focus, preferably one where you have experience.
Finally, consider IT consulting. There's no question that the consulting market isn't so hot right now, but I think that, too, will pick up. Consulting firms regularly take liberal arts majors and train them (although usually mostly right out of college). IT consultants generally aren't as technically strong, but have better business skills. I suspect that's where you, too, might have an advantage over many straight up tech people.
Good luck.
--Mark
Jonathan Hendry
Ranch Hand

Joined: Aug 16, 2003
Posts: 32
Mark writes: "I've also been around long enough to know that what we say in the late 90s comes long about once in a generation."
Late 90's? I'd be happy if things were as good as in the mid-90s, before the Internet boom really hit, before the VCs went on methadone drips, and before the Y2K binge.
Things don't feel that way now, and there's no obvious sign of improvement. The trend in the US looks pretty negative.
An anecdote from Tim Bray:
http://www.tbray.org/ongoing/When/200x/2003/08/21/HiringTech
In brief: his brother ran a job ad for a low-paying university computer lab admin job: "a public-access/education computer lab with a couple dozen machines, and they need someone to configure the Internet and LAN and keep things ticking along and do education."
No salary was mentioned in the ad. These ads, the brother says, usually get 8-20 responses.
"I have 136 responses as of this afternoon... Most of these guys are fairly heavily qualified network engineers with major certifications all over their resumes, tons with heavy programming experience, and so on and so on. Over half with B.Sc.s maybe 15 with Masters, and even two Ph.D.s. ... I knew times were tough, but holy shit batman. You can pick a pretty heavy network guy for like $12/hour nowadays, I mean I didn�t list salary but they�re so desperate that they are advertising to me how low they'll go."
 
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