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Hey everyone, I'm here to ask for opinions and advice more then anything. I'm 18-a senior in high school. I would really like to move into my own apartment after I graduate. This is for personal reasons, but please note I want this for a reason other then the stereotypical "rebellious teenager wants to get away from his family," for anyone who was concerned or unwilling to help for that reason :P. Anywho, on to the matter at hand! I would like to learn some web-based language so I can do this because, obviously, a minimum wage job would not really be able to support me fully. And besides that, I have an interest in web development. With all this in mind, is PHP development a good place to head? Or would something like Freelance web development, JS, or SQL be better? How long would it take to fully learn PHP (or another language) if I dedicate ~5 hours a night to learning it? Do you think anyone would hire me if I built a good portfolio and gave them my "personal reasons," despite the fact that I have no degree? Any help would really be appreciated =]

And of course, thank you all in advance for any help! :D

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Last Post by grekos
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Hi Greg and welcome to Daniweb.

Some observations for you:

  • Getting your own place, getting a job and learning web development are all separate items that might not be tied together. It might be ideal for you if they all came together (quickly) but that might not be realistic, at least in the short-term.
  • Depending on your time-frame to move out, a minimum-wage job may be all that you can find so you may need to plan based on that. I don't want to be a pessimist but people with college educations are taking minimum-wage jobs in some cases because they can't find anything else.
  • There are a lot of people with some amount of software / web development training, knowledge and experience. There are also people in third world countries with very good training and skills who can be hired online. Compared to what we expect to be paid in North America or Europe, they work cheap. I mention this because they would also be part of your competition.
  • Before trying to use web development as your ticket to an independent life style, I think that you need to determine if it is something that you enjoy and if you have the natural ability and personality to be good at it. You can start small by learning some HTML and CSS and creating some web pages. Once (if!) that is going well, you can start dabbling in PHP and databases (followed by using javascript tools like JQuery).
  • PHP is probably a good choice if you proceed down the path that you have suggested. It is widely used so there are job opportunities. You need to look at your local job market to see if many jobs are being advertised for PHP and what they are specifically looking for. You may find that some of the ads read like alphabet soup because they want knowledge and experience in a broad range of technologies. Most companies (especially small ones who might be prepared to take a chance on you at some point) want you to be productive right away. They don't want to spend a lot of time training you.
  • Even with a dedicated effort, the time required to learn everything that you need to know and to build a portfolio of accomplishments and references is probably going to be measured in years, not weeks or months.
  • When you get to the point of applying for a job, you will probably be competing with people who have college or university degrees and training and maybe some people with less training but more work experience. The natural inclination for an employer is to take the one with formal training rather than the person who tried the do-it-yourself approach. Your portfolio will need to be impressive to give you a decent chance.

I hope that this helps even though it may not be what you wanted to hear. If you are realistic about this, then you can avoid false hopes and make a plan that has a good chance of succeeding. Even though it isn't a mandatory requirement, getting some formal training will probably work to your advantage. It will be more difficult to do that once you move out and have to support yourself so consider the long-term as well as the short-term.

Best of luck.

Votes + Comments
Great post
Very helpful, honest post. Made me think a little more realisticly then I previously was.
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I really appreciate the answer, thank you =] Would a certificate up my fortune at all? Or would it really be all for naught?

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Education doesn't come with any guarantees but it might expedite your learning and it can be helpful in giving you credibility with a potential employer. Also remember that you might need to start somewhere else in order to get to where you want to be. In the IT industry, there are many different kinds of jobs so you could potentially start somewhere else even if your longer-term intent was to become a programming guru. There are networking, help-desk, computer operations, quality-control testing and various other kinds of jobs that may be available. They also need people who can do more mundane jobs like pulling cables through raised floors. Some of these types of jobs only exist in bigger companies so again you need to look at the ads and see what is available in your area. Doing something that's easier to get into while taking some (programming?) classes at night could be a combination that works.

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Well thank you again for all your advice =] I have some thinking to do. If I wanted an IT job at a help desk or the like, would the be more possible despite the fact that I have no degree?

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Before you tackle any scripting language, it is necessary to understand HTML/CSS first. Really learning a language can take years. I'm going to school at the Art Institutes for web design :)

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It might be easier to get into some other kind of role first. You need to do some research. If you see some other types of jobs advertised and it isn't clear what sort of training and experience they require, don't be afraid to give them a call and ask. As per Ardav's question, part of your thinking needs to be about your long-term vs short-term interests. Where do you want to be in 5 or 10 years in terms of a career? If jumping into the work force immediately doesn't get you there, then you might want to reconsider your priorities. Some people like Steve Jobs are good enough (and impatient enough) that they can be successful without having a university degree behind them. For most of us, not having a degree can be a serious career limitation.

Edited by chrishea: n/a

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I would definitely master HTML, CSS, and probably JavaScript before moving to a programming language like PHP. Once you've learned those, I think that PHP is a great start. Also, you'd probably want to look at learning SQL.

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Ah, thank you all for the responses and apologies for the slow response. I've delved quite a bit into HTML and CSS, to get that out there. I really like it so far. Also, I am most definitely furthering my education, I just have a desire to move into my own apartment when I graduate. To do this I will probably need a job that pays at least a little above minimum wage, thus (responding to Chris's reply) something as simple as an IT job could do the trick. If that would allow for eventual advancement into web development of some form (pre-degree), then I would undoubtedly take that path. If it is at all possible for me to skip right to a PHP, JS, or SQL developer position, then I would be ecstatic. Thank you all for all the information/advice/opinions. If anyone else has any advice for me, I'll leave this thread as "unsolved" for the remainder of the day. Thank you all, again. I sincerely appreciate it =]

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