The standard way of learning to program is to get admission into a college and get a degree in computer science. However, there are many who can never make it to college, despite having the skills and the talent for analytical thinking. I have written this article for those of you who never went to college but have discovered the beauty of programming and would like to master it on your own. This is possible today as Internet and the open source movement has created a programming culture online, which can guide you in the process. With self discipline and persistence, you can teach yourself programming and enjoy writing your own software. Not only is it a great way to exercise your mind, who knows, you might even make money, by selling your own software one day or find employment with software firms, if you get really good at it.
How to Learn Computer Programming Without a College Degree?
Computer science is a tough field to master, but it can give you the most enjoyable and creative experiences ever. Here are a few guidelines on how to become a computer programmer.
Learn Programming Languages
Firstly, get hold of a desktop or laptop computer, which enables you to read and execute your programs. Programing is all about learning to communicate with your computer hardware to accomplish various computing tasks. Computer only understands machine language, written in 1s and 0s. For us humans, to communicate with computers, programing languages were created, whose code can be converted into machine readable form by compilers. There are a range of programing languages which vary in their applications and power. You will have to learn at least a dozen essential programming languages, which includes C, C++, Java, Perl, Lisp and Python.
To get your computer programing basics right, start learning C or Python at the start. Use online resources and the hundreds of good books on programming to get the basics. Install the compilers that the language requires for writing code and execute it on your computer. Work through examples and problems provided in books and online tutorials, to write your own code. One of the best books to start learning C is 'Programming in C' by Dennis Ritchie and Brian Kernighan. Another good book is Programing in C by Kochan.
Start Writing Code
The best way to learn is to practice what you have learned. Write your own code, make mistakes, learn how to debug code. Participate in coding competitions and test your programming skills. Get hold of open source software, read the code and understand how good programs are written. Learn how master programmers achieve economy of code and the logical clarity that makes great programs. Get to know your computer and the hardware basics. Learn how the computer works at the basic levels with memory and processors.
Learn to Run Linux or Unix
You cannot call yourself a programmer until you have mastered using Linux and Unix operating systems. Install a Linux distribution like Ubuntu on your computer and tinker around with it. It will provide you with all the programing tools you need, along with compilers.
Apprentice Expert Programmers
Let expert programmers take you under their wing. Find a good mentor who is ahead on the path of becoming a master computer programmer. Take advice and learn from them.
Read Code, Write Code and Keep Improving
Keep writing your own piece of computer code and keep thinking on how you could improve it. Join the open source movement and analyze the anatomy of good programs. Pick up your domain of expertise and go deep. Remember that there is always room for improvement!