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From Novice to Pro How To Become a PHP Developer
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From Novice to Pro: How To Become a PHP Developer

11 minute read | May 1, 2023
Sakshi Gupta

Written by:
Sakshi Gupta

Ready to launch your career?

When those who are new to tech are considering which programming language to learn first, PHP usually isn’t the language that comes to mind. But don’t let that fool you into believing that the language is outdated today. PHP is an open-source, fast, secure language that is still widely used for web development. In fact, it is the most widely used language for server-side development, and almost 80% of websites use it in some capacity. 

If you’re wading into web development, it’s possible that you’ve overlooked PHP because it’s not as glamorous as, say, a language like Python. There are also misconceptions out there about the language because of newer paradigms in programming. In this article, we’ll clear some of those misconceptions and tell you how you can cash in on lucrative openings in PHP development. 

What Does a PHP Developer Do?

PHP developers are software developers who use PHP programming to develop the back-end web application logic of websites. Along with building the backend for websites, they also collaborate with front-end developers to integrate components and connect third-party services using the PHP language. 

How To Become a PHP Developer: A 9-Step Guide

How To Become a PHP Developer A 9-Step Guide

Software development with PHP demands a range of skills. Here’s how to go about acquiring them:

  1. Learn the Fundamentals

  2. Get Educated

  3. Become Proficient in PHP

  4. Hone the Essentials Skills

  5. Get Hands-On Experience and Build a Strong Portfolio

  6. Your Network Is Your Net Worth

  7. Pursue an Internship

  8. Find a Mentor

  9. Work Toward the Job You Want

Learn the Fundamentals

First off, you should know what PHP is and what it can do. PHP is used to dictate the behavior of the web server on which your site is hosted before the web browser determines how it should be rendered in the front end. There are various languages that are used for server-side scripting, but PHP has emerged as a front-runner because of the ease of scripting and the fact that it is a platform-independent language. 

In addition to the basics of PHP, you should also understand basic website functions, database server interactions, and backend architecture. 

Get Educated

The most common way to get an education that prepares you for a career in PHP development is by completing a college degree in computer science or IT. This will give you broad exposure to areas such as software engineering, command-line scripting, database development, and building modern web applications. 

A college education is a good choice if you want to spend the time and resources to understand the theoretical basis of applied computer science. You can then focus on your PHP developer skills once you’re done. 

Another way you can go about gaining PHP developer skills is by completing a bootcamp or an online course on the topic. Even if you don’t do a PHP-specific course, a software engineering bootcamp can serve as an introduction to key concepts used in software development. These are often quite affordable and prepare students specifically to land a developer role. 

Become Proficient in PHP

Once you have a more general understanding of software development, it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty of PHP. During this phase, you should be learning advanced concepts such as the object-oriented programming paradigm, dynamic programming, and PHP frameworks. 

Another key step in this process of becoming proficient in PHP is coding applications. This is where you take all the theoretical concepts you know and apply them. Doing so will show you how the development process works, and how server-side programming fits into a development team. 

Related Read: What is Coding?

Hone the Essentials Skills

You’ll need the following mix of technical and soft skills to land a job as a PHP developer: 

Technical Skills

The following are the areas in which you require technical aptitude so that you can work as a PHP developer. 

HTML & CSS

HTML and CSS are front-end programming languages, but it’s not just front-end developers who need to know how they work. Although HTML is used to structure web pages, it’s also what constitutes the basic framework of the internet. Similarly, CSS is used to style web pages and dictate how they look. 

Server Technology

Your job as a PHP developer will be to build web servers. So, of course, it’s essential that you understand how servers work and their contribution to consumer and business applications. More specifically, you need to understand the basic client-server architecture, conceptualizing server architecture, and server technologies such as Apache and NGINX. 

Databases

Servers don’t usually function on their own. They do what they do by interacting with a database, which is why database knowledge is key for PHP developers. So you’ll need to understand the basics of database management and how languages like SQL are used to interact with databases. 

Content Management Systems (CMS)

Content management systems make it simple for laymen to upload and edit content on a website. One of the most popular applications of PHP is in building content management systems, such as the hugely popular WordPress CMS. Understanding how a CMS works can help you simplify the content management process at your company, and you can build plugins for specific use cases. 

Development Frameworks

There are various PHP frameworks that are used to simplify the development process. Laravel, CakePHP, Symfony, and FuelPHP are some of the popular ones. You should pick the framework that you work on based on the specific goals that you have for each project. 

Soft Skills

The following soft skills are essential for the typical PHP developer:

  • Collaboration: Being able to work well with the full-stack development team, front-end development team, project manager, and other stakeholders. 
  • Critical thinking: This is the ability to assess problems in a clear-headed manner and come up with appropriate situations.
  • Communication: PHP developers and developers, in general, need to be able to communicate efficiently with clients, management, and other team members. 

Get Hands-On Experience and Build a Strong Portfolio

how to become a php developer, Get Hands-On Experience and Build a Strong Portfolio

Here are a few ways you can go about enhancing your proficiency in programming PHP projects. 

Open-Source and Personal Projects

Open-source projects are a great option for PHP developers who are completely new to programming. They allow you to find out how project development is carried out since you can read the entire codebase and follow the code logic. 

You can also work on personal programming projects to practice your PHP chops. This is the more fun option since you get to decide exactly what you want to work on and can choose something you’re passionate about.  

Volunteer Work

It’s very possible that there are non-profit organizations around you looking for someone who knows their way around WordPress or can develop a CMS for them from scratch. These are instances where a PHP developer will be in demand. Volunteering is both an opportunity to learn, as well as a rewarding experience. 

Freelance Work

Freelancing is an option if you’ve already worked on some open-source or personal projects, and is a great way to build your portfolio. 

Your Network Is Your Net Worth

You can greatly increase your chances of landing a PHP developer role by networking with the right people. Here are a few avenues for that: 

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is unmatched in its reach and ease of use for professional networking. You can easily connect with a wide range of professionals in the world of web development, including other PHP developers, recruiters, and managers. Make sure that your LinkedIn profile is filled out and mentions that you’re looking out for opportunities. 

Online Communities

PHP is a language around which there is a large community of users. Here are a few communities that you should be a part of for both networking and learning about developments in the field: 

Conferences and Meetups

Meetup.com is a great place to meet PHP developers and other software professionals locally. The PHP topic on the website has over 850,000 members and almost 1,300 groups. You’re almost certainly going to find a meetup near you where you can hobnob with people in the community. 

Pursue an Internship 

It’s not the easiest thing to go straight into the workplace as a PHP developer. Internships give you the opportunity to ease into that process. You can find PHP internships in your area on most job sites and by reaching out to local companies. 

Remember that internships are an opportunity to find out how development projects work in general. So in addition to learning technical skills, don’t forget to interact with as many experienced developers as possible. You’ll pick up a lot of the tricks of the trade that will instantly put you at an advantage. 

Find a Mentor

One of the ways that you can make this whole process easier is by finding a mentor with experience developing in PHP. Finding a mentor is a process that takes time. You’ll need to make sure that you find someone who’s eager to impart their wisdom. You’ll also need to ensure that they’re able to invest the time that you need from them. 

You can find potential mentors among professors, senior colleagues, and friends and family. But before you approach the ideal candidate, make sure that you know exactly what you want out of the mentorship. This will help your potential mentor decide if they’re up to the job, and help you keep track of whether the mentorship is going in the direction that you want it to. 

Work Toward the Job You Want

Let’s take a look at how you can make moves toward that dream role. 

Tailor Your Resume to Each Job You Apply For

Recruiters are generally inundated with resumes, so tailoring your resume to the job that you’re applying to can make the recruiter’s job a lot easier. 

Before going for an interview, make sure that your resume mentions only the most relevant items. That includes background information, classes you’ve taken, and places where you’ve worked. Also, make sure that your resume is well-formatted and all of the copy is crisply written. These all contribute to a resume that is easy to glance through. 

Consider Junior Roles

When you’re early in your career, you might not get exactly the job that you want. It makes sense to adjust your expectations if that’s where you are. Remain open to junior roles and focus on gathering as much experience as possible even at companies that may not be an ideal match just yet.

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Transitioning to a Career in PHP Developer: Where To Start

Let’s find out what steps you should take transitioning into a career in PHP development from different backgrounds. 

Related Career Transition

Careers like software engineering, front-end development, and database management are all related to PHP development. You have an advantage with a background in those areas, as you already have the basic technical knowledge and experience required for a career in this area. 

If that’s where you’re at now, then you should start by building up your PHP knowledge. You already know how to build web applications, so you just need to learn how to do that with PHP too. 

Unrelated Career Transition

Making a transition into PHP development from an unrelated career is a slightly more complex process. You’ll have to basically start from scratch like someone would if they’re entering college. That means picking up all those basic PHP coding skills and building projects. 

The advantage that you do have is you know how to go about a job hunt. Make sure to let recruiters know what experience you do have and emphasize soft skills that might be relevant to the PHP development role. 

Becoming a PHP Developer: Real-Life Examples To Inspire You

Here are a couple of stories of people who became PHP developers that we can learn from. 

Julia Edwards

how to become a php developer, Julia Edwards

Julia Edwards has worked as a backend developer at AirBnB, so you know that she knows what she’s talking about when it comes to working on large-scale web systems. In this particular post, Julia goes into detail about how she went from being a computer science student to doing courses specifically to learn PHP and eventually landing a job in the industry. 

Lucas Mendes

how to become a php developer, Lucas Mendes

Lucas Mendes first meddled with PHP when he was 13 and wanted to build a web radio with his friends. He went on to become a PHP developer and has more than eight years of experience under his belt. The linked post is a great technical introduction to the language and gives readers a good understanding of the tools and frameworks that you can learn to advance in your career in PHP development.

How Much Does a PHP Developer Earn?

PHP developer has become a lucrative work profile. Let’s take a look at how much you stand to earn at different stages of your career in this field.

Entry-Level

The average salary of an entry-level PHP developer in the United States is $66,158.

how to become a php developer, entry-level php developer salary

Mid-Level

The average salary for PHP developers is just over $87,000, and that’s about what you can expect to make as a mid-level developer. 

how to become a php developer, mid-level php developer salary

Senior Level

Senior-level PHP developers have an average salary of $109,614

how to become a php developer, senior level php developer salary

Resources To Find PHP Development Jobs

Here are a few places where you can find open roles in PHP development:

Job Boards

The following job boards post openings for PHP developers: 

Network

Networking, as we’ve already said, is imperative. You can start networking with friends and family. Once you’ve done some of that, you can move on to attending events and connecting with industry professionals via LinkedIn. 

Slack Communities

Here are a few Slack communities that you should check out for PHP jobs and to interact with others who are passionate about the language: 

Becoming a PHP Developer FAQs

We’ve got the answers to your most frequently asked questions:

Is PHP Development a Good Career?

Yes, PHP development is a good career. PHP is a widely used programming language, and there’s a constant demand for developers familiar with PHP frameworks such as Laravel and Drupal.

Is PHP Development Highly Paid?

Yes, PHP developers are well-paid. The current average salary in the field is $87,708.

Do You Need a Degree To Become a PHP Developer?

You don’t necessarily need a college degree to become a PHP developer. Companies now hire candidates who have completed bootcamps or are self-taught and have a portfolio of personal projects.

Do You Need To Know High-Level Math for PHP Development?

You don’t need math knowledge for general PHP development work.

Can I Learn PHP Development on My Own?

Yes, it is possible to learn PHP development on your own. There are plenty of PHP resources available where you can learn how to code in the language yourself.

Since you’re here…
Interested in a career in software engineering? Join our mentor-led Software Engineering Bootcamp or our foundational Software Engineering Course if you’re just starting out. We help people make the switch every day (just peep our reviews). You can do it, too!

About Sakshi Gupta

Sakshi is a Managing Editor at Springboard. She is a technology enthusiast who loves to read and write about emerging tech. She is a content marketer with experience in the Indian and US markets.