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Career Focus Tip #4: Programming Careers

GUEST BLOGGER: Brian Parker, Technical Instructor: MCT, MCSE, MCTS, CCNA, CCDA, A+, Network+, Security+
Programming, sometimes known as software development or software engineering, is a very rewarding career for the right person. Remember that there is a reason that these are called programming languages: it is a little like learning a new language! Having said that, I do believe anyone can understand programming at least a little and I highly recommend technicians consider taking an introductory programming language class or two. If you like sitting in a room, staring at the computer screen for many hours every day just to solve a puzzle, then this is the right career for you! Also, with the rise of the “app” on smartphones and tablets, more people are able to take simple ideas and turn them into profitable ventures. Here are some of my top recommendations for programming languages and why:

  1. Visual Basic (VB) 
    Always my top pick, I consider VB to be the most versatile language for Windows. You can use the same language format to write system scripts using VBScript, application scripts for Office programs using VBA (Visual Basic for Applications), Web automation scripts using JavaScript, or fully-featured, stand-alone programs using Visual Studio. It is a intuitive, easy-to-use updated version of the original BASIC language (Beginner’s All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) and should be simple enough for anyone to do well in once you get the hang of programming fundamentals.
  2. C#
    Based on the original C syntax, Microsoft’s C# language is the language of choice for most hard-core programmers. It also uses a syntax similar to what you would see in Unix or Linux system scripts, making any shell scripts that much easier to work with. Other than syntax, VB and C# both retain pretty much the same power and abilities and both are available in the Visual Studio suit from Microsoft. Your choice between these two will simply be a matter of preference.
  3. Java
    Originally developed by Sun, and now owned by Oracle, Java has a similar syntax structure to C, but has a simpler object model. More importantly, it runs on the Java Virtual Machine environment which runs on any computer architecture, making this the first and most powerful cross-platform language. To translate, the same program runs on PC, Mac, Linux or whatever. It is also easy to learn and you can find online classes and compilers that are web-based, making it much more portable and less to install.
  4. Web Server Languages
    There is not one language necessarily better than others on the web, although everyone has their favorite. If you want to explore a career in web development, I recommend consider one of the above languages for main pages, but also a server scripting language such as PHP, Perl, Python, CGI, or Ruby on Rails. Oh, there are dozens more, but these are the main ones. These are not used for web pages specifically, but to script the web server running in the background.
  5. Specialized Languages
    There are hundreds of programming languages available to pick and choose from. If you consider a career in software engineering, pick an obscure one and learn it well. If you write custom programs in an obscure language, such as ADA, RPG, or F#, the chances are greater of the customer coming back to you for support since it will be difficult to find another programmer. Additionally, there are older programming languages such as COBOL, DOS, and Delphi which may still be in implantation and need programmers.
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