How to Become a Software Developer: The Top 6 Myths Holding You Back

Fundamentally, to learn how to become a software developer is the same as to pursue any career path: hard work will truly determine success, not talent. But despite this undeniable truth, society continues to misconceive software development to be an industry exclusive to particularly niche personas: the geek, the math whiz, the prodigy! These are dangerous misconceptions that often deter everyday people, with ample potential for success, from pursuing careers as programmers. Well, it’s time to put an end to these fallacies, and by the end, we hope you can make a more educated decision about a possible career in coding and the next step in learning how to become a software developer. Read on to learn the 6 most common myths that misrepresent this lucrative career opportunity.

MYTH #1: I need to be a genius to become a developer

Learn more about how to become a software developer and how a good program can help you.

REALITY: Anyone can learn how to become a software developer

Software engineers, developers, devs, programming architects – whatever you wish to call them – are not geniuses. Like members of any industry, their skillfulness lies on a spectrum from excellent to poor. On the good side, you will find programmers with either remarkable talent or work ethic, maybe both; and on the bad side, well you can imagine. But on any point of this spectrum, good or bad, you will find ordinary people, just like you. Because to get into this industry, everyone follows the same path: learning the technology and theory, and then implementing the learning through projects until mastery is achieved. That’s all there is to it. No one is more “destined” to become a software developer than you, and vice versa.


MYTH #2: Learning to code is like learning brain surgery!

Student learning to code - learn how to become a software developer at a Coding Dojo bootcamp.

REALITY: Learning to code is easy, mastering it is hard.

In addition to computer science theory, you of course need to learn how to code to in order to become a software developer. But don’t worry, it’s not brain surgery; in fact it’s not even rocket science.

Learning to code is not as hard as most people think. Fundamentally, to code is to talk to a computer, but in a special language, such as PHP, Javascript, or Ruby. As a software engineer your job is to talk to the computer and give it tasks to perform, such as building a website. To build the website, the computer requires the developer to meticulously write–out a list of step–by–step instructions – mini tasks to accomplish a overarching task. As you can imagine, the initial tasks are easy to describe: “Computer, make my website interface 1000px wide!” But as these basic tasks increase in quantity, and begin to amplify in complexity, this step–by–step list of mini tasks starts to become more convoluted and strenuous. (Imagine how many mini tasks are required to build!) This is how software development works: it’s a highly sophisticated form of communication between a person and a computer, which is easy to learn at the start, but arduous to master at later stages. But for someone new to programming, if they can communicate with others, they can learn to code. The first step is to learn the special languages that only the computer understands.


MYTH #3: I need a college degree to know how to become a software developer

Computer science graduates

REALITY: Programmers without degrees are more common than you think

Believe it or not, but there’s a significant population of software developers in the tech–industry who are self-taught, and to this day, still don’t have formal degrees. This is because computer programming is a trade, and it can be taught in the same manner that someone can learn how to use Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator. Of course, when first starting out this person isn’t a full–fledged programmer or graphic designer, but they know how to use the tools, which is suffice to get a job. Once they land a job, they build a portfolio and begin to master their trade. This is precisely how self–taught programmers find success, and even many graphic designers. Additionally, many programming technologies such as PHP are extensively documented online and are enthusiastically supported by the online community, which further promotes opportunities for self–taught coding.

Furthermore, the rise of the coding bootcamp industry in the U.S. proves that a college degree is not required to learn how to become a software developer. Although a degree certainly carries more weight, this doesn’t devalue the coding bootcamp experience; both routes are effective stepping-stones to kick–start a career in software development. Contrary to many misconceptions, the goal of a coding bootcamp is not to gain comparable coding skills to a 20–year veteran, which is an impossible feat. The goal is to graduate with ample coding experience to land a job in the tech–industry ­– an accomplishment attained by our Coding Dojo alumni and other coding bootcamp graduates many times over. This career path is parallel to that of a computer science graduate from a 4–year university. Although more reputable than attending a coding bootcamp, the CS degree is still fundamentally a tool to get a job in the tech–industry. But after landing the job, work experience and a portfolio will ultimately decide future career prospects, less so an alma mater or degree. So do you absolutely need a degree to pursue a career computer programming? The answer is an explicit “no”.


MYTH #4: I need serious math skills to learn how to become a software developer

You don't need to be a math whiz to be a programmer

REALITY: Success as a programmer and math proficiency are not directly correlated

To be a full–time programmer is not to be a gifted mathematician. You don’t need to know how to calculate the slope of an orthogonal trajectory to know how to code. Actually, you don’t have to even know what this means. To learn how to become a software developer, you need to know basic algebra and practice strong problem–solving skills. Other than these two prerequisites, the degree of math you need to know is highly dependent on the project you are working on. For example, if you’re designing user interfaces with a front–end framework like twitter bootstrap, you’ll barely use any math – at a minimum, you need to be able to count pixels. In contrast, if the project specifically requires certain mathematical functionality, then yes, you will absolutely need to know some math. Overall, you don’t need to know advanced math to become a programmer; but if you end–up having to use it, it’s due to either the nature of your employer or the project that landed on your desk, not the career as a whole.


MYTH #5: Knowing the ‘best’ programming language will accelerate my journey to learning how to become a software developer.

C# versus PHP versus Ruby. Learn how to become a software developer at coding dojo.

Most developers learn multiple software languages and technologies.

REALITY: There is no ‘best’ language to learn.

The requirements of a project will determine the ‘best’ programming language to use, and even then, you will need to use multiple languages to complete a project. This is because many languages work together, not against each other. Each language has an intended purpose within a given project. For example, Javascript is historically a front–end language intended for UI development; meanwhile, PHP is a back–end language intended for back–end development. You may not know what this means precisely, but the bottom line is that comparing certain languages is like comparing a hammer to a screwdriver: they are designed for different tasks but together achieve a common goal.

In addition to working together, some programming languages are comparable and may essentially supply the same functionality: PHP is comparable to other back–end languages such as Java, Perl, or Ruby. However, this fundamental commonality doesn’t precisely equate to PHP being easily substitutable by Java, Perl, or Ruby. Similarly, weighing comparable programming languages is like comparing Chinese to Spanish: they share insightful similarities but at the same time, critical differences. For brevity’s sake, here’s a great article on the topic that compares PHP versus Ruby.

In summary, learning the ‘best’ programming language is not your secret ingredient to become a software developer. As you contemplate a career in programming, disregard this trivial curiosity, and focus on getting your feet wet: start playing with code in order to learn the basics and fundamentals. Completing a mini–personal project is often the best source for motivation, and will ultimately decide which language to start with. And as your ability to program advances and knowledge expands, you will gradually discover the intricacies of each language and further understand why there is no ‘best’ programming language in the industry. For now, just start coding as soon as possible.


MYTH #6: It is too late for me to become a developer.

Coding bootcamp students and alumni

REALITY: It’s never too late to change careers!

The Coding Dojo student body debunks this myth a hundred times over. Students within our coding boot camp come from all backgrounds and age groups. And by the end of our 12–week programming course, they are able to find jobs as full stack web developers. We’ve transformed an Alaskan fisherman into a web application developer at JP Morgan, taken seasoned software engineers and taught them new technologies that they were unable to learn at work or on their own, and we’ve helped unemployed professionals accelerate their career transitions. Regardless of prior experience, the path to become a software developer is open to anyone whom aspires to take it. The only prerequisite is a relentless will to succeed. Our staff has witnessed our students complete this journey many times over, and so can you.

The bottom line…
You have always had what it takes to learn how to become a software developer

Now that you’ve seen the truth behind the myths, hopefully, you can shrug off some of your doubts and find the confidence to potentially pursue a career in computer programming. As cliché as it may sound, if you put the time and effort in, there’s no reason you can’t succeed. Now the only thing left is for you to get up and take the first step.

Will you be a self–taught developer, attend a 14–week coding bootcamp, or will you sign–up for college? Whichever path you take, with the right mindset you’re sure to find success.

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68 thoughts on “How to Become a Software Developer: The Top 6 Myths Holding You Back

  1. Good article
    I was able to decide that I am capable to become a programmer
    Thanks alot

  2. Wow!, this is a very good article,you’ve really opened my heart to achieving my dream to being a programmer with these tips. I can now deal with that “monster” (coding).

  3. Well, thanks for the articles,its great but for 4 years of studying different programming languages, still i feel like I got no stocks of knowledge at all.

  4. Amazing Tips Sir
    Thank You For Sharing this Article
    Really this is awesome tips sir thanks for guiding me

  5. I really like that you said that anyone can learn to code. I have been thinking about becoming a software engineer after I heard about the recent improvements in artificial intelligence software. I was worried that I would not be able to code, but now I know that I can do it.

  6. i m graduated in art but i want to make my career as a software doveloper.
    i have no idea how can i get goal. pleas tell me way step by step
    i hope you can understand my problem. help me

  7. I understand some simple syntax of php and I have take it up to work on php for years before changing language. What I don’t understand is getting the logic done. In the first place, I can think on how to solve the problem but executing it is the problem. Do I need to read books on logic or what can I do to solve this.

    Need help. I spent hours on PC.

  8. You have shared great article and the stories that will give us an inspiration to have a motivation to pursue what we love to do. Thank you for sharing!

  9. Very helpful article you have and I know that you help me a lot of things. Thank you for the great job you well done.

  10. Anyone that can learn to speak, read and write in their native language can learn how to write code; however, the act of speaking in and of itself does not guarantee any ability to communicate effectively and eloquently. To be eloquent and effective at communication you have to understand syntax, semantics, interpretation and context. Some people can do this naturally in fact the best communicators do, but they do so because they are gifted and can infer the underlying theory without being formally trained in it. Writing code is the same you can teach anyone how to write simple sentences, but very few of those simple sentence writers will be able to become software engineers without going back an learning all of theory (math, formal logic, formal languages). So while I agree with you in that all that is really required is hard work if you do not have the interest or the innate ability to learn the theory getting into programming will be hard on you and harder on the rest of us that have to fix your bad code.

  11. I can teach myself anything with enough time there are plenty of resources. My only worry is that without a degree an employer won’t look at you twice. I’m a former foster kid I can’t afford college but I love learning and all I wa t is to be successful. If I could afford it I would try to go to MIY but I have no money just a decent computer with an Internet connection. If I gain the technical skills with no degree is it really possible?

  12. This is a terribly misleading article written by someone who obviously has no experience in software development. What is even worse is the number of gullible people in this comment section who were taken in by it.

  13. Are you kidding me, the author seems to be pushing BS for her own benefit. Now I know why the past 10 years have generated the worse software in history.

  14. I finished bs computer science in Philippines. When I immigrated to Canada my education is not credited so I changed career to nursing. Few months ago I moved here in the US and I was trying to get back into programming. May I know your recommendation to which programming language is easy to learn at this point and will land me a job as software developer in the future? Then continue my education further more in this career. I am looking at java, python, php at this time. which of this languages is the easiest to understand and code. Need help to get back in this career path. Thanks!

  15. Hello
    I am a 11th standard student studying in Kota for the preparation of IIT but I am unable to score good in coaching tests.
    And I can’t study too much but I have too much skills and interests in computer as you said that degree is not that important so should I keep my studies to the side and start giving my all time to computers.
    And I also have a great business idea for future after getting experience of 7 to 10years of job in any company.
    Please help me I am eagerly waiting for your reply.

  16. I agree with most of the points of the article, that these things should not hold anyone back from trying out programming or even attempting to make a career out of it. However, I think qualities such as being good at math, lend itself particularly to programming (the ability to think through logical steps to solve problems). If you are bad at math, you will probably struggle at programming.

    Also, I’m going to call BS on emerging a full-stack developer from a 12-week course (unless we have different definitions of full-stack developer). That’s not possible, unless you’re some kind of prodigy. Related to that, I think that your point about there being no best language and the explanation that follows is misleading. Yeah, you can learn flow control, loops, etc. (SUPER basic concepts) in any language, but certain languages (C++ for example) lend themselves understanding how to best write code and what it does (e.g. memory management or types), whereas other languages are designed for ease of writing code (PHP). C++ forces you to learn to write efficient code that does what you intend, whereas PHP tends in the other direction. Maybe there’s not a “best” language, but there are better ones when it comes to learning to write efficient code that won’t have unintended consequences.

  17. Your myths are well guiding and enlighten,am very much interested in coding/becoming a software developer but i live in Nigeria i’ll like to know any trainning center in Nigeria.

  18. Hi i studying in final year MCA(Computer Application) i not so good in programming but relatively no so bad. how can i become stronger in coding.

  19. What you would say about learning algorithms. We need some intelligence to understand and create complex algorithms.
    Otherwise , all the points are true and helpful. Thanks

  20. In reference to Myth # 3 you don’t need a university degree – I’m proof of that. Was a software developer with just some college classes but no degree when I started over 10 years ago. However, to stay in the field you will need to keep learning new languages and constantly upgrading your technical knowledge throughout the life of your career. This is definitely not a profession where you can thrive, or even survive, by learning just a defined, static set of skills. You may not have a university degree to start, but you will constantly be learning and refining your knowledge. If you stay in it long enough you will participate in more learning than those who earn doctorate degrees. To make it in this profession you need to have a healthy thirst for intellectual growth, and a high tolerance for change. If you are – then this is an exciting, challenging, and VERY rewarding career.

  21. Myth#6: Its too late for me to become a developer.
    REALITY: Its never to late to change careers .
    ME: OK now i can Start it later without any hesitation . Because there is enough time to change career………….

  22. This is encouraging people who are weak in mathematics.I’m feared about mathematics in high school so i did’nt taken science stream.But now i’m decided that i will be study the digree related to software development.Thank you.

  23. You know what I know “HTML”, and I’ve always wanted to take a step forward to the next language I put my brain to. Like this blog has said only thing holding me back is me, so I’m going to let myself in and start taking the first step on learning a new language! Sometimes it takes the universe to lead you in the right direction. Thanks for posting this blog! If it wasn’t for reading this I would be sitting on my butt looking through Facebook.


  24. I want to be a game developer. I know computer languages like C and C++ and currently i am learning Java by myself.
    But i am still not sure what other skills or courses i should take to be able to be a complete game developer.

  25. I’m new to coding (less than 2 months) and can anyone tell me how many years of training/practice it will take for a beginner like myself to be able to land a job?

  26. Well said.. All points made are valid. Aspiring Software engineers like me should read this. This is the plain truth. For some people, the reality of becoming a software engineer has been halted by stereotypes such as “strong maths skills needed to learn how to code”. Although a strong proficiency in maths and abstract thinking would give an upper hand in solving complex coding problems, as you rightly said, they are not directly correlated. Some people require more time in mastering the art of coding and solving complex problems. In this regard, patience and perseverance is key. Thanks for your post once again. I’m sharing this on social media.

  27. I am 13 but this article will suerly help me in the future because i am planing on making this my profession in the future who ever wrote this article thanks alot ☺☺☺☺

  28. Really good article! In fact, I recently wrote a book on how to become an expert software engineer, and yeah, you definitely don’t need to be a genius, you don’t need a degree, and it really is never too late to become a software engineer (even an expert one!).

    The aim of my book is to introduce people to the world of free and open source software development as a means of acquiring new skills and gaining focused, real world work experience.

    It’s called: “How to Become an Expert Software Engineer (and Get Any Job You Want)”. I’d love to hear what you thought of it.

  29. I agree completely on this. I’ve been an iOS developer for 1 year and even though I love math, I completely forgot almost all of it out of high school. You don’t really need math to be a good programmer. But what you do need is logic, and that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be a genius.

  30. The best programmers I’ve ever worked with are self-taught. You can be a strong programmer without taking high-level calculus courses or even being good at “math”. As others have mentioned, programming is more about understanding concepts and logic, so if you can train your brain to think about problems conceptually you’ll do just fine.

    On the other hand, I will mention that if you’re considering a software engineering degree from a university, there will be LOTS of required math courses. In today’s formal education environment, there’s really no way to avoid it. Fortunately you don’t need a software engineering degree to be a programmer though 🙂

  31. Actually you do have to know a lot of math to be a great, world-class programmer. Now, a web developer is an entirely different story. In the age where McDonalds workers are called “sandwich engineers”, I guess anything goes. Now excuse me, I’ll go teach my dog some JavaScript…

  32. This article really shatters so much the mystery behind software development. It is very encouraging.

  33. Hello “Coding Dojo” group what system software (compiler, operating system etc …) you people are developed. What is the name of your Own New Programming Language and compiler ?? “University course designers are foolish”. Remove all computer science degree courses from All University and Engineering colleges and tell them not to offer computer science degree courses because you people are proved that a software developer doesn’t required computer science degree. My dear friends no need to invest your money to get a Computer science degree from any University. Get a certificate from “COding DOjo” and become a software developer and develop own operating system and own system software.

    Only HTML 5 is enough to build a simple website……………. “Coding Dojo” you people are teaching how to develop a website but not “how to develop a OS, compiler etc…”

  34. this article was so helpful. For a long time I believed these myths and let them keep me from satisfying my curiousity about how code and everything works. I’ve been learning about code the last few months but feeling like an imposter because I still believed a lot of these myths. This article was very reassuring and enlightening and gave me hope that I can one day have learned enough to call myself a programmer and maybe get paid to be a web developer.

  35. Ok that’s great. I’m so happy after reading this article. From my childhood till now I always wanna be developer. I love computer science. I understand it very well more than anything. Now everything is clear to me. That I don’t need any organized university’s certificate to be a developer. Thank you whoever wrote this article. It’s very helpful.

  36. Are you serious? An engineer needs to understand all of them. Theese are not myths they are the truths.

    Simple web programmer is not an software engineer.

  37. As a professional software developer with over 30 years of experience, this article seriously misrepresents real software development.

    Yes, you don’t need a degree. I don’t have one (but I also started writing software when I was 10 years old). And yes, you can suck at advanced math. I do. It’s about logic more than math, but you absolutely must be solid in algebra.

    But as for the difficulty, sure, anyone can learn a little java or php and throw together a basic app. That’s no big deal. That’s not software development. That’s like calling someone who can make hard boiled eggs a chef.

    True software development isn’t just science, it’s very much an art as well. And to do it professionally, you don’t just need to be a good software developer, you need to be good at a lot of things. Almost every job I’ve had has been in a different industry. When I worked for a cellular network consulting company, I had to learn about RF Engineering, when I worked for a poultry company I had to learn about the chicken business, when I worked for a trucking company, I had to learn about trucking, etc. There are few careers that require you to learn a great deal of detail about entire fields when you change jobs. Professional software development does.
    Finally, if you don’t love it, stay away from it, because it will make you absolutely miserable. Every single software developer I know who got in it for the money didn’t stay in it and was miserable the entire time the were in it.

  38. The mystery that software development is rocket science has been demystified by this article…lace up you shoes buddies!!!

  39. I started programming in 1982 and I still feel like a beginner. If I were to start now this would help immensely.
    This article is great.

  40. Great article. Debunks a lot of common myths, another I’d like to be brought up is the prevalence of “ageism” in this field. Reality or myth?

  41. Very well done. It really unraveled my long-had myth/question of “You have to be a genius to become a programmer”. This definitely gives me hope that I can possibly do programming. Thank you so much.

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