How Long It Will Take To Learn PHP – An in-Depth Guide


If you are looking into becoming a PHP developer you might wonder how long it will take. The time it will take to learn PHP is a function of your starting point.

How much time will it take to learn PHP? It might take a nonprogrammer months to learn the entire PHP ecosystem to the point they can be productive programming in PHP. On the other hand, someone with programming skills that has some website development experience may need just a few weeks to get started. 

The amount of time it takes to learn to program in PHP depends on two factors. 1) Your programming skill level and 2) your level of knowledge of website development.

Let’s dig a little deeper.

Becoming a PHP Programmer Requires Other Related Skills That Take Time to Learn

If you are interested in learning to program in PHP you probably already know the ecosystem consists of multiple layers. To become an entry-level PHP developer one must have a basic understanding of how the following technologies work:

HTML – The skeleton web pages are built on. You will need to know this so you can build websites.

Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) – What gives your web pages their look and feel – their styling. As a developer, you do not need to know CSS to the degree a web designer needs to know CSS.

JavaScript – Gives you the ability to make your website interactive. Knowing JavaScript is a must. You do not need to be an expert however you will need to know a lot.

PHP – The programming language this article is about.

MySql – The data engine that makes your website data driven. Every website/web app you work on will more than likely require you to use MySql and the Structured Query Language (SQL).

Linux Hosting – PHP is native to Linux and you will need some sort of development environment that runs Linux.

Development Environment – To make things easy I suggest you get the basic Linux hosting package at Blue Host. This will make your life easier and will allow you to learn about hosting and hosting providers.

Code Editor – I recommend you start with Video Studio Code. This editor is free, and easy to learn with lots of online tutorials, and will allow you to edit your code remotely, or right on the server in real-time.

How Long Will it Take to Learn to Program if You Are a Complete Beginner

You will need to develop some core programming knowledge. Below is a list of some of the things you should understand before you start trying to learn PHP:

  1. Programming logic.
  2. Working with variables.
  3. Control structures.
    1. Loops – such as while loops.
    2. Conditions – such as if/elseif/else statements.
  4. User-defined functions.
  5. How to work with arrays.
  6. Manipulating Strings.

And there is much more. Learning how to program by itself is a 3 unit college course that requires roughly 50 hours of classroom time. On top of the time you will spend in the classroom there is homework that will add to the time required to learn to program.

If you are self-studying I estimate you might learn enough in about 20 or 30 hours to get you started, if you follow a good tutorial.

How Long Will it Take to Learn PHP if You Have Programming Skills

If you have some simple programming skills you will need to learn the following:

  1. HTML might take as little as 6 hours to become familiar with the fundamentals. This includes hands-on.
  2. Cascading Style Sheets might take as little as 4 – 6 hours to learn the fundamentals.
  3. You can jump over JavaScript, for now, however, this is a skill you will need in the future.
  4. To become familiar with PHP might take 10 – 20 hours. It will take much more time to become proficient to the point you can call yourself an entry-level PHP developer.
  5. You will need familiarity with the MySql data engine/Structured Query Language (SQL). If you are learning about databases for the first time, MySql and SQL might take at least 10 hours to learn and might take more like 20 hours to include hands-on.
  6. You will need a development environment. My suggestion is to get a basic Blue Host hosting account. This will benefit you in two ways. It will expedite your learning since you will not need to learn how to install a development environment. And you will learn a bit about web hosting. It might take an hour or two to become familiar with your hosting/development environment.
  7. You will need to know the basics of how to use a programming editor. I recommend the free editor Visual Studio Code. This editor will allow you to edit code remotely. Meaning you can edit code directly on the server. You will probably need to spend at least 2 hours learning how to use the editor. 4 to 6 hours is more realistic.

This adds up to 35 – 60 hours of studying and hands-on. Don’t be surprised if it takes longer.

How Long Will it Take to Learn PHP if You Are an Experienced Website Builder

If you already know most of what I have already talked about you might need to spend 10 – 20 hours becoming familiar with the basics of PHP. This is probably not enough studying to become a PHP developer, however, it is probably enough to get you on your way.

How Long Does it Take To Become An Entry-Level PHP Developer

There is a lot to know to become an entry-level PHP developer. You will need to know all the above plus how to secured applications. Depending on what you are going to be doing you probably want to go beyond what has been listed. For example, you will need to know Object Oriented Programming (OOP) in PHP.

I would spend a very minimum of 30 hours learning OOP in PHP to include a lot of hands-on.

If you are new to programming I’m thinking you will want to spend at least 100 hours of learning and hands-on to get to this point.

If you look at the time required to complete a programming boot camp, you will discover these courses may span 4 months of 60 plus hours a week. These courses are extremely intense. It may take upwards of 1000 hours to complete this type of course. These courses are intended to develop the skills necessary to be able to compete for an entry-level programmer job.

How Long Does it Take To Become A Mid-Level PHP Developer

By the time a developer becomes a mid-level developer, they have added some additional skills and a couple of years of full-time PHP developer work along with some self-study.

The additional skills a mid-level developer should probably have is stuff like dependency injection, composer, autoloading, namespaces, and some Linux hosting command line and troubleshooting skills.

How Long Does it Take To Become A Senior-Level PHP Developer

I think a senior-level PHP developer should know everything a mid-level knows. Add to that a senior developer might need to have some familiarity with things like Domain Name Service (DNS) and concepts like SPF and DMARC.

It might take a PHP developer 6 to 10 years of hands-on development along with some self-study to become a senior-level developer.

How Long Will it Take to Learn Just the Core of PHP

You can learn PHP without learning the above technologies, however, your PHP programming skills would only allow for server administration. And even that would be limited.

Learning just the core of PHP might take a few hours a day for about a week to gain a basic familiarity with PHP.

Conclusion

As you can see there is no straight forward answer to how long it will take to learn PHP. It depends on where you start and how far you want to go.

I hope this helps and I hope you enjoy your journey in learning to program in PHP.

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