How to Learn PHP

Have you ever wondered how some sites can retrieve content that changes when you refresh the page? For instance, news sites can render new news stories after you refresh the page if any new stories are available. Many sites use a scripting language called PHP to create dynamic features like this.

In this guide, we’re going to chat about what you need to know about learning PHP. We will start by discussing the basics of PHP and jobs that use PHP skills. Then, we will go on to discuss where you can go to learn about PHP.

What is PHP?

PHP, short for Hypertext Preprocessor, is a scripting language. PHP code can be added to an HTML file to add dynamic features to a website. PHP is commonly used to build web forms and add features to a website that are based on data that can change.

When a PHP file is executed, the content of the file is generated and turned into HTML code. For instance, a news site will retrieve all the stories for a page, generate the page, and then return a full HTML file with the code for that page. This is because browsers cannot read PHP code: they read HTML code.

PHP is popular because it makes adding dynamic features to a website simple. Without having to set up too much infrastructure, you can start to build websites that depend on databases with content that can conveniently change.

Jobs that Require PHP Skills

Most jobs that require PHP skills are related to web development, so you can expect to see the title “web developer” or “PHP” in a lot of jobs where PHP may be required or preferred. Here are a few job titles that may require PHP skills:

  • PHP developer
  • Front-end web developer
  • Back-end web developer
  • Database administrator
  • WordPress developer

The job of a PHP developer will certainly require knowledge of PHP. Front-end and back-end web development may require knowledge of PHP depending on the technology stack used by your company. Some companies use PHP whereas others may use different technologies instead, like a modern JavaScript stack.

Database administrators are less likely to use PHP on a daily basis. But, if he or she is running a database that interfaces with a PHP application, some knowledge of PHP is needed.

WordPress developers help build websites that use the WordPress content management system. Because WordPress is based on PHP, any custom integrations made on WordPress generally use PHP to some extent. Many businesses need custom features for their WordPress websites so an entire job title has been made out of customizing WordPress sites. These jobs almost always require a knowledge of PHP.

What Companies Use PHP?

PHP is an incredibly powerful tool and so companies around the world have made PHP part of their web development technology stacks. These companies include:

  • Facebook
  • WordPress
  • Lyft
  • Tesla Motors
  • Etsy
  • MasterCard
  • Slack

PHP is still a highly relevant skill today, even though there are other languages which are now being used in place of PHP in some cases (i.e. Python Flask). Top companies from social networks to financial services businesses still use PHP today.

Salary for PHP Developers

PHP developers earn impressive salaries. According to Glassdoor, the average PHP developer earns $73,506 per year. The upper bound for PHP developer salaries is $96,000 on Glassdoor. Senior PHP developers, who typically have a few years of experience under their belts, command an average salary of $91,727 per year.

What Skills Do I Need to Master PHP

You should have a working understanding of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to learn PHP. All three languages are commonly used in web development. Without knowing HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, you will struggle to understand the PHP syntax and how PHP is used on a web page.

Having a good understanding of servers and dynamic content is also helpful. PHP is a server-side technology. However, you can understand the two concepts as you learn PHP, so these concepts are more nice-to-haves than requirements.

Where to Learn PHP

A quick Google search will yield many options for PHP courses and learning resources. But which resources are worth looking at in more depth? To help you find a place to learn PHP, we have compiled a list of some top PHP resources for beginners.

Building Web Applications in PHP

  • Author: University of Michigan (on Coursera)
  • Price: Free
  • Type of Resource: Course

This course teaches the basics of coding in PHP. Over the 31 hours it takes to study this course, you will learn the PHP syntax, how to install PHP, and work with arrays and functions. This course ends with a look at using PHP to create dynamic forms with HTML.

This course not only teaches PHP but also the fundamentals of HTML and CSS. So, if you are not familiar with the languages just yet, take this course before you go on to learn about PHP.

Learn PHP

  • Author: Codecademy
  • Price: Free
  • Type of Resource: Course

This interactive online course covers everything you need to know about build a simple web PHP application. You will first learn about what PHP is and why it is used. You will then learn about basic PHP features like functions, variables, and arrays.

Later in the course, you will cover more advanced features of PHP like conditionals, creating forms, and validating forms. Throughout your learning journey, you will be given interactive exercises to complete to help you remember what you have learned in class.

PHP Programming Language Tutorial – Full Course

  • Author: freeCodeCamp
  • Price: Free
  • Type of Resource: Video

This course is a detailed introduction to the PHP Programming language. You will start by installing PHP and setting up the tools you will need. You will then slowly learn the basics of PHP, with reference to some examples. For instance, you will build a basic calculator, and then a better calculator. You will also build a “mad libs” game in the course.

This course is ideal to take over the course of many days. Because the course lasts over 4.5 hours, you may want to split your studying up into time frames and then practice what you have learned as you complete the course..

PHP Development

  • Author: Caleb Curry
  • Price: $34.99
  • Type of Resource: Course

This course covers the basics of PHP without diving too deep into the weeds of MySQL and other technologies used with PHP. You will start by learning about data types and operators. Later in the course, you will learn about control flow structures, creating arrays, and other topics you need to know.

At the end of the course, you will learn how to create a dynamic HTML form with PHP. This part of the course walks through not only the code you will need to write to make a basic form but also the process of form handling and POST requests.

PHP for Beginners – Become a PHP Master – CMS Project

  • Author: Edwin Diaz and Coding Faculty Solutions
  • Price: $59.99
  • Type of Resource: Course

This course is worth a look whether you are completely new to PHP or if you have some knowledge and want to build your skills. Through 37.5 hours of content, you will learn the basics of PHP, MySQL, and using databases.

In this course, you will work on a big project where you are tasked to create a content management system. This project will push your knowledge and encourage you to dive deeper into the various PHP concepts you learn in the course.

Building Database Applications in PHP

  • Author: University of Michigan (on Coursera)
  • Price: Free
  • Type of Resource: Course

This course is worth a look if you know the basics of PHP and want to dive deeper into working with databases. The course starts by teaching you about object-oriented PHP. You will then learn how to connect PHP to MySQL, a database client.

After setting up a database, you will learn how to use that database in your applications. The final week tasks you with building a CRUD application which will involve using all of the knowledge you have learned in the course.

PHP Tutorials

Over the years, many basic PHP tutorials have been written. We have found some tutorials written for beginners to PHP you should take a look at.

W3Schools PHP Tutorial

W3Schools is a major authority on various aspects of web development. In their PHP tutorial, you will cover the basics of PHP, using forms, and using MySQL with PHP. Each tutorial features interactive coding exercises, syntax definitions where relevant, and easy-to-understand explanations of the topic at hand.

TutorialRepublic PHP Tutorial

TutorialRepublic has a few dozen tutorials on PHP, ranging from the fundamentals of the language to more advanced features like cookies and working with the file system. Tutorials, like those on W3Schools, usually contain code snippets with which you can follow along and detailed syntax definitions. Notes, tips and warnings which will help you develop a deeper understanding of various concepts are annotated on many tutorials.

A Guide to Learning PHP

Where do you start when you want to learn PHP? That is a big question. The best place to start when you learn any programming language is the syntax. Syntax refers to the rules and conventions which govern how a language works, like how you write a line of code in a particular language. Then, you can go on to learning more about the language.

Here are a few topics you should learn about at the start of your PHP journey:

  • Data Types, Variables, and Conditionals. Data types refer to the ways in which data can be stored. Variables are unique identifiers for values on a web page. Conditionals decide when certain lines of code are run in a program. You will need to know about all of these concepts before you start to write more advanced web pages.
  • Loops, Functions, and Arrays. Loops run the same lines of code multiple times. Functions group lines of code together. Arrays store multiple values in one list. These are all essential beginner topics you should learn.
  • Math. A lot of applications involve math in some way. You should learn the basic mathematical operators and how to use them in your web pages.
  • Forms. PHP is commonly used to build web forms. You should learn how to create a form in PHP and handle the data you have gathered.
  • Session Management. Keep track of sessions in PHP so you can show unique data to different users. Learn how to set cookies and sessions in PHP.
  • Using MySQL. PHP developers use MySQL to store data for a web page. Know how to set up a MySQL database, add data to the database, and retrieve data from the database.
  • Creating Dynamic Pages with Data: When you feel confident using MySQL, learn how to connect MySQL with your PHP application. Doing so lets you show data from a database on a web page that you have developed.

Learning the above concepts will give you the information you need to write some basic PHP pages. That’s all that matters if you are a beginner: getting your foot in the door and being able to try out coding as soon as possible. You can learn more advanced concepts when you feel confident you have mastered the fundamentals of PHP.

How Long Does It Take to Learn PHP?

PHP does not take too long to learn if you devote the right amount of time to your studies. You will probably spend about two to three months learning the basics of the language and MySQL, which is often used to store data with PHP applications. A few months of additional study will position you well for an entry-level job that requires knowledge of PHP.

Should I Learn PHP?

PHP may be an older web development technology but the language is by no means archaic: a large percentage of the sites on the internet today use PHP. This is because WordPress, the most popular content management system in the world, was written using PHP.

There is no escaping PHP on the modern web. Plenty of companies in all sorts of industries have websites built on PHP who need an expert developer to help them improve their sites. PHP offers not only good job prospects but high salaries, too.

Learning PHP is a big commitment, like learning any programming language. Take some time to ask yourself why you are interested in PHP. Try the language out. If you like using PHP and think the language could help you in your career, there is no reason why you should not set out to become proficient in the language.

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