The core WordPress CMS (content management system) was designed to be user friendly enough to let the average person create a professional looking website without touching a single line of code simply by adding themes and plugins. But WordPress has many other capabilities beyond the core functionality, and the more complex, enterprise level websites and applications require the skill and expertise of a developer. WordPress developers create those themes and plugins, they contribute to the continued growth and development of the core software, and they deal with the people attached to those projects at every level from the idea to its implementation.
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In this article we will review the steps you might follow if you want to become a WordPress developer. You will gain some insight into a day in the life of a developer, requirements for the position, and a checklist of things you can do to prepare yourself for your first junior role as a WordPress developer. This includes tips and resources for creating a portfolio of your work and links to online sources that will be helpful — including cheat sheets, as well as free and paid training programs.
Table of contents:
- What does a WordPress developer do?
- WordPress developer requirements
- How to become a WordPress developer: a checklist to help you get started
- Create a portfolio to demonstrate your skills
- Do you need a certification to be a WordPress developer?
- Resources for aspiring WordPress developers
1. What does a WordPress developer do?
On the SkillCrush blog, there is an article describing a day in the life of a WordPress developer, Stacy Clements, that will give you an idea of a variety of things that a developer might do in a day or throughout a work week. She emphasizes the importance of having both a strong foundation in coding and tech skills — along with non-tech soft skills or people skills. Clements talks about the importance of good communication skills and project management skills for developers.
The responsibilities of a WordPress developer might include:
- Meeting with clients to gather project requirements
- Designing both the front end, back-end, and architecture of the website
- Managing the database and server integration
- Creating new WordPress themes and plugins
- Troubleshooting issues with clients and colleagues
- Training clients
- Monitoring the site’s performance
- Testing new developments
- Collaborating with other developers and designers
- Keeping up with industry best practices, new product releases, and trends in web development
2. WordPress developer requirements
Some of the general requirements for getting hired as a WordPress developer include:
- Bachelor’s degree in computer science or related field
- Extensive experience and proficiency in using WordPress (4+ years)
- Experience in:
- Git, Mercurial, SVN
- Chrome Inspector, Firebug
- A solid foundation in website architecture and aesthetics and responsive and adaptive design
- Excellent communication skills
- Strong project management skills
3. How to become a WordPress developer: A checklist to help you get started
Acquire the skills you will need
If you majored in Computer Science in college and you have worked at several technical careers, your onramp to becoming a WordPress developer might be different from someone who is switching careers at midlife because they are absolutely intrigued by WordPress and building websites. A common way to get the training and build the skills you will need is to sign up for a WordPress Developer Bootcamp. There are dozens of them around the US and the world, and they provide an immersive experience in WordPress.
Bootcamps are designed to deliver precisely the content you need quickly and efficiently, and you can guarantee that you will be able to apply what you learn to your work as a developer. Bootcamp Rankings has a list of the top ten WordPress developer bootcamp programs and it includes the cost of the programs, financing options, and start dates.
There are also lots of resources for those who want to learn WordPress for free. Skills Scouter has a roundup of the best free WordPress courses & certifications.
Take a deep dive into all things WordPress
If you want to become an expert at WordPress, you will want to dive in and read all about the most popular CMS on the Internet today. The WordPress Codex is an exhaustive manual written by the people who developed the core WordPress software. This is required reading if you want to develop for the platform.
Decide on which area of development you will focus on
Because the WordPress ecosystem is so vast, developers tend to focus on and specialize in one of three areas:
Theme developers create custom WordPress themes for their clients. They can distribute them for free in theme directories or sell them on WordPress theme marketplaces.
Plugin developers, like theme developers, create custom plugins. They release free plugins or they can sell premium plugins in a WordPress plugin marketplace.
- Core WordPress software development
Core developers edit and modify the core WordPress software to contribute to the continued growth and expansion of the popular CMS platform.
Set up your developer environment
You will need a designated development environment to experiment and test your work. You will likely be collaborating with classmates and other colleagues as you develop themes and plugins, widgets, and changes to the core software. You can use a local computer, or a subdomain staging area.
Get connected with the WordPress community
There is an active online community of WordPress developers and other enthusiasts with whom you can network. There are Slack channels, Discord channels, forums, and conferences where people gather and talk about all things WordPress. These are all great venues for networking, sharing interests and ideas, and learning all you can about WordPress development.
4. Create a portfolio to show your work
After spending countless hours developing themes, plugins, and widgets, you’ll want to share them with the world. You can create a portfolio website to display your skills and impress future prospective employers or clients for freelance work.
5. Do you need a certification to be a WordPress developer?
Given that WordPress is a free, open source software platform with no governing body, other than the WordPress Foundation, which is a nonprofit organization, there is no official certification or training program to become a WordPress developer. The fact that WordPress does not offer or require certification does not mean that certification programs do not exist.
There are several WordPress training and certification programs available for your consideration. A WordPress certification could be helpful to satisfy a requirement on a job application, to make your resume look more impressive, or to test and demonstrate your knowledge and skill. The following are some popular WordPress training programs:
- WordPress 101 is an online academy where you can learn how to use the CMS for an annual subscription price of $49, which gives you access to all of its classes.
- WordPress Front-end Developer Certification Training Package is a comprehensive course that includes topics ranging from WordPress fundamentals, database installation, WordPress security, advanced theme development, and website development tips for beginners. Price: $1,487.
6. Resources for new WordPress developers
The following are some helpful resources for WordPress developers:
- WordPress Theme Development (Core Concepts) is a free course which covers the WordPress template hierarchy, processing posts with the loop, and adding functionality via functions.php.
- The Beginner’s Guide to WordPress Plugin Development is a 6-step tutorial on WordPress plugin development.
- Learn WordPress core development. WPShout offers a WordPress development course, Up and Running, which they describe as a “comprehensive and approachable WordPress development course.”
- Learn PHP teaches PHP, which is a scripting language that is used in web development. Codecademy offers a 25 hour PHP course with a $19 per month membership subscription. The prerequisite to learning PHP is some fluency in HTML.
- The WordPress.org developer website is where you will find documentation for the codebase, coding standards and a block editor. You will also find common APIs, how to develop themes and plugins, the REST API for when you are ready to develop WordPress apps, and WP-CLI run commands.
- Cheat sheets for WordPress. CodeinWP has developed 120+ Great Cheat Sheets for WordPress web developers and designers, which is full of keyboard shortcuts, function names, arguments, and structures that can be helpful when you are doing WordPress development or design projects. They have given each resource a “coolness” rating from 1 to 5, which ranks how cool they think a cheat sheet is.
The WordPress CMS is the most popular website platform on the Internet. WordPress developers are in demand, as the number of sites continues to grow exponentially. For those who are looking to become WordPress developers, there is no end of resources both free and paid to help you gain the knowledge, skills and experience you need to achieve your goals.
In this article we reviewed the steps you can take to get started on the path to becoming a WordPress developer — whether you need a certification to get a job — and a roundup of a few resources that would be helpful to those aspiring to this exciting career path.
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