Java programming has been a challenging, rewarding, and enjoyable career choice for me. Pieces of code written by us programmers drive mobile apps, websites, banking transactions, shopping, and pretty much everything in the digital world.
I have been practicing and teaching Java for years and aim to allay your apprehensions about making a career switch from being a PHP programmer to a Java developer. In this article, we will compare these two programming languages and see why the transition from PHP will be a game-changing point for your career.
PHP — An acronym for PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor, PHP is an open-source, server-side scripting language. It was created in 1995 to quickly build responsive and interactive web portals in a dynamic, cost-effective way. Top technology companies such as Facebook, Yahoo, Wikipedia, Tumblr, etc. are using it as part of the backends of their websites.
Java — It is one of the most popular programming languages that has existed for over 20 years. It is considered to be one of the most stable programming languages, as it is based on the Write Once, Run Anywhere (WORA) principle. It has a universal nature, thanks to the Java Virtual Machine that makes Java compatible with different devices and platforms. LinkedIn, AliExpress, Amazon, eBay are some of the notable organizations that use Java.
As you have noticed, I have already declared that moving from PHP to Java is worth it, indicating Java’s usefulness. In this section, let’s have a straight shootout between the two things — performance and speed.
Performance and Speed: Performance of a language is subject to usage, proficiency of developers, application design, etc. Therefore, it would be inaccurate to declare a unanimous winner. Java has been the preferred language for enterprises for over two decades now and has a favorable network effect. Consequently, there are more optimization and tuning tools developed for Java compared to PHP. By the time PHP started gaining popularity, Java was already established as a finished product and there was no obvious reason for users to switch.
Both languages compete closely on this parameter, as both are built for modularity. Enterprise-level users prefer it for the following reasons:
- Documentation — Java has well-organized, comprehensive documentation that has been standardized. This makes Java frameworks easy to install and troubleshoot.
- Talent pool — Java has a larger talent availability compared to PHP. Hence, organizations find it easier to hire experienced programmers who have delivered complex projects.
- Backward compatibility — Enterprises love this feature, as their projects are not hampered by the movement of personnel. Large organizations sitting on huge legacy codebases have employees joining and leaving all the time. Backward compatibility ensures continuity of operations.
- Security and Stability — It is common for organizations to run more than 5 years old Java code, especially highly sensitive industries such as banking, airline, etc. There are no security threats with codes as old as these, which is not the case with PHP.
- Industry support — When a tech giant like Oracle backs a language and develops its own development kit for it, you know it is there to stay. That is the kind of acceptance Java enjoys in the industry.
Large organizations often need to have corporate mobile applications as part of their workflow, and in many cases these are Android applications, typically developed in either Java or Kotlin, gaining popularity last years but having interoperability with Java. Statistica predicts smartphone numbers to touch 1.6 billion by the end of 2020 and businesses are already gearing up for it by hiring experienced Java programmers to develop Android mobile applications.
Let’s do an objective, statistical comparison of the languages now. September 2020 data compiled by TIOBE index places Java at the 2nd place, with nearly 6 times more share than PHP on 8th.
Learning to program requires a dedicated effort. Java is based on the OOP concept and can be followed more intuitively by those with prior programming experience in C and C++. As you already know PHP, learning Java would add another arrow to your quiver and make you a more versatile programmer.
Supported plug-ins, tools, and development environments available for a coding language plays an important role in its acceptance. IDEs (Integrated Development Environments) like Eclipse, IntelliJ IDEA, etc. are popular and available for multiple platforms.
In addition, Java offers enhanced debugging capabilities and supports many packaging tools such as ANT, Maven, Gradle, etc. that do a great job for the dependencies management and project build.
As I mentioned earlier in the article, both Java and PHP are used by top technology companies so you cannot make a wrong choice here. That said, the graph below suggests Java’s higher score referring to job availability and prospects.
Java is supported by more tools and IDEs compared to PHP, which makes it a secure language.
Career progression is an important parameter while considering a transition to Java language. Let me state straight away that Java developers are always in demand, thanks to the usage of Java in numerous projects.
You can get an entry-level job by attending a bootcamp or completing an online course.
Once you start interacting with peers, you grasp the nuances and progress through the ranks.
I recommend topping up your knowledge by taking certifications (OCAJP, OCPJP, etc.) regularly. It will help keep you in sync with the latest updates.
A decade of solid experience in core Java would open up opportunities for Technology Architect and Technology Manager positions. These are highly rewarded jobs that challenge your knowledge and push you to keep learning.
Because of its limitations, PHP is not the preferred choice for enterprise applications while Java is often used for big projects in big companies. Large enterprises often need junior developers for a routine job. Hence, it will be easy to find a job in a big company. And one more: Unlike php, this job pays well.
PHP programmers would find a smoother transition to Java, compared to those without any programming experience. It is a matter of choosing the right resources and adopting a practice-oriented approach.
Here’s a shortlist of websites which I would recommend for learning Java:
CodeGym believes everyone can be a programmer if shown the right approach to learning. The practice holds the key to learning Java and 80% of CodeGym’s course consists of hands-on exercises. There are over 1200 tasks to be accomplished. The website’s gamification of exercises adds a fun element to learning, as you solve tasks to move to higher (more difficult) levels.
The course is interactive, with a virtual mentor to analyze your progress instantly. There are online forums where a large community exchanges ideas. New learners post their queries and experienced developers answer them. There is a mobile app so you can learn on-the-go.
Javarevisited is a rich resource for learners, consisting of articles, tutorials, and interview questions. Java newbies will find high-quality resources to learn from. Experienced programmers can sharpen their skills by reading articles from experts. For those seeking a job change, there is a dedicated thread of interview questions to bring you up to speed with the expectations of the market.
Codecademy is known for its content-rich online programming courses. It has over 300 hours of Java content categorized according to expertise. Start at your level and solve problems to take your skills up a notch. This course gives you the flexibility to customize the schedule. You can structure your course the way you want and keep learning.
CodeChef is designed to practice coding. Other than learning and practicing Java, the platform hosts many competitions and challenges to test your brains against the best programmers from all over the globe. ou get points against your performance, which indicates the level you are at.
Java Fundamentals on Pluralsight is a course designed to gain a 360-degree understanding of Java. Learning programming is not just about learning syntax and writing error-free code. This course fills the gap by introducing you to design patterns — a way of organizing your code so that you have clearly defined modules performing specific tasks. Dividing your program into fragments makes it more efficient and simplifies debugging. You can reuse specific fragments as and when you need rather than having to reinvent the wheel every time you need to build a functionality.
Java is popular all over the world and offers a challenging and rewarding career path with top global organizations. Learning it is worth the effort as you get to work with the world’s leading companies that are building technology solutions for problems of the future. Adopt a step by step approach to it, focus on practice, do not lose patience and you will reap handsome rewards of your hard work.
First published on Dev Genius.