PHP (a recursive acronym for “PHP: Hypertext Processor”) is a widely-used open source scripting language, used for web development. Completely free to download and use, web developers embed PHP into HTML to execute code on the server-side.

What makes PHP so great is its versatility. It’s simple enough for newcomers to serve as their first server-side language, but contains enough advanced features to power worldwide tech giants like Facebook, Wikipedia and WordPress. 

Let’s dive into how PHP works and why it might be the next language you’ll want to add to your developer toolbox! 


What is PHP?

PHP is a scripting language, which means it interprets scripts at runtime, and is usually embedded into other software environments. It was developed by programmer Rasmus Lerdorf in 1994, and has since gained worldwide popularity and adoption. Its use cases are many, as it works alongside the development of dynamic, static and interactive websites.

As we mentioned above, PHP is primarily known for its ability to embed in HTML, but what does this mean? Well essentially, it saves a developer time. Instead of inputting individual commands, they can use PHP to add functionality to web pages without needing to call external files for data. PHP pages contain HTML with embedded code that executes a task, and because the code is server-side,the client receives the results of running that script, without having to execute the underlying code.

Given its relatively lengthy history for a programming language (more than 20 years!) PHP has gone through a number of improvements and upgrades. It is now on its eighth generation release and integrates with a number of popular databases including MySQL, PostgreSQL, Oracle, Sybase, Informix, and Microsoft SQL Server. Compared to other programming languages, PHP has gained a well-deserved reputation as simple, efficient and flexible in its execution!


Why is PHP Useful?

The use cases for PHP are nearly endless. Here are just a few of the most popular reasons you’ll want to consider learning PHP as a front-end, back-end or full stack web developer.


  1. Versatile Features – As you gain competency, you’ll discover more and more ways to use this language. Its capabilities include generating dynamic page content, creating, opening, reading, writing and deleting files on the serve, collecting form data, sending and receiving cookies, adding and modifying data in a database and controlling user access.
  2. Cross Platform Use- PHP is platform independent, so regardless of if you’re on Mac, Windows or Linux, you’ll be able to utilize this language.
  3. Easy to Learn – PHP is often recommended for beginners. If you have any background in programming, you’ll find this a relatively easy skill to pick up in just a matter of weeks. Compared to JavaScript, many find the learning curve to be much shorter.
  4. Widespread Industry Adoption – From Facebook to Wikipedia to most of the major web hosting platforms, PHP is a skill you’re likely to come across no matter where you land in the tech industry. In terms of market share, there are over 20 million websites and applications on the internet developed using PHP scripting language.
  5. A supportive community – Over the years, PHP experts have developed a number of helpful tutorials and libraries to help you easily navigate out of any coding problems. Plus, you can find forums to connect with and get on-demand support from others in the community. 
  6. Widespread Database Support – As mentioned above, PHP integrates with all the major databases. If you’re using MYSQL, PHP also offers built in support that works hand-in-hand alongside the software.
  7. It’s Fast and Secure – PHP is known for being especially zippy, completing complex queries in record time. Also, because of its widespread use and community support there are now many tools, frameworks and best practices to help fix vulnerabilities and protect against cyberattacks. 
  8. It’s Tried and Tested – Over the years, PHP users have encountered almost every real-life scenario and implemented frameworks and tools for stopping any bugs and eros in their tracks. With so many websites built on PHP, you’ll find it easier to make updates and work through existing projects by knowing this language.
  9. It’s Open-Source and Free! – This one doesn’t need too much of an explanation. If you’re looking to get started with developing your own projects, PHP is a risk-free way to keep your costs at a minimum as you master these skills. 


How to Learn PHP

Ready to get started with PHP? Here are some steps you can take to learn the popular server-side language!

  • Learn HTML and CSS – While we definitely recommend learning PHP, it should not necessarily be the first programming language you know. HTML and CSS define the structure and style of a website. You should learn these building blocks first, before adding PHP, which makes a site dynamic. A basic understanding of these two first is the best way to efficiently master PHP. 
  • Master the Basics – When you’re ready to dive into PHP, ensure you have a good familiarity with the foundational topics before moving onto more complicated topics. These could include:
    • Syntax and Variables – The rules the language follows and how code is actually executed
    • Functions – The blocks of code that accomplish a specific task in a program. Know how to define and call a function
      • Conditionals and Loops – These are functions that allow coders to run code only if and when certain conditions are met, and used widely in programming. 
      • Arrays – This data type allows for the storage of multiple related values (think lists of names). Know how to create an array and access elements. 
      • Object-Oriented Programming – PHP makes use of classes and objects to define the structure of data. Know core concepts like how to create and initialize a class and create an object. 
  • Consider Courses – While many coders are self-taught and you can definitely learn PHP all on your own, you might want to look into free or paid courses that provide a more structured approach to mastering the language. This can be especially helpful if you’re new to coding and wnt instruction on installing PHP and grasping the basic syntax. Popular free options include the Official PHP Manual, W3Schools PHP Tutorial and FreeCodeCamps PHP Tutorial
  • Create Projects – Coding is a “learn by doing” type of skill. Building projects as you go is a great way to keep your education interesting and practical. Plus, you can later show off those projects as part of a portfolio and a demonstration of your mastery. Look for courses and tutorials online that offer projects, especially ones that allow you to add advanced functionality as your learning journey progresses. 
  • Invest in a Bootcamp -If you’re looking for a more all-encompassing technical education, consider a coding bootcamp. These programs teach job critical skills like PHP and can be completed in as little as eight weeks. If you’re looking to make a complete pivot into the tech industry or are starting out with little background knowledge, this can be a great way to skill up quickly. 


How Long Does it Take to Learn PHP

PHP has a reputation for being one of the easiest programming languages to learn, in addition to being widely used. Depending on how much time you commit to studying and your background experience, you can learn PHP in as little time as a few weeks, all the way up to six months. This is definitely short compared to other programming and tech skills! Be sure to set learning goals that are realistic based on your experience and desired outcome. 

Below you will find a list of bootcamps that offer PHP in their course curriculums. Take a moment to browse our offerings and find the program that is right for you! 


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