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How to Learn PHP and Become a PHP Programmer

PHP is a server-side scripting language that can help you become a successful web developer. You can use PHP on any of the major operating systems and almost any web server. In this guide, we will take you through a step-by-step process for learning PHP and show you the best PHP courses available.

PHP is perfect for beginners looking for a useful programming language that can help build great web applications and websites. With enough time, practice, and some great PHP tutorials, you can easily learn PHP. 

What Is PHP?

In a nutshell, PHP, or Hypertext Preprocessor, is an open-source, general-purpose scripting language. Web developers can use it in conjunction with HTML and databases, making it ideal for building dynamic web applications. It is a popular, free, and effective alternative to other programming languages like Microsoft’s ASP. 

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PHP started as a simple set of CGI binaries written in the C programming language. It was initially used for tracking visits to an online resume. It has since grown and now includes more tools and capabilities. Developers now recognize PHP as a staple scripting language for web applications. 

What Is PHP Used For?

PHP acts like the glue that ties a website together. It can create login forms and can send messages to the server. It is responsible for displaying images or other interactive features on a web page. Below are some of the main reasons why developers use PHP and what makes it so fantastic to use.

System Functions

PHP performs system functions. The main functions are adding, opening, closing, reading, and writing files in the system. Additional functions involve renaming and deleting files, and they are all essential parts of PHP.

PHP Databases

PHP can handle different types of forms and it is commonly used for its ability to manage data. It gathers and sends data via files and emails and can return it to the user. PHP provides you with the ability to make modifications to a database. Lastly, PHP allows you to access cookie variables and set cookies on a web page to collect and analyze data.

PHP Language

PHP is one of the most forgiving programming languages out there. Since it follows a C-Like syntax, the language is among the easiest to learn. While learning PHP as a complete beginner won’t necessarily be simple, remember that this is the case for most coding languages.


But PHP can be a great starting language, especially if you have already taken steps towards learning Java, JavaScript, and HTML. 

Learn PHP: Step-by-Step

Below is a guide to get you started with this excellent scripting language. The process covers learning complementary programming languages, PHP syntax, and everything else you’ll need to build a good foundation before enrolling in a course.

1. Programming Languages

Before starting to learn PHP, it will be beneficial to first learn HTML and JavaScript. At the very least, it is recommended to learn HTML. While HTML is the only coding language you need to know for PHP scripting, also learning JavaScript will make the process much quicker and easier. These languages have a similar syntax.

2. PHP Syntax

PHP syntax is extremely forgiving. It works on the server-side rather than the client-side and it gives greater control over what appears in the browser than HTML alone. 

At a basic level, all PHP code starts with <?php and ends with the ?> tag. This tells PHP when to start and stop interpreting code. The enclosed code will be PHP code, rather than HTML. There are plenty of tutorials in the courses section below to help you get familiar with the syntax.

3. Install PHP

To start practicing with your syntax, you will need to install the PHP system first. You will need a web host with both PHP and MySQL support. To install them both, you can also install a web server directly onto your PC. Then create some .php files, add them to the web directory, and the server will process them for you. 

There are plenty of PHP guides available, or you can go directly to the official PHP website for installation instructions. 

4. PHP Variables 

Variables are the containers that store information for you. You will need to learn the different rules for PHP variables. To get you started, remember that a variable starts with $ (the dollar sign) followed by the variable’s name. 

Learn all the different rules for variables, including a variable name that can’t start with a number. They contain case-sensitive alphanumeric characters and underscores. To learn more about variables, see our course list below to get started. 

5. Data Types and Strings

PHP can support an array of data types. It’s one of the best things about this free tool. Some of the data types are strings, integers, booleans, floats, arrays, and objects. First, learn about all of the data types and then start practicing by using them. Next, focus on a string, which is a sequence of characters or letters, like the famous “Hello world!” 

The Best PHP Courses

cardboard cutout of a man in front of PHP code Hello World
Say hello to your new programming language.

Below is a selection of online courses that will help you learn PHP. With video lectures, written guides, and even online books, you will learn everything you need to know to become a PHP programmer and start building web applications. 

Free Code Camp: Free 5-Hour WordPress and PHP Course

This five-hour course on the freeCodeCamp YouTube channel will teach you how to build a website using WordPress, PHP, HTML, and CSS. As the name suggests, this course is designed to help you learn to code for free. The instructor has over 20 years of programming experience.

You will learn how to set up a local server, then create, design, and build a custom WordPress theme that will work with Elementor.

The Net Ninja: PHP and MySQL Introduction

Another fantastic tutorial on YouTube, this Net Ninja course will teach you how WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, and Facebook were all products of PHP programming. In this course, you will also learn how to code a PHP project from scratch.

Codecademy: Learn PHP

This one-day Codecademy course can either be taken for free or for a monthly fee. A pro plan is also available. With the pro plan, students receive a certificate after completing the course. In the course, you will learn how to create dynamic web pages and will learn about PHP variables, strings, data types, functions, arrays, and more.

Team Treehouse: Getting Started with PHP Unit Testing

This 91-minute Treehouse course is the foundation for unit testing. You can begin a seven-day free trial, and then after that, pay for a monthly membership.

Unit tests are small units of code written to verify that individual modules are functioning the right way. They do not talk to outer components like a database or an API. To put it simply, it is a similar idea to interfaces: passing correct information and getting expected results.

Eduonix: Learn Object-Oriented PHP

This five-hour course covers all things object-oriented in PHP. It will explore things like classes, objects, properties, methods, MVC, data binding, MySQL, and data abstraction. You will learn to build an application with a login system and the fundamentals of object-oriented programming.

W3schools: PHP Tutorial

The W3schools PHP tutorial is a written guide that you can follow to learn all of the elements of PHP. The best thing about this course is it is entirely free. For an additional fee of $95, you can get a certificate. The course includes everything you need and more.

PHP The Right Way

Learning PHP the right way is a clever read-through tutorial that works in no particular order. The course is continuously kept up-to-date. It offers you multiple tool suggestions and a modern interface that is easy to use. It’s also available in a book format if you prefer, but we think the website itself is a fantastic tutorial.

The Net Ninja: Object-Oriented PHP

This is a step-by-step tutorial to help you master object-oriented programming in PHP. These great video tutorials from The Net Ninja will teach you how to create a form validation class using OOP and you will also learn about access modifiers, inheritance, magic methods, and much more. 

Zend: Earn Your PHP Certification

The Zend Certified PHP Engineer is an industry-recognized PHP expertise certificate. It is a fantastic exam you can do when you feel ready to take on a certification course. It will look fantastic on a resume, and the exam costs $195. When you’re prepared to pursue a career using PHP, we recommend getting yourself certified.

Is Learning PHP Right for You?

Learning PHP is right for you if you are looking to create dynamic websites that users can interact with. Take some courses to boost your skills as a web developer and programmer. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, web developers earn an average salary of $69,430 per year. So, if you love programming, it could be worthwhile to use your time to learn the fundamentals of PHP and kickstart your career in tech.

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