I have looked at some large training companies with the help of a friend in connection with being a programmer in Visual Basic, because this is an easy start. However it has also been mentioned that Java is the in thing at the moment.
I am totally confused. I have a little PC knowledge and at present I am attending a Tech College to update my basic skills. Please can you help, I am male aged 40 and champing at the bit to better my self.
You're right on the mark with two points you make in your question.
First, Visual Basic is an easy start into the world of programming. Perhaps no other language is as easy to learn, especially as a first language, than Visual Basic. Even better is the fact that Visual Basic jobs abound. VB is a big development tool for a lot of corporations. One problem, especially for beginners with no experience, may be the fact that entry level Visual Basic positions are not as plentiful as a language like Java.
Which brings us to your second 'on the mark' point. Java is hot, very hot, right now. I remember reading last year that something like 80 to 90% of all Java projects last year would go unfinished because of the shortage of Java programmers.
A friend of mine who teaches Java tells his students that he believes entry-level Java jobs are easier to come by simply because you won't find people with 10 years experience using Java. The language simply hasn't been around that long.
So what you have is this dilemma. Should you start with a language that is easy to pick up or should you start with a language that is harder to learn, but may enable you to get a job with no experience easier.
My suggestion is a compromise. Learn both -- starting with Visual Basic. My students who learn Visual Basic, and get to the point of being able to reasonably pass the Visual Basic Certification exam, pick up Java very easily. In general, it's been estimated that learning a second language takes about 40% of the time it took you to learn the first.
You don't want to fool yourself into believing that a semester's worth of instruction in any language will make you employable. Take your time in learning a new language. At a minimum, I suggest a year's study and practice in Visual Basic before you can prepare for, and take the Visual Basic Certification exam. Java has a similar Certification exam that should also be your goal.
Remember, whatever you do, you want to do well, and thoroughly.
This was first published in February 2001