There are many different paths to becoming an iOS Developer, but all of them share a couple of important steps in common: first, you’ll need to learn the languages and tools that iOS Developers use, and then, you’ll need to put them into practice. These two steps will look and feel wildly different to you—and require a very different investment of time—depending on whether you’re coming from a computer science or development background versus starting out with a blank slate.
If you’re a veteran of the industry, you’ll be able to breeze through some of these steps, having already built the foundational knowledge for them, but everyone has to contend with all of them at some point in their journey to becoming an iOS Developer, in some form or another. Whatever stage of your career you’re in, an iOS development course can be just the thing to burnish the specific skills you’ll need to transition into this specialized field of development.
Learn the Fundamentals of Software Development
If you want to be an iOS Developer, you should start by gaining a clear sense of what exactly development is. Development for iOS is an area of specialty, not a bubble; the same development process that brings other types of products from concept to market still applies. If you’ve been working in development for a while, you can skip this step—but if you’re new to development and believe this is the industry you want to work in, you’ll first need to understand how it works and how you’re going to fit into it. You can accomplish this by taking a beginner’s development course, or even getting to know a few working Developers and asking them about what they do.
Get to Know the Mac Ecosystem
This should go without saying, but: it’s much harder to build an app for a device you’ve never used. So, if you haven’t already, you’ll need to buy a Mac. And an iPhone. And if you’re feeling ambitious, an Apple Watch, too. This is partly about gaining a feel for the hardware—its features, its dimensions, its capabilities, and limitations. But it’s also about internalizing Apple’s mindset and design aesthetic, and its overarching philosophy of how products, apps, and users come together.
Once you’ve reached this stage, you should consider signing up for an iOS development bootcamp; it’s possible to walk through the following steps yourself, but working with an instructor will provide you with an optimally structured course of study that covers all the following areas and provides valuable feedback that can prevent costly missteps as you advance.
Familiarize Yourself with Xcode
As you’re getting to know your Mac and rest of the Apple ecosystem, familiarize yourself with Xcode as well. Apple’s integrated development environment is essentially the platform in which you’ll be building apps once your coding skills improve. With some guidance, you should be able to pick up Xcode’s basic functionality with relative ease. To learn how to leverage all of its features and take full advantage of its abilities will take time and dedication.
Learn an iOS Programming Language
With your basic footing in Xcode gained, it’s time to start learning about code. And writing code. Every day. While Objective-C is still widely used for iOS development, the newer, more streamlined (and purpose-built) Swift is quickly overtaking it in terms of popularity. It’s worth learning Objective-C, as it’s still used to maintain older apps written in that language, but if you’re just beginning to make the leap to iOS Development, you’ll want to begin with Swift.
The list of tasks you’ll need to learn how to execute in Swift is long, but fortunately, it’s generally possible to learn them in sequence—you won’t have to learn all of them before you can start putting your knowledge into practice. As you progress, you’ll learn how to compile, clean, and run a project on a simulator. By running it on different devices, you’ll also pick up code signing, provisioning profiles, and certificates.
Start Building Things
You’re ready to dive in and begin creating projects. This is something of a learn-as-you-go activity; if you wait until you’ve mastered all the steps before you start, well, you’ll never start. Stopping to look things up is part of the process. Begin by building a practice app, following a set of step-by-step instructions that will walk you through the entire operation.
Once you’ve completed a few practice apps, try creating your own. Use different approaches each time—building your UI using storyboards or Apple’s interface builder, SwiftUI, then by building one programmatically. Practice integrating design assets, as opposed to building graphic elements within the code, and using JSON to network with third-party APIs and data feeds. And get comfortable with using Grand Central Dispatch to optimize your app’s concurrent operations. Once you’ve reached the stage where you can successfully create an app—congratulations! You can start calling yourself an iOS Developer.
Now it’s time to start spreading the word. Upload your work to the App Store to make it official. Upload it to GitHub so others can see what you’ve accomplished and how you did it. From there, you can begin building out your professional network—join a community, either online or offline. And if you’re looking for a mentor, now’s the time to reach out and let them know what you can do, and what you’re hoping to accomplish in your career. You’ll also want to put together an online portfolio to give people easy access to samples of what you’ve made, highlight the skills you want to show off, and provide an easy way for people to reach out to you. And, last but not least, polish your resume!
For beginners (especially for those who are not proficient in the Apple ecosphere), common stumbling blocks include learning macOS and iOS, how to build the iOS binaries and uploading the binaries in Xcode. This is where a certification course in iOS development can prove invaluable—by laying out these common pitfalls and guiding budding Developers around them. BrainStation’s iOS certificate course, for example, begins with the fundamentals of programming in Swift (including types, objects, functions, and control flow), then progresses to hands-on exercises building iOS applications from scratch, using Swift libraries to add functionality. By the end of the course, students have developed their own sleek, user-friendly iOS application and know how to upload it to the App Store for distribution.
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