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Step-by-step Training Guide For Becoming A CMS Specialist From Ground Zero | Touchstone Words

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Ultimate training guide to become a CMS specialist and earn 80k-120k annual salary

By Editorial Team on 2017-05-10

There are many web designers out there with zero knowledge of coding, yet they use drag and drop tools to build good looking websites. Among all popular drag and drop tools, Content Management Systems or CMS platforms stand out.


Indeed, currently, more than 70% of websites designed and developed in the world do use CMS. However, just by knowing how to drag a web page objects or twist a pre-designed template, you can not earn the title of CMS specialist. As such, this article shows you step-by-step training guide for moving from a drag and drop designer to a CMS specialist. Although there are similarities between front-end web design and CMS as well as drag-and-drop tools like Adobe Dreamweaver and CMS, this article only focuses on designing either static or dynamic websites using CMS. So in spite of overlapping between front-end and CMS careers, most of CMS specialists have more advance skills and web development knowledge that their front-end counterparts.

It is advisable to consult with an IT career counselor to understand what career options best fits your skills. For instance, if you want to be a software engineer, learning HTML and CSS might not fit the bill. Here is an excellent article for learning more on coding and technology career roadmap. Once you know what career path you wish to pursue, you can make a plan on what, when, and how to learn. There are lots of online resources for learning coding and technology in general. For teenagers and high school students, High School Technology Services offers variety of hands-on training. For adults and professionals, Coding Bootcamps and DC Web Makers Companies offer basic to advance project-based programming and technology classes.

It stands to a whole host of reason why CMS specialists earn 6 digit salaries. First of all, they know drag and drop concepts very well. Second of all, as experts, they know how to code in different coding languages such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript, MySQL, PHP, etc. Thus, this article articulates 8 steps that you should follow as your training master plan for specializing in CMS. Although there are many CMS packages out there, this article only focuses on WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal that are very popular.

  1. Logic of web design
    The starting point for any professional web designer and web developer is to understand how to develop a mock-up or wireframe for a web site based on project requirements. The key is to design web pages as intuitive as possible by following best practices in User Interface and User Experience. At this stage, you learn how to use page elements and objects properly by experimenting with different page layouts.

  2. HTML CSS, and JavaScript
    Once you learn how to make a mock-up or wireframe for a website, you should start learning HTML and CSS. Both of HTML and CSS are very popular as they are used in both websites and mobile Apps. It is also recommended to learn HTML5 and CSS3. Also, next would be to learn JavaScript and jQuery that are very popular front-end coding languages. This step may take some time to master it. Since you are planning to become a CMS specialist, you need not spend lots of time on JavaScript; thus, basic to intermediate level knowledge of JavaScript would be enough.

  3. Learn PHP
    After you finished the previous step and learned all front-end coding languages, you move on to PHP training. PHP is a server-side coding language meaning its codes on web pages is not visible to the site visitors. It is easy language to learn and it comes with lots of features and handy functions. PHP can be used both as a procedural and Object-Oriented Programming or OOP language. However, to become a CMS specialist, learning PHP OOP is a must, so be patient and learn it with hands-on projects.

  4. Database design and MySQL
    Understanding of PHP can not be completed without a good knowledge of database design and SQL coding. The most popular database that works well with PHP is MySQL. PHP comes with lots of functions for connecting to a database and processing its queries. Like JavaScript, database design has vast libraries and topics, so your basic to intermediate knowledge of database design especially SQL coding is enough as your goal is to become a CMS specialist not database expert like Oracle specialist.

  5. Web design in WordPress
    All previous steps are essential for managing WordPress professionally as a programmer not as a drag and drop designer. WordPress is the most popular CMS; however, you need to expand your PHP knowledge by understanding how to change codes or add classes to WordPress framework. In other works, there is another layer of training on top of your PHP knowledge specifically focused around WordPress libraries and its core.  You can just pick WordPress as your ideal CMS platform and master it. In doing so, you can earn your CMS specialist title. Therefore, you can pick step 5, 6, 7, or 8 and stick to it.  

  6. Joomla CMS
    This step follows the same rule and process as previous step or WordPress. In other words, you need to learn Joomla framework on top of your PHP or even WordPress knowledge. Although, most of CMS packages have things in common, they have very different cores and libraries. 

  7. Drupal CMS
    This step similar to either step 5 or 6; however, unlike WordPress and Joomla, Drupal has steep learning curve meaning it is difficult to learn as it comes with many advance features and functionalities.

  8. Custom CMS
    Any of previously discussed CMS packages (WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal) can be customized completely to suite your needs. However, many private or brand companies develop their own CMS applications that has nothing to do with WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal. The developers in this area are very seasoned as they usually build most features from ground up. They also design many advance project profiling and unit testing procedures. To specialize for a custom CMS, you have to go through lots of rigorous training on top of PHP. Lastly, if you are sure that you like to pick this step for your career, you can just skip steps 5,6 and 7.

By now, you have a better understanding on why CMS specialists are in high demand and get paid very well. Indeed, it makes a great deal of difference between a drag-and-drop designer and a seasoned programmer. Lastly, all experienced programmers know that learning is not a destination but a journey.   

To conclude this article, it is good to mention that Zend Company offers two well-established certifications for PHP Developers: Zend Framework 2 certification and Zend Certified PHP Engineer. Also, if you wish to specialize in database design and development, obtaining the following certifications would be rewarding: Oracle Database SQL Fundamentals, Oracle Database 11g, Microsoft SQL Server, and other db certifications. Lastly, as Linux operating systems are gaining more popularity, obtaining any of following certifications would be great asset to your CMS credentials: Linux+, Linux Professional Institute exam 101 and 102, Red Hat Certified System Admin, and Red Hat Certified Engineer.

Below blogs are related to this article:
Review of top 5 certifications for open source programming languages like Java or C++
Review of top 5 JS frameworks for mobile App developers and web designers
Ultimate training guide to become a PHP developer and earn 80k-120k annual salary
Ultimate training guide to become a front-end developer and earn 60k-100k annual salary
Ultimate training guide to become a SQL programmer and earn 70k-130k annual salary

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