I am a PHP developer in central New Jersey and recently became unemployed. I have been programming in PHP for about twelve years, doing so professionally for ten of those. The following is my experience seeking employment in the New York City/Central New Jersey/Philadelphia Area for a senior PHP developer position.
I created my profile on monster.com on a Monday and made it public that night. The following Tuesday morning my telephone went nuts and my email inbox blew up with recruiters reaching out with positions that I was “perfect for”. Over the course of the next week and a half (not including weekends) I spent 10-12 hours a day receiving and returning phone calls from dudes at Request Staffing Services, and reading and responding to emails from recruiters. At no point did I ever have to actively look for an open position (although I did to make sure I didn’t miss anything). Apparently experienced PHP developers are in short supply locally and even nationally as I received opportunities from around the country with both opportunities to relocate and telecommute. Recruiters were very aggressive.
It took eight days to get my first offer and ten days to accept a position and end the job seeking process.
The median salary for PHP developers outside of a major city seems to be about $65,000/yr if you do not have another major programming language or skill on your resume. As you get closer to a major city, salaries rise. (Of course that figure will also vary based on many other factors such on industry, bonuses, etc).
Some interesting things I noted during the job seeking and interviewing processes were:
- Even though experienced PHP developers are in short supply, posers apparently are not. Many of my technical interviews started off with very easy questions (“How do you find a string in an array?”). These questions were asked because employers and recruiters are encountering a lot of developers who are claiming to be experienced developers who in fact have little or no programming skill at all.
- Experience with unit testing was never listed as a requirement or even as a “plus”. In fact, the only time unit testing was mentioned was when I interviewing with a senior PHP developer and I had asked him to tell me more about their existing codebase. (They did use unit testing).
- My knowledge of design patterns was only asked during one interview. It was never listed as a job requirement or mentioned in any job description.
- Only a couple of job descriptions listed a knowledge of Memcache as a requirement or a “plus”.
- Almost all potential employers were running LAMP stacks. The only company who was running PHP on Windows was in the process of migrating their infrastructure to LAMP.
- PHP was not the exclusive language of choice for about half of potential employers. Some had legacy PERL code and PHP was used in all new code being written. One used PHP for everything but used Ruby on Rails for one API (they never explained why). One was a Java shop but used PHP for one internal app. Most employers were willing to teach new employees new languages as long as your skills with PHP were very strong.
If you are a PHP developer and you want to make yourself as attractive as possible to potential employers, here is what you should get experience in to make your resume stand out:
- Have experience with frameworks. The most common framework employers were using in production was Zend by far. CodeIgniter was a distant second.
- Joomla was very commonly being used so being familiar with it is definitely a plus. Drupal would be a close second. WordPress third.
- Have sample code to show your coding skills. Ideally your code will be available on Github or a similar alternative as many recruiters will be looking for it there as well some employers.