13 Best PHP Courses & Free Tutorials for Web Developers
Here's a comprehensive list of the 13 best online PHP courses and free resources.
If you want to become a “superstar” web developer with an endless queue of high-profile clients, you will need to master the Hypertext Preprocessor (PHP) language. Or, well – in addition, you will also likely need to master HTML and CSS, but I will cover these in my next reviews on HTML courses and CSS courses, so let’s skip these two languages for now.
Starting off learning web application development through studying online PHP courses is a well chosen first step towards having a lucrative career in the industry. Whether you’re a total beginner or a seasoned veteran in PHP programming – there will be something on this list which fits your skill level. There are online courses out there for every experience level.
If you want to skip learning individual programming languages one by one, then you do have some other choices as well. One thing you could do is to dive head first into web application programming with something like Springboard’s Software Engineering Career Track, which covers all web development languages within a single course, and guarantees a career for all graduates. However, the content, prerequisites, and price of that course is more akin to a full-sized degree, so you might be better off starting off with one of the best PHP courses on this list.
In this review of PHP online courses, we will focus on exactly these, as I will be highlighting some of the best PHP courses on the market right now and explaining how they can benefit you.
What is the best PHP course?
Here are our choices for the best PHP course:
1. Coursera: Building Web Applications in PHP
Course instructor: This course is instructed by Dr. Charles R. Severance, who is a Clinical Professor and teaches in the School of Information at the University of Michigan. Charles has written numerous books on programming, such as the popular “Python for Everybody” series. If you would like to know more about the instructor behind this PHP course, you can refer to Charles’ biography on his website.
Who it’s for: While this PHP course is categorized as an “intermediate” level course, some of the content still seems to be targeted towards beginners. It contains basic introductory lessons on HTML, CSS, and PHP, which is very helpful for beginners. However, the main target audience for this online course is still intermediate students with some prior PHP knowledge.
What you’ll learn: This is a unique PHP course in that it does not start explaining the concepts of PHP until the second half of the syllabus. Instead, before even installing PHP, the course goes over the basic structure of web applications, how web apps interact with servers on the Internet and the basics of HTML and CSS programming. Only after this, you will start delving deeper into PHP, with the main focus of the course from here on out being on PHP arrays, functions, variable scope and modularity. Every lecture week ends with an assignment related to the topic taught. For example, after learning about PHP functions, you will be given an assignment on reversing an MD5 hash in order to crack a password.
Reviews: This PHP course generally has very positive reviews, with an average rating of 4.8 stars out of 5. It seems from the feedback given that it has been very helpful for both beginners without any web development experience, and for advanced developers who already have a solid background in coding. The only negative reviews I could find mentioned the overly generalized nature of the course material (which I did not find to be true).
Verdict: This online course will be a great choice for you if you’re a programmer interested in learning not only PHP, but web development as a whole. The curriculum combines theoretical and practical assignments harmoniously, and as a web development package, it’s put together beautifully. As the course also covers HTML and CSS basics, it serves as an excellent foundation to build on for the future.
Good Practice-based PHP Course
2. Codecademy: Learn PHP Tutorial
Codecademy is a fantastic resource for learning any programming language, PHP included. With their custom-made online code editor, you have to write strings of code yourself throughout the course in order to proceed to the next lesson. This teaching method is highly effective for programming, more so than the video-based lecture structures we are used to seeing in the e-learning industry. Overall, I would say that it’s the very best PHP course out there. Finishing this course will likely take the average student at least 20 hours, depending on pre-existing knowledge.
Course instructor: This online course in PHP was put together by the Codecademy team, comprised of various software engineers and curriculum developers.
Who it’s for: Similarly to the other courses on this list, prior knowledge in HTML will be helpful for taking this course. However, having an HTML background is not an absolute necessity and overall, this PHP course is beginner-friendly.
What you’ll learn: Codecademy’s PHP online course will get you up to date with all of the fundamentals of PHP coding. It starts off with introductory segments on variables and functions, before moving onto more complicated topics such as HTML form handling and validation. This course does an excellent job at creating a foundation of knowledge for the students, and then building on top of that foundation in order to form a solid block of skills in PHP programming.
Through the implementation of Codecademy’s code editor software, students learn everything first-hand through writing individual strings of code, rather than through listening to a teacher. The latter teaching method just doesn’t work for me at all when it comes to learning programming. Practice is necessary.
Reviews: Codecademy has an excellent reputation online, with people praising its visual code editor, clear instructions and fun teaching methods. The only downside I could find which people seem to be complaining about is the changing of their pricing, as they recently implemented some new paywalls for their content.
Verdict: Codecademy is my first go-to resource when trying to learn a new programming language from zero. With Codecademy’s online code editor, students learn through practice, rather than listening – which is highly important in programming.
Codeacademy also did an excellent job of pacing this online course just right so that students don’t become demotivated due to topic progression being either too quick or too slow. Personally, I’m a Pro user of their platform, but the free access to most of the course content makes this an especially attractive choice. I would honestly recommend it as the best overall PHP course on the market, due to reasons mentioned above. Some extra features of Codecademy’s courses are behind a paywall, but most of the content for this course can be accessed for absolutely free.
This is an advanced online web development course offered by the University of Michigan. It has an accomplished programming veteran instructing the course, and the course is highly informative & easy to follow for students with an intermediate experience level. This 18-hour PHP course also covers HTML, CSS, and SQL, making it an excellent all-round package for learning web development.
Most In-depth PHP Course
3. Udemy: PHP for Beginners
This beginner-level course is the most popular PHP training program on Udemy, with a total of over 70,000 enrolled students. It’s also one of the most in-depth PHP courses on the platform, with a total of 38 hours of video lectures. However, the course syllabus sometimes feels disorganized and the content can become difficult to follow at times.
Course instructor: The course is offered by Edwin Diaz from Coding Faculty Solutions, an online training service for beginner developers where he serves as CEO. Read up on Edwin Diaz’s bio on his website if you like to learn more about his background.
Who it’s for: This PHP online course is best suited for beginners who have an interest in creating Content Management Systems such as WordPress and Joomla.
What you’ll learn: This PHP developer course covers a wide range of topics and is focused on practical lessons rather than theoretical. The course starts off with some introductory video lectures on code editors and PHP basics. After that, students are taught PHP data types, control structures, and functions, before eventually leading into the students learning how to create a CMS (Content Management System). Students who take this PHP course will also learn how to use MySQL and Object-Oriented Programming.
The primary emphasis of the course seems to be on using PHP in the context of Content Management Systems, though, so keep this in mind before committing to this course. If you have no intention of using CMS in your work, you are better off with another pick as many of the lectures in this course will become irrelevant to you.
Reviews: This PHP online course is highly popular among online students, with over 14,000 student reviews giving it an average rating of 4.4 out of 5. The biggest selling point for this course appears to be the rudimentary approach taken in the training, which makes the course a good fit for beginners.
However, this PHP course is not without its’ fair share of criticism. A lack of detailed explanation during coding examples, a disorganized course layout, and too much time spent on trivial things are some of the negative aspects of this online course which some users seemed to agree on.
Verdict: This online course is a good match for students who want to learn the basics of PHP through practical video lectures rather than theory. The course material also goes into great depth on CMS, so if your intended PHP use is related to Content Management Systems, then you will find lots of useful material throughout the latter half of this course. However, after the introductory sections, the course does start to lose some steam, as it becomes increasingly difficult to follow and the lecture structures become more disorganized. All in all, though, it’s a good PHP course for beginners.
4. Treehouse: Getting Started with PHP Unit Testing
This is one of the shortest PHP courses on this list, with a total runtime of 91 minutes. It’s focused primarily on PHP testing, and its main target audience is intermediate PHP programmers. While not exactly in-depth, it serves as an excellent crash course on programming & testing in PHP.
Course instructor: The course is delivered by Alena Holligan, a programmer with over 15 years of experience in coding and software engineering.
Here’s Treehouse’s interview with Alena, the instructor of this online course:
Who it’s for: This course in PHP is best suited for intermediate students who want to learn specifically about PHP testing processes. It’s not meant for total beginners, and the course syllabus does not cover the very basics of PHP coding.
What you’ll learn: This short of a PHP course cannot cover a wide range of topics, therefore it has stuck to a specific topic, which is the testing process. Students who take this online course will learn the fundamentals of unit testing in PHP, running example tests, test-driven development, and using PHPUnit to test any preexisting object-oriented programs.
Reviews: The course does not advertise user ratings, therefore it’s difficult to see how others have perceived it. However, the general feedback towards the course from its graduates seems to have been mostly positive.
Verdict: This short course is very specific to unit testing and straight to the point. It’s designed for programmers who already have a background in PHP and don’t need the basic introductory lessons for PHP, HTML and CSS.
It does a great job of covering a specific area of PHP programming, but as it does not reach beyond that, it’s difficult to recommend it as the overall “best PHP course”. It’s great at what it does, but it’s highly specific. The enthusiasm of Alena, the course instructor, gives this PHP course some extra value, though, as she manages to captivate her students from start to finish.
5. Pluralsight: PHP: Getting Started
This is another beginner-oriented PHP course that targets people who know nothing about PHP. Students who take this course get a basic introduction to PHP, before moving onto database management with the help of MySQL. The course is rather short at 3 hours 23 minutes, but it does a good job of covering the fundamentals.
Course instructor: This course has been developed by Christian Wenz, a trainer and consultant on web technologies. Wenz is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional who has written or co-written over 100 books on computer technology.
Who it’s for: This is a starter PHP course designed for beginners who want to develop a basic knowledge of the programming language. This is one of the shortest courses on this list, so it’s also well suited for those students who are looking for a quick crash course on PHP.
What you’ll learn: This PHP online course kicks off like most others, with an introductory segment on PHP and its version histories. After that, the course continues into the topic of MySQL database management, before finishing off with some lectures on security and password management. It does a good job at covering all the major bases of web development in PHP. Especially when you consider the short duration time.
Reviews: Sadly, I could not find any feedback from other students who have taken this course. Without a star rating, it’s difficult to give an estimation as to how many students were satisfied or dissatisfied with this online course.
Verdict: This course is organized very well and packed full of useful information considering the short duration. The course instructor is good at getting his points across and he appears to be an expert at his craft. However, this course is relatively basic in nature and due to the small amount of course material contained within, I’m not sure if I would recommend spending money on buying this course. It’s definitely worth trying out Pluralsight’s free trial, though.
6. Udemy: PHP with Laravel for Beginners
This is another one of the most popular PHP courses on Udemy. Similarly to one of the beforementioned PHP courses, this one was also developed by Edwin Diaz. This time, however, the focus of this 32-hour course is on using PHP in conjunction with Laravel, rather than building a CMS. Overall, it’s a solid PHP course, but it does suffer from some flaws.
Course instructor: This course is instructed by Edwin Diaz from the online training service Coding Faculty Solutions where he serves as CEO.
Who it’s for: This online course is meant for beginners looking to develop their skill set in both Laravel and PHP.
What you’ll learn: This online course kicks right off with teaching students how to build applications using Laravel with PHP. This time, Edwin skips some of the introductory lessons and dives right into the nitty-gritty of building web applications using PHP and Laravel. Students are also shown how to use the templating engine Blade, how to create and use migrations, and how to connect databases. The course features a total of 333 lectures totaling to around 32 hours of training.
Reviews: This online PHP course has mostly positive reviews, with an average rating of 4.4 stars out of 5 across more than 7000 reviews. Students who gave positive feedback for the course gave the instructor credit for being funny, energetic, and natural. Another positive aspect that these reviews brought out is that the course material is easy to understand for beginners.
However, in terms of negative feedback, some users were criticizing the instructor for making too many mistakes during the programming process as it leads to overly lengthy video lessons. Also, some students were unhappy with the lack of lesson structure and preplanning evident throughout the second half of the online course.
Verdict: This course is a good fit for students who wish to develop knowledge in PHP and Laravel. However, it does not provide as complete an overview as the other courses on the list. Therefore, I can only recommend this PHP course if you really want to sharpen up your Laravel skills specifically.
The course sometimes suffers from a lack of proper structuring and preplanning, which is evident during some of the video lectures during the second half of the course. The instructor is knowledgeable, but more preplanning is needed in order to create concise and easy to follow lecture material for the students.
7. Eduonix: Object-Oriented PHP Learning
This is another free PHP tutorial that has garnered quite a lot of popularity in online communities. It teaches PHP through object-oriented programming in the context of building a website. Despite the relatively short length of 4.5 hours, this course still offers some good value.
Course instructor: The program is offered by Eduonix Learning Solutions, an online education website.
Who it’s for: This course is best suited for intermediate students with at least basic knowledge in PHP, as the course syllabus does not spend much time on introducing the very basic concepts of PHP programming.
What you’ll learn: The course will teach you how to build full websites using object-oriented programming in PHP. You will get lectures on both the fundamentals of PHP and OOP, before delving into an actual project which teaches students to build a website using the two. With a total length of 4.5 hours, it’s a relatively short course, but it still manages to cover the basics of both PHP and OOP really well.
Reviews: This online course has received an average rating of 4.2 out of 5 stars from a total of 473 students as of the writing of this article. However, the student reviews are not visible, so it’s difficult to tell what were the motivations behind these exact ratings.
Verdict: This is a solid online course for learning the interrelated coding practices of both PHP and OOP. Due to its short duration, it does not go very deep into any specific topic, but it manages to give learners a broad overview of most of the major topics related to building a website with PHP & OOP.
8. Udemy: Complete PHP MYSQL Professional Course
This is another popular beginner-oriented PHP course on Udemy. With 20 hours of content, it’s quite lengthy. It does a good job of covering the basics of PHP programming, but it suffers from some faults in regards to good coding practice.
Course instructor: This PHP course has been developed by web designer and developer Jazeb Akram. I tried to find out more information about Jazeb’s background for this article, but unfortunately, his website’s CMS is unconfigured and cannot be accessed as of the writing of this article.
Who it’s for: This PHP course is ideal for beginners, as it covers basic coding practices and introductory lessons on web development. Experienced PHP programmers will find little to learn from the course material.
What you’ll learn: This course starts off with teaching students the PHP fundamentals, together with practical building blocks for developing projects in PHP. After the introductory segments, the students get introduced to a dynamic PHP techniques for web development. After that, the course goes into teaching employee management crud applications with the help of SQL.
The last and most lengthy (more than 11 hours) section is on CMS development. One by one, the instructor tries to teach students the fundamentals, before building further on top of these fundamentals in order to provide a full package for custom CMS coding. With this broad of a range of topics covered, it seems like it’s excellent “bang for the buck”. It likely would be – if not for some of the faults mentioned in the next part.
Reviews: The reviews for the course are generally positive but not as high as the alternative courses we have already listed above. As of now, the course has received a rating of 4.2 stars out of 5 from a total of 1,641 student reviews. Positive reviews of the course brought out the well-presented explanations, practical examples, and easy to follow course material.
Negative reviews, on the other hand, have highlighted the instructor’s poor English and lack of helpfulness in the Q&A section. Also, some reviewers said that the instructor teaches poor PHP coding practices which lead to security vulnerabilities.
Verdict: In case you are looking for an introductory course to PHP programming, then this course is a good pick. If you can look past some of its faults then you will likely find lots to learn from the topics covered in this online course. However, be ready to take any information given with a grain of salt.
Free tutorials to learn PHP online
While most of the following resources are not video-based and don’t come with certificates, they are still some of the best free PHP learning resources out there.
Here are some excellent freely accessible PHP tutorials:
freeCodeCamp.org’s PHP Tutorial on YouTube
This PHP course is a bit different from the others on this list. It’s totally free, and it’s on YouTube. It was created by freeCodeCamp.org, a nonprofit organization helping people learn to code for free. It’s shorter than most others on this list, clocking in at 4 hours and 36 minutes, but surprisingly – it teaches a very wide range of topics.
The course starts off with some beginner-level introductory lessons on getting started with PHP coding. Then, it moves onto strings, numbers, user inputs, loops, and more –all the basics a PHP programmer will need. It’s an excellent course for beginners and the fact that it’s totally free makes it even more appealing. I would highly recommend it as one the very best video-based PHP lessons out there. It even trumps many of the paid PHP courses out there.
If you liked their course, consider sending a small donation towards their way on freeCodeCamp.org’s website. They are donor-supported after all.
W3schools.com PHP Tutorial
Another one of my favorite free resources for learning PHP is the W3schools.com’s PHP Tutorial. The name W3schools.com should be familiar to anyone who has ever dabbled into programming. Besides this PHP tutorial, they have extensive documentation on all major programming languages, such as Python, HTML, and CSS.
All of their tutorials are packed full of helpful examples, and they allow readers to try out lines of code themselves using their custom “TryIt Editor”. Personally, I have received an endless amount of value from w3schools.com tutorials, and I will always keep recommending them as a useful resource for absolutely anyone interested in learning to code. Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, you will find something to learn from this platform. I would say that it’s certainly another one of the best free PHP online tutorials out there.
PHP The Right Way
PHP The Right Way is a website dedicated to exactly what its’ name says – teaching PHP the right way. While there is no canonical way of using PHP, the website is still highly useful for any budding PHP programmer. It’s packed full of good PHP coding practice and it’s a fantastic resource to use during learning PHP programming online.
The only downside? It’s not exactly beginner-friendly and intuitive to use. It’s jampacked full of valuable information, but it’s all in the form of a single large block of text. It also seems like the site assumes that the reader has at least a basic knowledge of coding, making it unideal for total beginners.
Nusphere’s PHP Tutorial
Nusphere, an integrated development environment (IDE) for PHP coding, has a 100% free PHP tutorial which covers most of the major topics a PHP programmer needs to know. The lessons are organized in a logical manner and they are illustrated with helpful pictures. However, similarly to PHP The Right Way, the lessons can be difficult to grasp for novices. Therefore, this resource is best used by experts or when used hand-in-hand with another PHP tutorial.
Guru99’s PHP Tutorial
Guru99 has a helpful beginner-oriented free PHP tutorial which covers most of the basics necessary to start working with PHP projects. It’s more beginner-friendly than the tutorials from Nusphere and PHP The Right Way. However, it also does not go as deep into the PHP syntaxes as the beforementioned websites. Therefore, I would mostly recommend Guru99’s free PHP tutorial for those of you who are absolute beginners.