-- Please help getting the word out by reposting this for various programmer-but-not-Drupal lists groups etc.
If you have any sort of programming affinity then becoming a Drupal coder at this point can be considered a very wise move. It will not happen overnight -- indeed it might take as long as a year but learning any new profession takes time. You can do it in your spare time, spending a 1-2 hours daily on it. If you do it right -- quite some tips to follow -- then by the time you learn the craft you will also build a presence, a network around you and scoring a job will not be hard. This is because one of the biggest assets of Drupal is its community and if you integrate yourself within the community then recognition follows. Due to the high demand for Drupal coders right now (and the foreseeable future) you will be sought after instead of having to hunt for a job.
First thing to do is to install Drupal and get acquainted with it. Freely click around, you can't break it. This mindset is very important: experiment freely, it can't hurt. (This is what some calls a hacker mentality btw.) There is a Beginner's handbook that you will find very useful. There are also dozens of books on Drupal. Paid training and local meetups can help as well. Meanwhile, you can begin going through the issue queues by being a farmer or a pirate. This helps you getting more familiar with Drupal and helps building your "karma" (community recognition).
When you begin to feel more comfortable with Drupal, you can move to the programming side. The approach wil be similar: while you learn Drupal coding, you also work the issue queue. Your resources to learn are the Learning Drupal 6 module development book, the Professional Drupal Development book and the API reference site. You will likely know more about the issue queue by now.
Always try to think of the types of sites you'd like to build and solve those problems. This will keep you goal oriented, help you define your specific fields of interest, and will force you to solve the same types of problems that your future clients are solving. It keeps it real. And never hesitate to reach out to other Drupal community members if you're stuck or need help. We all got to where we are with the help of others, and you'll get your chance to help someone else in turn.
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