Are you interested in a career as a software developer? Or do you want to change careers into programming? If so, you're not alone.
Software development jobs are growing at a double-digit rate, yet the number of students graduating from computer science programs is steadily decreasing. In fact, there are more than 500k jobs currently open for software developers in the U.S., and most of them can't find skilled workers to fill them. As the economy continues to grow and businesses continue to expand, these openings will only increase.
This means that you can expect a promising career in software development if you have an aptitude for technology and programming.
But where to start? In this post, we will cover the most daunting questions you probably have about becoming a software engineer, such as:
- What an entry-level software engineer is
- How you can become one
- What skills & qualifications you should have
- How a typical day looks like if you need a computer science degree
- and how much an entry-level software engineer makes.
What is an entry-level software engineer?
The term "entry-level software engineer or junior software engineer" can be a bit misleading. Many job postings for this position simply define it as "software engineer" and do not specify any experience level. This is because entry-level developers are expected to learn on the job, so you may be able to get the job with only a few months of full-time work experience.
An entry-level developer is usually someone who has just started their career as a programmer. This person could either be fresh out of school or someone with several years of professional programming experience switching fields (or moving into the software industry for the first time).
Junior software developers usually have between one and three years of professional experience in some form of programming. This includes formal education at a technical college, coding boot camps, self-study courses taken online, or job training at previous jobs.
However, for some companies, the term "entry-level software engineer" is used to refer specifically to recent college graduates or interns who do not yet have previous professional programming work experience. If you meet all other requirements but lack direct programming experience, you may want to consider seeking an internship instead of applying for a full-time position.
What are the usual tasks of an entry-level developer?
Junior developers often complete several kinds of tasks, including building basic features, fixing bugs, and creating prototypes. Each project has its own requirements, so it's impossible to tell you exactly what you would be doing every day. However, you will likely learn a programming language or two along with basic debugging and testing tools. You may also have to talk with customers to clarify their needs and write user stories.
How can I become an entry-level software engineer?
If you are looking to break into the field of software development as an entry-level engineer, there are several ways that you can go about doing this.
The first step is to make sure that this is really what you want to do. If so, sign up for free online courses or take a few classes at a local college or university to get started. These courses will teach you fundamental programming skills. However, don't expect them to prepare you for real-world development work.
Once your confidence and knowledge level have increased through these classes, begin researching companies where they may be hiring entry-level engineers and apply for roles that match your qualifications. In most cases, applying directly through the company website will give you the best chance at landing an interview.
What qualifications do I need?
There are no hard and fast rules for becoming a junior software developer. The most important things that hiring managers look for are relevant work experience, good communication skills (written and verbal), and some ambition to learn more about the field. You don't need to have been coding for years. These skills can be acquired on the job.
Entry-level developers should have a good knowledge of at least one programming language. It would be best if you also were interested in learning more about this field, both for the sake of your current job and because you may want to expand into other areas as you become more experienced.
If you are applying for an entry-level software engineering position, it is not expected that you know everything about the field — no one starts with years of experience. Instead, hiring managers look for enthusiasm and a willingness to learn new things.
Do I need to have a degree in computer science?
However, suppose you don't have much work experience in the field or haven't taken any computer science courses recently. In that case, it's probably a good idea to take some general programming classes before applying for an entry-level software engineer position.
Is this position similar to an internship?
In many ways, yes. You'll be working closely with a senior developer in both positions to complete different tasks — from fundamental features to bug fixes — depending on the project's current requirements.
However, interns are often paid less than employees. Also, interns usually do not have direct input into deciding what they will be working on during their time at the company. You may choose between internships and entry-level software engineering roles based on your preferences.
However, suppose you lack professional experience but still feel confident in learning new things quickly and adapting to new situations. In that case, an entry-level software engineer position might be better suited for you than an internship.
Is it possible that I won't enjoy programming?
Yes, it's possible! Although some people think that coding is fun right away while others believe that it takes weeks or months before seeing results, most programmers agree that becoming good at programming is hard work (but rewarding). Some find it thrilling, while others say it feels like solving puzzles. Still, others complain about having too much stress because deadlines are tight, and code has bugs requiring urgent fixing.
But most developers believe they have more positive experiences than negative ones: they feel excited when learning something new — whether it's a new operating system or programming language — and solving complicated problems feels great once everything works smoothly.
In other words, just like every other activity, code writing involves both upsides and downsides. However, many people report enjoying these upsides so much that they continue doing what they love most every day!
When choosing between different jobs, never forget how necessary personal preferences are: don't spend years making money writing code unless you genuinely enjoy doing it!
What makes a good entry-level software engineer?
Here a few things companies might look for in an entry-level software engineer candidate:
- Good communication skills (written and verbal)
- Passion for your work
- Desire to learn more about the field
- Motivation — don't give up after one rejection!
- Interest in working with new technologies
- Experience coding in previous internships / summer programs / classes / projects
- Bonus points if you've been using open-source version control tools such as GitHub or BitBucket!
What does a typical day look like as an entry-level software engineer?
As with many other jobs, there is no single way that a junior developer spends their time on the job. However, most entry-level developers will spend some part of their workday writing code to create new features for the product they're working on.
This can range from modifying existing code to creating something entirely new. In either case, you'll usually start by talking with a manager or customer about what is needed and then coming up with a solution.
It's essential to think through all aspects of how your feature will work when designing it to work seamlessly with the rest of the product or system. Suppose your program is meant to be used by non-technical people. In that case, it's also important to make sure that your customers understand how it works and how they can use it effectively (a process known as usability testing).
Depending on where you work, you may need additional design thinking or business analysis skills to complete these tasks successfully. You may also spend time writing documentation to explain how your programs work and help other people use them effectively.
What types of companies hire entry-level software engineers?
Some entry-level developers work at small startup companies, some at large corporations. Startups usually don't require previous experience, benefit from being closer to customers and business owners, and allow for lots of learning opportunities that would be hard to find at larger established corporations. If you're interested in career growth with many possible directions, then working for a startup may be right for you.
Entry-level developers employed by tech giants such as Google or Microsoft usually work on well-established projects and rarely have career advancement chances. However, they enjoy excellent benefits packages and high salaries. If money is your priority (and you want to work in tech anyway), these jobs are worth considering if they match your qualifications and location preferences.
How much does an entry-level software engineer make?
The average entry-level software engineer salary depends on many factors, including experience level, location, and the particular job you are applying for.
According to Indeed.com, an entry-level software engineer's average salary is $60k per year. However, this number varies significantly depending on the industry — software development jobs in Silicon Valley pay much more than New York City or Boston positions.
Entry-level developers working at large companies such as Google or Microsoft can earn salaries of over $100k per year. Salaries vary even within a single company. It's not unusual for new hires to make less than their counterparts who have been working there longer.
Coding is an extremely useful skill that everyone should learn at some point in their life. Too many people I meet are too afraid to try coding because they don't know how to start or think it would take them years and years to become good.
Almost everything you need is free online, and all you need is discipline & motivation! It takes time and dedication, but if you work hard, it will pay off.
Stress levels are minimal compared to other careers because no one expects software developers to be experts in their field overnight (or even during their lifetime). Most employers understand that learning takes time, and they will be patient with new hires when they make mistakes or struggle through challenging concepts.