How to Get a Job as a Web or Software Developer
Web and software development (also referred to as programming and engineering) is an exciting career. You get to build cool new technology that changes the way people live and work. Add in the fact that the computer technology sector is rapidly growing and hiring, and it makes a lot of sense to learn how to code.
The real draw of working in web or software development is in the earning potential. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for computer and information technology jobs was $84,580 as of May 2017. And best of all, it doesn’t take advanced degrees or decades of experience to get there. The job market for tech talent is so hot that the right skills can command a six-figure salary.
However, daily commitment is required to learn the coding languages needed to be an in-demand developer, programmer or engineer. You must first master the basics, like HTML, and develop your skills to the point where you’re an expert in a handful of languages employers are looking for.
If you’re considering a career in web or software development, this article is a good place to start. We’ll outline the most popular tech jobs, teach you how you can acquire the right skills and provide some tips for landing your first job as a developer, programmer or engineer.
Types of developer, engineer, and programmer jobs
Like most professions, there are various specializations within web and software development you can focus on. It’s important to have an idea of the specific job you want so you take the right path to becoming qualified and getting hired.
The roles below are a sample of the most popular tech jobs according to various online sources:
- Software Programmer – Write the underlying code that makes software function.
- Software Developer – Write code while also participating in the conceptualization of software (note that “software developer,” “software programmer” and “software engineer” are often treated as similar job titles by employers but there are sometimes mild differences).
- Solutions Architect – Map out the end-to-end plan for complicated tech projects.
- Mobile Developer – Build apps for phones or tablets (most specialize in either Android or iOS development).
- Front-end web developer – Collaborate with designers to bring functionality to a website.
- Back-end web developer – Connect websites with the proper servers and databases.
- QA Engineer – Test and debug software and apps to ensure optimal performance.
The examples above are a simple overview of the many career paths a developer/engineer/programmer could take. Conduct additional research to determine what jobs are in demand in your area, pay the most and require the languages/skills you’re interested in learning.
Education required for a developer, engineer or programmer career
Since working in web or software development requires specific expertise, a computer science major is really the only college degree that prepares you for the job. Fortunately, there are a few alternatives to spending four years on a campus and paying sky-high tuition.
Over the past few years, numerous online and in-person coding schools and bootcamps have popped up. These schools teach students popular coding languages needed to break into the profession at a fraction of the time and cost of a four-year university. However, the exact duration, cost and teaching styles land all over the map. Some can be completed in as quick as six months, cost in the ballpark of $20,000 and take place in a physical classroom. Others move slowly or are self-paced, cost a few thousand dollars and can be completed online. If you decide to go this route, do your own research to find the coding school or bootcamp that best suits you (Course Report and SwitchUp are excellent resources).
You can also learn coding languages for free online but keep in mind that it requires complete and total self-commitment. If you’re not working, spend the majority of your day immersed in these resources. If you’re employed, commit your nights and weekends to them. Stay motivated and you could soon find yourself in a high paying job that required no upfront cost to prepare for.
Skills required for a web or software developer career
Most jobs require the right mix of hard skills (job-related knowledge) and soft skills (personality qualities) to be successful. Let’s explore the different skills that are necessary for getting hired as a developer.
The hard skills required to land a developer or engineer job are always going to be knowledge of the necessary programming languages. The right ones depend on the specific role and the platform/language the company’s software is built on. Below are a handful of the most popular coding languages employers are seeking:
- Visual Basic .NET
Beyond being well-versed in the right programming languages, some employers may want you to be experienced using certain software or tools (i.g GitHub, Microsoft Visual Studio, Google Analytics).
Even though soft skills aren’t as important as coding expertise, they can set you apart from other candidates and help you excel in your future job. Here are some personality qualities that will make you a well-rounded programmer:
- Problem-solving – The ability to solve complicated coding issues and understand why something is programmed a specific way is invaluable to employers.
- Team player – Few programmers work in total isolation. Web developers collaborate with designers and software engineers/programmers often work in large teams.
- Time management – Software devs usually work on tight schedules. Even with great coding skills, you’ll have to properly manage your time.
- Passion for technology and knowledge of the space – The tech space is always evolving. It’s important to be aware of what’s coming next and always be developing new skills.
How to get hired for a developer, programmer or engineer job
Once you’re proficient in a few different coding languages, you can start applying for jobs. While the job market for developers, programmers and engineers currently favors candidates, it’s still a good idea to put in extra effort when searching for the right position. Here are a few tips for landing your first job in web or software development:
Build your own websites, apps and programs
Learning coding languages isn’t enough to get a job. You need to show potential employers websites or apps you built that prove you know what you’re doing. Additionally, it’s a great exercise for applying what you know as you learn to code.
Who knows, maybe you’ll build something cool that can become a revenue-generating business. Even if you don’t, you’ll have work samples to present in interviews.
Contribute to an open-source project
Open source refers to software code that is made freely available online. You can see how popular programs were built and modify or contribute to the code.
Getting involved in an open-source project will help you refine your skills and build a portfolio. It’s also a great way to network since many projects have a community of passionate tech professionals.
Attend a hackathon and show what you can do
Hackathons are popular events where developers get together and participate in coding competitions. Attending these events is not only a great way to network and show off your skills. It could also help you connect with employers since many companies sponsor and host hackathons with the intention of recruiting programmers and engineers.
Get your foot in the door
Even though your goal is likely to land a high paying job as a web or software developer, you might have to first pad your resume with some entry-level positions. Don’t shy away from starting as a junior developer or QA analysis. You’ll have the opportunity to hone your skills while getting paid and will have a solid chance of getting promoted to a mid-level position when you’re ready.
Set yourself up for a career in web or software development
Keep in mind that learning how to code will take a year or longer, depending on the languages you focus on and how much time and effort you put in. But if you find a path that works for you and stick to it, you could soon have an exciting and lucrative career.