Career Insights

How to Begin a New Career as a Software Engineer

A Few Tips To Make Your Transition Into Programming Easier

Making a career change can be as simple as re-discovering what you want to be when you grow up. 

But let’s face it. Beginning a new career in software engineering is not simple at all.

The transition into software engineering is admittedly daunting but also incredibly rewarding. Below are a few tips to help you on your way. 

Tip 1: Decide How You Want To Learn Software Development

Embarking on a career in software engineering begins with a solid foundation and a working knowledge of software development.

There’s no one-size-fits-all option to beginning your education. Choosing your learning path depends on you, your work style, your timeline, and your budget.

In no particular order, the three most common approaches for a software engineering education are:

  1. Bootcamps
  2. College
  3. Self-Teaching

These aren’t mutually exclusive approaches. Many find that a mix of all three works well, too. Let’s break down what each option looks like.

Bootcamps

Coding bootcamps are a combination of instructor-led classes and independent study. Overall, it’s a collaborative approach. Expect to complete assignments and group projects just like you would in school. Depending on which program you choose, there are in-person, remote, and hybrid options.

Bootcamps are especially useful if you’re looking for a crash course in a short amount of time. Plus, your classmates will be aspiring software engineers like yourself. Make the most of your bootcamp by networking and connecting with your peers.

Coding bootcamps come with a price, though. Still cheaper than most university options, bootcamps can range anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000+. According to Career Karma’s State of the Bootcamp Market Report in 2020, the average coding bootcamp tuitions are:

  • $10,000-$15,000 (42.4%)
  • $15,000-$20,000 (20.7%)
  • $5,000-$10,000 (18.5%)
  • Under $5,000 (9.8%)
  • $20,000+ (8.7%)

Other things to consider:

They’re called bootcamps for a reason. Expect a major time commitment.

If you don’t have a portfolio yet, participating in a bootcamp is a great place to build one up.

Some programs do require software engineering students to have a basic knowledge of coding. This is where doing some self-teaching can go a long way. 

Self-Teaching

Self-teaching is another approach to kick-start your transition into programming. In fact, many successful software engineers took the self-teaching route.

This is a great option for those looking for a low-cost, self-paced approach. Seemingly endless resources for upskilling, building, and collaborating exist across the internet. A major perk of self-teaching is the freedom to design your own curriculum on your own schedule. You can tailor your programming studies to fit the career path that most excites you.

Check out this list from learntocodewith.me for 101 ways to learn to code for free.

College

While alternatives like bootcamps and self-teaching are widely popular and increasingly welcomed in the software engineering sector, a traditional computer science degree is still the most common way of beginning a new career as a software engineer. StackOverflow conducted a global developer study that reported that 75% of respondents completed at least the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree or higher. However, that same study reported that only 9.8% of respondents deem having a formal coding education as “critically important” to the career.

A bachelor's degree will likely be the most expensive and most time-consuming transition into programming. The advantage, though, of spending four years completing a computer science degree is you have plenty of time to experience a comprehensive education and explore different areas of programming.

Codewarrior Tip: When it comes to code, practice really does make perfect. For a daily coding practice site designed for coders of all levels to learn various programming languages and complete creative challenges, check out our coding dojo.

Tip 2: Narrow Down Your Career Interests

Saying you’re starting a new career as a programmer is…vague. Focusing on areas that interest you, and understanding your strengths and weaknesses as a programmer will help you narrow down what kind of programming career would be the best fit for you. 

Love mobile interaction with the potential for entrepreneurship? Maybe give Mobile Development a try. 

More drawn to creating an intuitive user experience? Then pursuing a career in Frontend Development might be a better choice.

Do you think Spot the Robot Dog from Boston Dynamics is fascinating instead of unsettling? Artificial Intelligence could be in your future. 

The list below gives you an idea of some common titles. This isn’t a comprehensive list of every role you could succeed in as a developer, but it’s a good start.

  • Web Developer
  • Backend Developer
  • Frontend Developer
  • Full Stack Developer
  • Web3 Developer
  • Language/Compilers Developer
  • Embedded System Developer
  • Operating systems Developer
  • Data Scientist
  • Artificial Intelligence Developer
  • Video Game Developer
  • Development and Operations
  • Desktop Developer
  • Mobile Apps Developer

Tip 3: Have Projects to Showcase 

Creating a portfolio is the best way to stand out to a hiring manager. A portfolio is an asset that you should keep up to date throughout your entire career. For those just getting started in programming, this is where coding bootcamps and college courses come in handy. Odds are you'll already have projects that are portfolio-ready. If you’re self-taught, don’t worry! There are plenty of ways to show your skills, too. For more ideas on what is ‘portfolio worthy’, check out the article 'How to Create a Software Engineering Portfolio to Land Your First Junior Dev Job'.

Be sure to include projects that would be relevant to your ideal career. Instead of sharing 10 projects that don’t speak to the job you want, consider combing through and picking 3-4 that are more relevant. Quality over quantity is what’s important. 

Portfolio Hosting

There are a few different options when it comes to hosting your portfolio. One option is to create your own domain. By showing you can create a site, you’re already well on your way to showcasing your talents. Fill it with a link to your favorite projects and you’ll be set! 

Creating your own domain isn’t the only way to promote your work. Joining repository hosting sites like Github and Bitbucket are musts. Hiring managers will often ask for links to your profiles.

Codewarrior Tip: “Your creativity and the presentation of your work should speak for itself, but you should also show how you got there. Clients want to know not only what you built, but how you built it. Developers work by a process and you should demonstrate that you have one.” - Codementor

Last Tip: Never Stop Learning

Corny but true. Beginning a career in software engineering means you’re beginning a career dedicated to continuous learning. These tips will get you started, but one final piece of advice is to join a coding community. Check out some of our favorites like Codewars, GitHub, Stack Overflow, HackerNews, Hackernoon, Hashnode, freeCodeCamp, and Women Who Code. There’s no better resource than working with people who have experience. Good luck!

Codewarrior Tip: Getting ready for an interview? Check out Qualified’s 7 Traits To Look For When Hiring Software Developers. This will get you inside of a hiring manager’s mind.

Related Kata

Feeling inspired to start coding? Check out some kata that have been hand selected based on this article.

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