It is never too late to pursue your career as a software developer even without a college degree.
If you are planning to regain employment or want a change in career, then making a shift to a profession as technical as that of a software developer, is not a far-fetched idea anymore.
As per the research conducted by the popular news website, US News, software developers tend to earn an average annual salary of $95510 along with having one of the most nominal unemployment rates of 2.5%. Combined with a perfect work-life lifestyle, software developing is one of the most attractive techno careers in the market.
Moreover, the career is all set to witness a 10% more growth than its current 7%, making it a staggering 17% occupational growth rate between the years of 2014 and 2024. Going by these growth estimates provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the profession is all set to welcome an additional 186,600 jobs.
In spite of the bright future of computer sciences and information technology (IT), only a mere 2.4% of the total university students actually graduate in it. This indicates that by the end of 2020, there would around 1.4 million jobs in computer sciences and IT with only 400,000 graduates to fulfill them.
Plenty of employment opportunities but not enough employees
The math is simple for everyone to understand. The career as a software developer is not only good but also provides better financial security and flexibility to your life. But, the question that arises is that is it possible to become a software developer without going through a necessary four-year degree and can those lucrative jobs mentioned above be grabbed without graduating? The answer is absolute, yes. In collaboration with Flatiron Schools Learn Verified team, I have gathered an eleven-step guide on becoming a software developer without having needing a computer sciences degree.
It is important to note that the following steps are only for those that are looking to pursue a full-time career as a software engineer. Not for those that are:
· Experimenting with coding for the first time.
· Not certain if coding is appropriate for them
· Aiming at related fields such as web design, UX or UI
· Planning to become a full-time freelancer
· Targeting the opening of their own business.
Step 1. Set and commit to your larger aim
Shifting careers is one of the most difficult tasks for anyone but if the larger aim is set and you are committed to achieving it then it is easy to overcome any hurdle. A larger aim would be more of a pledge:
· My aim is to work as a software developer at a renowned technological company.
· My aim is to work at a tech startup as a software developer
· My aim is to develop software as a part of a team and get the remuneration I deserve.
· Come what may, I am committed to achieving my aim by following the steps.
Step 2. Plan to learn a language
Learning a language can be very difficult for starters especially if the options are unlimited and the time is limited.
The crucial thing is when becoming a software engineer, learning a certain language can help in learning programming fundamentals. After the completion of a particular language, moving or learning another language, technologies and frameworks can become rather easy. As per the words of Avi Flombaum, the co-founder of Flatiron School, “the vital aspect of it all is that you are learning to think like a software developer”.
Our advice is to start with one language at a time and for that purpose, Ruby can be a good starting point. Ruby is easy to learn and as an open source, it provides free access to, numerous developer tools and developer’s community. Another vital aspect of the language is that it’s widely used by countless companies and also allows an easy passage into learning other languages in the future. Lastly, to cement our point, for the majority of starters, Ruby is the best programming language that they have opted for.
Step 3. Practice makes a man perfect
Learning a language is simply not enough, becoming a software developer requires real time practice. It is important to dedicate a certain amount of time every day to practicing this new skill. When we talk about a certain amount, we mean a considerable amount of time, not just 10 hours in a week.
According to software engineers, it takes up to 10,000 hours of hard work and practice to become a professional software developer. 10,000 may be a benchmark too high for you but a substantial amount of time should be sufficient for practicing.
A Web Development Course requires a total of 600-800 hours of input from students and it takes around 4-10 months for them to finish it, solely depending on the number of hours they give.
Step 4. To become a professional, use professional tools.
Tools such as CodeAcademy can be a good starting point but they do not have the same feel as the professional tools. Typing into the browser and getting a result is completely different to the way a professional software engineer works. In order to be an expert, you should use professional tools right from the start. It will not only help you in getting a better feel of software design and development but would also help you in easy transition into a full-time job.
Having said that, it is quite difficult to use professional tools to build a software like professional software developer does.
In all these dos and don’ts, teaches you the right way of utilizing these tools for the best outcome. The curriculum covers every aspect of various tools and allows for processes used by professional engineers. Tools such as:
· Terminal working
· Test-driven development
· Group projects
The curriculum will enable you to learn faster and subsequently adjust faster once you get employed in a full-time job instead of having to go through another learning process.
Step 5. Learn from others and their codes
When it comes to the practical world, it is important as a software engineer to be able to, learn from other people and read their codes. GitHub repositories have abundance of codes and can be a good source of documentation to learn from.
It is essential to note that documentation may contains defects but the source codes are always appropriate. By attempting to read the code, you will get a fair idea about the program and the way it is being run. This practice can also help in debugging as you will be able to identify and correct the mistakes in coding.
People do not invest a fair amount of time or effort in this practice but let me assure you that it can have countless benefits. It also helps in knowing the way experienced software developers work. The real benefit can only be reaped when you do a profound study of the codes, list the functionality and try to redo the whole program. It will not only help in reversing the entire program but also help in creating a better one.
Step 6. Join a like-minded community
Joining the right community with like-minded people can be highly beneficial for a starter like yourself. Being part of a good community can provide a quality and constant support besides much-needed motivation especially when you are feeling lost or being skeptical about your aim. Both these scenarios are highly likely for you to encounter.
Online community is a better and more accessible option for everyone. Though, in-person groups are easily available for joining, coordination and accessibility are always a question mark on them.
You do not face any of these issues as they allow for access to their Slack group. The group provides a good learning platform for students to get together and communicate on various topics either through video chat or private Slack channel. The Slack group has people from all levels of experience. While 40% of the questions are answered by students, there is additional help from professional software developers as well. Students also have the liberty to initiate their own group or become part of other online study groups.
Step 7. Develop your own projects
Watching tutorials and videos will not be of any use if you are not able to put them into practical use. Therefore, work on them as professional software developers do and it shall help you in the future when you are all set to apply for a full-time job.
Moreover, concentrate on developing projects on your own or with help of a group. It can help in refining your skills.
You will be to master the craft of developing projects. You get to create 3-5 applications throughout the length of your course and finally get to develop a capstone project. You can opt to develop the applications or the project which is related to your area of interest. It also allows the students to develop everything in GitHub. Anything developed on it provides an excellent platform to learn and also helps in displaying future employers your potential.
Step 8. Enhance your professional network
Once you are able to master the art of coding, developing applications and projects, enhancing your professional network should be your next target. In today’s world, more often than not, applying online is a waste of effort. Instead, it is more beneficial to know someone personally that can help you land your dream job.
As shown by the stats at Jobvite, 40% of the newly employed are hired through employee referrals.
While it is essential to connect with your first and direct connections, it is also important to find and cement links to second connections, commonly known as a mutual friend. Find these second connections to introduce yourself as they might come in handy when wanting to work for the company of your choice. These people can help you get your first interview and most probably your first job too.
If you can’t get hold of a mutual friend, then there are other ways of making new connections.
· Join a meetup
· Create a personalized blog
· Contribute vocally at events
Give something back to the community and you will surely meet people there.
Meanwhile, the curriculum gives you a complete head start on networking, cold emailing, creating and managing a coding blog and much more. But, the important aspect of the course is the job assurance for everyone. This puts the onus on the school to guarantee you a job within 6 months of the completion of the course or they will return all your course fee back.
Step 9. Warm up before the game
Even if you have connections, mutual friends or referrals, you still need to warm up before the game. This would mean preparing your resume, cover letters and have an online profile before you start applying for various jobs.
Even in today’s hi-tech world, resumes are utterly important. Employers still want to get a rough idea of your experience and overall skills and the only way of doing it is through your resume. Cover letters are also a vital tool to make an impression on potential employers, especially when applying online. Once your resume and cover letters are sorted, the next step is having a vibrant online profile that is maintained over a length of time. While all industries require all three, the technological industry requires an online presence more than any other. Employers are likely to google you before calling you for an interview, therefore, make sure you have a positive outlook online.
The online presence constitutes of the following:
· Personalized blog
· Your own website or business site like BMS
Step 10. Get into the game
Once the warm up is over then comes the real game. There are normally three processes of landing a face to face interview also known as on-site interview. The first step involves online screening then comes the phone interview and finally the on-site interview.
Apart from the general questions aimed at your strengths and weaknesses, you are most likely to be asked some tough and technical questions. There is a possibility of being asked to formulate a code, develop a project or describe your course of action in a tricky situations that you may have experienced in the past.
You can get assistance from Cracking the Code interview book that can be a helpful guide when preparing for interviews.
Besides its other benefits, it provides complete access to a wide range of careers curriculum that is specifically designed to get you ready for your interview. The course students also get the opportunity to have a mock interview with a proper and detailed feedback. the feedback allows the interviewer to polish their areas of weakness and better the way employers would perceive them. That is not all, students also get a real life technical interview with a professional software developer.
Lastly, the program virtually guarantees you a job and therefore they put in the work required for it. But, it is also critical that you put in your utmost effort, after all, you reap what you sow.
Step 11. Win the game by taking the job
All the hard work does pay off and in this case, it is only paying off when you nail the game and win the job offer. Once you have gone through the entire regime, you deserve something good and it is only a matter of time before you receive a good offer. It may be an entry-level job but at least you have stepped the ladder to bigger and better things.
Not easy, right! But good things don’t come easy.
Besides, all the course work and rigorous routine, the focal point of it all is hard work. There will be times when you would want to give up or plan to go back to old routine but remember many people out there have successfully become a software developer through sheer dedication and solo effort.
Doing anything on your own is difficult and becoming a software developer may be the toughest. Therefore, courses makes it easy for you to fast track your career as a software engineer.
The aspect of the course that really gives it the edge over other similar courses is its job placement. They not only offer career counseling but also provides an assurance of receiving a job offer within 6 months of completing the course otherwise the entire course fee is returned.
As per past stats, 99% of their former students are employed while 95% receive job offers within the first 3 months of graduating. The average annual salary received by them is $74000 as a junior developer.
They excepts all its students to put their utmost effort in studying and learning so they can land the ideal jobs for themselves. The interested students are expected to go through an application process to show their passion and prove their worth to the program and school.
If you plan to become a software developer one day then an online course is your best route to achieving your goal. The course may be tough and at times even testing but the extensive support system is available at every step to help you overcome the hurdles. All you need to do is give the program the necessary effort and as the stats suggest, you will end up with the required skills that will assist you in getting your software developer’s job.