How to Get into Tech with No Experience
By The Fullstack Academy Team
For someone with no experience, the tech industry can look daunting to enter. Getting a college degree can take four years and cost between $25,500 and $53,200 per year on average, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Fortunately, there are other routes into the field. Tech offers a wide assortment of career paths for workers without experience or a college degree, whether they’re changing jobs or seeking their first one:
Employment in computer and information technology (IT) will grow by 13% from 2020 to 2030, the BLS projects—almost twice the 7% rate for the average occupation.
As many as 25% of tech professionals earned their positions without a traditional four-year college degree, BLS figures show.
Prospective workers can utilize a number of resources to get into tech with no experience—and one of the best ways to get started is to learn how to code.
How to Get a Coding Job With No Experience
While automation and technology have made many jobs obsolete, they’ve also created new classes of jobs: ones that make automation and technology possible. Many of these jobs involve coding—creating, maintaining, designing, or optimizing the programs behind everything from software applications to websites to games.
While many earn a computer science degree, others have found it possible to get a coding job with no experience. Aspiring coders can find an abundance of guides, tutorials, and articles to help them learn the basics, both in print and online. Another option is a tech bootcamp that squeezes those essentials into as few as three intensive months.
Whatever the learning method, two key areas for study are core concepts and programming languages.
Core Concepts in Coding
Programming languages each involve their own complexities, but they have certain core concepts in common. Mastering these concepts makes it easier to learn both a first language and additional ones.
A variable is a placeholder. It reserves a memory location for a specific kind of data, like a number or a name. As data is entered into variables, a program can manipulate them to produce outputs like charts and texts.
Like a filing system, a data structure is a framework for storing data to make it easy to access when it’s needed. Different structures have different kinds of uses, and a programmer should be familiar with various uses.
Much as a plumber keeps various wrenches for different repairs, a coder uses programming tools to simplify different kinds of jobs. Two common kinds of tools are debuggers, which test programs for errors, and compilers, which translate high-level languages into low-level machine language.
When learning a foreign language, a student chooses one that’s useful for a particular goal, like taking Spanish for a trip to Spain. Programming languages are similar. The tech area in which a student wants to work should influence what language the student learns first. Some popular programming languages and what they’re used for are as follows:
For maximum flexibility from one industry to another, Python is a leading language. It’s relatively easy to learn, but it can write a wide variety of tasks, from simple automation scripts to computer programs and web applications. It’s also used in machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI).
Java is the chief language behind Android, which powers 85% of mobile devices. It’s the top language for smart applications.
C and C++
C is the closest to a universal programming language. It was first developed for writing operating systems, like UNIX and Windows. Its versatility makes it relatively simple to adapt code for one device or operating system (OS) to run on another. C++ is a high-performance offshoot that helps programs run faster and use less memory.
Tactics for Finding a Coding Job With No Experience
A programmer learns by doing. As students learn core concepts and languages, they practice by doing hands-on coding. Such projects help them strengthen their skills and learn from their mistakes.
Additionally, coding projects can expose a student’s work to other programmers and to potential employers. The online ecosystem of coders offers numerous routes for someone seeking a coding job with no experience to demonstrate coding skills. Some of those routes are self-created projects, coding challenges, open-source software, and freelance projects.
While working with an existing app, a student may find problems that need fixing or opportunities to create entirely new apps. It can boost visibility to post the code online as it’s developed, either on a personal website or on a software repository like GitHub.
A coding challenge is a sort of programming puzzle. Some challenge websites, like Codewars, rank coders as they work their way through challenges. Others, like Topcoder, have prize money attached. Either way, taking on challenges can sharpen programming skills.
It can also help prepare for job interviews, since many employers use programming challenges to test candidates. Sites like LeetCode provide technical questions for practicing the kinds of challenges that an interviewer might pose.
Open-source programs are usually free for anyone to use and open for anyone to contribute to. Many widely used OSs and programs are open source, such as the Android mobile OS and the web development platform WordPress.
For beginners, adding to an open-source project provides them an opportunity to demonstrate their coding skills. More than that, it can make a student part of a community, collaborating with more experienced programmers. Such connections can help build a professional network and lead to work opportunities.
As a step to getting hired as a full-time programmer, many beginning coders build a robust portfolio outside a traditional work setting by taking freelance jobs. Freelance projects can come out of networking, but coders can also seek them out in online marketplaces.
Since freelance work is usually time-limited and paid by the project, it can be ideal for someone looking to transition from another career. The person can accumulate a record of freelance work while still in an existing job.
How to Get Into the Tech Industry With No Experience
Coding provides one example of how to get into the tech industry with no experience, but many other kinds of tech jobs are open as well. For example, 37% of computer user support specialists and 29% of network and computer systems administrators have no college degree, according to the BLS.
Other tech occupations with high percentages of workers without a degree include information security analyst, database administrator, and web developer.
Once workers have developed skills in these fields, they can use several common strategies for seeking an entry-level job.
While a computer science degree typically takes four years, studying for certification and sitting for an exam can be accomplished in a matter of months. Earning one or more certifications can help a job seeker’s resume stand out. It’s evidence that the job seeker has mastered a specific set of skills and that a professional organization has verified them.
Certifications run the gamut from expertise in particular software to networking, user support, project management, and cybersecurity. Large companies like Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and Cisco offer certifications specific to their products. For example, Amazon Web Services certifies professionals in specialties such as data analytics and cloud computing.
In tech, perhaps even more than in the rest of the business world, who you know can be as important as what you know. Many job openings are never advertised. They get filled through networking in online communities.
The scope of online communities can dwarf those of brick-and-mortar businesses. A site like Stack Overflow, with 14 million registered users, allows a beginner to ask programming questions and get answers, while meeting others with similar targeted interests.
Nontechnical social media sites can also aid a tech job seeker:
A LinkedIn profile can display qualifications to an employer that’s seeking your skill set. It can also allow you to search and connect with individuals and companies that align with your interests.
A Twitter account can help build a personal brand, while making professional connections through tweeting and being retweeted.
As beginners start creating their own projects, blogging about them is another way to increase both visibility and credibility—particularly to possible colleagues who might discover a blog through a search engine.
Refreshing a blog with new content can build a steady audience. Insights on programming, as well as tips and tricks, can keep readers and potential clients coming back.
Seek Out Startups
Tech giants like Google and Facebook began as startups with limited resources. Startups often can’t afford more experienced professionals. They’re often more open to onboarding newcomers who are eager to learn and can demonstrate solid skills, even with no experience.
At first, a startup may need only part-time work or onetime projects. Reaching out to a startup can be an opportunity to build both a portfolio and a relationship. As the business expands, the relationship may blossom into a full-time job, as well as sharing financially in the business’s growth.
What Can You Do With Coding Skills?
Occupational horizons keep expanding for workers with coding skills. Cultivating those skills can open the door to a wide assortment of professional roles that encourage creativity and innovation.
A 2022 survey of 14,000 developers and recruiters by the tech interview platform CoderPad demonstrates how both the number and the variety of opportunities are increasing. It found the following:
More than a third of the companies surveyed planned to recruit at least 50 new coders in the coming year.
Degrees were becoming less important, with 39% willing to hire developers from nonacademic backgrounds.
Most recruiters agreed that skill sets were as important as resumes, and 57% were considering not requiring resumes in the hiring process.
It also found that web designers and software developers weren’t the only needs. Recruiters were seeking coders in many cutting-edge areas of tech:
AI and machine learning
Coding Jobs Beyond Tech Companies
What you can do with coding skills isn’t limited to the tech industry. You can seek out careers in other industries that fit your interests. Because technology is integral to most modern businesses, tech jobs are growing in companies not traditionally thought of as technological.
Over the past decade, e-commerce has soared from 5% to 13% of all retail sales, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. With intense competition from Amazon, it’s no surprise that traditional retailers like Kroger, Nordstrom, and Home Depot have invested heavily in tech hiring in recent years.
However, the jobs aren’t only in online sales. Market research firm BJSS reports that the top retail tech trends include the following:
Using AI to aid human decision-making
Algorithmic merchandising to optimize stocking and promoting items on shelves
Real-time pricing, adjusting prices with fluctuations in customer demand
Since the advent of online banking and automated stock trading, the financial world has long been an early adopter of technology.
In recent years, though, its demand for people with coding skills has outstripped supply, reports the digital finance publication The Financial Brand. A survey of financial institutions showed that 50% find it difficult to hire IT talent because candidates gravitate toward tech companies.
To entice coders into finance, some firms are taking steps like First Republic Bank in San Francisco, which offers up to $200 a month in loan repayments to employees with student debts.
For many health systems, digitizing medical records was their first foray into the world of programming. More recently, coding has enhanced doctors’ ability to put those records to use. Tech helps them to make diagnoses and monitor patients’ conditions, as well as provide services like telemedicine.
In one recent 90-day span, reports the labor data company Emsi Burning Glass, the 25 biggest tech employers in healthcare hired 5,535 technologists. They were divided between provider systems like Kaiser Permanente and HCA Healthcare and health data firms like Elastic and IQVIA.
Salaries in the Tech Industry
People with coding and other tech skills have the opportunity to find jobs with lucrative annual salaries. A sampling of figures from Emsi Burning Glass:
For software developers and engineers, the median annual salary is $98,727 as of 2022.
Cybersecurity analysts make a median annual salary of $96,889.
For data analysts, the median is $73,240.
Web developers earn a median of $92,349.
Product managers make a median annual salary of $102,326.
The fastest-growing salaries, according to the tech job search site Dice, are for workers who help process and protect data. Cybersecurity analysts saw their earnings grow by 16.3% in 2020, while data scientists increased their compensation by 12.8%.
Geographic Diversity of Coding Jobs
Dice also pointed to the nation’s biggest hot spots for technology jobs. Silicon Valley topped the list, with an average tech salary of $126,801, followed by New York City, New York, and Boston, Massachusetts.
Today, people with coding skills can find work in any part of the country, with 90% of the jobs outside Silicon Valley, according to the computer education group Code.org. Emerging tech centers include the following:
The Great Plains states of Iowa, Kansas, and Nebraska (collectively, the “Silicon Prairie”)
Utah (the “Silicon Slopes”)
Denver and Boulder, Colorado
Raleigh-Durham and Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Pursue a Dynamic Career Path in Tech
For someone with little experience, few industries offer the opportunities that tech does for launching a fulfilling and well-paying career. One avenue for how to get into tech with no experience is by pursuing a bootcamp, like the ones that Grace Hopper Program offers. In as few as 10 intensive weeks, a student can be prepared to earn certifications and seek jobs in coding. Learn more about how a tech bootcamp can help both first-time workers and career changers pursue their professional ambitions.