Are you bored with your current career? Are you no longer able to work in a job with manual labor? Are you worried about the possibility of redundancy?
It’s never too late to retrain as a developer.
This guide will dive into how you can successfully transition into a job as a software developer, regardless of your previous background, experience, or education.
- Retrain as a developer for the right reasons
- Overcome your fear of training
- Choose the most suitable way for you to learn
- Develop the skills that every software developer needs
- Choose your development specialty
- Build your portfolio of projects
- Secure a job as a retrained software developer
Retrain as a developer for the right reasons
Why should you retrain as a developer?
You’ll find fulfillment
As a software developer, you’ll find fulfillment in your day-to-day work from solving unique problems using digital solutions that you developed yourself.
You’ll have an abundance of job opportunities
Software developers are more in-demand in the world than any other profession, according to recruitment company Michael Page.
Practically every business in every industry needs software developers. All businesses can benefit from a web or mobile application, either for their customers or for internal use.
New job openings for developers are posted faster than new developers are entering the market. Therefore, as a retrained developer, you’ll be needed by lots of companies in many different industries and for varied positions.
If you happen to start working as a developer in an industry that later sees a wave of job cuts, you’ll always be able to find a new tech job in a different industry without retraining.
You can earn a high salary
Your salary as a software developer will be dependent on where you work. Your salary will also depend on your level of experience. In other words, on how much value you can create for a company.
As a retrained developer, you’ll start with an entry-level position. Still, as a software developer in almost any country, you’ll earn more than the national average salary.
For example, in the US, software developers earn around $72,000 per year, on average, 44% higher than the average US salary of $50,000.
90% of all US software developers earn above $50,000. This means that almost all US software developers earn a higher salary than the average US worker.
You can work remotely if needed
If you want to work for a company that’s based in a country with a higher average salary than where you live, you can always work remotely for an overseas company.
Software developers have the flexibility to work from home if needed. A developer can work anywhere with a laptop and an internet connection.
Being able to work from home means that you won’t need to worry about a loss of income during pandemic lockdowns.
Also, employers of developers tend to be more flexible with working hours. If you have kids or other commitments, a flexible job could allow you to schedule your work around your home life.
Who shouldn’t retrain as a developer?
We’re hard-pressed to think of reasons why you shouldn’t consider retraining as a software engineer.
Unless you already earn a high income from a secure and fulfilling job, consider a change of careers.
Software developers have high income prospects, high demand from employers from all industries, high levels of fulfillment, and flexible working options.
Overcome your fear of retraining
You don’t need to have a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics background to retrain as a developer.
Let’s hear from Lindsey, an active user of CodinGame.
I’m a 36-year-old Mummy and brand-new developer and this time last year, I was working full-time as a television camera operator for the BBC. […] Whilst away on maternity leave, I discovered a real love of learning. […] I came to realise that I could put this love of learning to an amazing use and attempt a complete career change into software development. I tried a few free online resources (Freecodecamp and Codility) and immediately fell in love. […] It’s totally do-able and you don’t need to have a maths or computer science background – Lindsey Wells, retrained and became an Associate Software Developer at Sky.
Lindsey could have made the excuse of not wanting to risk a change of careers with a new child. She could have argued that she was too old to become a junior developer. Lindsey could have accepted that she had no background whatsoever in software development and remained a television camera operator.
But Lindsey loved coding when she tried it for the first time, so she took the leap and retrained as a developer.
Age, gender, and previous experience won’t hold you back from retraining as a software engineer.
Choose the most suitable way for you to learn
You have a few options for how you can retrain as a developer. You can:
- Get a formal computer science or software development degree from a physical or online university.
- Go through a software development bootcamp.
- Teach yourself using online videos and coding websites.
University degrees can be eye-wateringly expensive, depending on which country you live in. Furthermore, formal degrees require a considerable time commitment, even when studying part-time.
Traditionally, employers favor developers with university degrees. Although, this requirement is fading. Self-taught developers are becoming more widely accepted.
“I’ve worked with people who have attended bootcamps, and their level of knowledge is excellent, so I don’t think there’s a significant difference on those who have formal computer science education and those who attend a bootcamp.” – Dominic Myers, retrained and became a front-end developer.
I, the author of this guide, have a computer science BSc degree, and I agree with Dominic.
I developed almost all my commercially-applicable coding skills by practising what I learned from free online courses, videos, and websites.
Software development bootcamps are short, intensive courses that prepare people to get a job as a junior software developer. Bootcamps are a middle ground between a formal degree and self-teaching in terms of price and time duration.
A bootcamp won’t give you a universally-recognized certificate but it will likely give you the skills you need to do well in a development job.
These days, you can teach yourself anything without spending any money. Retraining as a software engineer without spending any money on training will require more time and effort but it can be done.
Once you’ve learned the basics of software development, you can move on to a certification course. These courses end with you getting a certificate that qualifies you for more specialized developer jobs.
Here is one list of developer certification courses from Pluralsight, an educational video platform.
Develop the skills that every software developer needs
The best programming languages to learn first
The programming language that you’ll use in your future tech job will depend on what the software that you’ll be developing will be used for.
A mobile application for phones running Android can be built using Java or Kotlin. A mobile app for an iOS device can be built using Objective-C or Swift.
A Windows desktop application can be built using Java, C++, C#, or C.
And there are many other programming languages that can create software for other use cases.
The programming language that you learn first won’t necessarily be the language that you use in your future developer job.
Therefore, you should start with a programming language that will allow you to easily learn the fundamentals of software development without confusing you language-quirks and advanced features.
I recommend starting with Python as your first programming language.
Python has an easily readable syntax, so you can learn it quickly. It’s also versatile meaning it can create many different types of applications.
There is an abundance of educational resources available for Python, making it easy for a new developer to find solutions to any problems they face.
Free programming resources
You don’t need paid resources to retrain as a developer.
Here are some of the best places to become competent as a software developer:
- YouTube – The big programming YouTube channels have excellent video courses, or “playlists”, that show you how to develop software applications from scratch.
- Udemy – Udemy has the world’s largest selection of online video courses and many of them are free.
- freeCodeCamp – freeCodeCamp is a non-profit interactive education platform that teaches web development.
- CodinGame – CodinGame has a large collection of fun programming puzzles which help improve your skills as a developer.
“I find the platform an extremely useful resource for honing my programming skills. I approach a CodinGame challenge in the same way I would approach a problem at work, using it to test and refine my coding style.” – Peter Reynolds, retrained and is now a senior developer.
Paid programming resources
While not absolutely necessary to retrain as a developer, certain paid resources can reduce the amount of time you’ll need to retrain as a developer.
Paid resources can save you from wasting time searching for educational resources. They can also keep your mind free from low-quality information.
Some of the best paid educational software development platforms are:
- Pluralsight. Pluralsight is an online education company that offers polished, high-quality software development video training courses.
- Udacity. Udacity has some great programming and development courses that include projects to complete, support from a mentor, and advice from a careers coach.
Importance of developer communities for beginners
You can accelerate your retraining as a software engineer by joining a developer community.
A developer community is a group of passionate software developers that helps other community members with their programming problems. Individuals learning to code can share their struggles and ask for help.
The more experienced developers in developer communities help newer members by answering questions, reviewing code, explaining fixes, and sharing support resources.
Some of the largest developer communities are GitHub, StackOverflow, Women Who Code, and hashnode.
Here is a longer list of developer communities for you to check out.
Choose your development specialty
Once you’ve learned the basics of software development, you can choose which type of development to specialize in.
You could specialize in any of:
- Front-end development
- Back-end development
- Web app or website development
- Desktop app development
- Mobile app development
- Game development
- Low-level development
- Data science
- Computer security
Each of these specialties requires vastly different knowledge and skills.
Jobs for generic or “full-stack” developers are posted all the time. However…
The most in-demand and, therefore, the highest-paid developers are those who are a master of one specific type of development.
Build your portfolio of projects
When applying for a job as a developer, you’ll be at an advantage if you can show off a ready-made digital portfolio of software development projects.
Create some interesting, relevant software applications from scratch.
Don’t panic. You can create an application by following step-by-step tutorials from one of the educational websites listed earlier in this guide.
Fully complete at least three relevant projects for your portfolio.
One or two partially completed projects will give prospective employer’s the impression that you haven’t made much progress in your journey to retrain as a developer.
The projects that you create for your digital portfolio should be relevant for the type of developer position you are applying for.
For example, if you’ll be applying for jobs as a mobile app developer, create some mobile apps and get them up on an app store. If you want to land a job as a website front-end developer, create some beautiful and functional websites.
Prospective employers will want to see the code behind your applications. You can make your projects’ code publicly viewable by uploading it to a public code repository hosting service.
The two major code repository hosting services are GitHub and Bitbucket. Here is a GitHub tutorial and a Bitbucket tutorial.
Secure a job as a retrained software developer
Write a meaningful resume and cover letter
As a beginner developer, you don’t have commercial experience to boast about. That’s fine. Everyone starts somewhere.
Prospective employers will want to see two things in your resume and cover letter above all else:
- That you’re fully engaged with and passionate about continual education and improvement.
- That you want to work for their company specifically.
Hiring managers review applications daily. They can spot a generic one. So, write a tailored resume and cover letter for each job you apply for.
Keep your resume less than one page long. No one likes reading long blocks of text.
Write almost exclusively about relevant education (degrees, online courses, bootcamps, certifications). Also, write about the skills you’ve developed that will be useful for the tech job you’re applying for.
Don’t like writing resumes? Consider these alternatives
You have options if you don’t want to write a resume and cover letter.
Consider a software development apprenticeship. Apprenticeships don’t expect applicants to have any relevant experience or skills. In an apprenticeship, you’ll be taught everything you need to know for the job by working alongside an experienced developer.
Companies offer apprenticeships to hire employees at a lower starting salary. You could accept a lower initial salary to get your foot in the door at a company that you particularly want to work for.
CodinGame Sourcing is a skill-based recruitment system that connects suitable software developers with tech job vacancies based on the proven skills of developers, rather than by evaluating their resumes.
Sign up with CodinGame’s Career program: join the platform, play and complete some programming puzzles to prove your abilities, and get noticed by top companies for your coding skills.
CodinGame will then connect you with employers who are looking to hire developers with your skill set and level of ability.
Prepare to discuss your portfolio of projects
For a beginner developer, an excellent resume and cover letter will help but will hold little weight without proof. Seeing is believing. This is where your portfolio of projects comes in useful.
A prospective employer will be glad to see that you have a portfolio of relevant, fully completed projects to show them. At the interview, you’ll need to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of your projects. Prepare a list of the strengths and weaknesses beforehand.
Ask developer community members to critique the code from your projects to help you identify weaknesses.
Your prospective employer will be impressed by your awareness of your room for improvement.
Overcome unconscious bias against beginner developers
You may face unconscious bias against you at an interview. Employers may favor developers with relevant experience or a formal computer science education.
Here are some tips to shift an employer’s unconscious bias to be in your favor:
- Avoid talking too much about your previous job. Steer conversations to be about why you’re suitable for this job. You’re a developer now, just like all the other candidates.
- Show your enthusiasm for the job. In the mind of your interviewer, an enthusiastic character will be a better bet than any candidate with years of experience but who sits in the interview with a blank facial expression and who speaks with a monotone voice.
- Ask the interviewer questions about themselves and about the job. The interviewer will consider you an interesting person if you let them talk about themselves. A good listener is a good conversationalist.
If you’re excited by the idea of becoming a software developer, start learning how to code and see if you enjoy it.
You know that retraining as a software engineer is something worth pursuing if you’re still keen on the idea after a month of learning to code.
You can’t retrain as a developer overnight but you can in a matter of months if you commit to completing a bootcamp or online course.
I personally recommend starting with learning Python on Udemy and then playing some Python coding games on CodinGame. Then, choose a bootcamp that sounds interesting to you to fast-track your retraining as a software engineer.