a woman with eyeglasses studying how to become a software engineer via online bootcamp on her laptop

How To Become a Software Engineer With No Experience

The software engineering field has grown by leaps and bounds in the last decade, and employers from all around the globe are constantly on the lookout for new talent. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for software developers is expected to grow by 25% from 2021 to 2031.

But despite the high demand, it can be challenging to secure a software engineering job due to the large number of software developers in the market, which is around 4.4 million in the United States alone. The competition is particularly fierce for entry-level positions. That doesn’t mean you should give up before you start applying. It does, however, mean that you have to get strategic and work extra hard to compete against more experienced candidates. 

Becoming a software engineer with no experience will require hard work and dedication, but it is definitely achievable. By following the tips in this article, you can increase your chances of landing your first job as a software engineer.

Can You Become a Software Engineer With No Experience?

The short answer is yes—you can become a software engineer with no experience. But it will require dedication, hard work, and a willingness to learn. You can’t become a software engineer without completing practical exercises and projects to showcase your skills. 

How To Become a Software Engineer With No Experience

There are a number of steps you can take to become a software engineer with no experience. Here’s where to start:

Invest in Education and Learning

First things first: you have to invest in your education. This doesn’t have to be a huge monetary investment, like a Bachelor’s Degree or similar qualification. You also don’t have to quit your day job. Most employers value skills over a piece of paper any day.

Start by looking into bootcamps or online courses that can take you through the basics.

There are many online courses and bootcamps that can teach you the basics of software engineering. Some popular options include Coursera, edX, Udemy, or the University of Southern Florida.

If you want to go the self-taught route, you can also watch YouTube videos and follow tutorials online. Books like Code Complete by Steve McConnell or The Pragmatic Programmer by Andrew Hunt and David Thomas are great ways to learn the fundamentals. Set aside a few hours every day to study.

Master a Programming Language

You can’t work as a software engineer without knowing at least one programming language. There are plenty of online resources that will help you wrap your head around the ins and outs of Java, Python, HTML, and others. Make sure to cover the basics of programming, i.e., variables, data types, operators, and control flow.

The best way to learn how to code is to practice regularly. Look for online coding challenges and exercises for this. Once you feel more confident in your abilities, start contributing to open-source projects. This is not only a great way to gain experience in the field but also a great way to learn from other developers and become a member of the software engineering community.

Grow Your Skill Set

After mastering the fundamentals, it’s time to hone your skills—both technical skills and soft skills that you’ll need to work in the field.

Technical Skills

Before you can start work as a software engineer, you have to take the time to familiarize yourself with the basics. Data structures and algorithms are the foundation of software engineering. Make sure to learn about different types of data structures and algorithms, and how to use them to solve problems.

Next, cover the fundamentals of software design. Software design is the process of designing and implementing software applications, so you need to master software design patterns and principles.

Last but not least, you’ll need to develop your testing and debugging skills. Testing and debugging are essential skills for any software engineer, and every software engineer has to know how to write tests for their code and how to debug problems.

Soft Skills

Soft skills are slightly harder to learn on your own, which is why interactive classes, bootcamps, and open-source projects are so highly recommended. These online courses can help you fine-tune the soft skills you’ll use in the field, like good communication (written and verbal), and working in a team.

If you ask hiring managers and software engineering leads which skills they value the most in a team member, they’ll probably say problem-solving and analytical thinking. As a software engineer, you have to learn how to break down problems into smaller and more manageable pieces as you look for solutions. Time management and attention to detail are also key. As a software engineer, you will work against extremely strict deadlines. Chances are, some team members won’t be able to start or complete their work until you’ve completed yours, which could lead to bottlenecks. Many professionals in the field have burnt out because of poor time management and constant overtime. Learn to prioritize your tasks and make the most of your time every day from the start to make your journey into software engineering as smooth as possible.

Find Your Niche

If you ask anyone who works in the industry what a software engineer does, chances are you’ll encounter many different answers. That’s because there are numerous different areas of software engineering you can explore—from web development to mobile development to building computer games or working with data scientists. You don’t have to choose a niche right away, but it’s a good idea to start reading more about the various disciplines and specialties from the very beginning. This will help you make the right career choices and enter the field you are most interested in. Don’t forget to take your strengths and weaknesses into account. What are you best at? What do you enjoy the most? Speak to your mentors and peers in the field to find out whether or not you’d be a good fit for a specific niche.

Build Practical Expertise

Entering the field without any experience isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible. If you don’t have a solid resume of past work experience, it’s time to consider your portfolio. Your software engineering portfolio should contain sample code, personal projects, freelance work, or anything else you’ve worked on while fine-tuning your software engineering skills.

Create Sample Projects

Look for open-source projects you can join, or build a project of your own. You can create a portfolio of work to add to platforms like Github for prospective employers to review. Share your efforts on social media for even more visibility, and take on any critiques the community might have to offer. It’s the best way to get noticed when you don’t have prior experience. 

Practice Coding

It’s hard to improve your skills when you choose to go the self-study route and work in isolation, which is why you should make the most of the resources the Internet has on offer. There are many online coding platforms that you can use to practice coding, such as Codewars and HackerRank. These platforms provide you with coding challenges that you can solve to improve your skills. Set time aside every day to practice, gradually building up to more complex challenges. Every challenge becomes tangible proof that you have what it takes to succeed as a software engineer.

Participate in Hackathons

Hackathons are events where developers come together to build software applications in a short amount of time. You can build a lot of experience in a matter of hours or days, learn new skills, and even socialize with other developers. Many companies host hackathons to solve real-world problems they are experiencing, which means these events could also be a great opportunity to land your first software engineering job.

Pursue Volunteer Opportunities

If none of these ideas appeal, consider volunteering with a cause you’re passionate about. There are many worthy organizations that need software development help. You’ll not only gain valuable practical experience but also contribute to your community and a cause that you care about. 

Build a Portfolio

As you grow and gain experience as a software engineer, you have to keep updating and fleshing out your software engineering portfolio so that you can showcase your experience to your future employers. Your portfolio should showcase a variety of skills, so include as many of your personal projects and open-source contributions as possible. There is no right or wrong way to display your portfolio. Some engineers prefer to create entire websites that showcase their work; others upload their projects to Github or similar community platforms. Make sure that your portfolio is easily accessible and organized so that you can share a link with the relevant hiring manager or recruiter in your resume.

Get Involved in the Software Engineering Community

You can find a great community on Github, Reddit, online forums, tech publications, and social media to slot into and get advice. But remember, giving has to go both ways. Don’t just show up and expect an introduction to an employer. Contribute to projects, answer questions, and do your part to stick to the community guidelines.

Pursue an Internship

If you are struggling to break into a specific niche or role, consider taking on an internship. Many companies are willing to offer internships to recent graduates or interested parties with the right skills. Some bootcamps even offer guaranteed placement in internship or entry-level positions.

Work Toward Your First Job

Once you have the skills and experience you need, it’s time to start applying for software engineering jobs. The hard work isn’t over yet, though. You have to put extra work into your resume and interviews to stand out from the (more experienced) competition. 

Create a Strong Resume

Your resume is your calling card, and it’s the first impression you are going to make. Even if you don’t have a lot of professional experience, you can showcase your passion and aptitude for software engineering by emphasizing any relevant coursework, projects, or internships you’ve completed. Use numerical values to showcase the impact of your work, i.e., if you’ve worked on an open-source project and managed to reduce loading speed by 0.5 seconds, or increased traffic by 10%, then say so. Always tailor your resume and cover letter according to the skills they are looking for. 

Build Out Your LinkedIn Profile

LinkedIn serves as your professional online portfolio, and can be an important tool in your job search. Summarize your expertise and career aspirations in a concise and engaging manner, and incorporate keywords from job postings and industry trends to enhance visibility in searches. If possible, ask your mentors and teachers to add endorsements to your profile. 

Practice Whiteboard Assessments and Prepare for the Interview

Technical interviews often involve whiteboard coding assessments, so honing your problem-solving skills is crucial. Practice coding problems regularly and ask for feedback from experienced programmers. Always try to explain your thought process clearly and efficiently while tackling whiteboard challenges. Even if you're still learning, try to showcase your grasp of core programming principles and thinking. Don’t be afraid to ask clarifying questions if you aren’t sure. 

Consider Related Entry-Level Roles to Get a Foot in the Door

If you’re struggling to get a foot in the door, consider entry-level positions in related fields to gain experience and build your network. This could include working as a technical support specialist, quality assurance tester, or even a data analyst while you work towards your goals. 

These roles provide exposure to the software development environment and allow you to demonstrate your aptitude and work ethic, making you a more competitive candidate for software engineering positions.

Remember, breaking into software engineering without experience requires dedication, perseverance, and a willingness to learn continuously, wherever you are. 

Entry-Level Software Engineering Jobs to Explore

Not sure where to get started? There are a few entry-level jobs that are easier to break into than others, including:

Software Engineering Intern

Internships are a great way to get your foot in the door and gain experience in the software engineering industry. Interns typically work on small projects under the supervision of experienced engineers, and they may also have the opportunity to rotate through different departments to get a broad overview of the company's work.

Junior Front-End Developer

Front-end developers are responsible for the user interface (UI) of websites and applications. They use a variety of technologies, such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, to create UIs that are both visually appealing and easy to use.

Junior Web Developer

Web developers are responsible for creating and maintaining websites and web applications. They use a variety of technologies, such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and PHP, to develop websites that are both functional and visually appealing.

Junior Software Engineer

Software engineers are responsible for designing, developing, and testing software applications. They use a variety of technologies, such as Java, Python, and C++, to develop software that is both functional and efficient.

Junior Game Developer

Game developers are responsible for creating and developing video games. They use a variety of technologies, such as computer graphics, artificial intelligence, and physics simulation, to create games that are both fun and challenging.

Qualifications for Becoming a Software Engineer

There are no specific educational qualifications required to become a software engineer. Most employers will prefer candidates who have a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field, but if you have the right experience and knowledge, you don’t need an academic degree. 

Entry-Level Software Engineer Salaries

According to Glassdoor, the average entry-level software engineer will make around $86k-$139k per year depending on their experience, with a base pay that starts around $74,000. Bear in mind that this can fluctuate depending on your academic qualifications, your location, your work experience, and other factors. 

entry level software engineer salary

Success Stories - Landing a Software Engineering Role Without Experience

Job hunting can be a demoralizing experience at times, and it may seem as though it’s impossible to find a job without the right experience. Here are a few people who have landed excellent jobs in the field, without prior experience: 

Valerie’s Story

youtube video of Valerie about her success on how to become a software engineer with no experience

In this video, Valerie shares her journey of becoming a software engineer without any experience or a college degree. She covers her background and career journey, what is needed to become a software engineer, and the most helpful resources she found. 

Simon’s Story

youtube video of Simon about his success on how to become a software engineer with no experience

Simon from supersimple.dev discusses the three ways everyone gets into the software engineering industry, even without experience. He shares tips on how to get into the industry, which is growing rapidly with a lot of demand for these skills.

More Tips

youtube video of Pooja about her success on how to become a software engineer with no experience

This video aims to create more transparency over the fundamentals of software engineering, directed at self-taught developers or those who feel there are gaps in their knowledge. It provides insights into the skills needed in the industry and strategies to become an effective software engineer.