Entry-Level Programmer Careers & Salaries: What Are Your Options?

Thinking about a career in programming? Before you decide if this path is right for you, take some time to understand where you can work and how much you can earn.

You've probably heard there's strong demand for programmers and a lot of different job options out there.

But exactly what kinds of programmer jobs can you get as a total beginner? And what salary will you make just starting out?

It can be tricky to get a clear picture of entry-level programming jobs. Employers have very different ideas about what skills a beginner should have, depending on the clients they serve and the projects they work on.

To make things easier, we analyzed dozens of programmer job postings on sites like Indeed, Monster, and LinkedIn. From there, we identified the 4 most common entry-level programmer careers.

In this post, we describe each role, including the average salary for candidates with little-to-no experience (based on data from sites like PayScale and Glassdoor).

Here's everything you need to know about starting a career in programming.

 

PROGRAMMER CAREER #1: JUNIOR SOFTWARE DEVELOPER

Software developers focus on design and coding. They create the applications and programs we use to play games, edit videos, write documents, and so on.

In this role, you'll be reporting to a senior developer or manager, assisting with new projects and routine tasks.

Typical responsibilities of a junior software developer:

☑️ Collect user requirements

☑️ Create and maintain code

☑️ Conduct code reviews with other developers

☑️ Modify existing applications to add functionality

☑️ Fix bugs

☑️ Write reports about the current status of development projects

☑️ Deploy new releases and enhancements

Average starting salary: $51,000 to $54,000

 

PROGRAMMER CAREER #2: WEB DEVELOPER

Web developers build, test, and maintain websites. They use their technical skills to take a designer's concept and transform it into a working site.

Typical responsibilities of a web developer:

☑️ Code the user interface based on wireframes

☑️ Make audio, video, and graphic components useable for the web

☑️ Use scripting languages to create dynamic pages

☑️ Optimize the site for speed and performance

☑️ Make sure the site looks the way it should on various devices and browsers

☑️ Test the usability of the site

Good to know: Some web developer jobs focus on front-end development (i.e. the user interface). Others also expect you to come up with the logic that connects the application with a database and server.

That's why you'll see job titles like "front end developer" and "full stack developer." A good programming course teaches you skills to do it all.

Average starting salary: $46,000 to $48,000

 

PROGRAMMER CAREER #3: JUNIOR SOFTWARE TESTER

Software testers are quality assurance specialists. Their job is to find the bugs and defects in a piece of software before it is released.

This is a very common job for new college grads, fresh out of programming training.

Typical responsibilities of a junior software tester:

☑️ Develop test cases for new features or applications

☑️ Help build regression tests to make sure code changes don't cause issues with existing features

☑️ Run automated and manual tests

☑️ Log and track bugs

☑️ Report errors to the development team and assist with fixes

Average starting salary: $39,000 to $53,000

 

PROGRAMMER CAREER #4: JUNIOR DATABASE DEVELOPER

Database developers create and maintain computer databases to meet business needs.

Databases are used to store, manage, protect, and configure data. They can be designed and programmed for different purposes.

For instance, banks use them to track deposits and balances. Streaming services use them to note customer preferences and generate recommendations.

Sports leagues use them to record athlete statistics and calculate odds.

A junior database developer is typically responsible for the following tasks:

☑️ Define the tasks a database needs to do

☑️ Write code to carry out specific tasks like extracting or deleting data

☑️ Monitor database performance and fix any issues that arise

☑️ Pull data to generate analytical reports

☑️ Modify existing databases

Average starting salary: $54,000 to $56,000

 

WHAT PROGRAMMER SKILLS DO EMPLOYERS WANT IN NEW HIRES?

The technical skills you need will depend on the specific company you apply to and the specific role you go for.

For example, a software tester requires different skills than a full stack web developer.

But generally speaking, if you're hoping to launch a programmer career, there are certain core skills you absolutely must have.

With a strong foundation, you will be qualified for more entry-level jobs and able to advance your career much faster.

Essential programming skills for beginners include:

☑️ Different operating systems (Windows, Linux, UNIX)

☑️ A variety of general-purpose coding languages, such as Java, C++, C#, JavaScript, and Python

☑️ The .NET framework

☑️ Web development fundamentals like HTML5, CSS, and PHP

☑️ Relational databases and SQL

☑️ Code repositories and versioning tools

☑️ The software development life cycle

 

You'll also need good analytical, problem-solving, and communication skills. Perhaps most importantly, you must be willing to keep learning.

Employers know you may not have experience with the specific languages or technologies they use.

But if you understand the fundamentals, you'll be able to learn those new frameworks and tools quickly.

Training will give you the basics. If you're willing to keep learning, you can expand your skills on-the-job and start building your career from there.

 

ARE PROGRAMMERS IN DEMAND?

In a word: yes.

Demand is so high that many positions are going unfilled. According to the Government of Canada's Job Bank, we're expecting to have a shortage of computer programmers over the coming years.

The programmer career outlook is particularly strong in Quebec. In most regions throughout Quebec, programmers have a 3-star outlook rating—the highest possible rating for demand.

That's partly driven by Montreal's vibrant video game industry, which continues to grow and diversify.

Nima Tahriri teaches the programmer course at Herzing College Montreal. He says the city is an excellent place to pursue a programmer career because of abundant jobs and a low cost of living.

"Montreal is one of the main hubs of software development, game and web design in Canada.

It is also a fantastic place to live. When you consider the cost of living plus quality of life, you can see a clear advantage to starting your career here."

 

 

HOW CAN YOU GET YOUR PROGRAMMER CAREER STARTED?

One option is to get a bachelor degree in computer science or software engineering. That takes 4 years of study at a university.

But you don't necessarily need a degree. In many cases, you can get hired with a college diploma.

College-level programmer training typically takes 2 years to complete. Some accelerated programs take even less time.

Students learn how to write code, address bugs, and improve existing applications. They graduate with the skills to go after many different career opportunities.

Nima says the possibilities are wide-ranging.

"A programmer may work as a developer, in software or application maintenance/support, as a tester, database or application analyst, or even as web support.

We currently have graduates working in a wide variety of industries, including law firms, application and game development, web design, etc."

 

 

EXPLORE PROGRAMMER TRAINING AT HERZING COLLEGE MONTREAL

Want to learn more about programmer careers? Looking for an alternative to a 4-year degree?

Herzing College's accelerated Programmer Analyst diploma takes 15-24 months and includes a 14-week internship. 

Our grads have landed jobs at Montreal-area companies like Physio Extra, Pente Group, Jesta I.S., and Robert Transport.

Wondering if the program is right for you? The next step is to talk to Admissions.

An Advisor can give you details about classes, career options, admission requirements, financial aid, and how to apply.

Click below to explore the training and chat live with an Advisor. We're here to help!

Explore Herzing's Programmer Analyst Course