You've probably heard there's strong demand for software developers and programmers. But exactly what kinds of 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 four most common entry-level jobs in software development and programming.
In this post, we describe each role, including the average salary for candidates with little-to-no experience (based on the latest data from the Government of Canada Job Bank). We also provide details on the demand for programmers and developers, the skills employers look for, and how you can position yourself for success.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Job #1: Software Developer
- Job #2: Web Developer
- Job #3: Software Tester
- Job #4: Database Developer
- What Programming Skills Do Employers Want in New Hires?
- Are Programmers in Demand?
- How Can You Get Started in This Field?
PROGRAMMING JOB #1: 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 state of development projects
- Deploy new releases and enhancements
Average starting salary: $49,000
Median overall salary: $84,000
PROGRAMMING JOB #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.”
Average starting salary: $37,000
Median overall salary: $62,000
Web developers can focus on the front end, back end, or both
PROGRAMMING JOB #3: 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 software development or 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: $30,000
Median overall salary: $55,000
PROGRAMMING JOB #4: 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: $48,000
Median overall salary: $81,000
WHAT PROGRAMMING 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 programming 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 being comfortable with:
- Different operating systems (Windows, Linux, UNIX)
- The .NET framework
- Web development fundamentals like HTML5, CSS, and PHP
- Relational databases and SQL
- Code repositories and versioning tools
- The software development lifecycle
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.
Once you master the fundamental concepts, you can pick up new programming languages relatively easily
“Employers are looking for a basic knowledge of object-oriented programming concepts. That’s the core of any programming language, whether you’re dealing with .NET or C# or TypeScript. Once you understand those concepts, you can learn any specific programming language,” says Herzing software development instructor Naresh Nagandla.
“If Amazon is interviewing you for a junior developer position, they don’t really look for which programming language you know. Instead, they give you an algorithm and see what kind of output you can write.”
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.
According to the Job Bank, software developers and programmers have a good or very good outlook in every single province across the country. Canada is expected to have a shortage of these professionals for the next several years.
The outlook for web developers, database developers, and software testers is also positive.
HOW CAN YOU GET STARTED IN THIS FIELD?
One option is to get a bachelor's degree in computer science or software engineering. That takes four 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 training in programming or software development typically takes two 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.
Herzing College instructor Nima Tahiri notes that 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," he says.
"We currently have graduates working in a wide variety of industries, including law firms, application and game development, web design, etc."
EXPLORE software development TRAINING FROM HERZING COLLEGE
Looking for an alternative to a four-year degree?
Herzing College offers a software development diploma program that is delivered online, takes just 12 months to complete, and includes an internship for real work experience.
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!