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Breaking into Tech: 6 Tips for Landing Entry-Level IT Jobs

Gabriel Halle, Apr 2, 2024


Despite a massive slowdown in tech job growth last year, tech jobs remain the most in-demand of all types of jobs. Four out of the ten highest-paying entry-level roles are tech roles — data scientist, software developer, business analyst, general IT roles, and desktop support engineer.

The current AI boom adds to this demand. Companies are investing more than ever in AI technology and infrastructure, opening up career opportunities in data analysis, back-end development, and other AI-related fields.

However, it's not all roses for people choosing a tech career path. Some tech jobs require extensive training and skills. Also, the need for experience before landing a role often creates a chicken-and-egg situation for many applicants: How do you gain experience if you can't get an entry-level job?

Fortunately, there's plenty of good news.

One of the great things about running a One of the great things about running a massive developer platform — where anyone can earn an income creating apps without any coding knowledge — is that we work with people of all types of technical backgrounds. We've seen all sorts of people succeed in the tech sector, from those with bachelor's degrees in computer science and extensive experience in everything from web development to systems administration, to those who've never held a job in the tech sector and are just starting their journey.

Let’s dive into how to get an entry-level tech job.

Which entry-level tech jobs pay the most?

Some of the highest-paying tech jobs include:

  • Data scientists
  • Software developers
  • Full-stack developers
  • Mobile developers
  • Back-end developers

The average entry-level salary for a data scientist is $87,000 per year. Full-stack developer entry-level salaries average at $67,000. However, this depends strongly on which stack the person uses. For example, ZipRecruiter found one entry-level full-stack developer position paying as much as $123,000 per year.

A position's location also greatly affects how much of your salary you'll have left over after bills. For example, although Silicon Valley is the tech hub of the world and offers significantly higher salaries than many other areas, the area is renowned for its extremely high cost of living.

How to get an entry-level job

Finding an entry-level tech job isn't necessarily a linear task. There are plenty of guides that tell you to (a) get a college degree, (b) apply for jobs, and (c) market yourself until you get one. Unfortunately, the real world is more complex than that oversimplification.

In the real world, 62% of Americans don’t have a college education. Also in the real world, many megastar tech names didn't finish college, including Steve Jobs, the iconic founder of Apple.

Jobs was neither an engineer nor a computer programmer. His co-founder Steve Wozniak was the technical brains behind the first Apple computers.

Jobs's primary skills were:

  • Putting great teams together.
  • Visionary abilities.
  • An insistence on perfection.

Some would even argue that Jobs's lack of technical knowledge allowed him to envision possibilities that engineers couldn't see. When engineers told Jobs that something couldn't be done, he simply insisted that they do it anyway. The incredible thing is that they did do it.

Despite his lack of a college degree and technical knowledge, Jobs created one of the most valuable tech companies in the world.

In light of the diverse and ever-changing tech ecosystem, we decided to provide six realistic tips instead of unrealistic linear steps to getting an entry-level tech job.

Tip #1: You must keep learning, whether you're a pro or a beginner

It's challenging to specialize completely in information technology. To survive in tech, you should ideally have a holistic understanding of the entire tech ecosystem because so many computer systems integrate now.

It's impossible to know everything, and some areas are so far apart that it makes little sense to know that area. For example, specialists in operating systems administration are unlikely to need a deep understanding of digital marketing.

However, web developers can benefit from learning multiple programming languages, back-end developer tools, and even hardware. These information technology topics might not be directly related, but each offers a deeper understanding of the other.

You must also constantly improve your understanding of your specific field. Information technology moves so rapidly that it's easy to get left behind. A bachelor's degree in computer science obtained ten years ago will carry little weight if you can't show either (a) recent experience or (b) recent certifications covering the latest technology.

An excellent example of this is in artificial intelligence (AI). The current technologies being used in generative AI are so advanced compared to anything pre-2017 that data scientists must now take new courses to understand it. One well-known software developer even created a highly complex "mini GPT" in Microsoft Excel to understand how ChatGPT works because it uses concepts he didn’t study in college.

Tip #2: Improving your chances of finding entry-level tech jobs without formal training

The door to an entry-level tech job isn't closed for people with no formal training in information technology.

Here are some things to keep in mind when you don't yet have the necessary tech skills to get a highly technical job:

Other roles exist:

Other jobs in the tech sector don't necessarily require immense tech training. For example, experienced platform users have an excellent chance of becoming UX designers (user experience designers) because they know what makes a user interface more user-friendly.

Non-technical skills matter:

Skills in problem-solving, troubleshooting, interpersonal skills, and other "soft skills" are immensely important in tech. People with these skills might work closely with a product team to iron out any challenges with management, or they might take on a project management role.

As your experience grows in a tech zone, you'll open doors for different opportunities.

Any prior experience helps:

Have the courage to put all your experience from other jobs on your resumé, even if you feel it isn't important. For example, working part-time as a server while putting yourself through college indicates that you have prior experience in dealing with customers and are hard-working.

Trust is better than skills and performance:

The Navy SEALs famously value trust over performance. Given two candidates with similar skills and performance on the battlefield, the Navy SEALs prefer someone who can be trusted completely.

Similarly, companies look for reliable people who can bring long-term value to their company and are often willing to hire people they know will stay with them.

Always keep learning:

You'll need to acquire the necessary skills to get high-paying jobs. Whether you learn on the job or take a formal course, you must make a dedicated effort to keep up with technology and get trained in the skill you want to get hired for.

Writing software programs or being a support technician does require specialized knowledge, which is why these tech jobs pay so highly. The sooner you can get through the necessary training, the sooner more doors will open for you.

There are many affordable courses online where you can obtain these skills.

One in three companies doesn't insist on degrees anymore

A recent report on CNBC reveals that many companies are dropping their requirements for a bachelor's degree, including for tech positions such as:

  • Web developers
  • Cybersecurity roles
  • IT help desk jobs

Instead of focusing on degrees, companies now prioritize finding people with the right skill sets.

Tip #3: Investigate what the market needs (and where it's saturated)

If a company needs software developers, they're unlikely to consider a network administrator's resumé unless that person also knows how to write software programs.

Similarly, certain job types and skills in specific tech sectors are more in demand than others. For example, the cybersecurity sector has had a years-long labor shortage that recently reached a gap of four million people. In cybersecurity, there are more jobs than people to fill them. Knowing that, you could start learning cybersecurity to improve your chances of finding an entry-level job in this sector.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, some entry-level jobs might experience saturation. For example, demand for Python programmers continues to grow, especially because Python is so widely used in machine learning and AI applications.

However, Python is also the most popular programming language in the world, meaning that there are plenty of skilled people to snatch up that role.

The way around this is to continue to grow your skills and improve in whatever sector you've chosen. Another way around it is to find a less saturated area that likewise has high demand, such as Java.

The tech sector is one of those sectors that rarely experiences full saturation. With the breakneck speed of AI, we see many more jobs opening up for people with the right skills. However, one rule remains firm: The better your skill set, the more chances you’ll find a job.

Tip #4: Embrace open-source projects for experience

Acquiring experience without having a job might feel like a catch-22 situation. However, the technology sector is unique because you can gain immense experience working on open-source projects.

Some of the benefits of working on open-source projects include:

  • Getting and demonstrating experience: Open-source software development is an excellent way to gain experience because your code gets critiqued by experts, and you're also able to look at huge repositories of well-written code and get to know best practices.
  • Learning to work in a team: Open-source projects create communities, and members learn to work closely together, an essential skill in the tech sector.
  • Learning project management skills: Nothing teaches project management skills like being "thrown in the deep end" and managing hundreds or thousands of software developers when your project suddenly becomes popular!
  • Making money while learning: "Open source" doesn't mean you can't make money on it. Many open-source projects, such as WordPress and Drupal, become lucrative ventures for their creators.

Tip #5: Get experience with low-code/no-code platforms

Platforms allow you to create apps using little or no code — technically called "low-code" or "no-code" solutions.

For example, there are mobile app creators that let you generate robust mobile apps without writing a single line of code. You can submit the app to the Google Play and iOS App Stores for a small fee.

Creating apps this way might not teach you software or web development directly, but it gives you excellent experience that you can use to become a UX designer. It also teaches you how users interact with an app and how to monitor those interactions, which is an essential skill for creating user interfaces.

Engaging with visual drag-and-drop tools also provides invaluable experience in user-interface design that front-end developers can then use when creating interfaces with one or more programming languages.

Tip #6: Build your network

Whether you're networking on LinkedIn, GitHub, or Discord, it's hard to exaggerate how vital it is to have people to turn to during your job search. One person famously landed a job at a company that previously rejected her after making a viral post on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn has many similar stories, and it's an essential platform for anyone wanting to build a career.

Similarly, building contacts in other networks can help in unforeseen ways. As the old saying goes, sometimes it's not what you know, but who you know that makes the difference.

Tip #7: Apply, apply, apply

You won't get a job if you don't apply for one.

Don't feel disheartened if you've applied for 500 jobs and received rejections for all of them. One software engineer recently posted on LinkedIn that she applied for over 2,500 jobs before finally landing a role! She also spent 73 hours in interviews and carried out 15 coding assessments.

Persistence pays off — probably even more than experience.

While applying, continue to grow your skills, work on open-source projects, and find ways to monetize your skills through tech-related side hustles. Who knows — one of those side hustles might become a new company that takes the tech world by storm.

Conclusion

There is no precise formula for getting an entry-level tech job. Technology is an innovative sector, and sometimes innovation itself is what gets you your dream role.

When looking for an entry-level role, keep the following in mind:

  • Investigate the market so you know where the demand is.
  • You don't necessarily need a college degree, but you must keep learning.
  • You can get experience working in open source, and you might even make money at it.
  • Start a related tech side hustle as part of your job hunt, such as creating apps for the LiveChat Marketplace. The side hustle might turn into income on its own.
  • Finally, build your network and never give up!

It's an exciting time to be working in tech. As the boom continues, more tech jobs will become available. You increase your chances of making a living in the tech sector by constantly learning, remaining persistent, and looking for ways to monetize your new skills.

We wish you luck!

If you're interested in a quick intro on building apps for the Text Platform, check out our Building Apps Crash Course for Junior Devs Tutorial.

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