So, you might be considering the programming career path, but want to learn more about the coding job market before you take the plunge.
Look no further! Our guide to the nine best entry-level programming jobs will help you navigate the vast and ever-changing world of programming careers. Whether you’re looking to switch careers or to upskill, there are plenty of opportunities in coding for those with the right skills and attitude.
From web development to data analysis, software engineering to machine learning, we’ll explore the different types of entry-level programming job and what they involve.
We’ll also answer some common questions you might have, as well as how to go about getting one of these jobs.
Here are the topics we’ll cover:
- What does an entry-level programming job entail?
- Nine entry-level programming jobs
- How to get an entry-level programming job
- Final thoughts and next steps
- Entry-level programming jobs FAQ
1. What does an entry-level programming job entail?
Entry-level programming jobs in many companies involve working alongside more experienced coders, usually senior developers.
The senior assigns tasks to the junior. Each organization has a different workload. A good senior will ensure that they allocate responsibilities that are within the entry-level coder’s abilities, but that challenge them too.
The tasks should use a programming language that the junior knows or is expected to learn.
As an entry-level software engineer, you’ll also learn the code base that the company is already working with.
Depending on the establishment you’re working for, you might need to learn new frameworks, databases, and even new tools or programming languages. Speed is key when learning on the job.
The work done by entry-level coders has to be supervised by more experienced programmers. You need to positively receive feedback and seek clarifications.
Sometimes, a junior might feel like they only get to do the “smaller tasks,” yet would love to contribute more. For as long as you’re learning, keep going and becoming better at your craft.
2. Nine entry-level programming jobs
Since you’re interested in a career in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), you’re in luck.
The question, therefore, remains: what kind of entry-level programming jobs can you get as a beginner? Let’s find out:
1. Entry-level web developer
An entry-level web developer’s primary role is to build web-based applications. These are applications that require the use of a browser like Google Chrome in order to access them.
Unlike websites, web apps are more versatile. You can make payments, for example.
The particular web development role is dependent on the company. You might build entirely new applications or work on existing ones.
You might also be involved in various aspects of the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC), like gathering project requirements, testing, and maintenance.
You also need to learn about databases, APIs, basic SEO, content management systems (CMS), and web development frameworks.
As an entry-level web developer, you can work as a full-stack, frontend, or backend engineer.
2. Junior DevOps engineer
This is another excellent entry-level programming job to aim for. But in order to understand a junior DevOps engineer’s role, you need to know what DevOps means. At face value, DevOps is a combination of “development” and “operations.” However, the cog in the DevOps wheel is collaboration.
If you’ve heard terms like “Scrum” and “Agile,” then these are part of DevOps.
DevOps breaks down barriers between the different departments and teams that are responsible for successfully delivering software.
A junior DevOps engineer, therefore, uses a set of DevOps practices, such as continuous integration and deployment (CI/CD), to automate processes and set up testing tools, as well as different configurations and integrations.
As a junior DevOps engineer, you might also be responsible for monitoring systems for performance. Additionally, go through the logs to identify system failures.
You could also use mathematical models to predict the outcomes of certain approaches to software development based on the project goals.
This way, you help your development team to deploy software more seamlessly. New changes can be merged automatically, even in production, requiring much less effort from the software team and other necessary parties.
Some skills that you need for a junior DevOps role include an understanding of the entire SDLC and the infrastructure on which it runs, as well as concepts like Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).
To learn more about this role, check out our full DevOps Engineer guide.
3. Entry-level cloud engineer
A cloud engineer’s main focus is cloud computing. This means that they help a company or organization “migrate to the cloud.” This could mean that an organization’s servers were hosted within the company’s offices, for example (something called “on-premises” or “on-prem”).
As a cloud engineer, part of your work will be to help companies host their applications, databases, and other digital assets in the cloud. You’ll also help with maintenance.
Sometimes, they might be changing cloud providers too, and you should be able to help them streamline the process.
As a junior cloud engineer, you’ll work alongside more experienced engineers to:
- Optimize existing cloud systems
- Identify better cloud options for your company
- Build and deploy cloud-based applications
- Solve infrastructure and deployment problems
- Ensure that cloud-based systems are secure and accessible by the right parties
- Ensure that cloud computing best practices are followed when deploying applications in the cloud
If you end up working for a company that builds cloud infrastructure, for example, Amazon, then your cloud engineer role will include building systems that other companies use for their cloud computing.
For you to become a successful cloud engineer, you need to understand cloud computing basics, understand Linux, have programming skills in languages like Java, Python, Ruby, and Golang (Go). You’ll also know how to build some cloud applications and services, understand databases, know how to work with APIs, and understand some DevOps too.
Knowledge of cloud computing and infrastructure tools like OpenStack, AWS, Google Cloud, and Azure, as well as DevOps tools, is also a plus.
Since you mightn’t have much experience with all of these tools and concepts, getting some cloud certifications is a splendid way to demonstrate your knowledge.
Smaller companies tend to combine different cloud computing roles into one, such as a cloud engineer role, while bigger companies keep them separate.
Learn more about this role in our full cloud engineer guide.
4. Entry-level mobile app developer
A junior mobile app developer spends most of their time building mobile applications for either the iOS or Android platforms.
Before getting into it, it’s important to know the differences between mobile apps vs web apps.
Sometimes, you could build cross-platform apps (which work on both iOS and Android and you only need to write the source code once.)
In this entry-level programming job you could be involved in other parts of the SDLC process too, like gathering project requirements and defining new product features.
You’re required to follow best practices that ensure that the application’s performance, quality, and responsiveness are up to par.
Another part of your day includes debugging and writing tests.
Some popular mobile development programming languages that you might use include Objective-C, Kotlin, C#, Swift, and Java.
You’re required to be proficient in working with databases, APIs, and mobile development frameworks as well.
5. Junior data analyst
In this role, you’ll collect and process large sets of data (called “big data”) and then use statistics to analyze them. You’ll then derive useful insights and present them to the necessary parties.
You’ll use various data visualization tools, like flowcharts, charts, graphs, Sankey diagrams, and dashboards, to share your findings as a data story.
A degree in statistics, engineering, or mathematics could give you an edge, but it’s not compulsory. Taking certifications like Microsoft’s Power BI Data Analyst exam (PL-300) will also give you a competitive advantage when pursuing a career in data analysis.
We cover more of it in our full guide to becoming a junior data analyst, but the skillset that you need to thrive as a data analyst includes the following:
- Data tools like Excel
- Programming language knowledge (R, SAS, Python)
- Data visualization
- Data visualization tools like Power BI and Tableau
- SQL and SQL database know-how
- Other database querying languages
- Data mining, blending, cleaning, discovery, manipulation, and data wrangling or munging
- Statistical tools might also come in handy, for example, SPSS
It’s important to distinguish between data analysts, data scientists, and data engineers. Data analysts and scientists use machine learning to make predictions using data, and data engineers build the systems used for data analysis and interpretation.
Of the three, data analysis is arguably the least technical, and it’s one of the most popular entry-level programming jobs at the moment.
Data analysis is an excellent entry-level position from which to advance to more technical positions such as machine learning engineer and data engineer.
6. Entry-level data scientist
A junior data scientist works with advanced analytics alongside a senior. Statistical modeling and machine learning are used in advanced analytics to come up with recommendations based on data.
You’ll then communicate your findings to various stakeholders.
You may also build data science models and features that improve an existing product, for example, models that make customer recommendations (something like what you see on Amazon’s “frequently bought together”).
The role also includes tasks that data analysts do, like data munging, data visualization, and documenting your process from end to end.
Here are some skills that you need as a data scientist:
- Statistics knowledge
- Machine Learning algorithms
- An understanding of relational databases (SQL-based databases like Microsoft SQL Server or MySQL) and data warehouse systems like Hive
- A good grasp of programming languages like R and Python
- Working knowledge of the Unix or Linux command line
- Comprehend Extract, Transform, Load (ETL) and Extract, Load, Transform (also ELT) data transformation procedures
- Data and Business Intelligence tools like Tableau and Looker
- Data Science collaboration tools like DagsHub
Data scientists and data analysts often work together to prepare data for use in models and to better understand it.
A degree in math, physics, or engineering is an added advantage, since the data scientist role tends to be more academic. Here’s our full guide to how to become a data scientist.
Since lots of companies aren’t yet conversant with handling large datasets, data scientists are definitely in high demand. However, over time, it might be a good move to transition into data engineering.
7. Junior data engineer
The crux of your job as a junior data engineer, just like a data analyst’s, will involve data extraction, wrangling, preparation, and cleansing. However, in this entry-level programming job you take an extra step and automate these processes.
You’re also the one who builds the systems that data scientists use.
If you want to untangle the two more, check out our guide to the differences between a data scientist vs a data engineer.
In addition, you’ll be responsible for the following:
- Creating, managing, and maintaining data pipelines
- Recommending how to fix issues with data quality
- Creating and managing data platforms
You’ll also work with data scientists to help them create business analytics features or features that can help solve machine learning problems.
The skills that you need to thrive as a junior data engineer include:
- A solid understanding of core computer science concepts
- Databases (managing tables, doing joins and data aggregation, as well as inserting, updating, and deleting records efficiently)
- Programming languages (Python, Scala).
- Some experience building and designing large-scale applications, end to end
- Containerization (Kubernetes, Docker)
- Some knowledge of building data pipeline systems
- Some experience working with data workloads
- Data modeling exposure
- ETL knowledge (OLAP and OLTP)
- Data integration (create a data pipeline from several data platforms like Hadoop, Spark, and Kafka).
A data engineer is also referred to as a data platform engineer, data infrastructure engineer, data support engineer, ETL manager, or database manager.
The data engineer role is closer to “real-world” problems than the data scientist role.
8. Entry-level machine learning engineer
Machine Learning is another huge growth area, as the concept finds more and more applications for it. You can learn more about what tasks are expected in our full machine learning engineer guide, but as a junior, your day-to-day responsibilities might include:
- Assembling datasets
- Building ML models based on the datasets
- Ensuring that your model scales and is performant
- Ensuring that there is good information flow between various components in the system
The skillset that you need to become a great MLE (at least over time) is:
- A good command of SQL
- Some experience building highly-scaled distributed systems, for example, recommendation systems, and distributed computing frameworks (Apache Mahout)
- Familiarity with machine learning fundamentals (algorithms and data structures, ML tools like TensorFlow and PyTorch)
- Experience working with big datasets
- Data visualization know-how will also come in handy
- Conversance with metrics
- Debugging models and their misclassifications
- Being aware of your own and other people’s biases and accounting for them in your models
- Probability and statistical knowledge
- Data wrangling and analysis
- A grasp of Unix tools
Don’t be discouraged if you don’t have a degree in STEM. You can start with “more abstract ML,” where you might not know the inner workings but can implement ML solutions.
An example of this would be using pre-trained AWS models, as well as high-level frameworks and libraries. Eventually, you can begin to learn the “behind-the-scenes” of ML.
As an entry-level MLE, working in roles that are product-focused or that allow you to get exposed to personalization will go a long way in helping you become a rock star MLE.
Depending on where you are in the world, it might not be easy to get an entry-level MLE. You might want to start as a data analyst, take up machine learning, and transition into an MLE role.
After all, some people argue that an MLE is just a data scientist with strong programming skills.
9. Entry-level software engineer
All the roles we’ve looked at so far are entry-level software engineering roles. Whether you’re an entry-level web developer building web applications, a mobile developer building Android, iOS, or cross-platform apps, or even a data engineer, you are a software engineer.
The intriguing thing is that the software engineering growth curve can take any direction you like. You might choose to stay on the software engineering path. Your growth path could look like the following:
- Mid-level software engineer
- Senior engineer
- Staff engineer
- Principal engineer
- Engineering fellow
- Distinguished engineer
This is known as the “individual contributor path”, where you don’t get to manage people. Alternatively, you can take the “people” route and become a product manager, engineering manager, tech lead, CTO (chief technology officer), or CIO (chief information officer).
The other possible route is to branch into cloud engineering, DevOps, machine learning, or data and grow through the ranks.
It’s also important to know that in some companies, roles in DevOps and cloud engineering require a few years of experience in software engineering.
This is because these positions come with lots of responsibility. You might be managing the entire architecture on which the company’s product runs. A lot of things could go wrong if you have no prior experience.
3. How to get an entry-level programming job
Truth be told, getting entry-level programming jobs might be an arduous journey, depending on the career that you’re aiming for.
It’s important to be patient and give yourself realistic timelines.
The following are the steps you need to take to hopefully land your dream entry-level programming job or first client.
Step One: Get an education
Depending on the entry-level role you want to pursue, you might need a degree or not. If you do, then ensure that you study one that’s relevant to the career path you’re interested in.
Data science jobs, for example, might require a degree in statistics, mathematics, or computer science. Depending on where you are in your career, you might need a master’s degree too.
Find out whether courses and bootcamps or self-study are the best option to get you the skills you need for your chosen career path.
If you’re looking to learn programming, then CareerFoundry’s Full-Stack Web Development Program is a popular choice.
Students get the best of both worlds: A self-paced online platform allowing you to master the fundamentals of web development, and a dedicated support team of mentors, tutors, and career specialists to help you get an entry-level programming job and kick off your career.
If you choose to follow the web development path, bootcamps are definitely an option. We’ve summarized some of the best coding bootcamps out there.
Step Two: Learn the hard- and soft skills
The education that you get should equip you with the right entry-level programming job skills to get you started. However, sometimes you need specific skills to thrive in your chosen profession.
For example, SQL is a key component of a career in data. Your formal education might not have covered SQL. You, therefore, need to go out of your way to learn the complementary skills that will help you succeed in your chosen career.
You can find online courses to help you upskill or participate in open source projects where you can acquire the knowledge.
Certifications are also a great way to bag skills that are pertinent to the career you’re interested in.
Soft skills will go a long way, too, in helping you succeed in your software engineering career.
Good communication skills, for example, will help you communicate with colleagues as you build software, with project owners, and with various stakeholders to ensure that you’re working towards the same goal.
Ensure that you can communicate effectively with both “technical” and “non-technical” people.
Giving and receiving feedback is also another valuable “soft skill” that you need to learn.
Step Three: Build up your portfolio
A software engineering portfolio is the best way to showcase your skills. You’ll be showing potential employers or clients that you actually know how to do something, not just talking about it (show, don’t tell).
Some of the best ways to build your portfolio are:
- Participating in open source projects
- Doing volunteer work for a local charity organization
- Doing some freelance work
- Building personal passion projects
- Participating in hackathons and other coding competitions
Having mentors is also a great way to get feedback on your projects and learn industry standards and best practices.
Step Four: Prepare your application strategy
Applying for entry-level programming jobs might seem as straightforward as going to LinkedIn and applying to each and every role listed there.
Having a more structured and strategic approach might help you find a role that you’re actually interested in faster.
While we aren’t ruling out applying for roles via LinkedIn, ensure that you actually read the job descriptions and find out about the company, to see whether it’s one you’d like to work for.
You could even reach out to companies that don’t have any jobs listed and ask to help them solve a problem you might have identified.
Remember to reach out to people rather than company pages. It’s people who make decisions, and they could give you insights about the company you’re interested in.
Another way that deviates from the norm is actually helping people with questions on forums like Quora or Reddit. There are people with problems that you can solve.
In addition to answering their questions, you can provide a service to help them achieve their goals. Since you’re just starting out, you can do it for free or offer a “friendly price.”
Joining communities is another way to meet people and find opportunities. Join Slack and Discord channels that are relevant to your career path and find projects to participate in; check out job boards; and offer to help.
Lastly, attend hackathons, events, and meetups. You are likely to meet others in entry-level programming jobs, as well as those who are looking for help that you can offer, or who can point you in the right direction.
Mentors might also let you know about opportunities they come across or recommend you to clients or companies looking to hire.
Step Five: Start applying and interviewing
You’re now ready to start applying for entry-level programming jobs and hopefully getting shortlisted. Remember to apply to jobs that match your skills and experience.
Customize your resume and cover letter to fit the specific role you’re applying for. If you need some tips, we’ve got a resume guide for you.
Depending on the company you’re interviewing with, there may be more than one interview round.
For example, a tech recruiter may call you for an initial screening call and a technical interview may follow. You can learn more about preparing for the screening call via our guide.
Most importantly, be confident and showcase your problem-solving skills and technical knowledge even if, for example, you’re not able to complete a live coding test.
Some technical interviews are “take-home” assignments. Ensure that you can explain your thought process clearly.
When you do get an entry-level programming job, focus on being indispensable. Help make your supervisor’s or colleague’s lives easier, for example, by helping them automate things they’ve been doing manually.
Go out of your way to understand the people, product, or system you’re working with. Having an idea of what different people do will help you keep them in mind, especially when you are building an application or system for them to use.
Understanding your product or system will help you find ways to make it more efficient.
Be the person who finds solutions to problems. This is a surefire way to show your value to a company or organization and become really hard to replace.
Of course, you need to keep building your skillset and grow in your career.
4. Final thoughts and next steps
We’ve explored the world of entry-level programming jobs and looked at what entry-level roles involve.
We’ve also gone through some of the best jobs you can get at a beginner level, how to go about getting your first role or client, and answered some frequently asked questions.
If you’d like to read more about the world of programming instead, check out these guides:
- Coding vs Programming: Is There a Difference?
- How to Become a Software Engineer Without a Degree: 6-Step Guide
- What is Debugging? A Beginner’s Guide
5. Entry-level programming jobs FAQ
In this section, we answer important questions you may still have about programming jobs for beginners.
What is an entry-level programmer’s salary?
How much you make as an entry-level programmer is highly dependent on factors like the region or part of the world you are in, the size of the company you end up working for, and the specific engineering path you choose.
However, the median salary in the United States for an entry-level programmer is $92,000 per year. You can also check out the CareerFoundry web developer salary guide for salaries by country, city, or job title.
Which programming language is best for an entry-level job?
There’s really no “best” programming language. It all depends on your interests and the demand in your area. There are, however, some “best” coding languages to learn right now, based on demand and the reason you want to get into coding.
Is it hard to get an entry-level programming job?
Yes and no. Yes, if you’re looking to get into MAANG (Meta/Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google). This is because there are thousands of people who want to get into the same companies, making it extremely competitive.
No, if you’re looking to gain experience and even start at a paid internship level.
Can a self-taught programmer get an entry-level job?
Yes, self-taught programmers can and do get hired. Some companies don’t require degrees and will hire you if you can demonstrate your competence.
Having projects that you’ve built and showing an understanding of important concepts in the language or framework you’ve specialized in will go a long way in proving that you can deliver.