How to get your first job in tech
Step-by-step instructions for you to follow
I’ve been running an online tech school for seven years, and we have 80,000 enrolled students, so I’ve heard this question a thousand times:
How do I get my first job in tech, without a degree and zero paid experience?
Try coding first. You might love it because it’s creative and you only need basic math skills: addition, subtraction, division, multiplication 😀 We offer a free 7-day trial so you can try coding for $0.
I’d recommend starting with this course, or if you are brand new to computers start with our Digital Literacy Track. Also, here’s a quick video I created which explains “who does what in the tech industry”.
If you enjoy the basics of programming, you might consider making a living by building apps and websites.
Learning how to make apps and websites is typically a 6–12 month journey if you’re learning 1–2 hours per day. This will take you from zero to job-ready as an apprentice. You can also create income by doing freelance work through sites like UpWork.
Here’s a simplified career path:
- Apprentice Developer (No paid experience, no Computer Science degree) = Starting salary $55,000
- Junior Developer (2–3 years paid experience) = Average salary $73,000
- Developer (4–5 years paid experience) = Average salary $93,000
- Senior Developer (5+ years paid experience) = Average salary $118,000
Some of you might want freedom to make your own hours and work from anywhere. Freelancing is an awesome option. I recommend people use UpWork for this. If you’re starting out with no paid experience, you can expect to make roughly $15–20 per hour. After you have more experience you can raise your rates to $50/hour or more. Once you’ve got a couple years of good experience, you can expect to charge $100/hour or more.
Once you’ve decided to commit and make a living from building apps or websites, you need to pick a school.
If you can afford $200 per month, I’d recommend a program like our Treehouse Techdegree. You learn by …
- Studying 1–2 hours per day, from anywhere, with a laptop and internet connection
- Completing required real-world projects. You get feedback on what you did right and wrong and once you pass, you continue to the next project.
- Getting help through live online chat with other students and Treehouse staff
- Following a clear, guided path through our courses, in the exact order you need
- Completing our courses on how to search and apply for jobs
Typically it takes 6–9 months to complete our Techdegree.
If that’s out of your budget, we have a $25 per month product that has similar courses, but no projects, grading or live chat support.
Obviously I’m going to recommend our product first (we’ve been voted the #1 online school twice now) but there are some other options out there too: Udacity, CodeSchool, Codecademy and freeCodeCamp are some of the better ones.
I would not recommend going to an in-person bootcamp. They are extremely expensive ($8,000–20,000), require you take time off work for three months, and sadly, many of them are not trustworthy.
- One of the better ones was just fined $375,000 for operating for a period without the proper educational license and improperly marketing both its job placement rates and the salaries of its graduates.
- Two of the largest in-person bootcamps have gone out of business.
Commit to creating a time slot in your calendar to learn for one hour per day. Think of it like going to the gym. The key is consistency. There will be good days and bad days — the most important thing is to not break the chain and learn every day.
Find someone to be your accountability partner on this goal of studying for one hour per day.
Build real projects as you learn. The temptation will be to follow along with the courses, instead of starting with a blank file and building your own projects. This is where you will really learn. It’ll feel uncomfortable, but that’s because you’ll actually be learning. Here are some simple ideas:
- A website for your family
- A website to document your journey learning to code
- A simple iOS or Android app that does just one simple thing
The goal is to make it easy, but real. When I was learning Python on Treehouse, I wanted to make a simple app that would help me remember people’s names. Just pick something simple that you care about.
This is why we’ve included projects in our Techdegree. It can be hard to know what projects to build and when you should tackle them on your learning journey.
Once you get to around 75% completion of your learning journey, start approaching local businesses and ask if you can build a very simple website or app for them. Charge them a very low price like $100. This makes it easy for them to say yes and for you to get your first paid job.
Once you complete that $100 job, find another simple project like this and raise your price to $200–300.
Keep repeating this until you have 5+ small paid projects.
Decide if you’re going to do freelance work or full-time work.
Create an account on UpWork and start bidding on jobs. You’ll need to set your hourly rate low at first ($15–20) but as you get more experience you can raise it. You won’t get work immediately so build in some buffer time to bid on projects.
Follow a job search process similar to the one outlined in this post. It’s a methodical, disciplined approach that will yield a job if you put in 2–3 months of hard work.
Enjoy your new career!
The eight steps I’ve outlined here are simple but not easy. Anyone with grit can be successful if they put in the time and work.
Please add your questions and comments below. Look forward to chatting!