5 Tips for Choosing the Best Entry-Level Programming Jobs

By Robert Half November 17, 2016 at 1:00pm

If you’re at the beginning of your career and looking for programming jobs, you know your skills are in strong demand.

Many firms are seeking skilled programmers, and if you are an expert in one of the most popular programming languages (Java or C++, for example), you likely have some great job options. But it’s important to be strategic about your initial career choices.

Here are five tips for assessing entry-level programming jobs to help you choose the one that’s right for you:

1. Look at the money. Depending on the employer, the starting salary for entry-level programming jobs can vary dramatically from one opportunity to another. It may be fairly low, especially if your first gig is with a startup, or it could approach six figures if you sign with a large, established company and you have in-demand skills.

Use our Salary Calculator to determine if the offer is reasonable and in line with industry standards.

2. Then look at the potential money. Even if the starting salary is on the low side, it may not stay that way for long. Assess the bigger picture and don’t let your immediate financial needs cloud your future aspirations. When weighing the compensation of various entry-level programming jobs, ask questions about bonus potential, stock options and whether the company offers regular salary increases.

3. Consider the whole package. Present and future wages are just one part of the equation when it comes to evaluating programming jobs. A good benefits package or cool perks can help make up for a less-than-stellar salary. Also consider how the job fits with your lifestyle, current needs, long-term goals and work-life balance. For example, if you value flexibility, look for an employer that allows telecommuting.

4. Know where you want to go. Remember, this is just your first gig. Entry-level programming jobs provide a foot in the door and valuable work experience, but it’s crucial to keep overall career goals in sight. When weighing programming jobs, consider aspects like who you might work with and learn from, what doors an opportunity may open down the line, and whether you get to be part of a cool project or up-and-coming technology.

5. Can you add new skills? During the interview, ask the hiring manager about the company’s programs for training and career advancement. This can help you decide whether it makes sense to accept the offer. Almost seven in 10 IT workers surveyed in a Robert Half Technology survey said the ability to acquire a new skill is important when evaluating job opportunities. Being part of a large development team could help you hone your skills by allowing you to learn from more experienced programmers.

On the flip side, if you’d rather gain a broad range of experiences, joining a smaller organization could allow you to grow in areas like client relations and project management. It also can provide you with a quicker route to leadership positions.

Having a clear sense of what you want from your career is key to choosing the programming jobs that are right for you. You should also figure out your immediate priorities — rent, paying off student loans and so on — and long-term goals.

When researching specific jobs, try to connect with programmers who have worked with the organization you would like to join; their insights can be valuable. Then, decide which one will best take you where you want to go, and take the plunge.

This post has been updated to reflect more current information.

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