Tuesday, February 25, 2014

RHT: 5 Tips for Choosing the Best Entry-Level Programming Jobs

by Clea Badion   Robert Half Technology
February 21, 2014

Starting pay isn’t the only thing to consider when choosing your first programming job.

If you’re a programmer at the beginning of your career – whether you’ve just graduated or are about to graduate – 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’re likely to have some great job options.

But it’s important to be strategic about your initial career choices. A recent article by Robert Half Technology’s senior executive director, John Reed, offers excellent tips on assessing entry-level programming jobs.

Reed points out that while starting pay is important, don’t forget to consider the entire package offered, as well as the skills you’ll have the chance to develop at a firm. Check out the full article below to see all of his tips for choosing the best entry-level programming job.

You have the skills and passion, and you’re raring to make your mark. From well-established corporations to newly minted startups, it seems like everyone wants — and needs — a skilled programmer on staff. And if your credentials are strong enough, you may have your pick of positions. Here are five tips for assessing entry-level programming jobs to help ensure 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 varies 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. To gauge whether the offer is reasonable and in line with industry standards, check out the Robert Half Technology 2014 Salary Guide.

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

3. Look at 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 orcool 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. Look at 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 long-term 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. Look at adding to your tool kit. During the interview, ask the hiring manager about the company’s policies 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 arecent 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 flipside, 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 first programming jobs that are right for you. 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!

About Robert Half Technology

With more than 100 locations worldwide, Robert Half Technology is a leading provider of technology professionals for initiatives ranging from web development and multiplatform systems integration to network security and technical support. Robert Half Technology offers online job search services at www.rht.com. Follow Robert Half Technology on Twitter at www.twitter.com/RobertHalfTech.

— Clea Badion

Clea Badion is an editor for the RHT Blog. She’s been writing about the workplace, career trends and technology for the past decade. Clea has 15 years of professional writing and editing experience and a master’s degree in visual studies. She’s a little obsessed with cute animal videos and the show ”American Ninja Warrior.” Follow her on Twitter @cleabadion.

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