Get a Software Engineer Job Without Experience


By Jennifer L. Hay

In the past, getting that first job as a Software Engineer when you had a computer science degree from a good school was easy. Writing your one-page IT resume was fast. You went to job fairs and got lots of job offers. All of that has changed. Technical job markets are highly competitive and a B.S degree alone is often not quite enough.  Fortunately, software engineering is one of those rare fields with lots of opportunities to gain experience even before your first job.

Here are the practical ways to develop skills whether or not you have a degree.  Each of these can be included in your software engineer resume.

Contribute to Open Source – This guide is a practical approach to getting started on an open source project. Contributing to open source can be a rewarding way to learn, teach, and build experience in many different skills.  When you work as part of a team effort you’ll gain life-long technical and people skills.

Develop a Mobile App – There are lots of low-cost resources to take a course on mobile development for beginners.

Volunteer for a Non-Profit – Do something good while getting experience. Identify a need and then work hard to deliver. Do not waste their time.

Get a Training Certificate.

Web Development Bootcamp Certificate: University of Washington, Seattle, WA

Completed a 24-week intensive Full Stack Web Development program. Learned to program using HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript, ES6, jQuery, Bootstrap, Node, Express, MySQL, MongoDB, Handelbars.js, and ReactJS.

Take an Online Course and List What You Learned. There are lots of no cost and low-cost online certifications, courses, and training to help you update or expand your technical skills. Many have projects that you can complete and add to your resume and GitHub account.

Harvard Online Learning:
LinkedIn Learning:
Microsoft Learn:
MIT OpenCourseWare:

Set up Your Own Network Infrastructure. This might be more of an investment for the equipment, but it is great experience. Take a course to understand the basics and then work from there.

Create a Technical Course and Post it on Udemy.  It is incredibly hard to put interesting course material together. Just learning how define the course objective and create a presentation is a great experience. Successfully teaching an online course will require strong technical knowledge, a clear and straightforward speaking style, and strong organizational skills. These are all very transferrable skills to any technical job.

Get an Internship. Every graduate would love to have an internship that they can highlight on their resume. Unfortunately, the experiences can vary deeply. If you had a good role in a project team, then your resume pretty much writes itself. For example:

Completed internship projects (XYZ company) that dealt with real-world problems.

  • Information Storage and Retrieval project for creating GUI application to categorize Tweeter tweets.
  • Network and Distributed Processing project: for creating GNUTELLA crawler: for a reliable data transfer resembling TCP; and for a command-line application that performed traceroute.
  • Software Engineering project for creating GUI application written in C# andNET that stored data and retrieved it in the GUI; involved SQL programming and usage of Subversion (SVN).

If your internship work wasn’t related to a specific project, then think about what you learned. Did you learn how to work as part of a team, did you enhance your problem-solving skills or did you improve your organizational skills. These are all important to include. Even if you were in a challenging situation, you learned something – if you improved your people skills as a result then include that.

About Jennifer Hay

I’ve been writing technical resumes and advising on career transitions for almost 15 years.

Throughout that time, I’ve read numerous articles about best practices for IT resume writing. What I found in those articles is a lot of bad information because it’s the same advice they give for non-technical professionals. This is important because IT resumes are different.

I built this website to share what I’ve learned in my career. I think you’ll find information on this website that will help make your IT resume a success.