How Long Does it Take to Become a Software Engineer in 2024

The tech industry in 2024 is facing some challenges, no doubt. There's a global crisis, conflicts, and layoffs happening across various sectors. This might make someone think starting a software engineering career now is a bad idea.

Here's a different perspective: it can be a strategic time to enter the field.

Think of it like the tech world's version of buying Bitcoin. You wouldn't buy when the price is skyrocketing, right? The best time to invest is often when everyone else is panicking and selling off.

In the same way, honing your software development skills during a downturn can position you perfectly for the next boom. Here's why:

  • Increased demand: The tech industry is cyclical. While there might be a temporary slowdown, the demand for skilled software engineers will inevitably rebound. By being prepared when that happens, you'll be ahead of the curve.

  • Focus on fundamentals: During uncertain times, companies often refocus on core needs and efficiency. This means a strong foundation in programming languages and best practices will be even more valuable.

  • Sharpen your skills: A period of economic slowdown can be a great opportunity to invest in yourself. Take online courses, build a portfolio of personal projects, and solidify your software development skills.

While the current climate might seem daunting, it can be a unique opportunity to set yourself up for success in the long run. So, if you're passionate about software engineering, don't be discouraged by temporary setbacks.

This is the time to learn, grow, and prepare for a bright future in the tech industry.

How long does it take to become a software engineer? (2024 guide)

I prepared a guide on how to launch a tech career in 2024, based on my experience and other people's insights.Planning Your Career Path. Let's estimate how long it will take you to become a software engineer if you choose to pursue this path.

Earn a computer science degree (5-12 months)

Entering the tech industry can be a daunting task due to its competitive nature. With millions of individuals aspiring to get into coding with the aim of achieving financial success, it's imperative to possess a strong and comprehensive understanding of the field. But where can you get such knowledge?

The most straightforward path is through obtaining a Computer Science education from a reputable university. Investing in this educational route can yield significant benefits, provided you have the resources to support it. A bachelor's degree not only equips you with theoretical knowledge but also provides practical skills essential for thriving in the tech industry. Master's degree is not worth it for software engineer career path IMO.

But do you need to finish university to become a software engineer and start building computer software? No. I started working as a Python engineer on my first year of university.

If you don't want to pursue a degree or lack the resources to do so, you can still educate yourself in the field of tech through various courses, bootcamps, and other resources.

The main topics that you need to cover are:

Foundational Concepts:

  • Programming fundamentals: This includes learning about variables, data types, control flow (if statements, loops), functions, and basic algorithms. Popular languages to start with include Python, Java, or JavaScript.

  • Computer architecture: Understanding the hardware components (CPU, memory, storage) and how they work together to execute programs.

  • Data structures & algorithms: Learning how data is organized (arrays, linked lists, trees, etc.) and efficient algorithms for solving common problems (sorting, searching).

Software Engineering:

  • Software development lifecycle (SDLC): The process of planning, designing, developing, testing, deploying, and maintaining software.

  • Object-oriented programming (OOP): A programming paradigm that uses objects (data and methods) to model real-world entities.

  • Version control systems (Git): Tools for managing changes to code over time and collaborating with others.

Additional Important Areas:

  • Databases: Understanding how data is stored and retrieved in relational databases (SQL) and potentially NoSQL databases.

  • Computer networks: Learning about communication protocols, network topologies, and the internet's infrastructure.

  • Operating systems: Understanding how an operating system manages hardware resources and provides an interface for applications.

  • Discrete mathematics: Mathematical concepts like logic, set theory, and probability that are crucial for computer science.

To cover this essential skills you need from 5 months to 1 year of time.

In today's tech world, just knowing the basics isn't enough to become a software engineer, sadly. What I suggest next is getting certified.

Certifications for software developers (5-6 months)

In the vast world of tech, there are numerous niches and certifications available to showcase your skills. I personally obtained the AWS Solutions Architect certification, and I highly recommend it to you as well. System design and architecture skills are in high demand right now.

It took me three months to prepare for the AWS Solutions Architect certification. However, since I already had significant experience using AWS, it might take new learners around 5 to 6 months to prepare thoroughly.

The certification validates your knowledge and skills in designing, deploying, and managing cloud solutions on the AWS platform. This can be a major differentiator for employers seeking qualified cloud architects.

The demand for skilled AWS professionals is high, and companies are actively looking for individuals with these certifications. Earning your Solutions Architect certification can significantly improve your chances of landing a cloud-related job.

Also process of preparing for the certification encourages you to gain a deep understanding of a wide range of AWS services, best practices for cloud architecture, and cost optimisation strategies. This comprehensive knowledge makes you a more valuable asset to any organisation.

Gaining experience (3 months)

Writing code is crucial in securing a job. Companies receive numerous applications and often prioritize candidates with extensive technical skills.

If you have friends in the field, try to get involved in their projects. Alternatively, you can build your own pet projects and showcase them on GitHub. It's also beneficial to tackle challenges independently rather than relying heavily on tools like ChatGPT, as this allows you to gain hands-on experience and demonstrate your coding skills effectively. Also try to deploy your first real app, it will help you understand software design and architecture. This part took me and my friends around 3 months.

The software engineer job hunt (months in the current market)

The tech job market in 2024 might seem like a battlefield – news headlines scream of layoffs and economic uncertainty. However, with a strategic approach, this can be the perfect time to launch or advance your tech career. Here's how to tackle the job hunt in this unique climate:

Sharpen your sword

Foundational knowledge is your armor in the job outlook. Focus on mastering core programming languages, algorithms, and data structures. This versatility allows you to adapt to various technologies and future trends. Consider specializing in a niche area like cybersecurity or AI, but don't become pigeonholed – maintain a broad base to stay adaptable.

The tech landscape is constantly evolving, so continuous learning is key. Take advantage of online courses, workshops, and webinars to stay updated on the latest advancements.

Build your network!!!

In a competitive market, connections are crucial. Leverage online platforms like LinkedIn to connect with professionals in your field. Join relevant online communities and participate in discussions to showcase your expertise and build relationships.

Attend industry meetups, conferences, and webinars. These events offer valuable networking opportunities, allowing you to connect with potential employers and learn about current trends. Don't underestimate the power of your existing network. Reach out to past colleagues, professors, or mentors for informational interviews and potential referrals.

Crafting your pitch

Generic applications get lost in the pile. Tailor your resume and cover letter to each specific job description. Highlight the skills and experiences that directly address the employer's needs. Quantify your achievements whenever possible – use numbers and metrics to showcase the impact you made in previous roles.

Prepare for common interview questions and practice your responses. Focus on clear communication and demonstrate your passion for the field.

Alternative strategies

While traditional full-time positions are important, consider alternative strategies to gain experience and broaden your horizons. Freelance or contract work can be a great way to build your portfolio and potentially lead to full-time opportunities.

The rise of remote work offers a wider search area. Explore companies offering remote positions to expand your job search geographically.

Contributing to open-source projects is a fantastic way to demonstrate your skills in a collaborative environment. This not only builds your portfolio but also creates a strong online presence that can attract potential employers.

Staying positive and persistent

Job hunting can be a marathon, not a sprint. Maintain a positive attitude, celebrate small wins, and don't get discouraged by setbacks. Utilize the job search process as an opportunity to learn and refine your skills and application materials. Remember, the tech industry is always in need of skilled and passionate individuals. By adapting your approach to the current market conditions, you can increase your chances of landing your dream job.

Bonus point: Startups!

The startup world is brimming with opportunities, especially for tech talent. Startups often have leaner structures and may be more open to considering candidates with less experience, especially if you can showcase a strong skillset and eagerness to learn. Research startups in your area of interest and tailor your application materials to highlight how your skills can contribute to their growth. Remember, the fast-paced environment of a startup can offer invaluable learning experiences and the potential for high growth alongside the company.

This can take anything from a week to a couple of months.

Determine your ideal timeline

The world of software engineering is alluring, brimming with innovation and problem-solving. But with so much information on "how to become" a software engineer, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. Here's the truth: there's no single, rigid path to this exciting career.

Why? Because every person – you included – is unique. You have your own timeline, a set of relevant skills, a preferred learning style, career goals, and a brain wired in a way that makes you, well, you.

Embrace the Detour:

  • The Traditionalist: Maybe a computer science degree is your jam. You thrive in a structured learning environment, and the prestige of a university program appeals to you. Fantastic! Go for it.

  • The Fast-Tracker: Perhaps a bootcamp or intensive online program aligns better with your goals. You crave a quick and immersive learning experience to launch your career. Perfect! Dive in.

  • The Autodidact: Or maybe you're a self-starter, a master of self study. Online resources, tutorials, and open-source will help you build necessary skills. Excellent! Forge your path.

The key is to identify your strengths and tailor your approach. Here are some questions to guide you:

  • How much time can I realistically dedicate to learning?

  • What's my preferred learning style (structured, hands-on, self-paced)?

  • Are there specific programming languages I'm drawn to?

  • Do I crave the structure of a formal program or the flexibility of self-learning?

There's no wrong answer. The beauty lies in finding the approach that resonates most with you.

Conclusion

Let's recap. The steps outlined above add up to approximately two years of dedicated effort. Yes, thats way more that 3-4 years ago when you could land a job after watching a 2 hour youtube video. Those times have changed. I want to encourage you to stay strong and keep pushing forward. It's all about putting in the hard work and persevering through the grind.