Transitioning to a Career in Technology
Updated: Dec 11, 2020
Glancing at any job board, you’ll likely see the majority of open roles in the technology field. Data analysts, website developers, and software engineers are just a few to name. The Covid-19 pandemic altered hiring demands of industries across the board. While some industries like hospitality and tourism faced lowered demands, technology roles are on the rise. In fact, the average global annual salary for DevOps engineers surged by more than 10 percent following the global shutdown. Employment in technology roles is also projected to grow by 11 percent in the next decade as a result of cloud computing, information security, and big data global trends.
If you have ever thought of jump-starting a new career in the tech industry, it can seem daunting without any experience or a related degree. However, it can be done with persistence, endurance, and taking advantage of programs geared to help you. Some of these programs include bootcamps, apprenticeships, micro-degrees, fellowships, and self-study. According to a survey conducted by job search platform Indeed, 36 percent of people who transitioned into tech enrolled in a training program, such as certifications or a fellowship. Of those, 23 percent alone enrolled in a bootcamp to jumpstart their transition.
Don’t know which program is right for you? Read on to learn more about your options, as well as to gain general insight to help you start the switch.
These short-term, intensive training programs can be either virtual or in-person, part-time or full-time, and self-paced or structured. Beyond the benefit of flexibility, bootcamps can also provide you with a moral support system— and even a larger professional network beyond graduation. While bootcamps can jumpstart your transition, it’s vital to weigh the benefits against the drawbacks. First and foremost, the curriculum provides a strong foundation of the fundamentals but can fall short on providing “soft” skills needed for the tech field. Bootcamps are also expensive and can cost you money even after you graduate. Most bootcamps contain an income share agreement (ISA) between you and the bootcamp. These agreements bind you to a set percentage of your income that is to be paid to the bootcamp. Typically, bootcamp participants pay between 8 to 25 percent of their income for a period of one to four years. Moreover, fixed tuitions can range from $5,000 to upwards of $20,000 and average at $13,000, according to RTI Press.
APPRENTICESHIPS AND FELLOWSHIPS
For many, apprenticeship and fellowship programs are the next step for bootcamp graduates. However, these programs can also be standalone experiences, providing you with firsthand experience into the work of tech professionals. But, what are the differences between apprenticeships and fellowship programs? While they sound similar, there are stark differences that may make one better for you than the other. As an apprentice, you’ll likely work on projects under the guidance of a senior-level mentor. You can spend anywhere from one year to a multi-year, full-time commitment. Fellowships, on the other hand, are a middle ground between academia and apprenticeships. As a fellow, you’ll likely spend some time doing academic research in addition to working on projects firsthand. If you are transitioning from a non-tech role into the tech field, both apprenticeships and fellowships can give you a strong foothold in landing a full-time role in the sector of your choice.
For these reasons, apprenticeships and fellowships can seem glamorous for those seeking experience and a salary. These programs are also on the rise. According to ZipRecruiter, employers posted 145 percent more fellowships in 2019, while apprenticeships surged by 131 percent between 2017 and 2018. Before you jump at applying for an apprenticeship or fellowship, it’s important to make a game plan and set your priorities. These programs are increasingly becoming more competitive, with some companies hiring only a handful out of thousands of applicants. Just like when you seek an internship, expect that rejections are part of the process and should not discourage your search.
Micro-degrees are short-term educational programs that teach you a specific skill or discipline in the tech field, often lasting between six to twelve months in length. While bootcamps provide you with a wide range of knowledge, micro-degrees are hyper-focused. In turn, they are one of the most popular ways to learn a new coding language, an essential skill that is often expected by tech employers. In fact, none of the Top 25 Fortune 500 companies use only one coding language, according to Coding Dojo. By only knowing one coding language, you extensively limit your options when transitioning into the tech field. Moreso, roles like software development are constantly evolving. Even after transitioning into a tech role, micro-degrees are always an option to sharpen your skills in a new coding language. Similarly to bootcamps, though, micro-degrees can be costly to a lesser extent. The average cost of a micro-degree is $1,000 to $5,000.
Self-study courses are also a program geared to help you transition into the tech industry. Platforms like Udemy allow you to take a wide range of tech-related courses from the comfort of your own home and on your own schedule. While bootcamps and micro-degrees can cost participants thousands of dollars, Udemy courses typically are in the hundreds. While the price may seem attractive, it’s important to consider how you learn best and if self-studying is ideal. In fact, over 90 percent of participants who start an online course never finish. Online self-studying can become boring and tedious for those who learn best through hands-on engagement. Therefore, if you are considering self-study courses, you also need to consider whether you will have the persistence and determination.
DETERMINING WHAT’S BEST FOR YOU
It may seem overwhelming to read about the many programs offered to help you make a career switch into the technology industry. Bootcamps, apprenticeships, fellowships, micro-degrees, and self-study all have benefits (pay, hands-on experience, and moral support) and drawbacks (cost, competitiveness, and lack of interactivity). Before you make the decision, it’s important to know that these programs can be taken in combination or progression, such as starting with a bootcamp before landing an apprenticeship.
Here is a list of questions to also ask yourself to make the right decision:
What is your learning style? Will you learn best from a bootcamp (assigned mini projects) or fellowships (learn as you go)?
What experience will best help you reach both your professional and personal goals?
How much time can you dedicate to the program?
What is your total budget? What are some potential expenses (i.e., tuition, living expenses, and textbooks), and can you afford them?
After asking yourself these questions, make a list of some potential programs before narrowing it down to what best fits your learning style and goals. Consider characteristics like cost, duration of the program, what you will learn, and the program’s flexibility. Know that these programs are all designed to make your transition into a tech role as seamless as possible. However, beyond these programs, be sure to avoid underselling your endurance by strengthening your “soft skills” and writing abilities along the way. When facing roadblocks in your transition, be kind to yourself and prevent burnout by taking a step back and evaluating your options, whether that would be attending a bootcamp or applying for an apprenticeship at your dream company.