You are probably burnt out, unhappy, and ready to seek a new career path. Perhaps you’re considering a career change to Programming and wondering what is required.
In this article, I discuss five practical steps you can take to help you successfully transition from accounting to a career in programming. The steps are:
- Research and validate programming as a career path
- Network with programming professionals with an Accounting background
- Get trained and qualified
- Get relevant experience
- Update professional assets
#1. Research and Validate You Want A Career In Programming
For quite some time, computer programming has been a trendy topic.
Programming talents, from software engineering to front-end development, offer good job opportunities in today’s technological environment.
Computer programming is also one of the most adaptable professions, with several specialisation options, the opportunity to work from home, and more.
The median annual wage for computer programmers was $93,000 in May 2021
But before making a final decision and following through with this career transition, it’s important to really ask yourself if this is the best career for you.
There are many different types and areas of computer programming, from web development to game development, database and cloud development.
With all these different options, it’s important to have a good understanding of them before making a choice.
Next is a quick overview of what Computer programmers do and the different types that exist.
What do Programmers Do?
Programmers are computer professionals that create software to perform useful tasks. They write, modify and test code that allows computer software and applications to function properly.
They work in large teams not only writing code but also reading and updating existing code to meet whatever their client’s expectations are.
This means the responsibilities of a programmer typically include;
- Writing programs in a variety of computer programming languages, like HTML, PHP, C++ and Java
- Update existing programs
- Create and test software codes
- Test programs for any errors and fix the lines of faulty code
- Securing programs against cyber security threats
The work of a computer programmer is very important and in demand in today’s technology-focused world, making the number of job opportunities in the field continue to grow.
Types of Computer Programmers
There are different types of computer programmers as well as different types of programming languages.
- Computer Hardware Programmer: Computers have their own machine language that they can interpret and use to receive instructions.
These instructions are written in a specific machine language (code) by computer hardware programmers so that a computer understands what to do when someone clicks the power button, types on the keyboard, or moves the mouse.
- Computer Software Programmer: Software developers create and handle a wide range of programming operations, from word processing to tax preparation and graphics editing.
Software developers also construct, design, and alter the operating systems that function on computers, networks, and even cellphones.
In a word, a software developer’s purpose is to construct tailored software to improve operational efficiency.
- Database Developers: A database (an ordered collection of data) gathers, organises, sorts, and retrieves related data.
It is generally saved and accessible electronically from a computer system and runs behind the scenes of user software and websites.
Database developers (sometimes known as database programmers) are in charge of designing and implementing computer databases.
These computer programmers will examine a company’s data requirements and then create an effective database system to meet those requirements.
- Web Developers: Web developers are computer programmers who design, create, and edit the millions of websites that exist on the Internet.
These computer programmers utilise software that allows them to control what types of functions users can perform when they visit a website.
If that all sounds overly technical, then try a non-technical IT role like Business Analysis.
What is the typical career path for a programmer?
Another great aspect of programming is the growth potential the field provides. Here are some of the most common steps in a programmer’s career, right from their first job.
- Junior Developer: Junior developers use their knowledge of computer languages, algorithms and databases to build good quality and error-free software.
This is an entry-level position in the field, requiring anywhere from 0-to 3 years of experience and allows programmers to spend time developing their skills. The average salary for this post ranges from $45-81k.
- Senior Developer: After gaining about 4-10 years of experience in a junior role, programmers that have gained in-depth knowledge of algorithms and databases, as well as the software lifecycle, can expect to be promoted to a senior developer role.
Senior developers write more complex applications and have a salary range of $70-$130k
- Lead Developer or Architect: After about seven years of programming, becoming a lead architect is the highest rank on the programming career ladder.
Architects design entire software systems and oversee the day-to-day coding of junior developers.
However, if management is something you enjoy, then becoming a lead developer is the next step. Lead developers are like mid-level managers who coordinate and implement work decisions concerning code. These roles have a salary range of $95-$145k.
Mid-Level Manager: Typical programming managerial roles include product managers, developer managers, or project managers. Managers report directly to senior leaders and are responsible for hiring and firing developers. Managers can earn from $65k-$148k
Senior Leader: This includes roles like the VP, CTO or CEO. Senior leaders are in charge of mid-level managers and make high-level work decisions.
They typically focus on people-related issues and are no longer expected to program. Senior leaders usually report to a board of directors and can earn as much as $117k-$250k
Now you understand the different types of computer programming roles, and you need to reflect and check if those responsibilities align with your expectation.
If the sound of the above responsibilities sounds exciting, then let’s proceed. If not, not to worry. There are potential career paths for Accountants like becoming a teacher.
#2. Network with Programming Professionals with an Accounting Background
Once you’ve confirmed that Computer Programming is certainly the career for you, you need to speak with programing professionals who have a similar background in accounting.
Why is this important? Changing careers is not an easy journey. I did it four times, and I know how challenging it was. The uncertainties and self-doubts!
Speaking to someone who understands your journey and has been where you are is hugely refreshing and valuable.
If you’re wondering where you can find these professionals, here are some ideas:
- Facebook groups: search for groups dedicated to programming professionals. Join the group and friendly ask the group for anyone with an accounting background.
Be honest and share you are looking to transition to become a computer programmer and are looking for someone with some tips.
Reach out privately to whoever responds to your message and build the relationship further.
- LinkedIn: Search for a type of computer programmer and use the filter to find engineers with unique qualifications or experiences that tie them to accounting.
Send a connection request with an added note asking for tips and advice.
- Forums: Go on Quora and Reddit forums that have a congregation of Computer programmers and reach out privately to anyone willing to share their knowledge with you.
#3. Get Training And Qualifications in Programming Languages
The path to a coding job isn’t always straightforward; some people pursue an engineering degree followed by tech internships that lead to a full-time position.
Others begin in marketing and gradually convert to computer programming with data analytics tasks.
It takes little effort, but you can get a career as a computer programmer regardless of your experience.
Degrees are a very traditional approach and help in laying a solid foundation, but they usually take up to four years to complete and are expensive.
However, one great thing about programming is that employers are very open to hiring professionals who do not have a computer science background but have experience using programming languages.
As long as you believe you can learn how to write code without pursuing formal education for additional years, then this might be the right option for you.
There are a lot of free websites and online tutorials available to teach aspiring programmers how to code.
Coding boot camps are online programs that are specifically designed to teach aspiring programmers what they’ll need to know before launching their careers.
They may either be free or paid. Boot camps often offer certificates of completion, demonstrating that the candidate has acquired skills in a particular area.
Sites like Udemy, Fullstack Academy, App academy, FreeCodeCamp and code smith are very reputable for the courses they offer.
Would you prefer a formal education, or would you be more comfortable attending online courses and boot camps?
The choice is yours. When making your decision, factor in overall costs and time duration before deciding.
I personally will recommend you complete a reputable online course to gain the fundamental knowledge and work hard at acquiring experience, which we’ll discuss in the next section.
#4. Acquire Programming Experience
Alongside earning your qualifications and certifications, acquiring actual work experience in the field is a great way to prepare you for a career as a programmer.
Employers value both technical experience and practical experience.
Work experience is advantageous on two main fronts.
Firstly, acquiring work experience will show employers that you have an understanding of the techniques used in computer programming.
It will also show them that you understand how to use these techniques in practical applications.
Lastly, work experience in the field will let you stand out among other candidates when applying for jobs in the industry.
How to acquire relevant work experience
There are different ways to acquire work experience.
- Internships: One of the best ways to acquire work experience in programming is through internships.
An internship is a type of work experience provided by a company for a certain amount of time, ranging from one week to twelve months.
Internships will allow you to work in an environment with professionals in the field whom you will be able to learn from, and you will also learn to apply your skills while simultaneously building your network.
- Volunteer at a charity: Find a local charity (or any charity that’ll accept you) and volunteer your time with them.
Use your programming skills to build their website, create an app or automate a manual process.
- Join a startup: A great way to acquire relevant work experience is to join a startup. Depending on the stage of the startup, you can meet other programmers there who you’ll be able to support and shadow.
If you don’t expect to get paid, it’ll be much easier to get in. As you get better, you could apply for a full-time position or take those skills to get a better role.
- Start personal projects: Once you have good enough skills, you can create your own app, and build your website. If you have ideas, you can build out those ideas with your programming skills.
It doesn’t have to be elaborate. It just has to work and be used by a few people. This way, you are building a portfolio and experience which you’ll be able to present at interviews.
You can follow along with tutorials that teach how to create basic websites and then upload these projects to a repository like GitHub or GitLab to build your portfolio.
- Freelance: A lot of the above ideas involve not getting paid for a period of time. I understand not everyone can afford this.
For that, I’ll say once you have good programming skills, you can sign up to sites like fiver or Upwork to pick up small projects that you could both use to gain experience and earn a living.
Do this until you land a full-time role, or if you enjoy freelancing, this could be the start of a big business.
#5. Update Your Personal Brand Assets
At this point, you have all the ingredients required to build and update your professional brand assets.`
Your professional brand assets are your CV, your LinkedIn profile, and your personal website.
I call them professional brand assets because they are resources that you own and control that are able to provide you with a future economic benefit, i.e. a job as a computer programming professional.
Building and polishing these professional assets will position you and make you attractive to recruiters and hiring managers.
- Your CV/Resume: Take all your newly acquired knowledge, skills, and experience and include them in your resume in a way that fits the requirements of a computer programmer.
Analyse at least ten programming live job vacancies that you would like to apply to. Review the requirements, i.e. the section that says ‘your responsibilities’ or says ‘in this role, we are looking for….’
This is essentially the business telling you what they’re looking for in an ideal candidate. Analysing 10-15 vacancies will uncover some patterns and keywords.
Ensure these keywords are featured on your CV/Resume.
Pro tip: Matching your CV/resume to actual job roles is a great way to get through the ATS (Application Tracking System) system.
Your CV is an effective way to show employers how you will be a great asset for the position you’re applying for.
- Your LinkedIn Profile: Most recruiters and hiring managers use Linkedin to fill job positions. Actually, Over 90% of them do this!
At the very minimum, make sure the information on your Linkedin profile matches what is on your CV.
Connect with recruiters and follow mentors and new colleagues on Linkedin.
Optimise the headline section of your profile by listing major skills that will be required in your new profession.
Also, optimise the summary section of your profile by highlighting your work experience, certifications, technical skills, and expertise.
- Your Personal Websites: Your personal website gives you the opportunity to show your work rather than just talk about it.
In today’s competitive employment market, job searchers must do all they can to differentiate themselves from the competition, and having a personal website is one of the most effective methods to do so.
I believe in the philosophy of showing, not telling. As a programmer, you should have a portfolio where anybody can experience your work.
I suggest you include your website or portfolio link in your CV.
Changing careers will always be a scary and daunting thing to follow through, but the good news is that it is very doable.
The opportunities for programmers in today’s world are rich and plentiful, with programmers being in such high demand.
Now that you’ve decided that an accounting career is no longer for you and you’re interested in pursuing a programming career, it’s time to follow all the tips listed in this guide.
Be committed to making this career change actual reality. Motivate yourself and surround yourself with like-minded people who are ready to support you.
After using this guide to draft your action plan, the only thing that’s left for you to do is to get up and start doing it.
Need to do more research into the programming field? Start now. Need to decide the best program for you? Run it by your network and make a decision already. Connect with professionals in the field and start acquiring all the work experience you’ll need as soon as possible.
Be patient with yourself, but also give yourself a timeframe for achieving this dream of yours.
Changing careers can be a difficult thing to do, but with the right tools and attitude, you can make it happen! The six tips in this article are tested and proven when making the action plan that’ll you’ll need to make this career change a successful one for you.