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Java certificate passed a year ago. How to get a job / learn Java with practical skills?

 
Greenhorn
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What should I do to get a job in programming with at least £30Kp/a? I can't afford to do Junior Java Developer for £25K (I have a baby coming in a month time).

I have passed Java Programmer Certificate around a year ago and don't know what to do next to get a job. I have been trying to learn LibGDX and Unity (Games Development) but I found out today that Indie Game Developers don't make much money usually. So I think I am back to Java world where you can make money to support a family.

I look at tutorials but I now need to do something practical, the only problem is most things seem way too difficult and require multiple skills, not just Java. Other things are so trivial that it is hard to keep focus on them as they feel waste of time. Don't know what to do next, please some advice?
 
Sheriff
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What Java Certificate do you have? What other Java experience do you have?
 
P Kowalski
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Java SE 7 Programmer II is my certificate.
I have little to no Java experience except of preparing for exams.
 
Tim Cooke
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Any other programming experience? Any Computer Science education?

Given that you're talking about pounds as currency, I assume you're in the UK? You would be extremely lucky to find an entry level programming job, in any language, for anything remotely near £30k. Possibly in London, but the cost of living would negate the extra wage so you'd be no better off financially.

Alas, wages for job positions are dictated by the job market rather than our own circumstance. As a graduate I would have loved a £30k job! But they just didn't exist.
 
Tim Cooke
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A CodeRanch colleague just reminded me of this other discussion we had a couple of months ago. Did you take the Junior Java Developer job at your company? Or are you still deliberating on it?
 
P Kowalski
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Ok I should have started with my experience but didn't want the post to be too long: I have Bachelor degree from Poland in Computer Networking. I know a little bit of HTML, C++ and obviously Java. I have written some apps myself but usually nothing more than an unfinished game or some simple web page. I obviously passed the certification so I know coding in general quite well.

I happen to live in the UK within London area (in cheaper side where I can afford the living for now with my current job as Technical Support).

So I understand 30K is a bit too much, but what should I be doing then - I need this kind of money to survive here (with mortgage) but I do want programming job. Should I look at something easier like JavaScript (what a colleague from Marketing team in my current job is suggesting)? Any advice what to do to get my foot through the door?
 
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I can't afford to do Junior Java Developer for £25K..


Well, as you have no experience and your degree is in networking not software engineering, why do you expect anybody to give you lots of money to work as a software developer? £25K is a fairly typical starting salary for a graduate entry-level job, so if you get the chance of a job at this salary, maybe you should take it, especially if it offers training and good experience. Once you have a couple of years' experience, you should be able to earn significantly more, especially if you can acquire some industry-relevant skills. Consider moving out of London if you can - that salary will go a lot further outside London.

As for skills to acquire, start looking at what real employers are demanding for real jobs e.g. look at graduate recruitment sites, company recruitment pages, and online job sites like Job Serve. Pick one or two key skills that seem to be in demand, are interesting to you, and can be acquired on your own (e.g. don't go for some massive proprietary platform like SAP because you can't run that for free on your laptop). Web development is fairly easy to pick up at a basic level, and you might find some short-term work even with relatively little experience, but it's not especially well-paid - check out all those hipster web start-ups around Silicon Roundabout and see if any of them are actually hiring. Alternatively, if you want to get back to your academic roots, you could look for jobs around networking, sys admin, cloud engineering (e.g. Amazon AWS/EC2 etc, Hadoop configuration, that kind of thing) etc, but it's up to you.

It's going to be hard, though - there are thousands of IT graduates who have at least as much Java as you (plus experience gained on industrial placements, internships etc), and there are thousands of junior Java developers in the UK or coming to the UK from abroad who have more practical experience than you. You need to figure out what you can offer that they can't, and you need to be realistic about your salary expectations in the UK: you're not the only person struggling to make ends meet on a "low" salary.
 
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P Kowalski wrote:I now need to do something practical, the only problem is most things seem way too difficult and require multiple skills, not just Java. Other things are so trivial that it is hard to keep focus on them as they feel waste of time.


There are rarely, if any, "pure Java" jobs. Java™ is a platform, not just a language, and as such there are a number of Java technologies that you will need to be familiar with to be able to contribute to the success of a real-world project.

One thing that might differentiate you from other candidates is having the ability to write clean code that is well-factored and well-tested. If you learn how to use JUnit and learn techniques like Test-Driven Development, this will give you an edge over at least 50% of the developer candidates out there in the market. The ability to refactor and clean up code can also be very marketable. The problem is it's a Catch-22 situation because you can pick up skills in refactoring, JUnit, & TDD much better when you have more experience; it's difficult for novice programmers to learn these things without a lot of mentoring. I'm not saying that a novice who is determined and dedicated to learning these can't do it on their own -- with enough will and determination, you can learn to do almost anything; it will just be a little harder doing it alone.
 
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You have entry level experience, you are going to get an entry level job. That's how it works. Why not take the entry level job so you can earn money while gaining experience - and get a better paying job in a year. At the same time, you could look for a part time job to supplement your income. Or ways to live more frugally.

Congrats on the upcoming baby! While a child certainly costs money, you could see if you can get hand me down cheap/free baby clothes and supplies.

Also, remember that you aren't earning anything while you deliberate getting a job.
 
chris webster
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Perhaps the ONS figures on annual earnings by occupation might help you to get a perspective on what counts as a reasonable salary for a developer in the UK. You can access the data on the ONS website (table 14), but here are the figures for "Programmers and software development professionals" (SOC code 2136) in full-time employment in 2014:

  • Median earnings (i.e. 50% earn at or below this level) £40,007 (up 2.1% on previous year)
  • Mean earnings £41,811 (up 1.6% in 2014)

  • Percentiles:

  • 10 percentile £23,955
  • 20 percentile £28,928
  • 25 percentile £31,144
  • 30 percentile £33,258
  • 40 percentile £36,480
  • 50 percentile £40,007
  • 60 percentile £42,810
  • 70 percentile £46,924
  • 75 percentile £49,302
  • 80 percentile £51,742

  • These figures are for the UK as a whole, so earnings may vary regionally (as do living costs), and they don't include freelance earnings for experienced developers, which will usually be higher. International comparisons are also difficult, but based on those earnings figures and the high cost of living in the SE of England (where most IT jobs seem to be concentrated), I suspect the UK may not be the best place to work in IT in Europe/North America, at least in financial terms.

    Still, if you are being offered £25K for an entry-level developer job with no relevant experience, you're already earning more than some 10-15% of developers in the UK.
     
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    chris webster wrote: . . . Consider moving out of London if you can - that salary will go a lot further outside London.. . . .

    Depends where you go; it probably will go no farther if you move to Reading, Guildford or Cambridge. And if you move somewhere like Blackburn where £25000 will go a long way, will you be able to find such a job?

    Remember there are a lot of people in London who have to make ends meet on a lot less than £25,000.
     
    chris webster
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    One option might be to look at public sector work. The UK Civil Service and other public sector organisations are desperately short of developers, partly because the salaries are mostly below the 30th percentile for developers and there is limited scope for moving up the salary scale in a technical role, so they struggle to retain experienced developers. They also spent most of the last 15 years outsourcing a lot of IT work to grotesquely expensive consultancies, and now they can't afford to keep paying for these external staff any more.

    This means they are much more willing to recruit applicants without the typical CS background and will provide training for suitable candidates. So your technical background ought to be a bonus in this context as it proves you can work with technology even if you haven't done any development work. As I say, salaries are lower than in the private sector, and a graduate junior developer would typically enter at the HEO grade or equivalent with a salary in the range £25-30K outside London, plus pension, and there is also an additional London weighting allowance (not sure what this is worth currently). Other benefits are good - flexitime, annual leave, flexible working etc - and they will generally pay for training and may provide opportunities to move into different fields, so this might be a good option for your first developer job as it would allow you to earn a reasonable graduate entry salary and gain experience/training for your next career move.

    Start looking for public sector jobs in your area or simply apply through general recruitment portals e.g. central government websites like https://www.civilservicejobs.service.gov.uk/csr/.
     
    P Kowalski
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    Tim Cooke wrote:A CodeRanch colleague just reminded me of this other discussion we had a couple of months ago. Did you take the Junior Java Developer job at your company? Or are you still deliberating on it?

    Sorry missed your answer - unfortunately I was not offered this role in the end. My company is still looking for developers but I was told I am not experienced enough.

    chris webster wrote:As for skills to acquire, start looking at what real employers are demanding for real jobs e.g. look at graduate recruitment sites, company recruitment pages, and online job sites like Job Serve. Pick one or two key skills that seem to be in demand, are interesting to you, and can be acquired on your own

    This is actually a very good idea, I will try this.

    It is also a great idea to check Public Sector - I had no idea this was a separate to general job search via Jobserve etc.

    I can say that reading what you all are saying has opened my eyes more towards reality. Thank you all for time to read and respond a newbie here who is looking for guidance from experienced people.
     
    Ranch Hand
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    You say you have some toy/unfinished projects kicking about. Get them in a working state, tidy up, get them up on github as a portfolio of work for potential employers to see (if you have not done so already). With your projects you can start to pull in other technology to support your Java knowledge. Make a simple CRUD database desktop application. Build a webapp version of your database with Spring. If you can make each new project add something different, you will build up a much broader skill set in no time

    In respect to games development, I know there are a couple of established studios in and around London - Splash Damage, and Bossa are two that come to mind (former colleagues of mine now work at them :p ). With Java knowledge you will probably be able to find roles creating in-house tools etc as most games are C++ based, but if that is what you want to do I'm sure you can learn it.

    Good luck,

    Stu
     
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