“It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” - Steve Jobs
In the age of working remotely, cybersecurity and app development have never been more important. It’s a great line of work to consider getting into.
So how can you learn about it on a course?
Here’s what you need to do to be accepted onto a university software development course.
Preparing During Secondary School, Sixth Form, or College
Your preparation for applying to university software development courses arguably begins when you choose your A Levels. Since most university courses require certain A Level results with specific subjects a part of that, you need to both choose the right subjects and do well in them.
While you might think that a computer science A Level would be the obvious choice, many computer science degrees require an A Level in maths and some even state that no prior programming skills are necessary to get onto the course.
However, that doesn't mean you can't learn about programming and that it wouldn't be valuable to study a bit of the subject just to get a better idea of whether or not you like it.
You'll also want to think about the grades you need to get onto certain courses. If you're set on going to a university that requires very good A Level results, it's probably smarter to pick subjects that you're confident you can do well in.
If you're no longer at school or college and can't get the necessary A Levels required for a computer science degree, you can always look to access courses. An Access to Higher Education Diploma is designed to provide the student with everything they need to start a university course.
There are access courses for computer science that will teach you the fundamentals of mathematics, data analytics, cybersecurity, and web design.
If you don't have the necessary Level 3 qualifications (A Levels and equivalent), access courses are a great option.
Applying to Courses
Before you can become a software developer or even study programming, coding, computer science, or software engineering at university, you need to apply to the university course.
In the UK, you apply for a university course through UCAS, the University and Colleges Admissions Service. Most applications will be due by the end of January but there are some courses with a deadline as early as October so make sure you check when applying.
Your application will need to show that you have the necessary skills and knowledge to merit your place on the course, which is normally judged by your A Level results... but more on that later.
You'll also be expected to provide a personal statement. This is essentially a short letter or essay explaining why you want to study programming, computer science, web development, etc. and showing that you are ready to start and complete a university degree.
Before you can get started, you need to register with UCAS and fill in all your details, which can be done online. Make sure that you answer all the mandatory questions, fill in the necessary personal details, and complete your education and work history.
You can choose up to five courses, but you don't have to do that immediately. You'll also need to complete your personal statement, which UCAS recommends you do first in software with a spell checker as the UCAS website doesn't have one. Once you've done this and it's ready to go, you can simply copy and paste it into your UCAS profile.
What Are the Requirements for Software Engineering Degrees?
Whether you're studying programming and coding, computer science, website development, or database management, the admissions board at each university will want to know that you have the skills, knowledge, and personality to succeed at their university. More often than not, they do this through your A Level results.
When searching for courses online, they'll often state what the entry requirements are in terms of the letter grades from your A Levels. For example, A*A*A means that you need two A Levels with an A* grade and one A Level with at least an A. Of course, these are the minimum grades and if you do exceed the requirements, even better!
In addition to the A Level grades required, some universities may even stipulate particular subjects as a requirement. Many computer science degrees ask for an A Level in maths and this often needs to be in the higher grade category. In the previous example of A*A*A, this would mean that one of your A* A Levels needs to be in mathematics.
Whether or not you get on your course depends on your A Level results so it may be a good idea to apply to universities with different minimum requirements because if you apply to 5 highly competitive universities and don't get the grades, you'll be left unable to attend any courses.
To increase your chance of getting onto the right course, don’t hesitate to complete personal projects. This can show admissions that you’re interested enough in the subject to dedicate your own free time to it.
Why not show off your website, apps, or programs?
This could be the start of your portfolio. You could make a simple app or even show off a small video game you’ve made. Try to show off that you’re passionate about it.
You can also join clubs if you’re looking for people to do projects with and you can also get tips and advice from the other members.
What Qualities Do You Need to Become a Developer?
In addition to the requirements to get onto the course, there are other skills and qualities that any good programmer or developer will need.
Firstly, you need to be versatile. You could be involved from devising code to writing and debugging it. You’ll be expected to be involved in a lot of aspects of a project. Versatility is an important quality in software development. However, you’ll also need to show admissions boards that you’re interested in every aspect of software development. Students with a singular focus mightn't be what a lot of universities are looking for.
Developers need to know a lot about software engineering beyond the specific field that they want to work in as the industry is constantly changing. You need to stay up-to-date with almost everything. Good knowledge of the latest developments will also help you to find work and get onto courses as you’ll probably be asked about them in interviews.
Developers also need communication skills as they’ll often have to discuss projects with members of their team. They’ll need to be able to work with others as well as relay information to clients. They also need to adapt the way they speak to each other as some may not know anything about software development. They’ll want to avoid jargon, for example.
If you want to learn more about programming, computer science, web development, or software engineering, consider getting help from one of the many talented and experienced private tutors on the Superprof website. There are tutors all over the country and around the world offering different types of tutoring so think about which will be right for you, your budget, and how you like to learn.
Face-to-face tutors offer the most cost-effective type of tuition, but they also tend to charge the most per hour. This is because they can tailor every minute of every lesson to you, what you want to learn, and how you like to learn. Similarly, many of them may also travel to you and charge extra for the distance they have to cover.
As they don't have to travel and can schedule more lessons each week, online tutors tend to charge less than face-to-face tutors. While online tutoring isn't always ideal for hands-on subjects, academic subjects like computer science, web development, and software engineering can be taught just as effectively.
Group tutorials are an excellent choice for those on a budget. With every student paying for the tutor's time, it works out cheaper per student per hour. While you won't be able to guarantee that every aspect of the tuition is tailored to you, it can be useful to learn from your peers.
Don't forget that many of the tutors on the Superprof website offer the first lesson for free. Use these free sessions to try out various tutors before deciding on the one that's right for you, your preferred learning approach, and your budget.