- Not all jobs in the tech industry require a STEM background for entry-level candidates.
- Tech companies also need employees for social media management and customer service positions.
- Depending on the role, creative and analytical skills can be just as important as technical proficiency.
- See more stories on Insider's business page.
Tech is an ever-changing field responsible for many of the newest innovations we use every day - making it an exciting industry to work in. And even though people often assume that entering the tech industry as an entry-level candidate requires a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) degree or strong computer coding skills, that's not the case.
Although STEM degrees are highly valued for certain roles within tech, technology companies typically also have plenty of jobs that don't require a computer science major or strong technical background. For example, finance, sales, marketing, and recruitment are just some of the departments at tech companies that hire people without STEM backgrounds. In short, there's a range of entry-level roles in tech for people with all kinds of skill sets.
I pivoted from the education industry into tech with a non-STEM degree myself. And as a career coach, I help my clients position themselves for their next roles - many of which are entry-level roles in tech. So I've had a chance to see which jobs are particularly promising for recent grads and other candidates with zero to three years of experience.
Here are just some of the entry-level roles in tech that I've seen people enter with technical and other backgrounds.
1. Customer success manager (CSM)
Average salary: $69,829
Customer success managers (CSMs) ensure that a service sold by a tech company (typically software as a service, or SaaS) runs smoothly throughout implementation. Working closely with sales representatives, a CSM comes into play toward the end of the sales process. Upon closing the sale, the sales representative typically makes a warm introduction between the customer and the CSM, who becomes the main point of contact between the customer and the company.
"A CSM is proactive," said Joshua Encarnacion, a leadership development expert and former talent leader for three tech-industry startups. "They influence the behavior of the customer. They make sure the onboarding happens by nurturing them, ensuring the customer is satisfied," and ultimately prevent any problems from developing.
A CSM must have strong communication and presentation skills since they spend much of their time engaging with customers and communicating customer feedback to their company's product team. These are common transferable skills you likely learned during college courses or in an internship or part-time job. In addition, CSMs utilize project management skills throughout the length of a client's contract. A CSM role can lead into other roles in customer care such as customer service team lead, or, ultimately, vice president of customer experience. Or you might decide to pursue other roles in tech such as product manager or marketing strategist.
2. Help desk support technician
Average salary: $41,686
Help desk support technicians and membership experience support associates work with customers to troubleshoot and/or resolve issues with their company's technologies. Unlike the CSM role, these roles are reactive - they respond when a customer reaches out with a specific problem. Individuals in these roles must be familiar with hardware, software, and network configuration. They must also be able to document the steps they took throughout the resolution process.
In addition to the aforementioned technical skills, people in these jobs need to possess interpersonal skills that allow them to pick up on customers' emotions (albeit virtually or over the phone), respond to their problems quickly with a calm demeanor, and, if needed, de-escalate tense situations. Member experience associate or help desk support roles may feed into information technology (IT) roles such as systems administrator, network administrator, or head of IT, or into customer experience roles like customer service manager or account manager.
3. Technical consultant
Average salary: $76,522
Consultants advise others on their areas of expertise. Although most consultant jobs are not entry-level roles, many tech companies offer 24-month consultant rotational training programs for recent university graduates. Engineering or computer science graduates tend to serve as technical consultants (a.k.a., customer engineers) directly working with customers as technical advisors or subject matter experts (SMEs) in a specific technology, said Jose Luis Niño de Guzman, a university recruiter for a Seattle-based tech company.
Technical consultants must demonstrate "adaptability, collaboration, [and] the ability to overcome obstacles," Niño de Guzman said. They can choose to continue their career path as consultants or they'll be well set up to move into other fields such as sales or product development.
4. Social media strategist
Average salary: $53,534
Social media strategists conceptualize, organize, and manage the social media presence of a company. Within the last decade, social media platforms (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, and Pinterest) have grown tremendously. Each platform has its own purpose, feel, rules of engagement, and target audience, and most tech companies want to have a social presence across many or all of them. Therefore, social media strategists must not only know how each platform and its algorithms work and how to read its analytics, but also understand how to create content that is meaningful for its respective user base.
Social media strategists need to be creative. Depending on the specific role, they may also need analytical skills, writing skills, and possibly even design skills. They must also stay up-to-date on social media trends and figure out ways to increase engagement. Those who've held entry-level social media roles can grow into social media managers, more generalized marketing managers, digital marketing leads, or digital marketing directors, or pursue a number of other careers in marketing.
5. Web developer
Average salary: $60,287
Web developers code, build, and update websites for companies. They fall into three categories: front end, back end, or full stack. A front-end developer works on the interface of a website - i.e., what the user sees. A back-end developer works on the programming a user can't see that makes a website function - i.e., what's "under the hood." And a full-stack developer works on both the front end and the back end of a website. Regardless of which role you choose, as a web developer you should know how to code and be knowledgeable in HTML, Java, C++, or other web development coding languages.
To come in as an entry-level web developer, you should have a portfolio of websites that you've created or worked on. You should be able not only to show what you've already accomplished, but also to explain why you chose specific techniques and how you decided on a course of action based on the goals you wanted to achieve with the site. Web developer jobs can eventually lead to senior developer, technology director, or chief technology officer roles.
6. Talent acquisition coordinator
Average salary: $49,369
Talent acquisition coordinators assist recruiters in finding promising prospects (a.k.a., candidates) for open roles within their company and ensuring they have a great experience throughout the recruiting process. They're responsible for scheduling interviews and following up with prospective candidates, for example. Tech companies need talent acquisition coordinators because they, like all companies, want to find the best possible candidates for every job.
Talent acquisition coordinators must demonstrate strong communication and organizational skills along with the ability to work with hiring managers and others across multiple departments so they can understand how to best fill a variety of roles. Familiarity with sourcing programs (e.g., LinkedIn, ZipRecruiter, Indeed) is a plus, but they can often be learned on the job.
The key differentiator that sets a strong talent acquisition coordinator apart is the ability to put themselves in a prospect's shoes. For instance, a talent acquisition coordinator should be able to tell a recruiter, "Hey, this candidate hasn't heard from us in three days and they're waiting for a response. Can I go ahead and send them this email?" Companies don't want to lose strong prospects because they feel like they've been "ghosted" -i.e., the company took too long to respond or didn't reach back out at all.
As a result of the robust project management, project tracking, coordinating, and customer-facing skills talent acquisition coordinators develop, they have several options in furthering their career. They may continue within talent and recruitment, move toward other human resources or learning and development roles, or pivot to another role in tech.
7. Software developer
Average salary: $72,619
Software developers (sometimes called software engineers) write computer code to build new programs or features or solve problems with existing software. They generally fall into the same three categories as web developers (front end, back end, and full stack).
"Nobody writes a product on their own; it's done in a team," Encarnacion said. So a software developer needs to be able to effectively collaborate and communicate the "why" of their coding actions to their team members.
As their careers progress, software developers can choose the management track and become product or engineering managers, product or engineering directors, and VPs of product or engineering. Or they can choose the technical track and move into positions like architect or technical fellow where they're thinking more broadly about how products are built and which technologies are best to use.
8. UX designer
Average salary: $74,776
A UX (user experience) designer figures out the visual component of a piece of technology - i.e., they design what the user will see and interact with. UX designers collaborate with both customers and their own colleagues to ensure that any products or services their company develops work well and are user friendly.
In addition to using their creativity and design skills to imagine the look and feel of a product or feature, UX designers facilitate user groups and document their thoughts, feelings, words, and behaviors in relation to a specific problem that the tech company is trying to solve. Their main function is to constantly update and refine user interfaces to improve the customer's experience by really understanding human behavior. Throughout the entire development process, UX designers ask themselves:
- How do humans interact with technology?
- Why does this person use this app more than another app?
- How does the design influence the user's behavior and engagement with the app?
Since the essential job responsibilities of UX designers are heavily centered on human behavior, this an appealing entry-level role in tech for those with non-STEM degrees, including graphic design or psychology grads (who also have design skills). UX designers may advance into roles such as senior UX designer, director of product development, or creative director.
As you can see, there's a range of different roles in the technology industry. Some roles rely first and foremost on coding and other technical skills, some blend both technical and non-technical skills, and other roles don't require a heavy tech skill set at all. A number of different departments are needed to make a tech company run smoothly and create the world's next great technologies. So whether or not you have a background in STEM, there's an entry-level role that might be perfect for you.