DEV Community

Joseph Harper
Joseph Harper

Posted on • Originally published at

How to get a job as a Software Developer in the UK - complete guide

This article was originally posted on - How to find a job as Software Developer in the UK? If you happen to have a different view on some of the points, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!

Image description

So, you want to work in the United Kingdom, but you have no idea where to start? You came to the right place!

In this guide, we will try to answer all the common questions you may ask yourself considering the opportunity, and we will walk you through all the requirements of moving to the UK including finding a job and accommodation, the process of applying for a visa, opening a bank account, costs of living, as well as the healthcare system and how to handle all the bureaucratic shenanigans out there.

Image description

1. Job market in the UK - is it still worth the move after Brexit?

Despite all the uncertainty over Brexit, the UK is still a great place to work as a Software Developer. The country has long been home to a thriving tech sector and continues to play a major role in the modern world. London alone is considered as one of the biggest tech & startup hubs out there, housing 14 000 growing companies, and it’s one city alone. You have to take in consideration other places as well, like Manchester, Bristol, Reading or Cambridge.

Big players also have their headquarters here. Google, Facebook, Amazon, Revolut, Transferwise, ARM Holdings - to name a few.

All this makes that the UK technical job openings are at a record high with 110 000 live roles currently available, among which Programming and Developer jobs lead the way, with 60 000 roles vacant right now.

1.1 Work experience and technologies - difficulty

Is it difficult to land a job? Honestly, it couldn’t be easier these days with all the available vacancies and shortage of qualified employees. If you have much needed experience in your field (at least 2 years for mid-level developer roles), there shouldn’t be a problem with landing your dream job.

Things are getting a bit harder when looking for opportunities as a Junior or Intern because the competition is rather stiff, but even then, definitely it is doable.

Do you need a degree?

No, not at all! The UK is very ​​unorthodox in this matter and if you have experience and knowledge, not having a degree would not get in your way.

Could it help? Well, of course it would not hurt, especially when you aim for rather managerial and lead positions. This may also be true for freshmen entering the market - some sort of leverage allowing to stand out from the crowd.


Another story is the technology that you specialize in. In the job data available on DevITjobs you can notice that offers for Java, JavaScript, and C# developers are at the forefront, whereas Mobile, Ruby or C++ not so much. Of course, all the different factors come into consideration, but you can get a general feeling of the market by searching through all the openings.

1.2 Salaries

What wages can you expect working as a Dev in the UK?

Again, many things to consider (position, experience, city), but an average salary oscillates around £31 000 (€36 000) which will allow you a relatively comfortable life within the country.

That’s the average, but the reality is much brighter. You can easily find openings even exceeding £100 000 (FANG companies), and the standard salary for an experienced dev is much closer to £60 000 in London and £50 000 in other bigger cities.

That might not be as high as in Switzerland, USA or some Scandinavian countries, which excel in this regard, but you won’t be disappointed as well.

1.3 Labor laws and labor rights in the UK

Signing a contract with a British company ensures you with various rights as an employee.

The law covers a wide range of issues relating to the work environment, including equal pay, participation in trade union activities, parental leave, systematized working hours, protection against discrimination or holiday pay.

What is most important and not necessarily respected in other countries, especially outside Europe, is that an employer must give you a minimum period of notice if you’re asked to leave the job. If the employer fails to give the required notice, he is obligated to provide an appropriate compensation - in cases of termination of your position at the company and such.

You can feel safe working in the UK because your rights as an employee are protected by law.

Image description

2. Finding and applying for jobs (step-by-step process)

2.1 Requirements for work in the UK

Generally speaking, no matter which country you are from (since Great Britain left the European Union) there is no other option but apply for a visa to get the possibility to work and live in the UK.

There are many choices and types of visas, all the options available for your country of origin you can check on the official government website.

For software developers, the most suitable options would be a Global Talent visa and Skilled Worker visa (formerly a Tier 2 General work visa)

We will briefly cover both options:

Global Talent visa

In order to obtain the Global Talent visa, you have to be recognized as a sufficiently highly skilled person, who can add value to the British culture or industry.
The general concept is that you can come in and stay for an extended period of time if you’re a great artist, scientist, or a recognized technical specialist (software engineer or developer for example).
It is not entirely clear who can be considered as a “sufficiently highly skilled”. The criteria are very vague.

Based on stories of developers who were able to get one, it looks like you must be a good, experienced Dev with some recognized figure in the tech world to recommend you. An open-source work or a conference talks would also be a plus.

Strictly speaking, if you’re a pretty solid Senior Developer, with some experience in the industry, it seems like the UK would be quite happy to have you there.

There are various organizations that evaluate applicants depending on the industry - for Software Developers, the organization is called Tech Nation.

For more specific information and job categories which are the most desirable, please visit the UK’s government’s guidance documentation and the guidance how to apply.

Skilled Worker visa

Much simpler visa to obtain, and this is the option most people should take into the consideration. Long story short, you need to find a job offer from a company in the UK that has a licence to sponsor you and do a job that’s on the list of eligible occupations - being a software developer is perfectly suited for this.

After you get a job offer, the company will apply for a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from the Home Office. After that, which can take up to a month sometimes, your employer will get you the CoS information and their sponsor licence number, and then you can apply for the work visa. The whole process can be done online through the UK's government site, including payments.

Point-based system

In 2020, the UK government announced the introduction of a new points-based system - the more conditions you meet, the higher the possibility of getting a work permit.

Several factors affect the positive consideration of your visa application: qualifications, expected earnings, sponsorship, English-language skills, education and self-provided funds.

Applying from a perspective of a Software Developer who received a job offer with a sponsorship makes everything pretty much guaranteed.

One thing worth mentioning, that you will have to prove you will be able to sustain yourself in the new country before receiving your first payment. You will be asked for a bank statement that shows your ability to be self-reliant for some time.

2.2 Apply to companies while staying in your country

Searching for a new position while staying in your country of current residence has one big advantage - you don't have to be borne by the unnecessary costs of travel and living in the new place.

Technically, you would be able to visit the United Kingdom for a short stay (up to 6 months) on a tourist visa, and try to find a job this way, but it is not recommended for various reasons.

Apply from home instead, save some money, and focus on the interviews.

Where do I even start - you may ask? For this purpose, you can use or any other job board you can think of. As an alternative, you might want to get in touch with a headhunter or a recruiting agency.

Our recommendation: apply to as many job openings as possible, even 100 and more! It is not necessary easy to actually land an interview, especially with not that much of work experience (3 years or less). The more applications, the higher chance of getting an interview.

If you want to get informed about new job offers in real time and apply as one of the first candidates, sign in to our Job Alert.

2.3 Job interviews

Usually, the job interview process takes a few steps.

Everything starts with an introduction call, sometimes following a coding task, where you will be asked some basic, technical questions.

The next step, if you are located outside the UK, might be a video call with a live coding session.

The last round probably will be an on-site interview, where you will be invited to the company's office in the UK.

Most of the companies compensate travel and accommodation costs, especially the big ones. Although, sometimes it is worth to bring this topic up, especially when the company's position is unclear.

Of course, not always it is the case, therefore, try to schedule a couple of on-site interviews on subsequent days, so you won't have to fly back and forth, wasting time and resources.

After all that, you should finally get a clear "yes" or "no" answer in the following days, two weeks at worst.

If it happens you have multiple offers, and you can choose between them, you might want to negotiate with the companies. Be careful, though! Do not give the impression you only care about the money - in some areas it is still a taboo topic. Not to mention that you can discourage someone with your approach

Take it easy. Take your time. Think through everything, all the possible options, and make the best decision for you!

2.4 Tips and tricks

Tip 1: Work with a headhunter

From our experiences, if you are on a Junior level (2 years of experience or less), struggling with landing your first position, you might consider working with a headhunter. Many companies can be quite hesitant with hiring freshly graduate developers from abroad.

A headhunter might easily help you with getting some interviews, but you have to be cautious at the same time - headhunters often work only with specific companies, so won’t be given the whole picture of the job market, but only a small portion of it. Make sure you work with a proven professional.

*Tip 2: Focus on your resume and portfolio *

With so much competition, you must stand out from the crowd. A person responsible for hiring browse through hundreds of CVs every month, so make sure your resume is lie no other resumes. Focus on the most important things. Be brief and precise. Maybe use something else than a standard MS Word template.
A good CV should be specifically tailored to the type of position you want to apply to.

Your coding portfolio is as important, or maybe even more. It will be your new employer's first contact with your skills. Work on your projects. It just has to be big enough that it highlights your knowledge and capability with the technology in question.

A personal website containing all your projects could be a good idea as well.

Tip 3: Be Persistent

Unfortunately, There will be a lot of radio silence involving your applications. Be any means, don’t be discouraged by this. Often times, companies simply don’t have the time and available resources to respond to all the candidates.

So, persistence is the key to success. Keep applying to as many positions as you can. Aim for the ones you are interested in. If there is no response after a few weeks, consider submitting your application one more time. Otherwise, if there still is no effect, assume that the position is no longer available and move on. Eventually, with time, you’ll start to see the long-awaited results of your work.

2.4 Self-employment and working on a contract in the UK - the IR35

One last thing, worth mentioning, is the new set of rules imposed by the British government on contract workers, called IR35.

It’s designed to close a loophole in the tax system where workers could use the setup of a limited company structure to pay less tax.

To put it in simple terms, employment in the form of Business-to-business (B2B) got significantly harder to maintain. Previously, such an agreement between two parties was very convenient to both. Now, someone caught by the IR35, have to pay income tax and National Insurance Contributions (NICs) as if they were employed, making the B2B between one-person-company and another company a lot less profitable.

Although, if you are a genuine contractor, freelancer or consultant who is in business on your own account, you should have nothing to fear from IR35.

You can read more about the implications of the IR35 here. Although, if you are a non-UK resident, and the location in which the duties of the contract are carried out is outside the UK, then the services that you provide should not be a subject to the IR35 legislation.

Image description

3. Starting a new life in the UK

3.1 Completing visa formalities

After submitting your visa application online and paying fees, you'll get an appointment at a visa application center to enrol your biometric information and to submit various required documents. After completing this step, you will receive permission to enter the UK. All the other formalities you must complete upon arrival.

3.2 Moving to the UK

Congratulations, you have found your dream job in the United Kingdom! That was the hardest part, now let's take care of the rest.

After signing the contract, you need to prepare to move. If the company does not offer any relocation package or cover your travel expenses, you have to make up for it yourself.

Remember, that you are obligated (by the visa requirements) to have at least £1 270 in your bank account to show you can support yourself in the UK, but that may not be enough. It would be a good idea to have £2 500 - £3 000 for relocation - that way you can be sure you will be able to cover all your expenses at the start.

When you arrive, you can start looking for long-term accommodation.

There are 2 options:

  1. Renting a flat or a house (very common in the UK) - this is your choice if you bring your family.

  2. Renting a single room - it might be a good option if you come alone.

Please be aware that renting in the UK can be quite tricky and expensive. You will usually have to pay your first month’s rent in advance and a tenancy deposit. If you rent from a letting agent, they'll usually ask you to pay a holding deposit as well. In the end, you may be asked to pay a 3x of a regular monthly payment, what it can amount to ~ £2 000 when renting your first long-term place to stay.

The easiest way to find a rental place in the UK is with online portals like Rightmove and Zoopla.

3.3 Formalities after arriving

After you arrive and make yourself comfortable at your new place, you need to take care of the following:

  • Finalizing your residency: Registering at the police station and getting your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP).
  • Opening a bank account: You have two options: either you open an account in a classic bank (like the big four: Barclays, Lloyds, HSBC and NatWest) or you start with a FinTech service (Revolut, Monzo and so on), but not all employers have to agree on that. To open a UK bank account, you’ll need two documents: one to prove your identity and another one to prove your address.
  • Health insurance: Living in the UK means access to the National Health Service (NHS). A social security number is called the National Insurance number (NINO) - it is mandatory for people who relocate to the UK for work to have one. If you already haven’t been assigned one together with your BRP, you will have to apply through the government’s website or via telephone.
  • Other important things: If you plan to use the public transport, then it might make sense to equip yourself with a long-term ticket. Otherwise, bikes or electric scooters are also good options.
  • Integrate and have fun: Find local groups related to your hobbies and interests. Meet new people or connect with your own ethnic group, as there are many in the UK.

Image description

4. Cost of living in the UK

Moving abroad may be challenging, so it is important to know roughly what your living expenses might be. To make things easier, we’ve prepared a summary of the average expenses in London to give you a general idea of what cost of living you may expect in the UK in an average month.

It is worth to mention that everything will vary depending on the area you choose to live in. As well as, you can expect significant differences between cities and regions of the UK.

Your first month or two might be a bit rough, but with time, after receiving your first salaries, you will quickly realize that the things are actually quite affordable.

Below, you can find a snapshot of what a monthly budget for someone earning £60 000 and living in London might look like.

£60 000 annually according to this calculator gets you around** £3 600** net per month. To simplify, lets assumes that you are single and have no children.

England's taxation can be slightly confusing. Since it is progressive - you pay a bigger percentage the more you earn - the taxes rates can reach even 45% of your income. Although, there is a pretty large tax-free allowance of about £12 500. To find more, please visit the official government website.

  • Accommodation: £1 000 - £2 500 for a two-bedroom apartment and £600 - £800 for a single room. It all depends on if you are OK with longer commutes, or maybe you choose to stay closer to the city center.
  • Household’s expenses: £300 — £80 (electricity and gas + £30 (water) + £50 (Internet with TV) and £140 (council tax a fee that covers funding local services like rubbish collection, police and fire services).
  • Food: £200 - £500 — depends, if you are always preparing your meals in the home, or if you are a foodie and eat out often.
  • Entertainment: £100 - £300 — a beer in a pub costs £5, monthly gym subscription £50. Again, it’s all on you and how you choose to spend your free time, but you can have lots of fun without spending that much.
  • Other: £100 - £500 — phone, clothes, public transport, a car, and so on.

To wrap things up, if you go the “live life and don’t care about expenses” rout, you will spend monthly around £3 000, and even then, you will be able to save some money.

On the other hand, those wanting to go the student-like route (living in a single-room apartment, not eating out too much), you can easily live on ~ £1500 per month and save the large portion of your earnings.

Of course, any option in between is also feasible.

Keep also in mind that London is the most expensive city in the country, everywhere else the cost of living will be much lower. That being said, no matter what option you choose, you will enjoy your life in the United Kingdom!

Top comments (0)