Monday, December 4, 2023

How to Become a Software Developer Without Having a College Degree?

While the traditional route to becoming a software engineer is to pursue a degree in computer science, the opportunities we have today to change or create new career paths are endless. Just like many other skills, a college degree alone may not necessarily help to be good at programming. Nowadays, many good programmers are self-taught who began their careers by acquiring an online certification or BootCamp training for programming. It might be a bit tricky for sure, but not impossible to become a software engineer without a college degree. Large corporations, in general, favor individuals with degrees from prominent colleges. Self-taught individuals can sometimes be overlooked and seen with mistrust. It’s not about preconceptions that you can’t learn on your own, nor is it about discrimination.

On the other hand, a person who undertook a traditional college degree or diploma can easily demonstrate core skills like algorithms, and data structures that may be necessary for the job. Whereas sometimes a candidate can be looked more valuable simply by having credentials or a degree. However, this is only applicable to students who pass out from elite universities or companies that have stricter hiring guidelines.

Here are the step-by-step instructions on how to become a developer without attending college or having a formal degree. These steps can be helpful in finding a new career path for those aiming to switch careers.

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How To Become A Software Engineer, Even Without A College Degree?


Programmers and many occupations connected to technology are in high demand and well-compensated labor markets. However, those unaware of this or who are about to enter the world of chips, codes, and programming languages should be aware that the requirement for employment in this promising sector is not necessarily a degree in Computer Science or related fields.

Given that the European Union may face a shortage of over a million and a half IT professionals by 2022, it is not surprising that young people are interested in pursuing a career in this sector. Moreover, large IT companies, aware of the rapid development of computer technologies and the formal education system’s inability to adapt and follow the latest trends, are increasingly organizing their own courses and training of varying durations, typically one school year, after which the exam for that specific segment takes place.

Let’s take Cisco Systems, an American multinational technology company based in San Jose, California, as an example:

  • It has branches worldwide that manufactures computer network equipment and maintains the world’s largest systems (telecoms, banks, government service)
  • The company employs over 60,000 people.
  • It has a $ 43 billion annual revenue.

1. Start With The Basics – How Do Computers, Memory, CPU, And Networks Work?

If being a programmer has crossed your mind, first tick off the basics.

Programming is designing and developing various sets of computer programs to achieve a given end result. The process includes analysis, coding, algorithm generation, checking algorithm accuracy, and resource consumption, among others. In other words, computer programming aims to find a set of instructions that will allow a computer to solve a given problem.

Read the basics and understand the architecture of how a computer works, on even a smartphone for that matter. Start with the ABCs of the programming world.

  • What is a CPU?
  • What is a motherboard?
  • What is RAM vs ROM?
  • How do networks communicate?

2. Decide Whether You Want To Become A Backend, Front-End, Or A Full Stack Developer

If properly studied or analyzed, software engineering can bring a myriad of options even for someone without a college degree mainly because there are so many different types of development, and computer programming languages to choose from.

For instance,

  • front-end development is a type of programming that concentrates on the visual aspects of an app or a website that a user will interact with (the client-side)
  • the backend of a website is the part that users don’t see (the server-side)
  • full-stack development, on the contrary, means having the skills and knowledge of both the skills that a front-end and backend developer possesses

A. Backend Developer

A backend developer is responsible for the server, application, and database, which together make a website’s backend. A backend developer is in charge of the server-side logic of online applications and integrating front-end developers’ work. Back-end developers typically write web services and APIs used by front-end developers and mobile app developers.

Backend Skills:

  • Python
  • Java
  • Microsoft .NET
  • PHP

B. Front End Developer

Front-end web development is the process of creating CSS, JavaScript, and HTML for a website or web application. It is done so that a user can see and interact with it directly. Thus, it is sometimes referred to as client-side development. The challenge with front-end development is that the tools and techniques used to design the front end change from time to time, necessitating the developer’s ongoing awareness of how the field evolves.

Front-end Skills:

  • Javascript
  • NodeJS
  • AngularJS
  • React
  • Vue
  • HTML

C. Full Stack Developer

Full-stack developers are jack of all trades and have all the skills of a backend and front-end developer. Full-stack developers are given more opportunities and priorities because they possess the skills of all the different programs and languages.

Full Stack Developer Skills:

  • PHP
  • Python
  • Ruby
  • HTML5
  • CSS2

3. Be Up-To-Date With New Information

To enroll in an academy or BootCamp training, it is not a requirement to have a higher professional education. Still, it is crucial to have information gained informally, for example, through video games or school elective instruction, as well as skill and a desire to learn new things.

For example, if one passes an exam and obtains a Cisco certificate after graduating from the academy.

Then, for the most ambitious, a whole universe of prospects for good employment and earnings overseas opens up. Should they highlight that Cisco’s wages are significantly higher than the global average? Of course not; that is self-evident.

4. Learn Agile & Scrum Methodologies

Most tech giants like IBM, Accenture, Ericsson, work in short sprints based on Scrum or Kanban methodologies.

Agile project management is a concept or methodology for project management that takes an iterative approach to project completion. The Project Management Institute (PMI) believes that the Agile strategy aims to produce early, measurable ROI through defined, iterative delivery of product features.

Because Agile techniques are iterative, regular interaction with the client is required to ensure that expectations are matched and allow the project manager to adjust to changes as the project progresses.

One of the most common Agile approaches used by project managers is Scrum project management. A product owner, Scrum Master, and other cross-functional team members make up the Scrum project team, which the project manager leads. The product owner is in charge of increasing the product’s value, while the Scrum Master ensures that the project team adheres to the Scrum approach.

When it comes to project work, the Scrum technique is known for its short phases, or “sprints.” During sprint planning, the project team selects a small portion of the scope to be accomplished during the next sprint, which typically lasts 2 to 4 weeks.

This falls under the organization’s Way of Working or how the team operates, so there is no need to worry too much about not having a degree, as some of these principles can be new to software engineers with a college degree.

5. Practice Coding Daily & Train Your Brain

Coding and programming have become in-demand skills that also help the brain develop. Coding exercises can help to engage the learning centers of the brain. As a result, it can help us strengthen our memory, problem-solving abilities, and cognitive abilities.

Math quizzes, puzzles, or riddles can also aid in training the brain for good analytical thinking.

6. Learn To Debug The Code


This is a must-have skill especially if you are a backend engineer. Debugging is the process of running your code in a debugging tool, such as IntelliJ or Visual Studio, step by step to determine where you committed a programming error. You can then see what modifications you need to make to your code, and debugging tools frequently allow you to make temporary changes while the program is still running.

7. Participate In Hackathons

A hackathon (also known as a hack day, Hackfest, Datathon, or Codefest) is a design sprint-style event in which programmers come up with new ideas to implement and compete with each other. Computer programmers and others involved in software development, such as graphic designers, interface designers, project managers, domain experts, and others, compete in this event where the winners get rewarded.

Therefore, participating in events such as Hackathon can give you exposure to the field. It can also help increase your network.

8. Prepare a Solid Resume

A resume containing all your information about your experience, skills, and education can help you land a job easily. Preparing a good resume consists of the following:


  • Professional Email Address
  • Accomplishments
  • Current & Past experience
  • Skillset
  • Honesty – do not exaggerate or lie in your resume.
  • KISS – Keep it super simple. Do not include personal information that is not required.
  • Your contact information

9. Digital Transformation

Another scenario that demonstrates the world’s need for IT experts is that all large state-owned enterprises and systems that have not yet done so and are behind schedule will have to go through a digital transformation process very soon and unavoidably. And if they do so and rely heavily on software solutions, online services, and apps, it is evident that they will need to train and recruit people to build, manage, and support it all.

Another scenario involves private companies, specifically startups dealing with innovation, robotics, artificial intelligence, gaming, new applications, or software that require translation into English, if not other languages such as Chinese or Japanese, to successfully market their products successfully. The intended market’s language Similarly, such businesses need to have salespeople and customer service representatives fluent in English to provide a successful presentation, sell products, and provide great customer service.

Finally, we return to the start of this paragraph. Besides education, the foundation for training and working with various specialized software, web services, and applications, which requires a great deal of talent, perseverance, and a willingness to learn, necessitates an excellent command of English, particularly terminology related to computing the IT sector.

10. Analytical Thinking And Problem-Solving Skills

Having problem-solving and analytical skills increases the chances of being employed. They are basic skills a recruiter looks for before onboarding someone on their team.

For example, if two people, ‘A’ and ‘B,’ go for an interview for the same position. Person ‘A’ has only coding and language skills. In addition to coding and language skills, person ‘B’ soft skills such as problem-solving, observational skills, and analytical skills. Chances are, person ‘B’ gets the job in comparison to person ‘A.’ In fact, many recruiters and employers mention such soft skills in the requirements for a job position.

Nowadays, analytical skills are becoming increasingly valuable. We all hear and learn new information daily. Therefore, quickly yet comprehensively identifying and evaluating the most important or relevant information for the organization or your precise job role will be an increasingly valuable skill.

11. Communication Skills With Peers And Boss


Being a programmer requires a lot of communication across cross-functional teams, peer or mob programming, code reviews from peers, exchange of information over meetings, etc. Therefore, good communication skills and a healthy working relationship with coworkers are critical to effectively complete tasks at work every day.

Having a solid working relationship with your boss is also essential, yet some of us can go days without communicating with our boss. Keep a good rapport with your boss by answering questions promptly, regular one-to-one meetings to exchange information and provide or receive feedback. Not to mention that effective communication can make the workplace more enjoyable and energetic.

If you want to become a programmer from the ground up, you should start by selecting the most fascinating and promising field in your view. In addition to independent training, it is essential to comprehend programming. It also helps if one understands how to create and express a programmer’s work.

This goes without saying, it is impossible to get a job without an excellent command of the English language. English, in particular, is the only language necessary while for developers, aside from professional programming languages.

Several Programming Languages Are Available Depending On The Kind Of Activities You Need To Accomplish On Your Computer.

  • C ++ and Delphi are the languages designed for writing programs for desktop computers. Programming languages such as PHP and JavaScript are required for website developments.
  • You can enroll in developer-specific classes to learn the fundamentals from the ground up and then practice your abilities.
  • Furthermore, you can enroll in a program for a specialized programmer and learn languages for years.
  • There is no general solution on how to become a competent programmer from the ground up; it all relies on your goals and efforts.

Learning the first programming language at a high level takes at least a year as long as you study and exercise regularly, practically every day.

Some Tips To Keep In Mind

  • Study online accessible theoretical courses on data structures and algorithms on your own. This is possible through sites such as Coursera and Udemy.
  • The process of developing basic programs and learning a certain programming language via free or paid online courses.
  • For example, the website Javarush is a good choice.
  • Register in a significant IT company’s program for further experience (perhaps unpaid), as well as official employment.

Best Programming Languages For Beginners

Some programming languages beginners should consider learning are:

  • Python: Python can accomplish anything from server-side development to web and mobile app development to machine learning software development.
  • Go: It is a short form of Golang, which Google created in 2007 to replace languages like Java, C, and C++. Go is used by projects like Kubernetes, Docker, and Blockchain to provide multi-threading and concurrent process execution.
  • JavaScript: The most extensively used programming language on the planet is JavaScript. JavaScript is used in the infrastructure of well-known social media platforms like Facebook, Google, and YouTube.
  • Java: When it comes to programming languages, Java is one of the earliest object-oriented programming languages available. It remains one of the most famous and sought-after.
  • PHP: The PHP programming language is valued by IT giants like Yahoo, Wikipedia, and Facebook. PHP’s syntax is fairly clear and simple to understand, and about 80% of all websites use PHP.
  • C#: It is also referred to as “C sharp.” Microsoft created this, which was based on the C programming language. C#, on the other hand, is a far more advanced programming language than C. It’s also dynamic and fully compatible with the.NET framework.

Why do companies look for a degree while hiring candidates?

A decent university degree indicates that a person can think, work consistently and conscientiously, and possess a specific set of abilities. He is exceptionally knowledgeable in logic and mathematical equipment, which are two of the essential aspects of programming.

Someone applying for a job without a formal degree must demonstrate two things:

First, that they understand these concepts, and second, that they understand how to use them successfully under critical situations. This can be tough to do in a short amount of time. Also, to see if the person completed their work on their own or with significant outside assistance.

Online Certification Courses

With Stack Overflow, GitHub, and Codecademy, the issue is whether or not developers need a college degree. Many people will recall famous Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who did not attend college, such as Bill Gates, Michael Dell, Mark Zuckerberg, the late Steve Jobs, and Larry Ellison, the creator of Oracle. And what about Ada Lovelace, the lady we regard as the first programmer ever, who also lacks a degree in her biography?

In addition, according to a 2017 StackOverflow poll, just 42% of participants had a bachelor’s degree, while 21.7 percent had a master’s degree.

Can College Be Skipped Completely?

Is college thus a waste of time since, for the same five years spent attending lectures and examinations, you might spend the same number of years working on actual projects, earning a regular salary, and being independent of your family home?

Will, a lack of a degree, be a detriment to potential employers, or will they not care as long as you can persuade them that you are capable of performing the job for which you have applied? These are the questions one may ask, but the policies across tech companies that employ developers differ, but having exceptional programming skills can give leverage.

Popular Online Certification Courses One Can Take Up


All these courses are completely online and offer flexible deadlines which can be managed according to a person’s liking. These courses also provide shareable certificates upon completion. Enrollment in all these courses is completely free as well. 

Concluding Thoughts

So, can you become a software engineer without having a college degree for real? It can be a bit difficult to get a job without a degree but not impossible. There are many entry-level jobs, one can go for. If you ace the skills required and earn the certificates, you can get at least one junior-level job. In addition, networking online on platforms such as Linkedin can help you land a job easily, going out and networking offline can also benefit you greatly.

Well, if a degree is preventing you from getting your dream job, you can also get a degree for free. Check this out.

Do you love what you do? Are you looking to switch careers? Subscribe to us and let us know your views on pursuing a career in a field even without a degree.

Key Takeaways On How To Become A Software Engineer Without A Degree


  • The direct path to becoming a software engineer is to pursue a degree in computer science. 
  • Programming, on the contrary, is a skill that does not necessitate a college degree. 
  • A decent university degree indicates that a person can think, work consistently and conscientiously.
  • Online Certification Courses: In the modern world, many online certification courses are available to learn and gain experience in courses such as programming and development.
  • In a 2017 StackOverflow poll, just 42% of participants had a bachelor’s degree, while 21.7% had a master’s degree.
  • How To Become A Software Engineer: To become a software engineer, one can start by learning to program first and then move towards the bigger goal.
  • It is important to learn the very basics, especially to become a software engineer without a degree. Try to understand the ABCs of computers, like memory, CPU, motherboard, etc.
  • The next step is to determine what type of developer you would like to become.
  • Backend Developer: The backend of a website is the part that users don’t see.
  • Frontend Developer: It concentrates on the visual aspects of an app or a website that a user interacts with.
  • Full-Stack developer: They are familiar with both the backend and frontend development.
  • Due to having all these skills, a full-stack developer gets a job fairly easily.
  • Be Up-To-Date With Information: It is crucial to have information gained informally, for example, through video games or school elective instruction, as well as skill and a desire to learn new things.
  • Learn Agile And Scrum Methodologies: Agile project management is a concept or methodology that takes an iterative approach to project completion.
  • Learn How To Debug The Code: It is the process of debugging with the help of tools such as Fiddler.

Having Analytical And Problem-Solving Skills Alongside Other Skills Add More Volume To Your Application


  • Participate In Hackathons: Participating in events such as Hackathon can give you exposure to the field.
  • Prepare A Solid Resume: Having a solid resume with all the necessary and relevant information is essential.
  • Digital Transformation: By relying on software solutions, companies will need to train and recruit people to build, manage, and support it all. 
  • Having a strong foundation in English languages is a requirement today to market the product worldwide successfully.
  • Qualities And Skills: Employers place a higher value on qualifications and the speed with which employees learn new skills.
  • Companies and recruiters prefer experience and genuine knowledge above the existence of one or both cases.
  • How To Become A Programmer?: One can start by deciding your desired field.
  • It is essential to comprehend programming and understand how to create and express a programmer’s work.
  • You may enroll in developer-specific classes to learn the fundamentals from the ground up and then practice your abilities.
  • Study online accessible theoretical courses on data structures and algorithms on your own. 
  • Beginners should consider learning programming languages such as JavaScript, Java, Python, and PHP.

What Should I Study To Become A Software Engineer?

Getting a bachelor’s degree in Computer science is one way. However, you can also acquire a degree in any other STEM fields such as engineering, maths, and science to become a software engineer.

Learning a language is also critical. First, choose a language you wish to learn, such as C++, Python, and Java. Secondly, choose ways to enhance your learnings. Thirdly read codes written by developers experienced in the field. Finally, start building up projects in your preferred language.

Nihar B
Nihar B
With a decade of experience as a woman in tech, Nihar has worked with a range of companies from Fortune 500 corporations such as IBM, Accenture, Ericsson to H&M Group. Her diverse work-life enables her to share her knowledge to develop, grow, and succeed both professionally and personally in today's ever-changing world.

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