Becoming a software engineer without a degree: First steps to take in 2023-2024

Can you become a software engineer without a degree? A few years ago, it would have been impossible. Today, anyone can become a software engineer without a degree.

You can learn on your own terms through online boot camps, courses, tutorials, articles, and other resources. If you have the right knowledge and skills, you won’t need a degree for software engineering jobs in the field. 

Can you become a software engineer without a degree? 

Some companies will insist on a CS degree, but for the most part, it is changing. Most companies will hire any developer who knows the right programming languages, understands databases and libraries, and has a solid portfolio of projects to back them up. Whether learning on the job or self-taught, you no longer need to go to college. 

How to become a software engineer without a degree

Now we know the answer to the question, “Is a degree required to be a software engineer?” 

Let’s dive into the practical elements of becoming an engineer without a formal education.  

Understand the Basics

Start with the fundamentals of programming. Choose a beginner-friendly programming language like Python or JavaScript. Numerous online resources, tutorials, and courses are available for free or at a low cost, such as Alpha Academy, edX, and freeCodeCamp. Explore data structures. This knowledge is crucial for problem-solving and technical interviews. 

Get Hands-On Practice 

Apply what you’ve learned by working on real projects. Start small and build up your experience. GitHub is a great platform for hosting and showcasing your work. Plus, lots of recruiters use GitHub to find employees. 

Contribute to the Community 

Contribute to open-source projects. This builds your portfolio and exposes you to collaborative development practices and real-world codebases. You should also attend tech meetups and conferences and join online communities like Stack Overflow, GitHub, and Reddit. Networking can provide you with job opportunities and valuable connections in the industry. 

Online Courses and Certifications 

Consider taking online courses and certifications from platforms like Udemy, Coursera, edX, or Pluralsight. These can provide structured learning and demonstrate your commitment to potential employers. 

Build a Portfolio

Create a personal website or portfolio showcasing your projects and skills. A well-documented portfolio can be as valuable as a degree when applying for jobs. Start freelancing or taking on small contract projects to gain experience. Websites like Upwork and Freelancer can help you find opportunities. Seek out internships or apprenticeships at tech companies, even if they are unpaid or part-time. This hands-on experience can be invaluable for your resume. 

Stay Current 

The tech industry evolves rapidly. Stay updated on new technologies and trends by following tech news, blogs, and online courses. Consider specializing in a niche area that interests you, such as web development, mobile app development, or data science. 

Coding Challenges and Technical Interviews 

Practice coding challenges and technical interviews regularly. Websites like LeetCode, HackerRank, and CodeSignal offer a wealth of practice problems. Start applying for entry-level software engineering positions. Tailor your curriculum vitae and cover letter to highlight your skills and projects. Consider using your network for referrals. You should also build a LinkedIn profile that attracts recruiters.
How long does it take to learn coding? 

Getting a Computer Science degree can take up to four years. Some coding bootcamps only last a few weeks, but the time it takes to learn coding at your own pace can vary widely depending on several factors, including your goals, the programming language you’re learning, the amount of time you can dedicate to learning, and your prior experience with technology and problem-solving. 

If you aim to gain a basic understanding of coding and start building simple programs or websites, you should achieve this in a couple of months of consistent effort. Focus on a beginner-friendly language like Python or JavaScript.

To become proficient in coding and develop the ability to work on more complex projects or applications, you’ll likely need six months to a year of consistent practice and learning. During this time, you can dive deeper into the language of your choice and explore more advanced topics. 

Becoming highly skilled and potentially securing more specialized roles, like a software engineer or data scientist, often takes more than two years of dedicated learning and practice.  

Still, it’s much faster and cheaper than pursuing a degree! So, do you need a degree to be a software engineer? Who has time for that?

Can you become a software engineer without a degree? Yes, you can! 

October 4, 2023

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