According to Glassdoor, Google, Apple, and IBM are some of the top-tier employers that increasingly don’t require a college degree for several roles. As other businesses start to adopt similar recruiting strategies, there are signs this may become the new normal.
There are few jobs as in-demand as software engineering right now, with nearly 27 million people working in this capacity worldwide, and an expected sector growth of 21% in the field by the year 2028 (far outpacing the average projected growth of 5% in other industries).
It’s no secret why: with the increased digitisation and automation of tasks in every industry, there’s an insatiable appetite for new types of software that simplify and streamline tasks that used to be tedious or error-prone.
Software engineering is also lucrative – in the United States, where the largest concentration of software engineering jobs is located, the average base salary for a software engineer in 2021 was over $120,000. And that was before additional sources of compensation, such as bonuses or stock options.
But what does it take to become a software engineer? Can you find a job in software engineering without a degree? And how do you become good at it?
To find the answers to these questions and many more, we spoke to the experts: master software engineers who also instruct in the field. Here’s what they had to say!
It Takes All Types
Software engineering is a broad umbrella term, with a few different jobs underneath it. So, what are some of the most in-demand ‘types’ of software engineering right now?
According to Stanley Ong and Sritam Patnaik, both software developers and instructors at Skills Union, some particularly sought-after subsets are:
Each requires different skills, depending on the industry or role in question. However, your first goal should simply be understanding programming fundamentals, where programming languages come in.
Some of the key competencies include HTML, CSS, ReactJs/VueJs for front-end developers, NodeJs/Django/Spring frameworks or database stacks for back-end developers, as well as Java, C++, Python, Agile Scrum, GIT, and other types of programming languages.
Ong emphasises that software testing skills and design principles will be essential for software engineers, regardless of their role.
If all this seems overwhelming, don’t worry – due to the incredible demand for people with these skills, there are numerous pathways to acquiring them.
Different Pathways to the Same Goal
Though computer science is likely the most popular undergraduate focus for software engineers, a significant number of them do not have any university degree. And that’s absolutely fine, according to Ong and other experts in the field.
For those who do not have a degree, “self-taught would be the best study pathway,” Ong says. “They can supplement by taking online courses as well.”
However, Ong cautions that an entirely self-guided programme works best for people who are very good at self-motivating and staying on schedule. For those who prefer a more structured learning environment, Ong recommends a programming bootcamp, which essentially forces participants to remain on a specific schedule with assignments.
Similarly, Patnaik recommends a programming school, which features a few different course options that take six to nine months apiece. Depending on what type of software engineering job you wish to pursue, it might be helpful to learn any number of different programming languages.
All of these options are available online, so they can be completed from anywhere with an internet connection. In addition, there are options for synchronous and asynchronous learning (courses that take place in real-time with an instructor, and those that involve video instruction, with students working on their own time), so with a bit of research, it’s possible to find the exact learning situation that best meets your needs.
Job search platform Indeed.com makes some additional recommendations for people seeking to enter the field of software engineering without a degree. One is to find a job in IT or tech support first or work as a sales associate at a technology store. Doing this will not only improve your credentials when applying to software engineering jobs; it will also advance your knowledge and skills.
Lastly, an essential step in entering any new field – particularly one as complex as software engineering – is to learn from people already working successfully within the industry. Finding yourself a mentor is important, not for receiving “on-the-spot advice,” but to help you gain understanding, direction, and control of your career.
What Makes a Good Software Engineer
One might assume that the top criterion for being successful as a software engineer would be something like, “has been taking apart and putting back together computers since age seven.”
Not so, according to the experts, we asked. (In fact, having a lifetime of familiarity with computers was not mentioned.) Instead, Ong said that someone who would thrive in this industry would need to have strong skills in communication, teamwork, problem-solving, and a tendency to be “meticulous.”
Software engineering expert and Skills Union lead instructor Edison Zhuang cites the RIASEC personality test, whose results show that “the investigative and conventional type” will succeed in hard skills. However, he adds, “In my hiring journey, I am always interested in exploring how a candidate will think through a problem.”
Zhuang says that some positive “thought processes” that indicate a person will be successful in software engineering include:
- Making assumptions and then testing against the assumptions as a form of troubleshooting
- Defining the scope of the problem–this will “break down a large problem into granularity,” Zhuang says, making it easier to solve by focusing on individual components
- Taking an approach to problem-solving that remains conscious of “the trade-offs of the proposed solutions”
Zhuang says that a good candidate for a job in software engineering understands that there are no perfect solutions. “Every solution comes with its pros and cons,” he says. “If a person can understand the pros of cons in a given solution, they will understand their game.”
The Need for a Diverse Perspective
Despite conscious efforts by many big players in tech to recruit and foster a diverse workforce, the industry remains male mainly. It also lags behind others in its representation of people of colour. Our experts agreed that this was an issue. Still, they were emphatic that there is room for women and people from all ethnic backgrounds within software engineering (and the tech industry as a whole) and that their perspectives are much-needed and valued.
“As in most jobs, it is always important to have diversity,” Ong says. “Women and other under-represented groups can have very different problem-solving approaches at times – and in this field, it is important to learn from one another.”
Zhuang said that women who were considering careers in tech, but might feel held back by under-representation, should “not forget that software development began with a bunch of women from NASA.” He acknowledges that there has been a shift towards the industry being heavily male but stresses that he has “met great female engineers and architects in my professional life,” whom he states he would be happy “to follow.”
Ong agrees. “I would encourage women and minorities interested in our industry to just try it,” he says. “Don’t be afraid to be the odd one out.”
There’s a saying about folks who work in tech: “Your odds are good, but the goods are kind of odd.” If you are interested in becoming part of this booming industry, there’s a good chance that you’ll find your niche – whoever you are and wherever you are coming from.
How do I start a career in software engineering with no experience? ›
One way is to get a degree in computer science, which will give you the fundamental knowledge you need to start developing software. Another way is to start by learning to code on your own, and then look for internships or entry-level jobs in software development.Do you need a degree in software engineering? ›
"Most software engineering jobs require at least a bachelor's degree," Frederick said. A bachelor's degree in software engineering is ideal, but studying computer science or other STEM programs such as math, science or engineering could help as well.How can I become a software engineer without? ›
- Learn Data Structures and Algorithms. ...
- Build a Portfolio on Github. ...
- Ace the Coding Interview. ...
- Expand Your Knowledge.
But it is absolutely doable. And you can probably even achieve it all on your own, through self-teaching and networking. Many people have successfully transitioned into software development this way.Can I get a coding job without a degree? ›
Still, you may be uncertain about how best to make the career leap if you've already attended university, have a job in another field or simply don't have the time to seek a conventional four-year degree. But don't worry — you don't need a degree to become a coder.Does Google hire without degree? ›
The company is welcoming people without college degrees as well. For this, people can acquire job-ready skills to commence and advance careers in high demand fields. Along with these certificates, Google also connects learners to top national employees.Is it too late to be a software engineer? ›
But it's never too late. A software engineer is something that didn't even exist until a few decades ago, and while there are many who now decide to go into this profession from an early age, there is no reason why no degree should hold you back.Is it hard to get a software engineering job? ›
Getting a job as a software engineer is never easy, but, for a few key reasons, it's especially difficult the first time around. First, you're not likely to have a professional network or existing software engineer connections who can make introductions on your behalf.What percentage of software engineers don't have a degree? ›
According to HackerRank's 2020 Developer Skills Report, 31.9 percent of developers at small companies (i.e., those employing between 1 and 50 employees) do not have a bachelor's degree, compared to the 18.4 percent who say the same at mid-size businesses (between 50 and 999 employees), 14.9 percent at large companies ( ...Is learning coding hard? ›
Programming has a reputation for being one of the most difficult disciplines to master. Considering how different it is from traditional forms of education, including college degrees in computer science, it's not hard to see why some people have difficulty learning how to code.
Can you become a Software Engineer with just python? ›
A Python developer can be a Web developer, Software Engineer, Data Analyst, Data Scientist or an Automation tester, etc. And hence a Python developer can be anyone of the above.Can I join IT company without degree? ›
While a college degree still holds weight among management and executive ranks, a shortage of IT workers is making many firms less choosy over educational formalities. Good Financial Cents concurs that many IT career paths do not require a degree, such as IT technician.Can I get a job as a web developer without a degree? ›
Is it possible to become a web developer without a degree? Yes, in a nutshell, a Computer Science degree is no longer required to work in the web development industry. There are a variety of ways to learn to code, both online and offline.How long does IT take to become a software engineer? ›
How long does it take to become a software engineer? Most software engineering jobs require at least a bachelor's degree, which takes four years of full-time study. Some employers prefer candidates with a master's, which requires an additional two years of study.How fast can you learn coding to get a job? ›
If you're coding in your spare time it could take anywhere from six months to two years to get an entry-level tech role. If you treat learning how to code like a full-time job then you can break into the industry in as little as three to eight months.What companies hire self-taught programmers? ›
- Netflix. The company that revolutionized how we watch TV and movies doesn't require a degree for Software Engineer positions. ...
- Spotify. Another game-changing company, this time for the music industry. ...
- Veed. ...
- Automattic. ...
- Stripe. ...
- Gumroad. ...
- Proton. ...
In general, it takes around two to six months to learn the fundamentals of Python. But you can learn enough to write your first short program in a matter of minutes. Developing mastery of Python's vast array of libraries can take months or years.Can I get a python job without a degree? ›
Building a Career as a Python Developer. One can build numerous careers without a degree, and building a career as a Python developer is one! Like back-end or web developers, Python developers work on coding and developing a product or platform.Can self taught programmers get a job? ›
It may come as a surprise to you, but many professional programmers are self-taught. And many of them have been able to reach fairly high positions in their career.What jobs pay the most money without a degree? ›
- Patrol Officer.
- Executive Assistant.
- Sales Representative.
- Flight Attendant.
- Wind Turbine Technician.
Can you get a job at Apple without a degree? ›
Apple is one of several corporations that doesn't require a college diploma for certain jobs, along with Google, IBM, Bank of America, and Hilton, according to Glassdoor.Does Tesla require a degree? ›
In doing so, his companies, Tesla and SpaceX, attract and retain some of the brightest minds of our time from across the globe-no degree required. But the hiring process does require two things, which comes down to one thing: the two-hands test.Can I get a job with just a Google certification? ›
Upon completion of the Google IT Support or IT Automation with Python Certificates, you will gain access to an exclusive job platform where you can easily apply to opportunities from employers with open IT jobs.Is 32 too old to become an engineer? ›
It's never too late to pursue your dream career, even if it's later in life. If you want to become an engineer, you'll need to get a degree in an engineering discipline before you can get a job in the field.Is 25 too old to learn programming? ›
Not at all. There are at least four reasons why you can start to learn to program at any age and become successful—especially if you are only 25 years old! First, you don't need to become an expert programmer to pursue your dream job.What do coders do all day? ›
They primarily write code using a variety of languages, including Python, C++ and Java, that a computer can read. To make sure everything functions correctly, computer programmers do frequent iterations of design, development, integration of software components, testing and getting feedback from clients.What do entry-level software engineers do? ›
Entry-level software engineers, also called junior engineers, work with mid-level and senior-level software engineers to test, develop and update software applications and programs.Are software engineers happy? ›
Based on a small survey of 350 respondents, some 70.3 percent of developers said they were happy at work, versus 14.4 percent who said they were unhappy, and 15.3 percent who claimed indifference.How many hours do software engineers work? ›
As a software engineer, how many hours do you usually work a week? About 40. Sometimes more. Occasionally less.Is coding bootcamp better than a degree? ›
Coding bootcamp actually gives you more relevant and useful tools for a job than a computer science degree. While the degree sets you up with a solid foundation, a bootcamp teaches you specific skills that you can use immediately in a job.
Which degree is best for Software Engineer? ›
Some of the skills that you will learn in a computer science program include:
- Technical computer operations,
- Computer mathematics,
- Computational logic, and.
- A strong understanding of modern code.
Yes, software engineering can be somewhat hard to learn initially – especially for those without programming or coding skills or any background or knowledge of tech – but there are many courses, tools, and other resources available to help people learn to become a Software Engineer.How long does it take to master coding? ›
Many people take coding bootcamps to learn to code. Most coding bootcamps last 3-4 months and teach enough coding skills to qualify graduates for entry-level coding jobs. It typically takes 6-12 months to learn to code on your own.Is coding a stressful job? ›
In general, coding is a fairly relaxing job. There is the flexibility of working remotely as a programmer, and in many cases there is the security of routine. However, as with any job, whether coding is stressful depends largely on the company you work with. Cultural pressures and tight deadlines can cause stress.What's the difference between coding and programming? ›
A fundamental difference between coder and programmer is that coding is the part of programming, whereas programming is the procedure of creating a program. Coding is a part of programming that deals with converting the language into binary commands for the machine.Can I learn Python at 45 and get a job? ›
Of course you can, just put your 10,000 hours in. The best way to learn (at least the way I learn) is by doing projects. Learn the syntax and stuff first then start thinking of things you can solve using Python and then do it!How much Python should I know to get a job? ›
You should have a clear understanding of Python syntax, statements, variables & operators, control structures, functions & modules, OOP concepts, exception handling, and various other concepts before going out for a Python interview. There are numerous quality courses available over the web that can help you in this.Is SQL and Python enough to get a job? ›
Yes, knowing the fundamentals of more general languages like Python or R is critical. However, ignoring SQL will make it much harder to get a job in data.› blogs › how-to-become-a-software-engi... ›
How to Become a Software Engineer (Even Without A Degree)
Do You Really Need a Degree to Be a Software Engineer?
How to become a software engineer, even without a CS degree
- Know the space. If you're interested in IT work, it's a good idea to know what exactly that would look like, and what kinds of jobs are out there. ...
- Polish relevant IT skills. ...
- Get a certification. ...
- Build your experience. ...
- Network. ...
- Look for entry-level positions. ...
- Polish your interview skills.
Is it hard to get an entry-level software engineering job? ›
If you're looking to become a software engineer, it can be hard to land your first job. Many factors go into getting an interview—and even more come into play when you're trying to land the job offer itself. The good news is that there are ways you can increase your chances of success.How can I get experience as a software engineer? ›
Internships, externships and job shadowing are all excellent ways to gain additional experience in software engineering and can help you develop your skills and enhance your credentials.How do I get my first job software? ›
- Get a degree. A bachelor's degree in computer science, software engineering or a related technical field provides relevant preparation for work as a software developer. ...
- Update your resume. ...
- Write a cover letter. ...
- Keep practicing. ...
- Create a portfolio. ...
Software developers currently enjoy an extremely encouraging job outlook, with aa relatively low barrier to career entry. While many accomplished organizations may require an academic degree before hiring a software developer, software developers can still do well even without any formal education.
Many top IT careers don't require college degrees. Hiring managers are looking for job candidates who can get the job done, regardless of their academic credentials. Self-education, training programs and certifications could be your ticket to a rewarding tech job.What is the easiest tech job to get into? ›
- Help desk technician. Average annual US salary: $46,696  ...
- IT technician. Average annual US salary: $48,926  ...
- Web developer. ...
- Systems administrator. ...
- Systems analyst. ...
- Database administrator. ...
- Site reliability engineer. ...
- Software developer.
As a software engineer, how many hours do you usually work a week? About 40. Sometimes more. Occasionally less.Is software engineering stressful? ›
Surprisingly, the job of a software engineer is relaxed and with low levels of stress despite the many challenges that come along in the profession such as working long hours, working on legacy code, dealing with bad managers, or having tough clients.Are software engineer bootcamps worth it? ›
Are coding bootcamps worth the time and money? Based on typical job placement rates and post-graduation salary increases, the answer is “yes” for most students. According to research from the bootcamp review platform Course Report, graduates typically see salary increases of about 51%.What is the fastest way to become a software engineer? ›
- Choose a Target Platform/Space. Software development is a broad concept. ...
- Choose the Right Programming Language. ...
- Do Not Be a Programmer—Be a Problem Solver. ...
- Learn a Programming Language. ...
- Write Own Programs. ...
- Apply for a Job Early on.
Can I become a software engineer at 30? ›
On No CS Degree I share stories of self-taught developers and people who have learned to code at bootcamps. Whichever path you choose, it's certainly possible to become a Software Developer at 30 years old, 40 years old, 50 years old and beyond.Can you become a software engineer in 6 months? ›
It can take anywhere from 6 months to 5 years to become a software engineer and get a job in the same field. An engineering degree is for four years. While doing an MCA (Masters of Computer Applications) may take at least five years.How long should I stay at my first software engineering job? ›
A fairly normal number I've seen thrown around is to stay with your company for two years. This gives you enough time to build compelling relationships with others, you can complete a few projects, and your salary shouldn't stagnate.What do entry-level software engineers do? ›
Entry-level software engineers, also called junior engineers, work with mid-level and senior-level software engineers to test, develop and update software applications and programs.How do I land my first coding job? ›
- Seek internship opportunities. Many tech companies offer paid or unpaid internships for both students and recent graduates. ...
- Network in the industry. ...
- Improve your resume. ...
- Apply to programming jobs using career websites. ...
- Offer to volunteer or assist with a project.