How do you become a software engineer without a degree? It's a question that many aspiring tech professionals ask themselves. Back in the day, formal schooling and university degrees were the only way to secure a software engineering job in the tech industry. But there has been a paradigm shift in this mindset in recent years.
Companies are now looking beyond degrees and are more interested in practical skills, experience, and passion. So if you have the right skills and the drive to succeed, you can be a software engineer without a degree.
This is exactly what today’s guide is all about. We’ll discuss why software engineering has become such a lucrative career path over the years and show you how you can become a software engineer without a degree. By the time you’ve finished this 8-minute read, you’ll be familiar with all the actionable steps that will help you acquire the skills and experience you need to succeed in this field.
Is Becoming A Software Engineer A Good Career Path?
The answer is simple – yes, it is. Just look at the amount of technology that surrounds us in our daily lives and you’ll know why. From the devices we use to stay connected with friends and family to the cars we drive, the software is everywhere. As technology keeps advancing, the need for skilled software engineers continues to grow.
Companies these days are up against all sorts of complicated issues. And they're on the hunt for skilled experts who can help them find innovative solutions to these challenges. They want people who have fresh ideas and think outside the box to tackle these problems head-on.
That's where software engineers come in - the saviors, the heroes.
Here are some reasons why becoming a software engineer is a good career path:
A. High Demand For Software Engineers
The need for software engineers and developers is currently off the charts and the best part is that it's only going to keep getting better. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has predicted the jobs for software engineers, developers, and QA analysts to surge by 25% from 2021 to 2032 – way faster than the average for all other jobs.
B. Lucrative Earning Potential
The software engineering career is one of the most lucrative in tech. The average base pay for software engineers in the US is $106,722 per year and some people are raking in over $168,000 per year. This makes software engineering an attractive career choice for those who are looking for financial stability.
C. Potential For Entrepreneurship
Software engineering skills are in high demand in the startup scene. Innovative software solutions are often the secret sauce for success in the world of startups. That's why software engineers are highly valued as they can help turn big ideas into reality.
With their valuable skills, software engineers also have the potential to become entrepreneurs and start their businesses. Imagine being your own boss and creating your own innovative solutions. It's a super rewarding path for those passionate about innovation and entrepreneurship.
D. International Opportunities
Software engineering is a worldwide industry with tons of job opportunities available across the globe. You get to work and live in different countries and immerse yourself in new cultures. Plus, experiencing different parts of the world can be super enriching and fulfilling, especially for those who have a knack for travel.
Now that you know why you should consider becoming a software engineer, let’s see if it is possible to become one without a degree.
Is It Possible To Become A Software Engineer Without A Degree?
Yes, you can be a software engineer without having a formal degree. We admit that a degree can give you a solid foundation in programming, algorithms, data structures, and other key concepts that are essential for software engineering. It will also land you an entry-level position at some hotshot company.
However, a degree is not the only way to make it big in the software engineering scene. In fact, some argue that the self-taught route can be a better option. You can tailor your learning to focus on the areas that interest you most and meet your specific goals and needs.
However, some employers may overlook your application in favor of candidates with degrees. But you’ll have to be self-motivated and committed to learning and improving your skills. You may need to do some extra networking and job searching to find these opportunities. They’re out there – you’ll definitely find a company that values practical experience and skills over formal education.
At Aloa, we have a team of highly skilled software engineers who are trained enough to start working on your software engineering project from the word go. We provide a dedicated hiring team to work with you throughout the hiring process, from identifying your requirements to matching you with the most suitable software engineer for your project.
We at Aloa offer the flexibility to scale up or down as your project requirements change. With our robust project management tools, you can effectively manage your projects. It includes time tracking, project management, and collaboration tools to ensure that your projects run smoothly.
7-Step Guide To Becoming A Software Engineer Without A Degree
Let’s take a look at the 7 steps that can help build a successful career in software engineering without a degree.
Step 1: Understand The Basics Of Software Engineering
First things first – get the basics of software engineering down pat. One of the best places to start is by getting familiarized with the software development lifecycle (SDLC). The SDLC is the blueprint that guides developers in the software development process, so get a firm grasp of it.
Now when it comes to managing the SDLC, there are different software engineering methodologies. Familiarize yourself with the two most popular ones - agile and waterfall.
- Waterfall follows a step-by-step approach where we complete each phase of the SDLC before moving on to the next one
- Agile is more flexible and iterative where we develop software in small pieces, test them, and then improve them based on feedback
Also, to land a software developer job, learn about the tools and technologies that many software engineers use to manage the SDLC and ensure quality. Some of these include:
- Integrated Development Environments (IDEs) like Eclipse and Visual Studio are used to write and debug software code
- Testing frameworks like JUnit and Selenium are used to automate software testing and ensure software quality
- Version control tools like Git and SVN are used to manage code changes and collaboration among software developers
Step 2: Build A Strong Foundation In Computer Science
Yes, you can have a strong foundation in computer science without a degree. But to build that foundation, you’ll have to work on a few things. Get knowledge of object-oriented programming (OOP) – a must-learn topic in computer science. This programming paradigm focuses on creating reusable software components called objects.
Learning how to create and use objects is essential for building scalable and maintainable software applications. With OOP, you can organize software components into objects that have their attributes (known as properties) and behaviors (known as methods). You can then use these objects throughout a program in a modular way which makes it easier to build, test, and maintain complex software systems.
Additionally, understanding databases and networks is critical for creating software that can interact with other systems and store data securely. You need to be a pro in database management to store, retrieve, and manipulate data. Learn how to:
- Design and optimize database structures
- Write queries to retrieve and update data
- Ensure that data is stored securely
To get a software engineer job without having a degree, you have to learn how networks operate at a low level as well as work with higher-level protocols.
Fortunately, you can take online courses from top universities, read textbooks, and watch video lectures to gain a deep understanding of computer science concepts.
Step 3: Learn Programming Languages & Technologies
Congratulations on mastering the fundamentals of computer science. You're now ready to explore the vast and exciting world of programming languages and technologies. Strong coding skills and technical skills are absolutely necessary for becoming a good software engineer.
Learn web development technologies to build web applications. To build a career in web development, master HTML and CSS as they form the bedrock of creating web pages. Having a thorough understanding of these languages will set you up for success and enable you to create stunning web pages that catch the visitor’s eye.
Front-end frameworks like React and Angular make it easier to build dynamic and responsive web applications, so learn them. Learn Node.js, Express, and MongoDB since they are the most popular back-end technologies used in software engineering.
Free online resources teach you programming languages and technologies. Some of the most popular options include:
- Online courses: Coursera and edX are excellent online course providers
- Tutorials: Codecademy and FreeCodeCamp offer free tutorials and exercises
- Coding boot camps: Some of the best coding boot camps include General Assembly and Flatiron School
Step 4: Build Your Portfolio
Now that you acquired the necessary technical skills, it's time to showcase your expertise through your portfolio. It's an essential tool to present to potential employers, especially if you don't have a degree. Your portfolio will show them that you have the necessary technical skills to succeed in a software engineer job.
When creating your portfolio, include a variety of projects that highlight your diverse skill set. Personal projects, open-source contributions, and hackathon submissions are great examples of what you can showcase. These projects should demonstrate your problem-solving abilities and your knowledge of various programming languages and technologies.
There are several platforms to showcase your portfolio. Some of these include:
- Power BI
- Tableau Public
- Your own website
Consider using all of these platforms to increase your visibility and reach potential employers.
Remember, your portfolio isn’t only about the content but also the presentation. Create a visually appealing and informative portfolio and use clear and concise language to explain your projects and highlight your technical skills. Use screenshots, diagrams, and flowcharts to help visualize your work.
Additionally, consider the overall design of your portfolio. Use a consistent color scheme and typography throughout your portfolio. A well-designed portfolio shows attention to detail and professionalism which are essential qualities for a software engineer.
Step 5: Gain Experience
After gaining some valuable knowledge and skills in software engineering, it's now time to get some experience. It's something that employers look for when hiring software engineers.
So how do you gain experience in software engineering? Here are a few ways:
5.1 Look For Entry-Level Positions
These include internships, apprenticeships, and junior developer roles. To find entry-level positions, start by looking at job boards like Indeed, Glassdoor, and LinkedIn.
You can also check out company websites for any open positions. When applying, always make it a point to highlight any relevant experience and skills you have.
5.2 Volunteer Work
Volunteering is another great way to gain experience in software engineering. Since non-profit organizations are often low on budget, you can help them with their websites or other software projects.
By volunteering, you can gain valuable experience while helping a good cause.
5.3 Attend Hackathons & Meetups
Hackathons and meetups are great places to meet other software engineers and gain experience. These events often involve working on projects with other people which will help you learn how to collaborate and communicate effectively.
Additionally, hackathons and meetups are great networking opportunities. You can meet other software engineers, potential employers, and mentors who can help you along your journey.
Step 6: Build Your Network
As a software engineer, building a strong network is essential for your career success. Networking helps you establish meaningful connections with industry professionals and peers which can open up job opportunities, provide mentorship, and even lead to collaboration on exciting projects.
Some of the ways to network include.
- Attend Meetups and Conferences: Never miss these. By attending them, you not only get to meet new people and learn about the latest technologies and trends but can even land a job or internship.
- Join Online Communities: Joining online communities like Stack Overflow or Reddit connects with other software engineers from around the world. These communities provide a platform for discussing industry trends and sharing insights and can help find mentorship or job opportunities.
- Participate in Hackathons: It is the best way to network with other software engineers. Through Hackathons, you can showcase your skills, work on exciting projects, collaborate with others, and get to learn new technologies.
When networking, it's important to focus on building meaningful connections with others. Rather than simply exchanging business cards or LinkedIn profiles, aim to develop genuine relationships with people in the industry. Here is some expert advice for doing so:
- Be Authentic: Be yourself when networking. Stay honest and open about your skills, interests, and goals.
- Listen Carefully: This will help you build rapport with the person and establish a meaningful connection.
- Follow Up: After meeting someone new, follow up with them within a few days. Send them an email or LinkedIn message. This will help keep the connection alive and may lead to future opportunities.
Step 7: Develop Soft Skills
Having soft skills is just as important as technical skills, if not more so. Communication, teamwork, and problem-solving are all important people skills for software engineers. Even the best programmers suffer when they fail to communicate their ideas well.
Here are a few proven ways to develop those soft skills.
- Work on group projects and collaboration. Find like-minded individuals who are also interested in software engineering and work on a project together.
- Attend networking events or join online communities where you can interact with other software engineers.
- Be concise - get your point across clearly and briefly.
- You have to be open to feedback and constructive criticism. This can be difficult but it's essential for growth and improvement.
- Finally, be a good team player. This means being reliable, supportive, and respectful of others. If someone does a great job, make sure to acknowledge and celebrate their accomplishments.
Transitioning into a new career path and learning how to become a software engineer without a degree is never an easy feat. You need to be highly dedicated and perseverant. But the rewards of becoming a software engineer are worth the effort.
We at Aloa are solely dedicated to connecting businesses with the most talented software engineers both with college credentials and those without college degrees. Our platform has a comprehensive and rigorous vetting process that ensures only the top 1% of software engineering talent is accepted.
At Aloa, we offer a hiring process that is just right for you. We take care of all the administrative tasks associated with hiring and can focus on what you do best. Reach out to us for all your software engineering needs.