Career Insight

Can I Be a Programmer Without a College Degree? Yes!

Can I Be a Programmer Without a College Degree? Yes!

Can I be a programmer without a degree? While many fields still require workers to pursue traditional bachelor’s (and sometimes master’s) degree programs, tech isn’t among them. 

Many Software Engineers today are getting their start through alternative education methods. If you’re still skeptical or nervous about attempting to start a programming career without a traditional college degree, we’ll try to ease your fears today with some good old-fashioned facts. 

So, can you land a programming job without a degree? Read on to find out. These are the questions and concepts we’ll explore today: 

  • Can you be a Computer Programmer without a degree? 
  • How many programmers don’t have a degree? 
  • What education options are available to aspiring programmers?
  • Where should you start looking for alternative computer programming education? 

Can you be a Computer Programmer without a degree? 

Absolutely! Traditional education is far from the only path towards a tech career. Today, Computer Programmers are getting their start by teaching themselves how to code or attending more cost-effective online courses and bootcamps. Anyone can become a Computer Programmer with the right aptitude, attitude, and commitment to learning.  

How many programmers don’t have a degree? 

Stack Overflow’s 2020 Developer Survey looks at how Software Engineers learn and level up, as well as the tools they use to do their jobs. Around 20% of professional programmers who responded to the survey don’t hold a bachelor’s degree. This is a pretty significant portion and with the rise in popularity of microcredentials (like certifications), coding bootcamps, and self-taught learning methods, this number is likely going to continue to increase. 

What education options are available to aspiring programmers? 

If you’ve decided to pursue an education in computer science, you’ll want to consider all of the options before making a decision. Education programs in computer science come at different price points and can deliver different outcomes so it’s important to do your research and choose the right option for you. Here are a few of the ways an aspiring Software Engineer could learn the tricks of the trade. 

Computer Science Degree 

According to Stack Overflow’s recent survey, around 49% of programmers who responded said they had a bachelor’s degree (this figure doesn’t include those who also have master’s or doctoral degrees). Among those with bachelor’s degrees, 62% of programmers studied computer science. The remaining respondents majored in a variety of other engineering disciplines or seemingly unrelated fields such as fine arts, humanities, or business. 

We say “seemingly unrelated” here because we believe in the power of the pivot at Kenzie, meaning anyone can use transferable skills gained in one discipline and apply them to a technical field. Those with business savvy can go on to work in DevOps after learning how to code. Artists can combine their design skills with technical know-how to work as UX/UI Designers or Front End Developers. The liberal arts often teach students how to learn and they can take their learning and critical thinking skills with them as they learn different programming languages. 

Value Penguin cites the average total cost for a full year of college as ranging from $25,290 to $50,900 depending on if a student pays in-state or out-of-state tuition and if the college is public or private. For a four-year college degree, those numbers add up to a total cost of $101,160 to $203,600. Thankfully, many colleges offer financial aid and scholarships, and universities like Southern New Hampshire University are working to make college more affordable by offering high-quality online programs. 

There are a variety of benefits to attending college for a computer science degree including community, support from professors, and access to the university’s network and career preparation resources. But, there are also a handful of downsides including cost, long program length, and the lack of a job guarantee. Overall, college can be a very rewarding experience for many but as with any investment, it comes with a lot of risks. Those considering a college degree must ask themselves if the risk is worth it and if their specific learning style would do better in a college classroom setting or another learning environment. 

Coding Bootcamps & Certification Programs 

Coding bootcamps and certification programs are helping level the playing field when it comes to access to technical education. These programs often come at a fraction of the time and cost of traditional college degree programs. 

Coding bootcamps can range from 3 to 12 months in length. Each bootcamp focuses on a particular set of skills and programming languages so you’ll want to research to find out which skill sets would be most suitable for the kind of work you want to do. At Kenzie, we focus on the MERN stack and teach students both front-end and back-end skills, so they graduate prepared to work in Junior Full Stack Developer roles. Our 9-month Software Engineering program goes deeper than a typical bootcamp and will teach you everything you need to land your first programming job. 

Self-taught Methods  

These days many talented developers are self-taught. They learn how to code through books, self-guided courses, internet forums, websites like GitHub, and whatever methods are most helpful to their unique learning styles. Self-taught learning can be a great resource for those who learn by doing and those who are confident in their ability to stay self-motivated.  

Where should I start on my alternative education journey? 

So you’re considering the various ways to learn the programming skills you need, but want some additional resources? We’ve got your back! Below are some of our favorite software engineering and programming resources to get you started on your journey today. 

Kenzie Free

Kenzie Free was designed by industry experts to introduce you to the world of tech. This free, online mini-course prioritizes your enjoyment and understanding of coding through video tutorials and coding practice sessions. You’ll get an intro to HTML, JavaScript, and CSS. Learn more about Kenzie Free and kick off your computer programming career here.  

Books 

“The Pragmatic Programmer” by Andrew Hunt & David Thomas 

“The Pragmatic Programmer” is a classic in the software engineering community. In the recently released second edition, the book will teach you how to fight software rot, learn continuously, write flexible, dynamic code, and so much more. No matter where you are in your programmer career, you’ll find the insights in this book valuable. 

“The Computer Programming Bible” by C.P.A. Inc

“The Computer Programming Bible” is an A to Z guide on the art of programming. In it, you’ll learn the keys to writing your very first program as well as the basics of major programming languages. You’ll also get a peek into common programming mistakes to avoid on your learning journey. This book is a great read no matter what learning path you decide to take as it can help reinforce what you’re learning in the classroom or simply be your guide as you teach yourself. 

“The Self-Taught Programmer: The Definitive Guide to Programming Professionally” by Cory Althoff

Cory Althoff is a self-taught programmer, but once he got into his first programming job, he realized he was under-prepared. In this book, Cory teaches us the things he wished he knew when he was learning to code. In reading this book, you’ll get an idea of how to use tools like Git and Bash. You’ll learn more about computer science fundamentals, programming in Python 3, and object-oriented programming. Finally, Cory will walk you through landing a programming job and share advice for working on teams. 

Podcasts 

CodeNewbie

CodeNewbie is a podcast focused on sharing people’s coding journeys. Recent episodes have featured topics like Node.js, how to communicate technical topics, APIs, and how to build an app from idea to maintenance. Episodes clock in around 45 minutes so they’re perfect to listen to while commuting or doing chores. 

Front-End Five

While Front-End Five no longer posts new episodes, there’s a great backlog to check out. The show offered advice and knowledge on a variety of front-end-related topics in just under five minutes each episode. Check out episodes on topics like reducing JPG file size, fluid typography, and design systems. 

Developer Tea

Developer Tea was launched to help Software Developers find perspective, clarity, and purpose in their careers through short, high-value content. Episodes range from 10 minutes to 35 minutes and make for a great tea break listen. Recent episodes covered heroics on software engineering teams, selective attention, and intuition. 

Are you ready to start your journey to becoming a programmer without a CS degree? We encourage you to use the tools listed above, especially Kenzie Free so you can get a head start on your developer career with lessons in JavaScript, HTML, and CSS. 


Ready to jumpstart your career as a UX Designer or Coder? Learn more about our Software Engineering and UX Design programs, or check out our free beginner’s coding program Kenzie Free.

Alexa Goins

Alexa Goins

Alexa Goins is the Content Marketer at Kenzie Academy. Before she joined the field of higher education marketing, she worked as a journalist and taught English in the South of France. When she’s not writing, you can find her reading non-fiction works, doing embodiment yoga, or planning her next trip to Paris. You can find more of her work at www.alexagoins.com.

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  • Date
    April 5, 2021
  • Posted In
    Career Insight
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