How to become a software developer without a degree

How to become a programmer without a degree

To become a software developer, you don’t need a diploma, degree or even a certification.

All you need is competence.

Outside of sports, software development is the most merit-based industry in the world. If you’re willing to put in the time and effort to develop your skills, six-digit software developer salaries await.

Follow these five steps and you’ll develop the discipline and competence to be a successful software developer:

  1. Set realistic goals as you commit to a career as a software developer.
  2. Expose yourself to a variety of programming languages.
  3. Acquire skills around the technology that calls to you the most.
  4. Build a portfolio of impressive development projects.
  5. Overcome imposter syndrome, widen your network and apply for software developer jobs.

Write down your career goals

Human beings are goal-oriented creatures. When we set goals for ourselves, our mind automatically works to remove any impediments that stand in our way to achieve that goal.

If you want to become a software developer, then fully commit to accomplish that goal.

Write down a list of reasons: why do you want to be a developer? How will your life will change once you have achieved your goal? How will the accomplishment of that goal positively impact the people around you?

The first step to become a software developer is to write down your new career goals, and commit to them.

Get to know the software development landscape

If you’re just starting out and you don’t know how to write code, the best place to start is web development. Prioritize the following languages and tools.

Learn HTML and CSS.

With these languages you can build web pages and test the code you write in a web browser.

HTML- and CSS-based development is very visual — changes to your code are visible as soon as you refresh your browser. This immediate visual feedback keeps you interested and motivates you to learn more.

Don’t try to master HTML and CSS at the start. Just get familiar with the concepts and then move onto JavaScript.

Jump into JavaScript.

JavaScript is a real programming language that runs inside the web browser.

Use JavaScript to learn programming fundamentals such as variables, loops and conditional statements.

Create some browser-based games such as Rock Paper Scissors or a number guessing game, and when you are familiar with the basics, move away from the web tier and learn a little bit about databases.

Dive into databases with SQL.

To become a software developer, you must understand how to talk to a database, which means you need to know a bit about Structured Query Language (SQL).

Install an open source database like MySQL and learn how to create database tables. Then learn how to write SQL statements that can save data into those tables, and read data from them.

Advance to APIs.

Finally, learn how to write a middle-tier API that allows the JavaScript that runs in a web browser interact with your backend database.

You can use JavaScript, Python, Java or even Rust to write this final, middle-tier component that glues your frontend together with your backend. What’s important is that you get a little bit of experience with every piece of the modern-tech stack puzzle.

The goal at this stage is to just be familiar with each of these different technologies:

  • HTML
  • CSS
  • JavaScript
  • SQL
  • APIs

At this state on your journey to become a software developer, don’t try to be an expert on any of these technologies. Just learn enough about each of them to understand how they fit together.

Pick a niche

Something should call to you after you become familiar with front-end, back-end and middle-tier development.

  • Did you enjoy HTML and CSS the most? Then perhaps you should focus on web design.
  • Did you like browser-based JavaScript? Perhaps you should focus on web development frameworks like React, Vue, or Angular.
  • Did SQL and setting up a database pique your interest? Maybe you’re destined to be a backend engineer.
  • If you enjoyed building APIs that glue the front-end and back-end together, then perhaps middle-tier development is your calling.

At this stage in your journey to become a software developer, pick the programming languages and technologies that appeal to you the most, and enhance them.

For example, if you enjoy web development, learn more about AngularJS or ReactJS:

  • Watch programming tutorials on YouTube
  • Sign up for courses on FreeCodeCamp
  • Purchase well reviewed courses on Udemy or Coursera

Build a portfolio of projects

As you learn, document your learning journey and build a portfolio of project’s you’ve completed.

A portfolio helps you visualize how much progress you’ve made towards your goal of becoming a software developer. It also highlights your skills when you interview with employers.

No college degree? You can still become a software engineer. A degree or diploma is certainly not a requirement.

However, to land a job interview you’ll need something on your resume that documents your knowledge. This is where industry certifications come in.

Before you begin your job search, try to add two or three industry certifications to your resume. Three certifications I highly recommend are:

  • Certified Java Programmer from Oracle, or its equivalent for another language;
  • Professional Scrum Master Certification to prove you are Agile; and
  • AWS Certified Associate to prove you understand the basics of cloud computing

Google offers free certificates in the fields of e-commerce and data analytics which look great on a resume.

You can even take a free computer course and Harvard University have free courses you can take online. Upon completion, Harvard offers a verified certificate of achievement for $99. A certificate from Harvard is certainly a good way to begin your career as a software developer.

As you develop your programming skills, create your software developer portfolio and pad your resume with a couple of certifications, it’s time to start applying for jobs.

programmer certification vs degree

One way to get a software developer job without a degree is to pad your resume with certifications.

Bolster your career network and apply for jobs

Many new programmers hesitate before they apply for jobs or respond to interview requests from LinkedIn. They worry that they’re not fully trained or adequately qualified to become a software developer.

Don’t let this imposter syndrome limit your career progress.

Plenty of organizations want young, energetic developers who understand the fundamentals of software development, and are willing to learn new technologies while on the job.

Build your LinkedIn profile. Network with your peers through MeetUp groups and Twitter Circles. Get involved in community events.

Most of all, apply relentlessly for open software developer positions. You’ll inevitably land that first job, and successfully become a software developer. From that point on, where your software developer job leads and the directions your career takes will be entirely within your control.

Software development without a degree

You can become a software developer without a degree or diploma. All it takes is motivation and drive.

Take the first step and dive into software development. Build your portfolio, get certified, grow your career, and enjoy your life as a software developer.

App Architecture
Software Quality
Cloud Computing