Getting a Tech Job Without a Degree
Debunking the myth that a four-year degree is required to secure a job in the technology industry.
by Hibah Ansari, Jan 11, 2021 10 a.m. CST
“Why are doors rectangular instead of circular or square?”
The way a person may choose to respond to this question can tell you a lot about their problem-solving abilities and thought processes. If someone were to answer, “doors are rectangular because it is the most ergonomically efficient way to create them,” you may feel more comfortable in trusting them to solve a problem for you than someone who was to shrug and answer, “I don’t know.”
Several people who are interested in entering the technology industry avoid doing so under the misconception that they can’t find a job without a pricey, lengthy college degree. However, this is far from the truth. A compelling portfolio of work and strong problem-solving skills are noteworthy tools to have under your belt, and shouldn’t be underestimated. Degree or no degree, an applicant’s skills and abilities become apparent during the interview process.
This brings us back to the question, “why are doors rectangular instead of circular or square?”
At surface level, a question like this may seem completely irrelevant to someone applying to a web developer position. However, companies use questions like this in the interview process in order to gauge an applicant’s problem-solving skills.
Ahmed Edbraouf is a React Native mobile developer with Carrier in Massachusetts. However, contrary to what one might expect, he did not secure this position with a computer-science degree—or any degree. Mr. Edbraouf grew up in Egypt, and was forced to drop out of school around the age of eleven because his family could no longer afford it. Upon immigrating to the United States, he worked a wide range of jobs involving business, caregiving, driving, and food delivery. When he decided to begin pursuing a career in tech, he claimed that most online coding bootcamps, let alone a university degree, were out of the question.
Mr. Edbraouf chose to attend the Skillspire coding bootcamp. “[Other coding bootcamps were] super expensive, some of them were twelve or fifteen-thousand dollars.” When describing his experience as a Skillspire student, Mr. Edbraouf says, “it was great, it was one of the best experiences I’ve had.” He states that prior to enrolling in coding courses, he was nervous about the rigor of the courses as well as the industry he was aspiring to enter.
“It’s like, ‘oh, am I capable enough to do the job? All those developers must be geniuses.’ But when I actually went to the class and I saw how the instructor was just simplifying things down, things just [started] to make sense.”
When asked if he ever felt that he needed a computer-science degree, Mr. Edbraouf claims that he did not deem it necessary. “After I graduated, (…) obviously I’d made my Linkedin and I put my resume together. After going through the interview, it was affirmed to me that it was all about passing the interview, really. Because this is [an industry] where you cannot really fake it to make it. You actually have to go through the interview and you have to answer all the questions and you have to know or code what they ask you to code. So it’s more about how you pass the interview, how you present yourself more than the college degree itself.”
While having a computer science degree can certainly propel you further down the hiring process, it is not the only qualification that recruiters and companies are looking for.
For jobs in areas like computer science, engineering, and information technology, interviews are the deciding factor for applicants. Indeed.com writes that in order to prepare for technical interviews, applicants should practice solving tech problems and review fundamentals, in addition to researching the role and company they are applying to. These interviews typically span three stages:
This stage of the interviewing process is a brief 15-20 minute phone call that allows recruiters to gauge you, your personality, and your interest in the position. Your best bet for preparing for this stage of interviews is practicing with a friend and overcoming as much of those phone-nerves as you can!
This stage will also involve a phone call, as well as screen sharing of some sort. You will demonstrate to the company that you are competent and able to perform the basic tasks you claimed that you could on your resume. If you know your fundamentals (and you’re not lying about your skills!), you should be set for this round of the interviewing process.
If you get this far in the interview process, you will normally be invited on-site to tour the campus and interview with multiple heads at the company. If it’s far from home for you, then your travel, room, and board will be paid for by the company. This stage of the hiring process will require similar preparation needed for the previous two stages. Companies will ascertain whether you would be a good fit (personality-wise and skill-wise) with their teams.
Not everyone can afford to attend college, whether it’s because of the cost or the 2-4 year commitment. Skillspire creates an avenue into the technology sector for members of marginalized communities who may not have deemed tech careers possible for themselves prior. Doing so promotes diversification within the tech industry, which ultimately helps to eliminate problematic outcomes like algorithmic bias.
As ex-recruiter at Google Laszlo Bock put it, “when you look at people who don’t go to school and make their way in the world, those are exceptional human beings. And we should do everything we can to find those people.”
Considering a career in tech without having to go through the 4-year degree path? Check out our courses here.