How to Become a Software Engineer Without a Degree

In a world of ever-increasing tech functions, software engineers take the prize for desirability. The post-COVID employment scene has witnessed a rise in at-home jobs, which has created the need for more software programs to accommodate versatile work settings. Even apart from the pandemic, the job field is expanding as society relies more heavily on software for survival. Software developers and engineers are in high demand, with a predicted increase of 22% in job opportunities by 2030, amounting to 409,500 new openings. With such job security, it’s no wonder so many people are wondering what it takes to be a software engineer.

 But do you have to have a college degree to become a software engineer? Not necessarily. The tech industry offers a unique opportunity for future applicants, as tech companies are concerned more with skill than they are with a prestigious name on a CV. While having a degree helps, you can still climb the tech ladder and become a software engineer without a degree.

However, you do need the right skills. Coding bootcamps are a great way to learn the basics without having to pay expensive tuition or spend copious amounts of time away from family and obligations. Let’s take a look at what a software engineer is, and then learn how to best prepare yourself for a career in the tech industry.

In this article you’ll learn:

  • What Does a Software Engineer Do?

  • What Is the Average Salary for a Software Engineer?

  • What Skills Should a Software Engineer Have?

  • Do You Need a Degree To Become a Software Engineer?

  • Additional Tips for Starting a Career in Software Engineering Without a Degree

What Does a Software Engineer Do?

While the terms “engineer,” “developer,” and “programmer” are used fairly loosely when it comes to software, a software engineer generally has a higher understanding of computing principles, like algorithms and data structures. A software engineer’s job is to design, test, investigate, and implement computer applications and programs. Ultimately, they are the working forces behind websites, phone applications, video games, and more. Computer software could not be released without an engineer’s direct involvement.

Specifically, a software engineer performs these tasks:

·        Designs software programs

·        Analyzes software for bugs or glitches, and troubleshoots when necessary

·        Communicates findings to relevant team members

·        Applies data structure and algorithm principles to improve software performance and scalability

·        Stays abreast of the latest technologies and applies them to their development

Crucial aspects of our society depend on the work of software engineers. Government websites, for instance, or health monitors such as glucose-reading apps for people with diabetes. In more ways than we realize, software engineers are integral to our society.

What Is the Average Salary for a Software Engineer?

According to USNews—which ranks software engineering as the 5th best profession in the U.S.—the median annual salary for a software engineer is $110,140. That’s not including cash bonuses or shareholder stocks in the company. With an unemployment rate of 3%, the field remains one of the most lucrative and secure.

Even those without college degrees can rise in the tech industry and receive a competitive salary if they have the right skillset. Bootcamps and online courses are affordable, flexible ways to learn the necessary coding skills. You can build up your portfolio and not have to worry about walking into a career with student debt under your belt.

What Skills Should a Software Engineer Have?

Some skills are technical and can be objectively measured by tests, while others are soft skills that are nonetheless important. As far as technical skills, a software engineer should be familiar with:

·        Data structures and algorithms

·        In-demand programming languages

·        Testing and debugging

·        Modern technologies and tools, such as containers, continuous deployment, and microservices

While data structures are the organized format of information, algorithms help us navigate it. Think of the table of contents for a manual—or an article. A software engineer must know how to structure data and manage it in a way that’s accessible and navigable.

You can’t be successful at coding if you don’t know any programming languages. Just like you’d want to know German if you’re traveling around Germany, a software engineer needs to understand the correct language for the specific task. The three most common programming languages are JavaScript, Python, and Java. The list of languages is ever-growing as new ones are created to meet industry standards and shifts in technology. A coding bootcamp is a great way to start learning the fundamentals of programming languages.

Bear in mind that there are differences between programming and markup languages. A software engineer should be familiar with the distinctions.

Testing and debugging involves being able to identify and correct mistakes in code. Testing can be programmed and set to run automatically, but debugging requires hands-on adjustments and someone comfortable with analyzing code, as well as a great problem-solver.

Lastly, if you’re looking for a career in software engineering, you need to be familiar with the trends in modern technology. Subscribe to tech newsletters and magazines, read articles, listen to podcasts, or use bootcamps to stay ahead of the curve as technology develops.

In addition to hard technical skills and keeping up-to-date on the latest software trends, software engineers should have these other skills:

·        Clear communication with team members

·        Quick problem-solving

·        Analytical thinking

·        Meticulous planning and strategy

·        Ability to multitask

Primarily, a software engineer must have great attention to detail. Tiny mistakes in a line of code can result in broken applications or system outages. If you’ve ever seen a worldwide phone app or website crash, you know the importance of having the right skills to fix the issue.

Do You Need a Degree To Become a Software Engineer?

No, a degree isn’t necessary to become a software engineer. Since the work relies so heavily on technical skill, you could get a job simply by proving that you know how to do the work. Most job interviews for software engineers will assign you a series of tests to gauge your abilities. The results of these tests matter far more than any education requirements to most companies in the tech industry.

While technical skills can be learned at college, they can also be acquired through bootcamps and online courses. You can gain real world, hands-on experience through a software engineering bootcamp and come out ready to work. One of the benefits of a job in software engineering is that virtually all of the skills can be learned outside a university setting.

In the tech field, it’s also possible to start as an intern and work your way up after gaining enough experience.

Additional Tips for Starting a Career in Software Engineering without a Degree

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and daunted when you’re a beginner, but the good news is, you can quickly catch up if you’re determined and put in the effort. Here are some steps you can start working on right away.

Understand the Prerequisites

Knowing the field is half the battle. You need to have a solid understanding of the world of software engineering. Familiarize yourself with the names of the basic programming languages, like the ones mentioned above. Get comfortable with dev and collaborative tools, like GitHub. Stay up-to-date with the most cutting edge topics and software in the tech world. 

Master Your Coding Skills

Once you’re secure on a solid foundation of knowledge, you’ll need to sharpen your skills. Programming languages are living languages. Just because you learned JavaScript ten years ago doesn’t make you an expert today. Software engineering relies heavily on coding, so be sure you’re constantly refreshing your memory of the most common languages.

Build Your Portfolio

Have you ever built a phone app? What about a webpage? Keep track of all your projects for your resume. If you have dev experience—and especially if you don’t have a degree or prior work experience—future employers will want to see what work you’ve done. Showcase the versatility of your projects, proving that you’re comfortable with full stack development.

Creating a GitHub profile is a must, not only for your own personal development, but to catch the eye of a tech company. GitHub, a massive development platform, allows millions of developers to work on projects in collaboration and is one of the largest open-source development communities. Many companies use GitHub as a way to scout future workers, so don’t neglect this powerful tool.

Network and Make Connections

Finally, connect with people working in the same field. Word-of-mouth goes a long way in the tech world. If you’ve ever done work for someone, see if they’ll write you a recommendation. Build connections through your GitHub profile. Start a bootcamp and take advantage of the mentors available. You’ll want to demonstrate your interpersonal skills to a future employer. 

Ready to Become a Software Engineer?

Even though you don’t need a degree to become a software engineer, you still need to study and learn the required skills. The software engineering bootcamp at National University will give you the tools you need to attract future employers.

With a bootcamp, you’ll learn what you need to be successful and get up-to-speed with JavaScript, Python, Node, React, and more. You will also practice these languages with hands-on workshops, get real-world experience, and complete your courses with a capstone project specific to your interests and technology stack.

The best part of a bootcamp is the ability to learn on your own time. Work fully online, taking charge of your own schedule. If you have the time, you can double down on your course load and finish the bootcamp sooner. All the while, you’ll be in the hands of your mentor, who will be available for weekly one-on-one meetings and can provide consistent feedback.

Software engineers have an important role in shaping some of the biggest moving parts in the tech field. Enroll in a software engineering bootcamp to become a part of this growing industry and impact people’s lives in a meaningful way.