Getting an official degree becomes less of a necessity in the modern world, especially in the programming field. Still, some coders believe the absence of formal education to be an obstacle on the way to landing a job. Is it though? Or is just having a skillset enough to get you closer to a dream career? Coders on Reddit decided to bring up this topic to end the confusion once and for all. 

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Key Takeaways:

  • Practical skills and real-world experience are often considered more valuable in the tech industry than having a formal degree.
  • You should start applying for software development positions if you have relevant skills and experience.
  •  Waiting to feel “ready” might never result in taking action, so it’s better to put oneself out there and learn on the job.
  • A well-crafted portfolio and CV to showcase education, skills, and projects can make a significant difference in presenting oneself effectively in the competitive technology industry, especially for self-taught developers.

Nobody will argue that to become a software engineer practical skills are far more valuable than just having a diploma in your hands. However, a student has recently raised a question of whether his skillset will be enough to substitute for the absence of formal education. When we saw this aspiring developer’s learning history though, we thought it was an unnecessary concern. Here’s what the author told us about his coding knowledge in the original post:

“So I started in Oct 2022 (so 8 months) with CS50 Harvard: Introduction to Computer Science 11-week course and it taught C, basic Python, HTML, CSS, SQL, JS but mainly just an introduction to algorithms, data, memory and coding syntax. After this, I went on to create my own front-end developer websites on Visual Studio spending weeks working on freeCodeCamp for HTML, CSS and Javascript… I was lucky to land an internship as a Software Junior Developer at a company and was taught under a Senior Developer….In this time I worked on real-life applications for a web application on the .NET Framework… after a few weeks I was able to work more independently using Git commits to communicate and work on the pipeline, I was able to learn real-world aspects of being a developer…I was able to create a responsive website (getting better at using visual studios and understanding.NET) and solve a lot of client-side requests for the website along the way….I then worked on backend aspects of the project since I was teaching myself C# in the background using textbooks and helped implement a working email contact page where I used OOJ and I had a bit more interaction with the SQL database and its relation with C# and the .NET…. I learn a lot more about the Enterprise application of .NET 6 becoming comfortable with the interface such as the MVC or smaller aspects like app.jsons for kvp…. I’ve also covered AWS courses and Azure courses to understand the enterprise aspect of the software.” 

Quite an impressive resume for someone who has been studying all on his own. In the meantime, this student wasn’t caught by a star, as he still recognizes a few of his weaknesses:

“I’d say my weaknesses are:

  • Since the internship was quite unofficial and unorganised, on paper all of my experience is true but in my head its quite loose and paper thin almost
  • I need to work on my actual coding skills/implementations since I didn’t have the degree aspect that spends years on projects/problem sets and the internship mainly improved my real-life experience, not my coding knowledge really.”

It is worth noting that the author did have a formal education when he was 18 which was a college education. As he says, he got straight As in all subjects, including maths. As for many young people, the university just didn’t seem like a good place for them. This student decided to work as hard as possible all by himself and managed to learn everything he knows just in 8 months. 

After such a full description, OP has raised the main question of how far is he from getting a job with such experience, also considering he has neither a full Githab portfolio nor a degree. Fellow coders decided to weigh in and they seemed to have a generally more positive outlook on the situation.

The Main Recommendation to Land a Job — Don’t Wait Till You Are Ready

As the Redditors saw what looked like decent material for a software developer’s portfolio, most agreed that nothing should keep OP from posting his job applications already:

“Bro, you’ve already got a way broader skillset and more experience than me, and I managed to get a job! You’re more than ready, start applying!”

“I know of many people with rudimentary JS knowledge who got hired simply from networking hours a day within the last year.”

“You have experience programming at real-world companies. Time to start applying as a junior programmer. If I was still an IT Manager I would hire you.”

“If you “wait until you feel ready” you will never be ready. Just since 6 months ago I’ve landed several interviews with little to no actual experience. Put yourself out there and learn as you go.”

Some noted that it may be harder without a degree and that some time may be needed to get an entry-level position even, but it’s worth starting trying:

“After reading your accomplishments with no formal education, I think it’s just a matter of time before you get picked up. You bugged enough people to land 1 internship, maybe the next one you can get a job offer out of it, or maybe even land a job as a junior dev. I do want to applaud you for having the discipline to do what you did alone. Not having a degree will make it harder to get past screeners, so it’s just a matter of how lucky you get for how long it’ll take”

“If you’ve already got internship experience that’s a huge plus…I’d try applying right now and see what you can land? If you’re able to get an entry-level position then you’re already on the ladder; you can pick stuff up on the job, and your demonstrated experience working will quickly be more important than any bootcamp or workshop (or lack of it) on your resume”

Some also shared their own experiences of what potential job interviews may look like for a software developer position:

“I mean it’s not like the boy scouts and their merit batches. Likely you are 5 applications, 10 interviews and 3 callbacks away from a job, if you apply for suitable entry-level positions. Build some projects, have some code to show, be honest about what you can and cannot do. Learn the rest while on the job. To add to this: HR interviews will be blahblah do you have the skills for our company. it’s 50-50 if you get through those regardless of your skill set. They’re just protecting their own job. Developer interviews: we want to see your code / find out how much assistance you need and whether you are going to break the build or write horrible code. If you can show you’re willing to learn/follow instructions and your coding style is ok (or close enough that with advice it will be ok) then the developer interview is a shoe-in.”

Someone also pitched in an idea of going freelance for a while till they get the needed experience to get a full-time position:

“If you’re not getting a job because of lack of professional experience, do freelance work and build that professional experience. In my experience, I’ll always hire the person who has actual experience and knowledge of the work we do over someone who has a degree and less experience. It’s always about hiring the best person for the job and if you can demonstrate it, you’ll be fine.”

In general, Reddit community agreed that nowadays, getting a degree in programming is not as important. Most of their experiences show that networking and constantly working on the improvement of coding skills is what it takes to find great job opportunities. And of course, you won’t get a job by just sitting there and waiting for it to drop on your head. That’s why sending out your CV and as many applications as you can was underlined as a great way to finally start your career. 

Things You Should Know About Software Development & Engineering Before Starting to Work

Things You Should Know About Software Development & Engineering Before Starting to Work

As reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of software engineering is expected to grow by 22% in employment rate from 2020 to 2030. This is also one of the higher-paying jobs with median pay back in May 2021 being around $120,730 per year. 

The job opportunities also look bright for those who are thinking about entering this market with around 162,900 openings for software developers, quality assurance analysts, and testers being projected to average each year over the next decade. 

Metropolitan areas with the highest concentration of jobs and location quotients in Software Developers as of May 2022

Metropolitan areaEmployment Employment per thousand jobsLocation quotient Hourly mean wageAnnual mean wage 
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA83,86074.677.20$ 112.76$ 234,540
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA80,77039.643.82$ 74.85$ 155,680
Boulder, CO6,59034.343.31$ 81.61$ 169,750
Huntsville, AL6,96029.112.80$ 57.76$ 120,140
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA67,01028.012.70$ 87.32$ 181,620

General Requirements for Landing a Job in Sofware Development

Getting a bachelor’s degree is mostly mentioned as a first step towards becoming a software engineering professional. A Master’s degree is, on the other hand, not so widely required. Still, it can become a great addition to your education and look great on your resume. 

Aside from that you can also opt for a certificate in the field. It will not always substitute a formal education but it will in any case be valuable for your professional development.

LicenseWhere to Get
AWS certified developerAmazon Web Services
Certified software engineerInstitute of Certification of Computing Professionals
Certified software development professionalIEEE Computer Society
Most popular Licenses to get as Software Engineer (by Forbes)

Bootcamps, however, were also mentioned to be a recognised way to learn software engineering skills. This path is somewhere between a degree program and a regular coding camp. They may not be as comprehensive in terms of material as bachelor’s but they still will teach you needed competence to get into the field. 

How to Build a Strong Portfolio and CV as a Self-Taught Developer: First Steps Towards Your Dream Job

As many Redditors mentioned, the first thing you need to start a career as a software developer is a CV an a portfolio. These two things need to be compiled in a way that will reflect your education, current skills, and completed works/projects. As the technology industry grows more competitive, your ability to present yourself effectively becomes crucial. For this reason, these two things will become detrimental to your possibility to have a career.  

We compiled this guide to help you navigate through the creation process:

  1. Creating a GitHub Portfolio:
  • Choose Your Best Projects – Select projects that represent your skills and learning path.
  • Write Comprehensive README Files – Include clear descriptions, technologies used, and challenges overcome.
  • Maintain a Commit History – Regular commits showcase your dedication and continuous learning.
  • Contribute to Open-Source Projects – This demonstrates teamwork and real-world coding experience.
  1. Craft a Successful CV:
  • Emphasize Your Skills – Focus on problem-solving capabilities and technical proficiencies.
  • Include Links to GitHub Projects – Connecting your CV to your portfolio provides evidence of your work.
  • Customize for Each Role – Tailor your CV with relevant experiences and industry-specific keywords.
  • Write a Personal Statement – Share your self-taught journey to make your CV unique.
  • Mention Continuous Learning – Include online courses and certifications to validate your skills and passion.


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