4 Ways to Land a Tech Job Without a Degree

by iSphere on April 26, 2024 in Blog, Career Advice

Is college necessary for a tech job? People ask that question every time Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, or some new IT luminary joins the multimillionaire club. And these leaders aren’t outliers since the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ finds that about 30% of computer science professionals don’t have a college degree.

The question isn’t whether you can find IT jobs without a college degree, but what are the most effective ways to build the necessary technical skills, certifications, and portfolio projects that will entice organizations.

If you’re ready to explore routes other than a four-year degree, then read further for a breakdown of the four major steps you need to take to get into IT without a degree.

1. Develop Your Skills

Your starting place? Acquire some technical skills and knowledge. Though you could follow Gladwell’s 10,000-hour rule and immerse yourself in coding or data analysis, your path of learning might not be direct or mirror the skills and experiences companies want.

Luckily, there are many online courses and resources available to help you learn programming languages, web development, data analysis, coding, and other tech skills.

Specialized bootcamps can help you upskill for IT in fast timelines. Given their low-price tag compared to traditional college degrees, a bootcamp can be a great path into a high-paying, in-demand IT role.

Not sure which bootcamp or online course is right for you? Here are a few things to consider when looking to build up your tech skills:

What type of IT job are you looking for?

Maybe you already know what area of IT interests you the most, but if not, spend a little time doing some research. The technology industry has an abundance of opportunities for different passions and strengths.

  • Are you creative and mathematically minded? Pursue coding coursework.
  • Are you curious and analytically minded? Go for a data science bootcamp.
  • Are you a tenacious puzzle solver? Think about cybersecurity.

Figure out what roles interest you most then determine what skills you’ll need to succeed.

What program or course will meet your needs?

By this point, there’s a surplus of tech bootcamps and training programs. Your challenge is finding one that prepares you with technical aptitudes and a sense of how to apply them on the job.

So, how do you spot top-tier trainings from run-of-the-mill courses? Find the answers to these questions:

  • Do their graduates find worthwhile jobs? Most bootcamps programs will flaunt their accomplishments. If they don’t call attention to their partners, their candidates will. Look at testimonials to see if graduates are inundated with offers or struggling to get interviews.
  • Do they have pipelines to exciting organizations? If a program produces real talent, businesses are going to take notice. Sometimes, that will manifest in the form of exclusive partnerships or sponsors in those programs. Look at the Northwestern Coding Boot Camp or c.stars for examples of boot camps which draw attention.
  • Do they offer free courses? There’s not much sunken cost if the courses are free. Some popular online course like Codecademy, Free Code Camp, and Udacity offer complimentary classes as well as advanced options. There are also courses offered online through accredited programs.

Can you leverage and build on transferable skills?

Not every skill you’re going to need is digital. Soft skills like problem-solving, teamwork, and communication are just as valuable within the tech industry – and not everyone has or is willing to cultivate them.

Where is there overlap in your prior work experience and IT?

  • Have you been applauded as a team player? Find ways to collaborate code GitHub or contribute to open-source analytics projects.
  • Are you a good communicator? Push yourself to use your tech jargon and concepts in conversation, testing your usage with classmates and professionals.

Don’t often overlook or downplay the transferable skills and experience they bring. Instead, highlight these skills and leverage them to set yourself apart from other applicants.

2. Create a Portfolio

Does your work speak for itself? Do potential employers get an immediate sense of your skillsets? That’s the purpose of a portfolio, which showcases your IT knowledge and tangible skills.

How your portfolio looks depends on your projects. Some are hyper visual. There’s a digital resume from a number of years back that is part CV, part sizzle reel. It’s a reminder that your portfolio should only be limited by what you imagine it to be.

  • Are you hoping to be a web designer? Build your own website using HTML, CSS, or JavaScript.
  • Interested in data analysis? Develop your own model using Python or R.

You can also consider contributing to open-source projects like GitHub, participating in coding challenges and hackathons, and engaging with the local tech community to find real world projects or volunteer work that puts your tech skills to good use. Whatever you do, make sure your work makes an impression that doesn’t fade into the background.

3. Build Your Network

Who you know can be as powerful as what you know. If you’re new to the IT world, you’ll need to build new bonds to extend your reach, expand your knowledge, and increase your odds of finding the right job.

Start while going where tech experts go. If you’re in Texas, there are no shortages of opportunities (if the event happens before you read this, check it out next year):

  • TECHSPO Houston: Developers, digital leaders, business innovators, corporate leaders, and other high profile and forward-thinking professionals attend this conference. It’s a great way to embrace new trends and connect with trendsetters.
  • GDS Data and Analytics Insight Summit: For those just starting their data analysis journey, this is a great place to connect with experts. Here you’ll learn about the latest trends in AI, data governance, and how to incorporate a human-centric approach into both. It’s a great way to boost your knowledge of tech topics and business cases.
  • Devopsdays Austin: The technologies you know aren’t enough. Methodologies like DevOps can enhance your ability to accelerate project timelines, project efficiency, and your collaborative skills. Events like this can attune you to what’s new in this highly marketable practice.

If you’re looking to get involved with diverse groups, there are shortages. In Texas, you can attend events like BUiLT’s Annual North Texas Black Tech Symposium, Women in Tech Texas, or any local event from Austin’s Asian Professionals In Tech.

Whether it’s a massive event that almost has its own gravitational pull or a close-knit gathering of passionate professionals, there’s value from attending and building connections.

4. Start Where You Are

Here’s a reminder to give yourself some grace. Breaking into the tech industry without a degree or technical background can be challenging and might require some extra effort and determination. While IT skills, a diverse portfolio of tech projects, and networking are key, sometimes you have to start where you are.

What should your inaugural role look like? Internships or apprenticeships can help you gain practical workplace experience. Hands-on experience with nonprofits can help you support a cause or give back to your community.

If you want your early tech jobs to build your reputation in strategic ways, it can help to connect with recruiters. Even if they don’t have roles for you right now, they might be able to give you some advice to guide you.

We’ve placed entry-level tech professionals within the likes of Lamar Consolidated Independent School District to connect them with aspiring young tech professionals. If you can prove yourself in early roles like these, you can open the door to even more paying opportunities faster, degree be damned.

Looking for more career advice? Check out our blog!


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