Do I Need a Degree to Be a Software Engineer?

By Jessica Mitsch Homes ● 09/22/2023

Do I Need a Degree to Be a Software Engineer?

By Jessica Mitsch Homes ● 09/22/2023
Do I need a degree to be a software engineer?

Entering a technical field can be intimidating without solid experience, and many people are under the impression that a college degree is required for a software engineering position. However, with the help of training, certifications, and self-paced learning, it is possible to enter software engineering without a computer science or similar degree.  

As you ask yourself, “Do I need a degree to be a software engineer?”, we’ve put together some considerations and strategies you can refer to as the means to prepare for a career in software engineering without taking the traditional college route. 

Do I Need a Degree to Be a Software Engineer?

Necessary Skills Needed

There are some hard skills you will need to acquire before jumping into a career in software engineering. Software engineers often create original code to develop web applications, operating systems, and other networks. Programming languages like Python or JavaScript are critical for software engineer positions, and you may need to evaluate which language is appropriate for the positions you are considering. It is also recommended to understand computer setups, operating systems, and debugging processes. 

Soft skills are also incredibly important for software engineering, as almost every position requires team collaboration and the ability to solve technical problems. You should hone your problem-solving skills to be able to tackle complex, technical information. You should also have strong oral and written communication skills to collaborate with your team as well as complete technical reports and pieces.  

While there are a lot of skills to achieve before entering a software engineering position, there are multiple ways to go about developing these skills that do not involve pursuing a degree. 

Learning Through Self-Instruction

Some software engineers have almost completely self-taught themselves the necessary skills for their position. This strategy is most useful if you are very disciplined and can create and follow through with a strict study schedule. Through independent learning and practice, you can excel at one or two programming languages, and then take time to familiarize yourself with data structures. This knowledge does not require a college degree, and the information is accessible online. 

The key to landing a software engineering position is passing the coding interview. This requires practicing software-specific questions, applying problem-solving, and achieving the necessary technical ability level. Practicing for interviews independently is quite doable but does require making practice a consistent habit. This approach is best suited for those who will be able to stay disciplined and maintain a consistent schedule and need the time flexibility of a self-led schedule. 

Learning Through Bootcamps/Other Programs

If you’re interested in learning software skills in a structured manner, bootcamps and other training programs are great options for beginners looking to encourage discipline in their learning. There are a plethora of coding courses and data set-up workshops that can help you learn from professionals and complete your own practice without having ever earned a college degree. Bootcamps are also a great way to speed run the process of honing your skills, as they are often accelerated and much faster than obtaining a college degree. 

This approach is best suited for those who need a stricter curriculum with an instructor to keep up with material, as well as those who have time and schedule availability for a more structured program. 

Obtaining Certifications

Completing training and certifications is another excellent way to improve your résumé’s credibility and allow you to specialize in a software engineering field. Many careers have a requirement or preference for certain certifications, as they can demonstrate specific skills and show your commitment to continuous learning. Some popular and useful software engineering certifications include Azure Fundamentals, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and Certified Software Development Professional (CSDP). There is no prerequisite for earning a certificate, so these can be completed without any college attendance. 

While this is recommended for all software engineers to demonstrate a specific skillset, working on training and certificates is best suited for those looking to enhance their resume or go into a specific field in software engineering. 

Next Steps

Once you have determined your preferred method for building the necessary hard skills, you are able to start learning and developing your professional life in software engineering. It can be useful to find mentorship, as you can learn directly from someone with experience and suggestions for how to improve and what to learn. As you become more familiar with the code and the materials, you can also start to build a small portfolio of successful projects to show potential employers. Once you are comfortable, it is time to apply for entry-level jobs. 

It is entirely possible to become a software engineer without a college degree, as training is accessible and very possible once you determine how you would best learn. If you’re looking to learn more about entering the software engineering field, apply for one of our courses today. 

Contributions from Sam Weitzel

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