Can I Become A Web Developer Without A Degree?
So you want to become a web developer but you don’t want to spend the insane amount of money and years in school to do it? Is it even possible to become a web developer without a degree? The short answer is yes! You can definitely become a web developer without a degree. The long answer is that it is still a lot of work and continuous learning involved.
How do I know? Because I work as a web developer that never went to school for computer science or software engineering. So if you want to become aweb developer without a degree, read on!
Let me start by telling you that many recent computer science grads that I have met are still confused about how to actually build software. After 4 years at a university. Don’t believe me? You can see my point here, here, and here.
Getting a computer science degree doesn’t make you a great developer, and while many really bright minds do go to university and come out with a lot of concrete fundamentals to help them land a great job, it certainly isn’t a necessity.
Advantage of Being A Self-Taught Developer
This also means that if you do actually know how to code, and can prove it, you are going to have a significant advantage over other competing interviewers. Being self-taught shows you are a passionate and hardworking self-starter that is capable of learning on the job.
In fact, even top tech companies like Facebook and Google hire employees without degrees. So why go to school?
Well, because it is easier to follow a structured path, get help from professors and colleagues, and have a piece of paper to show employers you know your stuff than become a web developer without a degree.
Although these are great benefits, it’s hard to look past the 4 year time and financial commitment when you can get to where you want to be faster and cheaper. In fact, most of what you learn on a computer science degree is meant to be theoretical jargon that will help prepare you for a master’s and Ph.D.
If that’s not what you are looking for, it really is a waste to get a degree. Not to mention, you can easily find this material online from top schools for free.
So with all my convincing out of the way, let’s walk through a step-by-step guide on how to land a job as a web developer without a degree!
1. Gain The Necessary Skills
Hopefully, this is obvious, but if you want to work as a web developer, you will need to have the skills to work as a web developer. This is definitely the hardest step on this list but I can guarantee you that if you are persistent and work hard you can learn a lot from self-study.
In my opinion, the hardest part of self-study is not necessarily understanding the content but instead knowing you’re studying the right stuff. It’s very easy to get pushed in many random directions when you are trying to learn how to code.
Luckily for you, I went through this painful process so you don’t have to. I have curated a long list of all the skills you need to know to become a web developer. Including resources from highly credible sources like Stanford, University of Washington, and Harvard. The best part? All of these resources are completely free.
If you find the material in my above resource challenging you can always start with a few Udemy videos. There are a ton of great options and it can be a great way to get your feet wet with web development! Just try not to fall into tutorial hell.
2. Get A Free Certificate Degree
There are plenty of resources online which offer certificates for free including HackerRank, Udemy, and CodeAcademy. However, I personally wouldn’t put any of these certificates on your resume. They are too basic and don’t hold enough weight to be shown on a professional resume. Although HackerRank can be a great way to learn how to code.
Full Stack Open
The only free course I know of that I would recommend adding to a resume is Full Stack Open. At least until you get that first role and have your foot in the door for the industry.
It is a free certificate course that is provided by the University of Helsinki. In fact, this is the university that Linus Torvald went to! The programming god that’s known for writing the open-source (free) Linux kernel and creating git for the world to use and benefit from. How fitting that Helsinki would make this certificate free as well.
In addition to free certificates, coding boot camps are also a great way to gain experience with new technologies fast and add to the education section of your resume. However, I really do not think they are necessary to land your first job.
The main point here is to get some sort of educational section on your resume so that you can get that introductory interview. From here, it’s much more important how you sell yourself in an interview than how you acquired the skills you have.
3. Build Portfolio Projects
Building personal projects is honestly the best way for any developer to learn. It allows you to understand how to problem solve on your own and bring your own ideas to life. It’s honestly one of the greatest feelings in the world. Biased opinion, I know.
This is a major hurdle for everyone, so don’t get discouraged. Once you build your first project it will be easier to do again and again. You will also look back and realize that you learned more than you thought was possible from the start of the project to the end.
If you feel like you don’t know how to start your own coding projects, check out my guide on how to plan a coding project. It can be a good starting point and I have received good feedback on it from beginners.
I also want to emphasize that building one or two really great projects will be worth a thousand half-finished projects. Recruiters don’t have time to sift through projects you didn’t even have the patience to finish yourself so don’t expect them to.
Also, keep in mind that coding projects will take you a lot longer than you anticipate so be mindful of that. Try to build something that you can finish rather quickly and make them extensible so you can continue adding to them.
For example, you can check out my algorithm visualizer here. As of the time of writing this, I have only completed three algorithms but the app is enough that an employer can get the idea of what I can do.
Here is a quick gif of the visualizer:
In addition, my first project was a chat app I originally intended to be a video chat app but I got bored of the project. Typical me.
Regardless, since it’s finished, it’s something I can display as an example of my work quality.
So, the moral of the story is to not get too excited about the project and then never end up finishing it 🙂
4. Write A Resume
Now that you have the necessary knowledge for the job, a certificate, and portfolio projects to showcase your skills, it’s time to start putting it all together into a resume!
How you present your resume is equally as important as what’s on it. Make sure your resume is polished, well-designed, and free of any grammatical errors. That being said, writing a good resume can be challenging. Try finding some examples of web development resumes online and recreate the elements you like in your own resume.
5. Freelance Small Jobs
Another huge advantage to landing your first job is having real-world experience. This is personally how I started out. By doing random design, frontend, and backend work. I mention how this works in my make passive income programming article.
It’s pretty easy to get freelance work if you are able to work for cheap. You can use online platforms like Fiverr and Upwork, reach out to local businesses or help a friend or family member build a website.
No matter what route you go down, doing some freelance work can give you an easy in to start working as soon as possible. If I’m being honest, I probably started freelancing a little too soon and found it really challenging and stressful. But you know what? I’m glad I did because I proved to myself that I can take on any challenge and grow from it. I honestly think everyone has that ability. Including you!
Freelancing not your thing? If you followed all the steps above, I can all but guarantee that you will be able to find a job as a free intern somewhere. You know, as a worst-case scenario.
6. Build An Online Appearance
Once you do start applying for jobs, there is a good chance your potential employer is going to look you up online. This is where having an online presence can be really beneficial.
So how do you build an online presence you ask? Well, I would start by making a LinkedIn account. LinkedIn is a great resource to help you land a job. I actually get multiple messages a week from recruiters to join some company. That’s how lucrative being a web developer is right now. I don’t even need to apply to get job offers!
Here is a recent email I received so you know I am not completely full of it.
LinkedIn can also send you emails on current job openings so you always have places to apply to. It’s honestly a great tool. So use it!
Blogging And Youtube
In addition to LinkedIn, you can always start a youtube channel or a blog. I mean, that’s the only reason you know who I am right?
Personally, I find building something like a blog or youtube channel also gives you a reason to research topics you otherwise wouldn’t. I mean, why else would I do deep research into what is duck typing, the best programming languages to learn data structures and algorithms, or testing and writing a review for HackerRank.
7. Build Your Connections
Next, let’s talk about building connections. Although I truly believe I wasted 4 years of my life getting my bachelor of commerce, it did leave me with one valuable lesson. It is not about what you know, it’s about who you know. If you want to become a web developer without a degree you need to know people.
While it is true that you need to be able to back up the talk with skills as a developer, it’s more true that many great developers make less money than subpar developers because they understand the power of building connections
In 2016, 30% of all hires came from employee referrals. This is the top source of all hire opportunities.
That is why networking is so important. If you already know a person or business that works at or owns a company, that just may be the easiest way into the industry. If you’re like most people and are not that lucky, then start attending networking events, hackathons, code meet-ups, or just about anywhere you might be able to make a connection.
8. Apply For Jobs!
If you have done all of the steps above and still don’t have a job, don’t worry! At the end of the day, finding a job is all a numbers game. While being diligent with the steps above will help your chances, you will eventually find a job no matter what your background is. The more companies you apply to, the better your interviewing skills will get and the better your chances will be.
So get out there and start applying!
That’s pretty much it! 8 steps to become a web developer without a degree. You honestly do not need a Bootcamp or a computer science degree to become a great developer and get a job. It will be a ton of work, and you will need to prove yourself more in the beginning, but you can become a web developer without a degree if you are passionate enough.
Have any questions? Leave them below and I will do my best to answer them. Good luck and happy coding!