Why Companies Are Hiring Employees Without a Tech Degree

When you’re getting ready to hire a new employee, how much stock are you putting in the “education” section of that résumé?

Many employers feel that a higher level of formal education provides an easily applicable screening criterion that helps weed out unqualified job applicants. In fact, CareerBuilder found that requirements for formal education have gone up in 38 percent of companies over the last five years, and 41 percent now require new hires to have a college education for positions that previously required only a high school degree.

Having a degree feels familiar to the people in HR, but they are less likely to be familiar with nontraditional means of education and skill development. That deficit of knowledge often leads to confusion about how to assign value to those nontraditional experiences, which may lead to excluding applicants with the right skills but a lack of traditional credentials.

But it seems that a successful career in the tech world isn’t necessarily dependent on a college degree.

With more educational options out there, nontraditional providers of tech education are delivering accelerated, high-quality, and low-cost training.

Some bootcamps or nonprofits can even provide students with job-focused skills in four to six months rather than four years, making them more beneficial than traditional college courses in some cases. Employers are slowly getting on board: The Bureau of Labor found that 25 percent of employees in up to seven computer-focused job areas did not complete four-year college.

That number may increase soon, as boot camps are seeing enrollments of more than 16,000 participants. And employers hiring graduates of these camps have plenty of benefits to look forward to.

Here are a few skills employers should expect from future hires (instead of letting a degree make or break an application):

A Never Give Up Attitude

The ability to stick with a difficult problem for a long time without giving up is a massively important skill in tech. American Express Global Business Travel, for one, has pioneered a test for grit during its hiring process. Its interviewers now look for examples of past challenges, professional or personal, and ways candidates have pushed past obstacles.

Ability to Learn on the Fly

Look for lifelong learners who seize every opportunity to gain new skills or improve existing ones. Executives know that technology is changing the way their companies function and 70 percent aren’t confident their business can keep up. Hire people with the adaptability to revamp their skills every year or so.


This should be the easiest quality to spot. Hire people with a genuine desire to work in tech. If candidates have nontechnical experience but are passionate for what you’re doing, it may be worth taking a chance on them. IBM, for instance, estimates 10-15 percent of its recent hires have nontraditional secondary education, as the company is looking instead “for people who have a real passion for technology.” Other companies, such as Intel, have also been looking into employees with alternative backgrounds.

Relying on educational credentials in tech hiring closes off a huge pool of skilled, driven candidates who have built up talent through nontraditional channels. Don’t close off your company to talented candidates — look at who’s going to take your company where it needs to go, not who just checks off all the boxes.

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Written by:
Jeff Mazur is the executive director for LaunchCode, a nonprofit organization aiming to fill the gap in tech talent by matching companies with trained individuals. Jeff lives in St. Louis with his wife and twin girls.
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