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Five Ways to Land a Programming Job Without a Degree

Bill Gates didn’t need one – and neither do you. More so than any other profession, the software industry hones in on what you can do rather than what degree you have. Generally, graduates do have an advantage – but it’s no substitute for enthusiasm and a great portfolio of work.

According to a Glassdoor report, 10 of the 25 ‘Best Jobs in America for 2016’ were in tech, as more companies realize the potential of the online and mobile market. The opportunities are out there – here’s how to grab them with both hands.

1: Learn How to Code

The tech industry’s a friendly place, with plenty of free online resources and groups at the click of a button.

If you just want to learn the basics, Free Code Camp and Code Academy are both great starter platforms that allow you to connect with other coders and help complete non-profit projects in the process.

If you want to make a career out of programming then intensive bootcamps and professional training programs are seriously worth considering. Some coding schools, like Thinkful, even guarantee a job to anyone who completes their web development programs – or you get your money back. These courses tend to be expensive but should be seen as an investment.

A cheaper alternative is Udemy. Udemy features over 40,000 courses on everything from Java and HTML5 to iOS 10 development. It’s a fantastic resource for coders with varying budgets, as they offer both free and paid options.

2: Prove How Good You Are

Github – another tool that’s free at the point of registration – allows you to review code collaboratively and contribute to the hugely popular open source community. It’s a great little tool that can help you build a portfolio and, better still, work with a company you one day want to land a job with.

If you want to impress a specific company, get in touch with them and offer to work for free – for a set period of time. The worst case scenario is that you have a great case study for your portfolio.

3: Write a Good Application

Unfortunately, lots of companies will expect you to hold a degree in Computer Science or a related subject. A degree is perceived to be a strong indicator that you’re dedicated, passionate and care about what you do. In short, it’s a simple way to whittle down the applicants when a popular vacancy comes along.

But even if a job lists a degree as a requirement, don’t let that put you off applying. A great case study and a detailed, personalized cover letter is just as likely to bag you an interview as your education history. A specialist recruitment agency can also help sell your application to a company.

4: Network

Here’s something you’re not going to like: no matter what industry you’re in, people hire who they know. Now we’ve cleared that up, it’s time to network.

‘Getting to know someone’ can be as simple as introducing yourself on LinkedIn, or using Meetup to find your local coding event and schmoozing an influencer. Either way, make sure that when your CV lands on their desk you’re not a complete stranger to them.

5: Create Your Own Job

Being your own boss comes with a whole host of challenges – not least finding clients (see ‘Network’) and delivering the work at a profitable rate. Although it’s difficult to say no – especially in the first year when money’s tight – resist the urge to take on any old job for the cash. Bad clients will cost you more in the long-run. If you’re looking for an online resource to find leads, People Per Hour is a great way to sell your services and pitch for freelance developer jobs – as is Upwork.

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Written by:
Chris is father, husband and all-round computer geek who had privilege to watch technology rising from its bare beginnings and powering life as we know it today. Worked as software architect and developer for some of the biggest brands. Human rights activist and digital freedoms advocate. Also, the green tea connoisseur.
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