A career without higher education, or does a programmer need a degree?

A career without higher education, or does a programmer need a degree?

November 9, 2015

IT (information technology) is considered a highly attractive option from the point of view of employability. It's an area where almost anyone can find their own niche, whether as a typist or a software developer. What skill sets and knowledge, and what kinds of certificate should a prospective applicant have in order to become an IT specialist?

The first option: getting a degree

Surveys have shown that more that 54% of employers are willing to hire an employee who doesn't have a degree. Why is that? The main factor is self-study. The quality of education received in universities doesn't always meet the ever-changing needs of the IT market.

Many programmers, marketing experts, designers and other graduates will probably agree with the opinion of the author: they all went to university in order to study. Students in any given faculty are taught wide-ranging subjects such as psychology, philosophy, ecology and physics, preventing them from concentrating on their speciality and making the task of acquiring relevant professional knowledge all the more difficult.

The role of university education is to provide some basic reference points that should serve as a foundation for further self-study. A graduate with a degree, as a rule, has no work experience whatsoever, with their certificate simply marking the start point on a lifelong career path. Having a degree doesn't provide a fast track to a highly-paid job, but rather presupposes further self-study and practical experience.

Suppose a school-leaver has decided not to study for a degree. Anyone considering this path should be prepared for the following: first of all, they won't even be invited to a job interview at any government institutions, and secondly, in some companies employees without a degree will be denied most avenues to career progression. They could even be working for lower pay than their better qualified counterparts.

Where can you find knowledge resources and search for a job without a degree?

The abovementioned facts should make you consider the associated risks and outlook. If you decide to build a career for yourself without going to university, then education becomes a question of your own private study. No one is going to force you to attend lessons, call your home from the dean's office or warn you about possible expulsions. In this instance, good self-organization becomes an absolute priority.

The main advantage of free learning is the possibility of choosing courses of study that are best suited to your interests. There are both commercial and free sources available, including online lectures, video courses, study packs and study centres. The advantage of this method of accessing knowledge lies in the fact that it allows you to obtain much-needed practical skills.

When job hunting without a degree, the main things you will need are a portfolio and experience. Your key task at job interviews will be to show off your skills and your capabilities. Offer to complete a test task, show your portfolio and talk about your work experience. If you can do all of this successfully, you will be more interesting to a potential employer than an applicant with a degree but without this kind of practical experience.

Furthermore, the company may offer you a course of in-house or outsourced specialist training, which may then be recognized with a diploma from the organization's HR department.

Working remotely

The option to work remotely is a recent phenomenon which came about with the appearance of the first online job centres. For a specialist without a degree it is the simplest way of finding work. A good portfolio and employers' references are sufficient for this kind of work.

With this model, a service provider is usually paid by volume of work or projects completed, and so the income will depend on the number of orders and will vary from month to month. One should beware of dishonest clients who will accept the finished product without paying for it.

Making a final decision

Having looked at some of the ways of finding work without a degree, it's clear that there are certain clear advantages, including the possibility of concentrating on specific areas of IT for personal development as well as the chance to create a convenient working schedule without being tied to an office.

Nowadays progressing along a career ladder is possible even without a degree. The times when an applicant with no higher education wouldn't be invited to an interview are close to being a thing of the past. An employee's main asset is their practical experience in completing tasks, which is something that can be acquired only in through working independently, free from the pressured environment of educational systems.

Specialized courses, self-education and online lectures are all fantastic ways to acquire the relevant knowledge for one's profession in a booming IT sector.