How To Become a Software Engineer Without a Degree in 2022

The demand for software engineers has skyrocketed across all industries in the last few years. Businesses and organizations increasingly rely on software and mobile applications to drive economic growth. This evolving tech landscape offers incredible potential for growth and career advancement for aspiring software engineers.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that job opportunities for software developers, including software engineers, will grow by 22% in 2020-2030. This is dramatically higher than the average job growth of 7.7% in the U.S. As technology gets more and more integrated with our lives, this growth rate is only expected to increase.

A software engineer works on a project.

Since the role is primarily skill-based, software engineers can find employment with or without a degree. Professionals who do not have the time or resources to get a college degree in computer science still have all the resources to become successful software engineers. Here's how to develop the right plan of action to become a software engineer without a degree.

Table of Contents:

  • What Does a Software Engineer Do?

  • Do You Need a Degree To Become a Software Engineer?

  • How Much Does a Software Engineer Make Without a Degree?

  • How To Become a Software Engineer Without a Degree

  • What Type of Skills Should a Software Engineer Have?

  • How To Prepare for a Software Engineer Job Interview

  • The Bottom Line

What Does a Software Engineer Do?

A software engineer is responsible for designing, developing, and maintaining software applications and networking systems. It is a highly technical profession that requires coding and technical design expertise. The final goal of a software engineer is to build innovative, high-quality, and fully performing software optimized for a specific purpose. Typical job responsibilities include:

  • Designing and writing testable code

  • Analyzing user requirements

  • Creating technical specifications and determining operational feasibility

  • Troubleshooting and upgrading existing systems

  • Researching and developing new computer software and OS applications

  • Monitoring and correcting for software defects

  • Integrating existing software products with newer frameworks

  • Consulting with clients to evaluate software performance

  • Working closely with colleagues such as project managers, UX designers, systems analysts, and sales and marketing professionals

  • Complying with project plans and industry standards

Do You Need a Degree To Become a Software Engineer?

The short answer is no. You do not need a degree to build a career as a software engineer. Although a software engineering job is very technical, you can acquire the necessary skills through bootcamps or online courses.

Tech companies look for a good balance of technical and soft skills in the applicants for software engineer positions. It hardly matters whether these skills come from a four-year college degree or a six-month bootcamp. In fact, self-taught candidates might even have an advantage over the average recent college graduate. Fresh graduates often lack the skills and experience to write production-ready code. 

On the other hand, high-quality bootcamps and online courses are designed to make graduates workforce-ready. Learners who enroll in a comprehensive web development or coding bootcamp can gain real-world experience developing and testing complete solutions.

How Much Does a Software Engineer Make Without a Degree?

According to Indeed, the average base salary for a software engineer in the U.S. is $119,960. Most engineers also receive significant cash bonuses and long-term incentives from their employers. This data remains consistent across professionals with or without an engineering or CS degree.

Most businesses and organizations, especially the larger ones, focus on candidates' skills and qualifications, not their academic degrees. Online courses and bootcamps are just as intensive and much more economical in the long run. They allow you to build the expertise to become a software engineer at a fraction of the cost of a traditional bachelor's or master's degree.

How To Become a Software Engineer Without a Degree

As a beginner in the tech field, it can take a while to build the right skills for a software engineer job. But if you're willing to commit the time and effort, you will soon have a fulfilling, rewarding career.

Master the Prerequisites

The first step toward building your technical skillset is understanding the fundamentals in-depth. You will need comprehensive knowledge of programming languages, web development tools and platforms, and server-and-client-side technology. Containers, cloud platforms, and version control tools (like GitHub) are some of the most relevant topics in the modern software industry. 

Strengthen Your Coding Skills

Once you have a firm grasp of software development's theoretical and technical aspects, you can move on to improving your coding skills. This is the most valuable skill for a software engineer. Software engineers spend most of their time designing, troubleshooting, and updating code. So it only makes sense to dedicate a good amount of time to refining this key skill. Python, JavaScript, Ruby, and SQL are the most in-demand programming languages in the field today.

Practice With Independent Projects

The next step is to gain real-world experience with stand-alone coding projects. This will be the most important part of your resume if you don't have previous work experience as a software developer. It's an opportunity to demonstrate the practical applications of all your expertise. You should choose projects that show various skills such as full-stack development, using standard frameworks/libraries, setting up a development environment, and/or creating mobile apps.

Join a Software Community or Find a Mentor

Word-of-mouth and referrals can significantly help your career in the initial stages. Joining online communities like Github and finding an industry mentor can provide valuable professional guidance. If you decide to enroll in an online course or bootcamp, make sure you take advantage of the extensive network of mentors and career counselors available.

A software engineer works on code.

Additional Tips for Starting a Career in Software Engineering Without a Degree

As you gear up for a new career as a software engineer, it might take a while to find the right job. The first job you get in the industry might not be the one you initially wanted. But keep in mind that every role brings tremendous learning opportunities with it. 

For example, suppose you get a job doing web design. You can gain experience in front-end development, which will ultimately be useful in a software engineering role. Remember that every technical and interpersonal skill you build increases your chances of getting your dream job.

What Type of Skills Should a Software Engineer Have?

While specialized skills can vary by industry, you will need some essential competencies for any software engineer role. The most sought-after skills are:

  • Computer programming and coding

  • Software development

  • Object-oriented design

  • Software testing and debugging

  • Problem-solving and logical thinking

  • Written and verbal communication

  • Attention to detail

  • Strategic planning and teamwork

How To Prepare for a Job Interview as Software Engineer

Preparing for a job interview well in advance gives you the best chance of securing the position. You should start by perfecting your portfolio, cover letter, and references. You will most likely have to go through multiple rounds of interviews, including technical discussions, coding and algorithm tests, and a series of questions designed to reveal a candidate's values. 

Remember: Always tailor your application for a specific role. You may also reach out to former candidates and industry mentors who can guide you through the competitive interview process.

The Bottom Line

While you don't need a college degree to learn how to become a software engineer, you still need to invest significant time and energy to acquire the necessary skills. Online courses and bootcamps offer an excellent opportunity to gain expertise without the hassle of full-time commitment or student debt.

The University of Maryland Global Campus offers a Software Engineering Bootcamp, 100% online, designed to get you career-ready. You get comprehensive, mentor-led online programs, all while earning a certificate of completion from UMGC.