3 Tech Jobs Without a Degree
By The Fullstack Academy Team
Those who’ve joined the workforce in the past 20 years may feel caught in an economic Catch-22. Many high-paying jobs demand a college degree—but the growing cost of an education has left prospective students wondering how to obtain a rewarding career without the financial burden.
However, there’s some bright news for today’s job seekers and job changers. A look at the variety of occupations reveals that many tech jobs don’t require a degree but still offer both high salaries and plenty of opportunities for career advancement.
Examples of Tech Jobs Without Degree Requirements
The BLS lists 12 different classes of technology jobs in which at least 15% of workers have no college degree. These are some popular and lucrative tech jobs that don’t need degrees:
Think of an app or a program as being like a car. While software developers design the body, computer programmers create what’s under the hood. Programmers write the code that powers the application’s functions. They also test code, fix errors, and update code in existing programs.
The BLS reports that the median annual salary for computer programmers was $89,190 in 2020, with those who worked as software publishers earning a median of $103,710. Programmers without a college degree represent 18% of this profession.
In the information age, data is the lifeblood of businesses. Organizations collect vast amounts of information on everything from online activities and shopping to health. But to make sense of it and put it to practical use, they need data analysts.
These workers use statistical software to analyze large datasets. They may design algorithms and predictive models to make forecasts based on those datasets.
BLS figures show that operations research analysts, which includes data analysts, earned a median annual salary of $86,200 in 2020, with the top 10% making $144,330. People without degrees occupy 19% of jobs in this category.
Cybercrimes such as data theft and ransomware cost businesses worldwide $6 trillion in 2021, according to the data firm Cybersecurity Ventures. To counter those threats, firms are beefing up their digital defenses by hiring more cybersecurity professionals. The BLS lists information security analyst as one of the 20 fastest-growing professions, projecting the field to add 33% more jobs between 2020 and 2030.
The 2020 median annual pay for the occupation was $103,590, according to the BLS. Cybersecurity workers without college degrees represent 21% of their workforce.
Two Ways to Get Into Tech Jobs Without Degrees
While many tech jobs don’t need college degrees, they do require other forms of education. Prospective employees need to learn complex software programs and programming languages, as well as the latest standards and techniques. Here are some alternative paths for learning those skills without the time and expense of a computer science degree:
But self-learning also has limitations. It can be challenging to hold yourself accountable to a study schedule, and classroom learning offers social benefits like peer review and encouragement.
Independent study also offers fewer opportunities for networking and professional development skills-building than traditional education. Taking a few free courses can, however, help prepare students for rigorous programs like tech bootcamps.
For those desiring rapid entry into a tech job without a degree, comprehensive, fast-tracked programs called bootcamps offer a middle-of-the-road option between self-study and college. They can prepare a student for their first job in as little as 10 weeks of full-time courses or 20 weeks of part-time.
Beyond teaching hands-on tech skills, bootcamps offer other benefits. Working in a community of other students and instructors can jump-start a personal network.
Bootcamps may seem expensive at the offset—except when compared with a college degree. Over the past four decades, college costs have risen at five times the rate of inflation, according to the BLS, with average tuition and fees at private colleges totaling $136,236 for a four-year degree. Tech bootcamps, by comparison, usually range from $10,000 to $20,000.
Finding the Right Bootcamp
Not all bootcamps are created equal. They teach varying levels of skills and have different degrees of success in helping their graduates land jobs. Here are some key points to check out in choosing a bootcamp that fits your goals:
Admissions process. Many program websites offer advice on how to prepare for the admissions process, which varies depending on the skill level required for admission (beginner vs intermediate).
How to pay. Some bootcamps offer scholarships to help students pay for tuition. Others build financial aid into their tuition models, with provisions such as deferring much of payment until a student is employed. Others connect students with lenders who specialize in bootcamps.
Student projects. Looking at projects created by prior students can paint a picture of the learning outcomes.
Job placements. What percentage of graduates get tech jobs within a year, and would you want to work for the same employers?
Explore Programs for Getting Tech Jobs Without a Degree
Technology is one of few fields in which someone new to the industry can earn high wages without a college degree. Intensive programs such as the coding, cybersecurity, data analytics, and product management at University of Illinois Chicago Tech Bootcamps can equip students with the skills for entry-level tech jobs in as few as three months. These bootcamps combine up-to-date instruction in rapidly evolving topics such as programming languages with practical projects to develop and demonstrate mastery.
Discover how University of Illinois Chicago Tech Bootcamps can be a launch pad for a long-term career in the world of technology.