Do You Need a Degree to be a Software Developer?

Many youngsters are trying to pursue careers in technology, primarily as developers. At the same time, they are facing tough competition from millennials who are shifting their career focus to technology-related fields. Therefore, software development can seem like a competitive career that you would need a degree in, but is this true?

Having a degree in computer science is highly beneficial to anyone who wants to enter the development job market. An associate’s degree is a great way to get your foot in the door, and a bachelor’s is your best option. However, you can become a software developer without a degree as long as you have a strong portfolio.

The question of this article is a complex one so it would be disingenuous of us to leave things as it stands. Instead, we want to dive deep into this question and answer it as precisely as we can. So, for everything you need to know about getting a job without a degree as a software developer, keep reading this article.

Do You Need a Degree To Be a Software Engineer?

We have already discussed whether or not you need a degree to be a software developer. However, being a software engineer entails a lot more than just being a coder. We have discussed the main differences between the two in a recent article.

Software engineers are responsible for a lot more than a general software developer. That means that they get paid more, but does it mean that you need a degree to be a software engineer and other relevant qualifications?

In my experience, you do need a degree to be a software engineer. Because the software engineer is responsible for the entirety of a project, in most cases, it would be best if, alongside a degree, you also take a project management course.

To fully understand why software engineers usually have computer science degrees, you need to think about what they do. A software engineer would manage a project at a system architecture level, which means they can work on a program and how it interacts with the operating systems that it runs on.

Do You Need a Degree to be a Web Developer?

In most of this article, I will preface almost every section with “in my experience” because it is the best I can offer. It will be no different in this section. While it can get highly technical, Web development is the most accessible type of programming that someone can break into.

You do not need a degree to get a job in web development, although it does help. Web development is also one of the most accessible types of development that people can teach themselves. You can start with CMS systems such as Joomla, WordPress, and even the most basic, WIX. While working with these systems, you can begin teaching yourself how to write HTML5 and CSS.

HTML5 and CSS work together to display web pages. Once you are comfortable with those two primary languages, you can start learning about JavaScript and Java. You can attend a boot camp to understand them at an accelerated pace. A boot camp also increases your chance of getting a job without a degree.

Video: Do you need a degree for Web Development?

What Is The Best Degree for Software Developers to Have?

Allow me to drift slightly off-topic for a second. Education is one of the most critical aspects of our early lives but, that doesn’t mean it is ever too late to go to college. However, regardless of your age, background, or circumstance, I highly encourage anyone to try their best to get some qualification behind their name.

With that said, there is a specific degree you can aim for if you want to be a software developer. According to labor statistics, most software developers have a bachelor’s in computer science.

A bachelor’s in computer science usually takes four years to complete. I know for some, that might be impossible to achieve because we need to survive, but there is good news. For those that can’t attend a four-year college straight away, your best bet would be to get an associate’s in computer science from a community college.

You can then start freelancing or apply for an internship which is the best option. During this internship, you can study part-time. If you are lucky enough to find yourself at a company that is willing to help you achieve your bachelor’s in computer science, that is phenomenal. 

Going from an associate’s degree to a bachelor’s should take approximately two years, but you should think about 3 or 4 years if you are studying part-time.

What Is The Best Degree for Software Engineers to Have?

As a software or web developer, your salary should constantly be rising. Once you become a senior developer, the rise of your paycheck should start to decline a little bit, and it should stay on par with inflation. However, once you reach a certain point, you could think about being a software engineer, which increases the ceiling cap of your potential earnings.

There are multiple ways you can achieve the goal of becoming a software engineer. However, you should have a degree to use as a foundation. If you would like to be a software engineer, the best degree would be a master’s in computer science. You can also go for a bachelor’s. However, you should do more courses after that.

If you only have a bachelor’s degree, you want to get a project management course behind your name. After that, it would be best if you attended a few specialized software boot camps. You mainly want to focus on boot camps that focus on high-level programming.

What Is the Best Degree for Web Developers to Have?

Web development will keep growing, and according to labor statistics, there is no slowdown in the foreseeable future. The web has been a staple part of our lives for the last decade for some of us. Still, for others, they are slowly being introduced, and with that, you get an increase in web pages and web viewers. You also get growth in e-commerce. So, there are always available jobs for web developers.

Most web developers have an associate’s degree. However, the best degree for a web developer would be a bachelor’s in computer science or even a degree in graphic designing. I know that seems strange, but I’ve met many web developers who started their careers by being designers. Remember, if you have a background in graphic design and then teach yourself how to build websites, you should have a slight advantage because you can be a full-stack web developer.

A full-stack web developer works on the back end of a web project, but they also work on the front end, which is more to do with design than development. You could also find a job as a web designer and progress from there by learning development.

More and more popular is to not have a degree for web development but instead get a certificate. But that is not a substitute for a degree. So what can you actually do with a web developer certificate? Read about it in this article.

Is a Computer Science Degree Hard in College?

We have written an extensive article about what you should expect as a programmer going to college. I highly recommend that you give that article I read; however, let’s briefly discuss whether or not computer science degrees are hard.

People who find computer science degrees difficult don’t often struggle with the course material itself. Instead, they struggle with the amount of discipline and patience required to obtain a bachelor’s over four years. There are times where the degree can seem tedious rather than technically tricky. During these times, you need to stay focused because that is where many people fall short.

For some, they find that a computer science degree is elementary because, in reality, most people today have a basic understanding of how computers work. Still, many people understand more about computers than they think, and when you get to college, you build on your fundamental knowledge, which makes it easier.

Does a Degree Mean You Get Paid More as a Developer?

This is a challenging question to answer because of how many variables need to be considered. For example, how many years of experience does someone have, how good are they at their job, and what company are you working for? However, we will discuss entry-level positions for now.

If you apply for a developer job without a degree, there is still a chance that you will get the job provided you have a strong enough portfolio to highlight your talents. However, a lot of companies hire people with a 3-month probation. During these three months as a developer with no degree, you might get paid less than those with a degree, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.

You can’t blame the company for doing this. Remember, they are taking a gamble on you. If you do manage to find a development job without a degree, you will need to prove your worth during a probation period. After that, the amount you earn should not depend on whether or not you have a degree.

What Options Do Programmers Without a Degree Have?

In this section, we are going to try and answer two questions in one go. The first question is, “what are your options to obtain qualifications if obtaining a degree is not one of those options.” We will also briefly discuss what you can do for money as a programmer if you can’t find a job because you have no degree.

If a two or four-year degree is not an option for you, I highly recommend attending a boot camp. You need to choose what type of programming you want to do, and then while waiting to go on a boot camp, you want to start practicing as much as you can. Further down in the article, we will discuss a few steps you can take.

If you are struggling to find a job because you do not have a degree, you want to start building a portfolio. The best way to achieve this is to start freelancing. Many places accept freelance programmers, especially freelance web developers. Here are a few sites that you can look at to start freelancing.

  • Upwork: By far, one of my favorite sites. They have many clients and many freelancers, so getting accepted can be tricky.
  • Upstack: They should be first on the list because they focus mainly on connecting clients with developers.
  • Fiverr: If you are struggling to find work, you need to start somewhere.
  • PeoplePerHour: Another easy-to-use freelancing site.

Those are a few of my favorite sites, but you can find a lot more with a bit of research.

Does Programming Require Math?

The question of how much math is used in software development can start a few debates. In my experience, it all depends on what type of programming you are doing. If you are a software engineer, then yes, programming requires a lot of algebra-type maths.

If you are building databases, say through MS Access, it depends on what type of databases you are making. So, if you’re building databases for educational institutes and laboratories, maths is not as important. However, if you are building databases that have to do with inventory management, then you might find yourself needing algebra.

For web development, you don’t necessarily need a strong maths background to pursue a career. However, we do need to touch on something before we finish off this section.

A lot of programming uses mathematical concepts. This usually stems from algebra. See, object-orientated programming is all about logic. To get from point A to Point C, you need to go through point B. That might seem simple, but when you develop technical programs, you will need to know algebra. 

Can a Self-Taught Programmer Get a Job?

To me, there is a difference between a developer who doesn’t have a degree and a self-taught programmer. See, just because you don’t have a degree doesn’t mean you don’t have a diploma, or it doesn’t mean you haven’t attended boot camps. Self-taught, at least in my experience, means that you learned everything yourself.

Getting a job as a self-taught developer will not be easy because showing that you know what you are doing can be challenging. Your best bet would be to start building a solid portfolio by creating projects on your own or freelancing.

If you want to be a web developer, you could ask friends if they need websites built and ask them if you can use the website you created for them in your portfolio. It might cost a bit of money, but you could also build one or two websites with full functionality for no reason other than to put them in your portfolio.

Video: 2023 self-taught programmer coding plan?

Can Self-Taught Programmers Go on Coding Bootcamps?

Some boot camps have prerequisites for their entry requirements, while others allow anyone to attend. You might be able to go on an advanced boot camp even if you are self-taught. However, you might also have to start with basic boot camps.

I mention boot camps quite often because I know many people who have gone through them. Some of these people have bachelor’s degrees, but boot camps offer specialized training in specific languages.

How to Start Programming Without a Degree in 8 Easy Steps

We get a lot of different readers, but one thing I have noticed is when it comes to questions such as “do you need a degree to be a programmer,” they usually come from people who don’t have the option of obtaining a bachelor’s.

Therefore, we decided to write this section to help you start programming without a degree. We recommend that you bookmark this page to keep as a reference, and we also recommend sharing it with your friends just in case they doubt you or are also interested in starting a career in software development.

So. Here are our eight easy steps to becoming a software developer.

Think About What Programming You Want to Do

If you’re reading this article, I am pretty sure that you already know what it is that you want to do. However, for those that do not know, here are a few different types of development categories.

  • Game development
  • App development
  • Web development
  • Game development
  • Software development
  • Database development

Some of those overlap with each other. For example, if you develop point-of-sale (POS) software for restaurants, you need a database developer to structure the options in the system. Then, you might have a web developer build an online ordering system. 

Find a Course: Paid or Free

Going online, you will find a wealth of resources that you can use to learn to program. The best thing about these resources is that some of them are free while others are paid. Which of those is your best option depends on you, but if you can find a paid course, do your research on it first.

Udemy has a great selection of courses from industry professionals. You can use resources similar to Udemy and what’s great is that most of these places allow you to study at your own pace. All of this means if you have a heavy schedule with work and your personal life, you can find a way to balance everything out.

Find the Right Software

Using the right software is key to accelerating the pace at which you learn. I have seen it so many times, and I have also noticed that not many people speak about this. If you use C#, you can use a  .NET framework and familiarise yourself with visual studio.

However, learning the ins and outs of visual studio will benefit you, but you are best off starting with something like an unreal engine if you want to go into game development.

At the same time, if you want to be a web developer, Unreal engine will not help you very much. Instead, you would want to look at software such as Visual Studio Code, Chrome Dev Tools, Sublime Text, and so on.

My point is, when you start on your journey to becoming a programmer, you might find yourself overwhelmed with the amount of software available to you. However, it is essential to understand that not all software is aimed at what you want to do, and that is why you need to figure out what you want to do and get the software necessary to do so.

Join Online Forums

Online forums such as StackOverflow are critical if you want to be a web developer or a software developer. Sites like stack overflow have many people who try and offer their help to anyone who needs it. We also find a lot of open-source material on there that you can use to work on to build your portfolio.

Remember, do not take advantage of online forums. At the end of the day, cheating will not get you very far in software development. You might see a piece of code and copy it from stack overflow, but what happens in a job interview when the question is asked where that code would be helpful? Well, you won’t be able to answer it because you don’t know precisely what the code is and what it is used for.

Read as Much as You Can

We have written an extensive article about the best books you should read as a software developer or even an aspiring one. If you are serious about learning how to be a developer, whether doing so on your own or via a degree, you need to read.

Software development is not just about writing pieces of code. There is a lot more that goes into it, and reading will be your best friend. For example, one aspect of the architecture of an operating system could be so technical that it takes an entire book to speak about.

We are just using an example but understanding everything you can about software development and what you are developing for, windows, mac, mobile, or web, reading will benefit you in the long run.

Look For Open Source Projects

There is a website called Github, and it is a place where you can find many open-source projects. Unfortunately, you might not get paid for your work on an open-source project, but it gives you a deeper understanding of programs. Open-source projects let you dive deep into systems regardless of what level you are in your programming career.

You never know. Perhaps you solve a problem in an extensive program, which can get you noticed. You can also use the work you do on open-source programs as part of your portfolio. Most importantly, you will be able to review the code and structure of a program.

You must never try and pass open-source software off as your own because you will be caught out almost instantly. So, remember to use open-source projects responsibly. Check for what you can and cannot change in each program.

Keep Practicing

The worst thing you can do is take a break as a developer. Instead, you want to practice as much as possible. Keep building on what you have learned and keep looking towards creating whatever you want to develop.

Start Freelancing While Looking For Work

Once you have enough skill and talent, you can start advertising yourself on freelancing websites. You need to understand that people might be wary of you if you have no portfolio, which might be a small hurdle to overcome.

You have to start somewhere, and the biggest mistake you can make is to overcharge for a service when you have no real-world experience. Instead, you want to start small, accepting small projects and building yourself up. Soon, you will develop a name for yourself, and with that, you can apply for jobs or stick to freelancing.


Wow, that article was a lot to get through. Hopefully, we have answered all of your questions. My final piece of advice to you would be to be patient. Learning how to be a software developer is not easy. If it were, everyone would do it because it pays so well. Be patient, put your head down and get as good as you can.