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How to get a job you didn't get a degree in?

Hi all. Long story short, down the road I'd like to move to a job that has more coding/programming. It's one of many reasons why I signed up for Treehouse - I want to learn how to code since all I know now is SQL and a very basic amount of HTML.

HOWEVER, I don't have a Comp Sci degree. I have my Bachelor's in Management of Information Systems (MIS), and a Master's in Security. None of it has a coding portion (well, I had like one or two coding classes with my MIS degree but not enough to warrant much attention). There lies my problem: is there a way to list "self taught skills" on a resume to the point that it would actually be interesting to an employer? Or do they take self teaching as not a real skill since there's no framed piece of paper on the wall from an institution that actually says you know something.

I'm thinking after I make a few good websites that I can put as a portfolio that'll help, but any other information or advise would be greatly appreciated.

Lexi Mayhew
Lexi Mayhew
3,351 Points

Thank you for asking this question, and thank you to everyone who answered! I received my BA in History and Philosophy, so I'm FAR off the computer science path and have been wondering the same. Its encouraging to hear that a) others are asking the same questions and b) there are lots of folks that can say they've succeeded in the field in non-traditional ways.

7 Answers

Andrew Chalkley
Andrew Chalkley
Treehouse Guest Teacher

I have no degree – I dropped out after the first term of Uni.

I've found that employers in the tech industry see self taught as being a virtue. You're self directed, passionate and driven.

Portfolio and preparing a piece for the job you're going in to be interviewed about really helps. CVs/ResumΓ©s aren't needed after you get on the ladder – or so I've experienced.

You've kinda got the best of both worlds. Since you have a degree you could get your foot in the door at a company where you may want to apply your programming skills. This is great if you work for a company that allows you take projects outside of your direct position. You can pull a salary while improving your programming skills on real projects and eventually transfer over.

The key here is to be driven and passionate. Many modern employers are more than happy to get you into a position that you love because they know results will follow. Self-taught and online education isn't the future, it's the now. Perhaps Treehouse could start offering certifications to improve the reputation of what it teaches. Many software companies do this, like Solidworks or MATLAB, why not have it for HTML and CSS through Treehouse?

Ryan, that's a great question. If Treehouse could somehow link itself to certifications or other industry-recognized training that would be great. Of course, some employers will not require it, but I've definitely heard of companies saying "well you seem to be qualified but you don't have Certification ABC, so..."

It's a crappy reality, and I hope it's on the downswing since a lot of online learning is available and is becoming even more common, but having more ammo under my belt once I complete my Treehouse tracks would be great. I have a feeling a lot of employers will be like "What the heck is Treehouse, and why does it make me want to hire you?"

Kenneth Love
Kenneth Love
Treehouse Guest Teacher

I've never held a job specifically addressed by my degree. I have an Associate's degree for Multimedia Technology (your guess is as good as mine on exactly what that encompasses; school was mostly Flash animation). I've been creative director for a newspaper publisher, web developer for an ad firm, software engineer for an e-commerce startup, self-employed as a freelance developer for lots of different clients, and now I'm a teacher for Treehouse. I'm 100% self-taught in all of the skills that have made me money over the years (other than the newspaper job; some of my schooling dealt with page layout and graphic design).

Experience and enthusiasm are way more important than degrees or certifications. Most employers care more about what you can actually do and how fast you can get up to speed than whether or not you got a particular degree. As other commenters have said, learn as much as you can, make a great portfolio, do some small, real-world client work, and you'll go places.

Richard Duncan
Richard Duncan
5,568 Points

Portfolio would be a decent shout and possibly your best bet, the other option would be industry experience usually trumps degree level qualification. You could research courses in your area that offer qualifications that may be recognised by employers in your area. You could apply for a job in a company with the aim of lateral movement in the short term, once you're in it is usually easier to transfer between areas.

Another option might be to focus on jobs not aimed at graduates, or roles that offer training. Bear in mind that when companies list an advert successful applicants by law must meet the requirements of that advert, if it states degree level or equivalent then you need a degree or relevant experience. Most of the hiring managers may not even see your application they will just be presented with a shortlist of candidates who meet the requirements they set out in the advert.

Wouldn't worry too much about a formal education. Its far more important in this industry to have the knowledge, loads of developers are self taught.

Get through Treehouse, get a good portfolio going and do some projects for friends and family, just make them up if needs be to show case what you can do. That should see you in a good position IMO, certainly would if I was looking to employ someone.

Many Universities get criticised for not keeping up to date with the latest trends in development anyway.

Whether you are self taught or taught by an institution, if you know how to do something, you can put it on a resume. In the IT industry one of the best things to have is a solid portfolio. Being able to show what you have done can land you a great start in the industry in a heart beat. I suggest getting on LinkedIn and other social media sites, have a solid website which demonstrates your own personal code (not something you downloaded) and just wait for the many calls/contact requests for potential positions.

I have a friend who is a high payed IBM main-frame database programmer for over twenty five years who has a Political Science degree.