Millions of potential software engineers are being constrained by a myth that has perpetuated the tech world for decades. This myth is that a career in Computer Programming requires a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. Whether this myth has single handedly caused it or not, we now have a shortage of qualified Programmers. We also are expected to see a projected 1 million tech jobs left unfilled as we reach the year 2020.

While a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science is required to attain the job title of Computer Engineer, the requirements for a Computer Programmer doesn’t require the same degree level.  Many successful Computer Programmers are self-taught, driven individuals, who have attended and obtained a certificate to learn this trade. But sometimes, the certificate isn’t even needed. Here’s why and how a Programmer career can be possible for any talented individual.

Get with the Program

Programmers who received their knowledge in a non-traditional way, such as through a certificate program, don’t appear to get as much attention as Engineers. However, almost all software executives struggle with finding technical talent, and the need for a skilled Programmer comes before any mention of whether or not you have the right degree. In fact, most employers are starting to understand that it’s a good idea to have a mixed team of those who are technically trained, and those who have been self-taught or educated. Raw programming skills are an effective benchmark for success, and while it can’t be etched as an official rule, the lack of formal training can result in Programmers who work a little outside the box. This sparks innovation, and advanced problem solving skills from having the experience of needing to look at an issue from another angle -- an angle that wasn’t taught to you in an expensive classroom.

Branches of Programming That Don’t Require a Degree

There are many branches of programming that can be obtained without a full degree. This includes:

  • Mobile App Development – from mobile games like Angry Birds, to business apps allowing productivity on the go, this is the largest growing field. Since App Development didn’t have formal training for a long time, this training may provide a tech edge in comparison to a typical Engineer in a similar role.

  • PLC Programming for Manufacturing Plants – this is the cornerstone of what makes our world build the goods that fill our lives. From luxury cars to the chair you might be sitting in, this type of programming isn’t restricted to just one form of computing or product making.

  • Web Development – more than crunching databases and making ecommerce shopping carts, this field makes the web that runs your world. As the Internet ages, it only grows up further, meaning we need these Developers to help us know more about how it works and reacts.

  • UI/UX Development – short for User Interface/User Experience, this field controls the design of the way users interact with the apps they use. So when you notice a menu bar that feels out of place, or isn’t working right, a UI Developer may already be steps ahead of you to bring a fix in the next update...

  • Game Development – from graphics to low-level programming languages, this field deals with the creation of computer games. Play time comes when you get to input cheat codes, secret levels, or engineer the final Boss battle level. A role for Developers who don’t only play, but work hard to create, too.

What Is PLC Programming?

Not all programming is done with a keyboard, and that’s when a sub-type like PLC programming comes to mind. PLC is a category of programming that helps build complex machine instruction flowcharts. This is called the “ladder logic program”. These programs are populated from lists of information the machine can take in, as well as actions a machine could output, in order to have the machine take action in real life.


PLC programming is a perfect example of a programming career that doesn’t require a complex degree from a university. Meanwhile, the rise of PLC capabilities and workers makes for a growing roster of roles that industries are looking to fill.

Tips for Learning on Your Own

There are many resources online that someone who wants to become a Programmer can use to self-educate. For example, Development Bootcamps are 9 to 12 week accelerated courses that teach you everything you need to know to be a particular type of Programmer. A crash course like this is an excellent way to get started in something like web development or mobile app development. Room to grow with additional courses, online handbooks, or tutorials can also be done. Once the fundamentals are planted, the rest can be up to you; but, if you want some common advice for self-taught programmers, some tips include:

  • Don’t Work Alone – working with a partner or group of Programmers is vital to helping you expand your knowledge of programming. Collaboration, “study buddies”, review periods with a friend, or fellow-students means you get clarification on what you’re learning. If you think something is wrong, but aren’t sure, a study partner can help resolve your misunderstanding quickly, rather than letting you take the wrong answer to the test or exam.

  • Make Connections – another positive side effect of working with other people is that you can network with them in a way that might benefit you later in your career. For example, a internship, work opportunity, or a general access to a bigger network are all perks to not doing this alone. You’ll be surprised what opportunities come up from people you already know.

  • Build a Portfolio – working on independent projects or contributing to an open-source project? These are just a few examples of ways to build some experience and show off your actual talent. That way, you have something to show off to potential employers that showcases what you can do, how well you work, and even provide you some own personal benchmarks to grow as a Programmer.

Approximately 25 to 50 percent of the Programming workforce does not have a Computer Science degree. This means if you possess a passion, intrigue and aptitude towards programming, a degree -- or lack thereof -- shouldn’t hold you back. Plus, if you have the right talent, you would be fulfilling a growing shortage of skilled Programmers the industry needs, which also means potential advancement once you’re in. The full potential of non-traditional programmers is not a secret anymore. Skill transcends any piece of paper, no matter tuition costs, textbook readings, or office hours with professors. The question is, do you have the skill to make it work? There’s only one way to find out...


Published by Steffen Ploeger