How to Become a Coder Without a Degree

In a world increasingly driven by technology, coders are in high demand. The post-COVID employment shift toward remote work has fueled the need for new software solutions to support flexible work setups. Beyond the pandemic, the field continues to expand as our reliance on software grows. Developers and coders are sought-after, with a predicted increase of 22% in job opportunities by 2030. Given such job security, it's natural to wonder how to break into this exciting field.

 Do you need a college degree to become a coder? Not necessarily. The tech industry is unique in that companies often prioritize skills over a prestigious educational background. While a degree can be helpful, you can still achieve success in tech without one.

The key is having the right skills. Coding bootcamps are an excellent way to learn the essentials without the cost and time commitment of traditional university programs. Let's dive into what coders do and how to best prepare yourself for a tech career.

In this article you’ll learn:

  • What Does a Coder Do?

  • What Is the Average Salary for a Coder?

  • What Skills Should a Coder Have?

  • Do You Need a Degree To Become a Coder?

  • Additional Tips for Starting a Coding Career Without a Degree

What Does a Coder Do?

While "coder," "developer," and "programmer" are often used interchangeably, those with deep knowledge of computing principles like algorithms and data structures are more broadly considered the "engineers" of software. A coder's primary job is to design, test, investigate, and implement computer applications and programs. They are the creators behind the websites, mobile apps, video games, and other software we use every day.

Specifically, a coder performs these tasks:

  • Designs software programs

  • Analyzes software for bugs or glitches, and troubleshoots when necessary

  • Communicates findings to relevant team members

  • Applies data structure and algorithm principles to improve software performance and scalability

  • Stays up-to-date on the latest technologies and applies them to their development process

Our society depends on the work of coders in countless ways, from government websites to health monitoring apps for people with diabetes.

What Is the Average Salary for a Coder?

According to US News—which ranks coding as the 5th best profession in the U.S.—the median annual salary for a coder is $120,730. That’s not including cash bonuses or shareholder stocks in the company. With an unemployment rate of 3%, the field remains one of the most lucrative and secure.

Those without college degrees can still thrive in the tech industry if they have the right skills. Bootcamps and online courses offer affordable, flexible ways to learn essential coding skills. You can build your portfolio without the burden of student debt.

What Skills Should a Coder Have?

Some skills are technical and measured through tests, while others are interpersonal "soft skills" that are equally important.

Key technical skills for a coder include:

·        Data structures and algorithms

·        In-demand programming languages

·        Testing and debugging

·        Modern technologies and tools, such as containers, continuous deployment, and microservices

While data structures are the organized format of information, algorithms help us navigate it. Think of the table of contents for a manual—or an article. A coder must know how to structure data and manage it in a way that’s accessible and navigable.

You can’t be successful at coding if you don’t know any programming languages. Just like you’d want to know German if you’re traveling around Germany, a coder needs to understand the correct language for the specific task. The three most common programming languages are JavaScript, HTML/CSS and SQL. The list of languages is ever-growing as new ones are created to meet industry standards and shifts in technology. A coding bootcamp is a great way to start learning the fundamentals of programming languages.

Bear in mind that there are differences between programming and markup languages. A coder should be familiar with the distinctions.

Testing and debugging involves being able to identify and correct mistakes in code. Testing can be programmed and set to run automatically, but debugging requires hands-on adjustments and someone comfortable with analyzing code, as well as a great problem-solver.

Lastly, if you’re looking for a career in coding, you need to be familiar with the trends in modern technology. Subscribe to tech newsletters and magazines, read articles, listen to podcasts, or use bootcamps to stay ahead of the curve as technology develops.

In addition to hard technical skills and keeping up-to-date on the latest software trends, software developers should have these other skills:

  • Clear communication with team members

  • Quick problem-solving

  • Analytical thinking

  • Meticulous planning and strategy

  • Ability to multitask

Primarily, a coder must have great attention to detail. Tiny mistakes in a line of code can result in broken applications or system outages. If you’ve ever seen a worldwide phone app or website crash, you know the importance of having the right skills to fix the issue.

Do You Need a Degree To Become a Coder?

No, a degree isn't necessary. Tech companies focus on demonstrated skills, and interviews often involve tests to assess your abilities. These results matter more than your educational background.

While college can teach technical skills, they can also be acquired through bootcamps and online courses. Software coding bootcamps offer real-world, hands-on experience that prepares you for immediate job opportunities. It's one of the reasons they're an appealing option for those looking to make a career change.

It's also common in tech to start as an intern and work your way up after gaining experience.

Additional Tips for Starting a Coding Career Without a Degree

Feeling overwhelmed as a beginner is normal. But if you're determined, you can catch up quickly! Here are some actionable steps:

Understand the Prerequisites

Knowing the field is half the battle. You need to have a solid understanding of the world of software developement. Familiarize yourself with the names of the basic programming languages, like the ones mentioned above. Get comfortable with dev and collaborative tools, like GitHub. Stay up-to-date with the most cutting edge topics and software in the tech world. 

Master Your Coding Skills

Once you’re secure on a solid foundation of knowledge, you’ll need to sharpen your skills. Programming languages are living languages. Just because you learned JavaScript ten years ago doesn’t make you an expert today. Software development relies heavily on coding, so be sure you’re constantly refreshing your memory of the most common languages.

Build Your Portfolio

Have you ever built a phone app? What about a webpage? Keep track of all your projects for your resume. If you have dev experience—and especially if you don’t have a degree or prior work experience—future employers will want to see what work you’ve done. Showcase the versatility of your projects, proving that you’re comfortable with full stack development.

Creating a GitHub profile is a must, not only for your own personal development, but to catch the eye of a tech company. GitHub, a massive development platform, allows millions of developers to work on projects in collaboration and is one of the largest open-source development communities. Many companies use GitHub as a way to scout future workers, so don’t neglect this powerful tool.

Network and Make Connections

Finally, connect with people working in the same field. Word-of-mouth goes a long way in the tech world. If you’ve ever done work for someone, see if they’ll write you a recommendation. Build connections through your GitHub profile. Start a bootcamp and take advantage of the mentors available. You’ll want to demonstrate your interpersonal skills to a future employer. 

Ready to Become a Coder?

Even though you don’t need a degree to become a coder, you still need to study and learn the required skills. The coding bootcamp at Auburn University Office of Professional and Continuing Education (OPCE) will give you the tools you need to attract future employers.

With a bootcamp, you’ll learn what you need to be successful and get up-to-speed with JavaScript, Python, Node, React, and more. You will also practice these languages with hands-on workshops, get real-world experience, and complete your courses with a capstone project specific to your interests and technology stack.

The best part of a bootcamp is the ability to learn on your own time. Work fully online, taking charge of your own schedule. If you have the time, you can double down on your course load and finish the bootcamp sooner. All the while, you’ll be in the hands of your mentor, who will be available for weekly one-on-one meetings and can provide consistent feedback.

Coders have an important role in shaping some of the biggest moving parts in the tech field. Enroll in a coding bootcamp to become a part of this growing industry and impact people’s lives in a meaningful way.