It seems like something as technical as a job in IT should need a degree as standard, but in reality, that’s not always the case. So, how can you get into IT without a degree? Let’s dive in and find out.
Let’s be honest, when we talk about industries and fields that are just constantly growing and emerging, IT and tech are pretty high up on that list. Everything we do nowadays relies on tech and IT, so it’s no wonder that there are so many jobs popping up in this area. Our reliance on it also means that jobs in IT are normally pretty well paid.
That being said, college debt is no joke, so increasingly we’re on the hunt for jobs that don’t require a college degree.
Why Would Someone Need an IT Degree?
Honestly, for the vast majority of tech and IT jobs, you don’t need a degree. While certification definitely helps to convince prospective employers that you know what you’re talking about, it’s no longer the necessity it once was.
Many amazing tech workers are self-taught, piecing together stuff from different places to give them a really well-rounded idea of what’s actually practical. A lot of the stuff we learn in college can be really useful, but a whole load of it never seems to come up again.
By focusing your time and energy on skills and techniques that are actually useful and practical, you end up saving a ton of time and money.
Of course, this varies from business to business, with some having a degree as a necessity. This is normally to narrow the recruitment pack and ensure the soft skills of research, writing, etc. that comes with earning a college degree.
However, if you can demonstrate these through other experiences and projects, you should be golden.
You Get an IT Job with Experience, Not a Degree
With jobs in IT, it’s all about the experience. You can definitely get a job without a degree, but honestly, you’re probably going to need a decent amount of experience to replace it.
Whether it’s work experience, a portfolio of freelance work, or some at-home courses that you’ve completed over the years, it all adds up.
At the end of the day, the bosses just want to know that you’re capable and can actually do the job you’re applying for. That’s why a lot of jobs nowadays, not just in tech and IT, will set tasks as part of the application and interviewing process. You need to let your experience do the talking.
Although a lot of people are opting not to go to college or university now, the people who are recruiting are largely part of a generation where college was the main route into a decent, high-paying job – and IT and tech are high-paying industries.
If you don’t have a degree, you need to have plenty of experience to back up your application instead.
5 Myths About Working in IT
There are a few myths about IT that need to be dispelled, especially if you plan on working in the industry, so let’s check out a few right now.
1. IT is All Men
First up, yes, like a lot of tech jobs, IT tends to skew more male but there are plenty of women and non-binary people taking up space and smashing it in IT.
Sure, we have our fair share of tech bros but slowly the profession is starting to equal out and become a little more balanced.
2. You Need to be a Mathematical Genius
This might have been true in the past when supercomputers needed a degree in rocket science to operate, but now you don’t need to be an expert in maths or science to work in IT.
There’s a reason it’s called a coding language – it’s much more of an arts-based skill to understand and learn the different kinds of codes and make them speak cohesively to each other.
When you look at the day-to-day in IT, it’s a lot of problem-solving which isn’t exclusive to maths or science.
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3. IT Isn’t a Creative Field
Just because a job is highly logical, doesn’t mean it isn’t also creative. IT is all about making tech accessible, functional, and easy to use.
With user experience being a big part of IT, there’s a lot of creativity involved. In addition to this, coming up with new products and features that people might want or need is a big part of IT growth, so if you’re wanting a career that has a good mix of creative and logical thinking, IT might be the move for you.
4. Jobs in IT Are Largely Solo Endeavors
So the stereotypical image of an IT department is a load of anti-social introverts in a basement – think The IT Crowd – but a lot of IT roles are team-dependent. Many projects will need multiple eyes on them to check code, bounce ideas off, and get through any snags that might crop up.
Yes, if you’re working as an IT fixer in a larger company, a lot of your job might be sorting out people’s emails, passwords, or solo problems like that, but if you’re in a larger IT project team, it’s going to be way more collaborative.
Even if you’re working as a fixer, you still need to have some basic people and team-based skills to solve problems and coordinate system updates without causing major disruptions.
5. You Need an Advanced Computer Science Degree
As the theme of this entire article, it is a huge myth that you need an advanced computer science degree to work in IT. It may have been the case in the past, but now that people have grown up with IT and tech, and can learn so much on their own online, it’s becoming less of a priority to have a degree full stop, let alone an advanced degree.
You Need Transferable Skills
Okay, so transferable skills have been a bit of a career buzzword for a while now, but fundamentally it’s all about those skills that aren’t specific to your target role, but will end up helping you be successful should you get the job.
These are things like organizational skills, time-keeping, people skills, literacy, and research – all those techniques that support your job-specific skills to create the ideal working package.
Now, a lot of these transferable skills are built into the college experience – there’s a reason they make everyone write research papers and give presentations regardless of the degree subject.
That being said, these transferable skills also pop up in work experience, school projects, freelancing, volunteering, and just general life.
In your job application, you’ll want to talk about your transferable skills as well as your job-specific roles to show that you’ll be able to integrate with the wider business and pitch in with different projects.
4 IT Jobs You Can Get Without a Degree
So, we’ve said that you don’t necessarily need a degree to work in IT, but which jobs are realistically open to you, and what do they entail? Let’s find out more.
1. IT Manager
By and large, management is a transferable skill. It’s a powerful one, but it’s not super skillset or industry-specific. It’s because of this that you don’t need to be an expert in computers or IT to become an IT manager. This probably sounds counterintuitive, but if you can successfully manage people and teams, it doesn’t really matter what job they do.
Managing people and being good at it comes with experience, not sitting in a classroom, so degrees aren’t really that helpful here. Having a base knowledge of IT or some experience managing in the industry is beneficial, but if you can get the most out of people, keep them productive, and keep them organized – that’s the main job.
2. Data analyst
Are you super logical and can see a trend or pattern from a mile off? Maybe data analyst is the IT role for you. It helps to know a programming language before you start and maybe take an online data science class or two, but a degree isn’t always necessary as junior roles are a lot of data entry and assisting more senior analysts.
This structure is great for professional development as you’re essentially shadowing the role you’ll eventually be promoted to or apply for. You’ll end up learning on the job, and most importantly, you’ll work out the way that your particular business or industry gets things done. That level of specificity isn’t always possible in a degree program.
This is probably the most well-known IT job role and one of the easiest to get into without a degree. If you know your way around a computer and/or different systems, and have the patience to deal with less tech-savvy people on a daily basis, you might want to check out job roles on an IT helpdesk.
Helpdesk roles tend to be more reactive than a lot of IT jobs and rely mostly on fixing people’s problems than creating products or solutions from scratch. If this methodical way of working is more your kind of thing, pretty much any kind of business will now have an IT department with a helpdesk, so there are a lot of options.
4. Web developer
Are you fluent in a coding language or two? Know how to fix bugs and get the software working to a tee? Web developers, software developers, or just colloquially known devs, are fast becoming an integral and sought-after job.
They’re largely remote-based and highly paid due to skill level. This doesn’t mean you need a degree, in fact, many of the best devs just learn different coding languages on their own and see what they can do with them.
This is one of the more creative IT roles because you’re always trying to make something new, something more streamlined, and something that’s easier to use. It’s also one where you continually need to be learning.
New techniques, languages, and platforms are emerging all the time, so you need to be able to stay on top of things to remain relevant.
If you’re looking for a job in IT without a degree, chances are the big companies are going to be unachievable until you have a bank of experience to fall back on. Until you have this, try working at a couple of start-ups or as a freelance coder.
While start-ups don’t tend to pay as well, you end up trying a lot more job roles and gaining more experience while you’re there. When there are only two or three IT jobs in the company rather than thirty, you need to be agile and adaptable.
It might sound like you’re doing more work for less money, but it’s going to help you narrow down the IT field you like best and give you a well-rounded set of experiences moving forward.
So, if you want to work in IT and you don’t have a degree, you don’t need to worry. There are plenty of great jobs out there if you haven’t been to college. It’s all about experience and willingness to learn. If you can prove that during your application, then you’re going to be just fine.