How To Become A Software Developer Without A Degree?

Imagine building, testing and deploying software for many clients within the comfort of your home. And if that’s not enough, how about a six-digit salary starting at over $100,000 as well as having an above-average work-life balance? That’s the art of software development for you! 

It’s not a surprise that this increasingly popular profession has attracted many graduates. But if you’re on the other side of the spectrum, no problem! The good news is that whether you are planning to shift careers or just a tech geek at heart, you can learn how to be one without having to enroll in a course spanning four or more years! Here’s how.

1. Be clear about your goals

When learning how to be a software developer, you may want to set goals for yourself in order to ensure that you press on to finishing the course. Goals such as “I want to work for a big tech company” or “I want to work with a team as a software developer and get paid well for it” should be a great place to start. After all, it’s not just having the right skills and knowledge, but also having the right mindset.

2. Choose and learn a programming language

Lines of code Photo: Christopher Kuszajewski/ Pixabay

From Java to C/C++ to Ruby/Ruby on Rails to Python, the industry provides plenty of opportunities and companies need experts to fill these highly-specialized roles. For starters, it’s best to start with just one programming language first than being a jack of all trades, but master of none type of developer.   

Once you do manage to master one, it will be less difficult to transition to another programming language. What matters is that you get to understand the programming fundamentals needed for you to be able to smoothly switch from, say, C to Java or C++.

3. Use actual software development tools, skills and resources

Codeacademy and other free web resources are great, but they are not exactly good tools when practicing actual software development. Instead, explore and learn tools software engineers use.

With those in mind, knowledge of Git and other version control systems, as well as those of the command-line interface, unit testing and test-driven development, are just as vital as having knowledge of programming languages and frameworks. This is possible through Coursera’s Version Control with Git course.

Open-source projects, where people from different disciplines work virtually on the same project, are great resources because anyone can get involved in the design and development. Many employers expect applicants to be a member of GitHub – the world’s largest code host where developers can get involved in projects and build software together on a regional or global scale. 

Being in an open-source project does not require being an expert in coding — non-programming roles such as testing, triaging bug reports and technical documentation are also important. As these projects tend to be public in nature, your contributions will not go unnoticed by future employers.

4. Read code from other software developers

software engineering Software engineer reading code Photo: RAEng_Publications/ Pixabay

According to Learn to Code With Me, learning how to read other people’s code is another important skill when it comes to being a software developer. This can be done by checking through GitHub repositories and looking through the documentation. 

Though some documentations can be wrong, the source code does not lie. Reading through lines of code will give you an idea about how the program works, and is important when debugging software to know which lines of code should be removed. This oft-overlooked skill can help you know how experienced developers do their works, allowing you to learn their ins and outs, arrange their functionality and recreate them.

5. Continue practicing and learning

Job Ready Programmer Learn software development by signing up to Job Ready Programmer. Photo: https://www.jobreadyprogrammer.com

Dedicate some time every day to perfect your programming skills through hands-on training as well as educating yourself. Per experts, try not to exceed more than four hours per day, but dedicate at least 35 to 50 minutes of pure concentration and that should be enough. Take 15 minutes breaks for every hour of study.

One way for you to learn and master software development without the need for a college degree is by enrolling in online courses such as those offered by Job Ready Programmer. An online programming school founded by a Udemy instructor with a wealth of experience in big data technologies and enterprise software architectures, Job Ready Programmer features real-world programming courses that can help you become a professional job-ready software developer, irrespective of background. Its software developer course includes lessons dedicated to Java, Spring Framework 5 (a Java-based framework for building web applications) and jQuery, in addition to programming concepts such as object-oriented design, data structures and algorithms, and comes with 50 hours of expert video tutorials for a more enhanced learning experience. 

Membership is available on a monthly and yearly basis, in addition to a lifetime option if you want to learn and relearn all current and future lessons in both the Software Developer and Data Analyst courses for a lifetime.

6. Find supportive communities

Software engineering team development Software engineering team Photo: Complete Software Solutions LLC/ Flickr

The team you work alongside with can determine your success or failure as a software developer, especially at the onset (Building good software is a team effort after all.) A community of like-minded people is a great support system that you can rely on when you are stuck or are losing motivation. Though in-person software development groups exist, not all members are always available. Online communities, on the other hand, can be joined by anyone and are just as helpful as those requiring physical presence. Here’s where you can find the most proactive communities for software developers online.

7. Build actual projects

coding programming software Engaging in coding projects can increase your chances of getting hired. Photo: Boskampi/ Pixabay

Watching tutorials and coding video lessons is not enough — you have to put your learned skills to use. Solve problems the way software developers do everyday. You can build coding projects either by yourself or with a group. These projects not only enhances your learning, but also show employers that you can do the job, and can be great additions to your professional portfolio.

8. Cultivate a professional tech network

As you continue coding, building projects and other things that are important in software development, try building a reliable professional network. Finding a great job takes more than just applying for them online. You can start building a strong network through your existing connections. In fact, according to job recruiting company Jobvite, 40% of new job hirings comes from an employee referral, so it’s great to have someone you know personally when applying for a software developing job.

Aside from first-degree connections, you can also get referrals via friends of friends or second-degree connections. This can be done through informal coffee meetings with people tied to companies you want to work for, building connections and potentially leading to interviews in the process. You can also create an account on LinkedIn and connect with fellow software developers and ask for leads.

If you have no mutual friend/s that you know of, you can try attending meetups, volunteering as well as speak in events, among other ways of connecting without existing connections.