Getting a Tech Job Without a Degree?

juliemeridian's profile thumbnail
Not at all; this is definitely a thing you could do. Having a college degree can be a leg up for being noticed by recruiters for jobs...but if you've got an internship already, you're ahead of the game. With this internship, not only do you start getting work experience, but you also build skills that are directly relevant to the actual work now. You also get to work with people that start building up your professional network (don't be afraid to connect with everyone you work with via LinkedIn!).Many tech jobs (including product management) are still relatively "new" in the sense that people get hired in from all sorts of different backgrounds. Whether you have a college degree or not, you'll learn more *on the job* about the job itself...and the people you'd work with in the future will look for that experience. This internship won't be representative of how that work is at *every* company, but it gives you an experience you can compare against for both further education and also future work. In the tech industry we're all triangulating what this work is from actually doing it, so the sooner you can sample multiple work experiences the better. Sure, some companies are weirdly restrictive about who they want. Some strongly prefer particular colleges...which is a not-especially-creative approach to recruitment that can harm diversity. Some strongly prefer particular education, like companies that want computer science degrees for non-engineer job roles...which is really a fast track to groupthink. Neither is the sign of a good company in my opinion, no matter how big or successful it may appear.Having an internship now sounds like an awesome opportunity. If that leads to a job offer, you may run into a different kind of challenge later on. Even though the education matters less once you have work experience, having no degree *can* make it harder to get through the "system" of hiring. But that's where a good story about who you are and what you can do – and better yet, people that have worked with you (that network again..!) – can make all the difference. I know this from the people I've worked with in tech that don't have degrees, either because they started working right away, or more commonly, that they started working after taking some classes and their careers took off from there (or because they founded their own companies...but that's another story. I've worked for a few of those folks too!). Also, if you choose to get (or finish) your degree later on, it'll be informed by what you've already seen from working when you have a clearer goal in mind.
Gosh thank you for your thorough response and input, Julie! I really appreciate it:)
SamanthaChai's profile thumbnail
I respectfully disagree with Julie ! Honestly, I would go to college and just work part time, and look for more internships during college. I don't think college degrees are useful, but it's still a criteria that exists and is used. The ATS for many competitive companies, such as FAANGMULA or big tech companies automatically screens resumes out those who are not pursing a college degree. I've had 6 internships at 5 different companies already and my GPA is 2.7/4 (lower because I had some health issues during school), yet I'm still struggling to even get my foot in the door at these companies. They usually explicitly ask for your GPA and a transcript on the application. The other thing is that these internships may be college exclusive, so one of the requirements might be "must be pursuing a degree in XYZ", so there's a possibility that you're not even eligible to apply externally. If you do college and are aggressive with your internships, you can probably get more cumulative work experience by doing internships during your breaks and school than now. At big tech companies, they also send X number of recruiters from that company to the school depending on how good with school is - there's a lot of recruiters at Harvard for Microsoft, but under 10 recruiters at University of Waterloo (top engineering school in Canada). If you don't go to college, you miss out on getting in contact with these recruiters and attending recruiting/networking events. Big tech companies also assign a number of "spots" to hire interns according to each school - getting recruited through your school may be easier than doing it externally. I'm basically saying you can do what you're doing now, get better work experience AND get a college degree. The other thing is that it's more important that you have multiple internships, rather than a long period at 1 company. Tech is quickly moving, and people move companies every 1-2 years. It's generally looked down upon to stay at a company for more than 3 years, because they assume that you're not ambitious, too comfortable, and don't have a variety of experience in different industries. The reality is you may fit the job postings for all of these companies, but you may not match the calibre of people applying - most of my friends have between 3-6 internships, and have executive positions on clubs on campus which definitely helps with applying to internships. Unfortunately, we're at the point where 1 internship/job throughout college will not get you into competitive positions. Some companies even recruit from these university clubs. I know that it's sort of bad that companies screen based on number of internships, GPA, and degree, but that's the game. Product Management is a field that's even more competitive to get into than software engineering - it's in higher demand, and has less spots per company than SE. The other thing is that for future PM internships, you may still receive coding challenges (Leetcode medium/hard) with concepts you only learn in 3rd yr university level programming classes (algorithms, databases etc.). A lot of these coding challenges are very academic focused, and you may not learn it on the job or actually use it during the internship, but you have to pass the coding challenge anyways. I interviewed at Roblox for PM internship (not even a FAANGMULA) and received a coding challenge/Leetcode medium that I couldn't do because I simply don't have the academic background in programming (I'm in a business program at my college).Overall, a college degree is not critical for a tech job, but it makes it a hell of a lot easier to get access to recruiters, internships, and clubs to pad your resume. It's amazing that you already have an internship even before college, but 2 years at one company definitely won't do it if you're gunning for competitive positions.Feel free to reach out to me as I'm a senior in college trying to get into FAANGMULA ! :)
Wow, thank you for your thorough response, Samantha. Your input is valued. I really appreciate it!
Cyn's profile thumbnail
Go to college. Work part-time or just do internships if you can afford that. I've been in tech since the mid-90s (with a Mommy break thrown in there) and every single day I regret not having gotten a college degree. I wouldn't necessarily be using what I learned in school, but it would have made my path much, much easier.
Thank you for your input!