Do I need a college degree for a job in tech?

Apr 27, 2021

5 Min Read

Perhaps you have heard that as a college student you need a four-year bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field to get into the tech industry. This idea is a misconception, as technology has allowed more access to education. We are now in the online age and hiring companies care less about your college degree or which Ivy League university you graduated from, and more about who can get the job done, regardless of academic credentials.

High School Graduate vs. College Graduate

In recent years, there has been a drastic shift in the costs of attending a typical college or university over a non-conventional college. Employers are disappointed that they can’t find enough graduates with the right qualifications and skill set.  The world has transformed and gone are the days when a college degree is a one-way ticket to securing a white-collar job most especially in the tech industry.

With the disruption of the tech industry, requirements have changed and are no longer based on a college degree but on what you can offer in terms of technical expertise.

Giants in the tech industry, banks, financial firms, conglomerates, and other big companies that employ tech-savvy employees now recruit based on self-training, and core certifications obtained from various IT module courses in addition to those who pursue a college degree. It is believed that this offers a more direct and accurate analysis of a person’s expertise and the right fit for a specific job opening. However, that’s not to say that a college degree is useless. Some individuals appreciate the time and focus a university environment provides. Although Bill Gates, Michael Dell, Mark Zuckerberg, and Steve Jobs skipped finishing their undergraduate degrees, they put even more blood, sweat, and tears into self-learning. The key takeaway here is that there’s no skipping the hard work.

Case  Study

Let’s take Google; according to Glassdoor’s annual ranking of the best companies to work, Google was crowned 8th place in 2019.  Google’s chairman and head of hiring, Laszlo Bock gave an insight as to the criteria Google use in recruitment saying “though Google values the skills and experiences that candidates get in college, a degree doesn’t tell us much about talent or grit”. This means having a college degree offers no guarantee that you will land a high-paying job in the tech industry if you lack in other areas. But you can get a job at Google or a similar firm if you have the required skill-set and talent irrespective of your level of education.

Google recently launched its online career certification programs offering alternative education to the conventional university degree. Obtaining the certification does not only cost less compared to the traditional university but takes less time to complete and gives you the leverage and recognition you need to secure a job in the tech industry.  Microsoft, Apple, Adobe, and other giants in the tech industry have also followed suit and it won’t take long before the shake-up in the educational space comes to full effect.

If you are changing your career, you can find it difficult to find the right tech entry level job. This is especially true if you have no prerequisite knowledge of computers and the tech industry.  Bear in mind that once you’ve obtained some basic technical training, you’ll be in a better position to get the IT job that perfectly aligns with your skills. If you are starting at zero, check out resources for people looking to break into tech to figure out your path forward.

The emergence of Career choices in the Tech Industry

The most interesting thing about the tech industry is that the disruption in computer technology has given birth to a lot of career choices to choose from. The varieties are enormous which means more job opportunities for both high school graduates and college graduates. These job opportunities range from cyber security, databases, cloud computing, software engineering, networking, graphics editing, video editing, UX design, data science, and the list goes on. The list will continue to grow and most of these IT jobs don’t usually require a four-year or two- year degree. For example, you don’t need a college degree to become a programmer. All you need to start with is to have an interest in computers and a willingness to learn. Everyone has a chance if they are guided on the right path and have determination.

Many individuals who hold a high school certificate can advance through their systems and the ranks due to prior hands-on experience gained in the labor market. Non-traditional schooling allows for a more flexible schedule and can even provide a more personalized learning experience. Besides, education by non-traditional methods usually also follows a course structure, but most times, you won’t need to take redundant and unrelated classes unlike in a college or university.

Telecommuting for an IT industry (Freelancing)

The importance of remote working cannot be overemphasized as many IT companies and businesses have adopted remote working conditions.  Big and small sized businesses have incorporated this into their business structure environment to stand a chance to compete in a highly competitive and dynamic market.  The present reality of time has called for an enhanced, efficient, and flexible working culture. Employees’ being able to work effectively from home is a huge concern for most business owners. However, this is instead a far cheaper and effective way of managing an enterprise if done right.

This has created opportunities for non-graduates and graduates alike to seek and get a job as a freelancer for IT companies as long as they have the required skills. For example, Microsoft outsources various projects to freelancers via third parties on freelancing sites like Upwork.

New Collar Workers

According to IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, he coined the word “New Collar workers” for middle-skilled workers in the tech industry. These middle-skilled workers are employees with no college degree but armed with technical and soft skills suitable for work in the contemporary technology industry through nontraditional education paths.

IBM Chief Ginni Rometty cautioned that emerging technology could create a ‘job exclusivity age’ if people are not prepared for the digital future of the workplace. This was a good indication that those who did not have the opportunity to earn a college degree within a technical field could restart their learning in order to keep up with the digital age.

Conclusion

All in all, while a college education is good, acquiring soft and technical skills that are relevant in the tech industry is crucial if you want to get a job in the tech industry. You don’t need to know calculus to qualify for most IT openings. However, you do need the mindset of innovation, creativity, and the willingness to learn new things to support yourself and others to better harness the potential of technology.

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