I frequently talk to high school students or young adults who are hoping to land a lucrative IT job without a degree. Unfortunately, few of these individuals have the skills necessary to get the job they want. While many high schools now offer an increasing number of computer courses, rarely do they provide the depth or breadth of skills required by employers. However, this does not mean you need a degree to work in IT. In fact, some of the best techies I know started their career without a degree.
If it is possible to get a job without a degree, how do you do it? First, it’s important to recognize that IT jobs are broadly divided into two groups – system management and software development. System management jobs involve the management of computer systems, networks, servers, and other computer hardware. Additionally, cybersecurity professionals fall into this category (although there is often some overlap with software development skills). Software development jobs include web developers, software engineers, mobile application developers, and a variety of other jobs focused on using computer code to create applications for users.
Information Technology Certifications
Typically, individuals with system management jobs have degrees in Information Technology Management. However, those without a degree can show their competence with a variety of tech certifications. Some of the most widely known certifications are from the Computing Technology Industry Association better known as CompTIA. This includes CompTIA’s most well known certification for desktop maintenance and support – A+ certification. However, CompTIA offers a variety of other entry-level certifications as well. Network+ certification shows competency with network management and Security+ demonstrates basic security knowledge.
In addition to CompTIA certifications, a variety of other organizations provide IT certifications such as Cisco’s CCNA, Amazon’s AWS Certified Solutions Architect, and Google’s Associate Cloud Engineer. These certifications – unlike those from CompTIA – are vendor specific. However, the skills these certifications demonstrate are highly valuable to businesses.
Software Development Projects
I’ve talked to many young men who would like to become game developers. For them, I would recommend you consider your background in math and physics first. While there are libraries that make game programming easier, it’s hard to get far without some knowledge of matrix manipulation, trigonometry, gravity, and other topics that require a solid background in math and science.
While most people enter the IT world with a bachelor’s degree, it is possible to find good jobs without a formal education. If you want to work in the system management field, focus on certifications. If you want to work in software, focus on projects you can demo to show your ability. While either of the above will require effort, there really are no shortcuts in the IT world. Furthermore, if you are expecting an employer to pay you the high salaries common to the IT world, your efforts will be well compensated.