How to Become a Software Developer Without a Degree

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn about how to find software developer jobs without a degree. Discover what a software developer does, your earning potential in this field, and how to obtain the necessary skills.

[Featured image] A man is learning how to become a software developer without a degree on his computer.

Software developers play an important role in allowing the functionality of various technological devices we use regularly. With the increase in reliance on technology in our daily lives, the demand for software developers should only continue to grow. One exciting factor in pursuing a career as a software developer is that you can find opportunities to create different kinds of software, from mobile applications to web development and more, across industries such as health care, manufacturing, aerospace, and tech.

Read on to discover what you need to do to pursue a career in this field without a degree.

Read more: What Does a Software Developer Do? Career Overview + Outlook

What does a software developer do?

Software developers are responsible for creating software programs and applications, from the initial design to deploying and maintaining them. Within software development, there are many different positions, each with its own distinct responsibilities. For example, a video game developer will perform different tasks than a mobile app developer. 

The various software development positions will have some similarities, with skills such as computer programming being a fundamental component. Some of the common responsibilities of a software developer include:

  • Performing research to identify the needs of users to develop software that solves specific problems

  • Designing software, which can include building models and blueprints that illustrate the end goal

  • Building software programs using programming languages and performing tests throughout to make sure they function as designed and to eliminate any bugs

  • Monitoring the continued performance of programs to see if you need to make updates, bug fixes, or any other upgrades to enhance the quality of the product further

Read more: How to Become a Software Developer (With or Without a Degree)

How to become a software developer without a degree

Although most software developers choose to earn a degree in an area such as computer science or software engineering, you can still pursue this career with a degree in an unrelated area or with no degree at all. With the right skills and experience, you can set yourself up for a successful career, regardless of where your training occurred. Here’s how to become a software developer without a degree:

1. Coding boot camps

With a coding boot camp, you can develop the necessary skills to become a software developer over a few months rather than spending four years completing a bachelor's degree. 

Boot camps are growing in popularity as they quickly prepare you with relevant skills at a lower cost than earning a degree. You can find boot camps online or in-person to meet your specific needs. These programs offer full-time and part-time options, featuring live online instruction from industry professionals and assignments you'll complete independently.

Read more: Coding Bootcamps: Options, Benefits, Requirements, and More

2. Certifications

Earning a certification is a great way to continue growing your skill set and demonstrate to employers that you have developed specific skills to help you succeed in the industry. For example, you can earn an Amazon Web Services Certified Developer Associate certification to gain credibility in developing cloud-based applications. To complete this certification, you will need to build some background knowledge and pass a 65-question exam. When it comes time to start applying for software development jobs, a reputable certification can give you a competitive advantage over other applicants and help lead you toward a potential promotion in the future, in addition to putting you in a position to earn a higher salary.

3. Online courses and certificates

You can also find several low-cost or free online courses to build your software development skills. With these online courses, you can use the information and skills you learn to develop projects worth adding to your portfolio, showing employers you’re driven to learn more about software development. On Coursera, there are several software development courses for you to take advantage of, whether you’re just starting or are more advanced in this space, including the Software Development Lifecycle Specialization from the University of Minnesota. 

Additionally, you may earn a Professional Certificate to get you started. The IBM Full Stack Software Developer Professional Certificate allows you to begin building experience working on software development projects and developing skills to get job-ready.

4. Experience

Gaining practical experience and demonstrating your abilities to employers is critical for proving that you have what it takes, even without a degree. This is where creating a portfolio comes in. You can include projects you worked on during a boot camp, your own personal projects, and any other samples of work that showcase relevant skills.

Another option to gain valuable experience and meet people in the industry is attending a hackathon. Hackathons are events where programmers collaborate on a project to solve a specific problem. They typically take place over the course of a weekend or a single day and are open to individuals of all skill levels, whether you’re just starting out or you have some previous experience. 

Read more: Software Developer vs. Software Engineer: Differences + More

5. Internships

One way to work toward an entry-level position in software development is to gain experience through an internship. Internships also allow you to build connections and expand your network with people who could be a valuable resource in helping start your career and make for a nice addition to your resume. With many different potential careers available in software development, it’s helpful to know what you want to do early on in the process so you can find an internship that aligns with your career goals and lets you focus your skill development on specific areas. To find an internship, consider attending career fairs where you can grow your network or speak directly to recruiters.

Read more: Computer Science Internships: A Guide

Required skills for a software developer

Software development requires you to possess a number of technical skills as well as workplace skills. Technical skills represent the practical aspects of your role, while workplace skills contribute to how productive you are in a work environment. Take a look at the core software developer skills to focus on:

Technical skills

Workplace skills

Salary and job outlook

Software development is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a career with high earning potential and a strong job outlook over the coming years. Software developers in the US earn an average yearly salary of $132,466, according to Lightcast™ [1]. Based on data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities will likely grow substantially from 2022 to 2032 at 25 percent [2]. 

Software developer career path

As a software developer, you'll have many career options. Not only will you find various software developer positions, but the skills you learn for this career can open up even more opportunities for you to pursue outside of software development. Early in your career, when seeking entry-level positions, you can gain relevant experience to help prepare you for the future by working as a technical support specialist, software test engineer, quality assurance tester, or junior software engineer. 

As you move forward in software development, here’s a list of job roles you might explore:

Read more: Top 5 Entry-Level Computer Science Jobs + How to Get One

Get started with Coursera.

On Coursera, you can take the next step toward becoming a software developer by enrolling in a course. Software Development Processes and Methodologies from the University of Minnesota is designed to help you learn more about working on a software development team and the processes you will use to solve problems.

The Secure Software Design Specialization from the University of Colorado is another course where you can cultivate important software development skills and design secure software systems that keep users’ information safe through proper security practices.

Article sources


Lightcast™ Analyst. “Occupation Summary for Software Developers.” Accessed April 8, 2024. 

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