Get into IT Without a Degree: It’s a Lot Easier Than You Might Think
If IT is on your radar but you’re not sure how to get started, you’ll be happy to know that you may not need another degree – or a college degree at all! First, let’s bust some myths about getting into IT.
- You need a four-year degree in computer science to get into IT.
- You need a technical degree to get an entry-level tech support job.
- The things you need to know to excel in a technology job are only taught in college.
- IT hiring managers care more about your educational credentials than anything else.
If you search for job listings in areas of IT like web development, cybersecurity, software development, mobile app development and help desk support on top job posting sites like Indeed and Monster, you may notice a pattern in the listings’ qualification sections:
“High School diploma or GED required.”
A large portion of jobs in IT don’t require a four-year degree or even a two-year degree, and many IT job listings prove this. If not having a degree has held you back from pursuing a career in technology, you should know that most tech positions simply require proof that you can do the job, through certifications and prior experience. Hiring managers don’t weed out potential job candidates because they don’t have undergraduate degrees.
Job Stats for IT Professionals Without Degrees
- According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about one-quarter (26 percent) of IT workers in the United States do not hold a bachelor’s degree or higher.
- Around two-thirds (69 percent) of CompTIA certification candidates do not hold a four-year college degree. (Source: CompTIA Post Exam Survey, Q1 2018)
- Almost half (49 percent) of the 2.3 million IT job postings surveyed in 2017 did not list a four-year degree as a minimum requirement for candidates. (Source: CompTIA Employer Perception Study)
- In 2017, job postings for core IT positions in the United States that did not cite a bachelor’s degree or higher requirement paid $83,000 per year on average. (Source: CompTIA Employer Perception Study)
Get into IT with Transferable Skills
IT jobs aren’t reserved for math geniuses who prefer to work alone in dark rooms. The stereotype you might have in your head about who’s well-suited for a technology job couldn’t be farther from the truth in most cases. The skills you already have could help you get into IT.
Not a calculus whiz? You don’t need advanced math for a large majority of IT jobs. You just need a growth mindset and the wiliness to learn new things to help yourself and other people better harness the power of technology.
And if you’re a people person, you’re in luck. A big portion of tech jobs require you to work on teams or help colleagues figure out solutions to their technology problems. If you aren’t a people person, you actually might struggle in IT.
Communication, creativity, problem-solving and attention-to-detail – all skills you may already have – give you an edge if you’re switching careers into IT. As mentioned, most careers in information technology require you to work either on a team or with colleagues to tackle technology issues. This is where your transferable communication skill will make a difference.
- Creativity is essential in software and web developer roles, where you’ll be expected to come up with bright ideas to create and enhance new products. In other roles, your creativity will come in handy as you come up with innovative ways to address technology concerns.
- Problem-solving is the most important skill to have in tech. If you know you’re tenacious about figuring out solutions, you’ll excel in the field.
- Attention-to-detail is required if you’re trying to fix a line of code or identify a cybersecurity threat, and this skill will get you far in IT.
These are just some of the transferable skills that might make you an appealing and successful candidate for an IT job.
Advice from the Experts
We spoke with two IT leaders who don’t have degrees to get their insights into what you might need to give yourself an edge on the tech job market.
Frank J. Segarra is the CEO of a drone services company, ConnexiCore. Frank was in the U.S. Navy and got into IT without a degree after leaving the military. Here’s Frank’s advice for career changers without degrees who are hoping to get into IT:
“Do a lot of research. If you don’t have a college background, do a lot of listening. Surround yourself with people who are successful in the industry that you’re looking to break into. Ultimately, the world is your oyster because so much information is available online. You can self-educate, come in at the junior level as an intern and work your way up. My number-one recommendation is to surround yourself with successful people you can learn from.”
Tracy Pound owns her own IT training company in the United Kingdom. Here’s Tracy’s advice:
“Go for it! IT is a fast-paced, growing and changing industry. Demonstrating characteristics that show how you can embrace change, learn and solve business problems with tech will go a long way to getting a career in IT. My career is in its fourth decade now, and I don’t have a degree. I’ve successfully started and owned two businesses and actively mentor other tech and non-tech companies because people can see what I’ve been able to achieve. Attitude is the biggest differentiator between success and failure. It either removes mental boundaries or sets them.”
What You Need to Qualify for Jobs When You Don’t Have a Degree
This depends on which area of IT you decide is best for your career change. Here are a few of the many popular IT careers that don’t require a degree and generally what you’ll need to do to qualify for them:
Help Desk Technician
Prove that you have the knowledge and skills to help people solve complex technology problems in a corporate environment. Help desk technicians need to be able to troubleshoot and resolve hardware, software, and network issues. The CompTIA A+ IT certification qualifies you for most entry-level help desk jobs. There are a number of flexible online and in-person classes and training programs that help you prepare to pass the CompTIA A+ certification exam. Learn more about getting CompTIA A+ certified.
Demonstrate experience in a help desk, technical support or networking role and complete cybersecurity training to land one of the hottest IT jobs today. Employers often give preference to candidates with cybersecurity certifications like CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst (CySA+). If you’re a beginner to IT but know you eventually want to land a cybersecurity job, start with CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+ and CompTIA Security+. Once you have a few years of hands-on cybersecurity experience, you can earn CySA+ to validate your skills.
Be able to offer solutions and support for software, hardware, operating systems, applications and company data and be aware of how to protect against viruses and malware. CompTIA A+ and CompTIA Network+ certifications, in addition to experience in an entry-level help desk role, will qualify you for most systems administrator positions.
Don’t forget that many hiring managers will also be paying attention to your transferable and soft skills. Your previous work experience and accomplishments matter, even if you’re trying to switch careers from a dramatically different field. Make sure you highlight relevant skills and achievements on your resume and on applications.
What About Technical Degrees?
If you’ve set your sights on an IT career that seems to, in most cases, require at least a two-year technical degree, you may decide to go back to school part time or full time as you prep to get into IT.
There are several reputable fully online programs that give you quite a bit of flexibility if you do decide to go back to school. In these programs, you can often complete your coursework asynchronously, which means you don’t have to log on to class at any particular time. All of your coursework and course lectures are available 24/7, and you can generally work around your job schedule.
This is a great option for people who don’t want to quit their jobs as they ready themselves to switch careers. Just remember that going back to school can be costly, and technical degrees (or any degrees beyond a high school diploma, for that matter) aren’t required for many positions.
Are you still questioning “Is IT right for me?” Take our quiz to see if your skills transfer to IT.