pro work *without* a cs degree

Discussion in 'Mac Programming' started by North Bronson, Jan 2, 2009.

  1. North Bronson macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2007
    Location:
    San José
    #1
    I was wondering what the chances are of finding work without a CS degree. I kind of figured it was slim to none (and Slim just left town), but if anyone has any ideas / stories that would be great.

    If I have no (CS) education, I assume that a firm would be willing to give me a shot with plenty of experience, but where should I go to find that experience? Who would hire someone who just kind of picked up programming on their own instead of going to college for it?
     
  2. lee1210 macrumors 68040

    lee1210

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2005
    Location:
    Dallas, TX
    #2
    I would recommend seeking out a software analyst, or perhaps programmer analyst position, or a tech support position at a company that had these sorts of positions that you could move into. These positions often have lower requirements than programmer/developer/engineer positions.

    Make sure you know what your resume says you know, and be comfortable discussing technical issues.

    Good luck!

    -Lee
     
  3. Sayer macrumors 6502a

    Sayer

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2002
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    #3
    If you have the skills, and can prove it (with demos or samples of your work) you can get in without a CS degree.

    Although having some kind of degree is not just for learning skills, its to show you have the ability to commit to something long-term and work hard to finish it. These are qualities any company wants in an employee, not just a lot of theory and "book learning."

    And it will probably take a lot longer to get the job without a proper CS degree than with, but who knows these days.

    Guy Kawasaki says to take any job as the first job (any tech job), you get in the door and get a line item on your resume and make connections, so don't expect to be project lead immediately.

    And it doesn't hurt to over-sell your abilities a little, you can always learn on the job if you have gaps (like not knowing Java, but knowing Cocoa/Objective-C). Conversely don't refuse to work with a language or platform, be flexible. I make Mac software in Cocoa/Objective-C, JSP (HTML + Java), JavaScript, shell scripts using a Mac (Xcode, Smultron, terminal) and Windows (Eclipse-based IDE).
     
  4. firewood macrumors 604

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2003
    Location:
    Silicon Valley
    #4
    connections

    Connections are more important than a CS degree.

    I don't have a CS or EE degree, and ended up with a number of jobs in computer hardware design, programming, software management, and etc. ... almost all based on either connections, or accomplishments made during a job that I was allowed to do because of connections.

    Pick your first jobs based on the number and quality of people you will be able to impress with your skill set and personality. Then excel at whatever tasks they stick you with.

    .
     
  5. savar macrumors 68000

    savar

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2003
    Location:
    District of Columbia
    #5
    You can work at any number of small companies without a degree.

    You can also work at many mid-to-large consulting companies without a degree. I majored in Econ but minored in Comp Sci, and I got my first job at a mid-sized consulting company. (Think about IBM, HP, Bearingpoint, Accenture, Booz Allen, etc.) Because they're looking for consulting skills (communication, presentation, personality, etc.) in addition to technical skills, they accept people along a spectrum. Also, a lot of the work going on in the consulting space is highly specialized, and no college graduate will have all of the experience necessary anyway.

    Once you get a job, your technical proficiency will speak for itself, but I doubt you have much of a chance getting a job at any high-end development shop, unless you have really impressive credentials in some other area -- like being a major contributor to a major open source product.
     
  6. Catfish_Man macrumors 68030

    Catfish_Man

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2001
    Location:
    Portland, OR
    #6
    I've found professional work without a degree primarily by using my open source contributions as an example of what I'm capable of. School might have been less effort ;)
     
  7. firewood macrumors 604

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2003
    Location:
    Silicon Valley
    #7
    The opportunity of the day, of course, is to develop and put a few well designed high quality iPhone apps into the iTunes App store. Instant street cred. Potential revenue stream. And a skill set that's actually in reasonable demand these days (never know how long that will last...)

    .
     
  8. Cromulent macrumors 603

    Cromulent

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    Oct 2, 2006
    Location:
    The Land of Hope and Glory
    #8
    I think being an open source developer is an excellent way to get your foot in the door. Just look at the lead developer of LLVM who got hired by Apple.
     
  9. Catfish_Man macrumors 68030

    Catfish_Man

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2001
    Location:
    Portland, OR
    #9
    I would also note in that case that LLVM was his masters thesis project...
     
  10. Cromulent macrumors 603

    Cromulent

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    Oct 2, 2006
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    #10
    True, but it is not the only case of open source developers being hired by large corporations. Apple also bought CUPS in the same way.
     
  11. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2006
    Location:
    Redondo Beach, California
    #11
    Most all larger companies required a 4 year degree for any salaried position. Without a degree only hourly positions would be available. These are typically suport jobs in "I.T.". thing like fixing PCs, managing the network. Sys Admin and the like. But some of these do require some programming. For example most Unix sys admins will write scripts.

    But notice the key word about "large" companies. Smaller outfits typically have looser rules. I worked as a programmer for several small companies while I was in school.

    Being self employed counts as a "not large" company too. Learn to program an iPhone.

    One more thing... Remeber that most computers are not desktops. Most of them are inside things like cars, microwave ovens, office copy machines, ATMs, video cameras, medical devices, gas pumps, and thousands of other objects. It's more than "most", more like 90%. Look at the people who make stuff that uses microcontrolers, which is "everyone".
     
  12. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2006
    Location:
    Redondo Beach, California
    #12
    Most all larger companies required a 4 year degree for any salaried position. Without a degree only hourly positions would be available. These are typically suport jobs in "I.T.". thing like fixing PCs, managing the network. Sys Admin and the like. But some of these do require some programming. For example most Unix sys admins will write scripts.

    But notice the key word about "large" companies. Smaller outfits typically have looser rules. I worked as a programmer for several small companies while I was in school.

    Being self employed counts as a "not large" company too. Learn to program an iPhone.

    One more thing... Remember that most computers are not desktops. Most of them are inside things like cars, microwave ovens, office copy machines, ATMs, video cameras, medical devices, gas pumps, and thousands of other objects. It's more than "most", more like 90%. Look at the companies who make stuff that uses micro-controlers, which is "everyone". there are a lot of places to look.
     
  13. newb16 macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2008
    #13
    I have a story. Where I work *checked my spam folder* (med. size, ~1000 EEs ), there were two guys working without degree, and it still has open positions (developers, not tech support/cable wiring guy) where degree is not listed as mandatory requirement, but... I said 'were'. You know, crisis and stuff... Maybe some hr type stuff, like 'you are not going to reduce people w/degree before ones w/o degree'

    Btw I suppose that there are successful programmers that 'picked it up' _before_ going to college.
     
  14. trule macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2007
    #14
    Perhaps getting some certifications would help?

    There is more to working in an dev organization than just writing code...if all you want to do is write code then perhaps finding an open source project would be interesting. One with a close link to a commercial company might help your chances of being picked up for some paid work.
     
  15. dmkmil macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2008
    Location:
    Athens - Greece
    #15
    I employee technical personnel the last 12 years. To the one end, I've seen people with excellent degrees not being able to design and write a single program and to the other end I've seen self taught people to perform miracles.

    To a certain extend it's up to the individual, the hours of work and effort it puts in, reading computer literature and books, the passion etc.

    However, programming, in most cases, is not science.It is an art that can be learned relatively easily.

    A university degree would give you theoretical knowledge in areas that in most cases you would not need in "commercial programming". It would give you though, and that's more important, a methodology to approach problems and provide solutions. I am not talking about software engineer methodologies but about a specific way-method of thinking and approaching issues, adopting to new ideas, generalizing concepts and solutions, etc.

    That's the major difference that I've seed between graduates and non-graduates.

    But in principle, a self taught individual can be as good software engineer as a graduate one.

    When I employee new personnel for the company I work for, I prefer people with degrees but I will not exclude someone that I think is a brilliant software engineer just because he does not hold a degree. Then again my firm's policies allow me the freedom to do so.

    Finally, if that worries you too much, may I suggest that is never too late to go for a degree.
     
  16. North Bronson thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2007
    Location:
    San José
    #16
    Very interesting responses. Thank you all.

    That's really interesting. Thanks. Have you seen that carry over to graduates without a CS degree? Here's what I mean: I graduated with a Bachelor's degree in economics. The best thing to do then (besides getting lots of programming experience) is to emphasize all the problem solving I've been doing for four years, right? Also: to emphasize how all that problem solving could have been (and in some cases, were) programming problems?
     
  17. dmkmil macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2008
    Location:
    Athens - Greece
    #17
    Yes, this is what I mean. If you already have a BSc in Economics, the mentality is there. You already should have a structured approach, analytical and synthetical abilities, etc. And that's something that you apply unconsciously to all aspects of your life.

    All you have to do now, is to read a couple of good computer science textbooks and try to get hands on experience ... and never stop reading some more.
     

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