Depending on where you grew up, you may have been conditioned to believe that a college degree is essential to a good career. Things change, society shifts, and so do hiring prerequisites.
You can become a good – no, great – web developer without a college degree. In fact, many companies have realized that computer science (CS) degree programs are teaching outdated tech. They either no longer require a degree or have shifted to training new hires on the job.
Why not walk job-ready in on day one instead? Okay, maybe we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. Let’s start with the basics…
In this myth-busting guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about becoming a developer without a CS degree. Including things like…
- Do you need a computer science degree to become a successful web developer?
- What are the pros and cons of a CS degree?
- How many web developers are self-taught?
- How do you learn to code without a degree?
- How do you become a web developer without a degree?
Let’s start with College....
Is a college education necessary to be a web developer?
The short answer is no. It’s not essential to have a college education to become a web developer. 10-15 years ago, a computer science degree was a prerequisite to working in tech.
Nowadays, though, it’s not usually required. Many job openings for web developers will list a bachelor’s or associate’s degree as preferred but not as a necessity.
According to Stack Overflow, only 27.6% of devs have a bachelor’s degree, 3.69% have an associate's, and 5.75% have a master's.
The pros of a computer science degree program
University offers a structured learning experience but it also takes longer and costs more money. You’ll learn theoretical foundations that carry into many types of programming careers.
It may give you a leg up in the hiring process, but likely only at certain types of companies. A university can give you access to more internships and apprenticeships which may make it easier to land your first job as a developer.
The cons of a computer science degree program
Aside from the obvious – degree programs are more expensive and take much longer than certifications or bootcamps – university programs often fall short. There’s no such thing as a web developer degree. First, you must go through 1-2 years of general computer science classes before deciding to specialize.
Rob holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science and now works as a web developer. He shares, “So many job-relevant skills were not taught at all. If you do land a junior job after getting a CS degree, you will have some catching up to do.”
Web Developer Education Stats
If you want to become a web developer without a computer science degree, you’re not alone! There is nothing wrong with being a self-taught developer; you’re certainly not the first person to become one.
Each year Stack Overflow’s conducts a Developer Survey. They asked developers how they learned how to code. Those responding to the survey could choose any answer that applied to them from learning online to learning at university and everything in between. They survey revealed that…
- 70% of professional developers learned to code online.
- Only 62% of professional web developers learned to code in university.
- 46% of professional developers learned to code through an online course or certification.
Alternative learning paths for web developers
To get a junior web developer job, you just need to learn relevant web developer skills. You don’t need the theory of computing and computational models or even the full gamut of knowledge like backend or fullstack software development that you might get in a university degree. Scrimba student Elly Loel, even dropped out of her computer science degree program to become a web developer on her own.
“Unfortunately, I had completed all of the web development classes that my university offered, leaving me with a difficult choice: stay and finish the degree or take a leap and learn web development on my own,” She shares. “Obviously, I left and took the self-taught route, mainly with the help of Scrimba.”
Ready to switch gears like Elly or start from scratch? You can take one of these paths to learn these skills without getting a degree.
Free online resources
Free online courses are everywhere: blogs, course platforms, YouTube, podcasts, and more are out there for you to learn how to become a web developer. Many people start with Free Code Camp and go from there. Other popular sources for free coding courses include Udemy, Coursera, Codecademy, Pluralsight, EdX, Udacity, and Skillsoft.
Web Developer Certifications
Web Developer Certifications efficiently teach job-relevant skills that employers are looking for. They usually include projects and tests, which solidify your skills and bolster your portfolio. Plus, you’ll get to practice learning new skills, which you’ll need to do at work as a web developer.
While a certification won’t replace a CS degree, you can string together a handful of frontend specific certifications to start your path to becoming a developer. These can help you gain credibility for the skills you’re developing through self learning.
They can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, and most are self-paced. Web developer certifications are sometimes free but paid certificates can cost anywhere from $89-$999.
Web Developer Bootcamps
At a Web Developer Bootcamp, you’ll enter an intense environment that takes you from zero to web developer in a short period of time. Most bootcamps are nine months long or less. Typically, bootcamps also include a career curriculum, community, and some kind of live tutoring or coaching.
An online, self-paced bootcamp can cost anywhere from a monthly fee of $35 to $2,500. In a self-paced bootcamp, you’ll work through lessons on your own and receive support in an online community, live workshops, and sometimes with a mentor. An immersive bootcamp can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $14,000. Immersive bootcamps usually teach all of their lessons live, sometimes in person.
How to Become a Web Developer With no CS Degree
On the Scrimba podcast, we’ve talked to more than 25 successful, self-taught developers to get a realistic idea of how long it takes to learn to code. We found that those who committed 2-3 hours a day for 6-9 months could learn everything they needed to land a web developer job.
Our students aren’t the only ones who have proved this. Dave Gray is an adjunct university professor, YouTuber, and self-taught programmer. “I learned the skills I now teach after - not while - completing a graduate degree. I am self-taught,” he shares.
“I am qualified to teach university courses due to my significant experience in the field,” He continues. Dave also says, “You must be a life-long learner.”
Here’s a five-step web developer roadmap, a.k.a. how to become a web developer (with no prior experience).
1. Learn Web Development
If you want to learn the skills you need to become a hireable web developer with no CS degree, you should learn the following:
- HTML & CSS basics
- Responsive design
- Working with APIs
- Building apps with Flexbox and Grid
- Learn Git
- React basics
- Advanced React
If you follow this learning path in order, you could learn web development in just 6-9 months!
2. Create a killer Portfolio
Throughout your learning experience, you’ve probably spent a decent amount of time working on projects and maybe even have one you could showcase! If you want to land a web developer job without a CS degree, you should create a portfolio website.
You can showcase your best work on your portfolio website and tell employers more about yourself than what can fit on your resume. Many web developers don’t even have a portfolio, so creating one will help you stand out!
Including unique projects in your portfolio is what matters the most here. So feel free to use a template website for your portfolio or use your new skills and create one from scratch! Whatever you have time for will work.
3. Put together your resume
When it comes to your resume, keep your template as minimalist as possible. Many tech companies use applicant tracking systems nowadays. These systems use criteria set by hiring managers to group job candidates whose resumes feature keywords matching the criteria. ATS can’t read images, so including graphics may actually hurt your resume.
Hiring managers also prefer predictable, easy-to-read resumes with a linear format. Instead of including distracting graphics, use that space to emphasize your coding experience.
On your resume, you should include the technologies you feel competent with, your previous work experience (even if it’s not technical), and your soft skills.
4. Get experience
You don’t need much experience to get your first job as a web developer - especially if you’re looking for a junior-level position. But, it can help solidify your skills and bolster your GitHub profile to get some work under your belt.
Here are a few ways you can get experience as a brand new web developer:
5. Apply for jobs
You learned to code and set yourself up for a web development career! Now, all that’s left is to apply for jobs! There are tons of places to find web developer jobs, but we got creative for you and found the 10 best places to find junior web developer jobs even if you have no experience.
Finding a job with no experience is a numbers game. Don’t be afraid to apply for things even if you don’t quite feel qualified. Even places like Google hire web developers without a computer science degree. So don’t be shy!
The key to getting a job in web development isn’t a CS degree, it’s practice. Learn the relevant technical skills, carve out your career path, and go for it! Many people find themselves applying for jobs in as little as six months.
Everyone’s circumstances are different, so it may take more or less time, but overall it’s completely possible to learn to code and land a job with no CS degree in less than a year. There are thousands of successful, self-taught developers out there. If our own podcast isn’t enough proof for you, check out No CS Degree too!