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Getting into programming/software development without a degree - possible?

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[OP]
Sr. Member
Oct 9, 2011
611 posts
315 upvotes
EAST YORK

Getting into programming/software development without a degree - possible?

I'm currently working in financial risk management, with about 6 years of experience, and finding that the field and finance in general isn't really for me. I play around with coding for fun now and then and it's a field I'd be really interested in working in. I recently started studying seriously, taking lessons on Javascript, Node.JS, HTML, CSS etc. I've done some research and I'm getting a lot of conflicting information on how necessary it is to have a Computer Science degree to break into the industry. It seems like although it may be possible to get your foot in the door by building a really awesome portfolio, having some kind of post-grad education goes a long way.

I graduated with a completely unrelated university degree, but lately I've been thinking of enrolling in a 2-year computer programming diploma at Algonquin College. It's delivered online so it works out for me as I can do my full-time job and study simultaneously, and have that coveted piece of paper HR seems to love. I'll of course be learning what I have been on my own and continuing to try and build a portfolio of projects.

SO my question is - is the diploma worth it? Would it give my profile an extra punch when I start looking for a job? It's not particularly expensive which is why I'm considering it, and it seems like Algonquin College has a solid reputation at least in the National Capital Region.

Thoughts?
13 replies
Deal Guru
User avatar
Mar 23, 2008
13006 posts
9961 upvotes
Edmonton
baddoctor wrote: I'm currently working in financial risk management, with about 6 years of experience, and finding that the field and finance in general isn't really for me. I play around with coding for fun now and then and it's a field I'd be really interested in working in. I recently started studying seriously, taking lessons on Javascript, Node.JS, HTML, CSS etc. I've done some research and I'm getting a lot of conflicting information on how necessary it is to have a Computer Science degree to break into the industry. It seems like although it may be possible to get your foot in the door by building a really awesome portfolio, having some kind of post-grad education goes a long way.

I graduated with a completely unrelated university degree, but lately I've been thinking of enrolling in a 2-year computer programming diploma at Algonquin College. It's delivered online so it works out for me as I can do my full-time job and study simultaneously, and have that coveted piece of paper HR seems to love. I'll of course be learning what I have been on my own and continuing to try and build a portfolio of projects.

SO my question is - is the diploma worth it? Would it give my profile an extra punch when I start looking for a job? It's not particularly expensive which is why I'm considering it, and it seems like Algonquin College has a solid reputation at least in the National Capital Region.

Thoughts?
I have a 2 year diploma in "Computer Systems Technology" from a local community college. Been working in the field for the last 20+ years, and I don't feel like it's ever hindered my movements. Don't know anything about Algonquin College and how it's viewed there, but if it's enough to get your first job in the field, then I'd wager it's done it's job.

Another option for you may be to get into BI/data analytics. You may have access to a bunch of data already that you can work with, and provide value to your current employer. I started off in software development, but switched to BI about 9 years ago.

Good luck!

C
Member
Apr 25, 2019
351 posts
188 upvotes
baddoctor wrote: I'm currently working in financial risk management, with about 6 years of experience, and finding that the field and finance in general isn't really for me. I play around with coding for fun now and then and it's a field I'd be really interested in working in. I recently started studying seriously, taking lessons on Javascript, Node.JS, HTML, CSS etc. I've done some research and I'm getting a lot of conflicting information on how necessary it is to have a Computer Science degree to break into the industry. It seems like although it may be possible to get your foot in the door by building a really awesome portfolio, having some kind of post-grad education goes a long way.

I graduated with a completely unrelated university degree, but lately I've been thinking of enrolling in a 2-year computer programming diploma at Algonquin College. It's delivered online so it works out for me as I can do my full-time job and study simultaneously, and have that coveted piece of paper HR seems to love. I'll of course be learning what I have been on my own and continuing to try and build a portfolio of projects.

SO my question is - is the diploma worth it? Would it give my profile an extra punch when I start looking for a job? It's not particularly expensive which is why I'm considering it, and it seems like Algonquin College has a solid reputation at least in the National Capital Region.

Thoughts?

Do look into Northern Arizona University BS-CIT program. If you already have a degree they might give you 60 credit exemption and then you need to complete 60 more. Its mostly theory and essay based but would be decent add on CV. You can also get OSAP for this university. Its suscription based so you pay per 6 months 3000 USD and if you complete all courses in 6 months your total cost will only be 3000.

And remember, having a degree means you are eligible for US jobs through TN Visa. If you have a diploma for CSA category then you also need to show 2-3 years of simillar experience to the border agent. For degrees, its straight and who knows you might get a remote US job using the IT degree because market is much larger there.
Deal Fanatic
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Oct 26, 2003
7144 posts
176 upvotes
Nepean
What type of jobs are you after? Private industry values published work over a degree where as public industry still traditionally prefer a degree. If you are already doing code for fun you might want to consider contributing to open source projects that interests you or would like to work on in the future. Being able to contribute to a popular open source project will demonstrate to others you development skills as well as knowing development processes.
Deal Fanatic
Jul 13, 2009
5069 posts
3251 upvotes
Algonquin College I never heard of until I hired someone who was a former prof there, and he built up solid programs there and even did research work.

In the end it depends what you want to do and achieve, if you are l33t coder expert, no degree needed. If you want to have more leadership, management opportunities then yes.
Sr. Member
Sep 29, 2008
965 posts
200 upvotes
Mississauga
It is possible but you need very good personal projects to show case your skills. Even people with degrees generally have some side projects to gain attention. If you can, I would recommend getting a second degree. In Canada UBC has a nice second degree program but it is pretty competitive now. I had an accounting degree and went back to get a second degree in CS, was totally worth it for me but ymmv.
Sr. Member
Dec 23, 2012
504 posts
499 upvotes
RICHMOND HILL
as someone who interviews programmers, if you're good then I don't care about the degree. but the recruiters probably will. you have to get a job, and there are very few opportunities for someone without a degree, experience, or connections. you can start from a programming-adjacent role (QA) or whatever your current profession is at a tech company and wiggle your way to a development role - I have a very close friend who did just that and she has no problems getting interviews with the top companies (google etc.) after a few years of experience. definitely a road less traveled, but also definitely possible.
Deal Fanatic
Jul 13, 2009
5069 posts
3251 upvotes
VietAnhT25322 wrote: I am kinda on the same boat, it has been two years since I graduated business school. Have you considered taking the Online Masters of Computer Science at Georgia Tech (OMSCS)?

Also, can anyone who has any experience with OMSCS please chime in with regards to the program's credibility and prospects?
Georgia Tech is one of the BEST state schools especially in ML/AI. Charles Isbell is the dean and is a solid dude (AAAI, ACM fellow), you can reach out over Twitter and he answers.
Sr. Member
Aug 15, 2018
724 posts
584 upvotes
Yes, a friend of mine did it. He was working in an unrelated field, started a college diploma on evening class basis and worked on personal projects in the week-end. That was a busy schedule for a while but he got a job before finishing the diploma.
Deal Guru
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Mar 10, 2005
11077 posts
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baddoctor wrote: I'm currently working in financial risk management, with about 6 years of experience, and finding that the field and finance in general isn't really for me. I play around with coding for fun now and then and it's a field I'd be really interested in working in. I recently started studying seriously, taking lessons on Javascript, Node.JS, HTML, CSS etc. I've done some research and I'm getting a lot of conflicting information on how necessary it is to have a Computer Science degree to break into the industry. It seems like although it may be possible to get your foot in the door by building a really awesome portfolio, having some kind of post-grad education goes a long way.

I graduated with a completely unrelated university degree, but lately I've been thinking of enrolling in a 2-year computer programming diploma at Algonquin College. It's delivered online so it works out for me as I can do my full-time job and study simultaneously, and have that coveted piece of paper HR seems to love. I'll of course be learning what I have been on my own and continuing to try and build a portfolio of projects.

SO my question is - is the diploma worth it? Would it give my profile an extra punch when I start looking for a job? It's not particularly expensive which is why I'm considering it, and it seems like Algonquin College has a solid reputation at least in the National Capital Region.

Thoughts?
degree/diploma is not necessary at all, try to make a move into a junior dev role within your company. Look for postings and see what languages are required
"If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid." - Epictetus
Member
Nov 19, 2011
300 posts
68 upvotes
Calgary
Just my experience I’ve worked with people who have transitioned from other disciplines to software dev to software qa. Generally what I’ve heard is for these people it’s usually a bit harder to get in and companies may ask them to do more involved interviews like a take home assignment or something. Definitely do able. I think after you get your foot into the industry it probably won’t be such a big deal, but even for new grades from cs it may be difficult to get that first job.
Deal Addict
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Sep 14, 2012
2372 posts
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Montreal, QC
baddoctor wrote: SO my question is - is the diploma worth it? Would it give my profile an extra punch when I start looking for a job? It's not particularly expensive which is why I'm considering it, and it seems like Algonquin College has a solid reputation at least in the National Capital Region.

Thoughts?
I would say that it depends on the position and company whether it is worth it or not to get the diploma.

Where I currently work, unless you're already an employee, they won't look at you if you don't have the stated diploma for the position.

Also, if the position is in a unionized environment, the requirements are more strict since if the department decided to hire someone without the stated educational requirements, a union member without those same educational requirements can file a grievance.

I think it will also depend on your work experience. If all your work experience as well as your studies was in one field (ex: accounting/finance) and you then wanted to work in the realm of programming or computer science related, I think you will have a tough time without a degree in programming or computer science unless you can find a company willing to accept you in a entry level IT or programming level position.

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