From education to employment

How young people can pursue a career in tech without attending university

Daniele Servadei

Higher education isn’t the right route for everyone, but that doesn’t mean they cannot acquire skills and build successful tech careers in other ways. This article offers guidance for young people who want to pursue a career in tech without going to university.

The assumption that there is a one-size-fits-all solution for everyone to achieve their dream career is unrealistic. We constantly see the same message that if you want a well-paid job and career, you need to go to university to get your degree. However, higher education isn’t the right route for everyone.

Some people are not in the right financial situation to go to university or may not have found a programme that will help them get the job they want. Alternatively, a portion may struggle to learn from higher education and know how to apply this knowledge in the real working world.

Some would argue that many degree programmes lack practicality, and this impacts an educational institution’s ability to pass down the skills employers are really looking for. Not to mention, a university degree gives students the idea that when the course ends so does their learning journey.

In reality, the learning journey does not have an end, especially in a fast-paced industry like the tech sector. Employers are also coming to realise that university degrees are not the be-all-and-end-all solution they were once marketed to be. Tech giants like Google, Apple, and IBM have all published tech jobs where a degree qualification was not a requirement.

The jobs were still well-paid and offered to those with either a high-school diploma or nontraditional education. The decision to do this came as these tech companies realised metrics like university GPAs were no longer valuable predictors of an employee’s performance.

University is a fantastic option for many people, but it’s not the only way to get in the door to your dream role. Not pursuing a four-year degree program does not mean you cannot have a meaningful career. There are lots of jobs that do not require a college degree or where a degree is seen more as a ‘nice to have’ factor.

Additionally, the online space has become increasingly populated with virtual programs and resources, allowing people to pursue their ambitions in a way that best suits them. What’s more, the online space can allow them to acquire the skills that truly matter to today’s tech employers.

In the digital age, we have a vast library of resources at our fingertips

People can succeed in life without having a degree under their belt. They can obtain their dream positions, launch thriving businesses, acquire sought-after skills, and find their purpose. This is especially true for jobs within the tech industry. In the current digital age, we have instant access to a wide array of tools, from online training programs to tutorials, tools, and more.

Those with aspirations to work in the sector have a vast library at their fingertips. There are many online courses and platforms that offer both free and paid courses focusing on a wide range of technology topics. Some of these platforms include Udemy, Coursera, and Code Academy.

They offer programmes spanning topics like data science, coding, and more. There are also a lot of tech boot camps online, short intensive courses that focus on very specific tech skills. While other programs may be more beneficial in helping you get your foot in the door in the tech industry, these boot camps can act as a good starting point.

There is also a lot to be said for learning by doing. Some would argue that university programs are not practical enough. As a result, they may not truly prepare students for the working world. A portion of university degrees focus too much on teaching knowledge and not enough on transferring skills.

This is where self-study and projects can help people bridge the gap and get their ideal employment opportunities. Building personal projects or contributing to open-source can also help. Networking and mentorship can also prove incredibly valuable for youths looking to pursue a career in tech.

They get the opportunity to connect with professionals, and these experts can offer them guidance but also opportunities to further elevate their resume. In this digital age, the online world is also filled with diverse communities. There are communities for just about everything online, from hobbies to corporate industries.

These communities are jam-packed with passionate experts in the relevant field and can offer even more invaluable insights. By joining a thriving community like this, young people can benefit from numerous mentors. University degrees are often viewed as proof of competency or a lifelong stamp of professional competency. However, it is important to remember they can create a false sense of security, which perpetuates an illusion that work and the knowledge it requests are static when it isn’t.

Of course, some tech roles may require some certifications as proof of competency. For instance, AWS certifications like the AWS Solution Architect Professional. However, there are still a lot of certification programs out there that can be used as proof of competency rather than a university degree.

In addition, these courses can offer hands-on learning that bridges the gap between knowledge and work. Certifications from organizations like CompTIA, Cisco, Azure, GCP, AWS, and more can help those improve their resume without needing a university degree.

Building a successful tech career is possible without a degree

It is very possible to build a successful tech career or business without possessing a degree in tech. Whilst a college degree acts as proof of competency, we cannot forget the importance and value placed on portfolios. Having completed projects or contributions under your belt demonstrates real-world experience and skills.

A university degree illustrates you have several skills and dedication to the field, but you cannot solely rely on this to get your foot in the door. Employers value real-world experience and seeing that other professionals in the field have commissioned you to do work and that they were impressed with the results.

They want to know about your work experience to understand what skills you have and if there are any gaps. There’s no denying a portfolio holds more importance in an employer’s eyes. This is what they will dive into to see whether you are a fit for a specific role. Therefore, one of the most crucial steps to take if you want to pursue a career in the tech industry is to build up your portfolio.

You should also work to acquire and build up soft skills such as communication, teamwork, and problem-solving. These skills are integral to the fast-paced and ever-changing tech sector. Ultimately, you should enter this avenue knowing that continuous learning will be your key to success. The tech industry evolves each day, and it’s important to always stay up-to-date with the latest technologies and trends.

Those who have their ear to the ground concerning these changes are the ones who will find a successful tech career without the need for a university degree. Internships and apprenticeships will also prove integral for gaining the hands-on experience required to access sought-after tech roles.

The practical knowledge and experience they offer will reflect those required in your tech role. All of this is important, but it’s also vital not to forget that you need to find the right company for you. It isn’t uncommon for some tech companies to be apprehensive or disinterested in helping juniors grow.

Those interested in pursuing a tech career should also pay particular attention to the current tech landscape. Some niches that can offer excellent job opportunities with great salary potential include artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, cloud computing, and of course, Blockchain. As Blockchain continues to be adopted, it is entering more sectors and creating interesting and fulfilling job opportunities.

Learning about these niche areas, therefore, could help young people stay ahead of the curve and be in line for these exciting positions with great prospects. Regardless of whether young people decide to go to university to obtain a degree in a technological field, they should still allow room for self-learning. They should complement their studies with their own learning.

As mentioned previously, the tech industry is everchanging with new advancements and developments filling the scene. Therefore, you shouldn’t just rely on your degree qualification. Your teacher likely doesn’t know everything there is to know about that specific field. In addition, the course material may not be constantly developed to include what is currently trending or emerging within the sector.

Therefore, identifying what the market wants you to know and studying this well is key. University programmes definitely have a lot to offer in terms of creating an environment where learning is guided in a structured order, and students are motivated to do well. However, the university teaching format does not automatically suit everyone.

Some may resonate more with other methods like learning by doing, self-paced learning programs, or networking with other working professionals in their chosen niche. Those who don’t feel university is a fit shouldn’t count themselves out for exciting roles in the tech sector where they can fulfil their purpose. If anything’s clear, university degrees have their place but the future of work is more so about acquiring skills and experience than it is about obtaining university qualifications.

By Daniele Servadei, co-founder and CEO of Sellix

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