How to Become a Software Engineer, Even without a CS Degree

How to Become a Software Engineer, Even without a CS Degree

Are you interested in learning how to become a software engineer, but don’t have years to dedicate to studying CS at university? Well, good news: you can absolutely become a software developer without a college degree!

Software engineers are in charge of developing and testing software programs. Six-figure wages and high employability await individuals in this exciting, interesting professional path.

Today’s software engineers specialize in cutting-edge technology such as cloud computing platforms, virtual reality, and gaming. Therefore becoming a software engineer requires excellent technical skills.

The IT industry is constantly evolving, opening new opportunities for software professionals. Good news: even if you do not have a degree in computer science, you can still work your way to becoming a successful software developer.

What Does a Software Engineer Do?

Software engineers are responsible for creating, designing, and testing software products like video games, operating systems, apps, features, robots, web applications, etc.).

Typical roles of a software engineer include:

  • Planning the software development process and strategy
  • Design, build, and test software applications
  • Understand requirements and solve problems using coding/technology
  • Use programming languages to translate user requirements into something a computer can understand
  • Working as part of a software development and testing team

Why Should You Consider Becoming a Software Engineer?

According to a recent study conducted by Data USA , the number of college graduates with degrees in computer science has climbed by 17.2%, with over 4.3 million people working in this field in the United States.

Although the number may appear to be excessive, it is not surprising that many people want to work in software engineering because it offers so many benefits, including:

  • Career Options: As a college graduate, the last thing you want is to get your degree only to be unable to find work in your field. However, suppose you want to work in software development. In that case, this issue does not appear to be a major concern, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that this economic sector will grow by 24%. In comparison, the average annual growth rate for all other occupations is merely 7%. By 2026, this translates to an additional 302,500 software development employment.
  • Work Environment: The image of a programmer working alone in a room all day is far from reality, and relatively few programmers work alone. You must be an excellent communicator and team player in addition to technical abilities. To guarantee that you get the greatest end product, you will frequently need to work as part of a team to share your skills and ideas and understand excellent development practices and how systems work.
  • Flexible Work Options: Working from home is becoming increasingly important to job seekers. Software engineers can typically work from home because practically all of their work gets done on a computer. Moreover, software engineers can often work from shared workplaces, motels, or coffee shops as long as they can connect with their team.

Salaries and job availability for software engineers

Maybe not Wolf of Wall Street salaries, but software engineering jobs pay well

Maybe not Wolf of Wall Street salaries, but software engineering jobs pay well

According to BLS , the median salary for all occupations in the United States is roughly $51,960 per year. According to Glassdoor , the typical base compensation for software engineering professionals is double that amount, at $103,035 per year. Even entry-level software engineers may expect to make around $86,000 a year.

So, if you are searching for a career path that can swiftly get you into the six-figure bracket, try software engineering. You can earn much more with the proper education and experience, up to $145,000 per year.

Furthermore, there are numerous job choices available to you as a software engineer. For example, you can choose to work as an independent contractor, for a start-up, or for a larger corporation. Having this option gives you the freedom to choose a work environment and lifestyle that meets your needs.

Software developers are in high demand as well. Practically every business needs its form of software and personnel who can develop it according to their needs. The market for software engineers is projected to increase as the world becomes more digital and operates online. Software development is an interesting alternative if you are seeking a career with a bright future.

What Programming Languages Are Employers Looking For?

The annual Stack Overflow Survey is one of the most comprehensive assessments of how programmers work, with nearly 90,000 engineers from all across the world participating this year.

With that, the following is a snapshot of the results of the most popular technologies:

  • Programming, Scripting, and Markup Languages: JavaScript is the most widely used programming language for the ninth year in a row, at 64.96%. Web programming is the most common type of programming for most developers. Python has surpassed SQL to become the third most popular programming language.
  • Databases: 50.18% of all respondents chose MySQL as the most popular database. Professional developers are somewhat more likely to utilize Microsoft SQL Server than MongoDB, which is the only difference found in the survey.
  • Cloud Platforms: With 54.22%, AWS is the most popular cloud platform, although Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure have made significant advances since last year.
  • Web Frameworks: React.js surpassed jQuery as the most popular web framework this year, with 40.14% of the vote.
  • Other Frameworks and Libraries: The.NET framework receives the most love in other technologies, with 34.2%; however, some Python data science tools make significant showings.
  • Other Tools: Git is used by over 93.43 respondents, indicating that it is an essential tool for engineers.

While the most popular technologies get determined in Stack Overflow’s recent annual developer survey, developers should also examine what languages are most in-demand from companies when deciding what new skills to learn and master.

According to recent statistics from the job search site, Indeed , specific programming languages are now in great demand. The site used several qualifications to determine the programming languages listed below. They frequently offer high pay, are adaptable to various roles, and are expected to be in high demand for a long time.

If you want to read more about this, check out my recommended programming languages to start with .

How Long Does It Take to Become a Software Engineer?

Depending on your technical skills, professional background, and career path, becoming a Software Engineer might take anywhere from a few months to four years.

Software engineering is one of the few disciplines where a person can have the luxury of landing a 6 figure salary without a college degree, now that doesn’t mean that no developer has one, on the contrary, as seen above, there’s a high number of people graduating from software engineering or computer science.

A college degree in a related field would certainly help prove that a job candidate has the right foundational computer science and math training to understand core software engineering concepts. Still, the plain fact is that if an aspiring Software Developer has developed the right skills, excels at a variety of programming languages, and has real-world gained valuable projects and coding web applications, it can land any job, no problem!

Some software engineers are self-taught and succeed, but most should consider taking a coding or programming education. In as short as a dozen weeks, these programs may get students up and running with the new abilities they need to get an entry-level job as a professional software developer. Although learning to code is only one of many steps to becoming a Software Engineer, it is one of the most significant areas for anyone interested in pursuing a full-time career in the field.

The bottom line is that how long it takes to become a software engineer is totally up to you. You can be self taught, watching YouTube and getting your hands on the keyboard and building stuff, you can join bootcamps and other training programs, or you can go for a shiny computer science degree.

The Steps to Becoming a Software Engineer

Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash (

Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash (

Software engineering is a constantly evolving field; thus, as new technologies emerge, one should adopt. Ultimately, this shifting nature opens up numerous various entry points into the IT sector.

However, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to achieving this. Generally, to become a professional software engineer, follow these steps:

1. Planning out your career

Starting on the proper foot in your software engineer career can be beneficial. When you have a specific target in mind, it makes it easier to identify and overcome roadblocks. You should have a particular aim in mind, maybe something that goes like these:

  • “My ambition is to pursue a job as a software developer.”
  • “I wish to work as a software engineer for a well-known tech firm.”
  • “I want to work as part of a team and be well compensated for it.”

2. Choose an education path

Here’s the thing: after you have mastered one language or stack, switching to another will not be as tough. That means that learning programming principles should be your priority while aspiring to be a software engineer.

You may quickly switch to different languages, frameworks, and technologies once you have a solid foundation.

To begin, concentrate on one language or framework. It can be difficult to decide which language to learn because there are so many . As a result, you must devote some time to learning about the various languages.

Then, based on your desired learning method, select a platform or course from which to begin your study.


Bootcamps can be a great option for those who want to quickly gain the skills and knowledge necessary to become a software engineer. These intensive programs typically last for several weeks or months and offer hands-on, practical training in various programming languages, frameworks, and tools.

One of the main advantages of bootcamps is that they can provide a fast track to a career in software engineering. Unlike traditional degree programs, which can take several years to complete, bootcamps are designed to teach students the specific skills needed to land a job in the field as quickly as possible. This can be particularly attractive for individuals who are looking to make a career change or who want to enter the job market as soon as possible.

Another advantage of bootcamps is that they often provide a supportive learning environment. Bootcamp instructors and mentors are typically experienced software engineers who can provide guidance and support throughout the learning process. Additionally, many bootcamps offer career services and job placement assistance to help graduates find employment after completing the program.

However, there are also some potential drawbacks to consider. For one, bootcamps can be expensive, and many students may have to take out loans to pay for the program. Additionally, while bootcamps can be a good way to gain practical skills, they may not provide the same level of theoretical knowledge and background as a traditional degree program.

Another potential downside is that bootcamps can be quite intense, with students expected to work long hours and complete challenging assignments. This can be difficult for individuals who have other responsibilities, such as work or family obligations.

Finally, it is important to note that not all bootcamps are created equal. It is important to do your research and choose a program that has a good reputation and that offers quality instruction and support.

College education

A computer science degree will provide you with the most relevant background for developing software. Interviewers will ask questions about data structures and algorithms. As a result, traditional computer science degrees offer the best theoretical preparation for this.

However, you will largely develop software and learn how to write real software outside of the classroom.


Interestingly, many developers choose this path. With so many free and paid materials available, this may not come as a surprise. This strategy is for you if you prefer self-paced learning, which means you study through the materials in your spare time, and assignments or quizzes are not “due” at a set time. You usually watch pre-recorded videos and determine your schedule.

3. Get hands-on experience

Practice, practice, practice

Practice, practice, practice

A good software developer is somebody who works diligently every day to create new software. While the stack you learn does not matter all that much, learning by doing does. This experience entails devoting some serious time to honing your new skill.

Every day, every week, you must devote a significant amount of time to learning.

If you need ideas, check out some of these posts for cool projects to work on:

4. Develop a suitable portfolio

To stand out in this booming sector, software engineers need a great resume.

You should highlight technical skills and prior experience in a software engineer resume. A skills area on most resumes lists programming languages, software expertise, and platforms.

Candidates should also highlight their educational background and job experience. Some employers may need a portfolio of previous work in addition to a resume.

Additionally, employers frequently evaluate candidates’ problem-solving abilities as well as their technical expertise.

Software developers can also work as independent contractors. On their websites or job boards, businesses advertise freelancing and contract opportunities.

5. Land your dream job

You are a master at coding and you built up an arsenal of software engineering skills, what now? It is time to land your dream job!

Pre-interview essentials

Like with every other position, connections matter, and you should start building them. Start connecting with peers and influencers in the field (don’t mind connecting with me ). Doing so will help you stay on the latest trends, make interesting work groups for future projects, and if you impress and make a solid connection with someone, he/she may even refer you for an open job position.

Another important aspect of your pre-game, is your social presence, not the instagram type, but the professional one, the one that shows your interest in the field, and the amazing work you have done, either for other companies or for yourself, as a hobby or just as portfolio projects.

So, be ready to fine-tune your game in the following sites:

  • LinkedIn profile
  • GitHub
  • Personal website (or portfolio site)
  • Twitter (not really necessary, but having an online presence could help)
  • Blogging (being able to explain technical concepts to others shows that you have a clear domain knowledge on the subject)

Employers may check these to get a feeling of you, so make sure you build them up to impress, though highly in demand, it is still a competitive world out there.

Ace the job interview

The job interview is totally different from what you may know from other industries, they are usually composed of a screen call, a technical or coding interview (or multiple) and sometimes a culture fit interview.

What really sets them apart are the technical or coding interviews, which usually have nothing to do with the day to day job you will be performing, but would rather focus more on algorithms and data structures. Sounds bizarre, but it’s true.

Because, by nature, they are so different from the actual job (at least for most development jobs), make sure you study and prepare for your code interview .

There are plenty of resources on the internet, from books, sites and entire platforms built around acing the job interview, and I built a list you can read so you can prepare for your technical interview .

Accept the job offer and officially become a software engineer

🎉 Congrats🎉

🎉 Congrats🎉

🎉 Congrats🎉 - You nailed it! You are now officially a software engineer and have an exciting career and opportunities ahead of you!

Now that you made it, just remember to always stay on top, be always learning, and be awesome with others trying to get where you are. We are a community and we help each other out.

6. Keep learning

Learning how to interpret other people’s codes is one part of continual learning. You can do this by going through the documentation and visiting GitHub repositories.

Another technique to learn continuously is to listen to industry professionals daily, whether through podcasts, news, events, or social media, and immerse yourself in the world of code. This routine allows you to remain on top of current advancements and determine what you should learn next.

Thanks for reading!

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Juan Cruz Martinez - Author @ Live Code Stream

Juan Cruz Martinez

Juan has made it his mission to help aspiring developers unlock their full potential. With over two decades of hands-on programming experience, he understands the challenges and rewards of learning to code. By providing accessible and engaging educational content, Juan has cultivated a community of learners who share their passion for coding. Leveraging his expertise and empathetic teaching approach, Juan has successfully guided countless students on their journey to becoming skilled developers, transforming lives through the power of technology.