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How to Become a Software Engineer Without a CS Degree

Posted on 
March 25, 2021
|
by 
Isha Chakraborty

In the US alone, there are well over a hundred thousand jobs for software engineers. You engage with systems that have been developed and put in place by software engineers every day. Practically everything, starting from work and entertainment to networking and online shopping, takes place in cyberspace. Today, the role of a software engineer is more crucial than ever, and there’s a great deal of demand for people who can fulfill it. 

But what if you don’t have a Computer Science degree?  You’ll be pleased to know that it is very much possible to become a software engineer without CS degrees. Let’s look at how you can do it too. 

What does a software engineer or a software developer do?

First of all, let’s make sure we’re on the same page. Software engineers are CS experts who use coding and programming expertise to design and develop digital systems. The field has a great deal of scope; you could work as a coding engineer dealing with building an application,  you could be involved in updating and troubleshooting some form of software, or you could even be involved in software integration. While having a CS degree can be convenient, it’s not strictly necessary. If you think that you have the enthusiasm and skill, all you need to do is start your preparations. 

So, where do I go from here?

So you’re interested in becoming a software engineer, but you’ve got no clue what to do. You don’t have a CS degree (which won’t be a problem!), you might have recently graduated, or you might be looking to make a mid or late-career change. Now that you’re considering the option, here’s what you’ve got to do next. 

Set your goals

Do your research and read up on software engineering as a profession. Does it excite you, and do you genuinely think that such a job might fulfill you? Don’t think about how you’ll get there first; think about whether you want to be there at all. Do you like the technical end of things, and do you have an interest in coding and revolutionizing digital spaces? If the answer is a resounding yes, you can then proceed confidently.

The first steps: learn about programming

Coding languages are integral to the profession. You’re particularly valuable to a company if you’re fluent in a few programming languages. To start with, you should be well-versed with at least the popular ones that will most benefit you when you’re job-seeking. Specifically, here are the ones we’re thinking of. 

  • JavaScript
    If you use an Android phone, you’re benefiting from JavaScript. It’s hands down one of the most popular languages used in software engineering, particularly for web development. It’s primarily a front-end language and is also very easy for beginners to get the hang of, so you don’t have to worry too much if you’re new to it. Companies like PayPal, Netflix, Google, and Facebook regularly use JavaScript.

  • Python
    Python is a versatile programming language that is object-oriented and has a wide variety of applications. It’s used for web development, content management systems, machine learning, and game development. It’s also useful for testing applications because debugging is easier with Python.

  • C and C++
    C and C++ can be slightly more advanced for the beginner, but once you’ve caught up with some mid-level programming languages, you can tackle these. C is very popular for system programming, and C++, as its newer extension, is also used in development and program analysis.

This is by no means a complete list if you’re interested in learning programming languages; there are several other important coding languages like Swift (used by Apple), Java (used in web development), and Go (a modern language created by Google). You certainly don’t need to be fluent in every coding language out there, but you need to be up to date on the basics. 

Learning to code

Now that we’ve established that you need to learn to code let’s look at how you can accomplish this. If you’ve got a computer and an internet connection, that’s all you need. Coding is such a necessity of modern life that it’s quite easy to find resources out there to help you out. 

Scout out free resources on sites like Codecademy, Udacity, and Udemy, so you can figure out the basics and gain practice by building simple websites and applications. You can also check out Khan Academy, a free educational platform that offers beginner classes in specific programming languages like JavaScript. A little nosing around on the web will allow you to access a wealth of resources to get you going. But what if you want something more professional?


  1. Sign up for an online course
    Taking online classes is an easy, accessible way to learn how to code, and many of the sites which offer free resources also offer free course trials so you can decide whether you’re getting bang for your buck. Attend the lectures, interact with coding experts, and learn the ropes. Sites like Coursera offer lectures and resources from well-known colleges and universities, and you can audit the lectures for free.
  2. Apply for coding boot camps
    If you have the time and the finances to invest in this, a coding boot camp is ideal for putting you on the path to success. 84% of tech companies tend to rate boot camp graduates as top candidates in the hiring process. Sign up at Interview Kickstart, a technical interview prep boot camp that offers a 2-month Coding and Systems Design Masterclass to help you ace your FAANG interviews. Taught by top-tier mentors from the Big Brother companies, you can be sure to receive all the support you need to land your dream job. There are several boot camps out there. Depending on where you’re located, you can choose to opt for immersive, on-location ones. If you want to gain the necessary skills in a short period of time, an intensive crash course is your best bet. Head over to Interview Kickstart if you are keen on trying something fruitful online. 
  1. Talk to professionals
    If you’re already working, you might qualify for employer-assisted training. Discuss your goals with your superior and see if you can use the resources available at work to further your coding skills. You’ll simultaneously be diversifying your skillset and contributing more to your workplace while also preparing for the future. Also, talk to your friends and colleagues, and make valuable connections with software engineers who might be able to guide you. Familiarize yourself with the work they do, build a rapport with them, and ask them questions. This kind of networking is vital to gaining experience and helping you make your way up the ladder. If there are coding workshops or meetups in your area, you can get to know like-minded people who are passionate about coding, and share ideas and collaborate on projects too.
  2. Prepare a portfolio
    As you slowly become proficient in coding, you should start taking on small, personal projects. This is a great way to build a stronger knowledge base. Maintain a portfolio of your work, so you’ll have something to talk about in your job interviews. You can show your prospective employers how enthusiastic you are about the work that you do, and it’ll give you an edge over the competition if you’ve come up with a particularly interesting or unique program.

Now that you have the skills, you have to start job-searching. This might be a bit of a grind, but there’s no end to the IT jobs out there, so apply wherever you’d like to see yourself working. This process will become even easier if you’re set on a particular specialty in software engineering. This will probably become clear to you when you go through the learning process and realize what you like and dislike. 

Don’t give up if you don’t immediately hear back because the job search can be a tiring process. If you’re applying to FAANG, you know you’re part of a long line of prospective candidates. But eventually, if you’re determined and stick to it, you should have a couple of interviews lined up.

The interviews

Remember, the company might be interviewing you, but in a way, you’re also interviewing them. You need to know that this is the right workplace for you, a place where you can hone your skills further and gain a better understanding of your field. Take pride in your hard work, and approach each interview with confidence. So how should you best tackle the interview?

  • Tailor your responses to the job
    If you’re applying for a job that is largely focused on back-end development, talk about your experience building projects. But if your workplace is very much invested in team-building, don’t forget to mention your interpersonal skills. Make sure to showcase your talents, but answer the question keeping your job description in mind.
  • Discuss your experience
    It won’t have escaped your employers that you don’t have a CS degree, but this doesn’t need to be a setback at all. Discuss your programming abilities and your portfolio by all means, but also mention other skills you might have learned that might be relevant, whether that’s years of work experience or a degree in another field. Before the interview, keep the peripheral skills you’ve picked up in mind. Discuss what you will contribute to the company simply because you took another path. They’ll have plenty of candidates who are applying with a formal CS background. What do you have that’s different?
  • Don’t neglect the soft skills
    Be prepared with answers on how you manage your time, how you approach problem-solving, how well you can adapt in various work situations, and so on. Don’t just focus on prepping for the technical side of the interview, or you’ll be caught off-guard.

How much can you earn as a Software Engineer in the US?

Working in the US as a software engineer is a position coveted by many. The work culture is amazing, especially at FAANG, and the pay only adds to the joy of working in a fast-paced company that leaves room for creative experimentation. The basic pay for a software engineer in the US is anything from $80,000-$85,000. Companies like Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and Google pay $1m-$1.5m to some of their top-tier software engineers. 

Keep learning

Once you’ve got a job, you should keep polishing your skills! You shouldn’t let that useful knowledge base go to waste. But now you know how you can become a software engineer without a CS degree. Yes, it’s not easy, and yes, you will have to keep at it for months, but if you commit to it, you’re sure to emerge with a job in hand. 

Moreover, Interview Kickstart is just around the corner to support your dreams and help you master everything that you need to land your dream job. And who knows, maybe you’ll be working at Apple or Google someday, making waves in the field of software engineering. Good luck!

Isha Chakraborty
Senior Content Specialist
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