- Worldwide, only 18.9% of active web developer job advertisements list a degree as a requirement, according to our research.
- In the U.S., the share of degree-requiring web developer jobs is significantly higher, at 33.3%. However, they still remain a minority.
- Start your career as a front-end developer. It has the highest share of no-degree jobs and more than twice the amount of open positions as back-end developers.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for web developers is projected to grow at a rate of 13% per year: faster than the average for all occupations. Plus, web developers are paid well for their expertise, with senior web developers earning an average salary of $125,127 per year in the U.S.
But, what if you don’t have an academic degree?
Becoming a web developer without a computer science degree, or any degree for that matter is more common than you might think.
There are several reasons for this:
- Working as a web developer requires skillsets that can be fully self-taught online without any formal education.
- Higher education struggles to keep up with the pace of innovation in web development and software programs.
- With 50% of companies struggling to fill developer positions with qualified candidates, employers have no choice but to embrace skills-based hiring.
- The tech industry is full of success stories of CEO-s who skipped college: Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Jack Dorsey, and Mark Zuckerberg among others.
This trend is also visible in the way young developers choose to learn to code. According to a recent poll of nearly 100,000 developers, the majority of young people prefer to learn to code online. In fact, among young developers, online learning is more popular than school and textbooks combined.
However, without a formal degree, your skills as a web developer will have to speak for themselves. To succeed, you will have to learn web development, software engineering, and a multitude of programming languages at your own pace without a professor watching over your shoulder.
In this guide, you’ll learn:
Do you need a degree to become a web developer?
No, you don’t need a degree to become a web developer. Most full-time job ads looking for web developers do not include a degree as a requirement, and none of the freelance web developer job sites require degrees.
Here are the exact statistics:
- Worldwide, only 20% of web developer jobs list a degree as a requirement. There are 130,226 no-degree web developer jobs available out of a total of 162,844.
- In the United States, only 32.9% of web developer jobs list a degree as a requirement. There are 34,421 no-degree web developer jobs available out of a total of 51,271.
This report, together with the upcoming was produced using Boolean search operators on LinkedIn Job Search. To do a live search of the numbers, simply follow any of the links in this article.
Web developer career paths that don't require a degree
Both in the United States and worldwide, front-end developers have the highest share of no-degree jobs available.
Now, let’s go over each career path in more detail.
Front-end developers are in charge of the visible part of the web application or website. They ensure that the users can view and interact with the finished product as intended, taking into consideration accessibility, performance, and responsive design among other factors. Many new web developers begin their careers in front-end because the programming skills demanded are less rigorous, and the job opportunities tend to be plentiful for front-end developers.
Salary: The average base salary of a front-end developer in the United States is $100,781 per year ($43.16 per hour).
- Worldwide, there are 11,685 front-end developer jobs without a degree available out of a total of 14,578. Thus, 19.8% of front-end developer jobs worldwide list a degree as a requirement.
- In the United States, there are 3,019 front-end developer jobs without a degree available out of a total of 4,590. Thus, 34.2% of front-end developer jobs in the United States list a degree as a requirement.
Here’s a chart summarizing the differences among countries in terms of front-end developer job prospects without a degree:
Required skills: Coding languages include Ruby, PHP, Java, Python, and C# among many others. Plus, database skills, such as MySQL and SQL are a must for many back-end developers.
Salary: The average base salary of a back-end developer in the United States is $116,635 per year ($49.95 per hour).
- Worldwide, there are 5,959 back-end developer jobs without a degree available out of a total of 7,883. Thus, 24.4% of back-end developer jobs worldwide list a degree as a requirement.
- In the United States, there are 1,089 back-end developer jobs without a degree available out of a total of 1,813. Thus, 39.9% of back-end developer jobs in the United States list a degree as a requirement.
Here’s a chart showing the distinctions between countries in terms of back-end developer employment opportunities without a degree:
Full-stack developers are some of the most sought-after types of developers and they are expected to have a diverse array of both technical skills and soft skills. They have to be familiar with both the front-end, the back-end, and web architectures. They are responsible for the entire web application from the user interface all the way to the servers where data is hosted, and they need to be able to switch between different roles when necessary.
Salary: The average base salary of a full-stack developer in the United States is $104,195 per year ($44.63 per hour).
- Worldwide, there are 23,909 full-stack developer jobs without a degree available out of a total of 31,902. Thus, 25% of full-stack developer jobs worldwide list a degree as a requirement.
- In the United States, there are 8,499 full-stack developer jobs without a degree available out of a total of 13,401. Thus, 36.5% of full-stack developer jobs in the United States list a degree as a requirement.
Steps to becoming a web developer without a degree
Follow these steps to become a web developer without a degree:
- Choose a web development career path.
- Enroll in a web development course or bootcamp.
- Practice building websites and web applications.
- Create a public portfolio of web projects.
- Practice coding assessments and job interviews.
- Optimize your LinkedIn and GitHub profiles.
- Apply to entry-level web developer positions.
- Start gaining work experience as a web developer.
- Emphasize your expertise instead of a degree.
1. Choose a web development career path.
To begin, try to identify the type of web developer you want to become: a front-end, back-end, or full-stack developer?
You can always change your mind later as you start to learn more about the functions of the different roles. Nonetheless, though, it’s useful to have goal points in mind from the start, and picking a specific web development career path helps you narrow down your goals a lot.
Those who go through the 4+ year process of obtaining a computer science degree from a higher education institution get to spend a lot of time thinking about the different career paths they might take. They learn a little front-end, a little back-end, and everything in-between.
Without a degree, I suggest you skip all that. Instead, choose a specific career path from the start, and move towards that. Time is your most valuable resource and focus it wisely.
2. Enroll in a web development course or bootcamp.
The Internet is full of excellent online web development courses, bootcamps, and certification programs. Unlike traditional degrees, they don’t take years to complete, and neither will they drag you into student debt.
While the information in these courses can often be found for free online, they are still helpful for becoming a web developer in the shortest amount of time possible. Unlike free resources, they also tend to provide coding challenges, well-arranged lessons, and other perks such as technical mentorship that could really fast-track your progress as a web developer without formal education.
Here is a selection of free and paid online courses and bootcamps to learn web development:
3. Practice building websites and web applications.
To enter the web development field, with or without a degree, you’ll need to create web pages and applications. There’s no way around that. The only way to get better is to keep practicing and become best friends with your code editor.
Employers don’t care all that much about whether you’re self-taught, studied programming in a university, or took an online course. All they really want to know is if you can code. The only way to become a web developer without a degree is by coding. A lot.
4. Create a public portfolio of web projects.
This may seem like a daunting task if you have never written code before, but it’s actually relatively easy to get started.
Start off with very simple projects as a way to become familiar with the basics of web development.
- Learn how to build simple static pages with HTML.
- Apply basic styling effects with CSS.
As your web developing skills develop, so will your projects. As you keep building projects with increasing complexity, your portfolio will start to open up career opportunities, and before you know it, you’ll find your first job interview.
5. Practice coding assessments and job interviews.
Once you have some coding experience under your belt, it’s time to prepare for job interviews.
Job interviews for web developers tend to work a little differently than for other professions. Namely, you’ll often be tasked with a coding test that you have to complete within a set time frame. This is a bit of an aging practice, but the reality is that many employers still require this type of test.
The good news is that there are many resources out there designed to make you proficient at completing these types of tests:
6. Optimize your LinkedIn and GitHub profiles.
Before you start applying for web developer positions, make sure your public profiles and CV are up to par. Recruiters spend an average of 7 seconds reviewing a candidate’s resume, so you have to make sure that the documents and profiles you present are clear, concise, and professional.
Nowadays, LinkedIn and GitHub profiles are often the first platforms a tech recruiter will check upon receiving your resume. Plus, as LinkedIn is one of the top job search portals for developers, it’s extra important that you keep yours updated and complete. Make sure to include any online courses you have taken, certifications you have received, together with a professional-looking profile photo.
Once you have done that, you are finally all set to start applying for open positions for web developers.
7. Apply to entry-level web developer positions.
As a web developer, you are one of the most in-demand professionals in the entire job market, and you have the upper hand when it comes to searching for jobs. For companies, finding a good web developer is like searching for a needle in a haystack and this has resulted in some great alternatives to the typical full-time job as an in-house web developer.
Take, for example, remote talent networks such as these:
- Toptal is a company that connects freelance web developers with companies. Developers on Toptal are not required to have a degree and they help with professional development through their network. But, they do have a rigorous screening process that only accepts 3% of applicants.
- Turing is another company that connects remote web developers with companies. Once again, a software engineering bachelor’s degree is not required, but they do recommend 3+ years of experience and only 1% of applicants pass their screening process.
You could also try your luck at freelance marketplaces such as Fiverr or Upwork. They don’t ask for degrees from their freelancers but keep in mind that they are often flooded with cheap, low-quality competition.
Thus, I would advise against relying on them in the long term. They are, however, a good way to start gaining some initial work experience while earning a little income on the side.
Now, let’s go over finding a traditional job as a web developer. After all, working full-time as an in-house web developer still results in the best pay and also gives you other employer-provided benefits such as paid vacation, health insurance, stock options, and more.
The websites I recommend for finding a full-time job as a web developer without a degree are:
To get the most accurate search results possible, and to filter out degree-requiring job offers, make sure to use Boolean search. Boolean searching allows you to use a combination of keywords and certain symbols to give you the best search results possible.
For example, using this Boolean search query on LinkedIn will show you all open web developer positions that do not require a degree:
web developer NOT (degree OR bachelor OR msc OR phd OR ph.d OR bs OR b.s. OR ba OR b.a.)
Without Boolean searching, you would have to look through thousands of job offers to manually identify the ones that do not require a diploma of higher education.
The job searching process is difficult enough as it is. By using Boolean search, you can make it a whole lot easier and less time-consuming.
8. Start gaining work experience as a web developer.
Once you have found any kind of work in web development, whether that’s an internship, job, or freelance client, you have already passed the most difficult steps of becoming a web developer without a diploma.
All you have to do now is to:
- Keep building new skills, both soft and technical skills.
- Continuously improve your knowledge of programming languages.
- Learn from the other developers around you.
- Avoid long breaks between projects.
The last bullet point is especially important because employers don’t like to see large time gaps in a programmer’s resume. Whether it’s as a front-end, back-end, or full-stack developer, try to find continuous work, even if’s tiny, poorly paid, and seemingly meaningless web projects. This is crucial because of the ninth and final step I’m about to discuss.
9. Emphasize your expertise instead of a degree.
As a web developer without a computer science or software engineering degree, you need to start building those valuable “years of experience” as soon as possible.
The reality of the job market is that as you gain extra months and years of web development experience, the better your job opportunities become. Simple as that. Plus, as you get more first-hand experience, your lack of a degree becomes increasingly irrelevant for employers.
Let’s take back-end developers as an example:
- Junior back-end developers earn an average base salary of $60,995 per year in the United States.
- Senior back-end developers, on the other hand, earn an average base salary of $161,175 per year in the United States.
Seniority will give you an average salary increase of 264%. Sure, it’s true that senior web developer positions also expect a wider skillset from applicants, but let’s be real: the job responsibilities of a junior and senior developer are not all that different. What really matters is your work experience, and the average senior web developer role requires 5+ years of experience in web development.
This puts us at the end of our career guide to becoming a web developer without a degree. If there is one takeaway I would like to emphasize, it’s that for finding a job as a web developer, having high-demand skills and work experience is far more valuable than college degrees. Stay motivated, keep building your repertoire of programming languages, and you will become a well-paid web developer in no time.