10 Tech Careers You Can Get Without a Degree

pmcxsfaoqik-redd-angeloBy Cameron Chapman

It’s standard wisdom that if you want to get a good job, you need a degree in that particular field. It was drilled into my head from the time I was a little kid. Skip college, and you’ll spend the rest of your life working for minimum wage in a job you hate.

I thought that if I wanted to be an entrepreneur, I needed a degree in business. If I wanted to be a graphic designer, I needed a design degree. And if I wanted to be a writer (which was exactly what I wanted to be), I better get a degree in English.

I’ve been writing professionally about web design and technology, entirely supporting myself financially, for nearly a decade now. All without a degree in English. Or even one in web design or any other technology-related field. Here’s a little secret: I never graduated from college!

Instead, I got my start in tech working for a small publishing company where a lot of us wore multiple hats. I taught myself web design and development on the job, as well as website management and digital marketing. You could say I graduated from the University of Google.

So many of us hold on to the idea that we have to have a degree in tech if we want a job in tech. But there are countless examples out there of successful people in tech who don’t have a tech-related degree. (A good friend of mine has been on the design team and worked as creative director for some of the most popular apps out there. Not only did he never go to college, but he also dropped out of high school!)

Still not convinced? Last year I put together a list of 7 great careers in tech that you can get without a degree. This year I’m upgrading it to 10 careers (the original 7 with all new job listings plus another 3). Some might require you to learn some new skills, but none of them mean going back to college. If you do need to learn some new skills, most of them can be learned in a matter of weeks or months, rather than years.

No idea where to get started in tech? Check out the FREE 10-day Coding Bootcamp to get a taste of what tech is like.

1. Social Media Manager

Social media managers are the public face of companies and organizations on sites like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. They represent the brand on these sites day-to-day and spend their time writing status updates, creating and promoting content, answering questions, and responding to comments.

Average Salary: $45,260 to $61,000 according to Sprout Social

Common Qualifications:

  • Already maintain active and engaged social media accounts
  • Experience A/B Testing and optimizing headlines and other content
  • Experience using a social media management software, like Buffer
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Good strategy and planning skills
  • A desire to solve problems, answer questions, and engage with users

These are all qualifications you can meet through experience at other jobs, or through your own personal social media accounts.

On your resume, stress any communications and strategy experience you have with other jobs (or volunteer work!), and be sure to link to your social media accounts!

Is This Career Path for You?

If you love social media, love sharing great content and engaging with other users, and love to create your own content, then a social media manager position would be perfect for you!

2. Online Community Manager

Community managers are a bit different than social media managers, though sometimes the titles are used synonymously. But where the social media manager is the brand on social media, the community manager is an advocate for the brand. They act as an individual on social media sites, but actively engage with prospective customers and build community. In addition, community managers may moderate a company’s native online forum or community software platform.

Average Salary: $49,000 to $57,733 according to Sprout Social

Common Qualifications:

  • Experience A/B Testing and optimizing headlines and other content
  • Experience using a social media management software, like Buffer
  • Experience in digital customer service or the service industry
  • Active and engaged social media accounts
  • Excellent communication and writing skills
  • Good strategy and planning skills
  • A desire to raise awareness about a particular brand or product

You can meet these qualifications through your own personal social media accounts, as well as through other jobs you might have held, even in roles you might not think of like, like working as a server or barista. None of them requires particular formal education.

Make sure that you stress your communication and strategy experience in your resume, as well as links to your public social media profiles.

Is This Career Path for You?

If growing a community surrounding a brand or product through social and other online media sounds appealing, then this is a great career for you!

3. Digital Strategist/Analyst

If you’re interested in tech, but are more into the mechanics of how and why things work than specific digital skills, then a digital strategist or analyst career would be perfect for you. Digital strategists and analysts spend their days going over data and metrics to help companies reach their performance targets and goals. They thrive on planning based on data and hard facts, and love to test their theories and strategies.

Average Salary: $69,750 according to Glassdoor

Common Qualifications:

  • Excellent analytical skills (think: Google Analytics) and familiarity with metrics and reporting tools
  • Experience A/B Testing and optimizing headlines and other content
  • Excellent research skills
  • Strategy and planning skills
  • Passion for data, and data-based decision making

A lot of these skills can carry over from other careers. If your former work experience includes any kind of strategy and planning, data interaction, or research, you’re already well on your way to the qualifications you’ll need to embark on this kind of career.

There are also a ton of ways to get more education in this area without going back to school. Just try a quick Google search for “growth hacking.”

When applying for these jobs, stress the experience you have with research and data-driven decision-making. Also be sure to mention any analytics or research tools you’re familiar with, even if it’s not through prior work experience.

Is This Career Path for You?

Are you a data junky? Do you love researching and analyzing metrics and goals? Are spreadsheets, charts, and graphs your BFF? If you answered yes to those questions, and you love to plan and strategize, then you’d be perfect for a digital analyst or strategist career!

4. Customer Support

Customer service doesn’t always get the respect it deserves as a profession. But, in customer service, you’re the one on the front lines of making sure that customers are happy with the product. And in the digital world, it can be an incredibly rewarding career. It’s a great option if you’re a people person and love to help solve problems. And while a lot of people think of customer support as sitting in a call center all day, tons of tech companies now have partially or entirely remote support teams, so you can work from home. In fact, at Skillcrush, our customer support team clocks in from all over the world, from places as diverse as Iowa, D.C., and Finland!

Average Salary: $42,898 according to Glassdoor

Common Qualifications:

    • Great people skills
    • Excellent communication skills
    • Excellent problem-solving skills
    • A desire to help other people
    • Interest bordering on obsession with tech (think: apps, programs, devices, tech news)

Customer support in the digital world isn’t much different than it is in other fields. If you’ve worked in customer service, or have other experience working with clients or customers, then you probably have the qualifications you need. It’s only a matter of becoming familiar with the products of the specific companies you’d like to work for.

Is This Career Path for You?

If you’re a people person, good at crisis management, and like to solve problems, then customer support is an excellent career path.

5. Junior Developer

If you want to get into a digital career in a much more technical sense, then acquiring the skills to become a junior developer is a great place to start. Junior developers help create the code behind the websites and applications that we use every day. They’re generally part of a team (otherwise they’re just “developers”), making it a great entry-level position with plenty of room for advancement.

Average Salary: $60,930 according to Glassdoor

Common Qualifications:

      • Proficiency in HTML and CSS
      • Proficiency in JavaScript and jQuery
      • Proficiency in a programming language like PHP, Ruby, or Python
      • Experience with version control software like Git and GitHub
      • Excellent problem-solving abilities
      • Excellent team-working skills

Unless you’ve been coding as a hobby, you’ll likely need to spend some time learning and practicing the skills you’ll need. The good news is that you certainly don’t need an entirely new degree; there are tons of other options for learning those skills, from formal courses to tutorials to thousands of books and articles about the subject. The Skillcrush Web Developer Blueprint, for example, is a great place to start, and you can be making real money only a couple months in.

Is This Career Path for You?

Developer jobs are great for those with analytical minds and a flare for problem solving. There’s also tons of room for advancement and excellent career prospects in the coming years, with 20% growth expected between 2012 and 2022 according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook.

Next Steps

Read our Beginner’s Guide to Landing a Junior Developer Job for detailed information on how to get started on this career path, as well as 12 Things You Must Do to Land a Junior Web Developer Job. And when you’re ready to really dive in, check out our Web Developer Blueprint.

6. Mobile App Designer

If you love beautifully designed mobile apps and have a hard time using apps that aren’t well-designed, no matter how useful they are, then mobile app design might be right up your alley. Mobile app designers work for companies large and small, or even design their own apps along with a developer. It’s equal parts science and art, with an emphasis on design patterns and user-focused design.

Average Salary: $112,000 according to Indeed.com

Common Qualifications:

      • A strong grasp of responsive design principles and patterns
      • Visual communication skills
      • Strong grasp of information architecture
      • An understanding of interaction design
      • Familiarity with user research

If you already have a background in art or design-related fields, then your learning curve will be much less steep for this kind of position. If not, you can learn design through online courses, tutorials, and lots of practice. You’ll need a great portfolio to show off your skills (as mentioned above), but beyond that, minimal qualifications are required.

Is This Career Path for You?

Mobile app design is on the creative end of the digital career spectrum, and is an excellent choice if you already have a background in or passion for visual design and communication. It also has one of the highest average salaries you’ll find among jobs that don’t require a ton of specialized education.

Next Steps

Check out our Web Designer Blueprint to start learning the skills you need to for this career.

7. User Experience (UX) Specialist

User experience design is focused less on the specific visuals and more on the way users interact with websites and apps. UX specialists study the psychology of why users do what they do, and how to make their experience better and easier. They do a lot of testing to find out what gets the best results, work directly with users to get feedback, and work with other designers and developers to make sure usability doesn’t take a backseat to flashy designs or fancy effects.

Average Salary: $85,058 according to Glassdoor

Common Qualifications:

      • Ability to create wireframes, mockups, sketches, workflow diagrams, and/or interactive prototypes
      • Understanding of user psychology
      • Strong written and verbal communication skills
      • Project management skills

Learning the skills you need to become a UX specialist isn’t complicated. On your resume, focus on the project management, communication, and psychology skills you already have. A portfolio of sketches, workflow diagrams, prototypes, and similar elements may also be necessary for some positions. Having user interface (UI) design experience will also be required for some jobs. (Check out our Web Design Blueprint to learn those skills!).

Is This Career Path for You?

If psychology was your favorite subject in high school or college, and you like to figure out the best and most efficient way to do things, then becoming a UX specialist is perfect for you. It also involves a fair amount of problem solving and testing, which can appeal to more analytical minds, too.

8. Visual Designer

Visual designers are problem solvers. They help to define what goes into a brand’s unique style and voice. They have to understand user experience, user interface, and web design. They need a strong understanding of graphic design, identity design, and branding. They need to have exceptional visual messaging and communications skills, too. A visual designer doesn’t need to know how to code, but they do need to know how to communicate with the front-end developers who do, and how to create designs that are actually possible with code.

Average Salary: $87,000

Common Qualifications:

      • Understanding of UX, UI, and graphic design
      • Excellent design skills
      • Strong written and visual communication skills
      • Proficiency with industry-standard design software (like Photoshop, Illustrator, and Sketch)

A strong portfolio is going to be key to getting hired as a visual designer, regardless of your experience and educational background. Every piece in your portfolio should be an example of your absolute best work, even if that means it only contains four or five examples.

Is this the career path for you?

If you have an eye for design, and love to experiment with things like form, color, and balance, but also enjoy solving problems, then visual design is the perfect career for you.

9. Marketing Specialist

Marketing is part of every modern business, particularly in tech, from the SaaS (Software as a Service) startup to big corporations like Facebook and Google. Marketing isn’t what it used to be, though—now, you’ll need to be proficient in things like content creation, social media, search and social advertising, email marketing, partnerships, and more. Great marketing makes the difference between a company with a great product and a successful company with a great product.

Average Salary: $51,980 according to Glassdoor

Common Qualifications:

      • Copywriting and content creation skills
      • Data analysis skills (for analyzing campaign metrics, etc.)
      • Ability to manage multiple projects and channels at once
      • Market research skills

Your own personal social media accounts will play a big role in your ability to land these entry-level jobs. A regularly updated account with personality will go a long way toward showing what you can do. The same goes for a blog or other online presence. Employers will look to these places before hiring you (and sometimes before even interviewing you).

Is this the career path for you?

If you’re a social media junky, love finding and sharing useful and interesting content, and know how to get your message out to the world, then a marketing assistant job might be a perfect fit.

10. QA Tester

QA (Quality Assurance) is vital to any business reliant on their website. You’ll help build and implement testing processes to make sure that when a website is updated or changed, that everything still works as it should and that nothing breaks. It’s a super important role at almost any tech company, as it has a direct role on the user experience of everyone visiting the company’s website.

Average Salary: $53,559 according to Glassdoor

Common Qualifications:

      • Familiarity with code being used on the particular website
      • Attention to detail
      • The ability to create and follow processes and document results
      • Problem-solving ability to help fix bugs

You’ll want to stress your coding skills, problem-solving skills, and attention to detail in your past experience on your resume. Even if you haven’t done any QA testing, if you’ve had jobs that required those skills, they’re worth highlighting.

Is this the career path for you?

QA Testing is the perfect job for anyone who loves to find and figure out problems. It requires a level of perfectionism and meticulousness that some people thrive on, and if that’s you, then definitely check it out!

Stop wasting time in a job you aren’t passionate about. There’s no time like the present to get started on a great new digital career path, one that doesn’t require you to try to squeeze college classes into your already busy life. And the job opportunities are huge, regardless of where you live thanks to the huge number of remote jobs out there.

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Skillcrush

About Skillcrush

Skillcrush is an interactive online learning platform teaching the most in-demand job skills to get you hired. Our unique (and fun!) approach includes one-on-one video chats with instructors, a class of fellow learners, and portfolio-worthy projects (not just "exercises") to teach digital skills like user experience design and JavaScript. Start with our free 10-day bootcamp today! Visit www.skillcrush.com for more info.
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