No College Degree? You Can Still Start a Career in IT | Burning Glass Technologies

For students looking to enter careers in information technology, gaining a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field opens up the broadest range of options. But a B.A. is also a long, intense, and often expensive pathway. More importantly, a bachelor’s degree isn’t the only way into the world of technology. If you’re thinking about a technology career, there are other common opportunities to enter the IT workforce:

Help Desk and Entry Level Networking Roles: For workers looking to start a career in IT, help desk and entry level networking roles are a common entry point. Help desk roles typically require candidates to set up and configure personal computers, troubleshoot computing and systems issues, and have strong “people skills” to provide service to users. These roles are also relatively accessible. A majority require a certification (such as the A+) or an associate’s degree.

Computer support is a large and growing field. Currently, support is in the top 5% of roles by total openings and is projected to grow by 20% over the next decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Additionally, these roles are in demand everywhere, making them a strong job prospect for students in all areas of the country. More than half of these computer support roles are outside of the technology sector. Leading employers include banks, hospitals, and all kinds of small and mid-sized employers. As a result, demand for computer support roles is more evenly distributed around the nation than for more specialized roles, such as Software Engineers.

One note of caution: help desk jobs are one of the places where “upcredentialing,” or asking for a college degree that isn’t really necessary, seems to be common. In our previous research, we found as many as 30% of computer support job postings requested a degree in cases where the specific skills listed aren’t college-level requirements. Getting a college degree is one way around that problem, but having those required skills nailed down with certifications or other credentials is another approach.

Requirements and Demand for Computer Support Specialists

Web Developers: Web development affords students and job seekers fast-track entry options. The programming requirements of web development roles range from entry level to highly complex. Many of the entry level roles allow workers use existing frameworks and tools which simplify the coding process. In many cases, these roles are accessible to workers who have taken a short-term web development training program, such as a boot camp.

Many web development roles are looking for candidates who combine multiple skill sets, such as coding along with marketing or design. In fact, web development is a prime example of the growing phenomenon of hybrid jobs. A bachelor’s degree certainly opens doors in this field—but it doesn’t have to be a computer science degree. Degrees in marketing or design can be supplemented with technical skills. And it can also work the other way around: a computer science major could add design or other communications training to their core program.

Dan Restuccia is Chief Analytics Officer of Burning Glass Technologies.