How to Become a Coder Without A Degree

Coding for Beginners
Written by:
App Academy
Published on:
May 3, 2022

Discover the steps to become a coder even without any prior experience, with a focus on the latest trends and techniques. This guide provides a comprehensive roadmap for beginners aiming to break into the coding industry.

Coding is quickly becoming one of the most in-demand skills, especially as it becomes relevant for an increasing number of career paths and industries. But for jobs in tech, it’s always been important.

Have you thought about learning to code, but you’re not sure where to start? If you’re a complete beginner, the prospect of diving in headfirst can seem overwhelming.

We’ll start with the basics: what coding is, what it means to be a coder, and how to become one, even if you’ve never touched a piece of code before. Let’s get started.

Dual monitor web development

What is Coding Exactly?

Coding involves writing and working with programming languages such as Python, JavaScript, or Ruby on Rails. Writing these languages enables coders to communicate with computers and instruct them on certain tasks.

At the most basic level, coders can:

  • Write code that computers or other machines can understand
  • Have and use basic working knowledge of various programming languages (without necessarily having knowledge of software tools)
  • Complete simple projects
  • Use simple tools and syntax

Does that seem a little too… simple? You might be thinking of programming. Programming, like coding, involves passing information and instructions to a computer in a language it can understand. Programming relies on coding, but it takes it a number of steps further. You can think of programming as a complete task, of which coding is only one phase.

Programming involves:

  • Creating the machine that can digest and understand code
  • Having deep working knowledge of various programming languages and the tools to implement them
  • More advanced projects, tools, and syntax

It’s possible to learn how to code and become a coder without going on to become a programmer. It’s impossible, however, to become a programmer without first being a coder.

But you don’t necessarily need all of the skills of a programmer to still make use of knowing how to code in your professional life. There are a number of jobs and positions that value coding skills, even at a basic level.

Read More: Programming 101: Learning How to Code for Beginners

What Jobs Can I Get as a Coder?

Depending on the role you’re after, “coding” might mean different things, or it might have a different level of importance. For some roles, coding is a fundamental skill around which most of the day’s tasks involve. For others, it could make certain tasks easier, but it’s not necessary — rather, it’s a nice-to-have, but not required.

In the tech industry, the projected growth for all types of roles in programming, development, and engineering — roles that involve varying degrees of coding knowledge — is astronomical. In fact, roles in the tech industry are growing at rates 2-3x that of other industries.

If you want to be a coder, it’s important to decide both the type of role you want to pursue and the languages or skills you want to specialize in. Particular coding languages like Python or Javascript have roles for coders that have working knowledge of those languages alone. To be a full-stack engineer or developer, you should develop additional skills outside of just languages — things like algorithms and functions and data analysis are crucial to these roles.

At any rate, companies like Google and Amazon (among many others) are always hiring for coding talent across the spectrum to help move their initiatives forward. Knowing how to code is a wonderful skill, but it comes down to knowing how to implement it — finding the career path that makes the most sense for you.

Learn More: Projected 10-Year Job Growth for Software Developers

How Do I Become a Coder?

If you want to become a coder, there’s a few simple steps you can take. Let’s walk through them.

Step 1: Establish Your Career Goals

Before you jump into learning code, the most important first step is to do some research to help focus your studies. Give yourself some time to gain clarity about what exactly you want to do. What jobs are you hoping to pursue? Are you looking to upskill in your current industry, or pivot to a new career path entirely?

Having a grasp of these goals can help you narrow down where exactly to focus your efforts. Different industries or different roles may require different coding skills, so it’s important to dig up this information before you make any other choices.

Explore coding career options

Step 2: Choose Programming Languages You’d Like to Learn

Once you’ve decided on your industry or role of choice, think about the programming languages that are going to be most relevant for that line of work. If you want to develop video games, for example, the programming languages that are going to be most useful to you are different from those that are most applicable to cybersecurity or app development.

In some disciplines, like web development, the choice can become even more granular. Web developers have the choice of working on the back end (server side), front end (user facing), or on both. When a web developer has both front-end and back-end coding skills, they’re known as a full-stack developer. These different areas require different language skills, so it’s a good idea to choose the languages that will most directly set you up for success.

Step 3: Decide How You Want to Learn

If you’re taking the first step toward learning to code, there are a number of different ways you can make sure you acquire the skills you need to succeed. But the right choice for you can depend on a variety of factors.

For example, you might decide that you’d like to go back to school to learn more about coding and computer science. If you already have an undergraduate degree in a relevant field, a master’s degree might make sense for you. But if you’re a complete beginner, you might want to weigh the benefits of a bachelor’s degree in computer science against other learning options, like coding bootcamps.

For those with little to no coding experience, coding bootcamps can be a great option. They teach many of the hard and soft skills for software engineering that you’ll need to be successful, but on a much shorter timeline (and usually at a lower cost) than a college degree. Plus, many coding bootcamps offer a number of different programs that can accommodate various schedules.

App Academy, for example, offers both in-person and online programs as well as online, full-time software engineering courses and part-time coding bootcamp options. And, in most cases, once you graduate from a coding bootcamp, you’ll be competing on the same level as other candidates who may have relevant bachelor’s degrees — but you’ll be just as (if not more) prepared to land the role, with or without a degree.

Your last option would be to teach yourself how to code. This can be the most flexible option and can be a good choice for those who can’t commit to a more structured program. But it also requires a fair amount of self-discipline and motivation. There are a number of self-paced classes you can find online to help you get started.

Step 4: Practice and Build a Programming Portfolio

No matter how you choose to develop your coding skills — a college degree, a coding bootcamp, or a self-guided course — you’ll need a way to showcase those skills if you want to land a job in the tech world.

Not only do you want to practice until you’re confident in your coding abilities, but you also want to be able to demonstrate that to prospective employers. The best way to do that is by building a portfolio of some of your projects.

The projects in your portfolio should speak to the kind of work that you’re hoping to do. If you’re working toward becoming a web developer, for example, but you want to work exclusively in front-end development, make sure your portfolio reflects that. Someone striving to become a back-end developer would have a portfolio that looks very different.  

Step 5: Hone Your Soft & Professional Skills

When it comes to actually landing the job, there are a number of skills beyond your technical abilities that are important. These are soft skills, like teamwork and communication, problem-solving and critical thinking, but these are also professional skills like presenting yourself well in an interview and building a network.

If you really want to pursue a new career with your coding skills, make sure that you’re honing all your skills and becoming a well-rounded candidate. Yes, your technical prowess is important, but you should also research the companies you’re interested in, reach out to and build relationships with people who might help you along the way, and prepare for interviews, including more traditional questions and technical coding assessments.

Learn More: What to Expect: A Day in the Life of a Software Engineer

How to Become a Coder for Free

Sometimes, we want to try to pick up a new skill without putting a lot of money towards it at the same time. If that’s how you feel about coding, it’s definitely possible to become a coder for free.

In addition to paid courses you might find, there are plenty of free resources and tutorials online to help you get started. Even though this is a low-risk way to start learning to code, you can always take those skills you learn and apply them to a course, program, or portfolio projects to showcase your skill set.

Here at App Academy, we offer App Academy Open. This is our free coding course that follows the same curriculum as our full-time online software engineering program. It’s been acclaimed by coding experts and the companies that hire our graduates, and it’s a great way to get started on your own coding skills.

Learn How to Become a Coder From Home with App Academy

With our variety of online (and free) programs, you can learn how to become a coder from home, regardless of your initial skill level. We’ll teach you everything you need to know to start building your skills and set you on the path to making a real change in your career. Explore our programs or get in touch with an Admissions Specialist today to learn more.

Full-Time Online Coding Bootcamp - 24-Week Full-Time Software Engineer Program

Part-Time Online Coding Bootcamp - Part-Time Software Engineering Program

In-Person Campus Programs - New York & San Francisco Campus Programs

Learn to Code for Free - App Academy Open


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