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Career Development

No Degree, No Problem: How Tech Companies Are Valuing Skills Over Diplomas

General Assembly
November 10, 2023
Companies Are Valuing Skills Over Degrees

What’s not to love about working in a technical role? There’s the prestige of helping build cool digital products that make the world more efficient and more fun. Throw in the solid pay, the flexibility of hybrid or remote work, and plenty of opportunity for growth, and it becomes clear why many want to break into these fields. 

But there’s one potential hiccup — you’re not sure you can get a tech job without a degree

We’ve got good news for you: More and more employers, especially those in tech, are shifting their approaches and hiring based on skills rather than degrees alone. And LinkedIn predicts skill-first hiring will become the gold standard — sooner than later. 

Why this shift? The growing demand for skilled workers isn’t matched by the number of degree holders and qualified workers available. In 2022, 91% of employers struggled to fill vacant positions, up by 4% from 2021’s numbers. 

To overcome these shortages, more than 45% of hiring managers on LinkedIn used skills data to fill positions in the last year, up 12% year over year.

Tech companies are leading this shift, with giants like Google, Apple, IBM, Netflix, Meta, Dell, and others dropping degree requirements for several positions. By adopting a skills-based hiring model, tech companies acknowledge the emerging methods of talent acquisition, such as talent from leading tech bootcamps like General Assembly. 

Tech bootcamps have become viable alternatives to traditional education because they provide up-to-date training on in-demand skills while offering the type of flexibility, time, and cost efficiency that are absent in conventional higher education institutions.

Let’s explore why you no longer need a degree to succeed in your dream technical role.

What Hiring Managers Are Looking for in a Candidate Today

Jimmy Etheredge, CEO of Accenture North America, explains, “A person’s educational credentials are not the only indicators of success, so we advanced our approach to hiring to focus on skills, experiences, and potential.”

So, what skills do tech hiring managers look for? According to LinkedIn, the most in-demand tech skills of 2023 include: 

  • SQL
  • Microsoft Office
  • Project management
  • Cloud Computing
  • Python (programming language)
  • JavaScript
  • & more

For soft skills, 92% of US executives say people skills are more critical than ever. In the US, communication is the top skill required for all job postings. At the same time, flexibility, professional ethics, social perceptiveness, and self-management are the fastest-growing in-demand skills since November 2022. 

Why Companies Are Embracing the Skills-First Hiring Model

The most significant disadvantage of a degree-first approach to hiring is that it shrinks the talent pool companies have to choose from. Plus, it can prevent them from building a more diverse workforce.

In the U.S., for example, nearly 70% of jobs require a bachelor’s degree, but only 37% of the workforce have one. In comparison, 72% of Black workers, 79% of Hispanic workers, and 79% of rural workers don’t hold a four-year degree. 

Embracing a skills-first hiring model enables employers to tap into a diverse and qualified talent pool with transferable skills across different industries, roles, and geographies, irrespective of background, educational history, age, or gender. 

Research shows a skills-first approach can add up to 20x more eligible workers to employer talent pools. Globally, it can also increase the talent pool for non-degree holders by 9% more than for degree holders. And it can expand the talent pool for Gen X workers by 8.5x, 9x for Millennial workers, and 10.3x for Gen Z workers.  

Further, with a solely degree-first approach, companies will need help to keep pace with the changing skill requirements of the roles they’re hiring for. But a skills-first approach ensures they can easily target candidates with the latest skills required to do the job.

How do Job Seekers Respond

The adoption of a skills-first approach to hiring is still in its infancy. But its growing popularity means both degreed and non-degreed workers must up their game to succeed. 

The first step, non-degreed worker or not, is identifying the relevant skills required for your preferred job and learning the ones you lack. 

Next, build a portfolio showcasing your skills, achievements, and projects. Remember to use platforms relevant to your field to share your portfolio, such as GitHub for tech or Behance for design. 

Finally, you’ll need to connect with professionals in your chosen industry. Informational interviews are a great way to get a foot in the door. Attend industry meetups, find and join online communities, and stay updated with the latest trends by subscribing to relevant publications.

Wondering where to start? Our team can help you discover which path might be right for you.  Or you can check out this skills assessment template to help you figure it out for yourself. 

How a Bootcamp Can Help You Break into a Tech Career

The number of graduates from U.S. coding bootcamps grew by 3.23% between 2021 (56,917 graduates) and 2022 (58,976 graduates). The all-time number of grads from U.S. bootcamps, in general, has seen even more significant growth — growing by 32.17% in 2021 and 25.13% in 2022.

In a skill-first landscape, more individuals and organizations recognize bootcamps as a viable option to jumpstart careers in various fields — especially tech. Tech bootcamps offer you a number of advantages:

1. Focused Learning

Tech bootcamps are designed to provide specialized education programs. They focus on teaching specific and practical skills relevant to the chosen field. This focused, hands-on learning process ensures students quickly and efficiently acquire in-depth expertise.

“Employers often love that bootcamp candidates have a portfolio of work resulting from skills-based learning while building projects and working in groups,” said Lupe Colangelo, Manager of Outcomes Partnerships at General Assembly.

2. Career Transition

Tech bootcamps are ideal for individuals looking to change careers and break into tech. Whether you have a background in a non-tech field or are seeking to switch roles within tech, bootcamps offer a practical and efficient pathway to make that transition — no matter where your current career lies.

3. Industry-Relevance

Tech bootcamp programs are highly responsive to the ever-evolving job demands in the tech industry. They often design and update their curricula to align with current industry trends, most times in partnership with industry professionals and top employers. This ensures that graduates are equipped with real-world skills and truly job-ready.

4. Networking and Job Opportunities

Tech bootcamps often provide opportunities for students to build a professional network within the industry. They may host events, invite guest speakers, and facilitate connections with industry professionals. 

These networking avenues can significantly enhance your job prospects and lead to exciting career opportunities. Some bootcamps, like General Assembly, go even further and connect students directly with potential employers.

5. Flexibility

Many tech bootcamps offer flexible learning options. This may include part-time, full-time, or online programs to accommodate the diverse needs of students. This flexibility makes tech bootcamps accessible to a broader range of learners, including those with existing jobs or other commitments.

6. Employers Recognize the Value of Bootcamps

Despite all the above benefits, it’s natural to hesitate to sign up for a bootcamp as the job market still relies on the traditional signals of expertise – recognized degrees and certifications. 

But, employers are increasingly recognizing bootcamps as equally credible education. Some of the most reputable companies employ the largest number of bootcamp grads. According to Career Karma, the top hirers of tech bootcamp grads in 2023 include heavy hitters like Apple, Amazon, and Google.

Still have concerns about how well bootcamps actually teach the skills they claim to teach? Be sure to check out alumni success stories from reputable bootcamps you’re interested in. Exploring their curricula, instructors, and instruction delivery processes is also great.

Some Real-World Wins

Meet General Assembly alum from all walks of life and get inspiring advice for your own career change.

If you think building a successful career in tech without a college degree is a long shot or only reserved for billionaire outliers like Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg and Spotify’s Daniel Ek, think again. People from all walks of life — and from across the globe — are breaking molds and breaking into tech daily.

  • After ten years as a creative director for a crowdfunding independent publisher, Isobel Kieran felt she needed more from her career and professional life. After stewing on her options for a year, she retrained as a Product Designer with General Assembly. The rest is history. 
  • Sergio Gradyuk, a self-taught freelance visual designer, took to design early on and decided against attending traditional higher education. After freelancing, he upskilled with General Assembly’s User Experience Design Bootcamp, found a few job opportunities with GA’s help, and worked at an agency before founding his own design studio.
  • After years as a senior teacher, Ahmad Khalil decided it was time for a change. He joined the General Assembly’s Data Science Immersive to learn how to use data to drive insights. This year, he bagged a role with Apple Singapore as a Market Insights Analyst. 

See? People are making it happen for themselves. And you can, too.

Your Tech Journey Should Start Here

Since 2011, General Assembly has helped over 100,000 professionals across the globe build successful tech careers by equipping them with the in-demand tech skills top employers need. GA focuses on providing training in six key areas: coding, UX & design, and data

GA also focuses on relevant learning outcomes to make students job-ready. Engaging with expert course instructors and designers at companies like Google, Amazon, Airbnb, and IBM, GA ensures learners get real-world experience and insight that enrich both their skills and overall experience.   

GA bootcamps are hands-on, with real-world practitioners working directly with students on real-world projects. This doesn’t just ensure that students develop solid expertise in their fields. It also provides them with sample projects they use in building their portfolios and proving their expertise to potential employers.

GA’s dedication to helping students build successful careers doesn’t end at equipping them with relevant skills and proof of expertise. Through GA’s Outcomes program, students get tailored help to land jobs after their training — a process made easier by the platform’s extensive network of 19,000+ hiring partners.

And even when students become alumni, GA support continues. Alums get immediate access to one of the world’s largest bootcamp alumni networks, featuring over 70,000 professionals globally. This helps new professionals settle into their fields seamlessly and positions them and others within the network for future career growth.

Don’t let the lack of a traditional degree stop you from taking the leap into tech. Tech bootcamps, like those at General Assembly, offer an efficient and credible pathway into tech, shaping job-ready professionals with practical, in-demand skills. So remember — no degree, no problem. We’ve got you covered. It’s time to break the mold and invest in yourself.

Contact us today to learn more.

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