No STEM Degree Necessary to Land Great Jobs at Tech Giants

Education is key for any tech role, but some of the largest tech companies are starting to understand that a good tech education doesn’t always mean you have a degree from Stanford.

Glassdoor recently took a look at which companies were hiring, as well as their list of requirements for applicants. Some roles at some companies were understandably light on an education requirement (we really like Costco cupcakes, but we’re also not surprised a job making them doesn’t require a bachelor’s degree). Other requirements (or lack thereof) might surprise you.

At Google, Apple, or IBM, you can get a job in tech without a four-year degree. For example, Google is currently hiring for ‘Software Engineer,’ and IBM is looking for a ‘Financial Blockchain Engineer.’ Apple is hiring for several engineering roles, including ‘Engineering Project Manager.’

In a 2014 interview with The New York Times, former Google Senior Vice President of People Operations (a very Google-y title for ‘Head of HR’) Laszlo Bock said: “GPAs are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless. … We found that they don’t predict anything.” He added that the “proportion of people without any college education at Google has increased over time.”

Bock also underscores that intelligence sometimes manifests as raw aptitude:

“If it’s a technical role, we assess your coding ability, and half the roles in the company are technical roles. For every job, though, the number one thing we look for is general cognitive ability, and it’s not I.Q.. It’s learning ability. It’s the ability to process on the fly. It’s the ability to pull together disparate bits of information. We assess that using structured behavioral interviews that we validate to make sure they’re predictive.”

Stack Overflow’s most recent developer survey shows that about 70 percent of tech pros have a degree, while 20 percent don’t have any degree: “It is not that rare to find accomplished professional developers who have not completed a degree.”

The explosion of online learning resources, and popularity of bootcamps, is contributing to a tech industry filled with better developers who may have never even applied to college. But those with degrees may be earning more: As SmartAsset points out, those with bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields tend to earn more than other degrees; a four-year degree can earn you 46 percent more, on average.

Jobs in tech can be hard to come by without a degree, too. The success rate of finding a job for those who went to a bootcamp or MOOC (massive open online course) rather than university is about 50/50.

It’s possible to find a job in tech without a degree, but be prepared to prove yourself. Google’s former people-boss might look kindly upon non-traditional education, but many companies are still wary. A four-year (or better) STEM degree still provides the best return on investment, but it’s no longer the only path forward. Developers and engineers are increasingly being measured by their skill-set, not alma mater, and that’s good news for everyone.

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3 Responses to “No STEM Degree Necessary to Land Great Jobs at Tech Giants”

  1. Kevin Brand

    Unfortunately these days candidates are being filtered on whether or not they have a Visa. If they don’t have a Visa, they are tossed aside because they are a) too expensive, b) too old or c) perceived to not be a good candidate because they are American.

    This is driven by the H1 guest worker program and the greed of Corporate America. It’s supported by the Federal Government’s willingness to continually allow Corporate America to abuse the H1 guest worker program by falsely claiming a shortage of STEM talent in the US and therefore bringing in 100s of thousands of these guest workers every year. The vast majority of them are from India because the current waiting period for a green card for a person from India is 70 years. This means a company bringing an H1B candidate from India can indenture that visa holder to them for 70 years. During that lifetime of servitude, that company can pay that visa holder a very small wage and keep him/her captive.
    Let’s talk about the real problem here please.

    • paul bevillard

      It’s sometimes HR that writes the specs, but if one can demonstrate with a completed project they did on their own or within a group, and I am talking beyond making a web page, the hiring manger might be inclined to go with experience over education. Generalizing, but let me present my reasoning, there are various reasons why someone may not have attended a full 4 year program and part of it could include financial. Despite the lack of a four year degree, a person who can show initiative and drive is really someone to be sought after, (the approach Google takes). Often times I have witnessed college/university students who wait for the next HW assignment. Some of them simply have no drive to do beyond what they are asked. On the opposite end of the scale, I used to work near MIT and would hear from a student how many were already working on developing their small business/ projects/prototypes, etc., while working on their degree. So, if you can go over and beyond what is asked for, you stand a greater chance compared to someone who was just going through the motions.