Will not having a degree hurt me later in my career?

Condé Nast 0110011001110101
May 14 284 Comments

Hey everyone!

I'll be joining Amazon soon as L4 with 1.5 yoe at $185k TC and I'm a college dropout from Carnegie Mellon. Two years ago, I started FreeCodeCamp and instantly fell in love with coding, especially algorithms. Finished most of the front-end module in 4 days and realized I may have an aptitude towards coding. Immediately, I went to a coding bootcamp and it worked out. I've been studying hard for the past two years since and now I landed at Amazon (didn't make it at Google. Hopefully next time).

What I want to know is, will my career slow down and will there be a ceiling I can't cross because I don't have a degree? Will I have to fight for promotion every time because I'm a dropout?

I would love to finish a degree if I can find the time but that would be hard. I looked at Columbia and NYU but they don't offer a part-time CS option. I am not sure if I can take the time off.

Is having a degree important in the later portion of my career? Also, I'm not talking about Bill Gates and Zuck not having degrees. I'm talking about more realistic levels. And please be brutally honest.

---

Edit: Thank you very much for many encouraging replies. It is great to see that work performance is emphasized over a degree. For the next two years or so, I want to concentrate on kicking ass at Amazon and then I will look into whether I want to go back to school or continue self-studying.

For the past two years, I have been working hard to fill in the missing gaps in my CS knowledge, and I will continue to do so throughout my career. I love coding and I enjoy delving into rabbit holes. For example, I'm currently reading a book on computation - https://computationbook.com and it is so exciting finally learning how computers _compute_ things. Whether I go back to school or not, I am continuing my studies just because of the simple fact that it's fun.

Lastly, this quote was an inspiration for me throughout the process: “When you look at people who don’t go to school and make their way in the world, those are exceptional human beings. And we should do everything we can to find those people.” from https://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/23/opinion/sunday/friedman-how-to-get-a-job-at-google.html

---

Edit2: Found part-time CS undergrad at Columbia: http://bulletin.columbia.edu/general-studies/undergraduates/majors-concentrations/computer-science/. Thanks for letting me know about it. This is huge. I will start looking into it in a year or two.

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TOP 284 Comments
  • PayPal Yolo’
    I will outright reject someone who hasn’t finished college!

    Coding boot camp is not a substitute for a 4 year CS degree!

    No wonder why there’s a shortage of engineers in the US.
    May 1425
    • Oath OPnd70
      Take PayPal’s advice and then you can go work at PayPal. He’s jelly you learned this early on and didn’t accumulate massive debt like him.
      May 14
    • MGM Resorts BionicMan
      What specifications does a degree fulfill for any job? Requiring a degree simply to just have a degree is prejudice.
      May 14
    • Amazon Qsqx82
      As someone who went to one of the better colleges for CS in US for 4 years completed all but 2 courses of the program. So even though I have the full education but no degree to show for it, I'd say PayPal here is a fool.
      May 14
    • Amazon Qsqx82
      The only reason I never went back to complete my courses was because it was not worth the time investment. The only benefit I would have gotten from that degree was a lower auto insurance rate
      May 14
    • Databricks / Data
      data4u

      DatabricksData

      PRE
      500 Startups
      data4umore
      So the only way not having a degree will hurt you is if your resumes lands across a guy such as this
      May 14
    • Harris NextSteps
      1 yr of technical school and 17YOE. Solutions Architect. I’ve made my career by being dependable, ability to execute the toughest projects, Lead, communicate and be a team player. I also reside on steering committees in my area of expertise with the best in the business.

      Degrees are overrated. Whether or not you have one. Stand in front of it and Go. Don’t hold it up in front of you expecting stuff to happen.
      May 14
    • New
      uedC03

      New

      BIO
      I like long beaches on the walk.
      uedC03more
      lol I would outright reject you, you sound like a dud.
      May 14
    • Google dowbskci
      Lol don't listen to PayPal or New. They don't know what they're talking about.
      May 14
    • Amazon / ProductDave Clark
      How good you’re has little to do with your degrees.
      May 14
    • New / ITxengelx
      Oh, now I understand why PayPal website sucks so much (ex: Resolution Center) and their app missing features.
      May 14
  • Google
    Bitcoin!

    Google

    PRE
    Microsoft
    Bitcoin!more
    No. It will not hurt your career later.
    May 143
    • Condé Nast 0110011001110101
      OP
      Thanks! That's great to know!
      May 14
    • Amazon / EngKHCr70
      It's the opposite actually. If it was ever going to affect your career it would be when getting your first job. ( which you did, so congratulations)

      After your first job, the second job depends on how well you did at your first job and so on.

      Basically the further into your career, the less your school and degree will matter
      May 14
    • American Express / Eng
      inktomi

      American ExpressEng

      PRE
      Tinder, Zappos
      inktomimore
      Other than for CS interviews, where being exposed to that stuff in college might help.
      May 14
  • New / Eng
    10yoe250k

    NewEng

    PRE
    Google
    10yoe250kmore
    If you are American Citizen and don't do any science - forget about degrees. You'd be better of spending those bucks and time on chicks and booze / guys and booze / wife and kids.
    May 141
  • New VFcO68
    Would you be able to build an skyscraper with no foundation? I think with no school you may be able to work in tech but there will be many things that you will be weak on. Besides attending to school itself is an experience IMO
    May 1413
    • New QTdN03
      You sound a lot like me. If you ever get tired of Amazon, apply at Microsoft. :)
      May 14
    • New VFcO68
      So looks like you are self learner and you keep yourself expanding your knowledge. You will be fine then. Great!
      May 14
    • Amazon / Eng💩 🚀🛰️
      However, OP could indeed build skyscrapers. No degree required to lay concrete or weld steel.
      May 14
    • Microsoft blinkd182
      You barely need math like calculus. If I were to go back to college and had to retake calculus I’d probably be starting from zero again because I remember nothing.

      It’s sortof useful for writing physics engines though. And linear algebra for graphics.
      May 14
    • New QTdN03
      If there were half as many resources available to self-learn skyscraper building as there are to learn software development, then one could indeed teach themselves to build a skyscraper over time with practice. The difference is, software development is inherently open to learning from failure, whereas skyscrapers aren’t too forgiving.
      May 14
    • Lyft napster22
      colleges are just places where you go get indoctrinated with leftism
      May 14
    • Microsoft LKui75
      If I were you I would do a part time comp science degree ... for that added credibility and foundation. Try to do it early in your career / life.
      May 14
    • Amazon PotatoSale
      Can you finish your degree at CMU?
      May 14
    • Rakuten ygk76
      If Computer Science is about building skyscrapers, most of us engineers specialize operating the day to day operation of a Skyscraper.
      You don’t get that doing a CS degree...
      May 14
    • Salesforce MrBigg
      Unless you want to be a paper pusher Executive who gets free paychecks, no CS degree should be required.
      May 14
  • Capital One FHpQ50
    A degree helps get your foot in the door. Once you are there, the rest of your success depends only on your performance
    May 141
    • VMware / Eng!geralt
      Exactly, I wouldn't worry about not having a degree. Also you can complete your degree as remote student if it matters.
      May 14
  • Google kitkatkee
    Yes it will hurt your career later on for leadership roles, especially those of shareholder impact. Degrees give people a degree of reassurance that someone has certain qualifications.
    May 143
    • Microsoft lmboangle
      I've seen this firsthand. Folks getting skipped over for principal promo due to no degree
      May 14
    • Microsoft / MgmtSnaggle
      L66 here, 18 years and no degree. I’ve personally seen it work the other way. I will say that I feel like the exception as most of my peers have advanced degrees. With no degree, it takes a lot of luck to get in the door but your smarts will keep you there.
      May 14
    • Red Hat BrainLag
      Honestly I’d say it all depends. From a “shareholder impact”, a business based degree is more relevant than some stale tech degree.
      May 15
  • Google PnbK68
    Dude, you don't drop out of Carnegie Mellon. I am a CMU grad currently working at google research. Not saying I did well. If you had a chance to study at CMU, that was your chance. Why did you drop out? I interview lots of candidates mostly phds from Stanford, mit, Harvard and the like. CMU grads stand out, CMU had the best cs program if you actually put your 4 years into it. Can you go back to CMU? Please do that and contact me. Good luck! You were at CMU!!!
    May 141
    • Google dowbskci
      Uh if you're not in research, don't listen to this. Nobody cares about your degree outside of research.
      May 14
  • Facebook / Engmrbateman
    You will be fine.
    May 141
    • Agilent Technologies Jebb Fezos
      You need to ask yourself, is fine good enough?
      May 14
  • Apple
    AirPodGod

    Apple

    BIO
    Burninating the countryside in addition to the peasants
    AirPodGodmore
    I'm a FAANG recruiter and I've been working in tech for the past 10 years. Almost every single one of my hiring managers I've partnered with would take experience over a degree any day of the week so I wouldn't worry about it. Unless you're working in a very specialized area, you'll be fine :)
    May 140
  • New xfqL16
    Lol, lotta survivorship bias going on in here.

    The ones that had their career negatively affected by the lack of a degree probably wont be posting their experiences.
    May 147
    • Lyft McGee
      Not survivorship bias. I have a physics degree and it’s never been an issue. Hiring committee look at your feedback packet and really give zero cares about if or where you went to school. The only hurdle is getting your first gig but it looks like OP has already crossed that bridge. With AMZN on their resume they’ll have no issue getting at least a phone screen anywhere as long as they’re not a total asshat.
      May 14
    • New xfqL16
      Sure you'll get a phone screening, but let's be honest, any good tech company will be receiving hundreds of resumes listing big names like Amzn. Most of these candidates will have completed degrees as well which can be leveraged against u in this aspect
      May 14
    • Lyft McGee
      Where do you work that this is the case? The only thing that matters is your job experience and interview performance.
      May 14
    • New xfqL16
      Prefer not to say but I've had a lotta experience working with recruiters. Education is used as a filter more often than not.
      May 14
    • Lyft McGee
      I’ve been a hiring manager at both Facebook and Lyft. Education isn’t used as a filter at either of these companies.
      May 14
    • New xfqL16
      Good, thats how it should be. But since OP is asking to be brutally honest, I have to say some hiring managers are pretentious and think differently from u
      May 14
    • New / Eng
      SanHolo

      NewEng

      BIO
      Tc = broke. Education: the Derek Zoolander school for kids who can’t read and want to do other stuff good too
      SanHolomore
      I’ve gotten rejects because my degree is in business and not CS .... so they say
      May 14
  • Amazon / Engcayde
    I know a Senior Principal engineer who has only a BA. So, no. Most difficult part of SDE without a degree is already over for you. Congratulations!! I also don't have a CS degree. :) SDE II, 6yoe.
    May 142
    • Amazon Ffej
      Amazon has Principals and Sr. Principals without degrees. Some argue they think more outside of the box.
      May 14
    • Amazon / Engcayde
      Interesting perspective!
      May 14
  • Lyft McGee
    No one gives a fuck about your degree. Work experience is going to trump it every time. I’ve been a hiring manager for > 7 years all in FAANG/unicorns and where you went to school is factored into the hiring decision precisely 0% of the time. The only time it comes into play will be for your first role where a PhD will get you one extra level. Masters degree gets no special treatment. Some of the best engineers I’ve worked with had no formal education in CS.
    May 140
  • Microsoft QDmP60
    I can't believe no one has mentioned this but all of these companies offer a tuition assistance program. Take the job and then finish out your degree while your company pays you. It's the best of both worlds.
    May 144
    • New / Eng
      SanHolo

      NewEng

      BIO
      Tc = broke. Education: the Derek Zoolander school for kids who can’t read and want to do other stuff good too
      SanHolomore
      A lot of companies outside of faang, it’s an insultingly low benefit, Like 3500 a year ... that pays for maybe one class a year ? And if you leave the company it turns into a loan ....
      May 14
    • Amazon εpsilon
      Amazon does not.
      May 15
    • Microsoft YeetDaLeet
      Microsoft’s is $10k a year
      May 15
    • EA
      dexw85

      EA

      PRE
      HP, Dell
      dexw85more
      SanHolos post is grossly inaccurate. First of all, the average cost of an in state four year college is $9500 if attending full time. Even if a company only offers $3500 per year in assistance (most are between $5-10k), this almost covers the cost of attending half time, which is a huge help. Sure the student may need to cover some cost on their own, but not much. In addition, tuition reimbursement typically has a 12 month clawback from the date of payout. If you leave 12 months after the last payout, you will owe nothing. If you leave immediately after, you will only owe what the employer paid in reimbursement in the last 12 months, not what they paid over the entire course of the program.
      May 16
  • New / Eng
    SanHolo

    NewEng

    BIO
    Tc = broke. Education: the Derek Zoolander school for kids who can’t read and want to do other stuff good too
    SanHolomore
    I got my degree last year. At age 32 after being a software eng for 7 years. I will tell you it didn’t do shit for me.... didn’t open doors like I expected. However some hiring manager may deny you simply for not having one. You may lose out on a promotion to someone with a masters who can’t code for shit. Tech is a pretentious elitist industry so get that degree simply as a back up for when you may need it.

    To answer your question, you will be fine without it. But expect some stupid rejections for jobs you are well qualified for just because you don’t have a degree.
    May 140
  • You should try to get a degree if you can. Sometimes it’s not about your field of expertise but other aspects of your life. For example, human psychology and communications will help you in relationships. There’s a reason for a college degree. Get it while you still have the drive and brain power to do so
    May 140
  • Facebook / EngfUoU43
    Yes it will hurt! 100%
    May 140
  • Salesforce / Eng
    AnonChickn

    SalesforceEng

    PRE
    Amazon, Microsoft
    BIO
    I’m an anonymous chicken
    AnonChicknmore
    I’m 18 years into my career. Nobody asks about my degree or college experience (none).
    May 1411
    • Salesforce / Eng
      AnonChickn

      SalesforceEng

      PRE
      Amazon, Microsoft
      BIO
      I’m an anonymous chicken
      AnonChicknmore
      Funny, I worked for amazon for years and they never asked me. For the record: no high school diploma, worked at startups, microsoft, Amazon, and Salesforce. It’s never been an issue.
      May 14
    • Amazon cnnfox
      In our org they’re asking to fill up profile containing these info. Amazon also take into consideration these for promo.
      It’s never a official requirement for promo but it’s taken into consideration.

      And almost every sde job (above college hire) says that BS is required in CS or related field. Some say MS/PhD is preferred. Just look up internal Job Finder.

      Some jobs say in absence of degree extra X years of experience required. But such positions are rarely seen now a days.
      May 14
    • Salesforce / EngForcesales
      AnonChick no high school? And they never asked you about it when reviewing your resume or when they ask you about education in your background check?
      May 15
    • Salesforce / Eng
      AnonChickn

      SalesforceEng

      PRE
      Amazon, Microsoft
      BIO
      I’m an anonymous chicken
      AnonChicknmore
      No. I never lied about education but they never even asked. Once you have a certain amount of experience your educational background becomes less relevant.
      May 16
    • Amazon cnnfox
      Did your dates ever ask?
      May 16
    • Salesforce / Eng
      AnonChickn

      SalesforceEng

      PRE
      Amazon, Microsoft
      BIO
      I’m an anonymous chicken
      AnonChicknmore
      Got married super young so it never really came up in dating life
      May 16
    • Amazon cnnfox
      That’s good 😀
      May 16
    • Salesforce / EngForcesales
      Cool, reason I ask is because I’m a high school dropout and feel huge imposter syndrome at times. Especially when the other folks on your team have multiple degrees
      7d
    • Salesforce / Eng
      AnonChickn

      SalesforceEng

      PRE
      Amazon, Microsoft
      BIO
      I’m an anonymous chicken
      AnonChicknmore
      Oh, the imposter syndrome is super real.
      6d
    • Intel / Eng
      SciTex

      IntelEng

      BIO
      Work at Intel
      SciTexmore
      I have a PhD and post doc. I still got imposter syndrome my first year in a career job in tech. Imposter syndrome is real.
      2d
  • Apple / Engsrand()
    You will be fine. Just make sure you always continue studying the relevant CS and Eng (Coursera, OCW, etc are amazing) topics at your own and have stuff to show off - strong company and/or strong open source back ground. I know several, including myself, on the same boat.
    May 146
    • Condé Nast 0110011001110101
      OP
      Thanks a ton. After seeing the responses in this thread, I think I will continue with the self-study path. I will continue taking the online courses and build myself a curriculum. Also, becoming a strong contributor for a major project sounds like a great idea. Again, thanks for clarifying the path for me.
      May 14
    • Apple / Engsrand()
      TBH those advices are really for everyone who wants to succeed as software engineers. However because you don’t have a degree it is recommended to do that extra mile to prove yourself. At least that worked really well for me (I am a YOE 12).
      May 14
    • Apple / Engsrand()
      Just a fun story: I have been on an on-site interview where the HM told me in a sort of intimidating way that everyone else applying had MSc or PhD and that the position required a lot of CS knowledge (distributed file system position). I just respectfully said “Ok then, just give me the test and you tell me if I have what it takes”. They ended up offering me the job and I rejected because I got something better elsewhere.

      So, yes, be prepared to prove yourself.
      May 14
    • Condé Nast 0110011001110101
      OP
      I have also always felt the need to prove myself. I feel that I have no room for the benefit of the doubt and I must entirely and absolutely kick ass at all the interviews. I think I've been able to channel this feeling of having a chip on my shoulder into positive outcomes.
      May 14
    • Marvell elkimpact
      Do yourself a favor and get a degree. It may seem like a stretch given you did pretty well without it but having a degree does help. There are many online degree programs from some very good schools so getting selected again wont be a problem.
      May 14
    • Condé Nast 0110011001110101
      OP
      @elkimpact, I will definitely consider it. For now, I want to focus on kicking ass at Amazon. I want to see how everything goes for about a year or two then see where to go from there.
      May 14
  • Jet.com / Engcoderb
    The brightest engineer on my team never went to college. He's a principal engineer. He's so elite that I would be killing it if I ever got to 60% his capabilities.

    Just to give more context, I am a masters from Cmu.
    May 140
  • Facebook Yubikey
    I would like to put my opinions here. Having a degree is a must and you should aim for that. Believe me, it would hurt you. Don't get attracted by the high salary now. I would recommend to earn for one year and then go back to complete your degree if you need money to pay your tuition.

    You might not be in same situation as I am but just giving an example of where it can hurt. For immigrants in USA, degree in relevant field is very important to get valid work visa. In future if you decide to work in some other country, then having an educational degree is a must.
    May 140
  • Google / Mgmt
    Ex-Amazon

    GoogleMgmt

    PRE
    Amazon
    Ex-Amazonmore
    It will not matter much. Although, in Amazon promotion packet, educational qualifications is a section, it's hardly looked at in over the 100 promo panels I have looked at. Your accomplishments matter more.
    That said, education is something you should always strive to acquire even if not through a formal degree.
    You can do a lot through boot camps and stack overflow today, but some of the intuitions you develop by learning's computer science from the ground up is valuable in subtle but impactful ways.
    Khan academy and other online courses are an option. Georgia tech has very good online degrees.

    Good luck. I cheer you on as I watch the brave New world unshackled from the exorbitant world of institutional education. Lead on!!
    May 140
  • Amazon slGO72
    When does it matter?
    1. When you want to work in a different country and get a citizenship there.
    2. To get noticed by recruiters
    3. If you took a break from learning new things.
    4. Switch roles
    5. Growing to the tip (top most) point of the pyramid in a company that you do not own.

    When does it not matter?
    1. If you exceed in every aspect
    2 have a lot of knowledge and when you keep learning and leading systems
    3. Treating ur self as an entrepreneur more and employee
    May 140
  • Amazon Ffej
    As others have said the degree gets you in the door. After that it really is performance based. Very few people care and instead look at what you’ve done recently, and a successful run at Amazon can be worth more than any degree.
    May 140
  • Indeed *NDEED
    You can do part-time at Columbia school of General studies. There was a janitor who worked at Columbia who got his bachelors by taking one class a semester for 12 years https://gs.columbia.edu/news-press?article=custodian-graduates-columbia-university-after-19-years-2012
    May 145
    • Condé Nast 0110011001110101
      OP
      Thanks! I'll look into that. Maybe I can get a general degree then go for OMSCS at GaTech. OMSCS would be perfect for me, but well, I need a Bachelor's first, heh.
      May 14
    • Apple / Engsrand()
      The problem is time. In my experience if you work at FAANG there is no extra time for pursuing degrees.
      May 14
    • Condé Nast 0110011001110101
      OP
      It really is tiring. Having a full-time job and studying in the evening is no joke. I think taking MOOC courses and being disciplined with a curriculum may be more feasible.
      May 14
    • Google dowbskci
      No. Waste of time if you're doing it for career. The opportunity cost is high.
      May 14
    • Microsoft / Product
      Brazuka

      MicrosoftProduct

      PRE
      Bain & Company
      Brazukamore
      No.
      May 14
  • New tw-guru
    Sky is the limit. I never finished my degree and have held senior director roles in both government and private sector. Next week i am joining Amazon as a L7 (tech) senior manager. Again hard work, persistence, and delivering results will take you as far as you want to go.
    May 142
    • Amazon cnnfox
      Good achievement. But with a degree you’d probably be an Amazon Director/VP by now!
      May 14
    • MobileIron loom
      Yes degree is needed to be executive levels especially for already established companies. Otherwise start your own company and be an exec without degree
      May 15
  • Google / Eng
    jot

    GoogleEng

    PRE
    Amazon
    jotmore
    I dropped out after a couple years. I felt a little insecure at times, but the lack of degree hasn’t hurt my career. I definitely value my experiences in my couple years of college, though. ~25yoe, ~500k mean tc over past 5 yrs.

    I *am* hindered by the same thing that made completing school impossible. My brain isn’t quite right - “ADHD” is the diagnosis, but I wouldn’t be shocked to find I’ve got more fucked up between the ears than that. It is pretty unlikely I will make it beyond L6@goog.
    May 141
    • Yardi / EngHeartOfTheCards
      Dropped out of school with 1 quarter of general electives left. Just couldn't bring myself to finish, but I had a job offer at the time. Diagnosed with ADHD around the same time. I feel extremely competent and reliable when I'm on Adderall, but totally useless when I'm not. Definitely had an epiphany when I realized why I couldn't just "apply myself" for my entire schooling life.
      May 15
  • TripAdvisor okayed
    While it's certainly true that it's not necessary and probably won’t hurt you. I don't know any programmer with a Computer Science degree that regrets getting a four year degree, do you?
    May 140
  • SugarCRM vqtM81
    No disrespect but is amazons recruiting process flawed? You did a boot camp and then 1.5 years later come in as a senior role? I’m sure your bright but common. Another example of why technical interviews are a total joke.
    May 143
    • Google dowbskci
      L4 is not a senior role, it's entry.
      May 14
    • SugarCRM vqtM81
      Ahh ok, makes more sense then. Why don’t they call it L1 then... stupid.
      May 14
    • Google dowbskci
      Because there are non-swe roles that start lower.
      May 14
  • Amazon / EngZA5po
    If you will ever try to immigrate to another country it will be a problem, may even become a showstopper. Otherwise, relevant experience beats education.
    May 143
    • Microsoft Pabst420
      It’s Emigration from your perspective when you leave to a foreign land...
      It’s immigration from their perspective when they accept you.

      So for you, you will always be emigrating.

      PS: Sorry I’m bored. Decided to be a pretentious asshole.
      May 14
    • Cisco musigma
      One can either "immigrate to some place" or "emigrate from some place". Its just the same.. therefore, the usage in ZA5po's post is correct.

      PS: I decided to be a bigger one 😁
      May 14
    • Microsoft Pabst420
      I stand corrected! 😃
      May 14
  • Amgen / Mgmtaditto
    Most people who've responded here seem to be working in the tech industry. I don't work in tech, and I just finished grad business school so I'd like to give you a different perspective.

    Had you not given details about your path and your aspirations, I would have said definitely get a degree. A degree typically does two things - gives you knowledge, and gives you an attestation that you have specific knowledge, sometimes not both ;) but you get what I mean. Given your path, there is a very high likelihood that you'll do just fine without finishing school.

    Consider this scenario: the market conditions change drastically over the next ten years and suddenly there is no place for non grads? Not likely but not impossible. Consider another scenario: you get bored of this and want to switch into another industry and do something completely different. Not all industries hire people without a degree for skilled jobs like tech currently does. In both those scenarios you may have an edge if you have that attestation or diploma on your resume.

    Given the path you've taken and the estimate of your ability that I've drawn out, I'm sure you'll succeed no matter what, cause you'll always find a way out. However in more scenarios than less, the path you carve will be restricted by your aptitude, skills, and luck. You may just have one less door open without a degree. I won't comment on one less door out of two or two hundred.

    I hope that helps.
    May 141
    • SAP MCEA83
      Even if the market doesn't change, this is right. It also gives you a story - I made it to Amazon without s degree, but realized there was still value in learning and gaining my degree, so I went back part time and was able to bring the skills learned to Amazon
      May 17
  • Yelp / EngsJJv80
    I’ve worked with engineers with CS masters degrees, CS bachelors, unrelated STEM degrees, unrelated non-STEM degrees, and even one who technically doesn’t even have a high school diploma. It never mattered to me or the companies I worked for. I have an unrelated STEM degree myself, and nobody ever even asked about it past my first job.

    You ask if your career (presumably in software engineering / software engineering management) will be hurt later, and the answer to that is, IMO, no. There will be companies who won’t hire you because you have no degree, but you probably don’t want to work for them, anyway.

    I would do some independent studying at the level of an intro algorithms and data structures class, and more advanced topics related to your work (likely databases and distributed systems, maybe others). It never hurts to know a thing or two about areas adjacent to your work, either (maybe graph theory, queuing theory, operating systems, etc.). This is what’s going to help your career in the long run, much more than a CS bachelor’s degree. And you can get it for $1.50 in late fees at the public library instead of spending thousands of dollars on a degree.

    The only scenario in which I’d advise getting a degree is if you wanted to move to data science, ML, or another related field and needed a foothold you couldn’t get on your own. Even MBA programs would probably accept you based on work experience.

    In short, skills matter, knowledge matters, experience matters, degrees don’t matter (much).
    May 140
  • Microsoft znJf21
    Only way it could hurt you is if you ever want to apply for a visa in another country. Depending on you having (or not) a degree there are countries where the immigration process would become much more complex. If you plan to live in the US forever you're good.
    May 140
  • Uber / Eng
    sight

    UberEng

    PRE
    Facebook, Cisco, Dell
    sightmore
    I was in your same position 15 years ago. I had some self doubt about not having a degree and also thought it may limit me.

    Time proved that if you work for a meritocracy you’ll be rewarded and nobody will care. I’ve worked for FANG companies, and have offers from others to top-level positions with 600+ TC. Never has a degree been an issue once my track record was established.

    Now, if I were going into governmental work, they probably wouldn’t consider me. But I’m at the stage when I wouldn’t consider working for anyone who imposes such an arbitrary requirement either.

    You’ll be fine.
    May 140
  • Microsoft Pabst420
    I don’t care if you have a degree or not. But you should def read some foundational CS books. Don’t Care of you pass the exams or have an expensive printed paper confirmation.
    Just Algos, computer Networks, crypto and discrete math books and look up some
    Of the amazing advanced data structured lectures on YouTube from MIT.
    I personally don’t care for a lot of the coursera crap. mIT open courseware still beats the shit out of all of them for foundational CS stuff. Even 10 years later.
    May 140
  • Uber sadbear
    You can just put CMU and the years you were there. No one ever asks if you have finished once you have few years of experience.

    Many companies have program for you to finish your degree part time while you are there and even pay for the cost.
    May 144
    • Microsoft / Product
      Brazuka

      MicrosoftProduct

      PRE
      Bain & Company
      Brazukamore
      Even if they do ask, couple years in CMU is more prestigious than full degree in a state school
      May 14
    • Amazon / Eng
      SF.

      AmazonEng

      PRE
      Amazon
      SF.more
      Please don't do this in a shady manner... ie don't mention a degree or something. That is why companies do background checks once the offer is accepted. If it comes out, you could be blacklisted by that company and any company who uses the same background check company.
      May 14
    • Amazon YupYupYupY
      +1 don’t even fudge a little bit when it comes to education. It’s just not worth it. Plus why would you even want to work at company that values degrees over experience/ability.
      May 14
    • Condé Nast 0110011001110101
      OP
      hey OP here. most background checks will verify your education history. the background check will contain the start date, the end date and whether you completed a degree. + 1 on not fudging this at all even slightly. i have always been 100% upfront about it and it has never been a problem.
      May 15
  • Google notsundar
    Also a college dropout in tech. Best decision I’ve ever made. Now leading team with people 1.5-2x my age.

    If you’re committed to growth and your career you will be fine. The more you’ve done, the less anyone will even remotely care. It is at a point now for me where it’s often seen as a strength in people’s perception, which at the end of the day is the most important thing for career movement.

    IMO those in tech who define their employment value by their degree more than a few years in industry haven’t achieved anything meaningful or at least don’t know how to talk about their trajectory/narrative.
    May 153
    • Amazon cnnfox
      Good for you! Do you think most people can replicate your success? Are you T6? Did you never feel any pressure for lack of degree?
      May 15
    • Google notsundar
      Thanks! I’m an L5 (23, started working in FANG at 18, spent time in startups that were successful, etc).

      The only pressure I had for lack of degree was when I was a totally unknown quantity in interviews back when I was just starting out. I improved this thru networking into VCs for intros to portfolio companies while interning at a FANG company.

      Getting intros from people is IMO the best way to get around low level recruiters screening you for stupid reasons.
      May 15
    • Amazon cnnfox
      That’s very impressive for your age!

      Did you join Google as L5 or got promoted? If latter how long did it take?
      May 15
  • Indeed vanher
    Degree smagree. If I could do it all over again, I would take a year off to settle into adulting on my own, look for individual skill building trades, certifications and licenses and get after it. Wasted a lot of money for super expensive, big named college, private university. NOT WORTH IT.
    May 161
    • Microsoft gfba68
      Got a degree from a top 10 cs program at public university essentially for free. There is no reason to pay a lot of money for a private college CS degree when there are so many good public options. Many states have scholarships if you maintain a certain GPA.
      May 16
  • Oracle TKvy28
    Competent employers don't care about degrees after your first job. Accomplishments matter more than anything. I dropped out of Stanford and have never regretted that decision.
    May 140
  • Google / Eng
    ruminate

    GoogleEng

    PRE
    Amazon, Yahoo, Microsoft
    ruminatemore
    Probably won’t hurt you. You can just say you attended CMU and that will be enough to impress people. Once you’re in FAANG it’s all performance based. However, at some point of time you could get bored of your career and have life regrets. I dropped out of grad school, regretted it and went back part-time. I didn’t do it for higher TC, it was just a personal goal and something I needed to do to feel complete and accomplished. Everyone is different though. If you go back, do it sooner rather than later, once you have a family school is more or less out of the question.
    May 140
  • Amazon CdwB45
    Degree isnt necessary after you get your first job. Been doing fine for quite awhile without one. If a company wont take you without one you wouldnt want to work there anyway.
    May 140
  • Box Nwcz20
    Should be fine, might block you if you want to move to management later in your career
    May 143
    • Apple / Engsrand()
      Why would block management?
      May 14
    • Box Nwcz20
      most places I’ve been at director or above required a masters.
      May 14
    • Amazon / Eng💩 🚀🛰️
      My last, and favorite, L8 manager at Amazon is a college drop out. Has done pretty well.

      Having been a CIO at a $2Bn/yr multinational myself before deciding I liked being a high level IC more, I can attest that dropping out of college and getting real experience without a pile of debt has not hindered me at all either.

      OP: You will be fine. Work hard and earn your way.
      May 14
  • Facebook OlUncle
    No, I dropped out and have held senior IC positions at several FANGs.
    May 140
  • Reddit DdlQ02
    As others have mentioned not having a degree could be a serious impediment if you want to work overseas at some point. Maybe not in all countries but definitely some (my experience is from APAC countries which generally do require an undergraduate to give you a work visa). If you don’t have other commitments yet (mortgage, kids etc) I would try and keep working on it part time just to make sure you don’t close any doors unnecessarily.
    May 140
  • It won’t under one condition; one or two bootcamps aren’t going to replace the missing foundational pieces , you’ll need to dedicate time to catch up on that
    May 140
  • Google snazzypants
    Now that you have Amazon on your resume it will not hurt you. In general it would have hurt you because few companies would be ok with not having a degree. Although if you want to specialize then you can't do a MS/PhD without a a bachelor's
    May 140
  • SAP pneY60
    I dropped out of college due to my financial situation, yet have had a long career making a lot of money with titles like CTO and Chief Architect- and managing teams of PHD’s!But every time I have to look for a job, it is awkward. I’ve told my kids not to follow that path if they can avoid it, but you can make it work. I was one of those kids doing advanced stuff at an early age, and am self taught in CompSci. I took enough college to complete all the higher math stuff, which I think was important. But if it’s an option, finish the degree. You won’t regret it.
    May 160
  • Oracle Seww82
    If you decide later that cs alone bores you and you want to change direction by going into an unrelated advanced masters program, you may have to go back and finish the degree to start your advanced studies where others could just start immediately. I'm 45 and have been L7+ everywhere and am bored out of my mind reiterating the same patterns at continuously greater scale, so I'm finishing mine now so I can shift my experience to a different domain through a master's program.
    May 150
  • New / Eng
    UfpO77

    NewEng

    BIO
    Foobar
    UfpO77more
    Stay at amazon at least 3 years. You’ll be fine. Keep taking on hard work and volunteer for challenging work. 🤘
    May 140
  • VMware nitO16
    The more with experience you get and the more you perform the less the degree is relevant. I've worked with people without degrees and they have always been very good technically (and successful). The only thing that was different was that they had an attitude "my way or the high way" (people with many degrees have that too). My explanation of that behavior was either they never developed social skills due to rarely working in groups (something you typically do in school) or they have become overconfident due to having achieved everything on their own terms. I don't know how much it would matter at the exec level promotions (if that's what you refer to as ceiling).
    May 140
  • Teradata jFNl08
    Do it while you are still young and don't have family (assumption). Later on in life even if you want to it'll be tougher.
    Since you know basic CS now better to do a degree in some other discipline...eg. in Linguistics, Law, something related to medical science like Nutrition, biology etc. This'll work to your advantage. There are many coders out there but very few who know law + CS OR linguistics + CS.
    After some years if you want to do a startup then you'll have unique ideas b'se of knowledge of these other field(s).
    May 140

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