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

Condé Nast 0110011001110101
May 14 301 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

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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 301 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 14 25
    • 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 / Product Dave Clark
      How good you’re has little to do with your degrees.
      May 14
    • New / IT xengelx
      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 14 3
    • Condé Nast 0110011001110101
      OP
      Thanks! That's great to know!
      May 14
    • Amazon / Eng KHCr70
      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 Express Eng

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

    New Eng

    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 14 1
  • 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 14 13
    • 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 14 1
    • 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
  • 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 14 0
  • 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 14 7
    • 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

      New Eng

      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
  • 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 14 4
    • Microsoft lmboangle
      I've seen this firsthand. Folks getting skipped over for principal promo due to no degree
      May 14
    • Microsoft / Mgmt Snaggle
      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
    • Amazon 💩4brains
      I have seen people not having a Master's degree being brought up as a negative point in an interview loop (but we still hired him).
      Aug 10
  • 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 14 1
    • 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 / Eng mrbateman
    You will be fine.
    May 14 1
    • Agilent Technologies Jebb Fezos
      You need to ask yourself, is fine good enough?
      May 14
  • Amazon / Eng cayde
    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 14 2
    • Amazon Ffej
      Amazon has Principals and Sr. Principals without degrees. Some argue they think more outside of the box.
      May 14
    • Amazon / Eng cayde
      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 14 0
  • Salesforce / Eng
    AnonChickn

    Salesforce Eng

    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 14 11
    • Salesforce / Eng
      AnonChickn

      Salesforce Eng

      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 / Eng Forcesales
      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
      May 18
    • Salesforce / Eng
      AnonChickn

      Salesforce Eng

      PRE
      Amazon, Microsoft
      BIO
      I’m an anonymous chicken
      AnonChicknmore
      Oh, the imposter syndrome is super real.
      May 19
    • Intel / Eng
      SciTex

      Intel Eng

      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.
      May 23
  • Microsoft / Eng 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 14 4
    • New / Eng
      SanHolo

      New Eng

      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
  • Google / Eng
    jot

    Google Eng

    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 14 1
    • Yardi / Eng HeartOfTheCards
      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
  • New / Eng
    SanHolo

    New Eng

    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 14 0
  • 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 14 0
  • 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 14 0
  • Google / Mgmt
    Ex-Amazon

    Google Mgmt

    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 14 0
  • Facebook / Eng fUoU43
    Yes it will hurt! 100%
    May 14 0