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That’s good news for tech-savvy job seekers without a college degree. In today’s marketplace for programmers and IT pros, experience and know-how trump a college degree. Even large companies are increasingly willing to hire qualified candidates without a degree. For example, according to a recent Marketplace report, about 15% of the people being hired by IBM don’t have a college degree.
“They’re coming from coding boot camps and community colleges,” said Sam Ladah, vice president for human resources at IBM. “We’re looking for people who understand things like cognitive computing, the cloud and cybersecurity”
Ladah puts the opportunity for what he calls “new-collar jobs” in perspective: “About half a million technology jobs go unfilled in the U.S., and it’s because employers can’t find what they’re looking for,” he said. “The country is only producing about 50,000 computer science grads each year, and that’s the skills gap.”
Another big company that is embracing experience over diplomas is Intel. According to a Fast Company report, the giant chipmaker has been recruiting employees from high schools and community colleges. “Through focused initiatives in education, investment and internship programs for high school and community college students, our aim is to attract a diversified talent pool to technology careers like engineering and computer science,” said Danielle Brown, VP of human resources and chief diversity and inclusion officer at Intel.
Gary Burtless, a senior researcher at the Brookings Institute, told Fast Company that one of the best ways to fill the technology pipeline in today’s marketplace is to develop more skills-based training programs. “There are tons of occupations out there for which you do not need a college degree,” he said.
Even more encouraging is that techies without a college degree can earn big bucks. According to the Modis 2019 Salary Guide for Technology and Engineering, a Unix Administrator with low experience would start-out a national average of $76,674 a year. That starting salary jumps to $106,785, with benefits, for the median starting point. For a programmer, the median total compensation is $90,504 per year.
More opportunities are on the horizon as the tech sector in the U.S. continues to grow. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment in the computer and information tech sector will grow much faster than average for all occupations over the next decade.
As the labor market tightens, employers also may find that they can rein-in labor costs by turning to workers without college degrees. According to a Harvard Business School/Accenture survey, “employers pay more, often significantly more, for college graduates to do jobs also filled by non-degree holders — without getting any material improvement in productivity.”
The Harvard/Accenture report found that while degree-holders often command higher salaries, non-graduates with experience perform on par with graduates. That’s a good thing for employers. Companies that hire techies without degrees often find that those new employees are less expensive than college graduates. At the end of the day, that’s a win-win for everyone.