get into a stem career without a formal background

Tips for Getting Into a STEM Career Without a Degree

People who don’t have a STEM education, fear not!

You can still break into this exciting field. For instance, take web developer and entrepreneur David Karp. Don’t recognize his name? Well, you might recognize his website: Tumblr.

At age 11, Karp began learning HTML and designing websites for businesses. He attended The Bronx High School of Science for one year before dropping out at the age of 15 and starting homeschooling. Although Karp never earned his high school diploma, he went on to create a microblogging platform that sold for $1.1 billion in 2013.

By following the tips outlined below, you too can excel in STEM without a formal background.  

Be your own master

Just like David Karp, you can become the master of your career without a traditional STEM education. Once you figure out your desired path, no matter the age, there is nothing to stop you from pushing yourself until you reach your goal.

“Anyone that has good analytical thinking skills can teach themselves. I was a programmer long before I got a degree. You just have to have a certain makeup for it.” 

Kforce Chief Information Officer Denis Edwards

In our current information age, there a variety of resources available that can be pursued through self-education. If you want to follow in Karp’s footsteps as a tech superstar, leverage developer platforms like O’Reilly’s programming eBooks, Coursera and Codecademy to help you dive into this new field. 

Interested in a STEM career? Search our open positions today.

Try an accelerated route

For those seeking non-traditional forms of education, there are also non-traditional avenues available for different disciplines, such as bridge programs, trade schools and associate degree programs.

In fact, 15 percent of STEM workers have completed an associate degree, while 14 percent have some level of college education but no bachelor’s degree. The number of STEM workers without a bachelor’s degree is also higher than those with a master’s, doctorate or professional degree, according to new data from the Pew Research Center.

“You’re starting to see a lot of these boot camp schools that can teach you everything you need to know to have a solid tech background in two years, versus taking four years for a traditional degree,” described Edwards. For instance in 2018, coding boot camps grew by 20 percent and produced an estimated 20,316 graduates, claimed Course Report. “I think that’s viable for a lot of people,” Edwards added.

Channel your soft skills

With the need for STEM workers growing exponentially, big companies such as Ernst and Young, Google and Apple are considering workers without a traditional college degree as long as they have the required soft skills and are passionate about the field.

In fact, the proportion of employees at Google that don’t have a college education has increased to as high as 14 percent on some teams. According to Google’s former SVP of People Operations Laszlo Bock, the number one thing Google looks for is learning ability and processing on the fly, which is assessed through structured behavioral interviews.

“The world only cares about—and pays off on—what you can do with what you know (and it doesn’t care how you learned it). And in an age when innovation is increasingly a group endeavor, it also cares about a lot of soft skills—leadership, humility, collaboration, adaptability and loving to learn and re-learn.”

The NY Times

Leaders in STEM are looking for passion and skill just as much as a traditional degree. With the rising demand for STEM positions among startups and major corporations, there is an increasing need for non-STEM employees to help take a company to the next level.  

The road to get started

As author, businessman and motivational speaker T. Harv Eker said, “If you are willing to do only what’s easy, life will be hard. But if you are willing to do what’s hard, life will be easy.”

Be willing to take the road less traveled. Although the path to a STEM career without a formal background isn’t easy, dedicate yourself to the craft and put in the work necessary to land your dream STEM role.

So, what are you waiting for? Are you up for the challenge?

The Ultimate STEM Career Guide