How To Succeed In Tech Without A STEM Degree

Whether you’re planning to take your first step into the working world post graduation, or looking for an early career industry swap, there has rarely been a better time to be starting out in tech. Even in a challenging economic climate, the UK digital sector is on track to add £190bn in value to the UK economy and create nearly 700,000 jobs over the next three years.

But starting out in any industry can feel intimidating, particularly if you don’t have the formal qualifications on paper. It’s easy to dissuade yourself from considering tech if you haven’t studied a STEM subject.

Your choice of degree doesn’t have to be a barrier to entering the tech industry. Over 100 of Academy’s grads are now successfully working in tech roles, even though their degree backgrounds are as varied as Politics, History, Marketing, and English Literature.

So, what does it take to launch a career in tech if you come from an unconventional background? Here’s five surprising truths about how to succeed in tech without a STEM degree.

1. Tech isn’t just about coding

Most people think working in tech requires significant coding knowledge and experience, or a degree in computer science. You might be surprised at the wide range of roles that do not require these skills.

Research from Glassdoor shows that 43% of roles advertised by tech companies are non-technical. Roles in product management, sales, marketing, or operations are pathways to influence cutting-edge tech innovations, without writing a single line of code. According to Tech Nation, the top 4 roles in the UK that either do not involve coding or don’t require advanced programming skills include:

  • Project Manager — 22 million new opportunities predicted by 2027
  • Product Manager — 8x increase in demand since 2019
  • Business Analyst — 7.5x increase in demand since 2019
  • Data Analyst — 6x increase in demand since 2019

Figure 1: Tech Job Vacancies

2. Anyone can learn how to code

According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report, it takes 4–5 months on average to build essential software engineering skills. Full-time coding programmes and bootcamps can help you learn what you need to start as an entry-level developer in 3–4 months, if you’re motivated and put in the work.

If you’re curious about becoming a developer but aren’t sure if it’s the right path for you, here’s three questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you enjoy tackling problems you’ve never seen before?
  • Are you drawn to breaking down problems into logical components?
  • Do you like working in a team to build new things and experiment with others?

If your answer is a strong “yes” to all three, software engineering could be a great fit for you.

3. Tech is about lifelong learning

Change is the only constant in the tech industry. Tools and programming languages are always evolving. The average shelf-life of a technical skill is less than 2 years. Even if you start with a CS degree, succeeding in tech requires lifelong learning. Curiosity and a passion for discovering new tools and technologies are better predictors of performance in a tech role than a degree alone.

The rapid emergence of whole new sectors like Advanced Connectivity (predicted to grow to $166 billion) and Web3 (estimated to reach $110 billion) is another good example. The concept of Web3 has only been around for half a decade. No matter what your background is, you’ll always be acquiring new skills, learning new tools and disrupting the status quo if you choose to pursue a technical career.

Score by Vector Web3 results

Figure 2: Top Trends in Tech

4. Diverse experiences mean transferable skills

Tech permeates every industry. This means you may already have skills that are highly relevant for a particular type of tech company. If you’ve studied or worked in finance, a fintech company or tech-enabled banking organisation might be a perfect fit. Similarly, experience in retail will likely be relevant to building the product in an e-commerce company.

Take stock of what you’ve studied alongside your past jobs and internships. Once you acquire a baseline of technical skills, this industry experience can be the thing that makes you stand out as a candidate (even if you haven’t been coding for very long).

5. The face of tech is changing

Tech has long had a diversity problem. It is clear however that the landscape is changing. Organisations like Tech UK and the Tech Talent Charter are convening policymakers and industry to advocate for change. The Mayor of London recently launched an initiative to promote diversity in tech. More companies are also realising how important it is to have a diverse team at all levels within their organisation, and are investing in meaningful initiatives to improve access to tech careers. Many of these companies are Academy partners.

When you’re interviewing, it’s worth checking out what current and former employees say on websites like Glassdoor. And be confident in asking your interviewer questions that will help you understand what the culture of the organisation is like.

The tech industry is changing to become more diverse and inclusive, join us to accelerate the change!

We hope that this article has helped dismantle the myths that may be holding you back from pursuing a tech career. If you’re ready to take the plunge, apply to join Academy’s 15-week programme. You’ll get paid to train with world-class faculty in a cohort of diverse, high-potential people and graduate with the skills to become a Software Engineer.

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