For some, results matter far more than a piece of paper that shows that you suffered through four years of higher education. Programming is one of those areas where you can learn just as much on your own as you can at college.

If you can show that you know how to code and show that you’ve worked on several successful projects then that may count as being more valuable than a degree. Now, this isn’t to say that you shouldn’t go to college. It just means that there is more than one path to finding work as a programmer.

In fact, you may be able to find online jobs for college students in programming. That can offset your tuition costs and give you a huge advantage when you do graduate and are in the job market.

In this article, we will go over several steps to take to get your first job as a programmer without a degree.

Pick a dream job

Before you set out on a journey, you need to know the destination. You should think about what kind of programming job you want as there are a lot of ways to go. Which area you should focus on is dependent on your personality and your strengths.

For instance, you can be a coder who enjoys creating applications or working on video games. If you like working on your own, then this may be your best option. Others with a more analytical mind may enjoy being a data scientist where there is less focus on the actual programming and more on algorithms.

Study, study and study some more

Being self-taught doesn’t mean you don’t have to study. Yes, learning by doing is very valuable, but you also have to round out your education.

Theory is very important when it comes to programming. Knowing a language is essential, clearly, but understanding the concepts of the language will make you a better programmer.

Learning computer science in addition to IT is going to give you a leg up on those who are just learning to code without knowing how the concepts work.

Start freelancing

Once you have a basic grasp of how programs work and you have your favorite programming language mastered to a degree, you should put yourself out there. You’ll often be paid pennies for your time at this point, but you are gaining valuable experience.

This experience will help you learn how to actually work on a project and helps you understand the language better. It will also be something you can put your name on and use on a portfolio or resume when the time comes to look for a job instead of just doing small gigs here and there.

Network

While you are learning and making a name for yourself while freelancing, you should e joining as many communities as you can. Find groups online where you can share tips and tricks and find others who are a few steps ahead of where you are in your development.

Make connections with these people as they may be able to help you learn, give tips on where to focus and possibly even help you get a job later.