Can you get a job without a programming job without a highschool diploma?

I am a junior in high school and I can’t stand it. I am planning to drop out and unschool myself. Im just wondering, how hard is it to get a programming job without a highschool diploma? The employer should care more about my portfolio and experience then what highschool I went to, right?

Update: many people have been telling me how important a highschool diploma is, so I’m no longer planning on dropping out. Rather, I’m planning to switch to a private school and do their off-campus program, which will give me the freedom to program as much as I want. The name of the school is Clonlara and they have accredited diplomas and transcripts.
thanks for the advice guys

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The truthful answer is it depends. Depends on the type of company you’ll be working for.

There is some truth to what you said, your body of work can be proof of your abilities but the truth is competition is really tough, you’ll be competing against college graduates or with masters degree even.

You really need to be head and shoulders above the others, and very experienced… but it then becomes a chicken and egg problem, how can you get experience if nobody will hire you and Nobody wants to hire someone without experience. So employers then look for other proofs of your capability, and someone who has finished a CS or engineering degree vs. a high school dropout, well you can guess which one the employer will most likely place their bet on.


If your portfolio of coding work is impressive enough, you might find a company willing to hire you or at least offer you contract work. You’d have to be far better than an average teen - or adult - coder, though, because most managers have to justify their hires to their company, and most companies require credentials (college degrees, certificates from reputable programs, etc.).

But… you talk about dropping out, but the “unschool” link you provided is to an article on homeschooling. Homeschooling or online/virtual courses could be a great solution for you. You can study and pace yourself pretty much as you want. You’ll have access to a greater variety of courses, so you can find those that interest you - coding, technology entrepreneurship, whatever.

Two other options for completing that high school diploma are to take college courses instead. They can count towards the diploma or you could just go for a computer degree. No one will care about a high school diploma once you have a college degree, even a 2-year degree from a community college. The other option would be to just drop out and then get a GED.

Before you drop out, take a month or two and start job hunting. See where it gets you. If you do impress someone enough to be offered a job, you can decide whether to quit school then.


Dropping out is a bad idea. Even if you’re a talented developer employers are going to see that you never completed high school and are only around 17 years old. You’re going to strike them as someone who can’t follow through or who is a quitter/can’t take direction.

Finish school and in the meantime work on your programming skills outside of school or on the weekends. This will give you two years of building your skills and hopefully by the time you graduate you’ll be job ready.

Remember, in this industry, the question is usually "Can I get a dev job without a college diploma?


I’m not looking to get a job immediately out of High School. I am not going to start looking for jobs for quite a while. I plan to complete front end, data visualization, back end, 2 FCC opensource projects, and the course about preparing for interviews before I start looking for jobs. Also, while I’m out of school I’m going to get a homeschooling diploma which I’m pretty sure is equivalent to a regular high school diploma. If I can’t find jobs then, then I’ll go to bit of county college to get a degree.
I’m just really passionate about programming and want to spend as much time doing it as possible, but don’t want to kill my hireablility in the process. Does this plan sound reasonable?(Be honest)

I wouldn’t drop out. If your main plan fails, you will be working for minimum wage and have a miserable life. I see it everyday. Unless, you get lucky.

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I’d encourage you to find an alternative education program that offers something closer to your interests than what you are currently getting for school. Most areas have them now. At the very least, online education is an option and your school has to pay for it. All of that said, your HS diploma is CRITICAL. You will have a very hard time finding any routine employment without it. It’s less about what you learn, and more about your ability to commit to something that is hard and follow through with meeting that goal. It’s a sad reality of our education system.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t change your situation, but your goal should still be getting a HS diploma or GED. If you want help looking for alternatives let me know. I’d be happy to help find a program that fits your needs better.


A homeschooling diploma is a high school diploma. Unless you’re an emancipated minor, your parents will need to make the homeschooling arrangement official with the school district or the state (not sure which). Online schools may be available locally or statewide, and there are also nationwide virtual schools. There will likely be some standard requirements for graduation, such as a year of English, but you may be able to get most of your credits from your coding work. When looking at online schools, let them know that this is a priority and see which school offers the best way to meet your goals. You can also freely homeschool without registering for an online school, as long as you meet the state or district’s requirements for the diploma. (Using English as an example, you might need to do a literature course, but you could design one called Tech Lit and read things like The Circle, Little Brother and Otherland.)

So you won’t be “out of school,” you’ll just be schooling on your own.

This sounds like a fine plan to me. There is just no reason to waste time sitting in a classroom when you can be learning and doing something you’re interested in that will eventually be a way to earn a good living.


Thanks LisaWillCode, I’m looking into this program called clonlara which is super lenient and will definately be able to let me learn the way I want to learn(mostly by programming)! Even better, I’ll still be able to get my highschool diploma, so it will be perfect!

To be honest, if you’re a junior, just stick through it. Sure its possible to get a job, if you’re very lucky and have an incredibly impressive resume but you are setting yourself quite back by doing that. I would just get through it, and it will be worth it.

Clonlara, wow! I remember that school from when I went to college in Ann Arbor, where the school started. Of course, they didn’t have an online school then and I’m a bit prejudiced, but IMO if it’s coming out of Ann Arbor, it’s got to be good! I couldn’t watch the video (limited Internet access), but I checked out their website.

By the way, pet peeve of mine, but you misspelled “definitely.” If you’re going to be definite about something, you’re just more credible if you spell it right. (I don’t correct most misspellings, but that one is really common and really annoying.)

You make an excellent point there.

Something that might benefit you, talk it over with your parents or whoever is responsible for your care at the time (I’m assuming you are not an adult yet based on your grade - please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong on that assumption) would be dropping out from high school and switching into a GED program, the education environment of a GED program might better suite your learning style / needs. I found an article ( which explains how to drop out and still get a diploma and helps put things into perspective and determine what path to take. Good luck and be careful with the decisions you make.

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I don’t know about programming jobs yet, but this is my experience. I know at least five people who either didn’t finish high school or didn’t go. On job applications, they usually mark the ‘high school diploma’ box. Nobody ever checks.
One of them took the GED test, scored in the top few percent, went to university and got a bachelors degree.
One teaches music at a private school (no degree, but a borderline prodigy). Also married.
One worked at a gas station for a number of years, then decided to go to community college, started with remedial classes, and now makes good money as an aircraft mechanic.
One has worked at W**mart for 15 years.
One got hired at a high tech company but then quit to do music gigs. He has potential but no idea of self-discipline.

Another friend just barely made it through high school, drifted around for a while, joined the national guard, then went to nursing school and now has a career and family.

At the place I work, it’s easy to get hired without a degree (or even HS - they don’t check), but they expect some kind of education if you want to move up.

The most successful people I know, like the one who helped launch a satellite, and the one who became a doctor, or the one who retired a millionaire, went the traditional route.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you don’t go the traditional route, you have to figure out how to get noticed.

The business of software development is a highly intellectual activity and a high school diploma is the most basic proof of some grit on that (it’s not like you’re dropping out to run your plumbing business, right?)

Contrary to common perceptions, I think the software industry is not —has never been— desperate enough to hire HS dropouts. But the employers are always desperate to find workers who will do more for less. So you’ll most probably be forced to accept lowest wages for harder work, won’t have a career, and be used as a bargaining chip against others (“look, even this HS dropout can do things you put on your resume, why should we hire you for that price?”).

Also, it seems to me you’re filtering only the responses that you’d like to hear, which is normal because you’re a kid(I assume). So, as @anon52159105 mentioned, you should be consulting with your legal guardians on important life matters, not random people from the Internet.
Good luck.

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Being bored with school at your age is a quite natural reaction. I was bored with school at your age as well. But as I am unaware of american school conditions. How many years do you have remaining to get a diploma? 1? 2? It is not worth it dropping out at this stage. Find a hobby and some friends that make it bearable while you finish your diploma.

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I know similar stories. However for each such case there are probably loads who dropped out and didn’t make it. We all hear about people who survive being shot in the head, doesn’t mean we want to try getting shot in the head.

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Well if I do decide to homeschool myself its probably going to be through an umbrella school like clonlara, so that I can still get a highschool diploma since you guys have really stressed how important it is.

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What is it that makes you hate regular high-school so much?
All jobs are going to include periods of doing things that you don’t like.

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look, I could handle getting through highschool if I felt it was for a purpouse however, it really is not. The simple fact is I will not use most of the the vast majority of what I learn in school. I am fucking all for focused hard work if I feel its for a purpose,not to conform to societal standards

I’m 37.

I have never once needed to use the extensive knowledge of the Treaty of Versailles my History GCSE required me to have at the time. I have never spoken French to anybody. I still haven’t got around to reading Far From the Madding Crowd.

All I wanted as a teen was to go to art school. And I did. What I didn’t do was earn a living as an artist because it turned out that I like making art, I’m just not so invested in engaging with all the tedious stuff which surrounds making a living from doing that. So, hooray for love of coding, but are you still going to love it when you’re not doing the fun stuff? If it turns out you don’t, how is dropping out of high school going to harm your chances of doing something else?

If you were in front of me being interviewed and I learned you dropped out of school because you didn’t see the point, I’d want to feel reassured that you are not going to rage-quit writing documentation or running test cases because you didn’t see the point of them either (because your program works, right?). So, how can you prove that to me?

Right now, you have no clue about all the things you don’t know. Every day is learning and it never stops.

One of the things you don’t know is that high-school is not only about learning facts. It’s about learning to show up on time, organising yourself into meeting your deadlines, coming prepared to exams, doing things you don’t want to do and don’t see the point of. Are you doing that? Are you still going to be doing that if nobody going to put you in detention for not doing it?

I hated school with a passion. There isn’t enough money in the world to make me relive those days, so I sympathise with you. But it was important: learning to get along with other people even though they ambushed me outside the loos and tried to wrap me in cling-film is a vital life skill (because the world is full of stupid people you aren’t going to like, but whom you have to sit next to anyway). Learning when to shut up because I’m not as clever as I think I am has been even more vital.

I can’t tell you if quitting is the right thing, even if you get your diploma through other means. If possible, I’d say try and graduate early and spend the rest of your school year at a McJob. The money will come in useful.

But talk to people. Is there a teacher of guidance counsellor who you can talk to? Is this really about the fact you don’t see the point in what you’re learning, or is there something else going on? I was bullied, dreadfully. I would have left school if I could, for the same reasons as you, but it would have really been because I was sick of having to keep my head down and put up with everything. It’s hard. It shouldn’t happen - to anybody - but it does.

If you do quit, I strongly recommend:

  1. The McJob mentioned above while you continue to learn. It will give you an important perspective (one of the most vital things a developer needs is the ability to empathise with potential users. Retail will teach you all you ever need to know about the depths of human ignorance) and will show you’re not the guy who just rage-quit high-school.
  2. Get your English and Maths impeccable. Your computer checks your spelling. There’s no excuse. You’re going to writing an awful lot of things down: you need to know how English works.

And when you go for interviews, think about how you’re going to frame your decision. If you tell me you quit because you didn’t see the point of what you were learning - yeah. I’m not going to feel confident about how you’ll fit in at the workplace. Anybody can learn to code. High-school has nothing on a badly managed office.

But, however this goes, there are second chances. There are opportunities for people to learn and change their lives. This choice is not going to irrevocably wreck your life, it may just make it take a little longer for you to get where you’re going. Or it may be a shortcut. There’s only one real way to find out.

Good Luck.