I'm self taught and I got the job, but

"So… How much they are paying for programmers without a degree?"
That came out from a co-worker last week.

I’m 34 years old employed Front End Developer from Brazil, self taught like most of you guys reading this post. No college or university degrees. A couple months ago I did this post https://forum.freecodecamp.org/t/one-year-of-fcc-gave-me-my-first-job-as-a-front-end-developer telling a little bit about my prospects after a long journey studying programming from free resources on the internet.

Now I’m part of the self taught professionals team and its a shame to state that we are at a great disadvantage. Not only by the numbers(the vast majority working on this field are graduated people), but we’re losing in opportunities too.

I don’t blame my IT friend for that statement.
He’s just expecting a better payment for his ‘plus’. The industry have been conditioning us on that way for a long time: certificates and diplomas can prove that your are better. It’s a ticket to the upper level. I understand that though.

Back then things were a lot more restricted. information didn’t flow around for free like nowdays.
I just don’t get why we can keep accepting this kind of mentality with the internet all over the place.

I’m not some subclass of employee just because my resources aren’t usual.
I’m doing great on my current job working on lots of different Front End projects. Actually, at the moment, I’m the only web front end on a team of 25 developers. People come to me to ask JS and CSS questions… But somehow it doesn’t count too munch for the ‘real world’!
I don’t deserve a chance to even be able to be heard on interviews? Or apply for positions where the prerequisites I already have?

On top of that another detail that makes me even more upset: I’am not completely uneducated in the pos- high school. I have a 80% mechanical engineer course on my history and a year of computer science. I did a lot of calculus and statistics. Still doesn’t count? Nope.

Now I face a new challenge: I’m making 4 dollars/hours on my current job and I need to find something more rentable. If I’m lucky enough I will be able to double this value in 2 or 3 years. It’s pretty hard to keep up with that amount and I don’t have much of a chance to make more than that without leaving the country.

So here I go again: I found out that looking for abroad job without a degree in computer science (or something like that) is almost impossible!
I did a lot of applications and it’s so frustrating when you are rejected because they can’t risk to contact someone overseas without a degree. I got to the point where I had to offer remote assistance to show my competency on the job. “our policy don’t allow it”.
How about the ‘CS degree or equivalent is required’ - For HTML/CSS and Vue proficiency… Really?

To make things a lot harder some countries, like German and Ireland, just don’t let international workers apply without a degree(theres a workaround if they have years of experience in the field).

I got my current job with the help of the Free Code Camp courses and a lot of online resources. I did online courses from Universities like Harvard and Princeton. I did a variety of Udemy and Udacity courses. I have a lot of personal projects on my GitHub and Codepen. I don’t get why people just don’t realize or don’t care about how important is this experience from outside the classroom.
I need to keep moving forward I gotta pay the bills I want a better life for my little baby and I love this programming life but I need to say: some days I feel like I should had been more pragmatic about the dream of the self taught. Sure, I didn’t had a lot of options but If you got some money go for a college or a University. Otherwise be prepared and look before you leap.

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We have nearly 50 developers at my workplace and the “best” is entirely self-taught. Keep in mind he’s a senior who’s been in the industry for 10+ years.

I think this has to do more with your location than a degree. Not saying a CS degree isn’t valuable, of course it is, but its certainly possible to land a good job without one. My 2 cents; network, network, and more networking. We have one developer from overseas, and he’s only here because he was superbly talented and recommended by a current employee. You could also relocate, but that’s risky without having a determined position somewhere beforehand.

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And having code on github doesn’t mean much. What matters is group open source/free software projects, because you also show you can work in a team, your work gets regularly scrunitinized and is apparently fine, and get the general workflows related to development. Doing some hefty/longterm work on larger existing projects is a sure way to get noticed, especially if they’re popular projects. It also opens other income options.

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Why not start your own business? Go out and develop sites for companies and businesses in your area. Then you’ll make more, since there is no middle-man. The company pays you directly, you’re not getting an employee hourly rate. You’re getting the full project price.

I’m self taught in web development too… (started back in '96/97). I do have a BS engineering degree, but not in CS though. But wouldn’t matter anyway. Not one of my clients asked me to see my college diploma. It didn’t matter. All that matters is they have a job, can I deliver at our agreed upon rate or price. If yes, then I got the contract. I do the work, I deliver, I get paid.

I first started doing web dev on the side, while still employed. I’d do it at night after coming home from work, and during weekends. I also had a new baby at that time (1997) and that was the spark that lit me on fire! I don’t want my baby growing up in a rented apartment. I want my baby growing up and playing in her own big backyard, in her own house, with mom and dad around and not gone off to work.

At first, I just had small-time clients… $300-400 per site, good for a couple of nights work. Then soon, I’m having $1500 clients for more bigger projects, for a few days of work. And then you realize, on a per day basis, I’m making more vs going to my day job… compare that to going to work every morning, dressing up, dealing with office politics and bullshit, spending gas, spending lunch money, and not getting paid enough. I’m making more in my own side business than being employed by someone.

Well, screw that. After getting all my ducks in a row, and a waiting client and enough work lined up for that 1st year – I quit my day job and went fulltime doing web design (that’s what we used to call it - just web design, not some fancy term nowadays like front end or backend or full stack development). What I call web design back then is the equivalent of full-stack + graphics experience today.

It’s now 2018, so doing this full time for past 18 yrs now. And that baby of mine is now a young adult in college in one of the top 20th university in the country.

So don’t think being an employee is the only way to make a living and provide for your family.

Other matters: You have the skills, why not start making money online too. Google Ads – you can earn anywhere from $1/day to $5/day per website. It’s free money ($30 - 150/month, are you going to refuse that?)

Amazon affiliates commission – anywhere from $10 to $100 commission a month.

Back in late 90s and early 2000s, I also offered web hosting reselling services (that’s also where I got those $300/400 per site web design clients). Web hosting back then was very profitable… $25/mo if paid annually. I sign up 3 people per day, that’s $900 total + $150 setup fees, and if one of them wants a website, that’s additional income. I’d setup their website at nights after coming home from work.

You can see why working for someone else and being an employee has lost it’s appeal on me. Do you need a college degree to do all of these? I don’t think so. Do you need a college degree to work for someone else? Most probably.

– oh dang, sorry for this wall of text. I got carried away. Bottomline: It seems you have the skills to be successful, just use it! Some things are just beyond our control and it is the way it is. We just have to find another way. There’ll be bad days, but there will also be good days.

Good luck!

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I would just say that, “I hope they’re paying me according to my abilities and what I bring to the company, not the pieces of paper I have. Do you have a piece of paper saying you’re a programmer? Does that mean that you do better work than me?”

But I take it that you are working in Brazil? Different countries have different attitudes about the importance of schools and certifications. There is always a baseline of “importance” to the piece of paper, but in some cultures it is very important. (For the record, I think a degree is good, but not definitive.)

I don’t know what the culture is like where you are. In general, the US is probably one of the more lax places, the whole “I’m a self-made man and I don’t need no fancy book larnin’” mentality. But even so, there are some jobs here in the US that will just be closed off to those of us without CS degrees.

Yes, immigration is going to be tough. Most countries will require a degree if you want to come there and take potential jobs from locals. Plus, many of these countries will have a similar degree-fetish. But if you have extensive experience, some of them will accept that, accepting the “or equivalent”. Of course it’s easier if you get some company to sponsor you, but that’s tough and you’d really have to impress someone.

Have you considered getting a degree? I don’t know your age or situation.

As Owel mentioned, maybe start your own country. If you can work remotely, some countries will let you move there if you can prove that you’re supporting yourself online. Look up “digital nomads”.

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I tried it, regret it, don’t recommend it.

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@Errec—I just want to say that your weather app is probably the coolest I’ve seen so far and I still remember what your portfolio looks like because it’s also really cool. If I didn’t know how to code and needed a website or if I had a business, I would not think twice about paying you for front-end design/development—I’m not just saying this to make you feel better, I honestly do think that your work is something that I would pay for.

People in most industries hire base on the pieces of paper you have because it’s otherwise economically impractical/too risky for them to do so, they are trying to protect their status-quo by hiring only people like them, and/or their HR department is just lazy… etc. It’s really nobody’s fault at the end of the day, people are not at fault for being ignorant and reluctant to change because they are entitled to do whatever they like (I do think it’s rather unfortunate though). If you can’t change them, the only way is to change yourself—I think you should seriously consider what @owel said.

In any case, good luck! :slight_smile:

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Thanks for the feedback Jake! I’m trying to find a freelancing from outside companies for some network. I was working for a local company doing some freelancing on the nightshift but the money didn’t justify the effort. I could barely do my GitHub projects.

Thanks for the amazing story! I wish I could get something like that for my son someday. I’m trying to give some decent life for him I don’t care about the money I don’t have fancy stuff my computer is an old laptop but I want to be able to pay for a decent school for him. That’s what makes me more sad. Next year he needs to go to the kindergarten and I can’t afford a decent place to him. There’s this nice kindergarten just in front of my office and I get so upset to realize that I can’t pay for it even if spend all my salary on it… .my wife is working on 2 jobs and she’s getting more and more tired of this situation. It’s hard to give my day to day job to risk everything on my own business. I can do very well with front end but I’m no able to deliver a entire website with a functional backend. I need to find a way with the freon end for now… Thanks again Owel. And I’m definitely going to look into the Google adds. Looks like a good way to make some extra money

Unfortunately It’s really hard to me right now to get a degree. I appreciate the help Kevin. And you’re right about the freelancing and I’m starting to look into it. I guess I can do it now after some real world job experience.

Thank you very much Honman! it’s very rewarding to read this! You’re right About the industry.We can’t expect much. I just don’t get the way this companies think I’ve worked hard to do these projects and I’m sure I can do even better jobs nowadays. and that’s what makes me disappointed, realizing that it does not make so much difference out there. I wish the HR had the same patience that you guys have haha thanks again!

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What is your highest qualification?
Have you considered Portugal? I read you are from Brazil, it may be (I say ‘may’ because I do not know) easier to migrate?
I also heard it is ‘easy’ to migrate to Canada if you are a developer which is your current job… You may not have a CS degree but how much experience do you need to get the equivalency based on your work experience?
Do not give up, there is some light at the end of the tunnel! Keep pushing, keep looking around, better opportunities will appear. :):grinning:

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Starting my own right now.

It is a little slow to start, but I have worked for several small businesses and a few large corporations in the past so I get the marketing side. I like photography, I like designing sites (I’ve worked with pro designers, and the problems that they create with mobile responsive programming is a topic in and of it self.) I love developing them, you have to know about marketing, SEO, finance and collections but it is possible for one person to have a solid grasp on all of these things.

Logo work I out source on fiverr.

Here is the thing and how I look at my work, I worked for a company making a poor salary. By the time I paid for parking, childcare, insurance, gas, car payment I was making about $200 a week for luxuries, like lunch and buying my kids dinner at night because I was mentally wiped most days. I left my house at 7AM and by the time I picked up my kids from day care most days I got home at about 7-7:30PM so 60 hours a week

So by pulling in 2 larger projects a month I can make that, plus I make residual on hosting. And have basically $1200/mo less costs.

So, is it for everyone, no. Does it work for me? Yes. Is a pup fresh out of high school going to have a ton to learn and most of that being hard lessons? I think so. But once you have a bit of experience in a small business seeing how things run and learning how to make it work, if you aren’t making bank, leave. And if it doesn’t work, your newly found sales skills will make getting and negotiating the next job super easy.

Hello Xavier! I’m applying to Portugal too. And Spain, and Holland…I did try to get a Canadian work + study Visa but I got 2 refusals. It’s pretty hard to get a visa without an offer letter. I’m going to try some remote job too. You’re right I cant give up. I’ll try to improve my portfolio put some ‘real’ projects on it :slight_smile:

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Hi Carl! I have some design and photography skills and my focus is frond end. Do you think I can make my own business with that? I have some framework experience (Vue, Angular) and I can work fine with the MV

It is depressing to read this kind of story. I’m having the same experience as you right now. The only difference I’m living in the Dominican Rep and I have not found the dream job yet. Most jobs I’m interested in are remote jobs which is fine but when those companies stick with the requirement of a BS in CS or similar it gets me wondering if I will ever land a good job in the field. I tried freelancing but it is tough to get clients when you are just starting out. I love programming and I would love to get a job that is paying me for my skill. That is tough when you are not in living in the US or Canada where there are more companies that would hire you if you have the skill they need.

Someone mentioned that you should start a company. That’s a great idea. I’m reconsidering freelancing. Getting the right clients is the biggest roadblock that I have to overcome. I will do that because it is possible. The difficulty will not stop me, mate.

We are all here because we love programming. Hope you get a good job soon.

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@owel
Great post here…
You have been in the trenches for a long time.
Could you provide a set of actions on how to get customers when starting your own business or freelance?

Would you have a post or resources that you can link to on starting and growing a web design business?

Honestly, when I was starting out with zero clients, I offered my web design skills to anyone/anybody that is a non-profit, church, school, club, organization that me and wife know or encountered, talked to, or met.

Web design for FREE. Yes, FREE! They just pay hosting – either to someone else, or they can also host with me for a small monthly fee. (At that time, $25/mo.)

I did this for about 3 years… small time clients ($300-$400 a site) and a few freebie clients.

The important thing is to get my work out there, practice doing diferent kinds of sites, and have a lot of people see the websites I did for these organizations. These may be small or non-paying web design jobs, but I worked on them as if they’re top clients. I try to do my best work on even these FREE websites.

Then through word of mouth, and referrals, (thanks to these free websites I did), I finally landed a big client. The person that saw my work was also board member and/or investor in a few other companies. When these other companies were looking for a website, who chimed up to say he knows a website designer? And these other companies also have their own officers and their own board who are also members of other companies, or have their own companies on the side – who did these guys think of when they needed a site?

From that point on, it’s like tentacles that grew several branches. Some branches die off, while others lead to new clients or new projects from the same client. But I can trace all these back to that one single website I did for FREE. I guess good things happen to those who do good things to others.

Will this scheme/strategy work nowadays? I honestly don’t know. I’m not an expert. It’s a lot of factors when this happened to me… late 90s, early 2000s, the web being new, good luck? blessings? faith? answered prayer? alignment of stars? I don’t know if this strategy would work effectively today. But that is what I did back then… take it or leave it FWIW.

As I said, prior to this, it was 3 years of hard, frustrating work trying to build a web design business. That first year, I only had (1) small-time client. Then picked up slightly during the 2nd year, and 3rd year. Then finally, it’s an overnight success – that is 3+ years in the making.

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@owel

Thank you very much for sharing your story.
Evey bits of knowledge that we can get from pioneers that went before us is useful.
A lot of time, I see people already established and things get super “easy” for them at that point (as far as getting clients). But for me the beginning is very mystified right now. So trying to understand it better.

A couple of follow up questions.

  • You did not cold call or cold emails any non-profit, church, school, club, organization?? they were all people you actually physically met?
  • I know you mentioned in your other post that back in the days there were no backend and frontend. but I was wondering those websites you made, were there mostly front end (design, maybe a simple form, 5 pages) or full web with login, database, security and all.
  • Any way to share one of them… even a picture would be great. other information could be masked as well if you think they are sensitive (like clients name and all)
  • Were you coding from scratch or using cms like wordpress/drupal?

Thank you again for your time.

It is appreciated.

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I’m sorry that you are feeling this way. May I ask where do you live in Brazil?
I ask this because I am self taught too and live in São Paulo. I have a bachelor’s degree in Marketing, but no CS formal education. I now work with Ruby, and having no CS degree never was a problem form me nor for the people that interviewed me.

Maybe you’re tackling the wrong companies? I also have a lot of self-taught coworkers, specially front-end developers.

But for emigrating, indeed it might be a problem. I have heard from a German recruiter that I may not be able to apply to most jobs there because of the lack of CS degree.

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