How to Get a Job Without a Computer Science Background


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Last updated:4/15/18


Q: How do I land a job with no computer science background?

- Taylor

Don't Sweat it

The good news here is that while having a strong foundation of computer science is definitely helpful in building web applications, it's often more important to have depth of knowledge in your code syntax than what your code does with your server.

We'd say most developers earn their computer science knowledge by building websites as they go. There is some foundational knowledge you'll need to get, but don't let it stop you.


On Strategy

If you’re comfortable with your HTML, CSS, and JavaScript skills, your best bet is to look for internships or junior developer roles. These roles are specifically designed to give you a chance to learn and get up to speed.

But these aren’t the only jobs that can be perfect for someone looking for their first development role; quality assurance (QA), support, and email teams all need savvy developers. These roles tend to get overlooked by job seekers because they don’t come with sexy titles like “JavaScript Engineer,” but a job in QA or building HTML email templates can be an awesome foot in the door.

Even if your first job isn’t your ideal one, focus on continuing to develop your skills and prove your value to the company; after 6 months or a year, it’s possible that the job you really want will become available—and you’ll be in a prime position to fill the vacancy.


Know your Stuff

What's more important is to know what you're doing as a member of a team. If you look at it from the perspective of a potential employer - entry-level web development jobs are mostly fixing bugs and grunt work on existing applications. You won't be making the technology decisions, you'll be maintaining them.

So what's more attractive to senior developers when they hire is: "how much time am I going to have to spend training you to do your job". If you know a great deal of how algorithms work and can draw diagrams about how TCP versus UDP works, but you don't understand React, you essentially present a stack of work rather than a helping hand.

Now you'll be a better investment long-term the more computer science you know, but for most entry-level stuff, you're not going to need deep Computer Science knowledge that powers the technology you work in.

To that end, really know the fundamentals of whatever tech stack you've chosen learn. For example, if you know React, take the time to really learn the fundamentals of JavaScript.

Good companies and managers hire based on someone’s potential, so be sure you can speak confidently about your skills and what you want to achieve. The better you are at branding yourself as a go-getter who is going to provide non-technical value—through your interpersonal skills or previous job experience, for example—the more likely you are to stand out in the interview process.

Use your previous experience to your advantage! Worked as a copy editor? You possess the attention to detail necessary for QA. Last role was in customer service? You have what it takes to respond to client needs on the support engineering team. You don’t need to have a CS background to be a great employee—and that’s really what every hiring manager is looking for.


Patch the Holes

There are resources (below) which can fill in the gaps in knowledge, but we recommend taking some time to be intentional about filling in those gaps in ways that make sense for you. That is if you have someone you know and trust who's good with this stuff, consider asking them from time to time. Maybe it's reading a book or listening to a podcast. Some YouTube videos. Whatever way works - the information is definitely out there.

In short, it's not your fault you don't have a Computer Science Background, but it is your responsibility to learn it.

Resources

Imposter Handbook Crash Course: Computer Science


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