I'm a 17 year old Senior in High School on the verge of graduation. It is my hope to find a full time job in web development. College doesn't feel like the best suit for me and I am unsure how to pursue my dream of becoming a developer.

I have been working part time for a local marketing/web design company for 9 months which has allowed me to master the basics (HTML and CSS), and become very knowledged in Wordpress with some knowledge of JavaScript, jQuery & PHP.

Most employers require a Bachelors Degree or many years of work experience, which I cannot fulfill.

What advice can you give me?

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    Hi Abe Sell, and welcome to The Workplace. Your question as it stands is way too broad to be answered in the Q&A format here. Choosing technologies is a matter of preference and opinion, and finding an employer without any formal qualifications is difficult unless you can find some way in through volunteering or any connections. – Jane S May 15 '18 at 1:47
  • While I graduated, many in my university got an internship their second year, worked for a year, and then went on full-time and dropped out of university. If you don't want to put in 4 years, there is always that option as well. For clarity, it was a fairly common practice in Utah 5 years ago (I've since moved, and can't really speak of how the current market is now) As it is unorthodox, and not something guaranteed to happen, and location specific (In some countries, they won't even hire without a degree), I will just leave it as a comment – さりげない告白 May 15 '18 at 3:23
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    The down votes are very unfriendly. We should want to help a young person who is making big life decisions. There are many people here who can offer useful advice to the question just as it is written. – user86764 May 15 '18 at 4:46
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    College may not be required in software development anymore, but it has benefits beyond professional development: you'll have a hard time finding a better place to find a life partner, you'll make some great friends and professional contacts, and, if done well, can be a great life experience. – Glen Pierce May 15 '18 at 5:04
  • What's your location? Some countries are okay with hiring smart, self-educated, young folks and others demand a piece of paper first. – Erik May 15 '18 at 5:19

Here's my career in a nutshell: I started programming at 13. I left school at 16. Worked various low-income jobs for a few years, working on various open source projects and contributing on programming forums in my spare time. Eventually got hired as a repair tech at a computer shop when I was 24, got promoted to program the intranet there two years later, and with that starting experience I have been able to work as a developer since.

Currently being 33, my software development career is doing well, but I definitely took the long way around with a lot of wasted time working on menial mind-numbing jobs. If I could do it all over again I would go to college. I agree it's not perfect, but better than stacking boxes in 40°C.

Go to college if you can.

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    First, find out if apprenticeships are a thing in your area would be my suggestion (this is entirely based on UK experience, so I have no idea how it works elsewhere or if it's even a thing). I followed the exact same path as you, except when I hit 18 I quit my somewhat-IT-related job and went on a year long apprenticeship, basically as a formality, to get some level of qualifications relevant to software development. A year later I quit the company I did the apprenticeship with and wen't straight into a reasonably well paid development job at 20. – Trotski94 May 15 '18 at 7:41
  • @JamesTrotter in Germany it's similar. IT apprenticeships are the norm vs university, it's a three year thing and the level of training is usually quite high. I've done that, am in my early 30s with over 10 years of professional experience, and am now training developers. – simbabque May 15 '18 at 15:15

I'll be honest with you: college has never been more expensive or less impressive. As so many folks have degrees, degrees don't advance you as far as they did a generation ago. But, at the same time, having a college degree has never been more important to getting a good job, especially in the field of software development.

I left college with 12 credit hours to go, all electives. At that point, even though I was a javascript ninja, I would not even be considered for either of the two sweet professional web developer gigs I've had since. It wasn't that those last 12 hours really made me a good webdev, it was a silly piece of paper all the good jobs wanted that I couldn't produce, but that's how it was/is. A less skilled buddy of mine with a CS degree landed a real job about that time. I went back to school after standing over pizza ovens for a year, scribbling code on the back of takeout menus while the boss wasn't looking/barking. You don't want to mess with all that, and besides, college is a ton of fun anyway...

If dead-set on not getting a bachelors:

I would get an associates at least, so that workplaces know I can program. Try to make sure most of the credits will transfer to a 4-year in case you change your mind later like I did. Code bootcamps and certifications are meaningless for devs. Internships and volunteer work can get you in the door someplace. It's possible to make it in dev without college, it's just a lot more difficult and less likely. You will have to have a killer portfolio and work history (chicken and egg) and you will need to be lucky enough to meet someone who "takes a chance" on you, which is no guarantee.

You don't need to go to college right after school, and for a lot of smart kids, I don't recommend it because it feels like a waste of time, so you won't try hard. You're young, and will be young for 5 years, enjoy your youth. Try it your way, and see if you're one of the lucky ones, and if not, being a 21 year old freshman has its benefits...


Prepare to work very, very hard. You may even witness completely incompetent people become developers via a degree they do not like.

The main reason is people understand and trust a degree better and easier than trying to figure out exactly what you did and what you know.

A Computer Science degree makes sense to a lot of companies. A giant list of open source projects don't, and it is extremely time consuming to figure it out.

Your first step is to evaluate how you came to the conclusion that college is not for you, when you have basically no experience with it. It's a pretty bold statement to conclusively consider all higher education to not benefit you.


From personal experience, I'd say go to college and search high and low for intern positions, which should put you in a position that will be flexible with your school. If it's an unpaid intern, that's at least your foot in the door, but I've seen Associates Degrees and/or vocational degrees get your foot in the door, but with those, there is a ceiling. I'd say interning while still attending school was huge for me. That way when you graduate, most companies will hire you full-time.

Alternatively, you could ask to be hired full time at that firm and build up your work experience and knowledge, but again, without a college degree, you will have a lower ceiling in my opinion. Pursuing a college degree while you are young is much better than going 5 years late (which was me).

JavaScript is the hot ticket right now in my opinion. If you master JavaScript and HTML, you can branch off to doing frameworks and libraries such as Angular, React, Ember, NodeJS, Vue, and other really neat and wanted skillsets.

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