Why would not having a degree instantly disqualify a programmer? And what does this say about the person/company who wrote the application?
It doesn't, and in fact it can say something about the company.
A lot of answers seem to come from people without actual experience in hiring software developers in the Netherlands which I have been doing for a lot of years now. (disclaimer: this answer comes from my personal experience in the field, no more, no less)
First: Like another answer already mentioned, most companies actually don't ask for a degree, but for "werk en denkniveau" (they expect you to operate on this "level", regardless of actual education). This is fine, just apply if you think you have the skills.
A hard requirement for a degree is actually quite uncommon (even if it looks that way from reading the application form, just ask them). The reason for this is simple:
The Netherlands has a huge shortage of software developers
A lot of companies just want to appear to be very picky about who they hire, but in reality they'll hire anyone that's willing, and the real selection will be after your first contract (6 months most of the time). They just want to appear like they're "only hiring the best" for marketing purposes. Unless they are part of a select group of companies (like Google or in game development) they cannot afford to be as picky as they appear to be and they know it. So again, just ask if you can apply, the answer will almost always be yes.
This leaves (in my experience) only three reasons why there would be a hard requirement for a degree:
- The work involves a niche where a certain other degree is considered essential (the already mentioned math degree for cryptography related software is a prime example)
- There are legal/compliance considerations set by the stakeholders (which relates nicely to point 3):
- It's a government (or semi-government) job.
It's vital to understand though, and by the looks of it a lot of other posters don't seem to know this, that Dutch Universities do not teach software development at a level required to actually be a software developer. If someone fresh out of school has any real programming skills it will be either because of their internships or because of what they taught themselves in their own time. The curriculum alone does not prepare you, and the chances that your teachers actually know the industry are slim at best.
Furthermore, the way the curriculum is set up, with all the group assignments and such, makes getting a degree in "application development" without having written any software a very real possibility. We used to "weed out" applicants by having them pull 100 records from a mysql db and putting them in alphabetical order. About 50% of applicants with a bachelor degree (or better) could not pull this off. With internet access. In 3 hours.
Then there is the observation (as researched by Google but I can't seem to find the document anymore) that after a short time on the job (I think it was a year), no correlation between job performance and academic background is found.
The above leads me to confidently state this: Not having a degree is not a real inhibition for getting employed in the Netherlands, except for a small amount of jobs. Your experience and skills are all that matters, and you can work on those without formal education.
As an aside (since this is a pet peeve of mine) consider this:
4 years of relevant experience on your CV are in fact a better starting point than having a bachelors degree. I've been asking this question (which is better) for years to an ever increasing number of persons involved in hiring software developers and the result is (neigh) unanimous. That does raise some interesting questions about education in general and student debt in particular, doesn't it?