What is realistic for a Software developer without a university degree? (South Africa development).

While pursuing a career in software development without a university degree offers many opportunities, individuals without formal education may encounter several obstacles along the way. Here are some common challenges they might face:

Here are some common challenges they might face:

  • Employer Bias: Some employers still prioritize candidates with traditional degrees, leading to bias against those without formal education.
  • Automated Filters:I have come to a realization that many companies use automated resume screening systems that filter out candidates without specific educational credentials, making it challenging to even get noticed.
  • Exclusive Networks: Breaking into exclusive tech communities and networks can be difficult without the connections and access that come with a university environment.
  • Career Fairs and Recruiting Events: Many companies recruit primarily from universities, making it harder for individuals without degrees to access job opportunities.
  • Entry-Level Barriers: Some entry-level positions may require a degree as a minimum qualification, limiting the number of job opportunities available to individuals without formal education.
  • Career Advancement: Advancing to higher-level positions within companies that have strict educational requirements can be challenging without a degree.

Individuals pursuing a career in software development without a university degree often gravitate towards programming languages and technologies that are in high demand. They opt for technologies that have extensive learning resources available, and offer opportunities for practical application. Including but not limited to Java, JavaScript, Python and web development technologies (HTML and CSS).

These programming languages and technologies provide a solid foundation for self-taught developers to build their skills. They have an environment to create projects, and pursue career opportunities in software development.

In my own experience

As a self taught developer I’ve browsed much of the internet for opportunities here and there. You get to the likes of LinkedIn, Upwork and Fiverr, so far these are the only ones I have tried. Now let’s break it down, LinkedIn is a very professional too and it’s great but the problem lies in people. If you pay attention there are too many recruiters on LinkedIn who have, somehow, put a lot of demarcation with education. Usually almost every job post that is created a by a recruiter requires people to have at least 3 years of experience. I know you’re thinking this shouldn’t be a problem right? Wrong, it is a huge problem.

Logically, you cannot be looking for a junior developer to have a BSc in computer Sciences and three years experience. Thinking about this you already know there’s no real logic behind it, what is the rationale behind this?

As a student currently

Just as a side note again i am computer science student. For a company looking for a junior web developer to have a Computer Science degree is inefficient. All in all we’re at a disadvantage in this field partly because there are fewer jobs available for junior developers. It seems like the only way to narrow down the spectrum of junior developers is to increase the requirements

Software Development – freelancing

When it comes to the other two platforms (Fiverr and Upwork) are just for freelancing. These are oversaturated with developers from countries that are able to charge significantly less than the average South African developer. There are also a fair amount of scammers on these platforms looking to take as much advantage as they can. Most people who have tried these platforms would’ve seen this first hand. One might say that, if you’re a developer, you should be experienced enough to to overcome this problem. Which is true from my perspective.


As we have already established, one of the biggest challenges faced by beginners on freelancing websites is the fierce competition. These platforms attract millions of freelancers from around the world, many of whom have established reputations and extensive portfolios.

Newcomers often find themselves competing against seasoned professionals, making it extremely difficult to stand out and win projects.

While freelancing websites like Upwork, Freelancer.com, Guru.com, and Fiverr.com have undoubtedly provided opportunities for countless professionals to build successful careers. These platforms can be a challenging terrain for new beginners. The intense competition, lack of experience and reviews, low rates, oversaturated niches, complex algorithms, difficulty in building a reputation. Perhaps the lack of adequate support can make these platforms feel impossible to those just starting.

In conclusion, for self-taught developers, the freelance route often emerges as the most viable path forward. Navigating a competitive market where degrees and diplomas hold weight can indeed pose challenges. However, by embracing freelancing, self-taught developers can leverage their unique strengths and experiences. Freelancing offers autonomy, flexibility, and the opportunity to showcase one’s skills directly to clients. This helps avoid the traditional gatekeeping of formal education. Moreover, freelancers have the freedom to choose projects that align with their interests and strengths. All this allows for continuous growth and skill development. This road has obstacles, but it empowers self-taught developers to carve out their niche in the industry and thrive.