Do you need a degree to work in tech?

When we surveyed AWS professionals in the Jefferson Frank Careers and Hiring Guide: AWS Edition, we found that 40% have a Bachelor’s degree, 27% have a Master’s degree, 6% have an Associate degree, and 4% have a Doctorate or professional degree.

And among those professionals who believe a degree is useful to work with AWS, popular reasoning included degrees providing a good foundation, demonstrating a level of commitment, and equipping you with non-technical skill sets.

Yet despite this, our new research suggests majority of tech professionals don’t believe a college degree is essential. 

The subject of the tech skills gap remains a hot topic of conversation in both tech and wider business circles, with Fortune recently reporting on how the gap may well widen if uptake of tech careers continues to remain low amongst Gen Z.

And in a context where traditional paths to professional careers via a college degree are less reliable than in the past, not to mention increasingly costly, it may be worth revisiting the conversation around whether a college degree is really a prerequisite for a tech job. 

Unpacking and analyzing recent data from a survey of more than 3000 tech professionals across the spectrum of cloud ecosystems, we discovered that attitudes towards college degrees are considerably less strict than perhaps anticipated – given the technical, scientific, and mathematical understanding that tech work often entails.

If a college degree isn’t integral to a tech career in 2023, there’s tremendous scope to shift the landscape in a positive and more inclusive direction – and to address the skills gap along the way. 
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Here are the key findings from the research: 

  • 55% of cloud tech professionals said that having a degree was not an important factor in finding a role in the ecosystem they currently work in 
  • Only 33% of cloud tech professionals believe a degree is important for working in tech more generally 
  • Just 1% of cloud tech professionals have received no form of higher education (eg. beyond high school) 

a picture of James Lloyd-Townshend

Jefferson Frank Chairman & CEO James Lloyd-Townshend commented: “It definitely feels like progress to see that just a third of tech professionals would insist that you need a degree to pursue a career in tech right now. This really should mean that tech jobs and certification pathways become more accessible to those who haven’t attended college. Similarly, the majority feeling that having a degree hasn’t been decisive in their journey is a good sign in terms of attitudes, and even company cultures – but there’s an obvious tension when considering that the percentage of current tech professionals without a degree is so low. This means we absolutely have to be working to expand inclusion and access to opportunities within the tech space for those who haven’t been to college. And in the context of the digital skills gap, we truly cannot afford not to be pursuing and supporting this untapped talent pool.”


The latest career insights from the AWS ecosystem

The Jefferson Frank Careers and Hiring Guide: AWS Edition provides market-leading career insight and advice from across the AWS community