In the cloud, you don’t need a college degree

Like most in this business, I have an advanced degree. I even taught computer science at the college level part-time for eight years before life got too busy.

That said, you don’t need a college degree to be successful in cloud computing. In fact, over the last few years, I’ve seen a clear trend toward accepting those without degrees not only in cloud computing specifically but in tech in general.

Although many tech companies and enterprises state they want candidates to have at least a bachelor’s degree, I find that most don’t actually care these days. They see 20 cloud computing jobs chasing one candidate, so it’s a seller’s market.

Employers are looking for people with certifications—for example, with AWS. After that, they seek people with initiative and demonstrated ability. Having a college degree is further down the list.

Cloud computing requires skills—not random skills, but specific skills such as cloud architecture, cloud development, cloud databases, and cloud security, with a further focus on AWS or Azure development or expertise in particular types of cloud database. You wouldn’t pick up those skills in college anyhow.

College is simply no longer a hard requirement for working in technology, including cloud computing. If you get focused training and certifications, you’ll find that you’re accepted more often than your high school counselor would’ve told you.

I’m not saying a college degree, and the loans that come with it, are worthless. It’s where you learn the fundamentals that give you an advantage in learning specific areas on the job, especially in areas that require understanding connections and patterns like architecture and security.

But someone who learned the specifics on the job and in other nonacademic venues can build the necessary level of knowledge, not only specific technical skills. Of course, you need initiative to get there.

My recommendation if you’re going down the noncollege route is to map out a path for your training. This means not only taking certifications from cloud providers, but also some training around less tactical topics such as cloud architecture, security, and monitoring.

Your training path must also include on-the-job training—it is often more important than what you learn from certification and external training. On the job, you must learn to deliver solutions effectively, as well as understand them.

The ability to understand the problem domain and deliver an effective solution is in fact the best metric for success. Because first and foremost, both tech companies and enterprises look for what you’ve accomplished.