“Can you get a job as a programmer being entirely self-taught? Cash is a bit tight right now (we have a little boy), so will companies look at you as long as you can prove your experience, or do you need a certificate/qualification?”
In short: yes, you can definitely get work (or a full-time job) being self-taught. (Without needing a certificate or college degree.)
Here is a great example of a person who taught himself how to code, and now has a great job: Jon Chan from bento.io. After teaching himself how to code, he now works at Stack Overflow as a developer. And at this point in time he has been coding for 10 years.
When it comes to anything, experience matters. A lot. The more time you spend learning about something (especially learning by doing!), the more skills you’ll be able to demonstrate to employers.
Whether you’re self-taught or academically trained, what really matters is the skills you can contribute to the company in the position you want. (Whether the company is large or small.)
I think experience (a portfolio booming with projects, a strong resume, an impressive Github account, etc.) means more than a degree.
If anything, it’s worse to have the academic training but no experience outside of education!
If you have a CS degree, but no real-life experience (whether personal projects or jobs) to show, how can an employer know you’ll be able to cut it? (Plus, nowadays employers more and more frequently are starting realize that degrees don’t matter; skills do.)
Now…here’s how to find these jobs:
- Network with others online and offline
- Find small jobs first on Craigslist to build your portfolio/resume
- Use LinkedIn as a tool to connect with others (and market yourself), and allow recruiters to find you
- Start a blog based on your industry: a great way to promote yourself and your skills—but in an informative and relevant way, not a salesy way
In the end, realize that the best jobs are typically ones you don’t apply for; rather, they’re ones where the employers seek you out.
That’s why it’s so important to create your own opportunities by starting projects and building a presence. It can take time, but eventually the work will come to you!
I hope this helps and best of luck, Jonathon!