IT programming is one of the few jobs where people can earn six figures, sometimes without a university degree. I’m not saying that it’s easy, or that anyone can do it. I don’t have a magic formula. But as IT recruiters, we see it happen every day.

It’s a supply and demand situation. Programmers and software developers with hot skills and the right experience are in short supply. We often see these people juggling multiple job offers.

That’s why we bring up the subject of money early in the conversation when we’re recruiting programmers and developers. We need to make sure that the person’s salary expectations are within the range that our client is prepared to offer.

If we can’t get the person a base salary in their expected range, our clients are sometimes willing to throw in creative payment options like performance-based incentives or bonuses to increase the pay. The competition for top programmers is so fierce that some companies are even offering signing bonuses, profit sharing or stock options to get certain people to join their team.

No guarantees for IT programmers

If you’re thinking I gotta get myself a piece of that action, I’m sorry to say that it’s not all rainbows and unicorns for IT programmers. Even with the potential of eventually earning a big pay cheque, software development is a tough job. You may earn top dollar one year. Then suddenly your skills are no longer in demand and you have trouble finding a job at the same salary level.

When you do have a job, you may find yourself working under enormous pressure to meet impossible deadlines. People who earn top dollar over the long run figure out how to make a career out of riding the waves of change.

Don’t lose hope. If you do the hard work, keep your skills fresh, and if you have the soft skills that make you an essential part of the team, you can make 100K in IT programming, even without a computer science degree.

Profile: Making $100 without a university degree

Ozzie Saunds interviewed Ryan Kajiura, a Software Developer with Compuware Corporation, about how IT programmers can make so much money with out a university degree.

How do you convince an employer to hire you without formal education in computer programming?

Kajiura’s advice: “Write a functional program and print out the source code to show employers. When you have an interview you can present your code so that the employer knows you’re knowledgeable about the programming language. If it’s possible also have the code running so you can demonstrate it live while it processes.”

  • Stay up to date with the technology by reading blogs, magazines and subscribing to RSS feeds.
  • Learn the tips and tricks to be more a more effective programmer
  • Network with experienced software developers – go to seminars and user group meetings.

Secrets of top IT programmers

We see that the IT programmers and developers who are earning six figures have these three things in common:

  1. Continuous learning – it’s not necessary to get a computer science degree. But you do need to stay on top of new developements in your field. You can get extremely affordable online training that you can do on your own schedule.  is a new search engine for online training that will give you lots of options. Here are 3 links for free online technology courses from top universities.
  2. Networking – Participate in LinkedIn groups related to your field. Go to hackathons and meetups. Comment on blogs. Start a blog to share some of your tips and tricks.
  3. Soft Skills – This is that annoying “Excellent communication skills” requirement that you see in nearly every technology job description. They can explain their work in a way that end users and clients can easily understand.

What’s your advice for people who want to forge a career as an IT programmer?  Please share your tips in the Post a Reply section below.

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