Unexpected Degrees That Can Help You Get a Job in Tech
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Lindsay Fargo was on a path to Hollywood with a bachelor's degree in film and television production. But when she had trouble landing a job in a studio, Fargo pivoted in an unexpected direction: tech jobs.
Years later, Fargo has led anti-piracy and app development teams, been a product manager for Amazon, and headed technology planning at Disney ABC. Even though she's a film major, she's found a home in the tech world "as a technologist with unique expertise in film and TV."
How was it possible for her to go from creating short films to working for tech giants?
"In my experience, the tech industry has been open to accepting different kinds of degrees at the undergraduate level," said Fargo, a University of Southern California graduate who is currently a product growth and operations consultant at Little Bridges.
There are countless other opportunities for people like Fargo (who also has a master's in communication management from USC) with non-tech degrees. The tech industry is huge and covers a wide swath of industries, whether it's transcription services or cybersecurity agencies.
While you may not be a computer scientist, you can still fill crucial roles that help the industry keep ticking. Here, we list some of the best degrees for landing a tech job and advice from people with those degrees.
Tech companies depend on marketers to get the word out about what they do and what they offer. Otherwise, you'd probably never hear about them.
According to Forbes, the vast majority of marketing roles within tech companies handle marketing communication and outbound, demand-generating activities that support product launches. A marketing degree helps prepare graduates for jobs that require understanding and persuading people – including advertising, public relations, and sales positions.
Jobs in tech with a marketing degree:
- Sales representative
- Marketing manager
- Research analyst
- Social media manager
- Public relations specialist
Job: Chief communications officer, Modulus
Degree: Bachelor of arts in social sciences, Harding University; master of business administration with a concentration in marketing, Clark University
"If you're studying marketing, take courses that give perspective outside your area," Catania said. "The most valuable courses I took during my MBA (with a concentration in marketing at Clark University) were those related to sustainability because I learned so much about the pain points of different industries. Some will turn out to be short-term fads. But others will turn out to be the cause of major industry disruption and change the world as we know it (social media, sustainability, blockchain, etc.)."
There's a strong connection between the worlds of biology and technology, from biotech industries creating fixes for the planet and the human body to advances like DNA-based data storage. Even Microsoft and other tech companies have jumped in to energize the field.
A biology degree offers many possibilities because of the variety of skills it provides. Undergraduates typically pursue a bachelor of science (BS) to focus on science and math courses or a bachelor of arts (BA) in biology to mix liberal arts and biology training.
Jobs in tech with a biology degree:
Job: Director of client experience and sales technology services, Medcan.
Degree: Bachelor of science in environmental science and biology, Trent University
"Rolling out new technology across a company can be a lot like designing and executing a study," Kosela said. "When I was working on my thesis project, I had to come up with a concept that solved a problem, then build a plan to test and analyze my hypothesis, and then also understand how the concept would perform outside the very controlled lab setting. The time management and planning skills I gained during my thesis project have been essential in my day-to-day experiences."
Tech companies are increasingly hiring people with humanities degrees. Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, once proclaimed, "If science is a search in the darkness, then the humanities are a candle that shows us where we have been, and the danger that lies ahead."
Why would the humanities — literature, economics, psychology — be relevant to the tech world? Because a person with a humanities degree brings crucial soft skills to the table: empathy, creativity, critical thinking, communication, and emotional intelligence.
Jobs in tech with a humanities degree:
Job: Associate professor of communication arts and sciences and women's studies, Penn State, Berks
Focus: Co-author of, "Major Decisions: College, Career, and the Case for the Humanities."
"It is important to remember that it is not computer engineers who communicate publicly about a technological product, work to market and sell those products, make user experience decisions, or train others how to use them," Ramsey said. "Thus, there are plenty of places for talented humanities students to thrive in technology."
Things in the tech industry can get confusing, but if there's someone to explain it so the average person can understand, then a new product or exciting breakthrough becomes accessible to a wider audience.
A communications degree generally focuses on online and print media, such as marketing, journalism, and public relations. In tech, communications graduates can write for brand campaigns, edit marketing pitches, and report on trends in the industry for online publications.
Jobs in tech with a communications degree:
- Communications manager
- Design specialist
- Social media manager
- Computer support specialist
Job: Cybersecurity expert and journalist, SectigoStore.com
Degree: Bachelor of arts in mass communication from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg; master of arts in mass communication from the University of South Florida
"I think it's important for people to realize that working in the IT field doesn't mean you're limited to working only technical jobs," Crane said. "There are plenty of non-IT practitioner roles within technology – both for those on the tech side and those who wish to exercise their more 'creative' muscles."
Tech companies need people who have the training to understand human behavior and motivation. One job might have you analyze a website's user experience, while another might ask you to market recently released software to a wide customer base.
A psychology degree teaches people how to make psychological assessments, treat mental health disorders, and recognize social behavior patterns. More simply, this type of degree provides insights into how people think – a crucial skill in the business world.
Jobs in tech with a psychology degree:
Job: Vice president of marketing, Text Request
Degree: Bachelor of arts in psychology, Covenant College
"My psychology degree has been huge for marketing a software as a service product, because I understand people," Burke said. "If you're going to create a product for people, market it to people, and work with customers, you have to understand how people work."
You don't need a computer science degree to find a good job in the tech industry. While being tech savvy is a plus, there are plenty of jobs in the industry that don't involve being a computer whiz. Your degree, however unrelated it might be, may be just what an employer is looking for in a new hire.
Evan Thompson is a Washington-based writer for TBS covering higher education. He has bylines in the Seattle Times, Tacoma News Tribune, Everett Herald, and others from his past life as a newspaper reporter.
Header Image Credit: Eva-Katalin | Getty Images
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