University degrees are becoming less important for software engineers who are increasingly teaching themselves the skills that they need, according to a new report.

According to Hired’s 2021 State of Software Engineers report, the tech industry performed strongly last year despite the COVID-19 pandemic, with a continued rise in demand for jobs in the sector, and salary growth across all software engineering roles in the examined areas.

The report found software engineers are becoming more self-taught and focusing on acquiring the skills they need, rather than going through traditional avenues of education.

It said 45 per cent of software engineers have a computer science degree, while 24 per cent are self-taught and a further 10 per cent learned how to code through a bootcamp program.

“Candidates are becoming more focused on obtaining the skills they need to do their jobs rather than pursuing the traditional credentials such as certain degrees,” the Hired report said.

“The pandemic has accelerated this trend around upskilling even further, also showing that companies are increasingly hiring for skills instead of labels and credentials.”

And new job opportunities aren’t the only thing motivating software engineers to learn these new skills, with an overarching theme of the report being that they “genuinely love what they do”.

The study found that 54 per cent of software engineers said their primary motivation for learning a new programming language or framework was that they simply enjoyed it, while 23 per cent said they were most passionate about solving problems around the lack of economic opportunity and unemployment.

“When asked about what attracted them to a career in software engineering, a whopping 83 per cent of survey respondents cited ‘new challenges and continuous learning’, while 48 per cent ranked the opportunity to express themselves creatively among the top three reasons,” the report said.

Salaries for top engineering roles increased across the major areas studied by Hired, including by 5 per cent in the San Francisco Bay Area, 3 per cent in New York, 7 per cent in Toronto and 6 per cent in London.

The most in-demand roles are for back-end, full-stack and front-end engineers.

“The COVID-19 pandemic led to major dips and volatility in recruitment and employment, however the tech industry has proven to be the most resilient,” Hired CEO Josh Brenner said.

“While some companies had to halt or pause hiring efforts last year, overall we saw continued demand and job growth in this sector.”

The study also found that software engineers in smaller markets are more likely to be allowed to get remote working job offers compared to those in major tech hubs, and these people also receive higher salaries.

As of October 2020, nearly a quarter of surveyed employers were open to remote hiring, while more than half of new candidates were open to working in remote positions.

Of those surveyed, the biggest challenge with remote working was accessing colleagues for real-time collaboration, followed by Zoom fatigue as a result of too many video conference calls.

The popularity of upskilling and completing online courses skyrocketed last year during the COVID-19 pandemic and extended lockdowns around the world.

According to LinkedIn data, many of these people were focusing on improving their soft skills, such as strategic thinking and emotional intelligence.