JCR gets it right. And to the question the original post posed: "What kinds of companies hire programmers with no prior experience?" The answer: All kinds of companies - provided you show a passion for what you do, have some interesting pet projects you can point to, and think critically about problem-solving. When reviewing candidates for our openings, I rarely look at the education section of a resume. I instead focus on, in this order, (1) the pet projects a candidate can point to that they feel strongly about (and if they're not work related, that's better), and (2) how long (or short) of time they've spent with previous employers. To me, if you love doing what you're doing, you'll do it for free. And if you're willing to do it for free, you'll find a company (like ours) willing to pay you to do it eventually. Just stick with what you love.