Is University Degree Needed to Become a Software Engineer?
In today’s world where new technology is getting into every single aspect of our lives more and more, all known paradigms are experiencing shifts and getting into discussions with followers being enough in both ends. In particular, there has been a lot of debate over the past decade or two about whether or not a university degree is necessary to become a software engineer. Although there are lots of open discussions and arguments for both sides of the argument, as with any other phenomenon, there’s no single, confident, and agreed upon view. Some people argue that with the right skills and experience, you can get by without a degree. Others believe that a degree from a top university is essential for landing a job in the competitive field of software engineering.
Table of Contents
Unlike most articles which tend to drag you to either one or the other side of the argument, we try to stay as objective as possible by providing you with the actual benefits you can get from whatever way you are inclined to go from.
- Experience over Education
- Education over Experience
Experience over Education
On the one hand, it is believed by majority of the people that if you have the right skills and experience, you don’t need a university degree to become a software engineer. One of the main arguments in favor of this viewpoint is that the software engineering field is always changing, which means that what you learn in school quickly becomes outdated. As such, these critics argue, it’s more important to focus on gaining relevant work experience and keeping your skills up to date. In addition, many software engineers are self-taught; they didn’t go to university for their education but instead learned through online courses, coding bootcamps, or simply by teaching themselves. Let’s dive into these alternatives deeper and explore if they can offer something much better and more effective than university degrees.
One of the alternatives is a coding boot camp, which is a great way to obtain new skills quickly and affordably. With the possibilities of both full-time and part-time, boot camps tend to focus more on practical skills than on the theoretical underpinnings of programming. Coding boot camps typically use project-based learning to teach widely used programming languages or frameworks. Learners usually complete their coursework with a portfolio, a wealth of interview practice, and a roster of professional connections.
A coding boot camp is cheaper and faster than obtaining a computer science degree through a college curriculum. These courses are accessible and offer intensive, skills-based training that can give aspiring developers the knowledge they need to hit the ground running at work. A learner can complete a boot camp within three to six months, and the schedules are often flexible, with full-time, part-time, in-person, and virtual learning options available.
If you need flexibility but want an easy-to-follow educational curriculum, self-directed online classes may be a good route for you — provided that you can stay motivated and hold yourself accountable. Some self-guided classes are free or usually affordable. You can learn virtually and set your schedule. Online curricula are usually pre-built to guide learners through an orderly progression of concepts. Virtual courses often offer post-lesson activities and tests that you can take according to your own preferences and speed.
Overall, provided that you can ensure self-discipline and get going with consistency, above offered alternatives might really get experience outweigh education.
Education over Experience
At the other end of the spectrum are those who believe that a university degree is essential for becoming a software engineer. These proponents assert that while it’s true that the field changes rapidly, having a degree from a top university gives you an edge over those who don’t have one.
One of the main convincing points of university is that it will give you a chance to learn from some of the best minds in the field. Considering the fact that universities try to head-hunt the most promising talents and specialists in order to increase their status and prestige among competitors, it is highly likely that one of the best minds in the sphere are there.
Secondly, it will give you access to state-of-the-art facilities and resources. While having a laptop on a regular table and sitting on a regular chair is one experience, being able to utilize the leading technologies of the industry is sure going to accelerate your learning process directly and drive your passion indirectly.
In addition, it is often claimed that university degrees provide more than just technical knowledge; they also teach soft skills like communication and problem-solving, which are essential in any profession. Different assignments focusing on your communication and presentation skills can be one of the real enablers behind your successful career in IT industry.
Besides, another obvious advantage of a software engineering degree is that it enables you to find your first job far more easily. Without any formal education or training, you’re highly likely to be a junior level — and while many software development companies provide some graduate training for their employees, they will rarely have the ability to help someone learn absolutely everything on the job. This means you’ll have to do a lot of learning on your own, without a set pace or a specific structure to adhere to.
And that is exactly why many candidates without a degree don’t pass the initial HR pre-screen, even for junior positions. Candidates with degrees definitely have an advantage, as they already have documented proof of prior training in the field. Moreover, many companies look at degrees as proof that candidates are able to learn new technologies fast — and as proof of foundational knowledge required for nuanced and complex projects.
As a last word
So, back to our question: Is a university degree really necessary to become a software engineer? The answer, as we have discovered, can be both yes and no. While there are many successful software engineers who don’t have degrees, it’s still difficult to get ahead without one. At the same time, there are a lot of people with degrees in their hands, who are still trying to find a decent job. We can conclude from this that everything comes back to you and you alone. If you believe in your self-discipline and self-paced learning abilities, than experience over education seems much more appealing to you. If you are ready to invest three or four years of your life, utilizing the state-of-the-art technologies and learning from the some of the best minds in the field, than pursuing a university degree is going to suit you more. As long as there are successful cases from both sides, the argument is going to rage on for a long time to come.
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