Developer jobs are so hot right now, and not just among startups. Companies across the board need tech talent to ensure their businesses are keeping it competitive. In response, there’s been a widespread call to entice more people to join this specialized workforce.
How are people with no prior experience in tech prepping for these career tracks? They have a few options to choose from, but one thing is becoming pretty apparent. You don’t need to get a college degree in computer science to go into this kind of work. In fact, you shouldn’t. Here’s why.
You don’t need a specific degree
According to a report from the Economic Policy Institute back in 2013, about 24 percent of people holding IT-heavy positions had a 4-year computer science or math degree. Even more intriguing, that same report stated that 36 percent of IT professionals didn’t have a college degree in general.
Yes, those figures are from a couple of years ago. However, if you consider the rise in coding and programming bootcamps over the past 2 years, the percentage of IT professionals holding full-out computer science degrees is likely even lower while the number without a degree at all is probably higher.
Why does this matter? It shows that employers aren’t particularly picky when it comes to hiring IT talent. Degree or no degree, as long as someone has the right coding skills, they have a place in this profession.
Compare the costs
Let’s talk money for a minute. The College Board’s report “The Average Published Undergraduate Charges by Sector” for 2015 to 2016 shows that students attending a four-year college will be paying approximately $19,548 to $43,921 this year for room, board, tuition and fees. That’s just for one year. So if you multiply that cost by the four years it will take students to complete their computer science degrees and add any interest they may accrue from loans taken out to pay for college, then you’re looking at a seriously steep price tag for a degree that isn’t mandatory.
On the other hand, programming and coding bootcamps, which are becoming increasingly popular, are a fraction of the cost. Course Report stated that for this year, the average tuition for dev training programs is $11,063 and students don’t have to fork over money for room and board beyond any normal living expenses they’d already be paying. Not to mention, the time they’d be spending at a bootcamp would be an average of 10.8 weeks, so they’d be out in the workforce making money that much sooner.
And if individuals are technologically inclined off the bat, teaching themselves the skills they need to be successful is an even better option. It’s totally free and, provided they genuinely know what they’re doing, it shouldn’t impede their job prospects.
You might not make as much bank as you think
Not convinced? It’s time to pull out that beloved business buzzword: Return on Investment. A justification for going into a 4-year degree program for computer science is that you’ll make so much money once you’re done that you’ll make up that extra tuition money in no time.
That depends. If you’re working at Google and rolling in dough, then that argument may stand up. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the median pay for a computer programmer in 2014 was $77,550 per year, while the median annual salary for a web developer was $63,490. While that’s definitely not peanuts, it also shows that not everyone coming out of school with a degree in computer science is raking in $100,000. And graduates, as with any other job, will be putting in a couple of years of hard work before they see those median salaries. So paying off college loans won’t be instantaneous.
But, if you remember the aforementioned price of bootcamps, that could easily be paid off within a year. After that, you could be pocketing all that you’re taking home, which is real ROI.
Now, I am sure some people would argue that you get more out of a college education than job opportunities and that you’re really investing in something invaluable, and that’s knowledge. There is truth to that point, but for young professionals, especially those living in a city as expensive as Boston, money matters. A lot. So it’s fair to say you should forget the computer science degree.