Do i need a traditional computer science degree to succeed in tech hero

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Do I Need a Traditional Computer Science Degree to Succeed in Tech?

February 8, 2018

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After high school, the next logical step is a traditional four-year college. It's what everyone does. You need to go to a traditional university like your parents did to meet the minimum qualifications for any job in tech. A computer science degree is simply a must. Right?

Nope.

A Cutting-Edge Industry, An Antiquated System

The tech industry has completely transformed over the last fifty years. It has gone from multiple-ton processors to pocket-sized supercomputers that can access virtually all human knowledge.

In that same time period, how much has the university system evolved?

Four-year computer science degree programs try their best to meet student needs, to prepare students to move past academia and into real-world careers, but they're struggling.

Alex Reilly, an alumni of our Product College, recently told us about how traditional computer science college courses weren’t able to give him the experience he needed:

"The real turning point was when I went to a hackathon after a year and a half of CS classes and I didn't know how to build anything with what I'd learned. I ended up learning JS at the hackathon and left feeling like I'd gotten more experience there than I had in any of my classes. That's when I knew something had to change."

And it turns out that companies looking for software development gurus and software engineers aren't actually all that interested in degrees and honor rolls. They're interested in experience.

That's a word you'll see an awful lot of on any tech job posting. And you'll see it much more often and more prominently featured than any specific education requirements. "Hands-on experience developing applications." "Experience building Restful APIs." "Experience with Swift."

Indeed, companies like Google, Apple, and IBM don't ask for any sort of degree for many of their top jobs. Practical, hands-on experience is much more important to finding a good job in tech than a traditional theory-based education, which is exactly why the Product College focuses on the latest technologies, real-world problem solving, and project-based learning.

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Enrolling in a Computer Science Program

A traditional four-year degree is certainly never going to hurt you in the job market, but before you decide to get a computer science degree, find out how much practical experience the college program you're considering will give you. Will you have the chance to develop your own products? Will you be able to demonstrate real-world skill in the latest languages after four long years? Ask the admissions officer or, better yet, ask a current student. Have them show you what they've made, if they've made anything at all.

Then ask yourself if there are alternative education options that can give you the same or better job outcomes in less time and with less financial burden. (The Product College has an income share option in lieu of traditional tuition financing options--how many universities offer that?)

A four-year degree isn't necessarily a bad choice, but don't make the mistake of thinking that it's the only choice, especially in the world of tech. Consider alternatives that will give you an education catered to your real-world goals, an education centered on developing, collaborating, and problem solving--skills that you will absolutely need to succeed in tech.

You have options. Don't make the mistake of only looking at traditional universities because that's the "normal" thing to do. It might be the right choice for your friend who wants to be a doctor or your friend who wants to be a social worker, but tech is different. You're different. Allow yourself to think differently.