DEV Community

George Hanson
George Hanson

Posted on

To be a software engineer or developer, do you still need a degree?

Many companies and organisations are starting to relax their hiring criteria and don't require employees to have degrees - yet some are still very strict on this. Do you think that a degree is still needed to make it as a software engineer or a developer? Discuss.

Top comments (15)

designfrontier profile image
Daniel Sellers • Edited

I don't*

*But no one has created a better way to get the theoretical part of CS that you will eventually want in your career. It might not be today or tomorrow... but someday you're going to want to be able to parse through an academic paper on something you need for your day job. Sooner then that you are going to need to know how to estimate the runtime complexity of functions you are writing and determine the correct data structure for the problem you are working.

You can get all of that information outside of a university. But you will get it faster, more concisely and in an environment with more support then you will find trying to learn it on your own. And most bootcamps don't touch those topics.

I didn't get a degree in CS when I was in college... I wish I had, and plan to go back in the future to do that.

protium profile image
protium • Edited

I think the industry is changing in this way. A few big companies are no longer requiring you to have degree. Your degree can't guarantee them that you are fully qualified for the job you are applying for. But there a few things to have in mind. For me, being software developer it's not the same as being software engineer. The engineering implies you can handle advanced calculus, some physics, software architecture, etc; to deliberate solutions. But to be able to do so you don't require a degree, you only have to study (in the university or on your own) and gain experience. The matter of the questions is if that paper, that says you have studied in a university and you finished the career, still matters to get a job in our industry.

I only studied one year of computer science, but to the date I have learned a lot of things related to the computer science degree. As tux0r says, they won't pay you more for your degree, that only happens in my country when you work for the public administration, you receive an extra for your tittles. They will pay you for your experience.

pim profile image

This one hits home for me, as an "uneducated" engineer. My background is in the social sciences, with an Honours Degree in Psychology. I do find however that the skills I learned at the post-secondary level to be invaluable tools that I rely upon everyday. Things like: critical thinking, problem solving, researching, and argument formulation. Without my degree I'm not sure I'd be as good at my job, despite it's content having no relation whatsoever to my job function.

garthvador profile image
Quentin Caillaud

It depends on the country you are in I guess...

It's a question of offer and demand, here in France there is a lot of need for developer so, in some type of company (not all), as long as you know how to work you can be hired.
I, for example, just did a nine months training (six at school and a three month internship) two years ago and I've found a job one week after it.

During my internship, one of the better dev I've met didn't even had finished the equivalent of US high school.

But it's not always true in big company, especially for IT consulting, here in France anyway.

skittishsloth profile image
Matthew Cory

I don't have a degree, and I've done pretty well for myself. BUT I would still recommend it. For one, there's a lot of basics I missed out on - stuff I didn't know I didn't know until I'd been in the industry for a while. It's arguable whether it would've been much benefit since it obviously never came up, but maybe I could've solved some problem easier if I'd recognized it as a graph problem (or whatever).

Aside from that, I've had bosses on a couple of occasions explicitly tell me "you're doing great, the only reason we aren't going to give you a raise is you don't have a degree." Thankfully not very often, but it's still a thing.

The degree just makes things easier though, but it's definitely not a requirement for a career.

paulasantamaria profile image
Paula Santamaría

In my experience, you don't need a degree to get a job as a developer. I've been working for 7 years on IT without a degree.
That being said, I'm still going to University 3 nights a week to get my degree. Why? Because of 2 main reasons:

1- To get out of my comfort zone: I know I can learn almost anything I want from the Internet, but I also know sometimes it's important to learn things that I'm not so interested in. E.g.: I don't really love Telecommunications but learning about it helped me understand some things better, which makes me a better professional in the end. I'd have never study that by my own, tbh.

2- To meet other professionals on IT: Something I love about University is that you can meet a lot of IT people with completely different backgrounds. I found that learning about other people's jobs can be extremely enriching.

Whenever I feel exhausted because of University I ask myself "is it worth it?" and I always come up with the same 2 reasons.

Anyway, that's why I'm not quitting :)

tux0r profile image
tux0r • Edited

In Germany, a degree is basically a waste of time, unless you want to work at larger corporations like Volkswagen (which I can't recommend, they have a lot of hire and fire going on). Smaller companies won't pay you more money for being a theoretical programming professional.

bgadrian profile image
Adrian B.G.

You will have to be more specific and get feedback on exactly your dream job, this subject may differ on geographical areas and size of companies.

Overall is not needed, but there are always conter examples.

phlash profile image
Phil Ashby

The majority of my colleagues (and myself) are degree qualified, however two of the most practical and effective software engineers I have worked with came through apprenticeship schemes (and my degree is electronics, so barely counts). They understand the value of experiments and knowing just enough to pass the tests..

The diversity a team gets from mixed education backgrounds is valuable too, it's all too easy for myself and other ex-uni students to dive into theory discussions without shipping stuff! Conversely the learning experiences between people helps everybody understand better (I hope!): "to really know something, teach it". This seems relevant :)

jfrankcarr profile image
Frank Carr

From a US perspective...

Many companies still require a 4 year college degree although it doesn't always have to be software related. The why behind this has several facets.

First, some are just "old school" and attach potential work habits and productivity to the ability to obtain a degree. Sometimes this requirement is spelled out in HR written job title descriptions.

Others use requiring a specific degree, or even a Masters, as a way to hire less expensive H1B workers. By placing tough and uncommon educational requirements on a position they can easily claim that there are no US citizens who can do the work. Of course, having such a degree is required for H1B workers. So if you plan to take that route to a job in the US, you need a technical degree.

Some of the big tech companies prefer to only hire people just like themselves, particularly for key development roles. This usually means a narrow subset of disciplines for a handful of universities.

buinauskas profile image
Evaldas Buinauskas

Most probably no, you don't. At least on most cases. However I personally see having a degree as being able to finish long term goals while facing many different issues.

I myself wanted to quit university quite a few times just due to sheer amount of non technical classes, but some of them have taught me lessons I see value in just now.

dan_starner profile image
Daniel Starner

I have the thought process that a degree is not necessary, but it's a good backup plan. If for some reason the market and everything goes downhill like crazy and unemployment spikes, hopefully having a degree gives me just one more edge to stay productive and employed 😃

Sorry if this is slightly cynical, not the intent, but I just view degrees as somewhat of a safety net.

juanfrank77 profile image
Juan F Gonzalez

It does matter depending on where you live in, pretty much all over Latin America is still important due to the fact of cultural traditions and "if you didn't go to college you're not disciplined enough".

fosterbass profile image
Foster Bass

The short answer: school isn't for everybody and decent hiring managers know that.

I have hired about a dozen developers over the years at the large US retail company where I work. I do not require applicants to have a degree. I do need to know that you can set a goal and work hard to achieve it. A degree suggests that ability but doesn't prove it (some colleges in the US are very easy). I need to know what projects a candidate has worked on. They can be from past jobs, open source, something you did for a local not-for-profit, or the website you made for your mom's small business. Even just your own hobby project can be enough, but for this job it is better if you have worked on something where someone else gave you the requirements.

One of the best developers I hired here didn't have a degree. He left this job after a few years and now works for Google.

pim profile image

That's a pretty sweet success curve. Well done!