Wind the clock back fifteen years and I was in school, just finishing my GCSE's and moving into sixth-form college (high school). Let's just say I wasn't the ideal pupil, I ended up finishing college with an attendance record of just over 50% and barely scraped through my exams.
I had spoken to numerous career advisors who had all told me the exact same thing, "you need to go to University". At the time I couldn't comprehend that actually I was being pushed down a route towards a four-year degree that would cost maybe £30,000+ on a subject I didn't even know I wanted to pursue.
I didn't know what I wanted to do in the future, and didn't want to walk down a path I wasn't 100% sure about.
Not going to University went down badly with my college tutor. I have bad memories of having to stand up in front of my peers and answer why I wasn't going down that route. Of the five people (including me) in my group who originally said they didn't want to go, I was the only one come to the end of the year who hadn't changed their mind.
Needless to say, University / College is a good idea for some people, however, for others, it isn't a smart choice. I know so many who have got a degree but work in a dead-end job and are up to their eyeballs in debt.
So you might say this is a topic I feel quite passionate about. Here are the reasons I don't think a degree is necessary to become a developer in 2019:
There are so many online courses out there to help you become proficient in programming. Most of which are completely free. Even ten years ago, most of these weren't around or at least weren't developed enough to be useful.
If you apply yourself and keep to a strict learning schedule as you would if you were in education, then you could arguably make quicker progress than if you were in school (that brings me to my next point).
Being able to learn on your own terms is also a powerful thing. I know for a fact I am no good in a classroom environment and learn much better by building and doing. If you discover your learning style, you will flourish.
Degrees often cover Computer Science as a broad subject and don’t often cover new and emerging technologies and frameworks. They stick to a curriculum that is already been created. If you have taken any courses n Udemy you will know that they are constantly being updated with the emergence of new tech.
Being hyper-focused on one technology, be it JS or Java or Python... You will make progress much quicker if you focus on that one language and keep up to date with tech.
It’s possible to gain the necessary experience to get a job working freelance or on open source projects. Most job adverts will ask for “degree OR relevant experience”. If you are able to display you have worked on open source or freelance, a lack of a degree won’t be a problem. It is actually more preferable to have a candidate that has worked on these projects that someone that hasn't.
Working other jobs give you soft skills that you wouldn’t pick up from being at college/university. That experience is an extremely valuable asset to any developer, especially when applying for jobs.
Client facing ability from working in a store, time management from working in an office environment... It's all incredibly valuable.
Degrees will only carry you so far through a job application.
If you can present yourself as a better investment to the chosen company by preparing and researching what they are looking for and then tailor creating your approach to your chosen company you will be much more effective.
To put that clearer, and to highlight the fact that there are other important aspects of a candidate, what would you rather have... Someone WITH a degree who comes across in not a particularly professional manner, or someone WITHOUT a degree who has the same technical ability who is professional, passionate and motivated.
The purpose of this article is not to bash degrees. I know that they offer someone a broad depth of knowledge over computer science foundations and advanced topics that potentially a non-educated person isn't going to have. For some people, they are definitely the right path.
What I am saying is that you shouldn't feel pressured to get a degree or even be put off of applying for jobs if you are a self-taught programmer. I work in a company that has many Masters graduates and even PhD graduates, yet I don't feel held back by my lack of formal education.