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Discussion on: As a self-taught, have you considered getting a degree afterwards?

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Thomas Iguchi

I am self-taught and started programming at the age of 11. I already had a fair amount of experience when I started pursuing my computer science degree at the age of 24 and I already had a couple of years of freelance web development experience under my belt.

It was a practical decision because in my country of origin a formal degree has (had? don't know anymore since I don't live there anymore) a huge impact on your pay as a developer. The better the degree the higher the initial salary and also the better the outlook for pay raises. A friend of mine spent several extra years of his life pursuing a PhD in computer science. He can call himself a computer doctor now. Not that kind of doctor though.

His degree instantly landed him a high paying consultant job at a prestigious company. Only a year later a higher paying management position. He leads a technology innovation lab now for a well known European car manufacturer and is steadily climbing up the career ladder there. His PhD did not make him a better manager or teach him anything about management. But I'm sure he wouldn't have been considered by any of those companies that hired him if he had no degree.

For me studying computer science was also a complete no-brainer decision, since unlike in the US, higher education does not bury you in debt for many years to come.

So to sum up part of my answer: it depends if it makes sense or not. I can see that a degree is not perceived as important in the US than in other parts of the world. Maybe the same applies to France as well, and maybe the entire world is changing and it doesn't really matter anymore.

After all some people in our industry are already anticipating that software development turns into a blue collar job.

However, here is the other aspect of why I think pursuing a degree is invaluable. Good universities teach you the theory, not just the practical part. The history. The mathematics, philosophy and logic. The ties to linguistics. And not to mention they teach you the most important algorithms and data structures, compiler construction, syntax analysis, programming paradigms, best practices and so on. And through repeated exercises they teach you how to solve complicated problems.

You get to see a wide range of topics that deepen your understanding and that will allow you to specialize in a specific (possibly highly paid) niche.

Studying computer science turned me into a much better programmer and problem solver. It sharpened my thinking and skills. It also forced me to overcome my fear of math, since there's no way to get around using and studying math while studying computer science.

Overall it gave me a different perspective on programming. And I never regretted that decision.