College, Self-Study, or Bootcamp

Hello coders!

I would to ask for the community’s advice and experience on this matter!

In the past months or so, I’ve been asking around (friends, coworkers, etc) and researching on this topic online. From my friends, I’ve been told that you don’t need to have a college degree to go into this field. I even had a friend who went to bootcamp and got herself a coding job and another friend who has a degree in computer science who was the one that told me I don’t need a degree in computer science. However, I was told by a coworker who made a very good point that the advice I got from my friends had at least a degree in something, and that having some sort of a degree is necessary for even breaking through the entry level of a job. That those without degrees usually would work the lower jobs like mcdonalds or something (granted this was an exaggeration.)

I would very much like to hear your guys’ experiences and journey. :slight_smile:
Thank you!
Ko

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All three of these options have their advantages and disadvantages, and all three can end up with you doing development. But not all options are made equal.

  • College if you can afford it, you should take this option.
    It will take the most time, probably the most money, but offers the most advantages in the long run. You get a degree, which is important to get passed job filters. And most importantly gain access to a number of extra resources you wouldn’t have access to otherwise. Stuff like job fairs, mentors, clubs, other students and peers doing the same thing. You have to be sure to take advantage of whats offered, as they are optional, but the college is where you have the most opportunities.

  • Self taught is obviously the cheapest and most flexible option, but its also the easiest to not commit to and easiest to quit. There’s no direct guidance, no direct support, no direct curriculum, and no direct resources. You have to find and utilize all of these things to find your way to a job. From learning, to building, to networking, to job finding all has to be done more or less by you with minimal overall guidance. It can be done, but it isn’t easily done.

  • Bootcamp - the bootcamp option is like a middle ground between self taught and college. The main advantage of going this route is in a small time frame you learn the core fundamentals to get you as job ready as possible. However, this also usually means your paying more for a given time frame than even most colleges. This doesn’t necessarily mean you will learn more, as you can only learn so much in a given time frame, but you will learn something. There is also a wide variety of boot-camps, some are almost scams, others can help you learn skills, and help you get a job. I’d do research before committing.

So between the three options you have a lot to choose from. There is also the 4th option, which is to mix and match these different options, like self-learn + go to college to maximize how much you learn in a given time frame, and still walk out with a degree to get your foot in the door.

I wouldn’t say there is a pure right answer for everything, but I will say if you can go to college, and can get the degree in the given time frame (say 4 years), then I’d go that route if you can, as it provides the most opportunities during and after.

Good luck, keep learning, keep building :+1:

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Hi @bradtaniguchi !

Thank you for taking the time to give a thorough answer!

A part of me was hesitant with college, at least right now while we’re still in the midst of the pandemic. I can agree that colleges are the best place to network but I imagine it’d be hard to do as I’m sure most classes are offered online. The mentality that I currently have right now with it is, “it is the same as doing it by myself (self-teaching).” Granted, there are other factors to consider: whether it’s online or not, the difference is you’re working for an actual degree; despite online classes, you would still have access to assistance from teachers.

And wow, that is something I haven’t really thought of. :cold_sweat: by any chance, do you know or recommend sites that I can research further on for a possible bootcamp route? I feel often just googling it doesn’t give me the exact resources that I need. :sweat_smile:

If I may ask, what was your experiences and journey in coding?

Yeah, but to me that’s almost an argument for going to uni - you’re stuck at home anyway.

And (imho) there is a big difference between self-teaching and an accredited, structured program. People that self-teach often have holes in their knowledge (in my experience, at least). And the apocalypse won’t last forever. And even in quarantine, I imaging many students are trying to keep things alive with online study-groups and get-togethers. And you’ll be back in person before you finish the degree. And, as you say, you get a degree.

Yeah, if I had to do it all over again, I would have done a degree straight out of high school. But I also love academics. You really have to decide what works best for you.

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Having a degree in something certainly helps, but I don’t think it’s necessary for a career in the tech industry. I think having a degree is worth persuing if it won’t put you into a tremendous amount of student debt. If you’re interested in college, I strongly recommend looking at community college, at least for the start.

Self-teaching requires discipline, commitment, and good learning resources. This option is paid with sweat equity - you get out what you put in. There are plenty of free learning resources out there.

Bootcamps are good, but before spending money on a bootcamp I suggest checking out what that bootcamp’s graduates are doing.

One thing I think that all three have in common is that you’ll get out what you put in. I suggest exploring different areas to find what you’re interested in learning and doing.

If you’re passionate and curious about a subject, spending hours learning it every day will come easy. If you have a dream job or goal in mind, it will help motivate you.

No matter what you do, create a public portfolio of what you’ve done (GitHub or GitLab are good options).

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If you can afford to, do college. It gives you the best odds of getting a job. It is a credential that employers understand and trust.

I wouldn’t worry too much about having some or all of your classes online. Networking with other students isn’t as important as getting access to the resources, services, and connections provided by reputable universities.

That said, you should augment your education with self learning. It is possible to go the fully self taught route, but that will make it a bit harder to get your first job. However, there are fantastic free resources for learning programming and computer science out there.

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Another thing to consider is the fact the pandemic will end before you get anywhere near completed with college. Its true that there are some students who are taking time off from college as they don’t get their preferred in-class instruction. However, this also means the are “pausing” their learning, which opens up more room for others who are willing to continue to step in. Overall this means it might be easier to get into a college during the pandemic, and still be able to continue after it subsides.

Another thing is networking can be done at anytime during your studying, but gets more important the closer you get to graduation. As the closer you get to graduation the more “job ready” you are, compared to just starting out. This doesn’t mean you can’t network and get ahead, but it will be more difficult.

I don’t have any personal recommendations for boot camps, as they are my least preferred option as they vary too widely in quality to recommend.

I was fortunante enough to be able to go to college for a CS degree. Mind you I wasn’t a stellar student, and was best described as a “slacker”. I barely got into the college I was admitted to, and would of ended up in the national guard or community college if I wasn’t accepted.

Regardless, I went to school, slacked the same amount I did in high-school until I eventually failed a class, which made me realize I had to put in more work and actually focus more on school. I eventually got close to graduation, leveraged on-campus resources and networking and got an internship which eventually lead to a job.

That doesn’t mean school taught me everything, honestly I ended up learning a lot of specific technical skills on my own or through other means, but the structure and background college gave me has given me the edge in a number of scenarios.

Regardless of what you path you end up choosing, good luck, keep building, keep learning :+1:

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Hi @KO-d14 !

There are a lot of great answers here.
I think one of the main takeaways is that whatever path you choose you will need to make sure you have a good foundation to build from and know how to network with other developers to help you get into this industry.

For the college route, if you take advantage of the career resources center and alumni network it can be a huge help getting that first job.

I relied heavily on my career services department at both of my alma maters.
My degrees are in music, but my schools help me get connected with contractors and educators in LA so I was able to start working immediately after graduation.

It helps alot. :grinning:

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Hello @kevinSmith,

Thank you very much in your patience. The past week or so I got caught up researching, making appointments with college counselors, etc.

No, when you pointed that out I can see that you’re right - I didn’t realize that I was subconsciously creating a reason for myself to counter the benefits of going to college so I want to thank you for putting it out there for me. :slight_smile: I often overthink and create unnecessary thoughts like this.

If possible, I would like to hear your thoughts on a matter I was pondering on:

As a quick background, I have finished my associates concentrated in audio engineering but it was after completion that I realized it was not something I envisioned doing as a career. From my research and recommendation from my friend, I was told to go into a program at a university in creative media concentrating in game design and development. The reason why my friend recommended me this is because it accepts our previous audio engineering program, and will let us graduate faster. Would the type of degree of matter? Or is just having a degree is what matters?
(My main goal is to earn my BA quickly as possible if I were to go school and to go into the job market .)

Thank you in advance!

Hi @gitlab-greg ,

Thank you very much in your patience. The past week or so I got caught up researching, making appointments with college counselors, etc.

And good idea! I will try and ask bootcamp grads but would you happen to know a good platform to ask by any chance? I was unsure whether this FCC forum site would be a good place, or reddit, etc. :slight_smile:

Hi @JeremyLT ,

Thank you very much in your patience. The past week or so I got caught up researching, making appointments with college counselors, etc.

I would like hear your thoughts on the whole networking thing. I’ve always heard and read about people arguing about the work smart, not hard idea- where people were able to land jobs faster, etc. despite their skill (not to say that they were completely unqualified) but were able to get the jobs through the connections and networking that they had.

Thank you in advance!

Hi @bradtaniguchi,

Thank you very much in your patience. The past week or so I got caught up researching, making appointments with college counselors, etc. I have taken up on your advice and am currently trying to work my way into the school route.

To clarify on the “opens up more… to step in,” do you happen to mean that it will be more easy to apply and be accepted to colleges during the pandemic vs after pandemic? Recently, I’ve also been reading and hearing about how the costs of tuition rose since the pandemic. :cold_sweat:

Thank you for your honest response in regards to the bootcamp recommendation and sharing your coding journey. :slight_smile:

If possible, I would like to hear your thoughts on a matter I was pondering on as well:

As a quick background, I have finished my associates concentrated in audio engineering but it was after completion that I realized it was not something I envisioned doing as a career. From my research and recommendation from my friend, I was told to go into a program at a university in creative media concentrating in game design and development. The reason why my friend recommended me this is because it accepts our previous audio engineering program, and will let us graduate faster. Would the type of degree of matter? Or is just having a degree is what matters?
(My main goal is to earn my BA quickly as possible if I were to go school and to go into the job market .)

Thank you in advance!

Hi @jwilkins.oboe ,

Thank you very much in your patience. The past week or so I got caught up researching, making appointments with college counselors, etc.

That’s interesting to hear! So initially, you went for a career pathway in music. If I may ask, what led you into a career pathway in coding? What was your career transition like?
:slight_smile:

Would the type of degree of matter?

In terms of getting a job, superficially? No. My degree is classical guitar performance. The most important things are what you know and what you can show them you’ve built. Everything else is dwarfed in comparison. Having a degree? That’s nice - it shows you can complete something and have at least some education. A degree related to programming? Even better. But again, what you know and what you’ve built are more important.

But there are other benefits of a coding degree - you learn a lot of stuff, build a lot of stuff, and get to network with a lot of other coders. I don’t know that a degree in “creative media concentrating in game design” is going to do that.

My main goal is to earn my BA quickly as possible if I were to go school and to go into the job market .

If you’re going to go to school, it should be for what you want to do. If you’re not going to study coding, then that time and energy would probably be better put towards learning to code. Don’t get a degree in an unrelated field just because you want the piece of paper. In those 2-3 years, you could learn a lot of coding and build some cool things.

If it were me, if I were young, I’d go for a CS degree and not look back. You have to decide for yourself what works for you.

I was considering of the concentration in gaming development as the program synthesizes various media forms ie game design, internet platforms, mobile apps, sound design, motion graphics, graphic design, storytelling.) It seemed like a good platform degree if I were to possibly venture out to mobile/app developer or UI/UX.
Though a degree in something more related to program like CS is nice, I wasn’t too keen on the thought of starting ground up again as time and cost are a factor for me. :confused:

To clarify on my confusion, in the first post you advocated on the benefits of degree. That having * a* degree is better than no degree but you mentioned in terms of getting a job (superficially), it is not needed as there are many people there- degrees unrelated to coding to no degrees at all being able to get computer-science related jobs. And I do know that what it boils down to is again, like you mentioned the skills, projects and even possibly the networks that got them to land their jobs. It’s all very confusing as I’ve read and heard from so many people that you can get by being a programmer/developer without any related or any university degrees at all. For sure, I know that I do have the drive and the passion but what I’m unsure of is if that and the basics I’m doing right now ie. FCC curriculum, self projects, trying to find communities/network/ find some form of mentorship, apprenticeship, etc is enough where I can hopefully land a programmer/developer job with an associate’s degree.

All in all, I suppose I’m unsure as to what I exactly want to do, hence my post here seeking guidance from coders in this community who have gone through similar journey. :joy:

On a side note, I would also like to hear your journey as well. You mentioned you earn a degree in classical guitar performance, how did you come across programming and your route to being able to land a job as a React Native Developer? (ie did you do self-teaching, bootcamp, etc.) :slight_smile:

I also want to thank you for taking the time to read my long posts and thoroughly answering them!

Right, but none of these things are absolutes. It would be like saying, “If you want to be successful at asking out women, it helps to have a good sense of humor.” That’s not saying that it’s the only factor, that’s not even saying that it’s the most important factor. And of course, every woman is different. But in general, having a sense of humor is better than not having one and increases your odds.

I was considering of the concentration in gaming development as the program synthesizes various media forms ie game design, internet platforms, mobile apps, sound design, motion graphics, graphic design, storytelling.)

That sounds like a great degree - if you want to be a game designer. But being a game designer is not the same as being a developer. It would be like taking skiing lessons because you want to be a figure skater. If you want to be a developer, study that. If you want to be a designer/developer, then I can’t speak to that and what kind of jobs there are where you would do both of those things - my assumption is that they would rather have two people that are specialists.

As to my specific path, I discuss it here.

It possibly would have affect on some college enrollment yes. Something like getting classes during the pandemic became easier, as there were students who didn’t want to get into remote learning for one reason or another, thus leaving more spots open

The cost of college will continue to rise for the foreseeable future. This doesn’t mean there aren’t affordable ways to go to college, but it does require $. Depending on what schools your looking at, and what kind of country/state your in can impact what sort of costs and support you can look into.

Scholarships, loans, and affordable schooling options can all be mixed together to help pay. One thing to keep in mind is for an undergrad degree, going to any credited college should be good enough. Don’t go to some super expensive Ivy league, as its way too expensive for an undergrad. If you have to take loans, calculate the average pay you’d get for the jobs you plan on doing after your degree, and see how long it would take to pay them off. You dont want to take on too much debt right out of the gate, which is one of the major pitfalls of the cost of higher school nowadays.

Have a BA degree can help, but if it isn’t relevant for the sort of jobs your applying to, it wont help too much if at all. Having a degree can be better than no degree, as it can get you through some job filters, but if its an relevant degree for the job at hand, it wont get you much further.

Also, having a degree can help, but having experience is important too. So even if your mostly self taught, if you have the experience required for the job at hand you can still get the job.

I don’t work full time as a developer.
I do some freelance work in programming and continue to build side projects.
Right now, I am just a hobbyist and learner. :grinning:

But if you want to know more about my story with music and how I wound up here, you can reach to me through PM.
That way it doesn’t become off topic from your original post.

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I’d summarize my experience with University and self-teaching tech as “you get out what you put in, minus financial expenses.”

The more time and attention you invest in learning and leveling up your skills, regardless the setting, the better the return on investment.