Thoughts concerning College?

:black_small_square:Hi, I’ve been studying, and learning Web development, and Computer science in general. But I can’t help but run into the same brick wall of should I go to college? Everytime I go searching for jobs (mostly just to see what’s out there while I’m focusing on studying) most of the web dev/ computer programming jobs say they require a bachelor’s degree. Some go even as far as putting don’t contact them if you don’t have one.
:black_small_square:I know some people have jobs without a computer science degree, and if you are just to great to pass up in any field for the most part you can get a job without a degree (but not even most fresh college graduates are qualified or more than someone in my situation for that matter). I’m confident in what I know as of now and every day as I study it gets even better but I’m still not sure if I’m ready or when will I be ready? Which brings up the question is college a must?

:black_small_square:Also please keep in mind college is super expensive and I am an unemployed student who like most people my age don’t have the money and I’m not gonna get student loans.
:black_small_square: My point is I see many articles and people talking about getting a Computer programming job without a CS degree but my question is can you get one without a College degree, and what should you do to get it?

:black_small_square:On a side note I’m studying Web development first, but my future goal is to get into mobile development or software programming that’s what I really want to do.

If you read all this thank you so much!
If you have advice thank you even more!

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Getting a Degree helps understand some core concepts, learn a few extra things, and teaches you mainly “how to grind thru it”. You also can get a lot of “extra” stuff beyond an education by going to college, like meeting people, finding interests in other fields, and having access to a number of resources, like job fairs and internships.

The key thing to focus on when looking for jobs is what skills do I have, and what skills do I need?. Going to college for a CS degree will definitely teach you some fundamentals and theory behind programming, but it wont make you instantly qualified for most jobs. You will either need to be trained, and or learn it in your own time.

Regardless of if you went to college, you should know what you need to know. Otherwise you won’t know if your really ready.

The best way to know how much you know is try todo something totally by yourself from the ground up. If your going to be a full stack web dev, then go pay for an AWS server, setup a full stack web-app. Or if your a more of a front-end guy, setup a nice portfolio for yourself and work. Regardless, working on complex side projects not only allows you to “show off” the skills you do have, but also to validate you actually know what your doing.

Like you said, if you know your stuff you shouldn’t get passed up (for those that look past not having a degree) if that’s the case, then you really should make sure you know your stuff right, and if you don’t go seek out and make sure you learn it. Without a degree, you more or less only have your stuff to go off of

PS. I don’t think software programming is an actual term, I think you mean software engineering? (more or less a computer programmer)


It is somewhat of a sliding scale dependent on individuals. You’ll find plenty of examples, success or failure, on either side of the coin. Although I am not sure about the technology field specifically, the successes tend to be entrepreneurs and they tend to drop out of college rather than not going to college at all.

The reality is, it is easier to get a better paying job with a bachelor’s degree than without one. As recently as 2017, there is data indicating that the wage gap between the average college graduate and non-graduates can be as high as 50%.

As you yourself pointed out most of the jobs list bachelor’s degree as a requirement, and it is, unfortunately, a very easy criterion for a tracking system to pick up and filter as well, so that is a hurdle you may have to jump through before you even face the peril of human bias.

You probably don’t need a college degree to be a coder, but chances are the hiring manager and recruiters don’t really know that, or don’t care. Their job is to filter thousands of applications down to only a few that qualifies, and it is easy to filter out the non-graduates.

Is it possible to get hired without a college degree? Probably, but it is likely a much more difficult path. It is ultimately just probabilities. When jobs that look past the degree are already in the minority, every extra criterion further lessens the probability of finding a job for which you are qualified.

Obviously, I don’t know your circumstance, and even if I do, I am hardly the most qualified person to help you choose your path. In my opinion, if you have the choice, then you should go to college, and utilize your time and resources wisely. The aggregate experience and resources are not easily replicated outside of it.

If companies are more liberal with their internship programs and hiring practices, then this might be a different story, and someday this might be the case, but unfortunately I don’t think we are there yet

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Thank you for sharing your thoughts I’m just trying to find my path like everybody else. Also I said software programming but I meant software development (or software engineering) but who knows I wouldn’t mind making something that creates software programming. Lol

Thank you for helping to answer my question, I don’t have a problem going to college but nowadays it’s just a great way of getting debt. (Not to mention the paper you get, that employers require aka diploma) I see many posts saying they got a job without a CS degree but never any that say without a College degree so I have some decisions to make either way you were helpful.

While the student debt issue is real, it is something you can mitigate with some research and discipline.

Reputable state schools and in-state tuition, financial aid such as scholarship and grants, as well as part-time jobs can go a long way, as well as utilizing dual credit or the AP system, using community college as a springboard for cheaper basic courses then transfer to reduce the cost.

Of course, some of this also depends on your geographical location. Southwest US has quite a few reputable public school systems, while Northeast less so.

Without any financial assistance from home or savings, it is highly unlikely to avoid loans altogether, but it’s possible to incur much less debt than the average. I should know, I attempted 2 bachelor degrees from 2 separate schools, one successful, the other I dropped out for a job opportunity, and I only incurred 1/4 of the national average, most of which on the 2nd attempt when I was ineligible for financial aid, grants and scholarships.

Don’t necessarily think not going to college is inherently cheaper without taking account in the difficulties you may face without going. According to stack overflow’s developer survey, only about 10% of the surveyed professionals have not gone to college at all and only 25% are without a degree. It’s not the most representative survey, but it should give you an idea of possible limits in opportunity

What you’re saying makes sense, so i’m gonna look more into the college route, and try to make a decision.

In just about any field a degree will increase your odds of getting hired and increase your likely pay. That being said, web dev is probably the field where this is the least strong of an influence. But it still is a factor.

As far as student loan, this is a very lucrative field. I have a Masters in a non-lucrative field. I just started a dev job and have paid off more of that debt in the last three months than I did in the last seven years. It’s insane how fast I’m paying it down. (Granted, I got a good paying job in a low cost of living area.)

YMMV. Debt is real and it sneaks up on you. But if you get a good job it’s worth it. Nothing in life is guaranteed. But getting a degree in one of the most in demand and growing field is a pretty good bet. A lot of those people complaining about debt are people that got degrees in Medieval French poetry and are amazed that they can’t get a good job. (And the way we do education in this country is insane.)

A degree is a good thing to have and to fall back on. You learn a lot of stuff. You learn how to learn. You learn how to meet a superior’s expectations. You meet a lot of people that will become your job network. And you show future employers that you can finish something.

Should you do it? There is a little risk and a great potential for reward. It seems like a smart bet to me. I wish I was your age - I’d do it in a heartbeat. But you need to evaluate your own situation and decide what to do.

I will add one thing. Young people are often impatient. They wan’t their life to start now. But taking 4-6 years to set yourself up for an amazing next 60 years seems wise to me. Plus, college can be a lot of fun.


@kevinSmith Thanks for replying it’s nice to speak to you again. I’m not against college I just want to weigh out my options, and make an educated decision. I am a little nervous about student loan debt since some of my family member’s struggle with it even though it’s been year’s since they went (and who wouldn’t love to save $30,000 and up. I know I know it’s worth it, you make it back, better education I get it) Granted i’m pretty confident that I won’t go down that path but it is something to consider. All in all I appreciate everyone’s feedback because it’s helping me to make a decision I believe I’ll be glad to look back on in the years to come. I’ll be sure to post again once I make a final decision, but I think I am leaning towards the college side more now.

If you get a good job, that student loan will be nothing and disappear fast.

In most careers, getting a degree hugely increases your odds of getting a job and getting better pay. In web dev it’s probably more like “moderately”.

Again. I’d probably go for a degree. Even if you decide you hate web dev or they figure out how to have computers code and we become obsolete - you still have a degree and could do something else.

But this is one of the few fields where going the other way is not unreasonable.

It sounds like you’re doing the right thing - researching and checking out the options. I’m sure whichever you decide, there will be part of you that has some regrets. That’s how life works - we rarely get to make a perfect decision with no drawbacks.

In any case, I hope it works out for you. Keep us posted. And just keep coding and building and learning - those are the most important things.

I’m 40 and seeking to go into development (most likely full stack just based on the languages I like playing with) and I am definitely getting a degree. At this age, without a degree, I have had enough of having to work harder to convince employers to look at me and I absolutely know that I’ve been paid 25% less in a position than a compatriot who had less experience because he had a degree. I interview extremely well and have been offered 90% of the jobs I’ve interviewed for in administration/Accounting but it is always a question: “why didn’t you get your degree?”.

I’m at a point now where I’m sick and tired of working just to make enough money to get by and would rather invest in myself to get myself into a field I have a passion for (can’t beat that endorphin you get after solving a coding issue that’s escaped you for hours). A junior front end dev in my area makes about $20k more than I do now. With strategic school choice and payment for my first semester from my parents, who are just way too nice, I’ll be able to pay my student loans off in a year of work if I keep to the budget I follow now. And yeah…I’m going back to college at 40. But in three years, I’ll be done, and I’ll be set for the next 20-25 I need to work for.

It takes a lot of effort and time, but you’ll have fewer knowledge gaps than if you were self-taught and you won’t have to fight so darn hard to get the interview. And judging by my discussions with local recruiters, if you want to move up from a junior position, you need that degree or you’ll be screaming into the wind.

Thank you for your comment, and sharing your experience from all the support and advice Iv’e been getting from the FCC members and others I’ve decided that I want to go to college. Thanks again for the support.

Hey Myles2, I didn’t read the other comments but heres my experience when I was looking. It’s my belief that the number 1 biggest factor is who you know, unfortunately. Number 2 is, can you speak with knowledge about whatever the position is you’re going for? I found that being able to bring up technologies, platforms, backend, frontend, etc goes a long way. Number 3 is have a portfolio, something to point at. The more the better.
If you can afford school then go for it but out of about 8 to 12 people I’ve spoken with almost everything they learned in school they’ve not really applied. I’m not saying most people, but for me I’ve yet to meet someone who claimed college did anything for them other then give them a degree. So you’re going for a peice of paper which unfortunately is what people look at. You’re still going to need to know what you’re talking about. I interviewed with about 75+ jobs but I’m definitely not a gifted programmer so I’m sure in many cases I simply wasn’t qualified. Oh, and I don’t have a degree in programming. I’m 40+ so maybe take that knowledge and feel better about your prospects.

Thank you for your response. I know it’s possible for me to get a job without a degree, especially if I know my stuff. I just want to make a good decision and as you said a lot of employers don’t want to hire someone simply for the fact they don’t have a degree. I actually took a gap year (which I technically am still doing) because I was gonna try to do what I could without going to college and study in a more independent way. But soon I realized after going to Job interviews technical and non-technical, and speaking to people who’ve gone, and not gone to college it’s gonna be hard to get a job without a degree. Now i’m starting to really think about it because i’m not getting any younger and I gotta start making some decisions. But thanks for your feedback it is very helpful.

I think university can be great, I plan to study something other than computer science in the future. But if you want a job in web development, you do not need a degree, you need skills.

I don’t have a degree. Yet I’m working for a company that I didn’t apply to, and they were one of several companies that approached me.

Sometimes though when I’m feeling down because I’m having a bad week or I’m making mistakes in my work, I feel like I should have gone to university (not that it would have helped in those situations but) because it’s something I always fall back on like “if only I had gone to university maybe I would find it easier to be consistent, make fewer mistakes, solve some problems faster, etc.”

So I would say that university may be worth it if you want to overcome that imposter syndrome, but not to get a job. There are a ton companies hiring right now, and the university degree isn’t enough to prove that you can work well on a team to build, deploy and maintain reliable web applications.

These companies look for specific skills:

  • can this person work as part of a team using git workflows?
  • can this person write tested, reliable code?
  • can this person explain their thinking clearly?
  • can this person take ownership for what they build?

If I had to go back 3 years and start all over, here’s what I would do to show employers the above and get job offers as fast as possible:

  • Start contributing to open-source immediately
  • Start writing blog posts about everything you do (yes even the easy stuff, this shows your communication skills)
  • Go to meetups to meet people, find projects and realize that you’re like everyone else (nothing special about developers)
  • Mentor others on freecodecamp,, or anywhere else visible (teaching = learning)
  • Work for free on small scoped projects that take no longer than a month
  • Put all of that on your portfolio website,, linkedin (make it visible!)

You can do all of that in 6 months to a year without taking on debt and you’ll be job ready.

Hey Myles,
Im 27 and I was going for med school till earlier this year i decided to go all in.
8 months later I got hired. Although I have a degree, its nothing computer related. Its matter of if you are good enough or not, and some luck.
Going to college wont teach you the technicals and technologies u are going to be using. but It will build you great foundation and understanding of algorithms and data structures, which is what youll be doing for the coding interviews.

There was a guy here named Eric, who majored in computer engineering and had great projects still couldnt find a job. Then we have many people, including my friends and I, that got a job withoit a degree in CS.

So it really depends on how you want to pursue this. Software engineering goes way beyond web development, so college is not a bad idea if you want to go beyond just web dev.

Thank you for your response, this is very helpful advice. But as I have been self-studying I’ve realized I don’t want to just do web development I want to also get into software development, and maybe even mobile development and that is definitely harder without a degree so this is why I am considering college but thank you for your advice!

Apple and Google recently announced they no longer use a college degree as a requirement, and I personally know that its not a requirement for Microsoft. So you can imagine, if major tech companies are not looking at that as a deal breaker, many other smaller companies either feel the same way or are following suit.

Just last week, I went to a presentation led by a guy who was a recruiter at Facebook. Someone asked him how much a college degree matters and he said the only time it really matters, if it does at all, is when you get your first job, because its some metric considering you have no work history. But after that, all they care about is your experience, and by the time you have been in the field 3 years, someone with a degree is no different from someone without one because salary / career path etc is based on job performance.

So, just something to think about when you decide on your motivation for getting a degree. Now, having said all that… I want a degree, just my personal goal to have one, I am very interested in learning CS, and I know it will help me become a better developer…but Im not going to put getting a job on hold til I get a degree, instead I plan to go back to school once I’m working, so that I can get tuition reimbursement.

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Thank you for your response on this matter. I definitely have nothing against college and I wish it could be an easier decision but the biggest issue is the large amount of money it cost at a time in one’s life were it’s close to impossible to pay, that’s why the statistics show a declining rate of people who are going to college. Regardless I think getting a job first and then going to college is a good idea too. I hope that as the times change the college system will be re-evaluated and hopefully have a more affordable outcome sooner than later.

The thing to keep in mind is that a degree in itself doesn’t necessarily make you more or less qualified for a job.

It can help lessen the work it takes to secure a job because it makes available to you a collection of resources that’s not easily replicated. Alumni networks, internship and co-op opportunities, student pricing on licensed software, academic research…Etc.

Whether you go to college or not, you still need to devote yourself to things like learning new frameworks, stay updated on technology, build projects, practice your algorithms, and network.

Don’t let college be an excuse to not do these other things that are hugely important to getting a job.

Similarly, don’t let finance be the deciding factor on whether you go to college or not. At the very least do a better job of evaluation beyond the superficial problem of college cost money. Really do the best you can to find out what is the opportunity cost for you specifically.

In my experience, job searching in itself was a difficult process that took many attempts and time, perhaps much longer if I had not attended a bootcamp when I did. I don’t know what others experience is like, but that in itself is a different form of cost that should be considered.