Why We Don’t Require Degrees for Developers
Tammy Slaughter wrote this article
Here’s the thing:
You don’t need a degree to become a developer.
Yet over the years, the college degree has become the norm in most workplaces, including at many tech companies and app development agencies.
And this expectation is only growing if the internet has anything to say about it.
In late 2017, a new job report showed that the proportion of job listings requiring a four-year degree increased by more than 10 percentage points from 2007 to 2010.
65% of postings for Executive Secretaries and Executive Assistants, historically entry-level positions, now call for a bachelor’s degree.
Yet, only 19% of those currently employed in these roles have a B.A.
Why, you might be asking yourself.
Well, a degree is thought to signify employability, and the presence of soft skills such as communication, team work, and problem-solving.
This is degree inflation; an every day reality in today’s job market and a huge barrier for entry for many talented, working professionals within the two-thirds of America’s workforce that do not have degrees.
According to Stack Overflow, 47.7% of professional developers have a bachelor’s degree, while 23.2% percent have a master’s.
If you ask us, that’s quite a lot based on our hiring experience when it comes to developers.
ChopDawg.com: An app development company founded by a college dropout
Our CEO and founder Joshua H. Davidson is a college dropout.
We know this certainly isn’t the norm for many at the helm of a company, even in the tech world.
But for some perspective, at the time of ChopDawg.com’s founding over ten years ago, Joshua was in his childhood best friend’s basement brainstorming ways to make money and kill some time during the summer before his junior year of high school.
By the time the question of college even came around for Joshua, Chop Dawg was already thriving.
With strong encouragement from loved ones and the ever-present societal pressure to go to college in the back of his mind, Joshua attended Stockton College to study marketing and computer science, hoping to better himself for his company’s sake.
But he quickly learned that he was already doing a lot what his professors were teaching with his business, and clients certainly weren’t asking for proof of his degree.
They just wanted a new online presence to help grow their business, and they wanted it from Chop Dawg.
And worse yet, the time Joshua was putting into his studies as a dual major at Stockton College was taking away from his very real clients at the time and from growing Chop Dawg itself, still very much in its vulnerable fledgling years as a company.
He had to make a decision, and it’s one that has raised many an eyebrow throughout our CEO and founder’s career:
He decided to drop out of Stockton College after only two semesters to run his company full-time.
And it’s one he’s never regretted since.
The myth of the college-only career path
The pressure to attend college for young adults in schools today cannot be denied.
But with the ever-rising cost of a college education, combined with crippling student loan debt, and degree inflation making degrees worth less in terms of compensation for applicants, it’s safe to say the current job market for college grads is far from ideal.
Lambda School believes the traditional model of higher education is outdated, especially when it comes to teaching development and coding skills necessary to succeeding in tech today.
With online classes taught by live instructors, one-on-one mentoring, and an accelerated nine-month coding program for its students, Lambda School’s graduates are regularly praised (and hired) by companies like Apple and Google.
The best part?
Students at Lambda School don’t pay a dime until they actually land a high-paying job.
And when you think about it, that actually makes a whole lot of sense.
These days, having a bachelor’s degree is no guarantee of high-paying job placement.
Gen-Z graduates today expect to make 23% more upon graduation than they actually will. Clearly, expectations do not match reality.
Lambda School gives students a flexible opportunity to branch into a lucrative career in tech in a way that fits in easily with their lifestyle (and doesn’t break the bank).
They are focused on removing the barriers for entry for their students, and that’s something we can all get behind.
According to their website, 86% of Lambda School graduates are hired within 6 months and make over $50K a year.
Meanwhile, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, the 2018 employment rate for young adults with bachelors degrees (aged 25-34) was also 86%.
Right now, the national median salary for recent grads with bachelors degrees is $47,000.
While this is only a segmented portion of the total US population and obviously coding itself is a valuable skill, the similarity in numbers between two very different educations is compelling, to say the least.
An inclusive coding bootcamp that pays its students to learn
The reality is, education can only truly be inclusive when the institution itself can compensate its students for time spent learning.
For many living paycheck to paycheck, this is a huge barrier for attaining higher-education.
This is something Resilient Coders strongly believes in, and each student attending this non-profit’s coding bootcamp learns for free and gets compensated for their time.
Resilient Coders mission is to serve the diverse, underestimated young people in and around Boston and equip them with the skills and knowledge to succeed in the software and application development world.
Their program places a strong emphasis on instilling a passion for continued, independent learning in each of its students — a critical skill, as any good coder knows.
In the app development world, things are always evolving and when (not if) you hit a snag, you have to be able to independently find solutions and work arounds. There is no “take one course and know-it-all” when it comes to code.
As an added bonus, they teach those coveted ‘soft skills’ sought after by those companies who typically screen applicants using a B.A. requirement, such as communications skills, time-management, strong team work, even providing real-world experience for their students.
Each student is expected to procure their own client during bootcamp and develop their own application to show off to prospective hirers during demo day.
This is important, because more employers and companies out there are placing a higher emphasis on experience and portfolio quality, and that’s a good thing.
At Chop Dawg, we consider ourselves to be one of these companies.
After these two factors, our biggest focus in any candidate is their overall chemistry with our team.
Real-world experience is most important when it comes to development
Portfolio. Portfolio. Portfolio.
At the end of the day, it’s what matters the most.
The reality is, you learn to code by doing.
We’re going to be more impressed by an applicant with an incredible app or two under their sleeve, or even a proven track record as a software engineer than just a flashy alma mater.
It’s about demonstrated competence when it comes to creating something using code.
But there is one university amongst those leading the charge when it comes to curating real-world coding experience in the classroom.
Our CEO and founder Joshua H. Davidson (alongside Chop Dawg’s marketing team) was recently invited to Southern New Hampshire University as a keynote speaker.
SNHU, perhaps best-known for its extensive online courses accounting for most of its student population, is also investing heavily in experiential learning programs for its on-campus students.
Not only did he have a blast sharing Chop Dawg’s story and answering the students questions about the app industry and beyond, we were really impressed by our tour of Inkwell Interactive Studio, a state-of-the-art lab offering an elective course for students to code real apps for real clients and work on side projects in a guided environment.
The emphasis, once again being to help students develop a portfolio for prospective employers upon graduation.
The game is changing, and with rising competition and tuition costs, higher education institutions need to get on board and offer students the experience companies are looking for upon graduation to ensure their own future success — and that of their students.
An industry formed on the back of independent learning
A 2016 Developers Survey by Stack Overflow found that 70% of developers were at least partially self-taught.
That’s no small number.
Sure, getting a degree in computer science from a university or college is one way to go — but it’s not the only one.
While there have been self-taught coders since the dawn of the first computer, the impetus of the internet in the nineties truly opened up the floodgates when it came to available resources to learn software development independently.
Before that of course, there were also computer science and coding books. And good old-fashioned trial-and-error, as any good coder knows, was always the best way to learn — even from the very beginning.
And with new, alternative education programs popping up teaching programming and other valuable career skills, opportunities to learn how to code without getting a traditional degree abound.
The question is, when will more companies and hiring managers get on board with the trend?
The changing job landscape for developers and beyond
For most companies out there, the ability to demonstrate what you can do will always be more important than whether or not you have a degree or where it came from, even in cases where the company has listed a degree as a requirement.
But it’s that perceived barrier for entry degree inflation creates that’s the problem, because it doesn’t need to be there. And if you’re using technology to automatically sort those without degrees into the ‘no’ pile without closer consideration — well, that’s part of the problem.
So, what’s the answer?
Developing more affordable certifications that reflect specific industry needs, like Lambda School and Resilient Coders, with better societal acceptance of these “alternative” credentials, could reduce pressure on job seekers to pursue a bachelor’s degree and ensure more opportunities for rewarding careers in tech, while continuing to provide employers with access to the talent they need.
A recent study shows some encouraging signs of the success of these coding bootcamps too, with 73% of graduates surveyed reporting being employed as developers.
So, if you’re a US-based developer experienced with React Native looking for a flexible, remote position building cool apps, head over to our job board to see what’s available here at Team Chop Dawg!
We are so excited to keep an eye on this trend and see what’s next for the tech community and beyond as we move into 2020.
Since 2009, we have helped create over 300+ web and mobile apps for startups, Fortune 500s, growing businesses, and non-profits from around the globe. Think Partner, Not Agency.
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