Is a College Degree a Must for a Successful IT Career?
Are you looking for a career in the IT industry?
It’s no wonder, considering the development of the industry in recent years. The IT sector is growing rapidly, and it is hungry for new talent.
Regardless of whether you are fresh out of high school or looking for a change in your career path, as a newbie in this area, you might not know what you need to succeed. Some companies require a computer science (or related) degree, some list it as an optional advantage when hiring, and some don’t mention any degrees at all.
But let’s not beat around the bush and ask THE question straight away.
Is a College Degree Crucial for Success in the IT World?
The short answer is: “no”.
Judging by the experience of different engineers, analysts, technicians, and consultants, many of whom didn’t have any tech background before starting, a college degree is not a must to succeed.
The former Chairman, President, and CEO of IBM, Ginni Rometty, in her 2016 letter to the former U.S. President Donald Trump, wrote that a college degree is not always required to get a job in IBM. “
What matters most is relevant skills, sometimes obtained through vocational training,” Rometty wrote. I trust we’ve all heard about IBM? Good, then there’s no need to explain why this statement is a big deal.
We’re witnessing a rise in different professions in the IT world - software development is not the only direction you can take. Positions related to cybersecurity, data science, and artificial intelligence, for example, often require highly specialized training, while most colleges provide a wider curriculum. Meaning, if a company has a shortage of talent in these areas, they will provide you with the necessary training to build on your willpowerand inclination.
Is There Any Point in Attending College?
At college, you don’t just learn the curriculum. Even if you don’t get to learn about the most popular tools currently in use, you will still get a strong base and learn some valuable lessons that’ll shape you into a professional you will one day become.
Among them, learning to work as a part of a team is of great importance, as it teaches you how to handle conflicts, collaborate with other members, and even lead. You step up your verbal and written communication game and broaden your horizons. Time and project management are also skills of the essence one gets the opportunity to acquire, while networking is a definite bonus of the whole college experience.
Time spent in college is not something that anyone should consider “wasted.”
What Matters the Most in Tech Recruitment?
As you might have already guessed, everything revolves around skills and talent.
While some companies take into consideration the manner in which you acquired those skills, some simply don’t.
Also, don’t be fooled that pure talent is all it takes. Just like in any other line of profession, it may help you go ‘get in,’ but it will certainly not help you stay. If you are not ready to roll your sleeves, learn new tech stack, make mistakes and learn from them as well, you won’t get far in any company.
By this point, you are probably thinking to yourself: “but if I didn’t attend college, how can I prove to the companies that I have potential?"And while with other professions, it’s sometimes difficult to present your knowledge and experience, that is, one that is not a result of formal education, with the IT industry, it’s much easier. Simply put, IT companies care much more about whether you know how to do something than ensuring that you have a degree or a certificate.
Portfolios are more than encouraged as well as anything that’ll help you showcase your expertise. With some effort, your GitHub profile can become your CV, while writing blogs for platforms such as Medium will help you gain exposure and build confidence.
In this regard, Roango went a step further - instead of just listing the companies you worked for, you can upload your portfolio and add any project you participated in as a freelancer. Roango gives you the means to land a great job by letting your skills speak for themselves.
How Can You Gain Those Skills?
Knowledge is everywhere around you - all you have to do is tune your radar.
Take a course
If you are a complete novice, courses are a good place to start. Aside from some beginner’s knowledge, they might help you determine a direction, provide you with structure, and give you the confidence to pursue your career in IT.
Listen to podcasts
Regardless of which line of work in the IT industry you are interested in, podcasts are a great tool to hear first-hand how things really are in the community and to stay on top of trends.
Make the most of Stack Overflow
If you are interested in software development, there’s a good chance that answers to most of your code-related questions are somewhere within Stack Overflow, so don’t skip this free resource.
Build a GitHub portfolio
GitHub helps you keep track of repositories and materials you are interested in, and as mentioned, you can also turn it into a CV. Basically, you can use it as a learning tool and a means to showcase your expertise.
Join a Discord or Reddit community
Discord channels and subreddits are a treasure trove, a home of information, advice, examples, and a supportive community you feel comfortable asking anything.
Give coding games a try
Yes, we know, practicing coding through games sounds just about perfect. Your parents and grandparents might find it odd, but there is nothing wrong with learning things in this manner. Different platforms, such as Duolingo, have the look and feel of a game, and this is exactly what gives them the appeal and pushes you to complete each module.
So, What To Do?
Be brave as there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
A college degree can be a plus but it’s not a prerequisite for a successful IT career.
Keep your eyes and ears wide open, and don’t just timidly observe the community: join in actively, ask questions, and surely you will find some direction or advice you were looking for - possibly even more than you expected.
Also, accept that making mistakes and assessing things wrongly is a part of the process. There is no universal path to get to your goal, but that’s the beauty of it - you have the opportunity to do things your way.