It’s true: you don’t need a computer science degree to work in tech. A few years back, however, our answer would have been totally different because it used to be a basic requirement for practically any job in tech. But as technology (and society itself) has advanced, we’ve learned that a piece of paper that proves you attended computer science classes for four years isn’t what will help you succeed in tech. On the contrary, the best tech professionals enter the workforce with knowledge of recent developments, experience under their belt, and a wide range of skills usually not associated with tech that will help them flourish.
Today, employers are focused on what you bring to the table and not just on where you went to college or what you studied. This may seem impossible, but let’s check out why:
Tech is moving incredibly fast: new technologies are popping up constantly and employers are looking for professionals with experience in these new areas to fill their needs. And because the recent classes of graduates may not have the necessary and recent skills, hiring managers have begun to look elsewhere.
University curriculum is typically outdated: what you learned in your first year of university classes probably isn’t going to be relevant by the time you enter the workforce, meaning you won’t have the necessary skills to land a job in tech.
Tech is expanding into every industry: gone are the days where you could just add C++ and Java to your resume and hope to land your dream job. Educators, sales professionals, and doctors need to be tech-savvy and able to use tech to advance their work; a wide range of skills, both hard and soft, are seen as incredibly valuable.
Why are hiring managers no longer requiring degrees?
After such a long time of emphasizing the importance of degrees, how has this change come to be? Great question–it’s taken a lot of time and effort, but more and more people are realizing that because tech moves so incredibly fast, the funnel of university graduates simply isn’t meeting needs anymore. And current tech employees are also falling behind, unless they're committed to constant knowledge and growth. Let’s explore some of the main reasons why employers are moving away from degree requirements:
Employers value a wide range of skills, meaning the knowledge and experience you bring from your previous role and degree (if you’re a career changer) can set you apart from the competition. They are also encouraged by your ability to restart your career and your drive for knowledge.
There are so many more ways to learn about tech than even a few years back; from online courses, books, bootcamps, and certifications, employers don’t have to worry about if you’ve actually learned what you claim.
Experience is highly valued and those with portfolios and evidence of what they’ve created, not just learned, have a better chance at landing a job in tech. Showing off projects you’ve completed, whether they’re with a course or on your own, prove how dedicated you are, in addition to your skills.
Now, we’re not saying computer science degrees (or a degree in any other field of tech, for that matter) are useless; in fact, you’ll learn a lot of theoretical background information and spend time putting what you’ve learned into practice, creating a solid resume. But as we look towards 2024, it’s important to understand the mindset shift that the industry has undertaken in recent years.
The Tech Industry’s Mindset Shift
You’ve heard that people can be successful without going to university or by studying a field that’s completely separate from where they ultimately end up–and it’s true. And over the past few years, the tech industry has had to accept this reality. The best and most highly valued candidates are no longer those who have university degrees and a nice internship on their resume; hiring managers are looking for candidates with portfolios, experience in exactly what they need, and a zest for continuous knowledge.
This mindset shift has had a profound impact on the tech industry:
It’s made tech more affordable: expensive tuition costs have long deterred aspiring techies from pursuing a university degree in their chosen area; when you add in materials, room and board, and the enormous time commitment that these degree programs require, it’s clear how low-income groups would be simply unable to access tech. As the importance of these expensive degrees has lessened, applicants who have chosen alternative methods of education are now considered for roles for the first time.
It’s broken down barriers to tech: in addition to high tuition costs, other barriers such as societal expectations that push for women to stay home with children or take care of other familial duties have made a four year course impossible. By moving away from only accepting university degrees, more and more previously excluded groups are now able to find ways that work for them to gain the tech knowledge necessary to landing a job.
It’s increased diversity efforts: diversity is still an issue in tech and there are still companies that are exclusively made up of white men; however, by letting historically underrepresented groups at the university level have the chance to land a tech job because they have the same knowledge as another applicant, just not a degree, is helping make the industry more diverse, one step at a time.
With a clear understanding of how lighter degree requirements are helping the tech industry expand, let’s explore some alternatives to computer science degrees that will help you still land your dream tech job.
Alternatives to Computer Science Degrees
If a four year computer science degree is simply too lengthy or expensive, don’t worry: your dream future in tech is still completely possible. And luckily for you, there are quite a few ways to land that dream role that don’t require you to enroll at your local university:
Tech alternatives: free online courses
We’re sure you’re more than aware that these days, you can get anything online. And tech knowledge is no exception; you can find helpful videos and even free courses online that help you learn a specific skill or walk you through areas in which you’re struggling.
While the internet does have an incredible wealth of knowledge, make sure you’re cautious with trusting everything you read and you might need to have a backup plan in case you run into a problem that you can’t solve.
Online courses are a great place to start if you’re looking to find out which area most interests you, but don’t rely too heavily on it as your end all be all.
Tech alternatives: self-teaching
The internet isn’t the only place to get helpful tech knowledge and there are lots of study groups and books that can be incredible resources for you during your learning process. This is the best bet for you if you already have some experience in tech and are looking to finetune a specific skill or are simply seeing what interests you.
If you do choose to go the self-teaching route, make sure you set hard deadlines with yourself so that you stay on track and have a colleague or resource to go to in case you reach a dead end.
Tech alternatives: bootcamps
Our last alternative is our favorite: bootcamps! Bootcamps are intensive, short-term courses designed to teach you a specific tech skill so that you’re ready to enter the workforce immediately after graduation. How? Let’s see:
Bootcamps teach an incredibly recent and expertly-designed curriculum: to make sure their graduates are learning what hiring managers are truly looking for, bootcamp syllabi are designed with the hiring market in mind; these courses are constantly updated and revamped to ensure you’re prepared to land a job.
Bootcamps provide you with experience: from your very first day at your bootcamp, you’ll be given opportunities to work on real-world projects that can then become part of your portfolio and a valuable part of your job application post-graduation.
Bootcamps are accessible: gone are strict in-person requirements (lots of bootcamps are remote!) and high tuition fees; bootcamps seek to provide an accessible and affordable path to tech for all.
Bootcamps are short-term and focus on the good stuff: if becoming job-ready in just a few months seems impossible, it’s because bootcamps eliminate all that unnecessary information and focus on teaching you the on-the-job basics that are in-demand–nothing else. Plus, they usually offer pre-work prior to the course beginning that helps you gather all necessary foundational information.
If a bootcamp sounds like the perfect fit for you, we get it! After all, our Ironhack Bootcamps are designed with you in mind, looking to create the absolute best experience for all our students and prepare them to enter the workforce immediately after graduation.
We offer part-time and full-time bootcamps in web development, UX/UI design, data analytics, and cybersecurity at six in-person locations across the world and remote. No matter your tech experience, area of interest, or future goals, we’re sure you can find the right course for you right here at Ironhack.
Check out our courses below and start your tech journey today.