Need a Degree to Work in Tech?

Need a Degree to Work in Tech?

College enrollment throughout the US has been dropping for years now, this is not news. We are seeing a trend for job requirements, now more than ever before, that says something such as “must have a college degree or commensurate experience”. More and more people are asking themselves if facing college debt is worth it. But, does this apply to working in the tech world?

Actually, online coding academies, computer science, engineering, and IT boot camps have greatly influenced this entire trend. As a result, computer science and engineering schools have been getting hit pretty hard. As Covid completely uprooted grade school education and higher education systems as we knew them, this trend has only increased. This is true even with a return to “normal”. We’re seeing stories about high schoolers who have forgone going off to college to opt for an online experience. They’re seeing this option as an opportunity to save that money on tuition and room and board. They can spend less on an online school and potentially enter the workforce faster.

Personal writer’s note: If I’m being honest, I’m totally jealous. I’m old enough that having internet access in your dorm room wasn’t a given. I had to go to a computer lab that had monitors the size of a microwave. Online school was definitely not an option when I went to college. It’s hard to say what we’d do retroactively with a lot of life between now and that decision, but I think I’d have taken the online route. Or maybe that’s because I’m really tired of having so much college debt? #lolsob

Are Online Academies As Good As College, or Better?

There is no simple answer to whether online schools are as good as, or better than a traditional college. There are so many factors to take into consideration, and no two people are completely alike.

Time Spent Learning Coding:

– Coding/Engineering/IT boot camps are generally 3-6 months with some up to a year long. They are incredibly intensive and focused solely on the specific subject you are getting a certification in.
– “Traditional” school takes approximately 2 years for an associate’s degree, and 4 years for a bachelor’s degree with intense class schedules. This also involves many courses that do not pertain to your chosen field of study. (Masters and Doctorate programs (Ph.D./ED/MD et al) range very broadly, but it’s not a quick experience to complete.)

What can be perceived as pros and cons of the information above are definitely person-to-person dependent. Your decision can be influenced by many factors. Such as living situations, marriage/partnerships, finances, having a felony charge, debt, etc. These, and so many other circumstances, are all things that can affect which way someone gets the education needed to meet their career goals.

College Accreditation vs. Online Certification

– An online coding or engineering/IT boot camp will provide a certification. However, it is rare that these certifications are officially accredited by any of the higher education commissions.
– Traditional college degrees are almost always accepted carte blanche as accredited.

Does that matter? Well, that all depends on what’s listed in the job requirements. If the requirements say you must have at least a bachelor’s degree, then your online certification may not be received. If they say “commensurate experience”, your chances of having the certification respected are far higher. Either way, we firmly believe that you should apply if you think you’ve got the chops to back it up.

Cost of Coding Education

– Online academies can cost anywhere from $3,000 to upwards of $17,000 in total. This is to fully complete the courses and receive your certification.
– Traditional schools that have a minimum of a four-year enrollment to receive a degree can cost anywhere between $2,500 and up to $80,000 per semester or higher. This is dependent on many factors such as whether you’re living on campus or if the school is located in an expensive metropolitan area, etc.

Once again, there are so many factors that come into play when considering the cost/benefits of going either route. If you spend nearly $17,000 on a coding academy, will it get you enough clout to land the job you really want and need? Conversely, if you rack up 6 figures worth of debt, is there a guarantee that you will be hired right out of college, either? Well, according to a national survey in 2020, 41% of college graduates are working in positions that did not require a college degree. Equally, there has been an overall decrease in college enrollment over the last 5 years, but the tech workforce is booming, yes even despite some big layoffs. There seems to be some writing on the wall, but we won’t claim Nostradamus-like predictions here, and we are absolutely not judging anyone’s choice.

Daggerhart Lab has a total mix of people with diverse educational backgrounds. Some of us have no degree but a whole lot of life experience, some of us have bachelor’s, some have master’s degrees, and a number of us have used online schooling to refocus our careers. We honor whichever path gets you to where you want to be.

What Can You Do To Boost Your Online Certification or Degree?

We firmly recommend you be a part of the communities you want to work within. For example, if you’re hoping to work in Drupal, go to Drupal meet-ups and DrupalCons to get involved with the people you want to work with in the future. You can learn tangible skills to utilize in your future field, including valuable and practical approaches to landing interviews and jobs.

Take “informational interviews” with companies that you admire and would like to work for. These are essentially interviews where you can sit with a hiring manager to discuss what they seek out when looking for a potential employee. You can learn a lot about their company culture, areas of expertise that you should be focusing your education on, and how to cultivate a resume that will catch their eye. This can often turn into a great way to get your foot in the door by showing them you are ready to put in the work and that you’re passionate about becoming their employee.

Find Your Way To a Tech Career

When it comes to breaking into the tech industry for our crew – the path doesn’t matter, the work does. We like to align with people who take pride in what they do without making their job their personality. While that is more than okay and works well for some folks, we’re doing great by keeping work and personal life separate. To each their own!

While Daggerhart Lab is definitely more on the “commensurate experience” side of necessary job requirements than the college degree side, we encourage you to use the resources you have with whichever path you take. Whether you do an online boot camp or a traditional college, there are almost always career resources available to you. You’ve paid for the service of their education, and it includes these resources – be sure to use them!

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