I am not against college/university degrees per se. But as far as preparation for a career, I think it really just depends.
Wanna be a doctor, lawyer, pharmacist, nurse, mechanical engineer, NFL football player, etc, etc… well, you are of course going to need some undergraduate and usually some graduate school often leading up to a certification exam of some sort. And/or internships.
But what if you want to do something that doesn’t require a degree?
What do some enlightened/practical companies hiring software engineers write in their job descriptions?
- Google: “Bachelor’s degree in computer science or other technical field. In lieu of degree, 4 years work and/or professional programming experience.”
- Microsoft: NO MENTION of school whatsoever in their “Basic Qualifications” section for a senior software position.
- Amazon: “Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science or related field, or 4+ years relevant work experience”
- Turbine: “College Degree or Equivalent Work Experience”
Get the picture? Now maybe I am cherry-picking a career and most other jobs are not so lax on the college requirement. I doubt it.
Now sure, within these companies there are certainly positions that they are looking for degrees for if you want to start right in at a senior level instead of working one’s way up. Google says for example in their “preferred qualifications” section for one more senior position: “Masters or Doctoral degree for senior positions” Microsoft likewise… “Computer Science degree, or Bachelor of Science in an engineering discipline.”
So check out those job offers and go figure out what “Experience building and operating online services and fault-tolerant distributed systems” means. And what “MCTS certification in SQL Server 2005/2008 Database Development” is. Confused? Take some free online courses from MIT or Stanford or somewhere.
You’ll have a job in no time.
(As long as you move to CA, WA, NY, or MA.)
Careers differ in:
- solo enterprise (vs group)
- must learn from an expert craftsman in person (vs “books”) — e.g. in person: therapist, doctor, ferrier, backcountry guide
- requires stamp of approval or certification (vs not) — (e.g. plumber: licence required. carpenter: no license)
Not that it is an either/or… Software lends itself well to allowing one to apprentice oneself initially on one’s own with resources available in books/videos/web/online courses/certification courses/etc and then very quickly jump into a entry-level job where one can learn from “the masters”. There’s not necessarily a huge advantage to a 4-year degree career-wise
Maybe people out there disagree. But that’s been my personal experience.