Do you need a college degree in 2022 to start a career in programming?

Many big tech companies have publicly said they don’t require a college degree for certain jobs. Along with much press, these announcements also made a lot of tech “influencers” advocating naive students not to pursue college.

A recent survey by Stack Overflow shows that 87% of software developers have a college degree. 24% of professional developers even have a Master’s degree.

But the survey also shows that only 62% of developers learn to code from schools or colleges compared to 71% learning from the internet.

While the argument that “you can learn everything taught in computer science college courses from the internet” is valid, does it mean they are obsolete?

My answer is no. I would argue that stem degrees, especially computer science degrees, can help you start a career in programming.

People advocating for no degrees make a lot of arguments like:

  1. it costs a lot
  2. a boot camp or an online course is just as effective
  3. a lot of companies don’t care about your degrees

But these arguments are always taken out of context and are downright wrong for some audiences.

Colleges costs a lot in countries like the US, which overwhelmingly has a lot of developers. Of course, most tech content creators are from the US and would look at things from a US perspective.

But what about countries like India?

You can get a computer science engineering degree from a good (not the best) public college with around $600 in tuition. Even if you consider $2,000 for a degree in India, it is significantly much lower than in the US (around $50,000 at least).

A new graduate in India can make at least $4000 to $5000, giving a higher ROI than for a US graduate.

A lucrative alternative for these costly college degrees comes in the form of online courses and coding boot camps. And they do make sense in the US, where companies might actually hire people without college degrees.

Coding boot camps and paid online courses are also a thing in India. Some of these are good and help bridge the gap between what colleges teach and the industry.

But will companies hire you without a degree even if you completed courses or boot camps?

Most won’t.

India has a large number of programmers. Even with most of them having a degree, getting hired is still difficult. While you can argue that skill level is a factor, there is no argument that companies will filter you out based on your college degree.

And this makes complete sense. How else do you initially filter out hundreds, if not thousands, of resumes for an entry-level job?

With that being said, there are a lot of new startups that are hiring programmers without college degrees.

In my four years of working full-time, I have worked at multiple companies in India and abroad, and no one has ever asked me for my college qualifications. But behind the scenes, it may have influenced some hiring decisions.

Arguments supporting no degrees make sense when given the correct context. But understanding your context and judging whether it makes sense for you is what you have to consider.

While college degrees do not imply skill and competency for a job, it is still a huge factor in hiring decisions. There will be a future where college degrees won’t matter as much, but it overwhelmingly does today.