I dropped out of college to attend one of those boot camp/trade schools for programming. I graduated, got a job, and now believe I have a reasonable foundation from which to continue my career. I then re-enrolled in an online college because I hear stories about people getting stonewalled 10-12 years down the road because they never got a degree.

The reason I ask this now is because trying to juggle full-time work and school is proving more difficult than I would like. So I ask, will I actually provide a benefit to myself by getting a degree? At this point in time, would I better served to just focus on work and learning skills relevant to my job (rather than the gen-ed inherent in a degree)? In 5 years, I can see my extra 4 years of work experience giving me more opportunities than the college grads with a degree and 1 year of experience, but will the same hold true 10 years down the road? 15 years?

So in short, will a degree really be all that important in this field in later years? Will I hit a glass ceiling without it? If so, when would this occur? Would I be able to earn my degree then? Or will I find it just as hard or harder to do when I'm 30+?

I ask this here because I'd like to get answers from both people working in the industry, as well as from the people that hire us.

  • 2
    "The reason I ask this now is because trying to juggle full-time work and school is proving more difficult than I would like. " - This doesn't sound like a good reason to drop out just because it is difficult. It's hard to say college won't help. Sometimes it does, other times it doesn't. If you can go to college that is a better idea than not going. – Dan Aug 8 '16 at 16:19
  • 3
    "Or will I find it just as hard or harder to do when I'm 30+?" - of you can't manage work and school now, it's hard to imagine that it will be easier later on. – WorkerDrone Aug 8 '16 at 16:21
  • 1
    What classes to take and skills to learn is explicitly off topic. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Aug 8 '16 at 16:31
  • 1
    That is exactly what this is do i need to take the classes to get a degree... – IDrinkandIKnowThings Aug 8 '16 at 16:33
  • 2
    Ive worked with holders of Comp Sci Bachelors w/Hons degrees that couldn't code worth a damn, and I've had first hand experience of degree programs which were 5 years out of date (no, I wont use client side JS to switch out CSS style sheets when the screen size changes, we use things called media queries for that), so I dont give any weight to degrees when hiring, just the results of interviews, technical tests and gut feeling. – Moo Aug 8 '16 at 17:02

Unless you are studying a topic to which a degree provides specialist knowledge/skills you'll find it's generally used as a shorthand to you being skilled.

As you gain real, demonstrable experience, this becomes less relevant/useful, and generally after a couple of years experience, the degree contributes little other than a box-tick.

Should you drop out? No one can tell you this, you need to think about your situation and why you are doing the degree and decide. I would expect as a manager of devs/web devs any interview would likely have a skills assesment anyway which would be the primary focus.

Will having no degree hinder you? Depends. I am a senior manager in IT with over 20 years experience in both the UK and North America, have had the big US West coast boys reach out to me in the same way you hear about, moved up from a UI dev, through backend to large scale enterprise, then into architecture and management, without a degree. I got into the market in the late 90s though, when the build up to Y2K meant they would take just about anyone with a pulse, so got the chance to establish my credentials.

Has it stopped me? Some places will not accept you, for some it won't matter. I've lost out maybe nine or ten times when applying (companies explicitly requiring a degree), but I always see the required degree on the job description and apply anyway, and am upfront on it (remember you're in a list with Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and they did OK on pure talent). This is from micro startups to big blue chips and consultancies.

My thoughts at the time were the balance over earning and getting real experience over pushing for the qualification (I dropped out as in trying to get the required year's placement for the degree I was on I got offered a real job instead). In today's North America you need to also gauge earning over student loans, and in 4 years time even on a possible lower salary as a no-degree hire, your situation could be radically different to 4 years of debt.

The main thing is you need to be good, talk the talk and walk the walk, I always got on because I was the guy who read tech books on the long commute and played with cool stuff in my lunch hour, so knew all about the latest tech/frameworks/languages, get lots of good demos together, get stuff on Github etc. You can do it if you have the drive.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    "remember you're in a list with Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg," - LOL! That's what all the drop-outs say. – WorkerDrone Aug 8 '16 at 16:38
  • 1
    No I do say that, I left because there was real opportunity rather than stay in the fluffy world of academia. I remember asking one of my profs on why the compiler was still DOS based rather then Windows, his reply was "well they keep changing Windows every couple of years so I couldn't find the time to pick it up" – The Wandering Dev Manager Aug 8 '16 at 16:41
  • 1
    It depends on how you frame it. If he can show real business experience that will count, even if the business failed. – The Wandering Dev Manager Aug 8 '16 at 16:49
  • 1
    And my position is that having real experience in the OP's company will be as useful/more useful as trying to juggle a degree on top in the long term, and if that is the only reason they are doing it, they need to think if it's worth it. – The Wandering Dev Manager Aug 8 '16 at 16:51
  • 1
    @WorkerDrone - My last round of job hunting netted 6 offers, which meant when I took the most interesting job it paid 50% more than my target salary, I own 2 homes outright, no student debt and paid for my new car with cash, how would I benefit from a degree? – The Wandering Dev Manager Aug 8 '16 at 23:25

I'm in a similar boat as you...Started going to school as a Computer Science Major and now since the fall of 2015 dropped out to get a job as a web developer. Before dropping out I had about 2 years invested in school and racked up some debt.

I'm making the decision to go back to school and finish, however, depending on some things (how long it will take, how the curriculum is (meaning: do I need to take gen ed courses again or other meaningless courses that don't directly benefit me with my job or career)) I may opt for a different major (maybe Information Science and Technology, or business).

Also I would recommend looking at cheap options for school (I'm not talking about devry university or an unaccredited place, I mean a cheap(er) in-state school). Look for scholarships and maybe benefits that your job may provide money for you to go back to school.

I feel the value of school is more important than the degree and the degree can be a ticket to a better life. The key word there is can.

| improve this answer | |

If you only want to be a web developer then not much. There will be some jobs you will be locked out of but a lot of jobs still available. Some management tracks you might get locked out of. A degree from an online college without a solid reputation is not going to have much value.

Of the professional careers I think programming is the most tolerant of not having a degree.

It is also a quality of life thing. Degreed workplace are nicer to work at in my opinion.

| improve this answer | |
  • 'Degreed workplace are nicer to work at in my opinion' - what's that? Can't say I've noticed an IT workplace that was different because people had degrees – The Wandering Dev Manager Aug 8 '16 at 18:54
  • @TheWanderingDevManager I clearly stated in my opinion. If you have opinion / experience then fine. – paparazzo Aug 8 '16 at 19:04

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .