College Degrees Shouldn't Be Required for Tech Jobs

  • Comments posted to this topic are about the item College Degrees Shouldn't Be Required for Tech Jobs

  • I went to a presentation that gave the opinion that technology is moving so fast that in a 4 year Computer Science degree the stuff you learn in the 1st year is obsolete by the time you get to the 4th.  I'm about 50:50 on that one.  You'd expect a degree relevant to the chosen profession to add some value to a candidate.

    Otherwise I would question why a degree in art history would make me more desirable as a computer programmer than someone with a computer programming hobby and no degree.

    I can see the relevance of a degree for a new starter with no experience.  A recruiter is going to be looking for evidence of ability and in the absence of relevant work experience that is all they have to go on. Once you have experience and a CV that has decent length of service track record then the qualifications you gained in your early 20s become progressively less relevant.

  • I know that some of the courses I took early in college helped lay a foundation of knowledge for me. I also know that some training courses I took as an adult, outside of college, did the same thing for me -- it wasn't only in formal education.

    I have no regrets for having earned a college degree. I believe it helped me build critical thinking skills and helped me learn to collaborate in ways that have been essential in my career. But I do think that you're right that it's a bit odd that my degrees in humanities and philosophy would make me a viable candidate for some tech jobs, whereas someone with only experience might not even qualify for a phone screen.

  • My youngest son gained a degree in Civil Engineering a few years ago and while I can't imagine it helped him too much with the following three years he worked in the Student Union bar (typing that still does things to my blood pressure), it did help him in his new career as a software tester. His knowledge of concrete mixes and metal stress isn't of much benefit but his critical thinking, team working, documentation and communication skills as well as his ability to follow/update processes has helped him considerably.
    Some years ago the BBC changed it's criteria for trainee engineers - instead of a technical degree they were also willing to accept people with English literature degrees, because they were struggling to find suitable candidates. The thinking behind it was that they were mainly interested in people that could prove they had the ability to study and research. I have no idea how that worked out for them, in regard to acceptance and qualification rates.

    As an aside - Kendra, it does tickle me that you're listed as a newbie here. If you need any help with basic SQL stuff, please make sure you show what you've tried so far, or we'll just ignore you...

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  • This editorial really hits home for me. When I started, you couldn't even *get* a degree in IT - there were just a few classes available, like COBOL (yes, I'm old). So I never pursued one until much later, when I somehow made time for an Associates degree (over 30 years of working). I still see so many positions requiring a Bachelors or Masters (in *anything*, not IT), but when I read the job requirements it's obvious I'm easily qualified. Some of the more forward-thinking employers will tack on "or equivalent experience" but not enough of them.  

    The other thing I've noticed lately is an unwillingness to pay for those degrees or experience. Jobs that practically match my resume are listed at 10-30k under what I already earn. I would understand this if they were getting filled, but I see them available for 8-9 months (and get called for them by a new swarm of recruiters every month as the hapless employer tries new agencies to fill the position). After a position is open for that long, you would think management would understand that the law of supply and demand applies just as it does in any marketplace.

  • BrainDonor - Friday, September 7, 2018 2:48 AM

    My youngest son gained a degree in Civil Engineering a few years ago and while I can't imagine it helped him too much with the following three years he worked in the Student Union bar (typing that still does things to my blood pressure), it did help him in his new career as a software tester. His knowledge of concrete mixes and metal stress isn't of much benefit but his critical thinking, team working, documentation and communication skills as well as his ability to follow/update processes has helped him considerably.
    Some years ago the BBC changed it's criteria for trainee engineers - instead of a technical degree they were also willing to accept people with English literature degrees, because they were struggling to find suitable candidates. The thinking behind it was that they were mainly interested in people that could prove they had the ability to study and research. I have no idea how that worked out for them, in regard to acceptance and qualification rates.

    As an aside - Kendra, it does tickle me that you're listed as a newbie here. If you need any help with basic SQL stuff, please make sure you show what you've tried so far, or we'll just ignore you...

    Hahahah, I try to keep the mindset of a newbie in everything, because as soon as I'm sure I know what I'm doing, I am sure to find out something to the contrary anyway!

  • Good article! I took the (UK) "day-release" route and studied for 10 years to get my degree-equivalent Chemical Engineering qualification (via NC, HNC, Endorsements, CEI part 1, 2, IChemE Design Project). Got made redundant 4 days after finishing 🙁 ... But, whilst doing the Design Project, I taught myself Fortran to help find the solutions. Discovered I had an aptitude for programming, took a 3-month COBOL course ... and have never looked back! Over 30 years later though, I sometimes still have to explain why I'm good enough despite not having a degree. :ermm:
    I do feel sorry for younger folk, because I know some feel forced into doing a degree just to be acceptable in the job market, when an apprenticeship / on-the-job training might suit them better.

  • 37 years in the IT back into business (but *did* get an early Comp. Sci. degree in 1981) and if I had go back into management [shudder] I would demand a college degree from anyone I'd hire.

    Simple reason: college-educated folks are easier to manage.  Three of the most technically adepts folks I've ever worked with did not complete their college education (one never attended).  They are excellent developers/systems engineers.  But all 3 were a major pain to manage and most folks did not want them on their team.  You know the type: they spend more time complaining about red tape and procedures than it would've taken to simply get the task done and stop fighting City Hall.  Always an uphill battle to get them to turn in their hours, close their open tickets, get their annual goals done, close their RDP session, email the team when they change something in production, etc. etc.  YEAH, it's a pain.  Guess what?  WE ALL have to do it.

    So, sorry, I have to disagree.  There's many great developers and systems engineers out there to have to put up with the whiny little b's out there that believe that technical acumen is be-all/end-all.  And all too often those are the folks that didn't follow a four-year university program to its completion.

  • I think this is a great and timely editorial. 

    My organization requires degrees for almost all of our positions, even for customer relations representatives whose primary requirements are to be personable and have decent computer application and communication skills - things you can easily acquire without spending $100k+ on a four-year degree. Since becoming involved in hiring for our IT positions I am actively pushing back against this; my mantra is "smart, nice, self-motivated: everything else we can train".

    A four-year degree is a great signal to an employer: you stuck with something for four years, you probably know how to read and write at a decent level, and you may have retained some of your classwork. It is also a signal that you probably have a lot of debt that you need to service, and as an employee you will be more dependent on your employer than you would be without that additional burden. I do not want to contribute to this new indentured servitude.

  • andycao - Friday, September 7, 2018 5:53 AM

    37 years in the IT back into business (but *did* get an early Comp. Sci. degree in 1981) and if I had go back into management [shudder] I would demand a college degree from anyone I'd hire.

    Simple reason: college-educated folks are easier to manage.  Three of the most technically adepts folks I've ever worked with did not complete their college education (one never attended).  They are excellent developers/systems engineers.  But all 3 were a major pain to manage and most folks did not want them on their team.  You know the type: they spend more time complaining about red tape and procedures than it would've taken to simply get the task done and stop fighting City Hall.  Always an uphill battle to get them to turn in their hours, close their open tickets, get their annual goals done, close their RDP session, email the team when they change something in production, etc. etc.  YEAH, it's a pain.  Guess what?  WE ALL have to do it.

    So, sorry, I have to disagree.  There's many great developers and systems engineers out there to have to put up with the whiny little b's out there that believe that technical acumen is be-all/end-all.  And all too often those are the folks that didn't follow a four-year university program to its completion.

    I think this is down to personal experience.  In my experience I have always seen these types of attitudes as part of a persons nature/personality (you can't assume that people leave RDP sessions open because they didnt get a degree?).  The staff I have dealt with who have been like this all have degrees, so I have never thought that these types of attitudes are anything to do with a persons academic education.  Also in my experience, four years working in industry exposed me to far more experiences of team working, working to tight/strict deadlines and adherring to organisational rules than 4 years at University ever did!

  • I would have to agree with different parts of almost all the prior replies.  If I am hiring for an entry level position then having a degree related to computers would give a candidate an edge over most other candidates, although I am willing to talk to non-degree holders for these entry level positions if they have something on the resume that indicates some skill.  For any experienced position I really don't care if the candidates have a degree, at this point I am looking for what they have done/can do and what their attitude is toward work.  To this day I think the best person I ever hired did not have a degree, but when I hired him he had a great recommendation and a great attitude. 

    To andycao's point, some people can be easier to manage, but I haven't witnessed that having a degree or not having a degree has anything to do with that.  I have had just as many degree holders that couldn't follow good programming practices as I have in the non degree holders.  Maybe I've been lucky but as a whole my non-degree employees have been some of the best employees I have had.

    One of the biggest problems I have with hiring is the sheer number of resumes/CVs that come in for a given position.  Well over 90% of them are not even close to qualified for a position 2 levels below what I am looking for.  The recruiters job is difficult and they end up relying on programs that scan the resume/CV and throw out what are perceived 'did not meet qualifications'.  Unfortunately sometimes a good resume gets lost in this process because they didn't have the correct buzzwords.  I'm not really sure how to fix the problem of hundreds of unqualified people applying for a single job.

  • Probably the best thing I've done is not pursue that degree in 'Computer Networking BSc', as soon as someone explains to me why I need Java for this, I might get all ears.

    Actually no, I didn't want to pursue 'Java 2' (I was told there is going to be only one semester of Java ... I asked 3 different people before signing up...) and I don't want to nowadays.

    I have my rather tight focus when it comes to 'programming' and that'll be SQL Scripting only, sure I might be able to do more if I knew C# and Java but for my own sanity and actually getting to have at least something remotely like holidays, I'll pass any day thinking back 14 years.

    Nowadays I more than once sit across even younger folks fresh out of University and it wouldn't be the first time when I explain how awesome Modulo Functions are to invoke Parallelism into Update CMDs in SSIS packages, I see in their eyes that they had Modulo in their first semester, too but refused to think about applying what they've been told before.

    Salary wise I'm way ahead of colleagues at the same age which do have a degree.

  • DBA_Rob - Friday, September 7, 2018 6:45 AM

    I would have to agree with different parts of almost all the prior replies.  If I am hiring for an entry level position then having a degree related to computers would give a candidate an edge over most other candidates, although I am willing to talk to non-degree holders for these entry level positions if they have something on the resume that indicates some skill.  For any experienced position I really don't care if the candidates have a degree, at this point I am looking for what they have done/can do and what their attitude is toward work.  To this day I think the best person I ever hired did not have a degree, but when I hired him he had a great recommendation and a great attitude. 

    To andycao's point, some people can be easier to manage, but I haven't witnessed that having a degree or not having a degree has anything to do with that.  I have had just as many degree holders that couldn't follow good programming practices as I have in the non degree holders.  Maybe I've been lucky but as a whole my non-degree employees have been some of the best employees I have had.

    One of the biggest problems I have with hiring is the sheer number of resumes/CVs that come in for a given position.  Well over 90% of them are not even close to qualified for a position 2 levels below what I am looking for.  The recruiters job is difficult and they end up relying on programs that scan the resume/CV and throw out what are perceived 'did not meet qualifications'.  Unfortunately sometimes a good resume gets lost in this process because they didn't have the correct buzzwords.  I'm not really sure how to fix the problem of hundreds of unqualified people applying for a single job.

    Completely agree with the number of resumes being a huge problem. We are located in the center of Vermont and for any position we post we get applicants from all over the country with very little indication that they have relevant experience or even interest. The cover letter is our first filter: if the applicant took the time to carefully read the job description, and speaks directly to the position and our company, then I'll look at the resume.

  • The requirement for a college degree, along with the very real problem of 'grade inflation' in many of our nation's best known schools is creating a madly circular situation. The stronger the push for college education, the more pointless the education becomes--meanwhile families and individuals are driven into obscene levels of debt out of a desperate feeling of necessity.

    Most tech jobs require targeted education,  not a degree. Classes I took just a few years ago are out of date, certainly a degree earned  years ago is largely irrelevant (in addition to the fact that many people wind up in fields only distantly related to their college courses).. I disagree with the assumption that it makes better employees, my works at a prestigious university and can attest to that.

    In the US, the obsession with college dates back to the time when it was ruled that aptitude tests could be considered racially discriminatory. Companies basically 'outsourced' their testing to colleges rather than risk an overzealous government second guessing them. At the same time, people with degrees were making more money and people simplistically assumed sending everyone  to college would have that everyone would make more money (alas, reality doesn't work that way). Creating more graduates does not create more big money jobs, there will always be a limited number of high paying jobs (and a limited number of suitable candidates) and everything else remains the same.

    What we have now is a nation of people with hundreds of thousands of debt doing work that could really be done with high school or some technical training. Not good. This especially works against those whose family situation doesn't allow them the luxury of an additional 4-6 years of non employment after high school.

    ...

    -- FORTRAN manual for Xerox Computers --

  • Subject like: applied mathematics, systems analysis, computing fundamentals taught using a core programming languages like C++ and SQL, database design and normalization, software development methodologies, management of information systems; these things were being taught in universities 25 years ago and still will be relevent 25 from now.

    "Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Instead, seek what they sought." - Matsuo Basho

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