Do I Need To Go To College To Learn Programming?

In an era of rapid technological advancement, programming has become a core skill across numerous sectors, not only in tech industries. One question that often arises among aspiring programmers is: Do I need to go to college to learn programming? The answer is both complex and nuanced, grounded in one’s personal circumstances, learning style, and career goals.

Do I Need to go to College to Learn Programming? - Hero

Firstly, it’s crucial to emphasize that attending a traditional college to study Computer Science or a related field isn’t the only path to becoming proficient in programming. Today, an abundance of resources, including online tutorials, boot camps, free coding platforms, and community-led initiatives, offer alternative ways to acquire and develop programming skills.

There is the self-taught, boot camp, or college route.

Self-Taught

Online learning platforms like Coursera, edX, and Udemy, among others, offer comprehensive programming courses. These courses often include hands-on coding exercises and projects that provide real-world problem-solving experience. Meanwhile, coding bootcamps, such as General Assembly or Flatiron School, offer intense, focused training programs that promise to equip you with the necessary skills for a career in programming in a matter of weeks or a few months.

Self-directed learning, through books, coding challenges, open-source contributions, and building personal projects, can be another effective way to learn programming. These routes offer the flexibility to learn at your own pace, allowing you to juggle other commitments simultaneously.

There are two sub-routes that I would consider in the self-taught category: the free route and the paid route.

Free

Even though this route is free, this route may be the hardest to pursue because you do not have guidance.

There are free options that you can use online to teach yourself. These options include reading the documentation, YouTube videos, and FreeCodeCamp.

This route does have a cost, though. It’s not a financial cost, but it is a personal cost. You must be determined to succeed in the self-taught route.

There may be a lot of information on the internet to learn programming, but it requires effort to search for that information. You can watch YouTube videos. However, for some people, that doesn’t work, and they need someone to guide them through the learning process.

The free route requires a vast portfolio of projects, and it is best to have at least 20 projects.

Paid

The paid route is easier than the free route if you want to teach yourself programming. Instead of searching online for information, you can spend on a platform for a curriculum that guides you through the learning process.

These platforms also guide you through many projects you can add to your portfolio. I recommend the paid route if you want to teach yourself.

Bootcamps

Bootcamps are an up-and-coming alternative education to a traditional four-year college. There is a high emphasis on practicality, but many Boot Camps need help giving you the core computer science fundamentals you may need.

Do I Need to go to College to Learn Programming? Bootcamps

I went to a Bootcamp where I only had to pay tuition once I got a job making $50,000.

Bootcamps are great, especially for people switching careers to software development. You don’t have to break the bank by returning to a traditional college.

Bootcamps generally are cheaper than a traditional college. At least, that was my experience. Bootcamps have structured curriculum and make the most sense to break into the field without breaking the buck. One of the best bootcamp out there is nucamp.

College

Nevertheless, the value of a college education in learning programming shouldn’t be underestimated. Formal education provides a structured learning environment, mentorship from experienced professionals, and a broad curriculum covering not only practical programming skills but also theoretical computer science concepts.

These theoretical aspects – including data structures, algorithms, computational theory, and more – are essential to understand how to optimize code, solve complex problems, and design efficient software systems.

Moreover, a degree often brings a significant networking advantage. College offers opportunities to connect with like-minded peers, collaborate on projects, and get involved in research opportunities. Often, these networks can lead to job opportunities post-graduation.

After high school, you traditionally go to a four-year degree and get into debt up to your eyeballs.  I took this route with a bachelor’s degree in something that wasn’t related to programming, and I ended up not using that degree much anyway.

If you are sure you want to pursue programming, colleges have a reputation in accreditation recognized by many employers.

Since boot camps are the new kid on the block, some employers inherently want someone with computer science or a software engineering degree, even though they say it’s not required.

However, the drawbacks of college are that you get fewer practical skills than at Boot Camp or even self-taught. However, you get more valuable theory and computer science fundamentals, like big O notation.

Employment Considerations

From an employment perspective, it’s worth noting that many companies still require a Computer Science degree for programming roles, particularly for more advanced positions. A degree can serve as a stamp of approval, demonstrating to potential employers that you have a certain level of competence and commitment.

However, the tech industry has shown an increasing willingness to hire self-taught programmers or boot camp graduates, particularly those who can demonstrate their skills through a strong portfolio of projects. Furthermore, some industry giants like Google and Apple have publicly stated that they do not require a degree for certain tech roles.

My experience

When I was 18 and graduated high school, my parents told me I should consider majoring in computer science or software engineering. However, like most 18-year-olds, they think their parents are not smart.

It took me ten years to finally realize that I like programming enough to pursue it. My parents knew me a lot better than I knew myself.

Now, I am trying to reinvent myself, and I had to go about it nontraditionally. I graduated from a Boot Camp in January 2021, In September 2022. I decided to get a software engineering degree at Western Governors University online.

If you are going through a career change, give Boot Camp a shot.

If you struggle to get a job after a Boot Camp, consider returning to college. If you do enough research, there are some cheap options for college where you don’t need to pay $20,000 a year.

I went to Western Governors University, which was about $4000 every six months, which is cheap compared to many colleges today.

If you are coming out of high school and think you want to go into programming but are not confident, stick with the traditional college because it is easier to focus on something else. If you find out, you don’t like it.

Summary

I have thrown a lot at you. Let me help you digest this information by making a table.

PathPrice (USD)CurriculumCohort Available?Job HelpEmployability Difficulty
Free$0You Need To Find The ResourcesNoNoHardest
Paid$10 – $300/Month, Varies By PlatformGuidedY/N, VariesDepends on the PlatformHarder
Boot CampFlexible OptionsGuidedYesYesMedium
College$4,000+GuidedYes, ClassesLimitedEasier/Medium

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Final Thoughts

Ultimately, the decision to attend college to learn programming will depend on your personal circumstances and goals. If you thrive in structured learning environments, seek a deep understanding of theoretical concepts, and aim for companies that value formal education, then college might be a worthwhile investment.

On the other hand, if you’re a self-driven learner, need to balance other commitments, or are comfortable proving your skills through practical work and projects, then alternative paths might suit you better.

Remember, there’s no “one-size-fits-all” answer to this. The most important thing is to choose the path that aligns with your learning style, career goals, and life situation. Programming is a field that rewards skill, creativity, and dedication – whether learned in a university lecture hall or in the comfort of your own home.

If this information helps you or someone else, share it with them. I would like to ask you a few questions to open up a discussion.

  1. Do you know someone that can benefit from this information? Or can you benefit from the information?
  2. Do you have any thoughts about any of these routes?
  3. What important things can you take away from this information?

5 thoughts on “Do I Need To Go To College To Learn Programming?”

  1. Hi Jordon,

    I do like the level of detail this platform provides in programming and development. It’s clear that a lot of thought has gone into organizing the options and courses in a way that breaks down complex content into easily manageable sections. This structure not only facilitates learning but also encourages progression at a comfortable pace. The segmented approach helps in digesting intricate programming concepts without feeling overwhelmed. I appreciate the effort to cater to both beginners and experienced developers alike, making this a valuable resource for a wide audience. Thank you for creating an educational experience that respects the learning curve and empowers users to build their skills systematically.

    Best regards,

    Dean

    Reply
  2. Hello Jordan,

    I enjoyed your article about if someone needs college to learn programming. I like how you broke it down into different ways to learn. For free, on your own, paid, and/or going to college. I also like that you put the highlights into a table because yes it is a lot to digest.

    Thx!

    Reply
  3. Thank you for covering all the different ways you can learn programming. It breaks down self-taught methods, free and paid options, bootcamps and traditional college routes, offering a comprehensive view of the learning landscape. The challenges and benefits, is especially helpful. I appreciate the practical insights into building a portfolio and the emphasis on determination in the self-taught section.

    I like that the post acknowledges the evolving employment landscape in the tech industry, where degrees were historically preferred but there is now a growing acceptance of self-taught and bootcamp graduates. This information gives me a realistic view of what to expect in the job market. Overall, the post serves as a valuable resource for someone like me who is trying to figure out the best path to learn programming.

    Reply
  4. As someone interested in learning programming, I find the information valuable and relatable. It provides insights that can benefit individuals at various stages of their programming journey. I appreciate the thorough exploration of different learning routes. The pros and cons presented for each option help in understanding the complexities involved in making such a decision. The importance of aligning the chosen learning path with personal circumstances, the consideration of costs beyond financial aspects, and the recognition of the evolving industry attitudes towards non-traditional candidates are key takeaways for me.

    Reply
  5. Hey Jordan, 

    Your topic explores whether a college education is necessary to learn programming, presenting various paths, including self-taught methods, boot camps, and traditional college education. It thoroughly examines the pros and cons of each approach, highlighting the flexibility, cost, and depth of learning associated with each. The article does a commendable job of demystifying the journey to becoming a programmer. Seeing a balanced view acknowledging no one-size-fits-all path to learning programming is refreshing. The emphasis on aligning one’s choice with personal circumstances, goals, and learning style is precious. It’s a reminder that the tech industry values skill and dedication, which can be acquired through multiple avenues, not just traditional education. This perspective empowers aspiring programmers, offering them the confidence to choose the path that best suits their needs.

    Reply

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