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back to article Don't bother with that degree, say IT pros

Learning to code in your bedroom will prepare you for the IT job market just as well as a three-year degree costing £27,000, professionals said in a survey published today by CWJobs.co.uk. More than half the IT professionals polled said they would not do an IT-related degree today if they were paying the increased fees, which …

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FAIL

True

except you won't get past the HR CV sift without a degree.

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HR?

This is why the industry is in such shit hole. HR in some companies need to fired or shot simply for rejecting any CV without a degree on it.

Some of the greatest developers don't have a degree. Requiring a degree just to get to interview stage will risk that company losing some pretty good talent.

I would easily considering take a developer with 3 years experience and no degree depending on his/her evidence and some basic interview concepts testing.

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Boffin

Correct

A degree acts as a credential that says 'I learned something' - a degree from a big name uni counting for a lot more than one from a newer uni.

In general, I think too much focus is placed on degrees these days. A lot of people could go into certain jobs without a degree and be just as good. But employers insist on them (irrationally), so everyone must trot along to university or be judged a waste of space.

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This is the real problem. IT recruitment is all done by checkboxes and numbers. If you could get the job without the degree I'd never have taken a degree.

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Well....

I don’t have a degree and seem to be doing very well thank you very much, however I have worked since I was 16 / GCSE age in a computer shop etc before working my way up. So have experience.

The other side of the coin is the people doing IT degrees because IT gets sold as a well paying job. The people come out of Uni with no experience and wonder why they don’t get hired for the well paying jobs.

I’m now in a position to hire etc - I would take experience over a degree, and in a perfect world Industry cert's with experience as my preferred choice.

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Pirate

It's a useful first line filter.

If a company specifies that I must have a degree to work there, I can be pretty sure I won't want to work there.

GJC

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HR imposter in the reg

Some of us work hard in HR to stop that kind of mindless sifting occuring, just thought I would say :) And it usually comes from managers (why do they need a degree, oh they just do, stop arguing about what I want)

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Weirdly the degree you actually have is actually less important than having one... a degree basically says "yup, I left my parents' basement and went away for three years to gain some life experience*" ... my programming experience is largely web based (LAMP stack) but I've also taught myself Perl, C#, Java to a certain extent and tinkered with C++ (when Valve released the Half-Life SDK with the full source code I HAD to have a look).

The one advantage I'd say self-taught "bedroom enthusiasts" have is that they tend to remain enthusiasts (e.g. enthusiastic about programming) ... something the education machine can have a nasty habit of draining away.

Oh, my degree ... Arts & Design, finalled in Fine Art Sculpture - on paper I'm more qualified to cast bronze, use an arc welder, or chisel stone than I am to turn on a PC - and I have far less enthusiasm for art these days than I do well structured objects or good database design.

*life experiences such as alcohol tolerances, surviving food poisoning and experimentation with controlled substances and sexuality ...

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Anonymous Coward

I work with two people who managed to secure degrees and get jobs in IT in my dept and they are still as thick as flour enriched, extra strength pig-shit! It's not just a case of not being technically knowledgable but genuinely f**king thick at most things!

I wonder how on earth they manage to get themselves dressed in the morning, some days! Sad fact of the matter is these sorts of people only got jobs in IT as they were promised good money, not 'cos they care about the work or enjoy technical challenges on a daily basis.

I studied up to A-level and enjoyed working as a tape-monkey at a data centre so much during that last Summer at school, I got a real job. Eventually I moved over to system admin on Novell and finally to Unix/Oracle admin. I have no wish to be in management which almost certainly requires a degree these days. I enjoy being back-room and treated like a mushroom, thanks very much!

Alright a degree might have helped me get my foot in few more doors and I have to "fight" a little harder in the interviews I do get, but 25 years experience in IT admin seems to have kept me going. I have every intention of working my mortgage off by the time I'm 45 and then getting a series of ever crappy jobs to keep me going until I can retire and take up my hobby of photography, full time!

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Anonymous Coward

@AC 12:42

Your description sounds a little like my CV!

I did A levels (back in 1981) and was just sick of academia, so rather than waist time and money going to uni I looked for a job.

When I left school I had only ever seen/used one computer doing a summer job in an insurance company (my school got it's first BBC micro the year after I left), but I endied up getting a job in operations. The main qualification was probably my driving license as I needed to do shift work and the trains/buses don't run that well at 1:00am.

When I had some free time I started doing little scripts (in DCL mainly) and later became the trainee programmer, entirely because the management saw what I had already managed to do by reading the manuals on my own.

Everything else I have learnt by reading the manuals along with some trial and error, and learnig from some very experience co-workers.

Over the years I only know of one occasion that I have not been call for an interview due to not having a degree, and that was with an outfit that were a spin-off from a University, so prejudice was to be expected.

Also over the past quarter century that I have been doing this job, I have only met about 4 or 5 IT Graduates I would regards as being anything other than useless. Of those 3 had done the job full-time before hand, and only got the academic qualifications after being made redundant.

The main reason most gratuates are useless is that they have in fact been trained in the worst programming practices known, by people how typically cannot do real/useful software development themselves. The end result are very old children who technically would have been better of buying a few good books and playing with software development on a Linux download. With a total cost of maybe a £100 or so plus an old PC.

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FASLE!!

I started work straight from school with not even bedroom coding practise and by 20 I was an "Associate Systems Engineer" at EDS, by 21 I was a full Systems Engineer and I was training 22-24 year old graduates who were on about 10K less than me... I had no debts where as they all had crippling student loans even when there were no tuition fees to cope with

all it really takes to get on in this world is a serious desire to succeed and the tiniest bit of luck... mostly all it requires is standing up and saying "I can do that" whenever you hear someone saying they need something doing - even if you don't know how you can quickly find out how and get the job done

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Anonymous Coward

Yes you will

I have been working in IT for 30 years. I have been a programmer, network engineer, pc tech, etc. etc. All the jobs I have applied for have some tests, and as long as you pass the tests and do well on them, you are in. Most corporations want results more than a piece of paper.

The ones that will require the piece of paper are School based jobs, with other acredited positions. They are in the business of education and so they require one in order to qualify, but a vast majority of IT jobs have been found to have better people that are self taught.

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Anonymous Coward

Amen to that, who would the IT department rather employ? The guy with a proven track record and years of experience or the snotfaced muppet with a degree and no clue about real world IT?

Now ask HR the same question.

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Unhappy

I wonder if HR people spot the irony ...

in using such a de-humanising term as 'human resources' when they mean 'people' or 'personnel' ?

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Trollface

Tell that to kids now-a-days

Sounds like the IT equivalent of the Monty Python Yorkshireman sketch in here!

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So

That probably explains the magnificent job which EDS do of looking after central government IT projects...

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Anonymous Coward

We found out the hard way

Almost all the uni-grads we got were fucking useless. I'm not sure if that's a reflection on our local(ish) uni, but i'm guessing not.

Degrees mean nothing in our company these days.

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K
Bronze badge

You completely miss the point

Though a degree does not guarantee a persons abilities, it does demonstrate a certain level of aptitude and understanding which helps filter "wanna-be's" out..

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VV
Alert

or an easier prey for outsourcing...

The problem with not having a degree (in many cases) results in candidates having general skills thus making their jobs far easier to outsource. When the shareholders come asking HR "Can we find this elsewhere for cheaper?" the answer is usually "Yes"

Being able to use the tool is one thing. Applying it in an industry is another story. I.T. is used in many places. The few examples I have come across in my career are: mathematical analysis of financial statistics, chemical engineering and instrumentation design and testing.

Get a degree, find a niche and lessen the chances of the ba*tards outsourcing you.

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Trollface

@Gareth Gouldstone

Resources are something to be used up.

Now do you understand?

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Yes..

As a SMW, who went contracting ages ago , no degree, just experience and common sense, I bet I have earned more than your average graduate, and paid the gov more in tax also.

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Close

your're close. Having a Degree tells the prospective employer that you are capable

of learing on your own . And it doesn't matter what subject.

Carly Fiorina of late memory had a degree in Medieval History for gawds sake

(but she sure new how to destroy HP and the shareholders).

Anyway, I used to work for a compnay called EDS who was vry successful in hiring

'liberal arts' graduates and teaching them Cobol/PL-1/IMS/DB2 etc and did very well.

Not so well in the new reality of Java/C++ etc...

The post below reminds my of myself.

I was a Mathematics graduate and really, really thick. for a long time before

started to understand DP....

First Cobol program I tried to use a tape drive for an indexed file.....

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Childcatcher

No Degree?

I don't have a degree. But I do have a shedload of experience. Furthermore, quite what a degree acquired 20+ years ago tells the hiring community beats me. It may have suggested that at age 21-ish I managed to scrape through some exams, but it doesn't take into account that the ongoing loss of brain cells ever since has removed that capability.

I was a badge-carrying member of the Tufty Club some 50 years ago - does that mean I will get preferential treatment for any job which involves crossing the road? Or is it safe to assume that the no-hopers who work in the HR departments making ridiculous decisions wouldn't take this acquired experience into consideration?

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Holmes

Spot On

When I'm searching for jobs and come across anything which suggests I must have at least a 2.1 I automatically practice my toilet swilling abilities. Not only do I not have a degree, but if someone is making serious hiring decisions about job applicants based upon a degree which could have been acquired 20+ years ago whilst ignoring the vast experience that I have then I really don't want to be working there. Ever.

I think at least part of the problem is that those who are doing the hiring and who are stating that the degree is a requirement most probably went to university and assume that they are somehow superior to the underlings who didn't waste 4 years of their life running up massive debts.

For something like medicine then a degree could potentially add real value, because to get that degree you must have sat thru lectures and done lab work - plus answered some questions in an intelligent way, all of which would be relevant to the profession.

The worrying thing is that in today's society I fear that it won't be very long before McD's are hiring burger flippers based upon degree qualifications.

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Anonymous Coward

you're not free

"you're not free in the least, you need a diploma in this country to cut hair"

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Anonymous Coward

times have changed

20+ years ago, degree's were a rarer beast, not having one was the norm. Nowadays they are a standard part of education, so not having one makes you look uneducated.

But to be honest, i haven't seen many CV's where the person jumped out at me as being competent to be let anywhere near real software. The absolute worst were the ones straight out of uni, who claim to build commercial grade applications in their spare time. (Always java)

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Unhappy

@"except you won't get past the HR CV sift without a degree"

Unfortunately its not just HR. Me and my friends are increasingly finding that these days, the worst barrier is the job agency sales droids who don't want to put your CV through to the companies, if your CV doesn't have a degree on it.

You can even try to reason with the job agency sales droids, such as you've got decades of experience, worked on large projects, have finished products on sale for years etc.. but it often doesn't work, because the sales droids have such an apathetic negative attitude towards you as soon as they know you don't have a degree, that they pass on that apathetic attitude to the company even if you can finally get them to pass on your CV and some simply refuse to pass it on.

If you don't have a degree, the job agency sales droids don't want to know you, because you are harder to sell to companies, because you don't fit into their pigeon holed tick boxes and its getting worse, as more companies go through job agencies to find staff.

Even worse, some companies are now not even allowing people to contact them directly, because increasingly they also sub-contract out the HR CV sift to the job agencies! … That unfortunately means you have no choice. You have to deal with the sales droids and they don't want to know. :(

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Happy

Ahem. Not Monty Python.

The four Yorkshiremen sketch was from At Last The 1948 Show, not Monty Python. 50% of the original four Yorkshiremen went on to form Monty Python, and the sketch was performed by the MP team, but accuracy is important, I feel.

A wonderfully innovative and prolific time for UK comedy.

GJC

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Happy

Always enjoy a good Stanhope quote

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Silver badge

I think a lot of people here are guilty of not reading exactly what was said...

"Learning to code in your bedroom will prepare you for the IT job market just as well as a three-year degree costing £27,000, professionals said in a survey published today by CWJobs.co.uk.

More than half the IT professionals polled said they would not do an IT-related degree today if they were paying the increased fees, which will come into force next year."

The first sentence is an incorrect inference from the second (the result). What IT professionals are saying is that they would not do *an IT-related degree* if they were paying the increased fees.

This is spot on from what I've seen. I've worked with Mathematicians, Physicists, Engineers etc as well as non-degree people (tough getting past HR without good history) who have all been up to the job. An IT-degree hasn't been a necessity for a long time but probably helps in those hardcore C++ architectural/leading edge positions.

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Anonymous Coward

HR in Ericsson

Used to send us people with degrees in comp sci, all of them

claimed to be able to code in C.

We rejected about 60% of them after they failed very basic C coding tests

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Anonymous Coward

They already hire people based on degrees in the most menial jobs where I live. If you don't have one you can't even get a job in a store selling cigarettes.

I don't live in the western world though.

I've spoken to guys recently who told me they generally don't hire anyone who hasn't got a Masters degree, never mind a plain old BSc.

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Anonymous Coward

Any company who denies a candidate because they don't have a degree is not a place worth working at

I'm a self taught developer of many years and I got my first job (in programming) straight out of high school. Experience is much more valuable than a paper degree and any employer who you would want to work for will know this.

It might just be my personal experience, but I have met more programmers than I can count on one hand who have University degrees with no sense of how to actually apply their "skills" to real world problems.

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Anonymous Coward

I've have seen a number of graduates who don't understand even the most basic principles of how computers work, thinks like instructions, stacks, address space, and pointers are thing some have never even heard of.

The typical teenager in the mid to late eighties had a better idea, when all they did was read Byte and write simple basic scripts on the BBC down at Dixons.

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Anonymous Coward

Playing devil's advocate here. But surely back in the 80s, with computer technology being less divergent than it is today, it was simpler to leave school and pick up programming on the job. With the amount of different technologies people are meant to know today it would seem to me that a good degree would be invaluable in terms of having a proper overview of computing. Without that I don't see how people would know where to start.

Obviously a degree can only go so far, the rest is down to the individual to go the extra mile.

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I taught programming

and have seen quite some horror's produced by various "bedroom coders". They do get things to work, but the code is often not an "oil painting". There are certainly those who can teach themselves, but there are those who do benefit from learning a more disciplined approach.

The lack of discipline can be really astounding in some. There was one guy who insisted he wanted to hand code in in C# rather than Java. I told him of course he could hand his assignment in in C#, so long as he did not mind failing the course. He found this unreasonable. I suggested my attitude reflected that of a potential employer or customer, who more often than not have some requirements on programming languages, coding style, comments. If you hand in your work in a different language, you would be in breach of contract, or get fired.

He still thought I was being very unreasonable.

Another story I like is the guy who handed in an iterative solution where the assignment explicitly stated: "implement a recursive method to compute ....." He argued this was more efficient, we said that was true, but that the assignment was to learn recursion. He said but my implementation is more efficient, we said that was true, but that the assignment was to learn recursion. He said but my implementation is more efficient, we said that was true, but that the assignment was to learn recursion. ..............................

This went on a while until we terminated this infinite loop (not by kill -9, but more humane methods)

This is not to say the tuition fees aren't outrageous. You can get a much more favourable deal in the Netherlands, and the university I work at (Groningen) is drawing more and more students from the UK. Our MSc courses are English language anyway, and our BSc courses are headed that way as well.

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Facepalm

Rather ironic

...to claim teaching credentials, and then use a "Grocers' apostrophe" in your first line!

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FAIL

Contratulations....

...on proving academics to be idiots.

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Boffin

Yet again, need to point out that Scotland is a little different, the £27,000 figure is _not_ UK wide.

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While this all may be true ... you can run into issues with fully qualified programmers with bits of paper and everything - particularly when the education system is geared towards creating drones for a particular software environment...

Programmer: "Why don't we use .NET on the website?"

Me: "Because it's a LAMP stack using Slackware, Mono isn't production ready and we don't need the overhead".

Programmer: *blank look* "But .NET works on everything? What's Mono?"

Me: *facepalm*

It all comes down to the person and how they're educated - my biggest worry, being self-taught and effectively working in isolation most of the time, is that I might be very, very wrong and never even know it - I work fairly hard to ensure that I'm not but still...

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To be fair, I don't think that discipline problem is unique to bedroom coders. I've seen similar attitudes coming from those with formal training. An arsehole is an arsehole, whatever their background.

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Happy

Re: Rather ironic

I stand corrected.

It is a good thing I don't teach language ;-)

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I agree that some bedroom coders produce crap but the degree-bearing ones aren't any better. I say this as someone who's self-taught and has just spent the whole morning fixing bugs in code produced by someone who has a degree. I am, however, in the process of getting a degree to keep HR departments happy. So far I've learnt that I don't like Java, but as you say that's not the point if you're being paid to produce it.

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thats cos Java

is Fucking Shit

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As someone with an IT degree who regularly interviews to hire developers, I can say that I don't personally rate IT degrees much at all.

I agree that a degree should be more than just about learning a subject; a true degree teaches you how to solve problems, not how to solve *a* problem (that's the job of GCSE).

My biggest issue is that IT degrees seem to be simplifying and removing a lot of the deeper knowledge that I require in all of my developers. I don't care if you only work in Java/.NET, if you can't discuss the heap and the stack at a conceptual level and you don't know what an "abstract" function does, you're going to need to blow me away with your understanding of your chosen framework.

I'd much rather hire someone with 3 years of industry experience than a degree, because if they can talk about it, they've gone out to learn it themselves. But, as a lot of people have said, it's very rare a non-graduate gets passed the CV filter stage.

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Happy

I teach programming too...

...and am self-taught and degreeless. I agree 100% with all your points about bad coding, unreasonable assumptions, etc - apart from one point. You generalise when you tar all 'bedroom coders' with the same brush.

I have worked in large IT consultancies for many, many years. As a child of the Sinclair home coder boom in the Uk, many of my peers (now in their late 40s) entered the industry in much the same way as I did - eg via open-minded employers. Once at management level I was able to interview for new team members, and the experience was enlightening...

I once had a young grad join my team (whom I did not interview), who was working on a simple VB UI for one of our products. He said his VB skills were good, so I gave him a small task involving writing a simple encryption key that we could use to ringfence certain functionality on a per-client basis. I roughed it for him and handed it over, only to have him come back to me at the end of the afternoon. He wouldn't believe that a XOR operation could reveal the original value of a previously-XORd number, when used with the original key.

I drew him truth tables and walked him through it. He still didn't get it. In the end I had to finish the task and moved him on to some form / button work.

Nice guy, but clueless. Out of curiousity I asked him what programming projects he worked on at home. He looked at me as if I were a weirdo.

Yes, some 'bedroom coders' with no access to the real world can make a real hash of things. Structured programming can be an alien concept to many, but I would still take someone who has real passion, and if possible has cut their teeth in assembly language over someone who (as this guy did admit) had moved into IT solely as a good earner.

Note: You can be a passionate home-coder AND a grad, of course! I never met very many, sadly.

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@CD001

Good point. We TRY to teach them, but then some just replicate instructions until they pass the exam, and then forget all about it. Some people are, as we say "resistant to education." At the same time there are many self-taught people who are excellent. Besides, there are many practical skills we do not teach (especially on the wealth of different tools out there).

The most important thing you can learn in education is learning itself. I have had no formal training in lattice theory, but I have acquired the skill set to learn it, and now contribute to the field. Many of my coding and debugging skills I learned in practice, in my first job as scientific programmer (developed a 150 kloc image processing system). That is when theory gets turned into practice.

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Happy

Re: Scotland

"£27,000 figure is _not_ UK wide"

It is if you're English.

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Re: proving academics to be idiots

If you think it is idiotic to expect people to follow instructions, then good luck job-hunting. It's not hard. You are at a university. You are asked a question. You don't answer a different question.

The only thing proved here is how tolerant some academics are when presented with yet another cretinous self-obsessed student who is so full of his own "entitlement" that he thinks he can redefine the course requirements to suit himself.

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@rather ironic

Also rather ironic that you expect a lecturer in computing to also be an expert in English.

Yes, it might be useful when teaching computing to know the usage of the apostrophe in English (oh, hold on, maybe not), but I'm pretty sure it doesn't work the other way round. Do you know any English lecturers who can teach programming? Or indeed many experts IN ANY FIELD who can use the apostrophe correctly?

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