Is it still worth getting a BSc or MSc in IT?

Posted by Insane Programming on April 19, 2017

Those who have read a bit about Silicon Valley know that having a college or university degree is no longer a requisite for having a successful career in IT. While it is no longer needed to have degree, it may also seem that having such a degree would even have the potential of setting you back in some cases.

It’s widely accepted that lectures and reading material make for poor learning possibilities and it’s been proven that knowledge retention is very low when utilizing those methods. So one might wonder why schools are spending 3 or more years utilizing those methods, subjecting students to hundreds of hours of lectures and requiring them to read hundreds of pages of text in order for them to get their degree. It’s also a widely known fact that most students learn more about being a developer during their 3-month internship than they have during the years before that sitting in a classroom.

In Belgium, a company is currently testing an in-house training program where people without an IT background are being taught the basics of software engineering in just 14 weeks. They claim that their program results in developers that have the same skill set as a fresh graduate with a Bachelor’s degree.

At first I found this hard to believe. After all, I spent 4 years in school to get my degree and now there’s this company that’s saying I wasted more than 3.5 years. If that were true, this is a very grim message to give to all the students currently pursuing a degree in computer science. That they are actually given a 3 to 4 year delay on their careers. Surely there must be an added value to these degrees.

To some degree (pun intended) there is. Schools do not, and should not, focus on teaching technology. They teach a mindset. Technology can be learned easily once you mastered the mindset. However, schools focus on the theoretical part of our job, which is important, but not nearly as important as the practical application of that knowledge. I for one can list quite a few courses on my curriculum that I probably don’t need and if I would need them suddenly now, the knowledge it too far gone to be of any use.

So if you have the mindset and the drive to become a developer, is 14 weeks of intense training enough? Yes, probably it is. It won’t be nearly enough to know the ins and outs of our industry, but I dare to say that it’ll indeed bring you to about the same level as a current Bachelor’s degree graduate, at least here in Belgium. That being said, the breadth of the knowledge will probably not be as wide as the one they have when one leaves a college. An average ICT Bachelor will know about Java, .NET, some operating system intricacies, some networking skills and other more broad topics like business processes (like ERPs) or even mobile development. The problem with that is that I’ve never seen a straight-out-of-school developer have to use all those skills in his first job or even jobs. You’ll start by either be a Java developer, .NET developer, system administrator or something else, unless off course you’re joining a startup. A more focused approach just makes more sense in most cases.

In the end, it’s about passion, dedication, commitment and genuine interest. If someone is really passionate about being a developer, 14 intense weeks is probably all it takes. After that, they’re ready for the next step which is joining a team, finding a mentor and just grow.