Should Programmers Be Self-Taught or Go to College?

It goes without saying that digital literacy is increasingly becoming a necessary skill in the current digital era. Knowledge of HTML, Photoshop, and social media is becoming a crucial part of the modern work environment, joining the likes of MS Office and email. While time will tell if programming expertise will join Word and excel as required competencies, most people argue that coding skills are slowly becoming part of essential literacy.

Fortunately, you can learn programming through several avenues, including the self-taught option, enrolling in a college, or a coding Bootcamp. However, you should make some considerations before signing up for either of these learning options. Evaluate your end goal, available study time, and passion to decide your best option of study. Below is a highlight of what can guide you to choose between these learning options.

Debunking the Myth

The common notion that you should follow a straight path when learning how to code is just but a mere misconception. Most people also believe that learning programming should be a linear process. Contrary to this, the realm of computer science, especially programming, evolves rapidly with new coding languages, technologies, and frameworks being introduced. As such, there is always something new you should learn.

That said, you don’t have to follow one path. You can begin by learning how to code individually, complete an education degree in computer science, take an online course during your free time, then a coding Bootcamp to sharpen your skills or vice versa. Simply put, learning how to code shouldn’t necessarily be a straight path that you should follow. Your professional development also shouldn’t end after completing an online course.

However, this doesn’t mean everyone is the same. Some passionate programming learners have time and money to sign up for a college degree, especially veterans and military members who can take advantage of the GI Bill benefits, while some can’t afford it. Other people also chase different goals with timelines. Therefore, work with what’s best for your situation.

If You Value Structure

Like any other professional education, a computer science degree has a lot of structure. To graduate as an undergraduate in computer science, you should complete its curriculum and other requirements as required by the institution. You also abide by the class schedule, attend classes, complete assignments and exams to obtain the degree.

That said, a college degree might be best for those who prefer structural learning methods. The main benefits of this path are that you can estimate your graduation time, choose specific courses of interest, and enjoy its social aspect. Signing up for a college degree gives you the upper hand of studying with your classmates, consulting with professors, and more.

If You Prefer Flexibility

What stands out for programmers who learn individually is the unlimited flexibility this path offers. You freely choose textbooks to read, videos to watch, the language to focus on, and other resources. Unlike the computer science degree where there is an already designed plan to follow, teaching yourself doesn’t have a guide.

That aside, taking the self-taught route also gives you leverage to learn at your pace and time. This is best for those who don’t have a deadline or have other engagements, such as family or a full-time job, to prioritize.

Who Learns Better?

Even though learning programming is quite challenging, different people learn at different paces. Similarly, there is no accurate conclusion on who learns better between self-taught and college programming graduates. While some people learn better when they learn something by themselves, others prefer being taught by others. If you think you can learn better on your own, opt for the self-taught option.

However, note that learning programming individually might be a problem for most people, especially those who aren’t motivated to learn something that is entirely new. This is why a good percentage prefer a college degree.

How About a Programming Bootcamp?

Another option that coding enthusiasts can take is a programming Bootcamp, which has surged in popularity as more people transition into tech careers. Bootcamps have become a popular route for most people who want to change their careers without going to school and have worked for several programmers.

The main benefit of bootcamps is that there are many, and you can easily find one that suits your specialty, time, and budget. However, the curriculum in coding bootcamps is very practical. While students can master concepts easily, they move fast and make it difficult to understand all the topics taught within a short time, especially for beginners.

Bottom Line

All programmers are good, regardless of where they learned to program. However, it is interesting that most tech giants with established companies, such as Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey, and Kevin Sysrom, among others, found their way through the self-taught route. While this doesn’t make it a better option, it makes it a perfect choice for self-disciplined individuals.

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