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Do You Need a Computer Science or SWE Degree - The Truth

Do You Need a Computer Science or SWE Degree - The Truth

I want to share my answer to the question. Do you need a degree to get a job as a software engineer, a developer, a programmer, whatever the position is in high tech or big tech? So essentially, do you need a degree to get a job? Now, Obviously, the answer to this question is simple. No, you do not need a degree.

You definitely can go get a job without one, but that is not where the answer ends. There are a lot more things to consider. And that's what I want to talk about here. So the reason I'm really writing this article is because I've read a lot of articles like this myself. And right now I'm in a unique situation because I am 20 years old.

I have finished two and a half years of my computer science degree. And right now I'm taking a break and I'm not sure if I'm going to go back to school or not for computer science, I've somewhat made a decision, but it's not formal yet. And I am yet to officially decide whether or not I want to finish my degree, or if I just want to stop and continue working on my website and all the other stuff that I'm doing. 

So to give you a bit more information, I'm currently working for Algoexpert as an algorithms instructor, and I'm running this website channel and then there are a few other smaller things that I do. So I have been very successful without a computer science degree at a very young age. And right now I feel as though I don't need one. 

However, there is a lot of benefits to getting a computer science degree and not everyone is like me and, and can go and build a website and all of this kind of stuff. So I want to share my perspective on this, in this article, and kind of, I guess, go through some of the myths and stuff that I hear popular YouTubers talking about because it seems like everyone just has this idea that degrees are worthless.

You don't need one and that you absolutely can just go out there and go get a job at Google, by self-teaching yourself programming, which in my opinion is somewhat realistic.

Anyways, one of the reasons why a lot of people say, you don't need a degree and you can just go and self-teach yourself is because there is a lot of great resources online.

Recognize your self ability

Now, if you're disciplined and motivated enough, and you're really putting in a lot of effort, you can a hundred percent skip the degree, skip going to college and university, and be able to pull off say an entry-level job at Google. Like many people have done or Facebook or Amazon or so on and so forth. But the reality is most people are not capable of doing this.

Now, this is not something that I'm saying to be cocky or to be arrogant or anything like that. But when you see these stories of people that say, you know, got a job at Google in 6 months or one, and landed a job at Facebook, or, you know, studied coding for two months and were able to get a job here. These are the outliers. These are not the common people doing this.

Not everyone is able to do this. Otherwise, you know, colleges would genuinely just be out of business or universities would be out of business. You have to be someone who, in my opinion, is really committed and dedicated to teaching yourself. And you are willing to sit down and grind for potentially years of your life to learn these skills, software engineering and computer science is something that is not easy.

A lot of people have a lot of trouble with this. And as soon as you put yourself in an environment where now you are the one who is solely responsible for teaching yourself, everything, you know, it's automatically going to be a lot more difficult. Now, again, that's not to say you can't do this.

It's just to really make the point that if you are someone who is considering skipping college or skipping university, that's great, I would encourage you to do so, but you need to be willing to work very hard on your own for long periods of time to teach yourself the stuff that you're not going to be learning from school.

The one thing that school does for you, good or bad is it forces you to learn things. Now you can make the argument that a lot of things you learn are not necessary, but at the end of the day, it is really forcing you to actually put in those hours and do the work. Otherwise, you're going to fail the course. You're going to be out of money, whatever it may be.

And for some people, they really need that. Not everyone is able to just sit down at their desk for hours at a time, go and figure out, first of all, what they need to learn, and then really hold themselves accountable and go and learn all of that. Again, if you're someone who's able to do that, you're confident and you're willing to put in the work, you have that motivation and you have that effort.

Then go ahead and do that. I definitely don't think you need university. And I definitely don't think you need college or anything like that, but you have to recognize and be self-aware to know that you are either that person or you're not. And in my opinion, and from what I've seen from a lot of people in general, most people are not this type of person.

They're not going to be able to, first of all, figure out everything that they need to learn. Then actually go ahead and learn it and also have the confidence and kind of validation to know that what they've done really is enough to go and land a job.

Pro and cons of not having a degree

Now, also not having a degree gives you a lot more disadvantages as well. Now there are advantages and disadvantages of each side, but not having a degree immediately makes it much more difficult to go and work for a US tech company, if you are not a United States citizen. So this is something that you should really consider because a lot of people, especially people that are not from North America or not from the United States, kind of miss this little thing here.

It's very difficult to get work authorization in the US or Canada or any country that you would really want to go work in for high-tech and big tech. If you don't have an accredited university degree or some formal education. Now, the reason for that is simply government policies and visas.

Work authorization

It is very difficult to get a work visa. If you do not have a college or university degree or equivalent work experience, in your field. So I believe for every year of education, two years of work experience actually makes up for that one year of education. So if you were say working for eight years for some company, then you would probably be able to come over to the US on some kind of work visa, because you met the qualifications.

But even for myself right now, if I wanted to go and get a full-time job at a US tech company, it may be possible. But since I don't have a degree, it immediately makes it much more difficult because it's very hard to get me work authorization and the correct work visas that I need to go work there. So really keep that in mind. that's an obstacle that you're going to have to overcome if you are not a US citizen, if you're a US citizen, then obviously, you know, that's given you can work in the US.

Cost of education

Obviously, this is the number one argument against going to university. And one that I fully support. If you are going to be putting yourself into say a hundred thousand dollars, 150, $200,000 of debt at age 19 at age 20, before you even start your life, that's probably not a good decision.

Now, given you can obviously make that back, especially if you get a great job, but even having a degree does not guarantee you that you're going to get a job and does not guarantee you, you're going to get a job that pays enough to really make up for the amount of debt that you put yourself in. So obviously something to consider I'm here in Canada.

I have a little bit of a different perspective because my university only costs about 10,000 Canadian dollars a year, which obviously is still a lot, but that's not an unmanageable amount. I, in my opinion, that's not absolutely unreasonable. Of course, it's on the high side, that's expensive.

I don't think education should cost this much, but, that is not an unmanageable amount of debt save $50,055,000 of debt to kind of start with, especially if you're in a field like a computer science or software engineering, where you are going to be making, you know, at least 60 or $70,000 a year on an entry-level job. Now, given you could make less, but the starting salaries here in Canada are pretty high, probably like $70,000.

My perspective

So my perspective is heavily skewed because I go to school in Canada and it's a lot cheaper, but in the US where, you know, one year of computer science could cost you $50,000. Definitely. I don't think it's worth it. And I would highly recommend if you are someone who realizes you need post-secondary education to go somewhere that is not as prestigious.

That is maybe a public university. I think that's what they're called. They're a state university or something. And that is, is less expensive. Now, I don't know how much those costs. So it's very difficult for me to say whether something's worth it or not.

But my idea here is that you don't need these like super great, amazing degrees, especially if you're willing to say, okay, I'm going to save myself this extra 40 grand and skip out going to Harvard. Instead, I'm going to go to my state university. And then I'm going to spend, you know, maybe a few hours a week kind of working on some personal projects, touching up my programming on my own and doing a little bit of extra work to make sure that when I come out, I'm well prepared for the job market.

I can go and present myself. I have some stuff to show and I'm going to be an appealing candidate. That would be kind of the route that I think most people should go down.

Practical advice

Now, at this point, I want to stop. And I want to tell you exactly what I would tell myself when I was 17. So I'm 20 now, again, I've done two and a half years of computer science when I decided I was going to university. This is what I would tell myself. I would say, swapee, you know, you're decent at programming. You know, this is what you want to do. Why don't you take a year off from school, try and see if you can do this on your own?

See if you can figure it out, see if you can learn this stuff, see what you were able to do in that one year or maybe two years, however long you want to wait. And then after that make a decision on whether or not you think you need university.

Because at that point, after a year of me doing my own thing, working on a website, working a job, whatever it may be, I may have fully decided, Hey, you know, I really don't need this computer science degree. I'm doing all right. I feel like I'm figuring things out well, and I'm well on my way to learning programming and getting a job.

And, and, and that's how I feel. But if you took that one year off and then you realized, Hey, this really isn't for me, I'm having a lot of trouble. I really don't know what to do. I can't figure all this stuff out on my own. It's too difficult. Then maybe that's the time to go back to school. So that would kind of be the practical advice that I would give.

And I would also tell myself, Hey, you don't need to go to a really high-end university, just go and get some kind of piece of paper. So at least you have something. And then worst case after you graduate, you know, maybe you got to spend a few months working on projects and kind of updating and tweaking your school skills.

And then you have the degree. You can go and apply and hopefully you can get a job. Now, this is a very difficult question. It's solely based on your individual situation, right? And if you're someone that does have the funds or your parents are going to pay for your university education, I would highly recommend going, because at worst, you can just drop out, right? 

Absolute worst case you go, you hate it. You realize you don't need it. Boom. You can drop it like I may be doing, um, you know, next semester, depending on if I go back, we're not so sorry for the abrupt transition here.


But I just wanted to mention one last thing that I forgot and kind of realized when I was writing the article. But just to summarize here, the point of this article was to really say that you, of course, cannot have a degree and get a job as a software engineer. You don't need a degree. That's not a requirement, but you have to remember that if you don't have that degree, it is going to be a lot more difficult.

And you are going to have to work a lot harder than someone that does have a degree. Now you can challenge that statement based on the amount of effort you have to put into university. But my point is that this is something that is going to be completely you. You're going to be the one telling yourself what you need to do. You're going to be the one forcing yourself to wake up every morning. And you're going to be the one who's picking what you're learning every single day.

And if you're not someone that thinks you're able to do that, and you have to have the self-awareness to understand this, obviously, then it might not be in your best interest to skip out on the degree. The reason I'm saying this is because so many people online are like me, they're outliers.

They're people that have been successful without a degree. And they just think that everyone can go ahead and do that. And you know, the way they're wired and I'm guilty of this as well. When I want to do something, I just go and I just do it. Not everyone can do that. Not everyone is fully capable or even wants to have to work that hard.

But the people that are telling you this most times are wired that way. And they kind of assume that everyone is just capable of going out and doing that. So I just really want it to bring us to reality here and make sure that I mentioned that this is hard people that do this work very hard, are very committed, and very motivated.

Of course, you can find exceptions, but really ask yourself the question before you make this decision. Am I willing to put in that work? Do I think I'm going to be able to do that? Or do I need someone guiding me and forcing me to do this? Because I know I won't do it if I'm left on my own. So anyway, that's all I want it to say.

The moral of the story is to be, self-aware ask yourself these questions and really evaluate yourself and make sure that you know, that if you decide to not go get some formal education, you're going to put in that work that you need to be successful. So anyway, I hope you guys enjoyed this article, if then let me know in the comment section below.

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