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Post by Rich Moy on Mar 27, 2017 12:00:00 PM

When you think of the phrase “formal education,” the first thing that probably comes to mind is a college degree. That might be applicable for professionals in some fields, but developers have taken a variety of paths to learn how to code. While 42% of the respondents to our 2017 Developer Hiring Landscape said that they hold a Bachelor’s degree in computer science or computer engineering, 32% of those developers also said that their education was not very important to their current success. It’s obvious that developers have rewritten the definition of a formal education. Let’s take a closer look at what exactly that means for them, and how it should impact the way you evaluate developer resumes.

More Developers Than Ever Are Self-Taught

Last year, over 69% of developers told us that they were at least partly self-taught. This year, that number went up drastically, with over 90% saying that they taught themselves to write code in some capacity.

self taught developers.png

With that statistic in mind, there are two things to consider whenever you’re evaluating developer candidates. Some of your top candidates might have decided to make a career change and currently hold college degrees in different disciplines. In other cases, the most talented programmers you come across don’t have a “formal” education background at all. Each case will be unique, but one thing is certain—taking a pass on candidates simply because they don’t have a software development degree would be a huge mistake.

Developers Have Warmed Up to Taking Online Courses

A Google search for “online programming classes” quickly shows you millions of results, but only 26% of developers in 2016 took advantage of the wide variety of online courses available to them. On the flip side, 56% of the professional developers who responded to our 2017 survey told us that they’ve taken an online course. In fact, it was the second most popular option for developers looking for non-formal developer education opportunities. Because many are so readily available (and even free in a lot of cases) by anyone willing to learn, it would be easy to assume you should grade a resume on a harsher curve if the online course was the candidate’s entry point into coding. But even if an online boot camp represents a developer’s entire educational experience, focus more of your attention on whether or not they can write quality code.

Consider Side Projects and Open Source an Important Component of a Developer’s Education

We’ve talked at length about how you should consider a developer’s side projects and open source contributions when you’re reviewing resumes. On the surface, this might have meant that candidates received bonus points for having coding-related hobbies. But with a third of all respondents telling us that they contribute to open source projects, it’s becoming clear that an increasing number of developers see them as opportunities for serious learning. While you shouldn’t necessarily eliminate candidates who are less active on these projects than others, you should also avoid dismissing their side projects as hobbies. After all, they’re adding skills to their toolbox through their “hobbies” that could take your engineering team to the next level.

2017 hiring landscape

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Developer Hiring

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