It’s no secret that some of the most influential people in tech today do not hold college degrees. Developers are always looking for opportunities to learn new skills, so it’s not entirely surprising that over 76% of respondents to the 2017 Developer Hiring Landscape said they had a bachelor’s degree or higher. But before you start making assumptions about what they all must have studied in college, let’s take a closer look at what developer education actually looks like for today’s programmers—and whether or not they feel it their majors helped them advance their careers.
Over 54% of respondents who hold a college degree said that they studied computer science or software engineering. An additional 25% majored in something similar, such as computer programming, computer engineering, or information technology. However, we found that a degree in one of these fields is clearly not a prerequisite to a successful career as a programmer. In fact, the developers who responded to our survey studied a wide variety of subjects as college students.
It would be easy to look at the graphic and say, “It makes perfect sense that so many people with math and science backgrounds are developers today!” But scanning technical resumes for specific degrees would do a huge disservice to the significant number of developers who also have backgrounds in non-tech fields like business or the fine arts. With 90% of respondents considering themselves at least partially self-taught (compared to 69% in 2016), it’s more obvious than ever before that employers with firm policies about education requirements for developer candidates will miss out on great programmers if their developer hiring process doesn’t allow them to consider anyone without a particular degree.
While 49% of developers with computer science and computer engineering degrees were the most likely to say their formal education was important or very important, 32% of all the respondents to our survey said their formal education was not very important to their current success.
Jim Baca, an Android developer with over 12 years of experience, tells us that his formal developer education has been most helpful during technical interviews. “Some interviewers like to include CS questions. For example, since I had to learn big O Notation in college, it comes in handy when I need to answer a related question,” he says. At the same time, Baca tells us that he has worked with many skilled software developers that don’t hold CS degrees.
Kevin Hayen, CTO at Let’s Be Chefs, agrees with Baca, telling us that the biggest benefit of his degree in Electrical Engineering is that recruiters have been more willing to consider him since his educational background is related to programming. Hayen adds, “'I’ve wondered if I would have been better off getting a Computer Science degree, but I doubt it actually mattered. Everything I need to know to be an effective software engineer I learned doing side projects or on the job solving real-world problems.”