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This post was updated in November 2017 with new information.

Self-taught programmers are on the rise. In fact, 90% of developers we surveyed this year said they are at least partially self-taught. While some developers are still learning the traditional way (the route of earning a Computer Science degree), many are studying in new and innovative ways, such as through coding boot camps, online tutorials, or from on-the-job training. We spoke with a few self-taught developers and asked them about the challenges they face when searching for a job. Here are just a few things they said they wish employers knew.  

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“For some of us, formal education is a waste of our time.”

Jeremy Dial, a Programmer at Omatic Web Solutions, first delved into programming as a hobby, mainly learning from online sources and tutorials. Years later when he went to work for a software company, he was encouraged by the company’s owner to attend college for programming.

Dial looks back on his time spent in college, saying, “While I did learn some new programming skills attending college, my big takeaway was that it seemed to be a tremendous waste of time. The courses moved along slowly and seemed to be teaching to the slowest student. The subject matter was basic, and the technologies that were taught were in no way up-to-date. I even found in some situations that the professors used methodologies that have long since been abandoned by the programming community. Truthfully, I have learned much more and much faster from online resources.”

Dial says that the thing he would like employers to know is, “More often than not, self-taught programmers are more passionate and higher skilled. The dedication and drive that is required for someone to learn without any type of structure is a tell-tale sign of someone that is passionate about what they are doing. I feel that employers are only harming themselves and sometimes leaving the best candidates on the table when they require a degree instead of looking at the skillset of the candidate.”

“We can still get the job done.”

Anthony Jullien, Director of IT at Dupray, says that while he did complete a significant amount of education, his day-to-day duties are all self-taught. He says, “I think the biggest thing that we would want employers to know is that we can get the proverbial ‘job’ done. There are usually many ways to solve a problem. Not only that, but technology has allowed people in our field to communicate their problems and help each other out. If we don’t know how to fix a problem or how to accomplish a task, just give us fifteen minutes. We’ll get back to you with a plan!”

“We didn’t want to wait until college to start learning.”

James Watson, Managing Director of Neso, says he wishes more employers knew that self-taught programmers have lots of enthusiasm. He says, “Sometimes their enthusiasm is so great that they couldn’t wait the 5-6 years to be taught academically.”

Watson is an employer himself, and says he always pays special attention to developer CVs that don’t show traditional education or training. “I feel it takes far more passion and dedication to teach yourself something rather than being spoon-fed.”

“A formal education can’t teach you everything.”

Max Sullivan, Lead Web Programmer at J I.T. Outsource, sums this point up well, saying, “A formal education can teach process and syntax, but it can't teach problem solving, logic, and creativity. In my experience, those who possess at least two of those three skills are standout programmers.”

2017 hiring landscape


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