Is a Computer Science degree important to work in tech?
We spoke to Mark Ridley, former Technology Director at reed.co.uk, to find out…
If you’re short on time and curious about the answer to the question posed in the opening line, the short answer is, “No. But it won’t hurt.”
I’ve been responsible for recruiting for tech and product development roles for almost two decades, and have always had a very strong preference for hiring and training junior staff. This probably reflects my own background (I’ve never had any formal IT education, and left university with a Psychology degree).
My policy has always been to favour mindset – attitude and capacity to learn – over qualifications, or even work experience. My primary goal at an interview is to find the people who will love their job, have the aptitude to gain the appropriate skills and the motivation to develop and kick-on in their own careers.
Should I go to university? Does the course matter?
The answer to this will vary significantly from employer to employer, and from job to job.
For instance, roles like User Experience Researcher or Business Analyst can benefit hugely from social science degrees like Psychology, Management and Economics, where statistics and the scientific method form a core part of the degree. Other degrees, like pure Science, Engineering and Arts, can all bring unique skills, experience and perspective.
Even though personality is foremost, training and education is a great opportunity to advance your own skills and knowledge and will always have an impact on your interview because it gives you something to talk about.
This is a great reason to make sure that you choose a degree subject that you think you’ll love, rather than one that you think will get you a job – your enjoyment and affinity for the course are what will be memorable to a good interviewer, not the course modules.
For those people working in IT without a formal education in tech, the training provided by the employer will be key to future development – so be sure to ask what training and development schemes are offered whilst you’re in any interview.
Are IT degrees important for technology roles?
Speaking from experience, I’d be just as likely to hire a skilled Arts graduate as I would be a Computer Science graduate – because personality makes a far greater difference to me than their degree subject.
Having studied IT at degree level is nowhere near as important as being able to show that you’re passionate about what you want to do. If you really want a job as a developer, show me the Android app or Ruby on Rails website that you built in your own time.
Having said that, if the course sounds interesting to you, you will have a great opportunity to learn many things that you might not have a chance to learn during your career.
Is IT a good career?
Of course it is! But many people may have misconceptions of what a job in IT really means. In fact, ‘the IT department’ of the past barely exists any more.
Professional developers and data scientists may work in Marketing departments. Finance teams often analyse the biggest data in the company. Scrum Masters, a role in agile teams, work more as coaches and trainers than the HR team.
The tech industry comprises some of the most creative, exciting, collaborative and challenging work of any industry – if you love solving problems creatively (Developer), working with customers (UX and Product Owner), motivating teams (Scrum Master) or just taking things apart (Engineer and Administrator), there’s almost certainly an IT job that you will enjoy.
If I don’t go to university, how can I keep developing my skills?
There are also over 51,000 technology and IT courses on reed.co.uk, which have been designed specifically for people looking to improve their own skills and careers.
On the apprenticeship front, an increasing number of employers are realising the value in developing young talent, without the expectation of a degree level education.
Apprenticeships are available in a wide range of different disciplines, and many require no formal prerequisites to take part. So it’s definitely an option worth considering, if you want to add to your skillset in a practical setting.
So, after all that, should I get an IT degree?
Yes! Or no!
Having a degree is no longer the requirement for getting a job in tech (which it has been in the past). Not having a degree is unlikely to reflect poorly on you, if you can show your drive and talent in other ways. Whether it’s through work experience, an apprenticeship, or your own portfolio of work.
On the other hand, degree courses can teach interesting and important topics that you won’t get exposed to at work. If a degree sounds interesting and you have the opportunity to attend a university, it certainly won’t hurt your chances of getting a tech job.
The most important advice that I can give you is to enjoy whatever path you choose. With this in mind, you’ll always be more likely to succeed.
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