College for Coding? Maybe Not.

I am convinced that writing code is a modern-day digital trade. In order to be a successful coder, one does not need to attend college.

I’m not saying that college is a bad idea. However, my advice to any aspiring coders is that if you do decide to go to college, don’t go the computer science route. More often than not, students who come out of a 4-year CS program can’t actually code using any modern and useful programming languages unless they extended their studies beyond the classroom. These students may have the ability to write code in theory but struggle to apply what they learned in the classroom to real life situations, which provides little value to potential employers and certainly is a competitive detriment.

So, what should you do instead? Just start coding. Find tutorials online, read blogs and books, and practice. According to a 2016 Stack Overflow survey of over 56,000 developers, 69% of respondents claim to be at least partially self-taught, while less than half have a computer science or related degree.

Another alternative to college is attending a code school, such as Suncoast Developers Guild. Programs such as theirs offer accelerated and cheaper alternatives to college degrees, and they often partner with businesses (such as Haneke Design) that regularly hire graduates.  

As an employer, my biggest priority when hiring a developer is knowing that they can actually write code. I often see applicants who look qualified on paper – they have a college degree and a number of certificates, but they have no relevant work to show proving their ability to code. Other applicants come to us with little to no formal education, but they have a well-rounded portfolio that effectively demonstrates their skills.

Because of my background in design, I have always been a strong proponent of the portfolio. I’ve found that the best way to evaluate whether or not someone can effectively write code is to view their code. So, while having certificates can be an advantage, we won’t hire someone who doesn’t also provide demos and source code.

If going to college is something you are committed to, choose a major that will round out your skills. Consider design or business, or even marketing. Studying these fields as a coder can give you a competitive advantage and a unique perspective. It can give you the skills needed to succeed in a management position or even as an entrepreneur.

In the end, it doesn’t matter where you learned to code, whether it was through a formal class, a bootcamp, or by teaching yourself. What really matters is that you can successfully demonstrate your ability to code to a potential employer.

About the author / Jody Haneke

Jody Haneke is President and Founder of Haneke Design, a full stack, custom software development agency in Tampa, Florida. Mr. Haneke was part of the emerging field of user experience design from the day he graduated Ringling College of Art and Design with a degree in Graphic Design in 1995. Haneke Design has become the go-to resource for companies such as NYSE, Paramount Pictures, Target, and the One World Observatory to launch digital products that amaze and delight end-users.

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