Do Tech Jobs Really Require a College Degree?

Education as a Career Path

Bachelor’s degree preferred: Is the common job listing prerequisite actually necessary for a career in the technology industry? Laurence Bradford, founder of the popular Learn to Code With Me blog and podcast, says it depends.

“For people who are out of college, mid-career, or beyond, it’s totally possible to teach yourself [code] without going back to college, and I think that’s the way to go,” Bradford stated in a recent interview with the San Francisco Fed. The advice is especially applicable to those looking to change career paths without taking on a lot of debt or time out of the workforce, or those balancing the demands of work and family.

Learn to Code With Me is designed to help self-taught coders, particularly beginners, transition into tech careers. Bradford’s advice to students in high school or at the point in college where they need to choose a major, is to get a degree in computer science if that’s their field of interest.

“If it’s not going to add any time to college, and you’re thinking about it, I usually say to go for it. It’ll pay off huge,” she said.

Bradford holds a bachelor’s degree in history and is grateful for her college experience. She assures students that a computer science degree can be used beyond coding if the student decides to pivot their career later.

“A lot of people think if they study computer science, they have to become a computer programmer. That’s not the case at all. There’s so much you can do with a computer science degree. You can get into upper management. You can work in a range of other fields just having that logic. That really solid foundation is applicable in so many ways,” she explained.

In tech, specialized areas such as cybersecurity require additional certifications and security clearances, and engineering roles, for example, will require a related degree. But Bradford says there’s a lot more to career success in the tech industry than having a college degree, including continued learning.

“Persistence. Grit. Continuing to learn. I just took a project management course. I have all these things—the podcast, the blog, my full-time job, Forbes—and I still took an eight-week, full-time course after work on project management. I love learning. I go to workshops all the time,” she said.

Tune into the San Francisco Fed’s Does College Matter? podcast for the full interview.

Listen to this and past episodes, or subscribe to future episodes of Does College Matter? on iTunes, Stitcher, and TuneIn.

Does College Matter? is produced by the SF Fed Education & Outreach team and hosted by Director Jody Hoff as part of their college and career readiness initiative.

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Please note, quotes have been edited for clarity. Views expressed are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco or of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the management of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco or of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.