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Most programmers would probably say no. Many programmers only have high school degrees or some technical training. Programming is a real meritocracy; people can judge you on your work, not your resume.

But you'll definitely need a degree to work in the higher levels of the corporate world or academia. And sometimes you need a degree just to get your foot in the door.

Here's some background info from a handbook on careers published by the U.S. Department of Labor:

While there are many training paths available for programmers, mainly because employers' needs are so varied, the level of education and experience employers seek has been rising, due to the growing number of qualified applicants and the specialization involved with most programming tasks. Bachelor's degrees are commonly required, although some programmers may qualify for certain jobs with 2-year degrees or certificates. The associate degree is an increasingly attractive entry-level credential for prospective computer programmers. Most community colleges and many independent technical institutes and proprietary schools offer an associate degree in computer science or a related information technology field.

Employers are primarily interested in programming knowledge, and computer programmers can become certified in a programming language such as C++ or Java. College graduates who are interested in changing careers or developing an area of expertise also may return to a 2-year community college or technical school for additional training. In the absence of a degree, substantial specialized experience or expertise may be needed. Even when hiring programmers with a degree, employers appear to be placing more emphasis on previous experience.

Some computer programmers hold a college degree in computer science, mathematics, or information systems, whereas others have taken special courses in computer programming to supplement their degree in a field such as accounting, inventory control, or another area of business. As the level of education and training required by employers continues to rise, the proportion of programmers with a college degree should increase in the future. As indicated by the following tabulation, 65 percent of computer programmers had a bachelor?s or higher degree in 2002.

  • High school graduate or equivalent or less: 7.7%
  • Some college, no degree: %15.2
  • Associate degree: 11.6%
  • Bachelor's degree: 48.6%
  • Graduate degree: 16.7%

Required skills vary from job to job, but the demand for various skills generally is driven by changes in technology. Employers using computers for scientific or engineering applications usually prefer college graduates who have degrees in computer or information science, mathematics, engineering, or the physical sciences. Graduate degrees in related fields are required for some jobs. Employers who use computers for business applications prefer to hire people who have had college courses in management information systems (MIS) and business and who possess strong programming skills. Although knowledge of traditional languages still is important, employers are placing increasing emphasis on newer, object-oriented programming languages and tools, such as C++ and Java. Additionally, employers are seeking persons familiar with fourth- and fifth-generation languages that involve graphic user interface (GUI) and systems programming. Employers also prefer applicants who have general business skills and experience related to the operations of the firm. Students can improve their employment prospects by participating in a college work-study program or by undertaking an internship.

Most systems programmers hold a 4-year degree in computer science. Extensive knowledge of a variety of operating systems is essential for such workers. This includes being able to configure an operating system to work with different types of hardware and having the skills needed to adapt the operating system to best meet the needs of a particular organization. Systems programmers also must be able to work with database systems, such as DB2, Oracle, or Sybase.

When hiring programmers, employers look for people with the necessary programming skills who can think logically and pay close attention to detail. The job calls for patience, persistence, and the ability to work on exacting analytical work, especially under pressure. Ingenuity, creativity, and imagination also are particularly important when programmers design solutions and test their work for potential failures. The ability to work with abstract concepts and to do technical analysis is especially important for systems programmers, because they work with the software that controls the computer's operation. Because programmers are expected to work in teams and interact directly with users, employers want programmers who are able to communicate with nontechnical personnel.

Entry-level or junior programmers may work alone on simple assignments after some initial instruction, or they may be assigned to work on a team with more experienced programmers. Either way, beginning programmers generally must work under close supervision. Because technology changes so rapidly, programmers must continuously update their knowledge and skills by taking courses sponsored by their employer or by software vendors, or offered through local community colleges and universities.

For skilled workers who keep up to date with the latest technology, the prospects for advancement are good. In large organizations, programmers may be promoted to lead programmer and be given supervisory responsibilities. Some applications programmers may move into systems programming after they gain experience and take courses in systems software. With general business experience, programmers may become programmer-analysts or systems analysts or be promoted to a managerial position. Other programmers, with specialized knowledge and experience with a language or operating system, may work in research and development on multimedia or Internet technology, for example. As employers increasingly contract out programming jobs, more opportunities should arise for experienced programmers with expertise in a specific area to work as consultants.

Certification is a way to demonstrate a level of competence, and may provide a jobseeker with a competitive advantage. In addition to language-specific certificates that a programmer can obtain, product vendors or software firms also offer certification and may require professionals who work with their products to be certified. Voluntary certification also is available through other various organizations.

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Absolutely not! Some companies may only hire people with college degrees, but these are big companies, most don't care. If you just want to be a hobbyist programmer (like me), then have at it! Go learn QBasic.

For an easier entry into the highest levels of IT development, a degree is essential. As the previous entry suggests, hobbyists can get into the industry, but if you are looking at a serious career, and moving in the higher echelons of IT development, i.e. banking, then you will find most of your colleagues have degrees. You will find that you will not get a foot in the door unless you have contacts there, and most banks nowadays will check academia claims as well as credit and criminal records checks.

The checks made for contract staff are less intense, however, without experience you won't get the job that you need for the experience.

The other issue would be that with the increased amount of IT graduates and courses, competition for better positions has greatly increased.

So the answer would be, if you are looking for a 100k job with bonuses and pension to match, then get a degree. If you are happy with 30k, open notepad and off you go.

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100% no! I was given a (very old) computer at the age of 7 or 8 (I can't remember now) and I used to play around with it. Due to a small accident with editing an executable - which happened to be a menu system - the friend who gave me the computer had to go write us a replacement menu system so we could easily use the computer without the woes of the DOS prompt.

The rest was history... From the (very basic) menu code and QBasic's online help I learned QBasic from the ground up - no internet, no outside help ... I know BASIC *very* well today (8 or so years later) and am even venturing out into the world of PHP.

All that, and even without school tuition!

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No, but if you have the time do it. Not to continue the thread of patting self on back, learned BASIC then Assembly (x86, z80, m68k), Visual Basic, .NET, PHP, JavaScript now C++.

In retrospect, the education would have helped to skip the irrelevant languages that were not in demand as well as coding practices and revision control.

No respectable company will hire someone without some experience in documentation and revision control procedures.

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There are respectable companies, especially small ones, who will give you a chance with examples of your programming work. Yes, big companies often won't talk to you without the degree, but often small government and non-profits are a good place to get your foot in the door, and move on up when you have a track record behind you. I was offered (and accepted) a good job in programming Cobol at a small non-profit on the examples of programming I brought with me to my interview. One of my good friends got his job because of his degree, and left that job to move to a smaller company that didn't require his degree. (and is much happier with that environment.)

Your chances of getting a job are better with a degree but nothing will guarantee any job.

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Not true those big companies will not talk to you if you don't have a degree. Many programmers are hired based on their work. A prime example of this is that Cliffy B. and many other game programmers are hired based on their work. Don't expect to go to college.

Especially in this economy if you plan to go out and get a computer job, a degree means absolutely nothing other getting yourself in debt. It depends on what field you go into but don't expect to submit some form of work before you're hired somewhere and if you're good, you're good. Bill Gates and Paul Allen were college dropouts. [See "Related links" below.]

George Washington and Abraham Lincoln didn't go to college either. John Adams dropped out of elementary school and taught himself how to read.

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I'm presuming that the person asking the question is interested in a professional career in Information Technology of some sort. After 20 years in the IT industry, working in Silicon Valley, Boston, and several other high-tech concentrations around the world, here's what my (and most of my friends) have found:

To be a computer programmer, it's entirely possible to be self-taught, and gain experience in a variety of ways before being hired. To be a software engineer, you almost certainly need to go to college.

Working with computer programming these days really isn't just about knowing some language, and making a program do something. It's knowing about a variety of tools and techniques, and a non-trivial amount of abstract theory, much of which is heavy mathematics. Very, very few people know how to go about learning this on their own, and a structured environment as found in a college degree program is really the only way for the vast majority of the population to get this kind of knowledge.

So, what's the difference between a computer programmer and a software engineer? Firstly, the *vast* majority of jobs are for SW Eng, NOT for a Programmer. Companies recognized that the additional skills a SW Eng have are now no longer optional, but a necessity to have to be part of a team. The days of the single programmer producing software are effectively over; such positions now exist only in niche markets and small companies. Secondly, a SW Eng has the background to be able to tackle problems that aren't strictly about programming, but are related to production of a software package: things like delivery schedule prediction, bug resolution strategies, quality and testing methodologies, and performance analysis, not to mention requirements gathering, feature prioritization, and architectural design. Being a programmer is generally about knowing some particular programming language well, and perhaps some tools that go with that language; being a Software Engineer has nothing to do with knowing about a particular language, it's about knowing how to develop, write, distribute, and maintain software, which is a hugely more difficult task.

Realistically, the "computer programmer" is like a car mechanic, while a Software Engineer is like an assembly-line designer. Both understand the finer details of how cars work (and can be fixed), but only the latter really understands how everything works and how everything fits into the larger picture.

Computer Programmer is an entry-level position. As I noted above, there are very few companies who will hire a Programmer; if they do, it's usually to fill a specific need (generally, as a contractor to solve a specific problem), and not a permanent position. Software Engineer is the professional career track. It's possible to start out as a self-trained Computer Programmer, and learn on-the-job the skills to become a SW Eng, but that's not likely, and is very difficult to get the same quality of knowledge that you can get from a SW Eng college degree.

Getting all the proper coursework to be a SW Eng generally can't be squished into a 2-year Associates' program. Realistically, you'll need a 4-year full college program; be very careful about online SW Engineering degrees - for the most part, they aren't worth the money spent on them, as they don't cover the necessary information thoroughly enough, and companies generally don't respect the degree from those places very highly. Take a look at MIT's OpenCourseWare (link below) to see what a SW Engineering degree should generally encompass; this is the complete MIT classes, online, for people to look at (it's NOT an online degree program, rather, all the normal materials MIT uses to teach its own classes for a EECS degree). This is an excellent place to see what is involved in SW Engineering, as MIT is the top computer science program in the world.

The difference between a SW Eng and a Programmer in earning potential can be significant: while a self-taught programmer and a SW Eng graduate will often start out at about the same salary, the SW Eng will advance much faster, and won't hit a "career ceiling" in the same manner as a Programmer. 5 years in, a SW Eng will likely be making at least a third more, and at the 10-year mark, most SW Engs will be making at least 50% more, and as much as double, the average self-taught programmer.

Don't listen to the 40+ year olds who say "I didn't need one [degree], and I'm doing fine now!". The job marketplace is radically different than it was from the 70s to early 90s. Software development is significantly more complex, and Computer Science has matured as a field of study. Older folks (myself included) are able to get by without a degree since most of the technology and science was being created at the time we were working, so there WAS NO EDUCATIONAL PATH. We learned it on-the-job because the industry as a whole was making it up as it went along. This is no longer the case - industry now expects a significant body-of-knowledge from new workers, and this is really only obtainable via a degree program. Software development is now a (reasonably) mature industry, and could be compared to lawyers. Sure, you don't have to go to college to study for and pass the Bar exam (which is all that is legally required to practice law), but *very* few places will hire a lawyer who does not have a law degree. Pretty much the same thing goes for software development - it's extremely hard to find a job in IT without a 4-year college degree.

While IT still contains a large percentage of people who do not have any degree or have a degree in an non-technical area, this is misleading data. Virtually no one under 30 is degree-less, and the number of under-30s without a technical degree of some kind is drastically smaller than in the 30+ age range. Working in the IT field doesn't specifically require a Computer Science (or Computer Engineering, or similarly named degree), though most people now entering the field have at least a minor in CS in combination with a technical degree (generally, Engineering of some sort, or a hard science degree like Physics or Chemistry).

Computer programming is one field that can be self taught. You're more educated if you can do more. But to work in a reputed company it never hurts to get a degree to impress.

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โˆ™ 2012-05-23 09:22:23
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Q: Do you need to go to college to be a computer programmer?
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What college is recommended to become a computer programmer?

Yes if you want to be a computer programmer then you need to go to college


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yes


Do you need to go to college to become a computer programmer?

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MIT or Carnegie Mellon.


How long do you have to go to college to be a computer programmer?

There is no specific length of time to become a computer programmer, it all depends on how willing you are to learn! Computer Programming is a difficult subject, and one that a lot of people try to do and struggle with. If you are mathematically oriented, and you enjoy solving logical puzzles, then programming should come quite naturally to you.


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