Should I go to university to be a software developer?

Deciding what to do with your future can be difficult. University could be one of your options you’re considering. And, there are other options available to you, but which one should you choose and why?

This has become an interesting topic for me, given my past experiences. When I graduated it shocked me how little employers took interest in my degree result. I’d busted my ass for a first class degree and it didn’t make a dent in the recruiting process. I ended up wrting a short story about my whole graduate job finding experience.

Option 1: University

This is the default option for most of the western world.
University can give you a grounding in computer science concepts. Yet, it’s true that in most jobs this might not be too relevant. Often these topics can be superfluous. To achieve you’ll need a strong interest in computer science fundamentals. They will often get very deep into topics like computer hardware. These topics may or may not be relevant to your later job search. Yet if you don’t know what to do, this foray in many subject areas can be enlightening.
If the thought of committing completely to computer science is scary (it was for me). You could do a joint degree with another topic such as management or business. There are many other complimentary subjects that aren’t obvious at first. Psychology or marketing can be a great asset to a future developer. If you choose to go into a more UX or product design role. Having this type of mixed skill set can help you stand out. You can position the different skills to your advantage.

Option 2: Bootcamp

A bootcamp is usually a direct replacement for university – however some developers do bootcamps to forward their careers and learn extra skills that help them with their daily work and life.
There are a LOT of coding bootcamps out there and I won’t name them all .. or any for that matter as there are simply too many and it’s going to depend on where you live for which ones make most sense to you – you can do in person and intensive bootcamps and some remote more long term bootcamps.
It’s no secret that some bootcamps can be expensive – however they’re definitely not as expensive as some University courses that’s for sure, but you might need to save up a bit of cash to invest in a bootcamp … however for most this usually means a significant pay increase in future and it makes sense as a long term strategy.
I’ve personally seen some INCREDIBLE candidates come out from bootcamps and I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to hire someone coming out of a bootcamp – their skills are usually extremely up to date and very very vocational … I say this from experience as a bootcamp mentor myself.
I feel that coding bootcamps are the best and fastest way to get into software development – with the speed of some bootcamps you could be changing careers in a matter of months if you are of the disposition where speed is more important than a more foundational education … this is probably best for those that are in a rush and a little impatient (*cough* me *cough).

Option 3: Self teach

Now, I actually don’t really recommend this one very much – I think you might be able to learn some skills I just think it’s one of the longest and hardest options that you can choose for building your career. I only say this as I’ve not seen all that many self made developers and it could well be a risky option.
That said, if you’re working in another industry and want to get a taste for whether software development is for you then by all means have a go – there’s so many sites and areas that you can learn from that the hardest bit is choosing the right thing for you to learn.
However, I’d say that it’s best to take your self teaching into a bootcamp or more regimented learning platform to progress more rapidly and comprehensively.

So what should you do to choose?

I hope this gives you an idea of what to choose when thinking about becoming a software developer, but some final questions to think about when making your decision are …
  • How confident are you that software development is for you?
  • How much time are you willing to put into this?
  • How much money are you willing to put into this?
  • How patient can you be about getting into industry?
  • Are you self motivated or need more structure?
  • Do you have the appropriate support networks to help you through any of these options?

What option are you thinking of pursuing or have pursued and why?

Lou Bichard