Self-teaching vs Degree – which is the best route into programming?

You want a job in programming. How are you going learn to code? Is it best to teach yourself or to study a related degree like computer science? We weigh up the pros and cons of each to help you decide which route into programming is best for you.

Self-taught

Pros-

Flexibility- When teaching yourself to code, you have much more choice on which subjects or languages to focus on as well as when you choose to learn the content. Having this flexibility means you can delve deeper into specific areas of interest and become an expert within your chosen field.
• No timescale- Teaching yourself to code means there’s no set timescale. You can learn as quickly or slowly as you like, fitting your learning around other commitments.
• Keep ahead of the curve- The coding world moves quickly, with languages constantly being updated and new ones being created. When you’re teaching yourself, you’ll have the advantage of getting to know the market and learning with the times to keep your knowledge up to date.
• No pressure- A big difference between teaching yourself to code and learning through a degree is that there’s no added pressure of grading or strict deadlines- if you’re finding one language particularly difficult to master or get something wrong, you have the opportunity to take as long as you need to learn how to fix it.
• Cost- If you’d rather not pay for a coding bootcamp, there are lots of free courses available that offer the chance to complete algorithmic challenges, quizzes, watch video lectures and work on real-world projects.

Cons-

• Less support- One of the big differences between self-taught coding and learning through an educational programme is that when teaching yourself, you won’t have the level of support and guidance you’d have from studying a degree at university. Although you’ll have access to other resources, it may be more difficult to find answers to specific queries.
• The fundamentals- When you choose to teach yourself code, there’s a risk that you may miss some of the fundamental elements. You need to know where to start and what will give you the best platform for learning. After all, once you get to grips with one technology, the others will be easier to learn.

University Degree-

Pros-

• Start with the basics- By studying a coding related degree such as computer science, you’ll have a more structured, disciplined approach to learning. You’ll follow a strict curriculum starting with the basics of algorithms and data structures and work your way towards more complicated content as you progress.
• A wider knowledge- Although studying a degree means you won’t have as much opportunity to focus on specific areas of interest, it does mean that you’ll be able to gain knowledge on a wider range of technologies and theory.
• Learn from the professionals- One of the biggest benefits of choosing to study a degree is that you’ll be able to learn from qualified professionals who will be able to provide you with expert knowledge and added support whenever needed.

Cons-

• Outdated content- University curriculums aren’t updated very regularly, so when studying a degree related to a fast moving industry like programming, it’s likely that some of the content you learn will be outdated. It’s harder to keep up with recent trends when studying a degree than when self-teaching.
• Less freedom- Although you’ll probably get to choose some of the modules you study, you’ll still have to learn about subjects you aren’t as interested in.
• Cost- University is a big investment, so make sure you’re 100% committed to your degree before signing up.

There you have it- the benefits and drawbacks of studying a degree and teaching yourself to code. If you’re an individual who likes support and learns better through a structured approach- a degree may be the right route into programming for you. If you’d rather choose the content you learn and not be tied to time, self-teaching may prove to be a better option.

You don’t need a degree to get a job in programming, nor does self-teaching mean that you’ll be a more capable developer. There’s benefits and drawbacks of whatever you choose; it’s all down to personal preference and which works best for you. If you’d like to know more about which programming languages to learn, check out our blog on the fastest growing programming languages of this year.

Information Technology