Getting a computer science degree from a four-year university used to be the only pathway into a high-paying tech job, but those days are over. Coding bootcamps are now just as viable an option for many jobs.
It seems developers are catching on to this, because in the most recent Stack Overflow Developer Survey, 70% of respondents said they learned to code online, compared to 62% of respondents who learn from a college or university. In the previous year’s survey, only 60% of respondents were utilizing online learning.
And companies have been changing their hiring requirements to account for these new methods of education.
Google, for instance, is one of the major companies that has removed its requirement that candidates have a four-year degree.
And it’s not just forward-thinking tech companies making the shift; Even the U.S. government updated its hiring guidance to become more skills-based.
According to Greg Shields, senior director of IT Ops skills at the upskilling platform Pluralsight, this move by the federal government is significant in the movement towards shifting away from four-year degree requirements.
That sends a very big signal not only to companies that work with the federal government, but to companies everywhere “that if this is something that can work for the bureaucracy, it can work for your organization as well,” said Shields.
More and more companies are coming to realize the benefits of bootcamps or other online training programs, and seeing that they can be just as valid as a college education, and in some cases may be better.
A 2021 study from SwitchUp, which provides rankings of bootcamps, found that bootcamps offer about the same, and sometimes higher, employment placement rates when compared to computer science degrees from well-known universities.
Four bootcamps in the study have employment rates of at least 80% within a year, which is higher than some of the well-known universities for computer science. For example, the California Institute of Technology has an employment rate of 64%, Stanford University has an employment rate of 61%, and MIT has a rate of 56%.
According to Shields, one of the main benefits of bootcamps is their ability to keep up with changing technology. He believes that it is difficult for universities to keep up at the same pace. He recalled back to his own college experience where some of the courses he was taking were teaching technologies that had been aged out for several years.
Dr. Christina Hupy, senior education program manager at GitLab, echoed this sentiment in a 2021 episode of the SD Times podcast, “What the Dev?” She explained how colleges typically don’t teach concepts like DevOps, which means that graduates might not fully be prepared for what to expect in the workforce.
“I would say that most college graduates who are studying computer science and learning coding come out of their degree program with a very solid grasp of the ffundamentals of coding … And then from there it really varies, but generally speaking, we find that the DevOps process itself, and the DevOps stages are not being taught. And that includes all the way from the beginning of the planning stage all the way through security and monitoring. That approach and that culture is not being taught specifically at universities,” said Hupy.
Shields also highlighted that bootcamps can increase the candidate pool and bring in folks who might not have access to the traditional education path, be it financially or they just can’t commit the time to four year in school. In fact, the study from SwitchUp claimed that, on average, bootcamps cost about 10% of the cost of a computer science degree, and they can be completed in a matter of months, rather than years.
He believes that this move to more skills-based hiring will be better at getting the “right people in the right seats.”
Shields also advises that companies have their own upskilling programs to improve skills among their own employees and keep up with changing technology, so that learning doesn’t stop once someone is hired. According to Shields, getting one of these programs in place can be as simple as just setting aside the time for it within the company.
“Inside our company, we have a period every couple of weeks that’s just blocked off on everyone’s calendars for internal learning,” Shields explained. “And when you have programs like that, it sets a really good signal a cultural signal, so that people feel comfortable to take time away from the everyday activities or company and spend some time actually just doing some sort of education or some sort of learning that probably is related to their job, but might not be something they can immediately apply.”
He believes that even in scenarios where things can’t get applied immediately in practice, there’s almost always something that can be taken away and used to improve a process and become more efficient.