I wrote some things down after listening to this rad discussion on Javascript Jabber about whether or not developers should go to college. You should listen to that podcast — like, today.

Javascript Jabber

Javascript Jabber is good and it’s irresponsible of you to not be listening to it regularly. Before you read further, go listen to this episode.

Academics vs Makers

If you had read the About page of this site (which I’m sure you haven’t — because honestly, who does that?), you would have known that I dropped out of college because I was learning more/better stuff at a faster rate on my own. As a result, I have mostly been anti-college when young developers ask my opinion on the matter (I think it might have happened like once… maybe). Of course, higher education is a good thing in general, and a really good thing if you want to be a doctor or lawyer or elephant psychologist.

As best I can tell, there are two primary types of “developers”. Let’s call the first type “academics”. Academics are just as they sound. These are the people who pontificate about whether for loops perform better than forEach loops. Or whether it is more prudent to use anyway. For the most part, these are also the people involved in things like TC39. Side note, any allusion to me not liking this type of developer is simply because I cannot relate. I fully recognize the need for, and importance of, these individuals.

Let’s call the second type of developer “makers”. As the name suggests, makers are mostly concerned with making cool things. While the academics are arguing about performance and standards definitions, the makers are busy making things. Traditionally, these developers are more concerned with applications actually working, and much less concerned with comparing the number of milliseconds between similar processes.

Obviously, I am boxing academics into the college attending category, and makers into the college drop-out category. This is not a hard and fast rule, but certainly is a trend that I have observed over the years. There could absolutely be academics that don’t go to college, just as there could be makers who do go to college. But generally speaking, most of the makers I’ve known either didn’t go to college at all or they didn’t go to college for a computer science related field. And most academics I’ve known absolutely did go to college and graduated with some sort of computer science degree.

So, do you have to go to college to be a developer? Nope. But it does depend on your personality and drive and interests. If you are interested in understanding the details of how processes work and what actually happens in the internals of an operating system, college is probably for you. If you just want to make cool things and have an intense personal drive to learn and create, you could probably save some money and not go to college. When I’m hiring a developer, I do not care where you went to school or what you majored in. If you omitted the education section from your resume, I probably wouldn’t even notice… and in my experience, this is the case for many other hiring managers as well. So I would argue that a college degree is absolutely unnecessary for you to get a decent job. If you decide to attend college, do so because you prefer to learn that subject matter in that particular setting. Do not go to college because you think you’ll have an easier time getting a better dev job. If you want to save money and need help getting started, find a good developer bootcamp instead.