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Self-taught programmer vs. degree: Why is the second way not always the best

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Are you thinking about becoming a programmer? There are a lot of ways to go about it. Do you want to go the route of becoming a self-taught programmer vs degree track? Are self-taught programmers better at their jobs than college graduates?

Let’s discuss the points!

The difference between self-taught and degree programmers

Before we weigh up the pros and cons of self-taught programmers vs. CS education programmers, we have to understand what those differences are. Self-taught programmers typically don’t have a formal degree in computer science or a related field. They acquire their programming skills through online tutorials, books, courses, and hands-on experience. To boost their skills, they might also complete short online courses, like boot camps or free tutorials.

Degree-holding programmers have completed formal education, often with a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in computer science or a related field. They have received structured instruction in computer science concepts, mathematics, algorithms, and software engineering principles.

Are self-taught programmers better at their jobs than programmers who study?

Self-taught programmers and degree-holding programmers both have the potential to be successful in the field of software development, but there are differences between them in terms of their education, skill sets, and career paths.

Curriculum and Education

Self-taught programmers can choose what they learn and when they learn it. They can focus on specific technologies or programming languages that interest them. Degree programs have a structured curriculum covering various computer science topics. This can provide a more comprehensive understanding of computer science fundamentals. However, obtaining your CS degree requires years of expensive study that could easily put you hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. You can teach yourself coding for free or for a much smaller amount online if you go the self-taught route. You can also learn current skills and embrace emerging technologies immediately, giving you an advantage.

Depth of Knowledge

Self-taught programmers may have in-depth knowledge in specific areas, but their knowledge can be uneven, depending on their personal interests and the resources they’ve used. Degree programmers generally have a well-rounded computer science knowledge base, including theory, algorithms, data structures, and various programming languages. Their education often includes exposure to both theoretical and practical aspects. However, self-taught programmers can learn new technologies on the fly, which means they can immediately access a niche and build their careers.

Networking and Resources

Self-taught programmers may have a smaller network of peers and mentors and might need to work harder to find resources and opportunities. Degree programmers often have access to a broader network through their university, including professors, classmates, and alumni. They may also benefit from their institution’s career services and internship opportunities. However, self-taught programmers can join the field in a matter of weeks, not years. They may also learn through internships at employers that can help them find a job immediately.


Self-taught programmers may lack formal credentials, which can be a barrier in some job markets. However, they can build a strong portfolio of projects to showcase their skills. They can also start working right away. Degree programmers have a recognized credential (a degree) that can open doors to certain job opportunities, especially in larger, more traditional companies, but they have to wait years to join the industry.

Career Progression

In this area, programmers with a software engineering degree have no advantage over self-taught programmers. Self-taught programmers often need to prove their skills through projects and work experience. Career progression can be based more on their practical abilities. Degree programmers have a degree that can provide a strong foundation for career advancement, but ongoing learning and practical experience are also crucial.


Self-taught programmers may be more adaptable and willing to learn new technologies independently since they are accustomed to self-guided learning. Degree programmers may have a stronger theoretical background but might need to invest additional effort to keep up with rapidly changing technologies.

Which one is right for you: a self-taught programmer vs. degree?

Whether you become a self-taught programmer or go the degree route depends on your budget and timeline. Part-time self-study can unlock new doors for you if you are already working in a different field. If you are on a tight budget, being self-taught is better.

Bear in mind that many programmers combine elements of both paths, seeking a formal education but also engaging in self-directed learning and personal projects to enhance their skills.

Are self-taught programmers better at their jobs or in their prospects? Ultimately, success in the field of programming depends on one’s dedication, passion, and ability to learn and adapt continuously. You can have the career you want with the right attitude.

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