You Don't Need a College Degree (as a Software Engineer)

  • 23 Aug, 2023
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In a world where higher education has long been seen as the key to success, many aspiring software engineers feel pressured by their families or schools to pursue a traditional college degree. However, the tech industry is witnessing a paradigm shift where a degree is no longer the sole pathway to a lucrative career. In this article, we will explore the statistics and insights that shed light on the viability of skipping college or bootcamps altogether and being self-taught.

Developers With or Without a Degree

The notion that one must have a degree to become a software engineer is quickly being dispelled. According to a 2019 Stack Overflow survey1, around 32% of professional developers hold a computer science-related degree. This means that a significant majority, approximately 69%, are self-taught or have acquired their skills through coding bootcamps, online courses, or practical experience.

Average Salaries: Diving into the Numbers

One of the concerns that often arises when considering skipping higher education is the potential impact on earning potential. While having a degree may lead to higher initial salaries, it’s important to recognize that experience and skill level become crucial determining factors for higher-paying positions.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the median annual wage for software developers was $110,140 as of May 20202. This statistic shows that software developers can earn substantial salaries in the industry, both with and without a degree.

College Tuition and Graduation Time: The Cost of Education

Another significant aspect to consider when weighing the decision to pursue higher education is the cost and time investment. College tuition fees can vary widely depending on the institution and location. According to the College Board, the average annual tuition and fees for a public four-year college in 2020-2021 were approximately $10,560 for in-state students and $27,020 for out-of-state students.

Moreover, the time spent to obtain a degree can range from 4 to 6 years for a typical bachelor’s program. This means that individuals who choose to forgo college can potentially enter the workforce earlier, gaining valuable practical experience and industry-specific skills.

Success Stories: The Proof in Practice

To further underline the viability of skipping college or bootcamps, it’s essential to showcase success stories from self-taught developers. Numerous individuals have made notable achievements in the tech industry without the traditional degree pathway. These success stories inspire and demonstrate the potential value of pursuing alternative routes to learning and career advancement.


While society has long emphasized the importance of higher education, the tech industry is continuously challenging this notion. With the increasing prevalence of self-taught developers and coding bootcamps, it is evident that a degree is not the sole path to a successful software engineering career. By weighing the statistics, average salaries, college tuition costs, and success stories, individuals can make an informed decision that aligns with their goals and aspirations.

Remember, choosing to go down the self-taught route or skipping college altogether requires dedication, self-motivation, and continuous learning. Ultimately, success in the tech industry depends on one’s abilities, skills, and passion for the craft rather than a degree on a resume.



Stack Overflow Developer Survey Results 2019

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S.Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Software Developers

The College Board, Trends in College Pricing 2020