Do I Need a CompSci Degree?

Do I Need a CompSci Degree?


Most companies don’t require one. Some companies even avoid them. You absolutely do NOT need a computer science degree in order to break into tech and succeed in your career!

The best attribute that any tech job candidate can bring is a genuine enthusiasm for technology. Sounds cliche, for sure. But companies have now discovered that this is not guaranteed by 3 or 4 years of academic computer science studying. If you do have a computer science degree, it certainly does bring benefits. However most of the tech skills you will regularly need are either-

  • Easily learned by yourself with the help of the internet
  • Learned on the job with the help of your colleagues

Let’s talk you through this in a bit more detail.

What Is In a Computer Science Degree?

Computer science (often called CompSci) degrees vary between institutions. However over a three year bachelors degree, a similar overall structure is followed.

Year 1 is mostly about learning how computers work. Understand how to write good code, both front-end and back-end, is a large part of this. Mathematics, algorithms, and computer science theory also feature heavily.

Year 2 generally has a larger focus on software development, network engineering, and data. Security, machine learning, and project work are also common modules. Your programming skills should be well developed by this stage.

Year 3 comes with more choice of what is studied. From artificial intelligence to cloud computing to game design, the content of this year varies much more. However overall, the focus shifts towards learning about more modern technologies used in business.

There’s no doubt that a computer science degree will set you up nicely for a career in tech. However don’t think for a moment that it is a necessity. Or that having this qualification makes your first job role easy. Understanding how technology operates within a real business, exposing yourself to all the niche tools being utilised, and ensuring your soft skills are keeping up with your hard skills is a challenge for even the best CompSci graduates.

Alternative Training

It is common to be worried that your technical skills and knowledge compared to those of a computer science graduate will be a limitation. This is not the case.

As long as you spend time learning and practicing some areas of technology that you enjoy, you will develop your skills to the necessary level required for most entry-level jobs/programmes. Perhaps you won’t immediately have the breadth of knowledge that three years of dedicated studying can provide, but this is something you will develop on the job quickly on the job anyway.

For every area of tech, there are comprehensive, high quality, end-to-end online courses and certifications to get your skills to whatever level you want. Some can be completed in a day. Some take an entire year. And both free and paid options are available. In fact, there are so many options available, it can be difficult to decide where to spend your time. So we’ve created Learning Paths for each area of tech, designed specifically for people without a computer science degree. They’ll provide some structure and guidance on the best training options. Check them out here!

Online courses are an excellent way to both upskill and boost your CV. Employers genuinely do take note of your time spent training. Many courses are also built with a business focus in mind, so not only will you develop the technical skill, you will also understand how it is typically utilised in a business.

Other Skill Sets

There are many valuable skill sets that you do not typically develop during a computer science degree. In fact a lot of the time, a business knows they can teach new employees the tech skills so they will be far more interested in your non-CompSci strengths which are harder to develop on the job.

Some skills are a compliment to pure techie abilities. For example, if you have experience teaching or tutoring, then you’ll probably be comfortable as an analyst that has to communicate complex technical concepts to non-technical, business leaders. On the other hand, some skills are a more direct link into an area of tech. For example, if you have completed a physics degree, your mathematical literacy may position you extremely well for data science work.

Don’t underestimate the importance of this point! For every desirable developer job on offer, every single applicant will be able to write decent code. But only a small number will have additional skills, technical or otherwise, to set them apart and get them to interview.

Real-Life Case Study

Jess graduated from university and decided to take a year out to travel and relax. She had studied biology for three years but had been developing an interest in technology and was thinking about beginning a career in the tech industry. Learning the basics of programming seemed like a good idea so Jess began an online Python course in her spare time. It took two months to complete and by the end, she was able to comfortably read and write basic code.

A few months later, she applied to a technology graduate programme and was offered the job! On her first day, Jess had a chat with her manager to establish some goals she wanted to work towards and they agreed that it would be beneficial to develop her Python skills to a more professional level. She was recommended an advanced training course and spent some time working with other developers in the team in order to expand her knowledge and learn Python best-practices. Three months later, Jess was independently writing production-level code, ready for testing and deployment.

Benefits of a Not Having a CompSci Degree

Believe it or not, there are in fact some clear-cut benefits to not having a computer science degree. They are less to do with technical skills and more about your broader motivations. They will serve you excellently during early company interactions such as interviews.

A Sign of Genuine Enthusiasm for Employers

If you study computer science, moving into the tech industry after graduating is about the most predictable thing you can do. You have the minimum required skills and it demands little effort on your behalf. However pivoting towards tech having studied something completely different or worked in a totally unrelated job requires a lot of mental effort! It is a clear sign of genuine enthusiasm for the job you want. Caring enough to implement this change of direction by practicing skills in your own time and studying tech simply because you find it interesting demonstrates a real interest in wanting to join the tech industry. Employers like this.

Demonstrates Your Self-Starter Attitude

Taking the time to develop new skills and expand your knowledge when you aren’t being told to do so requires significant effort and dedication no matter the situation. Even more the case if you are studying alone and in your valuable free time. This tremendous grit and drive is representative of an almost entrepreneurial spirit and is highly sought after in the tech industry. It is exactly the kind of thing that hiring managers are to

ld to look out for since it brings so much value to a business. So if you don’t have a computer science degree, use this to your advantage! Let your self-starter attitude shine through on paper and in-person. You’ll find it a real asset both in getting your foot in the door and continuing to progress through the industry.

The Learning Curve

To be clear, there is one major short-term benefit of having a computer science degree. It helps ease an otherwise steep learning curve, especially during the first few months in a new tech role.

It is useful to remember this, especially if you are joining a company at the same time as other people who do have a CompSci degree. You will likely find that those individuals will be more able to follow technical conversations early on and perhaps take on seemingly more advanced work from the get-go. But do not fret! This will change. And whilst it will probably take a few months to change, any feelings of comparable inadequacy will disappear as you upskill and begin feeling the benefits of your other skill sets.

So be prepared for the challenge. It will be overwhelming as you rapidly expand your knowledge in the early months of the new job. But remember that many of the worlds most successful technologists also do not have a computer science degree. You are in good company.

Ready to get going? Start with step 1 in our ‘get into tech’ instructions.

Or dive straight in with our dedicated Learning Paths.


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