Interested in a Career in Technology?

Let’s Explore College Versus a Self-Taught Education

With technology positions growing at a rapid pace throughout the country, it makes sense if you are considering making a move into this field.

Whether you are a high school senior who is exploring career opportunities or you are a veteran employee who is simply looking to make a career change, a job in the technology field may be just what you need.

Even better – and unlike many other career paths – it is frequently possible to teach yourself the skills you need to be a valued employee within the technology industry.

Before you make the decision to teach yourself, however, it is beneficial to explore the pros and cons of a self-taught education versus a more traditional school-based education. In this way, you can better determine which of these two routes is best for you.

The Pros and Cons of Earning a Degree

While there are many degrees available within the technology field, a computer science degree is the one that is most commonly sought by those who generally wish to launch a career in the technology field.

This is because a computer science degree offers a broad education that covers multiple overlapping disciplines, such as programming, information technology and networking.

Common career paths for people with a computer science degree include computer engineering, software development, web development and information security. 

Earning a college degree does offer certain advantages. For example, some of the pros of earning a degree in the technology field include: 

  • Building a solid foundation. Earning a degree will require you to spend time learning about theory. Self-taught individuals frequently skip over theory and jump right into the nuts and bolts of technology, which is like building a house without its foundation. Understanding theory makes you more knowledgeable about all areas of technology, including operating systems, algorithms and databases. This knowledge will help you to be more well-rounded and more competitive in the job market.
  • Reducing obstacles for employment. The reality is that some employers prefer hiring individuals with a formal education. In their minds, a formal education proves that you have achieved certain standards of knowledge. It also shows that you have been introduced to various learning techniques and that you are able to meet deadlines, which means you are more likely to be able to adapt to rapidly changing technology.
  • Feeling inspired. For many people, there is no substitute for a good teacher. Not only can a teacher help to explain concepts that may be causing you trouble, but a teacher can also motivate and inspire you to push yourself beyond your preconceived limits. 

Aside from these two potential benefits to earning a degree, there are also some cons that come along with a formal education. These include: 

  • Paying the cost. Undoubtedly, earning a college degree can be costly. Currently, former and current students in the United States owe over $1.3 trillion in student debt. It is only natural to want to avoid becoming a part of this statistic.
  • Finding the time. Participating in a college degree program can be time-consuming and may require you to complete coursework that you find irrelevant. You also have to find a way to fit the course schedule into your schedule, which can be a difficult task to handle. This is particularly true if you are already employed, have a family or otherwise have additional responsibilities that make demands on your time.
  • Forcing a fit. Of course, for some people, the traditional learning environment simply is not well-suited to their learning style. When you teach yourself the skills you need for a career in the technology field, you are free to learn the concepts in a way that makes sense to you and at a pace that works best for your learning style. 

By closely examining these pros and cons, you should have a general idea of whether or not earning a college degree is right for you. Nonetheless, it is also a good idea to examine the pros and cons of being self-taught before you make a decision.

 The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Taught

With so much information available at your fingertips, it has never been easier to teach yourself all of the skills you need to start a career in the technology industry.  Some of the pros of teaching yourself include: 

  • Reducing Cost. Perhaps the greatest benefit to self-education is that it can be accomplished at no cost to you. Whereas a college degree can cost tens of thousands of dollars to obtain, you can save a significant amount of money by teaching yourself instead.
  • Enjoying increased flexibility. When you teach technical skills to yourself, you enjoy a greater amount of flexibility than you find when attending college. You can hit the books between work shifts. You can study at midnight on your couch. You can literally study anywhere and at any time that works best for you. Not only is this more convenient, but it also allows you to study at the times that work best for your learning style. 

Of course, there are also some potential cons to teaching yourself rather than going to college to earn a degree. Some of these potential cons include: 

  • Organizing your learning. When you attend a college to earn a degree, you participate in an organized curriculum that has been established as a successful model for learning. When you teach yourself, you are responsible for organizing your own learning schedule. This means you may inadvertently approach the material in an order that makes it more confusing to learn or that delays your learning process.
  • Gathering materials. Gathering the materials that you need in order to learn the technical skills that you need may also be overwhelming and difficult. With so many different materials available from which to select, determining which materials to use can be a confusing and time consuming process. With a degree program, the materials are selected for you by professionals in the field. Therefore, you can be certain they are current, accurate and relevant to your field. 

As you sort through the pros and cons of a college education versus a self-taught education, it is important to note that no strong correlation has been found between having a college degree and earning a higher salary versus being self-taught. Therefore, unless you wish to be employed by someone who specifically requires a degree, the decision between being self-taught versus attending college is one that simply comes down to personal choice.

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The Take Away

The takeaway from this article and video (I hope you watched the video) is that no one can tell you which path to follow.

But the best answer would be to pursue a balance in your education with college credit building courses, industry recognized certifications and hands-on experience from workshops.

With this article we’re hoping we’ve answered some questions, sparked your curiosity and shared some useful information. But, we know you may need more, so we invite you to contact us for some follow up questions or to discuss your unique needs.

Just go to our contact page and reach out to us and we’ll get back to you asap!