There are many ways to learn to code - from online tools through moocs to face to face courses and everythign in between. The fundamental question everyone has to ask themselves... “Should I go to university and study a computer science degree?”, or “Should I go to a hacker school?”
A 2012 study found that only 40% of ‘Software Engineering, Programmer or Computer Scientist’ jobs were filled by Computer Science (CS) graduates. Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Ellison… None of these have degrees of any kind – something they share with 47% of web developers.
But computer science degrees exist for a reason and so too do HackerSchools - so what are the main differences between the two?
Computer Science isn’t a vocational degree.
Unlike similar vocational degrees like Medicine or Law, Computer Science isn’t a degree that’s intended to necessarily prepare you with the required skills to work as a developer. This doesn’t have to be a criticism. As the word ‘science’ implies, Computer Science programmes tend to focus on the high-level, theoretical concepts of programming rather than the practical day-to-day techniques that a modern software developer must master in order to get hired. Things like:
• Version control
• Pair programming
• Recent web technologies (HTML5, WebSockets)
• Cloud platforms (Heroku, S3)
Are often skipped over by the majority of CS courses. On the other hand, they *do* tend to cover things like:
• Cyclomatic complexity
• Big O notation
• Lambda calculus
Which won’t be covered by vocational programming courses like Makers Academy’s. Some coders really love the theoretical side of Computer Science – in the same way that some musicians prefer music theory to performance. Others will prefer to get their hands dirty; building websites, apps or games.
Many CS graduates will go on to work as academics, refining complex algorithms or building the next generation of quantum computers. This work is incredibly important, but it’s worlds away from the kind of coding happening right now at companies that provide consumer web services like Twitter or 8th Light.
Three years is a lifetime in the tech industy
Admittedly, some degree programmes have tried to move towards a more practical, less theoretical approach. But there’s another problem – 3 years is a loooong time in tech. We’re talking dinosaur years.
We’re lucky enough to accept new classes every 6 weeks at MA. 6 weeks sounds like nothing, but every intake, without fail, we’ll make several significant updates to the course material. Changes to the languages or libraries we use, newly supported HTML5 features, and improvements in best practices are all par for the course.
6 weeks is a long time in tech – but a CS degree takes 3 or 4 years, which is an eternity. For universities, staying current is extremely tough. Changing the curriculum means navigating red tape, buying new textbooks and materials (which, in the case of the latest technologies, might not even exist), rewriting exams, retraining lecturers etc.
This has meant that most higher-ed institutions refresh their course content very infrequently. This in turn fuels the non-vocational nature of Computer Science – theoretical concepts tend to change much more slowly than the state-of-the-art in pro software development.
4.Getting students job ready: It’s predicted that 300,000 new recruits are needed to fill IT employment gaps by 2023 (UKCES). This has to be done, and fast, and a part of our business model at Makers Academy is charging companies a hiring fee and because the quality of our students is so high, companies are happy to pay.
The dev world doesn’t care about degrees or certificates – it’s just looking for smart, passionate coders from any background (and willing pay top dollar for them). There’s really never been a better time to learn to code.
Regardless of the differences at the end of the day it boils down to your motivations. Do you want to learn to code in a short space of time? Do you want to get a job as a junior developer? Or maybe the entrepreneur in you just wants to get your product out there and prove the viability of it as soon as you can. If this sounds like you then apply to our immersive 12 week coding course may well be for you.
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