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Degree Requirements for Computing Careers

Do you need a degree to succeed as a computer professional? Ten years ago, the answer was almost certainly no in most cases, but that has been changing. Many of the best computer professionals I know do not have a degree or have a degree in an unrelated field. Often they got their initial training in the military, although combinations of on the job training and self-study are also common. Most of them are in school right now trying to get one (myself included.)

While there have always been companies that only hire people with a degree, until recently the vast majority of companies were willing to accept experience instead of a degree. So job requirements might read something like "BS in Computer Science or related field, or AS with 2 years experience, or 4 years experience." And there were a reasonable number of companies that weren't particularly concerned with degrees at all. Today most of the job requirements I see call for a relevant Bachelor's degree. I think this is more of a reflection of greater competition in the job market than anything a degree provides that is essential for success in the field. That said, you will learn useful work skills in school if you plan your studies appropriately. And education has a value in and of itself that should not be undervalued. If you already have a degree in a non-related field, you aren't looking at going back to get one in computing. A number of schools offer post-baccalaureate or graduate certificates in Computer Science aimed at people with a Bachelor's in another field.

If a degree is not a possibility for you right now, a computer career is not hopeless. The computer repair field still seems to be more interested in A+ certification than a degree, so that is one option. Even in other fields, there are companies that will hire qualified candidates without degrees, they are just harder to find. Finally, self-employment may be a good option for you. There are many individuals and small businesses who need all sorts of computer services and they are usually more concerned with your ability to get the work done for them at a reasonable price than your education. If you do choose (or need to) go the non-degree route now, I highly recommend that you keep your options open by working toward a degree as well. Even if you only take one course at a time, you will still eventually get your degree and you can still put that you are working on your degree on your resume. Don't forget that work related education expenses may be covered by your employer and are tax deductible.

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