Harsh Patel is CEO of MakerSquare.
By the time the calendar turns to 2020, there will be one million unfulfilled computer programming jobs in the United States. For anyone looking at their career path over the next decade, coding offers plenty of creatively fulfilling, high-paying, and secure opportunities.
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The best part about this? Anyone can do it. The stigma of programming belonging only to a select few intellectuals has gone by the wayside as people of all ages and backgrounds discover the inherent logic – and beauty – of coding.
It’s more accessible today than ever before, and those interested in computer science jobs have several different paths to getting a formal education. Which is right for you? Let’s review the pros and cons of two very different options: coding schools and four-year universities.
Coding schools are the ultimate fast-track path to a job in computer science. In months, not years, students build a solid career foundation that is often times a fraction of four-year costs.
Considering that many universities cost $50k – $200k and require general education courses over four or five years, the $10k – $20k investment for a code school can be far more economical — and graduates can start earning immediately.
In fact, graduates from coding schools are already writing books, speaking at conferences, and winning competitive hackathons.
Coding programs feature a small group of dedicated instructors that focus on real-world skills and hands-on experience, such as version control and test-driven development, all handled in a peer-driven environment. All of the tools used will be current and job-related, and most programs will also provide guidance on resumes, job interviews, and placement.
Coding schools are full-time learning environments — your job for those weeks is to focus exclusively on learning. This type of schedule may be too intense or simply impossible for some students. In addition, younger students who may crave the social experience of traditional school environment will most likely be out of luck at a coding school, since these will attract people of all backgrounds and ages.
Cost can be a concern for students at a coding school. While some coding schools may provide scholarship opportunities, the general range between $10k – $20k is more than community colleges and some public four-year programs.
From a programming perspective, a four-year computer science degree dives far deeper into theoretical and advanced areas. While coding schools focus almost exclusively on job-related technologies, the academic world provides access to truly groundbreaking disciplines, such as artificial intelligence and computer vision.
Universities also require general education, which creates a well-rounded learning experience that often positively influences your social and critical-thinking skills. For many people, college is the best time of their lives, a social experience that can’t be replicated elsewhere.
Younger adults considering their possible career options may discover more about their tastes and career goals through this diverse and unique experience.
Technology changes quickly, and four-year programs may feature yesterday’s tools rather than the cutting edge. Professors may write letters of recommendation or provide internships, but there is little focus on real-world job experience (job placement, interviewing skills, working in deadline- and budget-driven environments).
The rising cost of higher education has been well-documented over the past few years, and a four-year computer science degree may ultimately run up to ten times more than a coding school. In addition, the four-year (or more) length of the program eats into the earning potential of a new career.
Which Is Right For You?
Every person’s situation is different. A thirty-year-old professional looking for a career boost will have different cost and time motivations than a recent high school or community college.
Ultimately, the choice should be made based on career goals, budget, and personal time constraints. Other options are available, such as online education, certifications, and community colleges.
However you enter the programming field, just know that job opportunities will be there and you’ll be part of the next wave of true innovation. America – and the world – needs coders.
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