Monday, May 11, I’m joining 15 other students who are graduating from Northeastern State University with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science. Academia has occupied much of my time, energy and attention the past few years1, but I have no regrets. Today there are undercurrents that seek to undermine attending a brick-and-mortar university for a four-year computer science degree, which compels me to write upon the matter.
No one disagrees that education is incredibly important. The question is where and how it should occur for people who want to make their living with computers. If you want to become a nurse, a psychologist, or an accountant, you need a degree. There’s not a lot of grey area. In most white-collar professions you legally need a degree, or at a bare minimum you need it to get past the first interview.
Computer science is different. I’m connected on LinkedIn to half a dozen recruiters in Tulsa, Oklahoma who every few months reached out to me during college and tried to see if I was available for a full-time position. The fact that I didn’t have a degree had no bearing. They weren’t doing sloppy HR work either; I’ve interviewed in-person with tech companies and gotten the same vibe. Many of the employers I’ve talked to don’t care if their computer scientists are formally trained or not, so long as they know their skill. On more than one occasion, the person interviewing me had dropped out of college! One of my good software developer friends from OSUIT got a full-time job while still in college. He already knew how to write software, so why not?