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Surprising Science

Are Computer Science Degrees Necessary?

Tech research firm Gartner has coined the phrase “citizen developer” to describe the growing number of programmers whose skills came from outside the university environment.

What’s the Latest Development?

Google’s recent disclosure that they no longer use a candidate’s GPA as a criterion for hiring highlighted the increase in what tech research firm Gartner has coined the “citizen developer”: a programmer whose skills alone open doors to jobs that once required a formal degree. Several small companies have stepped in to provide programming “boot camps” to a wide range of people; one of these, Code Fellows, promises a full refund if students don’t get jobs paying $60,000 a year within six months of completing their course. Another company, Treehouse, boasts “37,000 active, paying students—about the size of a large university.”

What’s the Big Idea?

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted that the number of job openings for software developers was expected to grow by 30 percent between 2012 and 2020 compared to a 14 percent growth rate across all sectors during the same period. While it may seem that nontraditional methods of learning have an advantage, University of Toronto lecturer François Pitt insists that a computer science degree is more valuable: “People getting into these programs need to realize that you’re not getting the same education as you would out of a degree. Computer science is about so much more than just programming.

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