Is a Software Engineering Degree Worth It? Pros, Cons, & Alternatives

Headline: is a software engineering degree worth it with a college lecture in the background

If you’re exploring the prospect of a career in software engineering, you may have asked yourself, “Is software engineering a good degree?” or “Do I need a degree to become a software engineer?” Maybe you have a bachelor’s degree in an unrelated field, and you’re wondering if it makes sense to go back to school for a master’s degree.

There may be advantages to taking a traditional educational route, but it’s not always necessary for a successful career. Practical, hands-on experience and a willingness to learn can take you far.

So, is a software engineering degree worth it? Let’s take a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of pursuing formal education in this field and explore some of the alternative routes to landing a job in the software industry.

Types of Degrees: Bachelor’s vs. Master’s

Let’s briefly touch on the difference between a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in software engineering.

A bachelor’s degree typically takes four years to complete, and it’s designed to provide students with a broad understanding of the principles of computer science and software development, including programming languages, algorithms, data structures, and software design and architecture.

A master’s degree is a postgraduate academic path that typically takes two years to complete. It’s designed to provide students with advanced knowledge and a more in-depth skill set, covering more specific subject matter that will enable a student to specialize in particular areas of interest.

The Pros of a Software Engineering Degree

Is software engineering a good degree? Going to college may not be the only way prospective software engineers can get their foot in the door, but there are some benefits to obtaining a degree in a tech-related discipline.

Finding a Job More Easily

Even as tech giants like Google and Apple have started to change their minds about requiring new hires to hold a degree, the truth is that many employers still place value on candidates having a formal education. Having a bachelor’s degree tends to indicate you have at least a baseline understanding of the skills and knowledge required to do the job, and you may have less to prove when applying for entry-level positions.

Wider Breadth of Knowledge

A college education in software engineering also tends to provide students with a broader knowledge base in a variety of subjects. It’s also an environment where students have the opportunity to practice helpful soft skills such as communication, technical writing, or project management.

Having a broad knowledge base can help software engineers have a more well-rounded understanding of their work, which can make them more effective in their field.

Networking

Colleges and universities often develop mutually beneficial relationships with companies that are on the lookout for fresh talent, and pursuing a degree often allows students to take advantage of these networking opportunities. Many schools even host job fairs and seminars that can put students in direct contact with potential employers, and it’s common for other resources (like career counseling or alumni community platforms) to be available at these events.

It May Prepare You for More Jobs

The same breadth of knowledge that makes a traditional education an asset also grants students more career flexibility. If you decide you want to leverage your programming skills in a related field or decide to work in another industry altogether, your formal education may help make that transition smoother.

The Cons of a Software Engineering Degree

Despite its advantages, it’s important to understand that college isn’t for everyone, and there are a few important downsides to consider when choosing whether to pursue and commit to a degree program.

Degrees Are Expensive

There’s no way to sugarcoat it. College is expensive, and its costs are only rising. Factoring in tuition, room and board, and books, the average cost of a four-year program hovers around $102,828. And that doesn’t take into account out-of-state costs or interest on student loans you may have taken out. The sheer cost of attending college is enough to make anyone think twice about their options, and it can sometimes limit access to higher education altogether.

Formal Educational Structure

For some, the structure of college and classes and the methods of teaching just don’t mesh with their personality or the way they learn. In a formal degree program, there aren’t a lot of opportunities for flexibility or learning at your own pace, which may be a disadvantage if you find certain styles of learning are difficult for you.

The Time Commitment

Money isn’t the only resource to consider, as obtaining a degree also requires a significant investment of time. Many who are interested in software engineering find it difficult to juggle their current job, lifestyle, or other responsibilities with being a full-time student.

Alternatives to a Software Engineering Degree

Attending college can be a rewarding and beneficial experience, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution to everyone’s education questions. There are some alternative options for those who don’t want to pursue a formal degree but are still interested in becoming a software engineer.

Software Engineering Certification

Industry-recognized certification programs are shorter and tend to be far less expensive compared to a traditional degree program, making them a more accessible option for those who don’t want to or can’t take on the burden of student loans.

Certifications can often be completed entirely online or on a part-time basis, so they’re also a more flexible and convenient choice for those who have other responsibilities or time commitments.

Learn More: Best SQL Certifications

Singular Online Education Courses

The interest is full of self-directed learning resources available to you. Some of these might be paid, like a single course offering from an online education provider, and others may be free. Some may have some structure, and others may be entirely self-directed, depending on your own motivation and discipline.

These can be a great way to start dipping your toes into the world of software engineering and slowly develop new skills. If you’re interested in diving into this completely, check out App Academy Open. It’s our entire curriculum, available for free, for you to learn at your own pace.

Software Engineering Bootcamps

Coding bootcamps are intensive, short-term training programs that are designed to provide students with the precise skills and knowledge they need to pursue a career in software engineering. These programs are significantly shorter and more affordable than a degree program, and 72% of hiring managers feel that bootcamp grads are equally or even better equipped for the job.

In fact, coding bootcamps have been at the forefront of changing attitudes towards traditional education and pioneering alternative learning and practical training. 

Some bootcamp programs, like those offered by App Academy, also help their students through the job search process. We have an extensive network of alumni as well as partnership relationships with tech companies, and we include career guidance as a part of our curriculum.

If you’re interested in exploring everything these programs have to offer, check out our Campus-based Software Engineering Program, Full-Time Online, or Part-Time Online bootcamp options to see which is the best fit for you.

Learn More: Coding Bootcamp vs. CS Degree: Which is Better?

Next Step Up: Is a Master’s Degree in Software Engineering Worth It?

With only about 20% of software engineers in the US holding a graduate-level degree, you may be wondering, “Is a master’s degree in software engineering worth it?” There’s no right answer for everyone, but going back to school for your master’s potentially means new job opportunities and higher average salaries. Plus, a quality program can help you further specialize in a particular area of interest.

Still, you’ll have to weigh those advantages against the time and money required to pursue a master’s degree. It’s also important to keep in mind that, in a field like software engineering, developing and demonstrating your skills in a practical environment is crucial, whether or not you choose to pursue a  master’s degree.

Kickstart Your Coding Career with App Academy

If you’re interested in breaking into the tech industry, App Academy can help. Our comprehensive bootcamps have prepared over 5,000 students for new careers in software engineering. And our built-in career services can help you hit the ground running as a software engineer.

Learn more about our programs and career services or get in touch with an Admissions Specialist today!

Written by App Academy

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