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Old June 7th, 2006, 02:14 PM
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Hey Everyone,

I come to all of you today with a personal question that i would like to get some responces to. I am currently 19 years old and have no post secondary school education because I can't afford it. But I am dedicated to learning and becoming an expert in as many coding languages as possible. Does it seem possible for me to one day become a professional programmer in the workplace and achieve this dream i strive for dispite my lack of formal education?

Your responces are appreciated.

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Old June 7th, 2006, 03:42 PM
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Yes! You can become a professional programmer without any college education.
Depending on how bright you are and how good you are at sticking with things, you should be able to become a proficient developer on your own. I have no college degree and taught myself to program(with the help of lots of books, user groups meetings, developer boards like this one, and lots of helpful fellow programmers over the years) and have had no problem keeping employed over the last 10 years. I have worked with numerous developers who also don't have degrees. Don't get me wrong, if I could have afforded college, and had the time to do it, I would have gone for the degree, and I advise you to find a way to GET THAT DEGREE... maybe you can plan for it later on if there is no way to do it now.

You might be hampering your job prospects or pay scale somewhat, as a lot of companies base some their pay or hiring practices on the degree someone has... but at least for the time being, a developer who knows his/her stuff and can prove it can find good work at good pay. And as you progress and start making money at it, there is always the possiblilty of taking classes as you go and adding that degree later on.

There is very little (if any) knowledge that you will get from a degree that you can't get without it. The main thing is that a degree "authenticates" that you have learned whatever the degree program says is important. However, there are lots of certificate programs by companies such as Microsoft, Sun, Oracle, etc. to help indicate your proficiency. I have gotten several jobs where I was later told that my certs put me at the top of the list... and the place I am currently working specifically wanted my certs so they could get into a partner program with Microsoft so that gave me a big advantage over the candidates who had no certs. Again... these aren't required, but they have helped.

At the company I am currently working we look for the college degree, but don't require it. Our interview process is very intensive, and degree or not, if you can answer the questions and do the white-board exercises successfully, there is a good chance of getting the job. I often interview degreed candidates who can't answer fundamental questions, so the degree is only as good as the person who has it in my book. We hire based on the skills, brain-power, ability to learn, proven interest, and ability to communicate of the developer.

Here in the US, we have Junior or Community colleges that offer a lot of courses that will get you a long way toward a bachelors degree (half way, anyhow) for very little cost. After I had been working as a developer for about 5 years I took a handful of these at the local community college and I found them interesting... overall, the materials taught were pretty rudimentary, and the sort of thing that a sharp person can learn on their own in a lot less time. But the point is - that is now on my resume and adds a little credibility to it, I suppose.

Once again - get the degree if you can find a way: I think that will give you the smoothest path into the future, but don't let it hold you back if you can't go to college right now... just start programming today, and don't ever stop. Study every spare moment, program as much as possible, find friends nearby who are programming who can help you through - there are developer groups and programming clubs of some sort almost everywhere.

And most of all, Have Fun.

Woody Z http://www.learntoprogramnow.com
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