Hiring Programmers. Degree Not Required

Aug 26, 2014

Glassodoor Q2 employee surveyBy a surprisingly large percentage, CIOs  put more emphasis on skills and experience than on tech degrees from prestigious universities.

A Robert Half Technology survey of some 2,400 chief information officers at companies with more than 100 employees found 71% place “more weight on skills and experience than on whether or not a candidate attended college/university.” Another 12% said university prestige didn’t matter at all.

Now, that’s not to say most tech executives complete ignore degrees — 17% say they put at least some weight on a candidate’s education. But what the majority look for first are candidates who can get the job done.

That tracks with what employees across all industries and occupations are sensing. A Glassdoor survey in June, found 63% believe learning new skills or getting special training is what’s important. In addition, 74% agreed with the statement that, “Employers value work experience more than education.” And eight out of 10 said they have never been asked about their college GPA.

No less a tech powerhouse Google long ago discovered that academic credentials aren’t as valuable as coding skills and learning ability in hiring for tech jobs. In an interview with The New York Times, Laszlo Bock, senior VP of people operations at Google, famously declared, “G.P.A.’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless… the proportion of people without any college education at Google has increased over time.”

In an article for Informit, professor and software author Matt Weisfeld wrote about his own informal poll of business leaders about what they look for when hiring programmers. One of the two larger employers (more than 1,000 workers) told him they still value a 4-year or better computer science degree. The other large employer, as well as the two other business leaders he spoke with, told him skills and experience are more valuable to them than a degree.

When it comes to degrees and certifications, Weisfeld concluded: “It’s mostly what you can demonstrate that you know. Degrees may be required for organizational purposes at some companies but it is mostly about experience.”

No wonder then that with demand for programmers rising, and employers putting less emphasis on the educational background of their hires, coding schools have been erupting nationwide. And they’ve discovered that not only will students pay — as much as $17,000 — but so will the employers who hire their graduates.

Churning out a new crop of neophyte programmers every 10 or 12 weeks, these coding bootcamps partner with companies like Facebook and  Salesforce giving them first crack at recruiting and, in many cases, charging them a placement fee. Some of the schools share the fees with the student; others don’t. Typically, these fees are only a few thousand dollars, but there are reports of schools charging typical agency rates.

Despite the 12 hour days most of these hack schools — another name for the intensive programming academies — demand, their graduates won’t replace the demand for senior engineers whose experience allows them to command six-figure salaries. But even the lower-level jobs pay in the $50,000 to $70,000 range, says Fast Company, which scoffed at the notion that someone with no coding experience can complete a hack school and walk into a high paying programming job.

Nevertheless, as the CIO survey suggests, employers desperate for programming talent, are more than willing to ignore a lack of academic credentials for candidates who have the technical coding chops.