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Has anyone successfully skipped doing a computer science degree at university to study online/fast track their career instead?

Its difficult to justify going to uni and it seems like I could potentially get an entry level role without wasting 3+ years?

Would be good to hear your experiences!
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Lots of people have taken this route into Software Dev and had success. According to the 2019 Stack Overflow Dev Survey about 75% had a Bachelors minimum so at least 1/4 of Professional Devs don't have a degree and if you also factor in only 63% of them are CompSci you are getting closer to 1/3 probably that are self taught mostly (if you ignore bootcamps).

I thought about this long and hard as I am late 20s and wanting to career change. These are some of the reasons I decided on doing a CompSci Bachelors over self teaching:
- Structured course, with teaching support and industrial connections of University. I don't trust myself completely to self study based on previous educational history.
- Degrees matter, especially if you are looking to move abroad at some point in your life. They also aid in getting past HR busybodies and if you want to move into Senior Management they are invaluable.
- University life, a bigger reason for a school leaver than myself but the experiences gained will help with the soft skills that may be lacking in some self taught devs. Personally, after 12 years working and a chunk of that in the Military I am looking forward to a slower pace of life for a few years.

Obviously there are downsides such as extortionate costs and it taking a longer period of time to get into the workplace. Only you can really choose what is best for you.
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Reasons to study online:
1. Location is no longer an important issue
If you are already working, or there are other reasons why you might not be able to be present on campus to obtain a degree from a traditional university, then online education provides you with the possibility to follow courses from the comfort of your home.

View online programmes
For a fully online degree, you won’t need to travel abroad, so no money spent on commuting, plane tickets, accommodation, or even the visa formalities. And that’s a lot of headaches in minus.

And there are plenty of great universities from all over the world offering amazing online programmes. Check out just a few examples:
Walden University
Online Open University UK
Royal Roads University
RMIT University
University of Birmingham

2. Enjoy all the flexibility you could ask for

Online Bachelors or Masters give you the possibility to combine independent learning with your work or family responsibilities and are often personalised to fit your individual needs.

In a nutshell, you can learn at your own pace, since you won’t be constrained to a fixed timetable. Additionally, you also have the possibility to save your lessons and read and replay them as much as you like.

You have complete freedom to pick your learning environment: you can study at your job, after working hours are over (if you have the possibility), at home, on your way to work, etc.

3. Choose from a wide range of degree options
With the growing need for online education, there has been an increase in available online and distance study programmes, giving you a great choice of different programmes to choose from.

You can study an online Bachelor’s, Master’s or PhD degree, vocational courses, professional, short courses, you name it. Online studies are there to improve your skills For instance, you can learn a foreign language or advance your tech skills and learn about a new software or programming language.

Check out these popular online degrees:

Online Masters in Business and Management
Online Masters in Data Science
Online Masters in Education
Online Masters in Design
Online Masters in Hospitality
4. Being successfully admitted to an online degree is easier
Online universities sometimes have less or even no formal admission requirements. For instance, you might be accepted even if you have a minimum grade average from your previous studies or with lower TOEFL or IELTS scores.

What’s more open universities usually have no age limits and no prior education requirement. However, open universities don’t provide university degrees. Instead, for each course you complete, you will earn credits that can be transferred towards a degree if you decide to enrol and get admitted at the same university.

You can apply with Studyportals to our partner universities offering online Masters:

London School of Planning and Management
London School of International Business
LISAA School of Design
Application and counselling are free with us, because everybody needs some unconditional help from time to time.

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5. You’ll receive great support during your studies
Studying online does not mean you are left alone in the maze of digital studies. Most distance learning programmes are designed to offer you support from university tutors and individual feedback to keep you focused on your studies. You can arrange personal appointments with supervisor as well as contact from the student support services at any time for technical or administrative issues.

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For most distance learning courses, you can connect to an online platform that is available 24/7 and allows you to discuss online with your peers and professors and access online study materials.

Some universities even have their own YouTube channel and allow you to download materials from iTunes and listen to them on MP3 players. Talk about adapting to today society. You can also access interactive instruction and individual assessment platforms, and online labs.

What can we say, online education is a great alternative to on-campus study programmes? The question is: what are you waiting for? Check out the amazing choice you have for online degree programmes, apply and start your studies!
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Report 1 year ago
(Original post by let it play)
Has anyone successfully skipped doing a computer science degree at university to study online/fast track their career instead?

Its difficult to justify going to uni and it seems like I could potentially get an entry level role without wasting 3+ years?

Would be good to hear your experiences!
Personally speaking, I'd been self-taught in programming and general IT from around age 14 onwards; not really a "fast track" - when i started it was just a hobby; I had no idea that it'd eventually lead to a career. I started a software engineering degree at 22, but didn't enter the final year and went directly into a software engineering job instead so I've never had any need for a degree. The university content didn't really give me anything new which I hadn't already taught myself by that time.

There are plenty of non-university routes, although whichever route you take into a career, the bottom line is that your employability essentially boils down to the skills that you can offer. You can be self-taught and learn everything that university would teach you; you can even go beyond anything that you might learn at university too. (Most of the best graduates tend to teach themselves a lot more than they need for their degree too)

It's also worth remembering that university is also largely based on self-study at home or in your own time. Your contact time at university tends to be 10-15 hours per week for 26 weeks of the year, with the rest being self-directed study based on coursework/assignments/research/etc.
Universities will offer you access to lecturers, facilities, and various resources like course material, and of course the support/feedback; however if you're comfortable sourcing the material for yourself, following your own structure, and engaging with online communities for help and support, then there's very little value to be had from attending a physical university or getting a degree qualification.

The main reason to study for a degree would be if you're interested in an academic or research-based career (which people sometimes choose if they're interested in working on cutting-edge technologies) -- in that case a degree would be necessary so that you can enrol onto a masters degree, then probably a PhD afterwards too.

Aside from research and academic careers, having a degree makes no real difference to your employability or career in the long-term; particularly later in your career when you're applying to senior roles it's irrelevant because employers hiring people with 10+ years experience won't care what you may have once studied at university 10+ years ago -- the experience you gain with time generally supercedes education.

Companies hiring people into entry-level roles generally make their decision to hire people based on how well candidates demonstrate analytical, technical and problem solving abilities. (for example, a technical test, or a 'whiteboard problem', or face-to-face technical questions, or demonstrating some project that you've worked on).

You can certainly achieve this without any kind of formal education, although the total amount of effort required on your behalf is similar to the effort involved in studying on a course. You can do it in less than 3 years; but the total amount of time it takes depends on you.

One option could be to apply to a Higher apprenticeship or Degree-apprenticeship scheme such as this one:
These apprenticeship schemes are competitive to get into - the demand is generally much higher than the number of available placements; however it's a very effective way of getting into an IT career.

There are also a lot of free self-study options on sites like EdX, Coursera and Udacity, which all have a lot of free university-level courses offered by global top universities (e.g. Harvard and MIT) and tech giants (e.g. Microsoft/Google/Amazon). Otherwise Googling and StackExchange sites are an excellent resource, and "google archaeology" can turn up a lot of valuable material to learn from.

It's also a good idea to engage with online tech communities; this can be time-consuming and difficult at times but it's a very effective way to learn and get help/support if you're able to put in the kind of time needed to ask good-quality questions, and dig through information/previous questions to be able to communicate on the same kind of level as the really knowledgable people on sites like StackExchange.

Check your local area for Technology meet up groups too -- https://www.meetup.com/find/tech/
Those can be great for learning more about technology, being involved in tech-related events, and getting the chance to do some social-networking with other people in your area as well.

I'd also recommend taking the time to work on personal projects using some in-demand technologies. You can help your CV stand out by setting yourself the challenge to work on some larger, non-trivial projects equivalent to the kind of thing a graduate would have worked on for their final-year project.

For example, there are quite a lot of fairly 'generic' IT skills which are great to have worked with on your CV because they're used by so many different types of IT jobs; Just to name a few: Programming (Python is a really useful/important language even if you don't want to "be a programmer"), Databases and SQL (Databases are at the core of nearly all businesses and large organisations so it's essential), Linux (including bash scripting), "Cloud" technologies (e.g. Azure or AWS), Windows O/S administration, PowerShell scripting...

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