It’s an urban legend: the stories about people who left universities and managed to succeed. Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates — back in the day they all chose the path of freedom and self-education, thus, inspiring a lot of people to replicate their deeds. Not everyone succeeded, though. Is it correct to assume that a career is possible without a degree, but only if you are a computer genius?

Universities raise good specialists

The easiest way to build a career is to finish a university program and receive a diploma. According to figures, there is a strong connection between quality of education and professional success. The reasons are obvious. University graduates are usually smart, able to find information quickly and have been taught by the best specialists in the industry— perfect employees, aren’t they? Some European companies especially prefer graduates of prestigious universities and it is not because of snobbism. Such universities serve as recruiters— they filter through the majority of applicants and accept only the best.

When developing a business, it is essential not to underestimate good education. Ukraine has a decent rating in terms of education, and we know from our own experience, that technical universities graduates have a good basis of skills and perks. According to study results, students have better cognitive abilities, which allows them to deal with the work easier. This is, actually, not a surprise. Just recall your university years when every way possible to succeed was used: either by reading through all the books or by phenomenal cunning. Students often participate in group projects which enhance communication skills greatly. One more detail — students often have a lot of friends. Universities actively develop different sorts of student organizations which build rather broad networks. It is hard to say whether it can be considered a competitive advantage, but actively engaging in such “interest clubs” can open a lot of doors.

Self-educated developers also have a chance to get a job

It would be wrong to assume that companies always focus on developers with diplomas. Everybody knows that sometimes people who chose the path of self-education will grow to become true stars! At the very beginning of this article, we asked a question— if this option is only available to geniuses? No, of course not. Not all developers are geniuses and it is, actually, for the better. Often enough, genius is followed by difficult personality traits.

Steve Jobs, for example, during his pre-Apple period worked only night shifts. It was because his colleagues from the day shift couldn’t bear his aroma. Walter Isaakson, Jobs’ biographer, said that Steve often left hygiene behind because he was busy brooding over one of his ideas. “His colleagues didn’t want to work with him, because he smelled bad and often walked all over the office barefoot”.

Naturally, an awful character doesn’t mean that you have to leave university and build multi-million dollar empires. There are other reasons to leave university. This is what Beetroot marketeer (or the closest we have to a marketing director), Sebastian Streiffert, has to say: “For me, personally, courses at university were abstract, they weren’t sufficiently to-the-point to help me realize the ideas I had at the time. And when you find that you’re making more progress with endeavors kicked off in your spare time than at university, it becomes increasingly difficult to motivate a degree over results. My spare time web development projects eventually landed me both the network and experience to build a career.”

Now, let’s be honest: how many French or Spanish “For dummies” books are lying on your shelves covered with dust? How many times have you started a Coursera course and dropped it halfway? Everyone, probably, knows how difficult it is to force yourself to learn something new when there is no strict professor behind your back and no inevitable exam lurking on the horizon. The fact that self-educated developers made it says more about their motivation and self-discipline than any diploma. According to Jim Rohn: “Formal education will make you a living, self-education will make you a fortune”.

Is there a third option?

Nowadays a conservative university education is not always on par with the ever-evolving IT industry. Thus, coding boot camps appeared. The essence of such an education is that students learn only the skills in most demand. The average lasts up to six months and after graduation students have a decent set of skills to grow further and test themselves in a real working environment. “It’s hard to believe, but with a good teacher and real commitment, complete beginners can become job-ready in a matter of months”, says Denys Serheyev, manager at Beetroot Academy”. “They’ll leave our academy with a good enough foundation to do real work, and can then continue to grow from there.” Of course, university graduates, usually, tend to have a deeper understanding of theoretical topics. But it doesn’t mean that people from boot camps can’t survive the competition. Looking at our own data, around 70% of students are able to begin careers in IT after graduation. That’s not to say that all education is the same, but it definitely shows that in some cases, a market-oriented and practical education can be a very effective alternative to traditional degrees.

The hard school of life

So, can one become a developer without a degree? Yes, clearly. But, one thing beginner developers (not only a beginner, though) should understand is that besides a bunch of required skills obtained in university, in courses or at home, he should maintain a particular lifestyle. You have to grow all the time, be up-to-date with what’s in demand, learn about new technologies and set goals that are difficult to reach. This inner ambition to be better than you were yesterday is the thing which makes the distinction between a good and a bad developer, no matter how has he started — with mantle and diploma, at courses with fellow beginners or with a stack of books, a computer, and a dream.