If you want to become a lawyer, you go to law school. If you want to become a doctor, you go to med school. So if you want to be a programmer, you go to… programming school? Meaning, you get a computer science degree or two, right?
Well, not so much. It’s a little more complicated than that.
In this post, we’ll take a detailed look at the paths to becoming a programmer, focusing on what education you need, how much of it, and where to get it.
What Education Is Needed to Become a Programmer? The Short Answer
The question of programmer education is a relatively complicated one. But the answer to the question, “what education is needed to become a programmer” is actually kind of simple.
Shortest answer: none.
The second shortest one, long enough not to be flippant is this: unlike many other knowledge work vocations, programming requires no special certification or credentials. Because of that and because programmers are in such high demand, there are no specific educational requirements. If you can demonstrate an ability to program, you can get a job as a programmer.
So, as you can see, there’s a short answer, but not necessarily a simple one.
No Specific Education Requirements Doesn’t Mean No Education
If you have no programming background whatsoever, you obviously can’t just wander on down to Apple Headquarters and request a six-figure programming gig. Incidentally, if you do try this, please record a video of the proceedings on your phone, because I imagine it’ll be pretty amusing.
So some minimum requirements exist. They have to.
And they do. It’s just that they’re situational and somewhat objective. Whereas a medical license is your only (legal) path to being a doctor, a computer science degree is just one path to being a programmer. Some companies may require it. Others might not, and instead will hire people with degrees in other things or with a lot of previous work experience.
For the purposes of this post, I’m going to break down the path of a programming career into a few “buckets.” This might not cover every human being that has ever programmed for a living. But it will cover most of them, and it’ll give you an idea of your options.
So let’s look at the different paths to professional programming and what education you need.