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Who Needs a Computer Science Degree These Days?

A student reviewing online course materials.

A recent VisionMobile survey found a growing number of software developers are entering the workforce without degree-level training.

Credit: Brian Moore/Flickr

An increasing number of software developers are entering the job market lacking degree-level training, and these self-learners tend to gravitate toward newer and in-demand languages such as HTML5, JavaScript, and Apple's Swift, according to a VisionMobile survey.

In contrast, coders of older languages such as C# and Java are more likely to have had formal instruction.

The poll also found Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) play a key role in helping aspiring developers develop skills in Swift and other languages such as Python and Ruby. In addition, MOOCs offer courses in iOS and Android app development, Web development, and data science.

Many developers who have studied a language via a MOOC already possess a bachelor's degree, and many were already software programmers.

"The typical Coursera learner taking a programming or other technology course has a bachelor's degree, is currently employed, and is between 22 and 35 years of age," notes Coursera's Kevin Mills. "Among these learners, it is about an even split between those looking to begin a new career in programming versus those seeking to advance their existing programming skills."

The use of MOOCs and other alternative forms of developer training is growing in popularity because many people cannot afford either the time or money it takes to obtain a computer science degree, especially if they already have a bachelor's degree.

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