Do you want to work in the IT industry but aren’t sure if a Computer Science degree is really worth your time? Here are some of the major advantages of getting an official qualification.
Computer knowledge is filtering through to younger and younger minds. Toddlers are playing on iPads, and teens are creating successful Apps. It’s now common to have very young programmers, developers, and many other IT specialists who start playing around with coding at a young age and are scoring freelance IT jobs by the time they leave school.
If we think about it, it’s almost tricky to come up with a single career that does not directly or indirectly need computer technology. Whether it’s strictly for Email communication, data capturing, social media, or a website. Graduates with an in-depth knowledge of computers are in hot demand.
But with free online courses, or IT friends and networks, is it really necessary to still study IT at an institution? And if so, what are the main advantages of having an IT degree?
Information Technology vs. Computer Science
First off, it’s important not to confuse IT with Computer Science. The two disciplines have a lot in common, for obvious reasons – it’s all about ‘them computers.’ However, there are some basic differences between the two, and depending on your own skills, preferences, and interests, one might be more suitable for you than the other.
Here’s a short ‘n sweet breakdown:
Code. Code. Code.
More than anything, it’s about writing code and creating algorithms. In essence, you apply the theory you learn to create useable programmes and systems. If you love Maths and problem-solving, this has plenty.
Possible careers include Programming, Development, Computer Engineering, or System Analysis.
In this case, you are the person who understands how to use certain programmes and apply them to a business context – for example, how to implement a system or programme for a corporate company.
Possible careers include User Assistance and Support, Business Intelligence, Analysis, or Security Specialisation.
Have a look at what a day in the life an IT Technician looks like.
Felix Norton, owner of web development company Succinct Design explains it quite nicely.
“An IT degree is quite different to a Computer Science degree. IT is more admin based knowledge and application of software, whereas Computer Science is more understanding and developing software.”
Running the formal track
There are many routes you can take to gain knowledge and skills in IT. You could opt for short-courses, or ask a friend to mentor you. You could also just try figuring it all out yourself. Many professionals have become successful through various of these.
However, there are a few distinct plus points for the formal route of obtaining a degree. Here are some of the main advantages and benefits that come along with a formal education, or else degree, in IT.
- More Job Opportunities
In general, IT graduates don’t struggle to find work in the industry after graduation. Oftentimes, recruiters visit universities to talk to the IT and Computer Science students and conduct interviews for future positions in their companies.
Stuart Bourhill, an Evolve IT developer based in Joburg, states,
“In IT, finding employment straight after graduation is easy – comically easy.”
- More Money
The starting salary for South African IT graduates is much higher than in many other fields. In general, it starts out at R 20 000 per month.
- Thorough Theoretical Knowledge
Though short-courses may give you a great kick-start, a degree will equip you with a lot more knowledge about theory – this will give you a greater understanding of how computers fundamentally work.
In addition, degrees draw on other disciplines such as Maths, Physics, and sometimes even Philosophy, giving you a much broader field of awareness for the greater computer world.
- Diversity of IT Skills
A degree in IT equips you with a much wider range of skills, and you can choose to specialize in or more as you go on and start your career. A wide range of skills promises a wide range of opportunities.
For example, you could look into focusing on building web applications, working for small or big corporate companies, go into research or design, or pursue teaching.
Have a look at this article that highlights why education is in fact very important.
Coding at We Think Code
We Think Code is a tech institution in Johannesburg which offers aspiring software engineers (programmers) an opportunity to study for FREE. Instead of funding its operations through fees on the student, We Think Code finds corporate sponsors looking for future software geniuses.
Examples of careers for coders include:
- IT Development
- Database Analysis
- Web Developers
The innovative tertiary institution uses peer-to-peer learning, which means no teachers and no classes. We Think Code offers an MICT SETA qualification which is an NQF level 5 certification. During your two-year learning experience at We Think Code, you will be taught to how to use coding as a problem-solving tool. The institution also believes in giving individuals access to real-world experiences through internships and, therefore, providing a pathway to employment.
Keen to find out more? Take a look at this video on how to #ReCodeYourFuture by We Think Code students.
Straight from the horse’s mouth
When it comes to studying towards a degree in IT, various professionals (some who have a degree, and some who don’t) share their opinion on advantages of getting that official qualification.
“It’s definitely easier to get hired when you have a degree, and it definitely increases your chances of a good income. A prospective employer won’t really know if you’re good or not until they actually employ you and see your work – that is why their best bet is to choose candidates with a degree. It’s safer for the employer. However, even people with degrees might only know about xyz… and when it comes to abc, they go into a flat spin.”
– Dean Esterhuizen, Developer
“Having a degree is important, but it’s also not the most important aspect. Experience is. Many high-end companies look at experience first, and degrees later, but it definitely helps to have one. A degree doesn’t help you immediately in a real world situation. Graduates often enter the working world and are, at first, a bit useless. But the degree enables them to catch on far faster than those without a formal qualification.
A Computer Science degree doesn’t really teach you many practical skills. It teaches you how to think and how to ask the right questions to then find the information, digest and understand it, and finally to apply it practically. That’s its main value, and then the credibility of the degree.
Those are the benefits. Otherwise you can basically teach yourself everything online. From my own experience, companies don’t always need you to have a degree.”
– Felix Norton, Managing Director of Succinct Design and web design company Woww
“I got my degree in Computer Science and I’m certain it has benefited me in more ways that I am even aware of. I think purely having a degree, regardless of type or discipline, it affords many advantages and is (unfortunately) an asset you can’t do without in SA.
There are a few things I could mention about my experiences while holding a BSc in Computer Science (Information Technology can be an ambiguous term as it can vary from institution to institution).
It is difficult to say what advantages my degree has given me – if I had been able to educate myself to the level I’m at currently, without the piece of paper to go with that expertise, perhaps I’d have had a harder time finding a job, or perhaps not. At the end of the day I wouldn’t exclude my degree from my CV, because I wouldn’t like to assume that I’d get a job based on experience alone.”
– Stuart Bourhill, Developer
When you are looking to pursue a career in the IT industry, try to learn as much as possible about the languages, programmes and other systems that the prospective company uses. The earlier you can do your homework, the earlier you can start preparing yourself. Ideally, by the time you are employed, you want to have a decent basic knowledge of the computer skills you will need in the respective company.