A common debate in our field is whether or not a college education is worth it when becoming a PHP programmer. People will throw statistics in how much more money you can make with a college degree. But is the cost of college (time + tuition) for a four year degree better than the benefits of having four years of experience in the web programming field?
When doing this comparison from a logical perspective, we have to acknowledge that not all college degrees and curriculums are created equal. For instance, South University in Richmond might focus more on the technical aspect of programming while other colleges will lean towards the conceptual side. We also have to acknowledge that whichever option you decide to pursue carries risk. If you don’t go to college, you may not get a job when compared to someone who has gone to college. If you do go to college, you may have to start making as much as someone who just graduated from high school. In both cases there are no 100% guarantees and you cannot depend on a degree to provide you with a job or at least a job that brings in a certain amount of money.
In fact, there are no clear answers as to what is the best choice in your case. Part of it depends on personality and intelligence. One other important determining factor is how skillful you are at learning new things on your own without someone there to help you.
Let’s go through some positive and negative comparisons. Some of these items are repeated using different wording to illustrate a point.
PHP Programming: The Benefits of Going to College
- You get a strong foundation in understanding core programming practices with multiple languages, along with more advanced programming concepts (object oriented programming, etc..)
- You can learn other useful skills that don’t directly relate to programming…such as: teaching, communicating clearly with others and how to research effectively.
- Often times you learn what is the best way in solving certain programming problems, instead of having to learn through experience.
- The broad range of education that you receive will help you pick up new programming languages and systems more quickly.
- You might make more money when you get a job after graduating. You also have the potential of applying for higher level corporate positions that only consider candidates with college degrees.
- You might beat out other programmers without a degree for higher profile programming jobs.
PHP Programming: The Cost of Going to College
- You need to pay for tuition, unless you get this covered through a scholarship or your parents.
- In most cases, it takes four years to get a bachelor degree, which is a cost of time.
- You may not have time to work for a web company while you go to school. This might make it difficult in making more than an entry level web programmer after graduating.
- 100% of what you will learn in college will not be useful for your career.
- Depending on the college you go to, what you learn may not be applicable when you enter the job market. This could be because the college does not keep up with the latest web technologies, or the way they teach the material is not practical for the work environment.
The Benefits of a PHP Programmer Not Going to College
- You do not need to pay for tuition.
- You do not have student loans to pay for, so it might be acceptable to start working at a lower income level. This allows you to work your way up a company and allows you to possibly consider more positions.
- Instead of a four year degree, you can end up with four years of job experience…which might be more valuable in certain circumstances and at certain companies. In fact, some employers believe four years of experience in this field is more valuable than a four year degree (opinions vary on this).
- What you learn on the job is immediately applicable to your career.
The Negative Aspects of a PHP Programmer Skipping College
- Especially right after high school, your resume will not look as good as someone who graduated from college. You also may find it difficult to get corporate level programming positions without a degree. If the market in this field gets saturated (which it is not, currently), it might be difficult to find a job compared to candidates who have a degree.
- It can be more difficult to get a strong grasp of more complex programming principles.
- Bad programming habits or programming misconceptions can be more common if the person is not constantly learning and reading. Collaborating with other programmers can help with this.
- The main methods for a programmer to learn without a degree are: online research (articles, tutorials, etc…), books and peers. So in other words, how much you know and what you know is determined by how much energy you put into learning and who you go to for advice.
In the field of PHP web programming, ultimately experience is king. General programming knowledge and how-to is valuable, but if you are in a production web shop and can’t get projects done in a profitable timeline, than this resume point is worthless. Because systems and languages are changing all the time, having multiple years of experience is invaluable. So in either case, experience is the best way in getting a better job and making more money.
Based on my experience, I benefited the most by not going to college. This could be different if I was in a more populated location that saw more competition in this field. This is not meant to condemn college, but merely to challenge you in articulating whether college will be valuable in your case. Sometimes I think I would have benefited going to college, but I don’t think I would be where I am at now if I did take this path.
Has going to college benefited you as a web programmer or a graphic designer? Would you do anything differently?