software development


An area of conversation that has come up recently in the office, one which has also been debated endlessly on LinkedIn, is the importance of a degree in an IT related subject versus relevant industry experience. As a recruiter in the tech sector, it is not uncommon for my clients to specify that future hires be educated to a certain level or have a degree in a field relevant to their vacancy. 

From an outside perspective, it can often seem that those with a degree think it’s more important because they have attained a nationally/internationally recognised accreditation which validates their competence, whereas those without see the requirement for certain levels of education or specific degrees as archaic and restrictive (I mean, it is a very expensive differentiator!). Surely demonstrable experience and a passion for your subject matter outweighs theoretical classroom knowledge? 

Personally, I have a Second-Class Honours degree in Accounting & Finance. Does that make me better suited for an accountancy role than someone with two years’ work experience? Absolutely not (even ignoring the 10-year gap since I graduated!). 

Having spoken with both candidates and clients to ascertain what they deem important, there are a few common themes that come up. From a client perspective, there seems to be the belief that a university degree better equips someone with exposure to the latest technologies and practicesFrom a candidate perspective, it’s generally considered that their educational background becomes less relevant the more experience they gain (getting wiser as we get older versus the naivety of youth, perhaps?). 

When I looked into this in more detail, I was surprised to find that a significant population of software developers in the tech-industry are self-taught. Though it may come as a surprise to hear it referred to as such, computer programming could be thought of as a trade-in that it’s a skill that can be learnt by anyone in a variety of non-professional settings. With the evergrowing number of online learning tools, many of which are freely available, it’s never been easier to become a fullyfledged master of this art. Many programming technologies, such as PHP, are extensively documented online and enthusiastically supported by online communities which further promotes opportunities for self-taught coding – communities I too engaged with when sourcing for some recent PHP Developer roles in South West England. 

As product owner of Programming & Development here at Church International, roles continue to come across my desk which require not just a degree, but a degree within a specific field. Of course, I understand that with certain early-career jobs in certain techs/industries that there is validity in having a degree in computer science or bio-engineering, howeverwhen looking at roles within Java, PHP, Python, etc. that ask for a minimum of 5 years’ experience, is there really a need for a developer to have gone to university and attained a degree in a specific field? Maybe, maybe not. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this? 

I raise this point because I am currently recruiting for a number of Python & PHP Developer roles for our clients across the UK. My current list of vacancies requires those with some demonstrable work experience as well as opportunities for those who have recently qualified and are taking their first steps in the tech sector. Regardless of where you sit on the ‘Experience v Education debate, we’ll have a vacancy that is perfect for you.

For a more detailed chat about what you are looking for and how we can help, please contact me on


Click on a social media icon below to share and make a comment

About the author

Luke Barnett

Chapter Owner Software Development & Data Engineering

View my profile