Every year many young people are faced with deciding what and where to study. This decision is usually influenced by two main factors: vocation, and how profitable the chosen profession will be. This last point is not trivial, as it usually weighs heavily in some countries where going to university means paying a significant amount of money.
But going to college to be a well-trained and well-paid professional takes on some interesting nuances in the technology industry. In this field, I have seen a lot of self-taught people who have come to the tech world from other professions, or even without ever having set foot in a university or college. Some of the programmers I know come from having been accountants, artists, biologists, and architects. Without going any further, I myself studied music before turning a hobby of designing graphics and websites for my friends into a career that has lasted several years and today has me as part of the Get on Board team. Why do the conditions exist in this field for this to happen?
Technology, academia, and the communications era.
Without ignoring that this is probably something produced by a lot of factors, there are three points in particular that strongly capture my attention:
- Since we have the internet and devices to connect from anywhere, learning has become easier and faster. On the one hand, you can access infinite sources of knowledge, besides being part of communities that validate those sources. On the other hand, it is no longer necessary to learn in the way of schools, now you can do it at your own pace and at your own convenience, deepening in what you are most passionate about with less waste of energy, time, and money.
- The academy is made up of very structured institutions, with rules and procedures that allow accreditation of their teachings. When you go to a university, what is really important is not how much they teach you (there is a reason why so many students graduate with the minimum grades); what really makes you value going to a university is that this institution, owner of the knowledge, accredits that you are part of the group of those who master that knowledge. This validation is usually subject to a lot of bureaucracies that for a long time were not a problem, but that today fail to consolidate at the same pace as knowledge (especially technological knowledge) evolves. The latter may be due to the fact that technology is generating important solutions for the industry and in the process is improving itself with great efficiency.
- The fact that the industry needs professionals with skills that are not necessarily cultivated in universities is creating an opportunity for those who are willing to learn fast, avoid prejudices and become stronger from their mistakes.
Job opportunities in technology
This year at Get on Board we have posted 2466 job ads for this industry, with just over 50% of them being opportunities for programmers, followed by jobs for designers which occupy 13% of the total.
Although I keep seeing advertisements for programmers that ask for a software engineering professional as an exclusive requirement, many others are willing to dispense with this requirement because they understand that what is important in this field (which also has a shortage of professionals) is related to other factors.
Programming is one of those skills that you don't necessarily learn in a university, institute, course, or workshop. What makes the difference in a good programmer is the ability to be constantly up to date with the state of the industry and to have the ability to quickly understand how the latest technologies work. In addition, knowledge becomes obsolete much faster than in industries such as medicine, where years of clinical studies validating a new discovery are the equivalent of IT experiments that last no more than a couple of weeks and are tested with millions of users in real-time.
The opportunities are not just for experts
Of the total number of ads published on Get on Board, a very similar pattern can be seen in the Programming and Design / UX categories (the two most used). In both, the most in-demand have been candidates with a Semi Senior degree of experience (52% of the ads), which usually equates to professionals with between 3 and 5 years of experience.
This does not diminish the considerable space that still exists for professionals with 0 to 3 years of experience. Between 29% and 38% of the ads are focused on professionals who are just starting out in the industry. However, when we talk about years of experience, we are referring to the years in which they have been developing real projects, which is not necessarily the case in a university. All this also contributes to even out the race between self-taught and academics.
Another important fact is the salary offered in that 29% of the ads for junior or inexperienced programmers. In this block, the minimum monthly liquid salary we accept for someone who has never been employed but is able to demonstrate their skills is $800USD which is an excellent starting point for a career.
Then, learning on your own or joining an institution?
Both have their advantages and it is not a matter of considering them as exclusive paths. Universities provide community, discipline, and well-structured knowledge that complemented with the personality of someone curious to learn and with the power of independence can result in a tremendously well-qualified professional.
On the other hand, learning on your own is a considerable time and money saver. There are those who have taken the path of earning money by learning, charging very cheaply for the cost of being a trainee, but who have been able to increase the value of their work as their skills improve.
My real goal in this story is not to define which is the best option. What I really want you to take home is that we are living a moment in labor history where there are good opportunities for those who do not have the possibility of accessing formal education.
I have seen self-taught people with more and better skills than many who had the opportunity to go to a university, but that does not make the fact of being self-taught in itself better, rather it tells us that that person had another type of opportunity that is available and that what is important is not who teaches you, but the attitude you take day by day to use that knowledge.
The data exposed in this article considers the registrations made in Get on Board from January 1 to December 23, 2018.