Do I need to go to uni for a career in IT?

While university courses have a lot to offer, the short is answer is no.

Tech employers typically favour practical skills and mindset over qualifications, and sometimes over work experience. Hiring employers are looking to see what you’re able to do, how you work, how you’ll fit into the teams you’ll be working with and your motivations for developing your career.

If you’re considering a career in IT there are alternative approaches that may help launch your career faster and provide a stronger return on investment.

What should I consider?

1.       Speed to qualification

University degrees typically consist of three- or four-years full-time study during which you’ll be unable to launch your career.

If you’re looking to switch career paths within a shorter-timescales, intensive bootcamp style programmes or flexible career development programmes may offer a significantly faster way of getting you to that all-important first job in IT.

 2.       Investment Requirement

University tuition fees of £27,750 for a three-year programme plus associated living costs make a degree programme a considered investment.  While tuition fee deferral via the UK government’s Student Loan programme can defer repayment until you’re earning, it’s high interest rates significantly increase the overall cost of your studies.

This acts to reduce your take-home pay and therefore the lifestyle your salary affords for a considerable proportion of your career.

Fast-track programmes in areas such as software development typically cost less than one year's university tuition, thereby significantly reducing the upfront investment of pursuing a career in IT.

Most schools will offer financial support that enables students to spread tuition over time in order to support effective budgeting. At Opportunities Workshop this provide students with 24 month payment plans, ensuring affordable study and no far-reaching overhang.

3.       Underpinning Skills

Candidates pursuing career paths such as data and analytics benefit from underpinning human understanding skills gained from social science degree programmes such as psychology, management and economics.

No tech careers are fully dependent on a university degree as an entry-route to professional success.

Students with a strong background in mathematics and problem-solving skills, plus the motivation to succeed can find themselves being just as effective.   

Professional career colleges will typically offer a more flexible and considered view of your abilities and motivations than simply looking at your GCSE and A-Level exam grades.

4.       Programme content

The world of technology is a fast-moving environment. Some university programmes benefit from excellent facilities, partnership with leading employers and access to research that may not be readily available elsewhere.

Other university programmes develop at a slower pace and may not teach the tools being used in industry.

Wherever you’re considering studying ask how recently the curriculum has been updated, and how regularly it’s reviewed. The best schools and universities will be able to demonstrate regular updates and how their content meets the evolving demands of industry partners.

Also consider the variety of teaching tools, how much practical study is built into your programme and how often you'll be able to get individual attention from the academic team.

Hiring employers are likely to be more interested in the sites and apps you’ve developed as part of your education than the academic background behind your skills.

5.       Fit with existing work and home commitments

University programmes are an immersive experience offering a broad range of social and lifestyle engagement beyond the academic programmes students enrol upon. For many participants this is a key attraction for university study.

If however, you have existing work and family commitments, you may find flexible part-time study programmes, local schools and elements of online delivery to be a better fit with your lifestyle.

Check when classes and support are available, and how well this dovetails with when you'll be studying.   Our students benefit from live support from our coaching team for approaching 100 hours each week, for 52 weeks a year, which translates into significantly greater access to support than the rigid timetables and term time schedules offered by most universities.

So what’s the right answer?

Going to university is very much an individual decision and can be an excellent launchpad for your career in technology.

However, if you’re uncertain about the time, cost, and lifestyle commitment, exploring alternative education routes makes a lot of sense.

Professional career colleges such as Opportunities Workshop and Pitman Training offer world-class skills development leading to globally recognised certifications at study locations close to your home, with study programmes that suit your lifestyle and budget.

These programmes offer an accelerated path to a career in IT for students with sufficient motivation and commitment to seize the opportunity.

To find out more about how our IT programmes can help launch your tech career, please get in touch by booking an exploratory conversation with our admissions team.