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Are CS degrees really necessary?

Recorded – watch the full episode on YouTube.

One choice people are faced with is: do I want to study for a computer science degree or do I want to go for a bootcamp? Or do I want to just dive in and buy a Swift book or read the online manual or follow tutorials, to learn that way. Do you think it's beneficial for iOS developer particularly to go out and get a CS degree?

Mayuko Inoue: I think it really depends. And I think that's probably going to be my answer for a lot of these things. I personally went into iOS development because it was the one area of development where I felt like I could use the things I learned in my CS degree. Web development to me is like the Wild West. It's such high-level programming up there.

Even if you've never written assembly language before, you're fine. You don't have to know how all the things happen in order to do that. But a lot of the concepts that you learn in a CS degree felt really like there was a parallel between what you would need to know in an iOS stack with all of that stuff. Especially because my university was very hardware focused. We did a lot of stuff that was a bit more lower level programming. So I mean, that was just my path. And I think it did help me to iOS development better than maybe if I had just gone in. But I also don't think you have to have that knowledge to become an iOS developer.

"I think at the end of the day, it depends on what you want to achieve as an iOS developer. What are you looking for?"

You're an iOS developer if you can ship an app. If you can just do that, you open up Xcode, you make something that's useful to someone. Even if it's just one app you can put in the app store. I think that's just, you're an iOS developer. If it's a Swift framework, you don't even have to ship anything to the app store to be called an iOS developer.

I think at the end of the day, it depends on what you want to achieve as an iOS developer. What are you looking for? Are you trying to become someone who is an expert in Apple frameworks and the technology itself? Are you looking to just ship a lot of products and make a lot of apps for people. Also, I think the financial aspect of it is something that's a really big factor in how people decide whether they go into a four-year degree or a bootcamp, as well. Can you afford to go to a four-year degree? Or if you're going to go to a bootcamp, what are you going to do to support that, as well?

"If you go to a four-year degree, you also end up getting the network of the people that you went to the four-year degree with, you get the alumni network, you get career fairs."

You could also be self-taught. I think that's one of the best things about development today. You can come from any background into a field, but each one will have its own challenges.

If you go to a four-year degree, you also end up getting the network of the people that you went to the four-year degree with, you get the alumni network, you get career fairs. Bootcamps, yes, but not to the same extent.

Self-taught is even harder, but it's not impossible. It really depends on who else you already know. How active you are on Twitter in the iOS world. I think it depends on who you are and what you're willing to do, what you want out of all of this. And then just finding the path that fits best for you as we've seen through all the ways that we've seen people come into iOS dev.

Paul Hudson: I did a computer science degree and I didn't get a lot out of it because I had done CS at school from 16 onwards. So, in my exam transcript, my final certificate, it says I literally missed some final exams. I just got really bored of it at that point. It was all the same thing I'd done years and years before where it wasn't useful for me. I stuck it through, though. Maybe perhaps I should have gone off to Silicon Valley and made a billion somewhere, but probably I was too afraid, I guess.

But for me, I'm the kind of person who wants to just try things out and build things and break things and then build them again and rebuild them and enhance them and hack them, hence, Hacking with Swift. That's how my brain works. I need to make things and break them again to understand how they work, which is why I'm not allowed near our TV set. Everyone's different though. People learn different ways.

"The best way to learn for me is to learn by doing."

Mayuko Inoue: Definitely. And I think now that I've been doing iOS development and I've gotten to know myself better, I'm the same way too, where I just want to do it first before learning a theory about how the Swift programming language structured or what are all the things like the theory stuff. My school was very theory-based. And so I learned all of that before I dove into any type of development.

But now that I've been in development, I'm like, yes: the best way to learn for me is to learn by doing. I didn't know that at 18. Maybe go to college because that's what you do. Because that's how you get seen as a real adult, which is not the case. I think it really depends on who you are.

This transcript was recorded as part of Swiftly Speaking. You can watch the full original episode on YouTube, or subscribe to the audio version on Apple Podcasts.

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