There’s an ongoing argument in the realm of Computer Science as to whether university-level qualifications are essential for the profession. It’s a discipline that is both broad and deep, covering multiple intricate computing concepts. Each of which is extensive and takes time to understand.
Many employers wouldn’t consider an applicant without an advanced degree in Computer Science or a related field. Or at least a bachelor’s with the intent of studying their masters as they work in an entry-level position.
An aspiring Computer Scientist would then be foolish to apply without them. While this used to be the case, it’s actually not so clear cut anymore.
More employers are considering candidates without university-level credentials, so long as they can demonstrate their skills in other ways. Google used to have a reputation for only hiring engineers with a Computer Science degree. However, since 2018 this idea has been scrapped and they now welcome people from a wider range of backgrounds.
So, it is possible to enter the industry via a non-traditional route. But those considering it must be prepared for a challenge. You’ll have to prove a lot more in the application and interview process to be considered. Especially over those with advanced academic qualifications.
If you want to know how to become a Computer Scientist, read on for some ideas of where to start.
The Non-University Route
There are a few things you can do to position yourself for a Computer Science role if you’re side-stepping university. Afterall, university students are expected to learn more than what is covered in their Computer Science degree. So, self learning is part and parcel of becoming an effective Computer Scientist.
With so many online courses available these days, you can learn pretty much anything you need to. Especially when it comes to Computer Science and Technology related subjects. Showing employers you’ve got the initiative, drive and motivation to learn each aspect in detail can go a long way.
Study an overarching course
Many online courses fall under the category of Computer Science, from CPD certified diplomas to A Levels and everything in-between. But some will be better than others and cater to different levels of knowledge. You’ll need to do your research and assess the quality and depth in which each will go to.
This is important so you can identify any gaps in knowledge that you may encounter. Compare the modules against those covered at university, so you can at least spot anything that’s obviously missing. To get a well-rounded understanding, you need to study these as a minimum:
- Computer Architecture
- Algorithms and Data Structures
- Mathematics for Computer Science
- Operating Systems
- Computer Networking
- Languages and Compilers
- Distributed Systems
Read up on the ones that are missed if your Computer Science course doesn’t cover them. Though it can be hard to find unregulated courses that go into enough detail. If you’re struggling with this, you could instead have a checklist of modules to cover.
Study each module independently
The benefit of online courses is that there are usually a number available for every requirement. So, if you’re not getting what you need out of a single course, you can expand your knowledge elsewhere.
They also give you the flexibility to focus on areas that need more of your attention. Rather than a predetermined set of subjects. Another plus is that doesn’t necessarily mean racking up a large bill for taking multiple courses. Many short courses are relatively inexpensive like the ones provided through LinkedIn Learning.
Others such as those focusing on Planning Information Systems or Data Science go into more detail. Otherwise, you can find many free courses related to Computer Science disciplines with a little digging.
Dedicating your time to learning can help you move into the industry once you’ve gained enough skills and confidence. Some might even help towards a university application should you decide to pursue that route at a later stage. Whatever you choose, you’ll be more knowledgeable than when you started out, putting you closer to your goal.
Demonstrate your skills
Once you pick up enough skill to work with, start building a portfolio that demonstrates a variety of projects. Practice by developing a game, app or website that people can access and use. You can also contribute to open-source projects and develop an online presence by linking to your work in online content.
There’s also the potential for you to secure an internship if you show enough competence and drive. While most require you to study a degree, others may consider you if you have the right skillset.
Get interview ready
You’ve shown potential employers that you’re serious about this career path by studying, developing your skills and knowledge. The last thing you’d want to do is fall at the final hurdle. If you make it to the interview stage, you better be ready to wow the interviewer.
They’ve clearly seen something in your work to invite you along. But they’ll be armed with a list of questions to test your overall knowledge.
Do your research and look for typical and complex Computer Science interview questions and practice them as much as possible.
If there’s an area you’re not that strong in, learn more about it. There’s no room for excuses at this stage. You’re competing with people that have dedicated years of their life to studying the subject. It’s not enough to say it’s a weak spot for you.
Try to find out how companies are interviewing Computer Science applicants. If they’re using whiteboard interviews or another technique, practice that too. You can never be overprepared.
The University Route
It may be possible to work your way into the Computer Scientist profession without a degree. However, academia is still the most advised route.
Computer software and technology manages and plays such an important part of our lives. Many therefore believe those creating and controlling it should reach a standardised level of competence before assuming this responsibility.
Obtaining a Computer Science degree is challenging, but extremely rewarding for those who go the distance. By completing a masters-level course, graduates have ample job opportunities available to them, career longevity and competitive pay.
Most masters degrees in Computer Science incorporate experiential learning. Giving students real-world problems to solve and getting them accustomed to their future role. Once they graduate, they’ll be ready to enter the industry and find solutions to complex computer science problems. Helping them perform the job right out of school and secure employment.
If you don’t have the A Levels to apply to university but would like to pursue a career as a Computer Scientist, we can help.
Our online Access to HE Diplomas are designed to stand in place of A Levels and allow students to study at university. Choose from our Access to Higher Education Diploma (Computer Science) or Access to Higher Education Diploma (Computer Science and Mathematics).
Both of these courses explore the many aspects of Computer Science. Giving you a great headstart for university and covering fascinating topics like cybersecurity, data analysis, mathematics and web design.
What’s more, our courses are held online, with no fixed classes or timetables. Meaning you can upskill or requalify without disrupting your lifestyle. Just log on and learn when it suits.
Stonebridge Associated Colleges is a leading UK distance learning provider. With many online courses to help you reach your goals.
Contact our team for more information. Otherwise, click below to see our Computer Science courses in more detail.