There is a lot of conversation about college vs. career–the pros and cons of each weighed against the needs of individual students. Here’s a thoughtful article from Peter MacCallister, an Ask a Tech Teacher contributor, on why college is a good idea even when considering a career in tech:
Technology is one of the areas where self-education, or autodidacticism, can bring outstanding results and allow an individual to achieve professional success without holding official certifications to prove his knowledge and skills. Self-taught people study better without guidance and prefer to have full control over what, when and how they study. Why would such a person interested in a tech career spend thousands of dollars to go to college instead of learning at home? The reasons are plenty so let’s delve deeper into this issue.
A Prestigious College is a Playground for Networking
Getting into a highly-ranked college or university can give your career an incredible impetus if only for the fact that you’ll be surrounded by intelligent and accomplished people with similar interests. Colleges offer countless possibilities for networking both with professors who are experts in your field and with fellow students.
Imagine having attended classes with Elon Musk or Warren Buffet as a fellow student at an elite institution like the University of Pennsylvania. Good colleges and universities are filled with incredibly driven and passionate students from whom you can learn a lot and with whom you might collaborate professionally one day. Having many bright minds in one spot increases your chances of meeting future visionaries in your field.
Colleges Have an Extensive Network of Resources
At first glance, it seems that programmers, software developers and other tech professionals need little more than a computer with an Internet connection to develop their skills. However, no matter how motivated and passionate you are, there is a cap to self-education. A point comes when you need serious output from the external world to continue to grow at the same rate.
Libraries, laboratories, expensive software licenses, access to reputable academic journals and career assistance – all these represent only a part of the wide range of resources that a good university provides to students so they can excel in their field. Hunching over your computer for weeks and months to find a solution to a problem that your peers have solved long ago is counterintuitive. Meanwhile, having access to valuable resources allows you to keep in touch with the latest developments in the sector and make sure you stay on track.
Professors Have a Bigger Role than Just Teaching
As a student registered in an academic institution, you gain access to physical and intellectual resources, but you can also rely on the knowledge and expertise of your professors. They can guide you towards the best learning tools, help you uncover your weaknesses and inspire you to study harder. If you develop good relationships with them, they can provide you with references for your first job or internship.
In every field of human knowledge, the student-mentor relationship is a key element of growth. While in college, professors can serve as mentors. Their role is not to give you information that you can find in a book or a tutorial, but to provide you with a roadmap of the field so you can carve your personal learning journey. Professors have a large perspective of the field and thus can better assess future directions.
There are valid reasons for young people to be dissatisfied with the state of higher education, but the reality is that colleges still have plenty to offer. If you want a career in tech, attending the right college can make the journey smoother. You will have access to a large network of resources and be surrounded by smart people with similar aspirations and interests. Your motivation will soar in an environment that naturally fosters learning and growth.
Peter MacCallister is a small business owner and blogger, he resides in Scotland and likes to write about up and coming entrepreneurial topics. You’ll likely find Peter in the comments section of any major business publication sparking debate and trying to keep things interesting!
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Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-18 technology for 30 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-12 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, contributor to NEA Today, and author of the tech thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.