Which Degrees Do Software Developers Earn?

Do most professional developers have a bachelor’s degree in computer science or something similar? A new Stack Overflow survey breaks down thousands of developers’ educational attainment, revealing some interesting things about the degree pathways that many technologists navigate on their way to a full-time position.

The short answer: Some 62.6 percent of the 44,636 developers who responded to Stack Overflow’s question about education said that they had majored in computer science, computer engineering, or software engineering. Another 9.3 percent had majored in another engineering discipline (i.e., mechanical, electrical, etc.). In third place, some 7.9 percent said they had majored in information systems, information technology, or system administration.

Check out the full list of professional developers’ undergraduate majors: 

Stack Overflow also asked professional developers about their educational attainment. Here’s how they responded:

What can we conclude from this data? Roughly three-quarters of developers have the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree or higher, and nearly as many (72 percent) earned that degree in their computer science, computer/software engineering, or another engineering field). Moreover, some 85 percent of respondents felt that a formal education is at least somewhat important; in the notes accompanying the survey data, Stack Overflow noted that this sentiment “is contrary to the popular idiom that you don’t need formal education to become a developer.”

However a developer obtains their education—via a college or university, or through bootcamps or MOOCs—it’s important to emphasize that employers are ultimately looking for skills. According to Burning Glass, which collects and analyzes millions of job postings from across the country, the top tech skills that employers wanted in April included SQL, Java, “Software Development,” and JavaScript—in other words, the languages and platforms that undergird not only new apps and services, but also legacy systems:

For developers, it’s also important to stay as well-rounded as possible when it comes to coding knowledge. Way back in ye olden days of 2016, Triplebyte (which pairs developers with startups), conducted a study of college and bootcamp graduates and found that, while bootcamp graduates did “as well as or better” than college graduates when it came to practical programming and web system design, college graduates had the advantage when it came to “deep knowledge” of programming.

That conclusion made sense when you consider that colleges and universities spend quite a bit of time teaching the fundamentals and concepts underlying computer science, while bootcamps (and MOOCs, and other programs) tend to plunge into the practical aspects of software development. Whatever your educational pathway, it’s important to keep learning, and to try to understand core concepts as deeply as possible—that sort of knowledge can help you through even the most complex projects. 

One Response to “Which Degrees Do Software Developers Earn?”

  1. Most employers want a bare minimum of a BS in some field related to their development. It’s why it ranks so high. Puts self-taught at a disadvantage until they can break in and have some strong proof they know their stuff.

    It’s also important to know, some colleges wrap things up under different programs depending on age of program too… the older computer science degrees have a more mathematical background and origin, than say an IS or IT degree, which may focus more on application. It’s almost as bad as the job market where HR may define someone as a data analyst and have them working more as a developer analyst, or software engineer… OR job sites throwing business analysts positions at those with experience in any of the previously mentioned positions.