Stack Overflow survey: Nearly half of developers are self-taught

Stack Overflow Developer Survey finds 48 percent of respondents never received a degree in computer science

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A college degree in computer science is not necessarily needed to get up to speed in software development. Almost half of developers never received a degree in that discipline, according to a Stack Overflow survey that polled more than 26,000 persons in 157 countries this February.

The Stack Overflow Developer Survey 2015, results of which were released this week, found that 41.8 percent of respondents described themselves as "self-taught," while 37.7 percent had a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science or a related field. Another 18.4 percent had Master's degree. On-the-job training accounted for 36.7 percent of developers' education, and 17.8 percent cited online classes.

"There are many ways to learn how to code. Forty-eight percent of respondents never received a degree in computer science, 33 percent of respondents never took a computer science university course," the report said. "System administrators are most likely to be self-taught (52 percent). Enterprise level services developers are most likely to have an industry certification (13 percent)."

Of the 26,086 participants, 6,800 identified themselves as full-stack developers, while 1,900 called themselves mobile developers, 1,200 were front-end developers, and 12,000 labeled themselves as something else. (Two participants said they were farmers.)

"These results are not unbiased," the report said. "Like the results of any survey, they are skewed by selection bias, language bias, and probably a few other biases. So take this for what it is: the most comprehensive developer survey ever conducted. Or at least the only one that asks devs about tabs vs. spaces." The survey under-represents developers who do not like to take English surveys, according to the report.

The most-used technologies cited in the report include JavaScript, SQL, Java, C#, and PHP. "JavaScript remains the most-used programming language. Node.js and AngularJS are busting out. Java is still the number-1 server side language (and the most frequently used tag on Stack Overflow)."

The programming field is growing quickly. "In the United States, nearly 40 percent of doctors have 10+ years of professional experience. By contrast, only about 25 percent of developers worldwide have more than 10 years coding experience. Most of those veteran developers have probably been coding professionally much shorter than that."

In other data collected during the survey, the average age of a developer was 28.9 years of age. The average of a developer in the United States was 31.6 years of age. Developers in India have an average age of 25 years. In a statistic that should surprise no one given all the media coverage of the lack of women in technology lately, 92.1 percent of respondents were male.

When it comes to compensation ranked by technology, in the United States Objective-C leads the way, with specialists in that language earning $98,828 annually. Objective-C is followed by Node.js ($96,539), C# ($94,280), C++ ($91,379), and SQL ($91,431).

But programming is a labor of love for many, Stack Overflow found. "Seventy percent of respondents reported that they spend two or more hours per week programming either as a hobby or working on open source software. Twenty percent of respondents spend more than 10 hours programming away from work. The average developer spends more than seven hours per week coding on the side."

Stack Overflow also found that 36 percent of developers love their jobs while 40.4 percent are somewhat satisfied. Just 1.9 percent hate their jobs.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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