Graduation Year

Spring 2013

Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Economics

Reader 1

Heather Antecol

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© 2013 Amanda daSilva

Abstract

Many argue that formal degrees are not necessary to be successful in the technology industry, and further argue that self-taught computer programmers are more productive than formally taught computer programmers. This sentiment is supported by the examples of industry leaders such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg. This study examines the possible effects of this attitude on the returns to education for computer programmers. The empirical analysis finds that the wage return to formal education for computer programmers is less than for most other occupations including STEM and degree-dominated professions. These differences are attributed to the smaller impact of signaling through educational attainment on wages in the technology industry as well as the perceived ability to substitute the human capital accumulated through formal education with self-teaching and experience.

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