Recently, at a family reunion-type event I was asked by a high school student how important it is to get a computer science degree in order to get a job as a programmer in lieu of actual programming experience. The kid has been working with Python and the Blender project as he's into making games and the like; it sounds like he has some decent programming chops. Now, as someone that has gone through a computer science degree my initial response to this question is to say, "You absolutely MUST get a computer science degree in order to get a job as a programmer!" However, as I thought about this I was unsure as to whether my initial reaction was due in part to my own suffering as a CS student or because I feel that this is actually the case. Now, for me, I can say that I rarely use anything that I learned in college, in terms of the extremely hard math, algorithms, etc, etc. but I did come away with a decent attitude and the willingness to work through tough problems.
I just don't know what to tell this kid; I feel like I should tell him to do the CS degree but I have hired so many programmers that majored in things like English, Philosophy, and other liberal arts-type degrees, even some that never went to college. In fact my best developer, falls into this latter category. He got started writing software for his church or something and then it took off into a passion. So, while I know this is one of those juicy potential down vote questions, I am just curious as to what everyone else thinks about this topic. Would you tell a high school kid about this? Perhaps if he/she already knows a good deal of programming and loves it he doesn't need a CS degree and could expand his horizons with a liberal arts degree. I know one of the creators of the Django web framework was a American Literature major and he is obviously a pretty gifted developer. Anyway, thanks for the consideration.