CS degree worth it?

Discussion in 'Community' started by jefhatfield, Aug 19, 2002.

  1. jefhatfield Retired

    jefhatfield

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2000
    #1
    in the spirit of idkew's thread on mba school, do you think computer science degrees are worth it?

    pro:

    a good cs program helps the student find what they like in this broad field which gets broader by the day...also a degree in computer science requires the student to have a strong general education which opens up a lot of other skills and knowledge if that person wants a different career than computers or a career after computers

    con: having grown up in northern california and meeting legions of IT people, i have only met one cs graduate and found most of the people working in silicon valley are self taught (think jobs, ellison, dell, gates, allen, and a couple of the founders of sun)

    what are your thoughts?
     
  2. Chaszmyr macrumors 601

    Chaszmyr

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2002
    #2
    There is absolutely NO doubt that a CS degree is helpful. But a CS degree is also much much harder to get than certifications, which are also worth it. I think the best solution (and what i am doing) is getting a degree in something easier than CS, and in the mean time working towards various computer certifications.
     
  3. Taft macrumors 65816

    Taft

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    #3
    A properly run CS program is most definitely worth it. The problem is that an increasing amount of CS programs treat the curriculum like a training center for commonly used technologies.

    A good CS program doesn't focus on teaching its students current industry standards. Why? Because adequately teaching the amount of standards out there today is impossible. Because predicting what each student will use in their career is impossible. Because no one knows where the industry is moving next. Because being able to adapt to an industry or new technologies can be more important than being a solid COM programmer.

    But most importantly because the degree is a science degree. You are in training to be a scientist. You study how to solve problems with the tools available to you. You learn design paradigms, programming paradigms, project organization, algorithm optimization, discreet math, data storage, parsing languages...the base elements of what every computer scientist will use no matter what technology he/she is working in.

    The idea is to teach CS grads how to tackle new problems. To give them a set of skills and knowledge that they can apply to any technology, language, platform or project.

    This is the exact reason why I think certification is balogne. It teaches you none of these things. It doesn't try to prepare you for the future, it prepares you for now, leaving you to get more ceretifications in the future.

    Certification is a necessary evil of certain pockets of the tech world which judge based on incorrect methods. For myself, I've worked in this profession since I was 19 and have never been certified in anything. It has not limited my career because I don't let it. I am a valuable employee independant of what MS says I'm certified to do. I am a computer scientist. I am a problem solver.

    Taft
     
  4. Taft macrumors 65816

    Taft

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    #4
    Re: CS degree worth it?

    About this...

    Steve Jobs has very little technical experience. He is a visionary.

    Gates isn't all that great of a programmer. He is a shrewd businessman.

    They coupled themselves with people who knew how to get things done. Extreme hobbiests who knew their technical skills: woz and allen. The extreme success of these people came from within them, but they have something about them categorically different than your average aspiring techie has.

    Lets say you wanted to start your own business with a million dollar idea you have. What is the path you are going to take?? It will probably be quite different than the path of an average CS student or unschooled programmer/IT/admin person. Comparing the two is like saying, "is a business degree going to put me in the same spot as a CEO of a Fortune 500 company?"

    Taft
     
  5. bousozoku Moderator emeritus

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    #5
    After about 18 years in the business, I definitely believe in a degree.

    I went to a vocational-technical college initially and got the hands-on training to get my first job while I was still in school.

    Since then, I have taught myself languages and techniques rather than having to return to school for every little thing.

    The one thing I've regretted is that I didn't have the theoretical background to go much further beyond the hands-on. Now, I'm going back to school for a two-year degree in Graphic design and a four-year (or more) degree in Computer Science.

    Learn all that you can and be enthusiastic and have fun with it.
     
  6. Mr. Anderson Moderator emeritus

    Mr. Anderson

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    Nov 1, 2001
    Location:
    VA
    #6
    If it comes down to getting a job between a self taught computer guy, and a person with a CS Degree, my bet is going to be on the person holding a degree. It gives you an advantage and its worth it.

    It probably not true for every case, but if you can get a degree it will definitely work in your favor.
     
  7. topicolo macrumors 68000

    topicolo

    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2002
    Location:
    Ottawa, ON
    #7
    <rant>I just wish more people would take some time out and attend an essay english class! The number of people who STILL don't understand the meaning of your/you're and they're/their/there is mind boggling. Where did they go to school? (if they did, that is) </rant>
     
  8. Mr. Anderson Moderator emeritus

    Mr. Anderson

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    #8
    relax, ok, I'm usually thinking a sentence ahead of where I'm typing, fingers aren't fast enough, things just come out wrong sometimes, and mispelled other times. you still know what I'm talking about, but you let it get to you. Lighten up.

    D
     
  9. Gelfin macrumors 68020

    Gelfin

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    Location:
    Denver, CO
    #9
    This topic has come up before, and I can go on about it in great detail, but the short answer is "YES, get a degree. Even if it doesn't directly help you do your job, without it you won't GET the job."

    During the dot-com boom, a lot of friends and acquaintences decided that they didn't NEED to bother with a stupid ol' degree because they could find someone willing to hire them RIGHT THEN because they knew how to write dynamic HTML or configure a router. Many of them dropped out of college. I wouldn't say "I told you so" directly to them... but I did, and many of them are now unemployed, whereas I've been laid off three times in my career and never been out of work for more than a couple of weeks, even after the economy slowed down.

    It's a buyer's market now, and if you don't have a degree (or a LOT of experience and a great track record), your resume won't make it past the HR department. You'll never be reviewed by people who have the power to hire you. I have reviewed a couple dozen resumes over the past few weeks, and not one of them has been without at least a bachelor's degree. I understand that those couple dozen came out of a stack of HUNDREDS of unsolicited resumes my company has received.

    Be smart. Do NOT pass up the opportunity to get a degree. It'll be easier to be really poor for a few years now than it will be to struggle on the edge later in life when you're trying to support a family. The income you might be offered without a degree will seem like a lot (especially if you were looking two years ago), but trust me, it ain't. And it's a lot harder to go back to being really poor after you have a real income. Most people who drop out of college swear to themselves they'll go back later and almost none of them do.

    It's a lot of hoop-jumping, and much of it has no bearing on what you'll ultimately do for a living... get over it. That's just the way it is. You're right that the best people are self-taught, but the people who get hired in this industry are not the self-taught geeks OR the people with degrees, but the self-taught geeks WITH degrees. Looking at Ellison, Gates and Jobs as an example of how to direct your life is even more insane than looking at NBA players, since there are far more well-paid NBA stars than there are uneducated billionaire CEOs. If you have to ask whether you should follow their example, then you're not cut from the same cloth as those guys and the answer is "no, you shouldn't." Get your degree. It's absolutely worth it.
     
  10. jefhatfield thread starter Retired

    jefhatfield

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2000
    #10
    my guess is that other markets besides silicon valley are followers and implementers of proven ideas so the standard degree or cert is just fine

    the proven ideas originally come from outside the box, and outside of academia, and most of these technologies have sprung up from the valley (or texas, boston, or phoenix) which is full of wozniak self taught types...they have the advantage of having been born where the action is...and venture investors know what is bs/theory and what is really bankable

    silicon valley companies hire based on skill but the theories taught in classrooms still don't emphasize skill and current technologies

    what taft says is true about colleges not being able to keep up with current technologies, since schools don't have the budget and administrators who can see thru all the techie stuff...that's one big reason dell is what you see in schools more and more these days...they are cheap and easy

    certifications teach the current skills but are only good as long as that skill is needed and they have to be refreshed and one has to be re-certified

    i took all three paths, getting down to the nitty gritty and learning the technologies, sometimes very painful to learn; also getting certified; and i got a degree from business school

    while no one path of school, certification, or learning current technologies is the magic bullet, knowing your stuff as it relates to your clients or your employer ends up being the single most important thing...bar none

    if you are certified, learn what is also necessary as far as skills go for your employer

    same as if you have a degree...lean, learn, learn

    and if you feel ambitious, besides learning the technologies (which is most important), also get that certification and/or that degree if you don't already have it

    if you want to move up the ladder within in a technical division, have that cs degree and/or IT certification, or if you want to move into the management of technology, go for that business degree

    but if one has a degree and/or certification and doesn't have the skills to meet the client's or employer's needs, then he/she will not last long in high tech

    one cannot know everything, but as a minimum, have one cert or training/self study in that cert, two or three college cs courses, and some current skills, including microsoft (yes, them)---overall, this will take only one year and it will be helpful in this field

    and when things recover in high tech, you can do more with that one year combination of skills than someone with a four year BA degree in french literature, philosophy, or conversational portugese
     
  11. Taft macrumors 65816

    Taft

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2002
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    Chicago
    #11
    Your really being annoying.

    Some people don't realize that even their not perfect and that everyone makes mistakes. I know the proper usage of their/they're, who/whom, you're/your, to/too, etc., etc. but every once in a while I screw up to.

    Plus we are on the internet. Were people say things like ROTFL, WTF, IMO, cuz, ppl, woo-hoo and weeeee!!!

    Lighten the F-factor up.

    Jimminy Cricket.

    Taft
     
  12. jefhatfield thread starter Retired

    jefhatfield

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2000
    #12
    obviously, you have never been to silicon valley or taken part in their culture...i invite you here, too

    it is a pull yourself up from the bootstraps type of frontier innovation...rebles..pirates...inventors...the wild west high on microchips

    high tech was not built by some standard ivy league financiers and computer science theorists

    if that was the case, we would still be at arpanet not realizing its further potential

    dropouts like gates, allen, ellison, dell, jobs, sun microsystems, fanning, and yahoo made it happen...if they had stayed in school and got proper degrees, they might be happy making 80k somewhere in mid management in some division of emachines or hewlett-packard

    if people suddnely stopped dreaming like those insane innovators, we might as well hope for 3 ghz one hundred years from now

    an african american engineer (with his skeleton team) at ibm invented a chip which went one gigahertz without the blessing of many at ibm since they could not imagine a home use for such a chip that would sell...that was five years ago

    we need innovators/dreamers, which silicon valley will supply, and workers, which the want ads and schools/cert mills will supply, and both will make us move to 2 ghz, 3 ghz, and beyond
     
  13. jefhatfield thread starter Retired

    jefhatfield

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2000
    #13
    oops, gelfin, you are from san francisco!!! excuuuse meee!

    wow, if i was a 'frisco kid, i would never let myself associate with dem south bay types;) :p :D :eek: :)

    one question, gelfin:

    "how could you spout the party line of the traditional eastern industrialist (pre-wwII), and be so close to san jose?" with that blue suit, white shirt, red tie, and garter with black socks i imagine you in, you seem to fit more in armonk, new york;)

    hoop jumping...i swear...we make money the old fashioned way, we earn it":D
     
  14. ejb190 macrumors 65816

    ejb190

    #14
    Getting a degree in something else and coming back to the computer industry is a sure way to add value to your resume. In my field, people with cross-discipline training are worth their weight in gold!
     
  15. bousozoku Moderator emeritus

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    #15
    Come on now! You know that the majority of these people have gone through the English classes and, some of them even paid attention.

    If you're looking for exactitude, you're not going to find it online. People are too busy not paying attention to anything in particular to check their work for quality. I would say that's particularly evident in the U.S.A. but I'd probably get tons of hate mail. :D Florida, where I live now, is the worst I've seen anywhere in this country. You may find that some of the posters outside of this continent to be more careful. <ducks> :D
     
  16. Gelfin macrumors 68020

    Gelfin

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    Denver, CO
    #16
    I'm a frisco kid because I like the city enough to commute south daily. I worked at one of the city startups, which was a lot of fun. Too bad there wasn't much money-making mixed in with the fun. I own one suit, which I wear to weddings, funerals and interviews. I spout no party lines, just my observation of the way the world currently works, and I'm painfully down-to-earth and pragmatic about it, because looking at things objectively is the only way anything ever gets done.

    The mythos of the genius whiz-kid taking the world by storm is rampant out here, and in some cases it's true, but the bread and butter of this industry is not prima donna rockstar programmers. I'm not trying to push the 1970's IBM vision of the computer industry where even the geeks wear gray suits every day. I'm just telling you the reality, that even out here in the fast-paced Silly Valley startup world, with all the emphasis on radical innovation, a degree gets you a foot in the door you wouldn't otherwise have unless you already somehow managed to obtain an enormously impressive resume. A guy just starting out, wondering whether to get a degree, is not going to have that, and is going to have a very hard time breaking in, especially in a tough job market. I've been on both sides of the hiring process here, and that's just reality.

    I don't deny the existence of the genius techie entrepreneur, and the strong influence those people have had on the formation and success of Silicon Valley -- but the important thing to realize is that none of those people would ever be on an Internet message board asking whether or not they should get a degree in order to get a job. They're out being genius techie entrepreneurs, inventing their own cool widgets, raising money and starting companies because that's what they do. If you think you have it in you to do that, then more power to you, but I don't think you'd be asking our advice here. You'd have your own compass and you'd be following it already.

    The vast majority of people are going to want to maximize their chances to have a respectably successful career rather than betting the farm on the dream of that magical Silicon Valley success dropping into their laps. A degree will help you out there, and as an added bonus, won't PREVENT you from answering the call if you suddenly find yourself sitting on the Next Big Thing.

    In addition, in the present climate I've gotta say academia is a great place to ride out economic downturns if that option is available to you.
     
  17. topicolo macrumors 68000

    topicolo

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    Ottawa, ON
    #17
    Heh, don't take it personally, I wasn't targetting you or any other specific person here. In fact, I read through your posts so quickly that I didn't even notice them. I was just ranting about how people never pay attention to such simple errors. That was it
     
  18. jefhatfield thread starter Retired

    jefhatfield

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2000
    #18

    when you are born in northern california and raised here, being into electronics and computers is as natural as breathing in the great california air...cough, cough

    not only do computer geniuses sprout up here like corn does in the midwest, computer geniuses from around the world gravitate here like a whole bunch of drunk fraternity guys would to a free showing of the penthouse pamela anderson video

    since schools teach proper, yet severly outdated IT concepts, and certifications can go bad like a head of lettuce, people jump into the field and work it, baby

    there are 2600+ companies surrounding san jose in the IT field and looking for letters on resumes can not get a job like talking to a real techie face to face and word of mouth...people will hire you off the phone and will know what you are talking about in your first ten words spoken

    hr people, like i was (i mentioned this before on this thread) are tired of people with IT degrees who don't know what a db-9 serial port is or someone with a ccna who has never wired up a router or switch

    and this area we are talking about is very small, especially the core of silicon valley where a lot of people know each other or of each other...word of mouth travels much like it did when this area was a sleepy orchard town

    i am not saying forgo a degree or certification, but have the skills and focus first before you enbark on either...and then the schooling and certs can add to that...whatever you do

    don't

    become

    a

    paper

    tiger

    ...with degrees and certs with no real knowledge or experience to back it up;)

    listen to comments in the valley coffeeroom...certs and cs diplomas often make the good techies chuckle...it's about having the skills and if you do, you get the work and a degree and/or cert is just incidental

    this isn't credentialed teaching, medicine, dentistry, or architecture where the piece of paper is a necessary and legal entry into the field

    the IT field is like art and music, where the practitioner does not have to have a degree to succeed or even enter the field
     
  19. monkeydo_jb macrumors 6502

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    Location:
    Columbia, MO
    #19
    Question...

    I am 20 years old and I have just completed my AAS from a technical college. Currently I am working in the IT department of a 800 employee company as a junior network administrator. My question for some of you older, wiser cs individuals is this, should I switch to part time at the company where I work and attend MU to finish a BS degree, or work on certs? Last semester I worked 40 hours/week and went to school 15 hours at night. One semester of that was plenty so it's either part time while I get a BS or full time while I work on certs. Advice anyone?

    -jeff
     
  20. jefhatfield thread starter Retired

    jefhatfield

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2000
    #20
    Re: Question...

    congrats on your degree jeff

    go for one cert like mcp, cna, or ccna first...then you have degree and cert

    then go for bachelor's degree, then you have two degrees and one cert

    and down the line, keep your cert up or even add another cert to your cap

    and way down the line, if you want to manage the finaces and buying (ie - cio), then get an accounting degree or mba...that's usually the path, in the end a techie climbing the ladder becomes an accountant and manager of money...assuming you want to go that far

    high end cio's no longer to the technician and engineering work in big companies...they work with the funds and their superiors like the ceo, coo, and cfo...becuase they give you the funds you request to keep the gear and payroll roster up to par

    so in a nutshell...here's what i would do

    AAS - done

    MCP, CNA, or CCNA - six months study and use transcender to get ready for certification test

    BS - in computer science, computer engineering, telecommunications management, or digital security/networking

    another certification like MCSE, CNE, CCNP

    BA/BS accounting or MBA for CIO level position
     
  21. bousozoku Moderator emeritus

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    #21
    Re: Question...

    Congratulations!

    Pick a certification which is most appropriate to your job and/or popular in your area. This is more likely to be a source of demand and money. After you've got it, then start back to work on the bachelor's degree.
     
  22. jefhatfield thread starter Retired

    jefhatfield

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    #22
    Re: Re: Question...

    same as i said, but done so more eloquently;)
     
  23. bousozoku Moderator emeritus

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    #23
    Re: Re: Re: Question...

    awww...thank you! I feel honoured.

    <bows to jefhatfield>
     
  24. jefhatfield thread starter Retired

    jefhatfield

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2000
    #24
    Re: Re: Re: Re: Question...

    thanks...he he

    as you have been in the working world twenty five years like me, what do you think about my suggestion that he get a third degree (as in accounting bachelor's or mba) and a second certification (like mcse...almost a degree in its own right)

    if he gets his BA and his certification, that will be three things on his resume...AAS, BA, and some cert...and that may be the limit before he looks like a paper tiger

    i know this one man with a degree and nine certifications...he has one page devoted to certifications on his resume...more than anybody i have ever heard of in or around silicon valley...he ignores his wife...i mean ex-wife

    he is novell, microsoft (a few of those), cisco, and comptia (a few of those, too) certified but he is happy with a mid-level job and even though all his colleagues tell him to branch off on his own and become a networking company, he is happy working as little as he could so he could get and re-certify more and more

    :p
     
  25. bousozoku Moderator emeritus

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    #25
    Well, the do believe in degrees in a 2nd area of study--I'm working on a degree in Graphic Design right now.

    As far as accounting degrees go, they're not very interesting except for a developer wanting to work in that field. There have to be much more interesting degrees such as Computer Engineering.

    Being A+ or Cisco-certified is certainly the best right now. I rarely see advertisements for MS certifications around Orlando anymore. There aren't many jobs here anymore though. I'm planning to get my Java certification after the next two terms (Intro and Advanced Java).

    One thing I've found, since I'm back in school, I'm studying less. :D
     

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