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Education Programming The Almighty Buck

Ask Slashdot: CS Degree While Working Full Time? 433

Posted by timothy
from the we're-working-in-shifts dept.
An anonymous reader writes "First, some quick background: I am 26 years old and I have been working for a large software development company with more than 50,000 employees for about 5 years now. My actual title is Senior Software Engineer, and I am paid well considering I have no degrees and all of the programming languages I have learned (C, C++, C#, Java) are completely self taught. The only real reason I was able to get this job is because I spent a year or so in a support position and I was able to impress the R&D Lead Developer with a handful of my projects. My job is secure for the time being, but what really concerns me is the ability to find another job in the field without 95% of companies discarding me for lack of formal education. I started looking into local community colleges and universities, and much to my dismay, they offer neither nighttime or online courses for computer science. Quitting the job to pursue a degree is not an option, especially considering they will compensate me up to $10,000/yr for going back to school. Has anyone else been in a similar situation? Does anyone know of any accredited colleges and universities that offer a CS degree through online courses? Obviously excluding the scam 'colleges' such as Univ. of Phoenix and DeVry."
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Ask Slashdot: CS Degree While Working Full Time?

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  • by Desler (1608317) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @12:27PM (#42419921)

    Why is it wierd? Any decent company will offer academic compensation and pays for training. Maybe you work at a company run by assholes?

  • by damn_registrars (1103043) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Saturday December 29, 2012 @12:28PM (#42419935) Homepage Journal
    If your job is reasonably secure, keep looking at community colleges. You should be able to find one with an online AS program for CS. Work your way through that first and by the time you finish that you should find that more options are available (more universities are starting online courses all the time) to finish a BS with.

    You likely will find at some point you'll need to change your work hours - or save up a truckload of sick time - to take some day time courses but if you start with an AS you might be able to put that off for a while.
  • by brunes69 (86786) <slashdot@keirstea d . o rg> on Saturday December 29, 2012 @12:31PM (#42419959) Homepage

    While most universities will not allow you to enroll in a degree part time, they will have no problem with you doing one or two courses. See if your employer will allow you to take off the 1 hour / day 3 days/week to do a course... this would let you do 4-5 courses / year. Whenever you do find the time to do your degree, all these credit hours will be out of the way and it will save you a lot of time.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 29, 2012 @12:31PM (#42419963)

    If your employer is willing to pay for a formal CS education, it's likely they'll be flexible with your work hours. Find a quality university near you, investigate their program and their requirements, and lay out a plan for your boss to look at. They'd probably let you leave a couple hours during the day as long as you came in early/left later to compensate for the hours you've missed. I'm 24 and have a full-time salary position and am getting a CS degree part-time, and only because my employer allows me to leave for a few hours during the day to go to classes.

    It's convenient, as I go to a university in a large city, bus to campus when I have them, and bus back to work afterward. Usually I try to take night classes to avoid leaving during the day.

    Warning: you will work extremely hard and you won't have much free time if the University you go to is any good.

  • by SydShamino (547793) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @12:33PM (#42419977)

    I know nothing about their four-year programs, but DeVry's two-year associate degree in electrical engineering technology yields quality, skilled engineering technicians. My company struggles to fill hardware tech roles (we had one open for six months this year), but many of those positions (including at least one that reported directly to me) were filled by recent DeVry graduates. (We're growing and need a hardware tech for every 2-3 hardware engineers, plus a software tech for every 4-5 software engineers.)

    So yeah... maybe the four year degrees aren't as valuable, but it's not fair to call DeVry a "scam".

  • by TheGavster (774657) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @12:39PM (#42420021) Homepage

    Corporations aren't inherently evil ;) but from the practical side, usually the tuition payback is spread out over a few years, or is done like a signing bonus where you pay it back if you leave within a certain period of time.

  • by Anml4ixoye (264762) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @01:20PM (#42420357) Homepage

    I've been in the industry nearly 15 years now. I think not having a degree has only come up maybe one or two times. Sure didn't stop me from getting recruited by Microsoft.

    What I would focus on is a couple of things:

    1. Expand your horizon - learn the basics (See Michael Feathers Self-Education and the Craftsman [vimeo.com] talk from SCNA 2009). Then learn things like Functional Programming, Dynamic Typing and other languages.
    2. Do other things - Make programming a hobby and a career. Start an open source project. Contribute to others. Scratch itches that bug you, but do them with software
    3. Play Both Ends - Learn back end development. Learn front end development (CSS/Javascript). Do some hardware development (SparkFun's Arduino kit is fun, as well as the Roomba robot kits).
    4. Read, Read, Read - Find books on software engineering. Reverse Engineering of Viruses. Design Patterns. Project Management. And go outside - books on Business topics are especially good, because you get to understand the tradeoff that often gets made.
    5. Practice, Practice, Practice - Do Katas. Create projects. Explore ideas. Do things like Ludum Dare [ludumdare.com] and hackathons. Build an iPhone app, then build an Android version.

    I'm not trying to knock a college education - if you want it for the education. If you want it just for the advancement, the things above are going to have a much bigger impact on your career and your ability to find employment in many cases.

  • by tnk1 (899206) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @02:10PM (#42420771)

    Only if there is no opportunity for promotion or advancement. I have absolutely no desire to leave my current company unless I have to. I admit, if they let you take a degree and then keep you doing grunt work, they're probably shooting themselves in the foot.

    But also be aware that as a benefit paid out, the company probably pays less taxes on what they disburse, and there may even be programs in some places which make it even slightly profitable for them to offer tuition reimbursement.

    Finally, at this point, your more motivated individuals are probably going to be those who take advantage of the classes while working. Those sorts of people will look for training and educational opportunities in prospective employers, so even in a tough economy, having the option there is probably a good idea for maintaining a staff of the more motivated people out there, even if you want fewer of them overall.

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