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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 sribe (304414) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @12:27PM (#42419923)

    What prevents him from simply getting a BSc and leaving for another company with more pay?

    Also, it's somewhat strange that the company should make an investment in his level of education, and yet the return will go to him (I'm sure he would expect a higher salary).

    Lots of companies do this. You seem to completely ignore the possibility that the company could be interested in having its workers be more skilled, and willing to pay for higher skill levels.

  • CS Degree (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 29, 2012 @12:28PM (#42419929)

    Dont focus on just CS degree. Most companies only care if your degree "relates" to your job. There are lots of online and night "IT" Degrees so if I were you I would look into System Administration or Network Security degrees. These degrees still require programming classes so the skills you taught yourself wont be lost just expanded upon. Hope this helps some.

  • some thoughts (Score:5, Insightful)

    by buddyglass (925859) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @12:37PM (#42419999)
    If all you want is the piece of paper and aren't interested in learning much from your non-major classes, here's what I'd do:

    1. Limit yourself to semi-reputable four-year universities. You don't need a top-tier school but you also don't want a degree from somewhere with a reputation so poor it will be only marginally more valuable than a two-year degree from Phoenix.
    2. Do your research and determine which school (or schools) require the fewest hours in residence in order to grant a degree. My alma mater requires 60 credit hours (i.e. about four semesters as a full-time student) in residence. It's likely that many universities require less.
    3. Do your research and determine which schools will accept transfer credit (and count it toward a degree) from either: a) online universities like Phoenix, and/or b) a community college in your area.
    4. Knock out as much transfer credit as you can from online universities and/or your local community college. You want enough so that you only need take the minimum number of hours "in residence" at the school you intend to get the degree from.
    5. Transfer all your credits and start working toward completing the in residence requirement. If you're going to be working full time you probably won't want to take more than two classes at a time. Though, you can also do this during the summer, meaning you can complete about 18 credit hours per year. That means it will take you ~3 years to complete the in-residence hours plus however long it took you to amass the 60-70 hours of transfer credit.

    If you're dead set on working full-time during the entire affair (and I can definitely see the appeal) it's hard to imagine your being able to complete a degree in fewer than six years from start to finish. And that's a stretch.
  • by kenh (9056) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @12:38PM (#42420015) Homepage Journal

    Software development company with 50K employees?

    If career advancement is truely a concern, by first suggestion would be to review job descriptions for higher positions in your projected career path - do the require college degrees? As I recall, MS (if that is where you work) had a couple of very senior executives without college degrees, they most likely included wiggle-room in their job descriptions to allow for alternative education paths.

    Finally, you are already inside - typically the folks that care about technical issues like college degrees are in HR, and their main "contribution" is weeding out applicants - you've avoided that threat, and apparently the line managers appreciate your proven talents.

    I would have a plan to complete a college degree, but only invoke it if you find that a degree is really *required* for advancement.

  • by Existential Wombat (1701124) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @01:40PM (#42420545)

    There's always the risk for a company giving training to employees, and then they leave.

    There's always a risk of not giving training, and they stay.

  • by benjfowler (239527) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @01:49PM (#42420629)

    Lots of companies refuse to pay for training, because lots of people would just skill up and leave.

    Besides, private business is self-interested and cheap -- they expect either you, the government, or foreign governments (through dumping of highly-skilled immigrants) to pay for the skills they require.

  • Re:Well, kinda... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by CodeBuster (516420) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @02:38PM (#42420993)

    we would rather believe that you can do anything if you put your mind to it.

    While that's generally true, in a manner of speaking, it says nothing about the amount of time or effort required nor the quality of the finished work. Could I improve my non-existent quarterback skills with hundreds or even thousands of hours of dedicated and determined practice? Probably. Would I ever approach anything like the level of play demonstrated each week by Payton Manning and other professionals? Not a chance, not even close. People should focus on improving skill at which they have some natural talent or predisposition rather than expending tremendous effort for marginal improvements in areas where they have no special ability. Incidentally, this is why the "everyone must attend college" mantra is just nuts and doubly so when the one considers the tremendous costs of sending marginal students off to college on the public dime. Unfortunately, these sorts of reasonable cost benefit analyses are frequently subordinated to politics, or "optics" as the politicians and their fellow travelers are fond of saying, when it comes to educating our children or spending the public's money. We judge policies based upon their intentions, rather than their results, and that is our great mistake.

  • by ranton (36917) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @02:56PM (#42421117)

    I was in a similar situation in 2008. I had about five years of experience but when the economy started to tank it was harder for myself and some friends to find employment without a degree (wasn't a problem in the early 2000s). I already had over 60 transferrable credits at a community college from before I left college for a good job offer, but could not find any place to finish a CS degree while working full time.

    So I decided to go the online route. But I knew that UoP or Devry would be looked down on, so I needed to get my Masters as well. Plenty of colleges have great night MS programs in CS. I am in my last year at DePaul right now, and once I am finished I will not even list my Bachelor's degree on my resume.

    But even my UoP degree opened doors. I obtained a job at a Fortune 100 company, and my boss told me that HR would have never even let her see my resume if I didn't have a degree. I am now a senior developer making twice what I did in 2008, and I still haven't finished my Masters to clear the stench of UoP off my resume.

    You just have to be honest with yourself about what you actually want. If you want an education, buy a book (seriously, you could buy about 50 quality books for the cost of a single university class). No college course, even in my Master's program, can compete with reading a book like Code Complete or Head First Design Patterns. But if you want credentials, online schools still give you that.

  • by thoth (7907) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @03:55PM (#42421457) Journal

    They are kinda pricey for a 2 year degree that gets you technician work.
    According to their tuition chart:
    http://www.devry.edu/assets/pdf/uscatalog/US-Catalog-tuition-chart.pdf [devry.edu]
    That's about $45K.

    So it isn't a scam, but grads need to balance degree cost vs. earning power. Maybe your company pays their technicians awesome salaries or something.

  • by Glock27 (446276) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @04:26PM (#42421705)

    Lots of companies refuse to pay for training, because lots of people would just skill up and leave.

    You're missing the point that in that case a lot of people will look for a job where there are tuition benefits.

    Highly skilled, motivated people are both more likely to want continuing education, and to be able to find a job somewhere else.

  • Re:Well, kinda... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Spazmania (174582) on Sunday December 30, 2012 @02:13AM (#42424621) Homepage

    Speaking as an employer...

    1. I do look for a technical degree though not necessarily a CS degree. There's a certain maturity of the thinking process that rarely happens outside of college. Blind spots that you don't know are there. You won't get it chasing the problem du jour.

    I will generally consider someone who is *finishing* a degree but I'll insist that the job be contingent on actually finishing. I'll generally offer enough scheduling flexibility to continue school. You're a programmer after all - I care about your results, not which hours you sit in the chair.

    If you do have a CS or CE degree, try to have some basic knowledge about the field. I recently interviewed a guy with a CE degree who couldn't tell me that accessing a CPU register was faster than accessing main DRAM. Yet his senior project was in assembly language. The hell dude? Also, if you present yourself as God's gift to computer networking, you'd better be able to recognize a path MTU discovery problem when I describe the symptoms to you.

    2. University of Phoenix, DeVry, Strayer and similar "degree mills" do carry a negative stigma. If your resume speaks of clue I'll ask for a phone interview anyway but presenting a degree from there speaks of poor judgement on the applicant's part. I'll be looking to refute my initial impression rather than confirm it. This is bad for you.

    Same goes for presenting an associates degree from a community college. When you write your resume, you don't have a AS. You have a BS "in progress." Be ready to tell me where its in progress.

    3. Certifications can be very bad. If you have one or two very strong certifications, like CCIE, they'll help you. Not much, far less than a degree, but they're a positive factor. I'm not every employer, but I'll never turn someone away for lack of a technical certification.

    On the other hand, if you have 10 weak certifications (CCNA, MCSE, A+, Security+, etc.) and you list them all, that's a big negative. Huge. And the more you list the worse it is. I want self-starters. Doers do. They rarely bother with certifications and even if they do they have far more important things to tell me to sacrifice the space on their resume to such trivia.

    I once had a network engineer applicant list his Kentrox CSU/DSU certification. A Kentrox CSU/DSU is usually configured with a few dip switches on the bottom. Roundfiled the resume.

    4. Field-related stuff you do *for fun* outside of work is a huge plus. Contribute to an open source project? Run a sophisticated network in your basement? Hang out on any IETF mailing lists? Tell me all about it!

I bet the human brain is a kludge. -- Marvin Minsky

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