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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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  • UofA says no (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rsilvergun (571051) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @11:23AM (#42419885)
    and almost everyone I've ever talked to says unless you can already pass compilers in your sleep, you're not going to make it. Start with a years worth of Discrete Math texts and if you can follow that no problem you can make it through years 1 and 2. That said, you can get all the course work from MIT, learn it, and then go get the degree as a formality. It's still hard. There's a lot to do.
  • Math Degree (Score:5, Interesting)

    by KalvinB (205500) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @11:29AM (#42419943) Homepage

    You don't need a CS degree which is more likely to require lab/classroom time. I tried to the CS program and couldn't stand it. I finally ended up with a degree in Math and that's perfectly suitable for a career in programming. I was working full time and taking classes to finish that up. I imagine it's a lot easier to find on-line math classes.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 29, 2012 @11:36AM (#42419995)

    I pursued an undergraduate degree in Computer Science and a graduate degree in Software Engineering, both part time. For the undergraduate degree I took two classes per semester (most semesters), and sometimes one class in the summer. It took 10 years to complete the undergraduate degree, but at the end I had 10 years of experience, a college degree, and no student loan debt. 5 years after that I had a graduate degree, 15 years of experience, and still no debt. If you stick with it, in my opinion, it's worth it!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 29, 2012 @11:45AM (#42420067)

    This line of thinking is a reason we have a shortage of IT professionals. The company I work for is desperate to hire both college graduates with near term 1-3 years up to 70-90k doing work that is not out of reach for the middle of even bottom of a graduating class. We also are hiring higher end for much higher wages. For the mid-west these are solid positions.

    At the end if the day less people in IT means more $$ for me to command, but I hate seeing such a supply demand issue. We now pay 2-3 off shore to do the same work as one on shore: cost is the same and we would replace them in a second. Local universities say there are almost no graduates coming down the pipe that are not H1B.

    I am by far not the best java resource and I am not management friendly and with 12 years in IT and a non-CS degree I am closer to 200k than 100k in a cheap city to live in.

    Not intending to be mean; I am frustrated that the jobs are there and students are steered toward other degrees that are not any better. Oh. If you are female or a minority IT is even better.

    Happy Holidays

  • Suggest Night School (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Benedick (737361) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @11:45AM (#42420087)

    Listen well to the voice of experience. I went straight from high school to work as a programmer. Anyone who tells you that lack of a degree will not hold you back or will not get you a job - or that you wouldn't want those jobs anyway - has been fortunate or short-sighted. You need the degree for upward mobility and continued job security.

    I worked full time while getting two associates, a bachelor's, and a master's (of sorts - long story). It's hard, even harder if you're married and have kids, but this is something you have to do for yourself and your family.

    If you live in any sort of a big city, there's bound to be a college that offers night classes. That's the right way to do this. It won't be a diploma mill but the professors will care about you and will not be trying to wash you out or just see you as a paycheck. One side benefit is that you'll learn while going through the process. Maybe you know all there is about computers, but learning all the other courses you might think are BS, they'll help you think and speak and write.

  • Re:Math Degree (Score:3, Interesting)

    by HornWumpus (783565) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @11:49AM (#42420121)

    Only in schools where CS is taught out of the math department.

    Which are the middle ones. The good ones teach CS out of Engineering, the bad ones teach CS out of Business.

  • Re:UofA says no (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LucidBeast (601749) on Saturday December 29, 2012 @12:16PM (#42420335)
    I just coded the final lab for bunch of University of Arizona (or some college near by) just for kicks... Took me 12 hours and these dudes probably had more than four months to do it. If I can do that, there must be some value to my skill... I'm just a high school graduate... Couple of years of University of Helsinki CS (I think Torvalds was still there when I started), but lost interest when I realized I know how to do stuff.
  • Well, kinda... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 29, 2012 @12:30PM (#42420449)

    If you are born with natural aptitudes for logic and math, then you will do well as a programmer, regardless of which university you choose.

    If you are not born with these aptitudes, you will never be a great programmer. I realize that genetic predetermination is culturally unpopular; we would rather believe that you can do anything if you put your mind to it. Well, as many people who tried to jump into the field in the 90's just for the money learned the hard way: you've either got it or you don't. These are the same class of people who go to college to learn how to become a programmer (but who are not already programmers) who are telling you that college is too hard. They misrepresent the level of difficulty only because they could never get it. If you are a natural, it will not be anywhere near that hard for you.

    It isn't just a matter of skill either. You have to like spending hours at a stretch typing away at a keyboard, engaging your mind in the perpetual resolution of logical constructs. To some people, this task is about as much fun as doing several pages of algebra homework. They will never like doing it no matter how good they get at it, and that distaste for doing it will make college hard and work even harder.

    So, if you like it and you are good at, then a college degree won't be too hard for you to get, but the only value it offers you is a piece of paper which (presumably) potential employers will respect. Otherwise, don't bother; figure out what you actually like and are actually good at, and chase that down instead.

  • by bzipitidoo (647217) <bzipitidoo@yahoo.com> on Saturday December 29, 2012 @01:15PM (#42420817) Journal

    Employers have only themselves to blame for the "shortage". They reject perfectly good candidates out of hand, for the craziest subjective non-reasons, then complain there's a shortage. They have weird ideas about the extraneous qualities they think they want. Like, why is age discrimination rampant? They believe young coders are more easily bullied into working longer hours, and will take less pay. If they want to reject a programmer for being too old, they make up some other bullcrap excuse why, or don't even bother with that. They also desire what they call "loyalty" (while showing no loyalty themselves towards their employees), which really means they want the candidate who is not a "flight risk". They want a candidate within a "good" range of debt and desperation-- not so much that he will steal from the company, but not so little that he can afford to walk away. Evaluating that aspect of a person is very difficult, since they're not supposed to do that at all so they can't outright ask for the information they want. However, credit scores certainly help with that.

    Employers are terrible at evaluating candidates. Can't tell a good programmer from a smooth talking bullshit artist. Nor, on the more subjective criteria, are they much good at telling the crazies apart from the merely desperate. The best they can do is hit prospects with a test on trivia about a particular language, the sort of stuff you shouldn't memorize but should look up in a reference. Quick, name all the reserved words in C++! If you can't do it, then you must not be an expert C++ programmer. If you try to explain why knowing that is not important, then you get that question "wrong", and are tagged as a BS artist to boot. I've had a so-called technical interview end after just 1 trivia question. They refuse to allow any time for training, demanding that new hires "hit the ground running". Candidates are expected to train themselves at their own expense beforehand.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 29, 2012 @01:30PM (#42420931)

    If companies want higher skill levels, they outsource or get in H-1Bs, who are usually a tier ahead when it comes to knowledge in the field. Why pay for someone's schooling when one can get someone from abroad who is far more educated in the first place?

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