Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?

Should Geeks Skip College? 224

WaldoJ sent us a link to a Forbes article about geeks and college. The question is if college is worthwhile or not. It was a 4.5 year time vacuum for me. Education can't really keep pace with "modern" technology, sure, learning theory and getting some practice never hurts, but if you're already a geek, is it a waste of time? This article seems to say so.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Should Geeks Skip College?

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I feel this is a good point. HTML isn't development. Creating web pages is not engineering. It's a job, yes. And I'm sure it pays OK for now.

    The difference is sophistication. This person is probably not suitably trained to contribute (let alone lead) a largish software engineering project.

    Actually, I will be quite surprised if the money stays strong for HTML people. The authoring tools keep improving, and the entry barriers are low.

    Career decisions really do have some gravity. It's not enough to "get a job" - you want to be able to pick and choose from a variety of offers and you will be working over 30 years. Where will you go after ten years of writing CGI?

    Skool sucked for sure - I cannot say that college is truly worth it (I have already graduated). But chucking it all to develop web pages doesn't seem very attractive to me either.

    Especially when I could be working on the internals of something big and complicated. And a degree seems mandatory at this level.
  • first i've graduated high school i have 3 some odd years of experince fixing computers but i keep getting shit jobs because i have not gone to college , but can you guess where i'm gonna be in the fall
  • I skipped it initially, and now I want to go. Why? ...Well, personally, I've always wanted to take philosophy and art courses. It also serves as an all important buffer period before you have the joy of dealing with the harsh reality of working for the rest of your life.

    ----------------- ------------ ---- --- - - - -
  • by scottm ( 288 )

    Put simply, there are some things that you simply can't teach yourself. I'll glady grant that anyone can teach themselves a computing application or language in far less than 4 years. I'll even grant that I've wasted some time and money in classes that I will never use, and more time and money in classes that I may not use often in my life.

    But the cold hard fact is that skipping college will cost you. You won't learn the theory. You won't have professors or even fellow students with more knowledge or different experience to point you in a certain direction or critique your work. You won't know how to work effectively in a team.

    How are you going to teach yourself to write above a 12th grade level? Classic literature? Economics? Philosophy? Biology? Mangement? Political science? Perhaps you think those are all irrelevant, and that all you need to know is (Insert industry buzzwords here), you're wrong.

    I don't resent that there are people my age (21) who already have $100k in the bank. I don't resent that there are people who never went to college who are far more advanced in a particular area than I will ever be. I do realize that I'm not a genius, that I can't teach myself everything, and that there are subjects not directly related to CS that will help me in my career. Oh, being in an academic setting means I've now got 2 years of true sys admin experience and a year of database programming under my belt, to say nothing of the industry contacts I've made.
  • 1. For all those who say there's nothing magical about college, I gotta point out that the real world is an entirely crappier experience on almost all points. I would prefer to be in school, by far. I doubt anyone who's done both for any length of time would disagree.

    2. If I didn't learn to be a great hacker in college, I did learn everything else I needed to be successful and to be an interesting human being. Interpersonal relations, american poetry (LIT 205 and 206), running a small organization (I ran the radio station), logic (PHI 201), ethics (PHI 203), the basic workings of the mind (PSY 101), how society operates on a basic level (ECON 101), how it used to operate before (HIST 106) and so much more.

  • If you have real motivation, you can sit down and just do it yourself.

    Go and read Knuth's Art of Computer Programming. If you feel you're not getting "well rounded" go and read Steinbeck, and listen to Dvorak.

    College and "formal education" are no substitute for being alive, and discovering the world around you firsthand.
  • > Outside of programming classes, I could see having maybe ONE writing class.

    The more, the better. You would not believe some of the writing I've seen from advanced undergrads or graduates. Expressing yourself clearly and professionally is one of the most important skills to have in any field.

    > Otherwise, the Humanities, Management, Statistics, and a few others were just filler.

    Stats? I wish I'd had more classes in that area!

    It's important to be well-rounded. I took a music class my senior year. Even though I was already heavily into the piano and trumpet, it opened up a whole new world. I can't imagine what I'd be doing without it.

    I've gained far too much enjoyment from literature, music and the arts to just throw it all away.

    If you go read "The Soul of a New Machine," you'll find an interesting discussion of the job interviews for the Data General Eagle team. One of the questions asked concerned hobbies outside of work. It was very important to the team leaders that their workers do something outside the computer world when away from the lab.

    If this is all too wishy-washy and non-geeky, then so be it. I'm happy.
  • Many of the "programmers" I know who are not college educated have a very shallow view of computers. They only know Microsoft products, they only know Visual BASIC, etc. If they are uber-geek types, they will spend hours cutting cycles from within a do-loop rather than coming up with an algorithm that doesn't *NEED* a do-loop.

    This isn't to say that college would have turned these sad excuses for programmers into super hackers, but at least they would have been exposed to the concept of O(n) vs O(1) algorithms (and don't forget O(n**2) algorithms!). And at least they'd have been exposed to the concepts of structured programming, rather than slinging spaghetti all over the place.

    Having cleaned up after so many non-college-educated programmers during my career, I am probably biased. I'll just note that usually I end up re-writing rather than fixing programs created by non-college-educated programmers, because they are usually unreadable spaghetti with no comments, cryptic variable names, and no structure. Heck, I knew one kid who thought that indenting his code was structure! (And who wondered why I fussed at him when he re-read a table out of the database every time through the loop, rather than cacheing it before he entered the loop -- it took fewer lines of code, after all!). Some of the code I've read by college-educated programmers has been a bit bletcherous, but at least I can fix it without re-writing the whole thing.

    This isn't to say that ALL non-college-educated programmers can't structure their way out of a paper bag... just that, in my experience, most of them are woefully ignorant of what really comprises programming -- creating easy-to-use, maintainable code that is easily extensible in the future. All the cycle counting in the world won't help if the program is unusable due to lousy user interface, unmaintainable due to poor structure, zero comments, and slower than mollasses because of ignorance of basic algorithms (Knuth and Sedgewick are the Patron Saints of algorithms, and anybody who dares differ on that shall be cast into the holy flames reserved for heretics!).

    Now that I've ticked off every hacker without a college degree, I'll just say that most colleges don't teach what people need to know. I didn't need college to teach me HTML or Pascal or Python or "C" or 6502 assembly or etc... but I did need to know the difference between an O(n**2) algorithm and an O(log(n)) algorithm, and between a b-tree and a hash table. Yet so many colleges see their duty as "preparing kids for jobs in industry", and instead spend their time teaching young people whatever the "hot technology of the day" is -- a technology which will be long obsolete, of course, by the time you graduate.

    -- Eric
  • Posted by yuiop:

    One of them is whether it is important to learn, in any fashion, anything other than what is required for employment. If you're one of those people who hate learning anything not related to your ultimate goals... well... I feel sorry for you. And you should wonder whether your career could have taken other paths if you hadn't specialized so soon.

    The second question is whether university is a good way to broaden oneself. I think that's much more debatable.

    College instruction is often the fastest way to destroy one's natural enthusiasm. University is often a series of meaningless tasks, impossible work schedules, and assignments which specifically exclude creative (or even correct and complete) solutions. You become more skilled in passing courses than anything else.

    The other parts of the university experience are much more important... social experiences, breaking down prejudice, and a chance to enculturate in the presence of some brilliant minds. But it seems odd that one would have to pay US $120,000 for the side effects, rather than the actual "medicine".

  • Posted by modefan:

    Bill Gates was a drop out.

    Now he's the one of the richest and most powerful men in the world.

    Heck of a drop out if you ask me.

    I did a little community college (El Camino baby!) and many of my friends have dropped. Being techies, we know a lot about computers, but we never went to college.

    Not bad, I don't have loans to pay back and I am making money with my skills. Only one bad thing: college chicks don't dig guys their age who don't go to school.

    But older chicks that have money know where to come =)

  • Posted by ButtGoblin:

    Thats the only reason im bothering gettin my cs degree at a crappy college like San jose state. The magic paper is demanded by all the good game companies i wanna work for out there. the modern cs program doesnt teach u jack about whats important such as design, it takes em 3 classes to teach you c++ and all they talk about is basic crap like trees and lists as far as theory. and theory and menial coding assignments is all you get, no chance to do "real" stuff you'd do as a software engineer for a company. the problem is that this program is designed for idiots who dont give a shit about computers, they're just takin the major cuz they heard its one of the most profitable ones. oh well, one more year and im out of this hell hole :)
  • Posted by clementsn:

    So if programs ship with run-time libraries they are interpreted? That is faulty logic. How to identify this faulty logic and how to avoid it is the subject of every course of study in a good university (philosophy, economics, even cs).

    By the way, Visual Basic now produces compiled code. It still ships with a run-time, but they have better versioning than the Visual C++ run-times (one of the stated goals of COM was to get rid of these versioning problems, but there you go).
  • Posted by 0x61 0x30:

    College is a waste of time and money.

    Contrary to what a lot of people say, you can get a job quite easily without being a college graduate in the computer industry. One fine example is network administration. They don't teach networking in college ( unless it's some advanced class, which really isn't all that advanced since most of them just cover TCP/IP fundamentals.

    The industry moves to fast to waste time sitting in college. If you're a truly motivated geek you'll do quite fine without college and you'll save yourself lots of time and money.

  • Posted by Dr_Sneed:

    I think that college is a very important learning tool. I am young (lower twenties), I have not had very much college, but consider myself successful. I've had a year of "Four Year University" & I've probably had a year of Community College. Both were great experiences. When I was at 4yrU, I bombed out, but I learned valuable life lessons, if you will. And since, I've been back to school over the past couple years to work on some classes towards a degree. Do I regret not getting my "Higher" education in? No, because I will go back and get it (unless I die within the next few years). I'm happily married, I work for a very large corporation, they pay me to learn while I work. What isn't better than that. Right now, I'm working on a variety of certifications, that will probably take me farther in the IT field than a degree ever would.

    I think right now there is such a demand in this field that if you know how to change the display settings in Windoze you could probably get a help desk job.

    I know Windoze fairly well, and am trying to learn Linux right now. I've played with Slackware & am now starting to play with Red Hat to see what diff. flavors are like. I think if you are a geek at heart and have a will to learn you do not need college.

    But, why is college important, because you can learn things that cannot be taught elseware. Like what? That's a good question. I learned respect, and that there are other people smarter than me. I also learned the best thing of all: how to learn from others.

    Someday I will get my degree, when? When I feel like it. I feel it will make me a more complete person.

    So like it or not, there are my unorganized views on the subjects. The only down side to college is the $$$, but don't think of it as spending $$$ for an education, think of it as investing for your future.
  • I did go to college, but I earned a liberal arts degree. I felt at the time (and still do) that colleges would be unable to keep up with the pace of change in technology and that I could continue to learn much more on my own. I also didn't want to sit in classes being taught things I already knew and could easily teach myself.

    There were, of course, other reasons for choosing the path I did and I wouldn't change a thing. However, I am having a hell of a time finding a position now in the fields where I want to be and know that I am qualified to be. Employers do not find self-teaching credible. Part of my problem is where I live. A self-taught geek has greater opportunity in say, California, than in the prehistoric techno backwater called Louisiana.

    Nonetheless, I am patient and will prevail. I make a reasonable salary now despite being bored and unchallenged by my position.

    There are lots of other reasons besides the degree to attend a University. The experience is well worth it regardless of the degree you end up with.
  • Okay, it was a different article, and a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (oops, wrong one ;)
    but we had this discussion before. While US colleges may not be good enough to provide a challenge for geeks, there are still alternatives (European ones) :)
    Anyway, the comment 'Welcome to the Dark Side' in the last discussion about that summed it up pretty well. Quick money, but the lack of theories, and maybe also versatility to move on to a different work later.
  • Well, I dropped out of college before I completed my sophomore year. I'm now 26 years old and I make around $100,000 a year (counting bonuses) as a Consultant for a software company. You'd think I'd be pretty happy with myself, but I wish I had finished college.

    Allow me to explain. College DOES have it's place. It teaches disciplined thinking, proper researching, structured concepts and most importantly, exposure to things other than 1's and 0's. Do I think they should be able to charge in excess of $100,000 for teaching those things? Well, I dropped out, so that tells you my answer. On the other hand, encouraging people to skip college will eventually create a large pool of code drones, and that's a bad thing.

    When I use the term code drone I mean someone who lacks vision or understanding of anything but code. Having some exposure to business concepts will definitely help you write that new Front Office Automation package. Understanding communications concepts will definitely help you write that new network faxing application. Exposure to manufacturing is a must to work in the ERP space. No one will sit down with you and dictate business practices to you so you can write software for real business. No employer will give you the time to start from ground zero so that you will pick that up. Knowing how to write code is only part of the job.

    I spent a lot of years working shit jobs for next to nothing before I had enough real world knowledge to be an asset to my employers in the software space. If you want to code, it's about more than knowing languages. Yeah, you can drop out/skip college and ride the help desk. But guess what? You're not gonna make much, and there's no real advancement path.

    Taco may think that college was a "time vacuum" for him, but as time goes on he'll come to thnk differently. I can safely say this because I'm backed up by a whole 26 years worth of wisdom. (tongue firmly in cheek) :)

    P.S. In the real world you can only have so many 3-day beer blasts and skip work before you lose your job and live in the car they're trying to repossess. College, the four-year kegger!
  • His reasoning is mostly correct (though colleges aren't nearly as far behind as he makes you think they are behind) as far as it goes.

    Problem is he doesn't even know you can reason farther. College didn't teach me much about programing in the real world. College taught me to think. I wouldn't understand the answer to many of the questions I ask now if I had even thought to ask them which I wouldn't have. If you have never taken college level classes in several departments you won't understand and it can't be explained. Calculis seems irrelavent to my daily job, I haven't done a derivative or integral since I graduated. I apply the what I learned in calculis every day. It isn't the math that I apply, it is the reasoning.

    So go to college. I don't care what degree you get. Obviously a CS degree is going to make you a better programer while a music degree will make you a better singer. In the process of bettering youself in one area you learn how you can better yourself anyplace you care to. Besides I don't know what I will be doing in ten years, there is no degree that will relate to every job I will ever have.

    Note that better yourself will not make you perfect. I'm a much better speller then I was, and my grammer is much better. Both of the above are still horid as you can tell.

  • I think it's a worth-while experience for geeks. Even if the coursework isn't immediately relevant, you get a good backgrounder on where things have come from. The history of your profession is impt. Add to that the opportunities for future contacts, exposure to other disciplines, a chance to do some work on-campus, etc. Not to mention the possible lure of grad school. College is or should be an adventure. A real good start. If I could, I'd go back and get another degree.
  • I went for a year and worked at the same time...I learned jack shit in college and i learned a TON about the computer industry from working, so after i finished my 1st year, i just didn't go back. I mean i taught myself, C, C++ (including about a dozen SDKs), Objective C, Perl, all that good stuff on my own by reading and doing. I know that this kinda thing doesnt work for say law students or pre-med or what have ya, but for something like programming, college just distracts and stalls you from learning how cool the real-world industry is.
  • I don't totally agree with this article. Granted, technology seems to change too quickly for many things to keep up, including books and college courses. There's a lot that can be learned that's not going anywhere, however. On the purely practical side, there are college courses in programming languages like C, C++, Java, and Cobol (still!). Those languages will probably be around for a while. Delving more deeply, degrees in computer science involve slightly more than just learning a lot of computer languages. There are similar basic concepts underlying nearly every programming method.

    It might also be prudent to remember that straight programming is not everything. Most programs do something, and you need to understand what needs to be done. It's difficult to write an accounting package (or even maintain one) without a good understanding of accounting principles.

    I'll grant that I don't think that I've mentioned anything that can't be learned out of the classroom, but I think it's a lot easier to learn in an environment tailored for learning. (As opposed to having your boss tell you, "I need this done--you said you were a fast learner, right?")

    Disclaimer: I'm not majoring in computer science. I'm a physics major, and I have a little less choice about getting a degree.

    --Phil (Not to mention that I like learning and enjoy college.)
  • I've been thinking about this for the past 3 years now. I'm someone who is arrogant enough to think that I don't need a college to teach me compiler design or operating system level programming. I think the entire system is bullshit. But only recently did I decide that I wanted to go.

    It sounds like a total waste of time, I'll never get into MIT or whatever at this point, and I wouldn't want to foot the bill for it either. I'm sure there's plenty one can get from it, and if they came up to me and said "here, you can go to MIT for free, on us" I'd probably go for it. Realistically, it's not a future plan.

    On the other hand, I've been going to school for 75% of my life. I'm growing so sick and bored of it. It's really disappointing when I learn more during summer vacation than I do the school years between them.

    Everyone looks at me as if I'm a loser if I don't plan on going to college. It's really annoying that society has this hardwired into their brain that you have to pay money to an institution to learn anything. I suppose schools are targeted toward the mass populus who this would be applicable for (obviously). It's too bad that their CS degree will be worth more than my lifetime of experience with this technology.

    I plan on putting college off for a few years once I graduate high school. I want to experience the world and live on my own. If I see that I've made a mistake, I'll go to town hall university (you know, that building the peons come out of in warcraft2?) and get some degree.

    Even if I do finally go to college, I'm not taking CS. "Here, I'll give you money to teach me something I already know!" What fun that would be. I'll probably double major in Math and Physics. Yea.

    You might be saying "Why don't you teach that to yourself too, assmaster?", I would, but it'd be easier on me (motivation/laziness) to just sit back and buy an education. "Town Hall University" is rather cheap. :)
  • Well, with 322 comments and counting, I doubt anyone will read this. I am a HS senior and a certifiable (MCSE? Who needs it?) major computer geek. I could probably hit the market and pull in >$40k right now, straight out of school. But I'm still going on to college. Why? I'm looking forward to learning something other than geek stuff. Well-roundedness is good and my bottom line is not the sum of my existence, no matter what any industry reports say. Wish me luck!
  • Hope you check back on this :)
    I'm one year ahead of you in about the same position (graduating in June), and here's what I've found:
    • MIT -- Duh. Good, expensive, a bit snobby, and not much other than technical fields
    • Carnegie Mellon -- wishes it was MIT
    • Cal Tech -- Again, very techie but not as snobby/expensive as MIT
    • UC-Berkeley, Duke -- Good CS, also has many more diverse offerings
    • Rensaeller, Cal Poly -- decent, but I didn't investigate too much
    What I actually found (and I can be backed up by several sources) is two things: if you read and follow Slashdot, you already know more about computing than 50% of CS majors, and if you go to a good school (as you're likely to get in to), then you don't even need to be a CS major to get valuable computing experience. I am planning to do Biochem wherever I go next year (U of Chicago, Berkeley, or UW-Madison), with CS as either my minor or dual major. I stayed away from big-tech schools like MIT and CMU because they had little to offer outside of computing--British Literature is a possible major but nobody goes to MIT to write papers contrasting Pope and Swift. My recommendation: unless you're an absolute hard-core geek (like you'd wire a 100BaseT port to your brain to reduce keyboard lag), find a college you like and a major you like, and pick up computer experience as part of the fun of college (ie, play around with your box hooked up to the Ethernet, help other people, and mess with your accounts on the ancient UNIX systems most universities have). CS/EE tends to be one of the most obsessive majors; I know a few people who burned out so much in 4 years that they didn't want to get a job in it, but couldn't go anywhere else that paid well because that's all they knew.
  • I went to a big name, private school. Graduated with an B.S. in a hard science other than CS. Went straight into unemployment.

    That degree won't guarantee you a job, anywhere. Some graduates find employment. Most don't, depending on what major you were, how competitive your grades are, and whether you graduate when the time is ripe in that field. If you're scraping by already, bag the college education and keep working until the next recession.
  • College, for right now, is still an indespensible resource for learning core disciplines that you wouldn't otherwise learn. College puts you in to a different "frame of mind" than if you were studying only the things that YOU want to study.

    Canada's college/university system seems to be a *lot* better in terms of $$$ ... a 4 year degree will cost you with living expenses (out of your home town) around $50,000. About 60-70% of that can be handled through government loans and/or student lines of credit. If you're a computer major, there shouldn't be a problem repaying that debt within 3-4 years after graduating.

    A lot of people don't get tangible benefit out of college, but some people do.. I know I am. I guess it depends on your goals & what your program offers... a concentration on _fundamental_ concepts and strengthening students' capabilities really should be what college does.

    Down the road... 30 years maybe, there probably will be better alternatives to College to get the same level of education.

    The primary problems with college right now are related to its accessibility: you have to be living in a certain area (near a good college) with a certain income bracket in order to get a good college education. This shouldn't have to be the case: education should be available to everyone across the world, AT ANY AGE LEVEL.

    The world of tomorrow is going to be less of a world of monetary haves and have-nots; the world of tomorrow will be about who is educated and who is not. A degree probably won't matter: your ability to learn and retain knowledge will.

    In the final analysis, the problems with college go far deeper than "keeping up with technology" and cost... the U.S. educational system in general is broken, and is in dire need of some real management vs. bureaucratic administration.
  • Quick version: Bill Gates dropped out. Linus Torvalds didn't. Which would you rather be like?

    Long version: There's a lot more to an education than learning professional skills. At least part of it is learning how to think; how to distinguish the excellent from the merely adequate; how to understand and appreciate the work that has been done before you, as well as the project you're currently working on; and so forth.

    If you, O reader, are a "geek" looking at college in the future, I strongly recommend that you get a good liberal-arts education as well as any CS/EE/etc. you're planning on taking. "Well-rounded" isn't just some idea that your high school guidance counselors invented to mock you. Very few of the great geek heroes are nothing but computer geeks.

    Take Larry Wall, for instance. When he began his studies, he and his wife went into theology and linguistics, seeking to become translator-missionaries. And while I can't recommend theology as a responsible discipline, one can't help but notice the positive influence of Wall's linguistic work on Perl.

    And don't bother trying to do real programming without at least some theoretical CS. Where else are you going to learn that you really shouldn't sort directory listings with bubble-sort? The early programmers of MS-DOS never learned that...

    Sure, you can get a job without a degree. Is it a good idea for your life? No. Consider again Gates and Torvalds. Which do you think is better in the sack? Where do you think you're going to get more practice at that -- in a full-time tech job at age 19, or in college?

  • If you've found yourself someplace during or immediately after high school that can teach and carry you into a career you're looking for, I would probably stick with that. If you're just the computer geek type who spends most of his/her time in the computer lab and works fast food on the weekends, I would suggest you plant yourself in college.

    In my opinion, "real world" experience in the field you want to be in for four years is more valuable than a four-year computer degree ESPECIALLY if you have a tremendous amount of computer background and experience already.

    BUT: For those script kiddies and IRC junkies that just have passing knowledge of the various aspects of computers, DO NOT delude yourself into thinking that that is a solid core of computer experience. You are a dime a dozen and will not make it in the real world with only those skills. If you still think that you are pretty smart, be an intern at some real places. Most people will quickly find out that there's a lot more they don't know.

    By the time I had finished high school, I was working for an Internet provider (starting off doing tech support but quickly moved into other more intimate areas of networking/programming/writing, etc.). I learned more in the two years I worked there than I would have learned in two, three, or even four years at college.

    I do not, however, think that field experience is a perfect replacement for college.

    In college, you are taught a way of thinking, of problem solving. While real-world experience can be extremely valuable, most people with degrees have a stronger foundation of problem-solving skills than others. Besides teaching you how to program and how an operating system works, college teaches you how to think. For this reason, I believe a college background can be a valuable thing to have.

    Additionally, many corporations (for whatever reasons) MANDATE that their employees have a college degree. You can have all the experience in the world, and could be absolutely perfect for a job, but without that degree, they simply can't hire you. College degrees also tend to be beneficial when it comes to "first impressions". Someone browsing over two resumes without any real knowledge of either applicant will tend to give the one with a college degree more thought. Unless you've accomplished a lot and have a good, strong amount of resume material (none of this "designed web pages for ..." or "technical support for ..." crap), you will tend to be passed over in favor of someone with likely less experience but with a college degree.

    If you do decide to go the college route, you don't even necessarily have to finish. Sometimes employers will see that you've got a good core knowledge base from a few university courses, and they will be satisfied with that (assuming you held a good GPR and didn't flunk out). Don't, however, drop out after the first year simply because you don't think you're learning anything. In all likelyhood, you won't actually start learning anything useful until your 2nd or even 3rd year.

    If you don't decide to go to college, and think you're making it fine now and can only advance your career, I would still consider taking some college courses. I find that good writing skills are hard to find among computer people that haven't been to college, so some english and/or technical writing courses could be helpful there. Some courses in secure programming or databases might be useful. Most "computer people" out of high school tend to have the same computer background. They might be able to program in C, might have some unix experience, but lack some other, very necessary, skill sets. Try to explore your weaknesses and patch them up. Push yourself out and beyond what your peers are all gravitating towards. And, most importantly, do NOT be arrogant and assume there isn't anything out there for you to learn. Quite a few slashdotters and annoying high school geeks have made that fatal mistake. You do NOT know everything, and in most all cases, everyone with a degree knows more than you, in most areas.

    Whether or not you choose to get a degree, ALWAYS KEEP UP WITH THE TECHNOLOGY. I cannot stress this enough. A ten-year-old CS degree is usually worthless if you haven't kept up with the news, the trends, and the new technologies. If you can find a company that is technologically stale and has no desire to innovate or keep up, then you might be okay, but the real successful people are the ones that keep themselves on the edge of the latest technologies. This applies to both people pursuing and not pursuing college degrees. The instant you graduate from college, many of the things you've learned there are already out of date. Keep up!

    So if you're leaning towards going to college, do it. If you're not sure, you'd might as well start off in college. You can always quit later. If you're leaning towards skipping college and going straight into a career, think carefully. Unless you've already got a decent amount of background and something besides generic "computer skills", you aren't likely to find anything but PC "grunt work" (tech support, repair, etc.).

    Having a college degree (or at least some experience) doesn't hurt, but not having one can.
  • Yep - the bugs would be more structured.
  • Then again, I don't classify myself much among the geeks (much less among that disgusting class of ``nerds'' Rob seems so fond of), so perhaps what I have to say isn't worth much to this discussion. ;)

    That makes two of us..

  • Some places already have 3 year degrees. But then again, those places also have better education at a younger age and so their students are 2 years ahead of most Americans by the time University arrives. University is a place to specialise... not continue a rounded education because the system has already failed.
  • by lefty ( 1872 )
    When it comes to computers, I've developed such a proficiency that when I need something done, I do it myself. I started out with a 486/25 when I was 14 (I'm 21 now), and since then I've been hooked. Whether it's hardware, software, or troubleshooting, I can take it no problem. A year and a half ago I learned about Linux and all the great GNU tools and since then I've spent most of my computing time with them.

    The only things that I haven't mastered when it comes to computers is networking and programming. Heh, when it comes down to it I'm just a power luser.

    I graduated high school in '95, and since then I've had a couple decent jobs, and now I'm considering two options.

    1) I can work for myself and make $50-100/hour as a PC repair tech, which I could do with my eyes closed.

    2) I can go to college and get an associates in programming locally and later xfer that to a bachelors of business administration at the same school for fairly cheap, or I can go to a big U and lose my ass in debt.

    I think as long as I learn the theory and logic behind coding, and get the academic introduction, and basically learn how to learn, that's what's important. As far as I've seen that's what going to school for CS is about, and all the languages you learn basically becomes self-taught.

    Anyway, the school programs I was looking at are here: baker college [baker.edu]. they're local, they're cheap. I've still gotta talk to the counselor and find out about some stuff before I decide,

    So what do ya think? should I stick w/ the pc tech skills I have, or go on to CS and IT stuff? If you think CS and IT is worth it, would a good Associates be good or is a bachelors a requisite? I'm not getting any younger, so it's about time I do soemthing. I'd really love to be a "real" geek =)
  • dunno. I mean, I was a geek before college, but college brought a few veerreee important factors to bear on my geekhood -- access to technlogy (hadn't even *heard* of 'NIX before college) two, relevant employment (first admin job in college) and three, education/well-roundedness. Without college, I'd probably be a dumpy aspiring nerd working at McDonalds. Thank you college!

    -- adr
  • Definitely take a pass on going to college. It's quite optional. I'm over-educated myself, and it's never done me a damned bit of good.
  • if you want to pretty much throw your life in the shitter... Not everyone is going to make it ok like this guy... And the days are fast approaching where a college degree will be a necessity in the computer field.

    And please don't bitch about schools not being able to teach the most up and coming technology. That is not their job. The prime lesson you should get out of school is how to learn and pick that stuff up on your own. Most people don't get their hands held in the real world.

    Egads. Some people really need to see the real world. It can almost make you go to college...
  • While much of what I learned in the course of obtaining my BS in Computer Sciences was extraneous to my daily work, I think that an exposure to academic CS is a good thing. It's important to know some basic theory, to determine if a given problem can be solved in polynomial time, or how to write a compiler from the ground up.

    Universities also tend to be places with a lot of opportunities for geeks, such as really nice hardware. The hacker community has a tradition of being tolerated around academic institutions in a way that isn't possible in business. The sense of community provided is also important; many user groups initially take root at universities.

    College may not be for everyone, but currently there is no other venue to learn the fundamentals of computer science, which are the difference between being a computer operator and truly mastering the machine.

  • I don't think you refuted the claim, you merely showed A.C. has more work to do before he can jot down quod erat demonstrandum. With that, I heartily agree.
  • Normally, Slashdot doesn't make me laugh (too much, anyway). This article almost made me snarf the Dr Pepper I had drunk.
    Anybody with ½ a brain, and even two nanoseconds of a real college education knows this guy is full of crap either because he's completely moronic, or hasn't been to a real school.
    His picture looks like he spends his time sitting in front of a sticky keyboard looking at alt.binaries.erotica.* and 'coding' HTML. Another fine candidate for the "Why Couldn't Social Darwinism Take This One" award.

    But really... If you seriously think you're going to get anywhere significant in this world, without that piece of paper, you're going to end up nothing but a bench-drone or a tech somewhere useless, fixing a useless piece of hardware, broken by a worthless collegeless geek, just like you.
  • For those of you who were never forced to take the class, that's: Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programming.

    I am holding the book in my hands as we speak. Damnit, I love the MIT press. :) All hail the holy Red Book!
  • From my experience in college (thus far, I'm not done quite yet) college has been exactly what I've made of it. Granted, I'm not a typical geek, I'm a little more ambitious when it comes to outside stuff than that. Anyway, here are my observations on people who have dropped out of school to enter the work force (from the ones that I know):

    • Although quite strong technically they lack a well rounded view in other aspects.
    • They tend to be a little less open to different methodologies.
    • From my experience the ambitions may be a bit lower.
    • Usually they are doing simpler stuff.

    The last issue is the one that I imagine most people may have a little qualm with. But here is how I see it. In college, a good computer engineering degree will teach you about software and hardware along with math and natural sciences and some lib arts here and there. One of the things that is taught that is fairly hard to learn on your own is hardware design, simply because its not something even the bright 15 year olds can understand that well. Not to mention, it has an initial cost, while most non grads pick up skills with no cost.

    Also a lot of people (or from my view at least) drop out with the ambition of become game programmers. Hate to break it to most of them, but to design a good 3d engine you need a good deal of physics and vector calculus, most of the stuff you can't really get in high school.

    Anyway, for me, I could have easily decided not to go to college and go right into the real world and start working for $30-$40k a year, but I chose not to. It was the right decision. Most of the people who enter the work force don't see its the college experience that is so great, not nescessarily college itself. I've chosen to make a lot of it and as a consequence I've gotten opportunities for projects that would never be offered to me during work, and the variety is awesome.

    Maybe if you are one of those people who is thinking that college isn't for you, you should change what college you are looking at.

  • Here's a different perspective: I manage several people in a web/unix/network-intensive shop. A couple of people went to college for a year and dropped out. While their technical skills are excellent, they lack the broader base of knowledge that comes from a full college education. It may be trite, but the point of college isn't to teach you the specifics of the technology, it's primarily to teach you how to think on a variety of levels.

    Some questions I face:
    Would I prefer to fill a lead sysadmin position (something that comes with a essentially unlimited access to other people's work) with a person who has 100% of the required skills but no college education, or someone with 90% of the skills and a couple of college philosophy classes in ethics? Would I rather hire someone with 100% of the technical skills for a programming position, or someone with 75% of the skills, but a good writing background from a minor in English Lit that would make our documentation effort easier? On a small staff, would I rather have an advanced software architect with a minor in business, or a non-degreed balls-to-the-wall code god?

    In each of these cases, the person without the college education will get you farther for the first few steps. But you quickly realize that in order for the individual and the organization to advance, you _must_ have a broader base of skills. Sure, I can get more out of that code god in the short run, but what happens when I want to collaborate with another company? I run into a great big skill vacuum, and either the organization suffers, or I hire someone over the code god's head (which casts me as the bad guy).

    IMHO, good, sucessful technical people focus on the convergence of fields. For example, a network security specialist is worth more than either a network admin or a business security person. A programmer-writer is worth more than a programmer or a tech writer. Web design people who have database design/coding skills are making loads of money in e-commerce right now; far more than the run-of-the-mill webgeek or database admin.

    Finding this convergence requires having multiple perspectives that are built through a well-rounded education. This is why companies that pay no attention to education are doomed, and individuals who skip college, as a general rule, relegate themselves to a relatively low position in the organization. Those who skip college because it is truly beneath them are few and far between, but shine brightly enough to draw others into a dead-end or vastly handicapped career.

    On the bright side, however, my organization (a top-50 corporate monolith) and many others like it provides generous resources for continuing education, and tuition reimbursement for degree completion. So, for those that skipped college to get a jump on a career, there are ways to eliminate the handicap. The point is, it isn't easy to do -- the years you saved by skipping college are eaten up by slow career growth and concurrent schooling later. It's not a position I would want to get into without giving it a lot of careful thought.
  • I bet the dean of the engineering department would love to see that cmdrtaco got nothing out of his private college education. It is sad to see someone who should be full of knowledge and promise is jaded about their experience.

    I think whether college is a 'good thing' or not is a question that has a lot of interesting answers. But it mainly boils down to two significant factors:
    1. The quality of your college. Who is to say that Hope is any good or that it's computer science department has anything going for it.
    2. The amount of effort and time you put into your college experience. No doubt Rob spent a lot more time working on slashdot then he did studying for his classes. Granted it seems like time well spent. But who is to say that constructive energy couldn't have raised his opinion of his college experience if he had spent that time on his classes.

    Remember that most of those people you admire in the open source community all have college degrees and almost all of the internet was spawned from university projects so do not so quickly dismiss the college experience. It is more important then just it's social aspects although that is a big selling point. Next time you decide to discuss this topic think about what you put into your college education because ultimately you are the person who learned something while you were there.
  • Well, I'm working as a programmer with only a High School Education but unfortunately it's not too easy getting another job with out that BS degree so I've decided to go back and get it.

    I don't think that anyone necessarily needs it but Upper Management seems to like everyone have as much BS as possible.
  • My god. If people think college exists so you can learn stuff to make a ton of $$$, they are missing the point.

    College is (hopefully) a growth experience. A well-rounding of a person. Oh yeah, you learn job skills. But most importantly, you learn *to think*. I got more out of my History / Sociology courses than I did any tech course (BS in Chemistry).

    As far as CS experience, I think you do need to learn the theory to be good in the field. You can be a so-so hack who makes OK money with no grounding in the fundamentals, sure. But if you don't ever learn the more abstract concepts (whether in college or on your own initiative), you probably will hit the limits of your knowledge sooner or later...

    Anyway... if you can go to college, *do it*! The worst thing you'll get is a lot of hangovers, and a student loan to pay off for 10 years (but you'll probably make an extra $250 a month to cover that, so financially it's not bad). Learn for the sake of learning, spending 4 years to improve the quality of the rest of your life isn't such a bad deal!

  • Then I don't think I would hire you.

    I think that there is a whole lot to be said for my post graduation, work force experience, but college was definitely no waste of time. The learning that I did in and out of class on everything including and beyond technical subjects was so worth the time I spent there. The technical classes gave me a firm foundation in the field that I work in and without it I would have had nothing to build on. The other classes gave me something to be interested in besides computers. I would do my undergraduate studies again in a heart beat. I would do them even better than I did.
  • I went to a technical college for a year. Started out with a full load, in the electronics course. My original plan was to do the 2-year electronics degree thing, and then go to a big state university and get a degree in philosophy. (If your eyes just glazed over and you said "HUH?", that's what everyone else said at the time. ;-)

    I dropped out of the e- program after two months, and switched to a "general studies" course, with English and music as my focus. I did OK, when I went, and when I did my homework, which wasn't often. The second semester, I started out with a full load and a theoretically renewed charge to do it, but wound up all but dropping out, and finished the semester with two classes (a music class and a speaking performance class) that I'd not attended through most of the semester.

    That was.. 1994. After that, I worked in politics for a while and found myself on the wrong side of the "Republican Revolution" that year, which soured me from politics. My skill had always been with computers, and after the 94 election, I got a job at a local Macintosh store (MacGalaxy... hi Mark! ;-), where I worked for about a year before starting my "consulting career" -- unemployment. :)

    While consulting, I managed to both starve and accrue valuable experience -- I set up networks, did troubleshooting, and learned the value of a dollar. All my consulting experience eventually added up, and after working for about six months in 1997 at a big credit union organization doing tech support for an MS-DOS product (pretty good for a Mac guy!), I got a job as a sysadmin at an ad agency, where I was until August of 98. I'd met my future business partner about a year and a half before, and actually started working on linuxppc.org in March or April of 98. In August, I quit the ad agency (best move I ever made!) and moved to Savannah, Georgia (second best move I ever made!), and I now work for LinuxPPC Inc., aka LinuxPPC.com. :)

    And that's been a truly remarkable experience. Pretty good for a guy without a degree! I hung around college people during what would be my normal "college years," and sometimes I feel a little deprived of some experiences, but I really feel that I've taken my own path through life, and I'm now doing what I've always wanted to do: bringing software development to a really cool platform and being my own boss -- which is invaluable. No degree can confer that!

    Do what's best for you. Follow your heart. If school's not right for you, work. If work's not right for you, perhaps school is. It's different for everyone. School and I never quite got along, and I'm doing fine independantly. I might go back some day -- most of my family actually started college later in life and then did great -- but for now, I'm happy.

  • i'm a geek who started hacking on a ZX81 at 12 y/o... i now have a Ph.D in computer science, sure it was a waste of time, i learned quite nothing i didn't know before, some theory or things like that, but never in programming stuff... sure i "discovered" unix at university in 1990 and "man" learns me tons of things before teachers do! as "everyone" i tried to get root privilege in university and have success some times ;-)

    anyway, going to school and university lot of years help to find a job, having a master and ph.d in system enginering (especially unix, i never touched a novell or nt box) and networking enginering, i found a good job in less than 2 months, and well paid!

    have fun to school!
  • and was quite boring. When you get to grad school though, things change. like your company could be footing the bill :-) and you get to take courses that are much more interesting and more usefull. A lot of the stupid people that were present and dragging down classes are gone. For me, grad school has been like taking all electives, all the time.

  • ESPECIALLY if you're a geek. Where else can you:

    1. Live on your own in an environment especially designed to comfort, support and entertain (and occasionally inform) young, clueless innocents, such as yourself, fresh out of high-school, (on Mom and Dad's dime, in most cases)

    2. Drink with your (new) friend's (WAY cooler than the old one's) 'til the wee hours, (on Mom and Dad's dime, in most cases)

    3. Smoke pot with your Philosophy teacher, (on Mom and Dad's dime, in most cases)

    4. Meet beguiling members of the opposite sex (?) who have NO IDEA how much of a nerd you were in 5th grade and win their love with gifts, (on Mom and Dad's dime, in most cases)

    5. Get awards, adoration and ALTERNATIVE CREDIBILITY for flouting opinions/life-styles that got you BEAT UP in high school

    6. Get access to computers / equipment you could never afford on your own and learn NEW, EXCITING ways to use/abuse them

    7. Come to the Amazing Realization that there's more to life than your Olde Hometowne.

    8. Meet OTHER people your age, who also secretly enjoy watching "Ally McBeal", and SHARE YOUR PAIN

    9. Become the Linux Nut/Guru/Advocate of YOUR campus, and gain more ALTERNATIVE CREDIBILITY

    10. Finally get those damn parents off your back, (on Mom and Dad's dime, in most cases)
  • http://www.usnews.com/usnews/edu/college/rankings/ cat13wi.htm

    Even though they are ranks of Engineering schools, they're pretty to how I'd rank them for CS/CompE programs though, although of the bunch ranked six I'd put CMU and Cornell higher than Georgia Institute of Technology or Purdue.

    As for learning from books vs. learning from people, based on my expirience at the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign, which is tied with a bunch at second on that list, it depends on the prof and sometimes upon the TAs. I doubt you will find any school where the way you learn (or don't learn as the case may be) varries a lot from course to course and often even semester to semester.

    As for free ethernet, in dorms that's pretty much universal. I can't speak for private schools, but at a public university the issue is how long you can live with another person in esentially a closet without going completely mad.

    As for hard courses, you haven't taken hard courses until you take one get a 45% and have your grade after the class is curved, be a B. Done that twice, it's kind of fun actually.
  • I think the college experience can help prepare you in some non-technical aspects of work place. College was my first real taste of working with a group on a project as well as giving a presentation/talk in front of an audience. I'd much rather look like an idiot in college and gain some experience than screw up in front of my bosses at work.

    In addition, I know some companies require you to have a college degree (in any major) before they'll hire you (full-time employee - I think it's usually a little more lenient for consultants). Of course, exceptions are always made if your really good at what you do.

    In my case, I got a BS in Engineering and a MS in Computer Science. While I don't remember/use 90% of what I was taught, I still feel getting the BS was a worthwhile experience for the reasons stated above. In addition, it was through a friend I met in college that I got my current job.

    One thing to note, the college I went to was tuition free, so the monetary factor wasn't as important in my case.

    The MS in CS, I'll grant, was a big pile of crap. Part of it was the lack of courses relevant to my interests. Another part, was my choice of schools. I was interested more in network protocols, design and management. The school, it turned out, was geared towards programmers doing research work - mostly database work, distributed processing and user interfaces. (I was working full-time and going to school part-time.) However, by the time I decided it was a waste, I was about two-thirds of the way through, so it would have been silly not to finish and at least be able to put it down on my resume.
  • Y'know, University and College aren't the only places where you can get a highly valuable (both knowledge-wise and employability-wise) I personnaly have just graduated from high school and am enroling in a Flight School to become a commercial pilot. University is not the only way to get a good job.

  • Sorry, but if you don't think you learned anything important in college, then either you weren't paying attention or you didn't go to a real school.

    "Until an $85-a-copy textbook is written, they can't teach a course, and by the time the book is published, the technology is out of date," Waldo says. "I could go to HotWired and master Dynamic HTML in five days, or I could spend a year in college and would leave knowing Fortran, which is an out-of-date computer language."

    Crap. You don't go to school to learn to hack; you go to school to learn Computer Science. As Brian Harvey said at the beginning of CS61a (the first CS class at UCB), CS knowledge is not tied to any particular language and technology. The knowledge you get from these classes is applicable to any language, platform, or technology, with only a quick skim of the reference manual to learn the particular syntax.

    "For geeks, colleges have become like those cheesy technical schools offering courses on refrigerator and auto repair that advertise on Dukes of Hazzard reruns," Waldo says.

    Sure, if you go to those schools, where the textbooks are probably from the "For Dummies" or "21 Days" series. At a real school, you don't learn the specifics of JavaScript, DHTML, or whatever the latest "hot" technology is supposed to be. Of course those skills have "the shelf-life of a banana", especially if you have to wait for them to percolate into a college curriculum. Instead, you learn theory: NP-completeness, formal language theory, graph theory, data structures and algorithms, operating system concepts, databases, etc., and, perhaps most importantly, problem-solving skills: you learn how to analyze a problem and come up with a good solution. For anything non-trivial, you just can't pick this stuff up on the street.

    A lot of the people out there with MCSEs, etc., making big bucks are not even aware of the existence of this stuff. They think that writing efficient code means reusing variable names instead of DIMming a new variable in VB (I actually had this conversation once -- the same guy also once asked my friend "How do you sort an array?" I guess he couldn't find the function in the VB manual, so he was stuck). They also think it's necessary to go to expensive training seminars to learn each new technology. Maybe for them it is, since they don't have the theoretical background to look at a "new" technology and see it in terms of those basic concepts.

    It's probably true that if you're reasonably smart you can make more money, at least in the short term, by skipping school, learning a few "hot" technologies, and going to work. In most jobs, all that theoretical knowledge is not used much anyway. However, there are times when you can make big mistakes if you don't have a proper background. Besides, "real nerds" find that stuff interesting and worthwhile in its own right. I don't know that one way is necessarily better for everyone, since not eveyone has the same values, but I for one thought school was extremely worthwhile. I went to work instead of graduate school in order to get some real-world perspective and because of the bucks I could make, but I fully intend to go back in ~5 years.

    David Gould
  • I find it odd that so many people have the mentality that university is all about learning to program. I've taught labs in first year computing science classes, and one of the things I always tell my students is "We aren't here to teach you how to program. We're here to teach you how to think. If you want to learn how to program, go to a technical college."
    So this Waldo guy can pick up a book every five months when Web standards change and make a good living. Good for him.
    Me, I've taken courses in algorithmics, graph theory, programming methedology, assembly, fundamental computer design, non-procedural programming languages, operating system design, etc. Because of this, I can make informed and rational decisions on how to design programming projects, what the advantages and flaws of points in an operating system are, and I can map out network flows in a graph. Eventually, I plan to go to grad school, and do research in parallel and massively parallel operating systems. I'll write a thesis, and try to get a job (or perhaps create my own company). While Waldo tries desperately to keep up with the pace of technology, I'll be doing my best to create technology. I'll be contributing to the world's store of information, rather than merely tagging along, waiting for someone to do the thinking for me. Who knows, maybe one day Waldo will have to read a book that *I* wrote. I'm not in university so much to learn, but to learn enough so that I can *create* later. That's what university gives us.
  • I was a programming professionally before I went into college. What I did learn in college is (1) alot of math that I'd never sit down and learn by myself and (2) lots of CS and EE theory, some of which I might have picked up on my own.

    However then I went to grad school chasing the elusive spectre of Artificial Intelligence. I remember sitting down with NCSA Mosaic and saying "gee, if it just had cryptographic security, people could do credit card transactions." A few months later, Netscape happened, while I was busy studying for a Ph.D. exam. After that I decided I had to do some part-time Internet work. Eventually I realized that it was time to leave grad school and do Net stuff full-time. Now I'm self-employed and happy!
  • Here in WA state, a cool program called 'Running Start' allows those of us who are bored of High School to skip the last two years and replace it with community college. I did that, and recommend it highly.

    A few days after High School graduation, I started a job at a government-run institution doing Macintosh computer support, and was soon making around 30k a year in an area with a fairly low cost of living.

    However, despite the occasional foray into something more interesting, this gets boring after a while and it seems that advancement here is not very likely. Help desk techs here are quite underpaid, and even talented troubleshooters are considered fodder (burn-out is a given - they just replace us every 18 or so months).

    I've been working on my Associate's degree, and am about ready to finish it up. It's not a BS or Masters degree, but it's the first step in showing that I have initiative outside of work. I've been teaching myself Perl, MySQL, DHTML, C++, etc. and have a great degree of familiarity with MacOS, BeOS, Linux, Windows, etc.

    My point is, the degree certainly doesn't hurt. Where I work, degrees are required to get anywhere. Although I don't plan on being here forever, I understand that many other places are the same. If anything, get *somewhere* before dropping out. Having been involved in the hiring process on a few occasions, I understand that 'putting college on hold' looks much better than never starting.

    But as a counterpoint, I'll exhibit the following webpage for a very talented Mac coder who has done quite well without a traditional educational background:


    (you might want to click on his 'resume' link for the details, although Colen is an interesting kind of guy as is)

    - Darchmare
    - Axis Mutatis, http://www.axismutatis.net
  • I dropped out of college, and was unemployed for ages before I was finally able to convert my Linux programming skills into a job as a web developer. I was able to learn all the programming languages I needed just by reading manuals and example code, and then playing around. However I have not been taught much about existing comp.sci. theory, so I have probably "reinvented the wheel" many times. (and it has usually ended up triangular :-)
  • If you care about programming, and have the knack for it, you will do just fine without college. Some of us download every new language and write a "hello world", pick up projects on our own to hone skills we didn't have previously, make ourselves learn about sorts, trees, graphs, and how to write a compiler. We do it because we like it, and with that sort of drive, you will make a place for yourself any place you would like to be.

    I don't think I am doing too badly for myself, and I am not an HTML drone.

    Some people need college. There is a lot of research that is happening that even most hardcore hackers won't have the resources to do on their own. If you just want to be a good coder, know a lot of stuff, and make good money, consider skipping college.
  • Some of you won't believe this...but there is more to life than your linux box. Most Universities require you to take classes in English, History, Philosophy, Speach, Languages etc... in order to graduate. This is called general education and in my opinion makes for a more informed, aware individual. You probably don't need a CS degree to be a good programmer, but you will probably be a better overall person (employee) with some sort of college degree.
  • I'm no super coder, but I am a Mechanical Engineer with a Master's degree who does a little programming for fun now and then.

    In my experience, college opens doors and creates opportunities. There are many fields you wouldn't even know about unless you had went to college. Anybody can drop out of school to do html, cgi scripting, or database UI development. There is a need for these things, but you may get stuck doing them with little opportunity for advancement.

    I don't think Joe Hacker is going to be able to come out of high school and create an industrial strength finite element analysis program and be able to keep it up to the state of the art. To do FEA well you really need to have an engineering degree to understand the engineering and advanced mathmatics that you are using to try and simulate the real world behavior of some material under various loading conditions. This is just one example of a type of program that requires a college education (unless you are a genius and there are not many of those).

    Not all types of programming are easily picked up on your own. Not everyone can learn well on their own without the basics being presented formally.

    Undergraduate studies will not be the most up to date with technology, and they are not intended to be. Undergraduate education teaches well established and stable techniques and concepts. It also intends to provide a foundation from which you can learn the latest tools and technology. Technology is moving especially fast in the computer industry, so undergraduate education will seem even further behind until the industry stabilizes.

    Graduate school is the place to learn the latest and greatest; getting a Master's degree will do a good job here. A PhD is intended to go beyond the current knowlege and technology of the industry to create new things. A PhD also focuses on skills needed to explore into the unknown and verify your results. Graduate school is where you get to play with the latest toys and learn how to do research and present it in an understandable way to your peers.

    I'm sure many students considering mechanical engineering in the Industrial Revolution could have had the same feelings as computer hackers of today. The technology is so new and the need is so great, that you can easily get into the market and find work and advance with technology on your own. However, there is no way a high school student could enter the mechanical engineering world today and be able to work on the latest and greatest technology and analysis techniques on his own and be able to keep up without a formal education. The field has stabilized well enough that the barriers for entry require a college education.

    Potential surgeons during the Civil War working on the battle fields could have had the same attitudes as the hackers of today. The technology had not advanced far enough to prevent someone from learning all the necessary techniques from peers or on his own. With the state of the art in medicine today, would you want a self taught "learning by experience" surgeon working on you?

    Someday the computer industry will stabilize just like the mechanical engineering industry, aerospace industry, or medical profession did after awhile. When it does, it will be much more apparent how a college education is an advantage then.

    As software systems become larger and more complex, it will be much harder to keep up with the latest technology without a college degree. A college degree gives you a head start and teaches well thought out techniques without having to learn it by trial-and-error/experience.

    I consider my mechanical engineering education to be worth every penny, and I think it can apply well to computer technology.

    Grad school was MUCH more fun and interesting than undergrad classes. I also got a research assistantship which paid for my tuition and enough money to live on. I also participated in the co-op program where I got a year of experience in industry before graduating with my B.S. degree. My employer was going to credit me with 3 years of experience (1 year co-op + 2 years grad school) when raises came around so the time was not wasted in my case.

    The decision to go to college or not is not trivial. Be sure you think it through and talk to those with lots of experience in the industry you are interested in to get advice.
  • I'm still an undergrad, but I'd argue that college so far has been a good experience for me. Classes have given me some experience working on big projects (e.g. writing a compiler); we get to work in teams, learn about testing, etc. with all the pressures of a Real-World (TM) big project but without the threat of, say, losing your job if you fail. In the Real World (TM) they don't make you do things like read the original papers about Unix or Ethernet. Punting college means you'll probably have more real-world experience, but you won't necessarily be clueful about the major successes and failures about the past 20 years.
  • Since there has been so much publicity that Comp Sci majors make shit loda dough after they get a job, lot of hot women (you know, the cheerleaders from your highschool etc) are joining CS. There are two in my class of 20. But if you're good, you know who sits with them all night helping them finish the project...

    (Please don't take this seriously, for the sake of your sanity!)
  • by jshare ( 6557 )
    I dropped out of college to start working. In looking back, I'm glad I had the college experience that I did (friends, drinking, what-have-you). But if you only look at it financially, it wasn't worth it.

    So I'm glad I went, and I'm glad I quit.

  • And I have one too! Lots of people probably will think it stinks. I spent two years at a Big Ten school before dropping out and becoming a "working geek". Since then, my experience has brought me much more than my so-called education. While in college, I was employed by the IS department and worked as a graphic artist/network administrator (really wierd position) for the campus cable station. These two experiences alone, not the fact that I took a handful of worthless CS and telecom courses, landed me my first job in the "real world". On my resume, education is listed last. I think that if you are fortunate, as I have been, to land some good working experience, then college may not be the way. But if you aren't as lucky, college is definitely an avenue to break into the world.


  • I may be biased, but it is my experience that people without college degree tend to write bad code.
    This is the Microsoft way: up until at least Win3, what came out of M$ was badly hacked stuff. All the things we still endure, like BSoD, have their roots in bad design. And designing software is what you are supposed to learn in college. Programming is still important, and you can learn that without college, but coming up with a decent design is what distinguishes people with degree.
    One limitation: I was educated at a European university. American colleges may be different.

  • I've spent three years so far at UWO [www.uwo.ca], learning what is bascially CS theory.

    The article summary talks about colleges "keeping pace" with technology, but how much is that really necessary? OO hasn't undergone major changes since it appeared... basic OS, networking, and database theory are all still the same.

    A focus on techniques instead of tools is important to me; I can learn a tool in hours by digesting a manual, but techniques I learn best from working with experienced programmers and designers.

  • The choice of whether or not to go to college is almost purely socio-economic. All that is required to educate oneself is a desire to learn and access to knowledge. University can provide that access. So can a library card and a web browser. But college cannot give you the desire to learn and think. Without that, college is just four years of beer and parties.

    So the college decision has little to do with whether you want to learn, but more:
    1. What kind of job do you want? Some jobs require college (like teaching!)
    2. What kind of social groups do you want to be in? Some snobby groups won't take you if you aren't Dr. you. Others will look at you cross-eyed if you have parchment.
    3. Money. Who's paying? If you are, can you afford it? Could you make more working in the long run?

    For me, nothing was more frustrating than being forced into classes where the teacher knew less than I did, and grades were not based on intelligence or knowledge but attendance and sycophancy, and I have no desire to work for a corporation that embraces such policies. Keeping to contracts and independant work will never make me rich, but I'm far happier doing what I want.

    And BTW, 20 years into your life is far too late to "learn how to think". If you haven't been thinking critically since you learned to speak, your education is already a decade behind. Still, better late than never.

  • My, aren't we cynical.

    Clever people can get jobs through the back door. There is an art to landing a job - going through the "proper channels" is for the mindless robots who went to college just because mommy and daddy told them to.

    Intelligence, networking skills, experience, and persistence are all you need, although luck certainly helps. God help you if you think perusing job ads is the best way to find the spots. By the time the ad is placed the employer probably already knows who he wants to hire. Our industry is an exception - but demand outstrips the supply by so much that it's *real* simple to get a tech job w/o a degree if you're smart and don't act like a reject in the interview. C'mon, man - most of the people I know who work in tech are college dropouts. How exactly did they get hired if that piece of paper is so precious? They might not be working at Microsoft, but guess what? They don't want to work for Microsoft. Plenty of folks are happy working at smaller companies that just want skilled people any way they can get them.

    There are plenty of good, well paying companies out there that aren't public, and don't have shareholders to answer to. Pretty amazing, huh? My company is one of them.

    L. Ron

    P.S. Anyone who goes to college to get the bucks and not to learn ain't someone to admire IMHO. Geniuses who make a point by using profanity with the caps lock depressed aren't too cool either. But I guess your point was that you don't need to be sophisticated as long as you have the piece of paper, right?
  • I'm officially a junior-and-a-half, after finishing my classes last Spring ('98). I started an (unofficial; went banging on doors until I got one) internship in the summer of '97, started getting paid in the fall, and worked there until fall of '98.

    I moved from the internship which was really a part time job with a large IT department to a full-time sysadmin job at a medium-sized ISP. I kept telling myself that I'd finish school part-time, but now I'm starting to wonder if it's worth jumping through the hoops.

    I now have a fair amount of real-world experience for someone of my age, which gives me a big leg-up on fresh-faced grads with little or no real experience. The only downside I can think of is that there are some employers who rely on the HR department to weed out non-grads. Is it worth spending more money and time that I could use on something else just so that I make it through those filters? Dunno. Depends on where I want to work, I suppose.

    I did most of my gen-ed stuff, so I got all of the humanities and other crap that people say makes college worthwhile. I got about half of the CS requirements, so I have lots of basic theory and programming skills, and some advanced theory like DB admin and network engineering. One calc course, so my head was slightly stretched around new concepts.

    The way I see it, all that's left is the dead-end knowledge. I'd actually have to take a COBOL course. Yech. a. The COBOL prof at my school hates CS majors (she's a BIS bigot) b. COBOL will be useful for only as long as there's outdated code to be fixed or migrated to a new system. Who wants to do that?

    I may take some more classes that interest me, like philosophy or film classes. I'm leaning more and more toward just bagging the rest, though. On one hand, it's a waste of 2.5 years of credits, on the other, it's a gain of 1.5 years of doing something other than writing silly programs in dead computer languages.

    Since I'm paying for my education, my parents don't really have any input other than that it's nice to finish what one's started. They have a point. Ack.

    Anybody else agonized over a similar decision?
  • I will agree that the pressures are different (a lower grade vs. looking for another job), but your assumption about not learning history is incorrect. Just because something is not required reading for a class assignment doesn't mean that someone who is on top of things won't read it on his own.

    Perhaps your CS classes are/were different than mine, and bully for you if they are more well-rounded. Mine were pretty dry theory, so almost all of the interesting bits and history I learned on my own.

    I don't think most people here would agree that there are no benefits to attending university. I do think that there is a growing number of people who are challenging the notion that to be successful in the technology field, one has to get a degree from some school.
  • So not having been to college equates to making crackers into heroes, and both equate to being a fool?

    Your elitism is showing. Feeling insecure because you're wasting time in college?

  • Is this guy kidding? Comparing someone who skipped college and is *completely* self-taught to someone with a computer science degree and background in the theory of computer science is like comparing a car mechanic to the engineer who designed the car.

    Sure, this guy may be able to program ActiveX and whatever new buzzword bullshit web "programming" technology there is... But could he even come close to performing some kind of *real* computer science task? I seriously doubt it.

    My grandma could learn HTML... He may be able to make a fine living off of making web pages... But it *certainly* isn't people like waldo who are going to lead the information revolution into the 21st century....

  • I still remember... not long ago... when I'm still a university. 50% of time I wonder WHY the hell I'm there, 25% of the time look for something that could excite my life (Linux?!), and only 25% do some studies. To me, ya' university is quite a waste of time.

    B5 Ghost
  • I (the subject of the article) am not going to skip college entirely. I'm simply planning on delaying it until I've worked to my satisfaction in the computer world.

    I still don't know SQL, and there's plenty more that I can learn in perl. My Java is lacking. But at least my C and assembly are up to par. But until I find a college that I actually teach me Lingo or Python, I'll be sticking it out on my own.
  • Wasn't this fun?

    It's been interesting to read complete strangers draw conclusions about me based on a tiny little interview in a small column on a website of a magazine. It's funny, what people try to figure out. :)

    So, for the record:

    • I certainly plan on going to college. I'm just not there now, as I'm pursuing a career.
    • I have had a weird education, having been through both public and home schooling.
    • I'm a learning freak. It's not as if my failing to enroll in a formal education institute prevents me from learning. On the contrary, I spend a good 3-4 hours a day reading and writing, both learning a teaching various languages, philophies and religions.
    • I'm not a crusader for or against college. It's just my opinion that it's best for me to wait a few years until I'm sick of programming.
    • Yes, of *course* people can learn all *sorts* of things in college and, yes, in fact, some of them are even computer-related. It's just that many colleges do an extremely poor job of teaching advanced skills to those of us that have a decade or so under our belts already. Some (Caltech, MIT, etc) do an excellent job. When I go to college, I plan on studying everything *but* computers. Seems I can do that nicely on my own.
    • Don't e-mail me and ask me if you should go to college. I don't know. If anybody should, you should.

    And, now that 4 days has passed since the article appeared, everybody can forget me now, if you haven't already.


  • I've been changing the font on a TI99-4A at 11.
    I had soldered a parallel cable onto the 6501 of
    my C64 floppy drive within the first week of
    getting it. I've done a 250.000 dollar military
    project at 17, and I didn't have a girlfriend
    until I was 21. Does that count as geek?

    However, I've started a BA in CS in 1992,
    graduated in '95 and am close to completing
    my PhD in distributed OO databases. I believe
    I have both perspectives.

    Uni taught me things that I wouldn't have
    considered before:

    - skyscrapers (built by engineers) typically don't
    fall down. Can we say that about software?
    - what is the difference between patent/copyright?
    - would I be able to sleep after building a
    medical system and not doing proper testing?
    - why are Mac-Fans so fanatical over their toys?
    - can you write programs without using variables
    (functional programming)
    - what does a secretary think how the windows
    desktop works?
    - can you name 10 different ways to sort data and
    what the tradeoffs are?
    - programming using randomness
    - why are neural networks NOT like the brain?
    - what are the similarities and differences of the
    phone and an ethernet? (packet/vc, in-band/
    out-of-band signalling, flow control, statistical
    multiplexing, etc.)
    - what is the fundamental difference between the
    mode of communication in phone and fax?
    - do you understand the difference between
    identity and equality?
    - how could one parse natural language?
    - how does human vision work and what can we learn
    from it?
    - programming by specifying the problem (prolog)

    Now besides those clear questions, I learned a number of invaluable skills:

    - traversing a hierarchy of levels of abstraction
    - understanding tradeoffs
    - understanding what my goal is or should be
    - planning time
    - why memorisation is as important as
    - talking to non-technical people
    - that technology and politics are intermingled

    I hope that at least people out there agree with me.

    so long,

  • In the United States that I am from (which is Southern California) there is a difference between college and university but it is generally ignored. Colleges are either small(er) specialized schools (ie. Bob's College of Music) or parts of an university (ie. College of Science at UCSD) while universities offer many subjects and fields.

    The big however is that people are lazy and it is easier to say "I am in college," "What college do you go to," etc.. than university, hence the apparent similarity.

  • That's why I'm trying to get OSS like The GIMP into the art school I'm studying Interaction Design at!

    But it's not easy getting designers to switch platform. So tips and suggestions are welcome!

  • The learning opportunities are plentiful at a university. Plus, attending school allows one to make friends and contacts- very useful.

    Most importantly, I doubt many high caliber tech companies would consider hiring somebody with no college education.
  • Zathras have over 100 credit hours towards a degree in Software Engineering (SWE). Had to drop out after 4 semesters in a one and ahalf year time span. Zathras, knew going into college, didn't have enough money to finish. Zathras make plan to take all elective requirements (programming, compiler design, operating system design, etc.) first. Plan to return over the years to finsh off core requirments (english, history, etc.).

    Zathras been working over 16 years as a SWE. Never finished degree. Zathras make 6 digits now. Looking to retire soon. Zathras has worked double hard to educate himself and work through the years instead of getting all the education done up front. Education is part of life. It continues as one works.

    Zathras work with too many degree'd/geeks who think they know all. Only to show them how much they have yet to learn. But Zathras will never discourage one from going or completing college. Must work harder if you do not.

    Zathras only say, "Never stop educating yourself. With or without a degree."
  • I've noticed a general pattern in the Comments made so far. Of the people who advocate college, and have graduated, their comments tend to be:

    organized, well thought-out, persuasive, and spelled correctly with good grammar.

    Of the people who have skipped college (whether they advocate it or not), their comments are more:

    disorganized, full of spelling and grammar errors, and confusing.

    There are a handful of exception, but these facts in themselves make a strong statement for college. In a job, you must be able to work with, and communicate with, many other people. Much of this communication is, by necessity, written. If you have a good idea and you want your boss (or venture capitalists) to fund it, you need to write it down and be persuasive. If you design a new system, you need to describe the design and document it so that others can use it, or else they _won't_ use it. If you write code, you need to comment it in a succinct yet understandable way.

    You don't need to get a writing degree to do all these things. Any CS degree worth the paper it's written on will have required you to work (and communicate) in groups, write designs, construct organized and understandable mathematical proofs, and mark up code with good comments.

    Writing clearly (or in general, communicating) about ideas forces you to clarify and refine those ideas, and clear ideas are enhanced by good writing. All of the above-named tasks build thinking and writing skills, as well as the connections between them. You'll have a hard time replicating those experiences working as a Webmonkey, and your boss (or VCs) probably won't allow you to play catch-up on the four years of experiences you've missed.

    If you really want to do something meaningful in your career, go to college.
  • If you go to a university, and study a *scientific* degree, you are learning something that you *probably* won't learn elsewhere.

    If you go to a university, and study a *technical* degree, then I agree, you might be more successfull by starting work as early as possible and learning on the job.
    Note here, that I'm not really slamming a technical degree here, I'm just saying that work experience is a pretty decent option in that case. In science, though, it's not quite as valid.

    The rationale for education doesn't always have to be 'to get a better job', 'to make more money' or, 'to feel superior'...

    In my view, university is the best place to *learn*, not neccessarily to 'develop technical skills'.

    there's my $0.02
  • I don't reply to articles too often, but this definately needs a response. College is not for all people, that's true, but it certainly is not worthless. For some people it would be a mistake or a waste of time, but for many it is much more valuable than an equivalent time in the workforce. There are three things someone will get out of college that are not rapidly aging skills:
    • the theory
    • the process
    • the people


    I am not a programmer.

    I am not a coder.

    I am not a sysadmin or a linux geek.

    Actually, I am all of those things, but the are side-effects of getting a degree in computer science. (and I mean a real 4 year degree from a real university, not some 2 year piece of crap from Devry).

    I am a software engineer, and there's a lot more to that than knowing how to code a web page. I learned theory and methodology that will serve me well for the rest of my life. I know how to write a raytracer, do proofs on automata, and design systems way to complex for a single programmer to complete. No matter how the programming languages change over the years, I'm still going to need that knowlege. I wrote the first raytracer in Java (actually the second, but that's another story). Someone who had just read up on Doom code in their BlackMajik Of 3D Coding book wouldn't be able to do that. What I got out of college wasn't skills. It was meta-knowledge. That I also got a whole lot of applicable skills at the same time is simple a nice side benefit. Because of my degree I'll never be just a coder. I'm a software developer; designing, implementing, and dictating to programmers below me. (sure hope no one from work reads this. :)

    The Process

    The act of completing a degree, particularly a computer science degree from a good university, is a learning experience in it self. When it comes down to a deadline at work and we have to ship something by the end of the week, I know that people who completed a degree have experience working under pressure. Ship time at a startup company is very similar to the end of quarter pressure of Dead Week and Finals. Someone who can take that stress each quarter for four years (sometimes 5 or 6 :) can be depended upon for real world deadlines.

    The People

    I met my best friends in college. Some of them will be with me for the rest of my life. I plan to start companies with a few of them in the future, long after my years at Tech are but a distant memory. When you start a company you need people who have proven themselves under the same circumstances that you have. It's a rough world out there and you need people you can trust.

    BTW. To whoever it was that said that CS majors are a dime a dozen, you're wrong. There are something on the order of 180,000 jobs openings for IT people and only 25,000 IT people graduating each year. And only a portion of those 25k are actual CS majors. Real CS majors are hot items and the pay reflects it (usually 10k more to start, but sometimes a lot more). Plus there are some jobs that require a degree even better than a CS bachelors. I'd like to work at Be (www.be.com, one of /.'s generous advertisers and an extremely cool company) but I can't because I don't have a Masters.

    To make a long story short (too late), college is a lot more than just learning to program. It's about becoming a college graduate and (depending on your degree) an engineer.

    - joshy "a helluva engineer"
  • ...and code Visual Basic for the rest of your life.
    Having done my undergrad work while working a coding job (okay, it was for the government, but it was still coding), I know that experience can teach you a lot. But here's the difference:
    1. Experience will teach you that mergesort is sometimes better than quicksort. College will tell you why mergesort is sometimes better than quicksort.
    2. You don't need to know calculus, differential equasions, and linear algebra to write a compiler. It would help if you're writing a database, though, and it's invaluable if you're writing graphics or a lot of kinds of AI. Advanced mathematics is irreplaceable if you're doing compression, encryption or verification, and it's a lot easier to learn that stuff in college than through experience.
    3. A fuzzier argument: experience tells you how technology is evolving now; but college can teach you history, sociology, and other not-so-technical disciplines that can give you a better feel for why technology is evolving the way it is and where it could go next.
    4. There's just something really cool about reading Shakespere, Kant or Hegel, and talking about it with a guy who did his PhD on the subject. You can't often get that experience working in the computer field.

  • There's a theory that what a lot of college students consider "theory" is actually just what they can't think of applying right now. :)
  • I am a strong proponent of the liberal education followed by the technical specialization model. College is overpriced; there should be strong public support for free college education (i.e., a liberal bachelors). Then, one can chose a profession and specialize to one's heart's content. Alternatively, one can pursue a technical education/experience program instead of a liberal education. I was a comparative literature and philosophy major as an undergrad and loved it; I wrote a lot of poetry too. I loved those years. In law school, in my solitude filled hours researching law on the internet, I discovered linux and now I play with debian all day (and study in my spare time). I have a long way to go before I can claim to be a geek. One thing liberal education teaches you is to learn a lot of information fast. One can do it without college. But the content one absorbs in college makes one think. That is a good thing. Some people prefer work filled hours; such people can choose our protaganist's

    Yet, it is indeed a crime that one must pay such exorbatant amounts for an education that has mainly personal value v. any real monetary value. Theoretical education is a social value, technical education is an economic value. The fact that liberal education does not translate into dollar returns for the investee does not mean there are not net gains for the society. Society is the more appropriate investee for theoretical education, and the student is the more appropriate investee for technical education.
  • College (or University as its known to us Aussies) is damned important. You can sit around and code to your heart's content, but by doing a variety of problems in different disciplines you can develop creative problem solving skills which are invaluble. To me the most important skill one can have is the ability to solve problems they've never seen before.

    Admittedly, the cost is far higher in the US than it is in Australia for tertiary education, but even if all you get out of it is a piece of paper, that piece of paper could be the difference between you and another candidate for the job you're applying for.

    Degree holders also stand out from the pack since the exhibited the dedication and commitement to do so. Something employers will consider when they want you on a 2-3 year project.

    On another note, most IT professionals will find it hard to be taken seriously when they still have achne. There are worse places to be whilst maturing.

    StyxLord BE(Hon), BSc, MIEEE :)
  • If you want to go, fine, go. I have missed out on jobs because the managers wanted that CS degree. Now, my resume speaks pretty well, but I hear all the time "why didn't you go to college?". The best thing, I think, is to wait a while then get one of those "adult BS degrees" and treat it like just another item on your resume. Its all what you want out of it, what you need.
  • This seems to be a pretty passionate subject. I guess I'll throw in my take as well.

    The one thing that bothers me about college is the reason that many people go. Too many people go to college because they are expected to, and have no idea what else to do anyway. They're told that they can't get a good job without it. There's this huge push for kids to go to college, instead of them thinking about what is right for them to do. They don't start thinking about where they should be headed in life while they are younger. They just assume to goal is to get into college, and put off any other "life-planning" until they get there. That's dangerous, and I've seen the result of it. Many graduates have a hard time finding a job anyway, or realize that maybe they picked the wrong major. And go back again and again, spending even more money.

    Before you flame me, realize that I am by no means knocking higher education. I think its one of the most valuable things a person can have. But there are some misconceptions.

    1. You can't get a good job without a college degree.

    2. If you have one, you'll get a good job.

    3. College is the only place to get higher education.

    4. Only accept college graduates while hiring, because they're the only ones who know how to learn.

    The point of all of this? Don't go to college because someone says you should. Go because its what you want for yourself. Don't go so you can get a good job. (It by itself won't get you one.) Go for learning. That's what it's for. Don't go until you're fully prepared, ready, have some goals, and know what you expect to get out of it.

    College can be a very valuable thing, as stated by many people in previous posts. You can't argue with any of them. I agree that it's not there to teach you the latest&greatest. It's to teach concepts and theory and "why", instead of just how. It's ideas, not just "type this and it does that." I just urge you to go for the right reasons, and you'll be sure to get more out of it.

    As for me, yes I plan to go someday. 4 years in the US Marine Corps got me started in this business, and the rest has been self taught. I'm glad I waited. My experience has kept me employed, and I don't think going to college first would have helped me much. I think I would get much more out of it now.

    I'm going on way too long... that pretty much it. Later.
  • This guy has it sooo wrong.

    This kid doesn't have a clue what an education means. While I agree that most colleges can't keep up with the technical aspects, that is NOT true for all colleges. Most computer science programs are easy, but let me say that there are some that are above the others.

    Second of all, this kid knows HTML. HTML, pardon my french, is NOT programming (although some would like it to be). It's a language, but it does not require any major leaps in programming. Even Java for the most part is NOT programming (although it can certainly be), because most people do not use it as a true programming language. This 'geek' probably does not even understand what a reentrant linked list is or even an AVL tree (all subjects contained in the first year at U.C. Irvine - my university).
    I'll admit I have a bias being in college right now. But, that little piece of paper is worth SOOO much. I can not tell you all the people I've worked with who are in computers without a degree who have told me that the stupidest thing they did was NOT to pursue college. Without a degree (any type), they hit a glass ceiling at most places. With a degree, you will not see as many glass ceilings.

    Now, the only rational way you could succeed without a degree (or being lucky) is to start your own business (i.e. consulting, web design, etc.). However, most businesses are flops. But, if you can make it, godspeed. You saved yourself your tuition. (BTW, for most successful 'geeks' $120k is a pittance and that is an absurdly HIGH figure - Carnegie Mellon, Stanford, MIT figures...)

    Lastly, who said you had to study computer science at college? Study Shakespeare. College is a great place to broaden your horizons.

  • Did you get in here and post without reading any of the pro-college arguements? I have bypassed college for numerous reasons and feel that it has been one of my biggest mistakes up to now. You learn so much in school: how to meet a deadline in a structured environment, how to interrelate with peers, how to write, speak, analyze, etc. There is something to be said in having a bunch of bright people teach you general knowledge skills.

    This often cannot be replaced in the workplace. I once had an attitude like yours. It makes me sad to see people so arrogant that they think the system is out to get them by "making" them get degrees in order to grab that killer job. College genuinely helps you become a more complete, rational and teachable product. That's what it's all about: producing for your company. If you think it's anything else you are the niave one my friend.

  • College really can't teach you much about the newest Technologies or Methodologies, if you are a Computer Science major. It will teach you some fundamentals like Algorithms, Data Structures, theories on Operating Systems, Compilers, some languages like C, Java, C++, Databases, and Computer and Network Architecture. Or at least that is what I learned in College.
    Or maybe not. A College senior who was a potential intern for the company I work for, did not know the basics of a Linked List. He knew Java and Linux though :-) Makes me wonder what kind of CS majors we are graduating nowadays.
    But hopefully thats an exception.

    Well I think the best thing you can get out of college, is that it teaches you how to learn, and it enhances your teamwork skills. And someday all those other courses will come in handy, especially the mathematics courses if you really are into Computers.

  • The only reason I considered college in the first place was credibility for possible employers. Most HR departments look for either college or job experience in candidates for their I/T departments, even in entry level positions. I took the other road, and joined the US Army Signal Corps for four years, which leveraged me into a comfy desktop support job at a major corporation making $36/hr.
    I'm not saying this is the easy way out, I spent a lot of those four years developing my personal skills in the field, and not sitting on my backside waiting for the Army to train me. You have to go out and get your education, but at least you have someone willing to vouch that you have experience in your field.
  • College here is too tough?
    Try 5.5 years in Russia and 5 more in
    Ph.D. here..
    But it did not cost me a penny.
  • Well, coding is like sports. As in there isn't much TOO know, but you just have to know how to do it.

    Like, you can teach someone to catch a football, that's not hard. But you can't teach them to be a Jerry Rice. Same thing goes with coding. You can teach someone C, but that doesn't mean that they can go out there and code the next killer app either. What you REALLY need to know now, a college just can't teach you.

    And as more and more people are learning, college isn't nessecary. It's like the fact that college athletes are learning that they don't need their full 4 years to go to the pros. This is just an idea that is boiling over to other areas like computing now.

    That, and it also used to be that if you had a degree in computer science it ment something. Now they are a dime a dozen and employers are looking for people that actually know what they are doing unstead of a piece of paper saying they do. And for the most part, these are people without degrees.
  • from person to person. I went to college for two years. Failed math 101 three times, and my gpa is somewhere below .5... More to do with me being so anti-social rather than smarts. (I'm not making myself out to be a closet-genius here, I'm not very bright.)

    I druther sit home and study programming books.
  • Going to college, and a good college at that, can give you skills that allow you to think, communicate, write. It gives you the ability to be effective.

    Sure, you may be a 20-year old who can code away, drink coke all night, and make your comfortable salary. But you know that the only reason that you get paid what you do is because the person who hired you doesn't know any better about technology, and chances are that you were able to BS your way through the interview. I have known people who did this, and were lousy at the output of their work.

    I have seen the difference between people with an education and those without one, and they are great. If you can get by in life without one, you are lucky, but later on you will be easily replaced by younger losers and will not be able to use any other skills that you might have gotten from a college education.
  • College is a decision that should be made on a per-person basis. You can't say "Person X has lots of computer skills, so he/she doesn't need college" because college teaches more than just skillset. It teaches things like organization and responsibility, which are both needed in the professional world, and usually niether are found in an 18-year-old HS grad.

    I agree that 90% of the academic information taught in school is not applicable to a career (especially regarding, but not limited to hi-tech) but the other "soft skills" are worth the price of tuition.

    Of course if you already have these soft skills, hit the road, Jack.
  • A formal education, such as that provided by college, is absolutely essencial.
    It is the difference between having a handgun, and being a trained sniper. It's the difference between flailing fists and a black belt.

    Some people have a talent, a pure inherent ability with all things geeky. Some people simply already have "the edge". A college education focuses and sharpens those talents. It channels them, and imparts onto them a disciplined approach.

    It makes the difference between a Mitnik and a Ritchie, a Gates and a Torvalds. It grants the wisdom to tell "do now" from "do right". It teaches patience, commitment and sacrifice. It requires that we set aside instant gratification for the sake of a long term goal.

    It can not replace talent, and it is not a substitute for serendipitous learning a'la hacker. It does, however, provide a scaffod upon which the talented can climb higher and reach farther then a quick-study with an O'Reilly under his arm.

Each new user of a new system uncovers a new class of bugs. -- Kernighan