College freshman contemplating a transition to computer science. Need

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#1 danielcode  Icon User is offline

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College freshman contemplating a transition to computer science. Need

Posted 01 February 2012 - 08:54 AM

Hi everyone, i am a college student and i am now facing a very difficult decision. I am a freshman in college studying finance. However i recently discovered my passion for programming. I started this summer studying python and learning introductory elements of algorithms. My school, however, does not have a computer science program. Therefore, if i decide to switch my major, i will have to transfer to another school. As you can see this is a very important decision that i will have to make in the coming weeks so i really need to know anything about the industry. I have a few questions:

1) How can i know if am fit for a career in comp science and if i will like it? I was never really interested in the sciences but i usually did fairly well if i applied myself. I am a fast learner and i enjoy math. I am extremely interested in startups, technology, innovation and the internet. So this is the field i would like to join one day.

2) I haven't taken any comp science course and i have only taken a calculus course that might not transfer in the school i am going. Do you think i will fall behind other students starting the program as a sophomore this year?

3) What do you think is the job outlook for this industry. Will jobs be outsourced? Would demand for software engineers decrease with technology becoming more sophisticated?

4) Would you go back if you have that change? What are the pros and cons of your job? Do you program in a cubicle all day or you eventually advance in some sort of executive position?

thank you for your time. I know that the your college doesn't define who you are or what career will be. I am not only switching majors, i am really trying to figuring out who and what i want to be in the future.

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#2 darek9576  Icon User is offline

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Re: College freshman contemplating a transition to computer science. Need

Posted 01 February 2012 - 09:07 AM

Go for it. You can always do a finance degree later. You can work for banks etc with a technology degree.
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#3 tlhIn`toq  Icon User is offline

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Re: College freshman contemplating a transition to computer science. Need

Posted 01 February 2012 - 09:09 AM

Anyone whose been on this board more than a week knows I have no love lost for universities. I've been a software engineer (in the modern sense) for the last decade, but sold my first program at 15 (31 years ago) - And am not a college guy.

We see hundreds of students of CIS on this board and my considered opinion is that college gets you a piece of paper for $50,000 but no real skill at this craft. They take four years to teach you what 6 well selected self-teaching books will teach you in one year. They have to, that's their business: To keep you in college for 4 years so they can collect 4 years of income from you.

There are 50 "What will programming jobs be in 10 years?" threads on here, so just search them out.


danielcode said:

I am not only switching majors, i am really trying to figuring out who and what i want to be in the future.


Then I strongly urge you to visit this site.



Resources, references and suggestions for new programmers. - Updated Jan 2012
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#4 modi123_1  Icon User is online

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Re: College freshman contemplating a transition to computer science. Need

Posted 01 February 2012 - 09:27 AM

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1) How can i know if am fit for a career in comp science and if i will like it? I was never really interested in the sciences but i usually did fairly well if i applied myself. I am a fast learner and i enjoy math. I am extremely interested in startups, technology, innovation and the internet. So this is the field i would like to join one day.

Fit? Like it? No one here knows you enough to make that call. why did you pick finance to start with?

Even in a more broader terms - why are you asking complete strangers to define and make choices for you? It's college - sack up and take charge of your life. No more namby-pamby high school guidance counselors to poo-pah you through.

why not take a year off and figure out what you want to do? Drive around? Work some crap jobs.. pick up some hobbies.. test out areas.. and then pick?

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2) I haven't taken any comp science course and i have only taken a calculus course that might not transfer in the school i am going. Do you think i will fall behind other students starting the program as a sophomore this year?

That depends if you can juggle your electives you currently have and apply them to the degree.. of course there's things like prerequisites, etc... and does it matter that you are behind people who started the same time as you? College isn't like high school where there is some stigma for not being done in X years or not being in all the same classes as people who just happen to start the program your same year.

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3) What do you think is the job outlook for this industry. Will jobs be outsourced?

Where do you live? Outsourcing ebbs and flows on a company to company basis.

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Would demand for software engineers decrease with technology becoming more sophisticated?

If anything it would probably increase.

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4) Would you go back if you have that change?

What?

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What are the pros and cons of your job?

This has been answered to death in this subforum.

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Do you program in a cubicle all day or you eventually advance in some sort of executive position?

What? I am unsure how my physical programming location and some oddly worded future prospects are linked..

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I am not only switching majors, i am really trying to figuring out who and what i want to be in the future.

There's no one to answer you this one. tlhIn has a point - if you are unable to direct your own future (and you need someone to tell you what to do/be/become) then it might be best to *not* burn cash by flailing about in some failed hope to have your future self be happy with your current choice. Who says college is right for you, or even if comp sci or finance would make you happy? Usually figuring out what makes you happy and go that way. Maybe you like using your hands.. carpentry or mechanics would be good. If all else fails join the armed forces and let Uncle Sam filter you to a position you have aptitude for.
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#5 Toadill  Icon User is offline

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Re: College freshman contemplating a transition to computer science. Need

Posted 01 February 2012 - 09:31 AM

Hello, danielcode I am currently a student in game software development. This does require calculus, so maybe you could check if your school is regionally accredited or nationally accredited, this will decide weather you credits will transfer or not. Although it does depend on the type of programming you plan to do. As far as I know calculus in not normally needed to learn programming unless you are doing really sophisticated algorithms. The reason calculus is required in game programming is mainly for 3D games.:gunsmilie: This requires programmer to graph points which are known as vertices to develop 3D shapes. Other then that I have never used calculus to build a piece of software.
Something I would think about is how long do I have left in my current degree program. I would try to at least finish what I have started before moving on, if I have little time left in the area of study. Maybe you could get a job in that field while going to school for computer science.
You said that you have done some programming in Python but I think it would be wise to look toward languages that use the .net framework like C++, C#, and Visual Basic. The reason I say this is because older languages eventually become dead or obsolete. Just something to think about.
When it comes to the job industry in programming I believe there will always be a need for programmers, because software is built for specific needs. Languages like C++ allow us to build software with adding a bunch of stuff that is not needed. Languages that include a lot of extra libraries that are not needed actually slow down the process speeds. For example this would be like building a race car with the standard blue prints. It will not hold up to the speeds required for racing, until we do away with some of the weight of the car, and everything else that is not needed for racing. This will increase the speed of the car greatly in the end.
When it comes to pro's and con's I would say that if you have a passion for programming, the pro's greatly out number the con's. :shuriken:

I hope this helps you to make a wise decision for your future. If I were you I would do some research on new languages and decide from there if this is the field for you. Good luck to you.
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#6 tlhIn`toq  Icon User is offline

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Re: College freshman contemplating a transition to computer science. Need

Posted 01 February 2012 - 09:43 AM

There are a LOT of questions along this vein in the Expert Q&A thread.

When all those answers have been returned and collated you should see a post for them.

But don't worry. Most of this generation seems lost and asking others to direct them, so you're not alone. Like I said, there are numerous variants on this same thread & question(s) every month.

Everyone from 20-50 wonders what the job market will be next year and next decade. The economy is fraked on a global scale. We are all hoping it just keeps going on its own inertia and the collective desire of 7 billion people to keep putting food on the table.

So let's reduce all of this to a plan 'a', plan 'b' situation.

Plan 'A':
Assume the world will keep going as-is and there will be jobs available when you graduate - Things might even keep going long enough for you to retire, who knows?

Fall back plan 'B':
Learn how to grow your own herbs and vegetables, learn how to hunt and fish. What's the worst that can happen if you have this as a fall-back and don't *need* it? You have your own organically grown veggies and meat to supplement what you have to spend money on at the store? Our fish market charges $5+/pound for flounder, yet I pull 2-3 a week for $1 in bait.
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#7 modi123_1  Icon User is online

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Re: College freshman contemplating a transition to computer science. Need

Posted 01 February 2012 - 10:09 AM

Quote

But don't worry. Most of this generation seems lost and asking others to direct them, so you're not alone. Like I said, there are numerous variants on this same thread & question(s) every month.


So true. If it wasn't evident this topic has been grinding my gears as of late. Perhaps it's the natural evolution from the 'snowflake' theorem. Years of telling'em they are unique, precious, and can do anything they set their hearts to with endless praise for even the most mundane accomplishment has retarded a preservation instinct; created a co-dependence on authority directing your learning and having only a passing interest in a variety of things (but never truly excelling at one). It's cruel, in a way, then to drop them into the "harsh" world of college and told they need to make their own choices.

Finding an aptitude and going with it shouldn't be hard. Hobbies or things people "know you as" are good indicators. Do people see you as the classic baseball star? Someone doing sweet jumps with his bike? Amateur adult cinematographer? Amateur radio enthusiast? A delicate and beautiful dancer (sans pole even!)? The go to computer kid? That might help figure out what you might like to do when you are older.

Okay.. okay.. I need to edge off my soap box.
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#8 tlhIn`toq  Icon User is offline

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Re: College freshman contemplating a transition to computer science. Need

Posted 01 February 2012 - 10:45 AM

*
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I think you are totally right.

It wasn't that long ago the USA really had apprenticeship programs for most things. Teens used to go to work for parents, or friends of parents in fields they were interested in. Those days are long gone.

I spent 3 years in Australia and found those ideas still going strong. A friend's 17 year old was working as a plumber's apprentice. Another as a "sparkie" apprentice (electrician)

When our oldest hit 10th grade they really started steering kids toward career oriented education. By the time they graduated high school they had direction, apprenticeship time and schooling to go with it.

More than one newbie here has called me an ass because I talk plainly and bluntly to students. OMG! I talk to 20-something like adults! Most of them have no idea how to handle that. For the first time they're being told "Think and use some common sense. Stop being lazy." and therefore I'm an ass for not blowing sunshine up their skirt.

I'll say it again: Join the army out of high school. At worst they will help you grow up and get some direction. At best you see the world, get some skills, retire with a 20 year pension and life long VA benefits at age 38. Then go have a second 20 year career and still be able to retire at less than 60 years old with 2 full pensions.

The under 30 croud is so short sighted they forget or don't believe they will one day be old too. The simple fact is all jobs are the same, only different. Stop looking for something magically ideal and just start working. Get off mommies couch and off the gov't dole. Every job has good things and bad. One has travel, one has you home every day at 6. One has a great boss and a crappy insurance plan. The next has amazing benefits and bozo for a boss. Get over it. Get past all the bullshit you were fed as a kid about how everyone will rise to be a corporate president, and how you are going to have everything you ever wanted with no pain and hard work. Get your head out of the clouds and down to Earth if you want to accomplish anything.

I'm now getting off my soapbox as well.
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#9 jon.kiparsky  Icon User is offline

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Re: College freshman contemplating a transition to computer science. Need

Posted 01 February 2012 - 02:52 PM

Meanwhile, back on the topic, I could suggest that a guy with a finance degree and a good knowledge of programming is a bit more rare than a guy with a CS degree and some vague conception of finance. Programmers do best when they understand the domain for which they're writing, so if you want to program in finance you're probably best staying where you are and writing a shitload of code when you're not doing the coursework for your degree.
projecteuler.net would be a good site for you to live at, you'll get a lot of practice there. You should also plunder your finance coursework for problems to model in code.
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#10 CTphpnwb  Icon User is online

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Re: College freshman contemplating a transition to computer science. Need

Posted 02 February 2012 - 10:29 AM

My guess is that you might have found that you're not very interested in finance, or maybe you think that with all the crap the financial industry has been pulling you don't want to be associated with it. Either way, the fact that you're looking at other things and are interested in programming has me thinking that if you do want to go the CS route you probably shouldn't do Finance/CS or even CS/Finance. Find another field that you'd really be interested in applying software to and do that.
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#11 Zachari  Icon User is offline

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Re: College freshman contemplating a transition to computer science. Need

Posted 02 February 2012 - 02:18 PM

View PosttlhIn`toq, on 01 February 2012 - 11:09 AM, said:

We see hundreds of students of CIS on this board and my considered opinion is that college gets you a piece of paper for $50,000 but no real skill at this craft. They take four years to teach you what 6 well selected self-teaching books will teach you in one year. They have to, that's their business: To keep you in college for 4 years so they can collect 4 years of income from you.


I respect you a great deal as someone who is professionally doing what I'd love to do and value your advice, but I both agree and disagree on certain details. Every degree applies to your opinion in terms of skills acquired. You may graduate with a Math degree, but if you've made average grades, most likely you aren't skillful as a Mathematician while the person who joined the Math Club will be much more likely to be skilled. I'm a student in Software Engineering, not too far from graduating and heading to graduate school. Although I could always learn more and become better, I have a solid grasp on not only the languages I've practice, but also a great amount of theory along with it. Is it necessary to be a good programmer? No. Will it be helpful in some aspects? I'd say absolutely. I picked up some skills in the way of algorithmic design and analysis, learned proper techniques that some never learn (Formatting and comments, people. Jesus Christ!), and I was exposed to a lot of software and information I may have glanced over or deemed less important had I not been there. Some people in my courses were, as you said, unskilled and barely made it, but that will show when brought into the working world or asked to demonstrate it. It's always evident that there's some big time funny business going on when 25 people make A's on programming assignments and then 6 pass exams on that exact material with a cheat sheet allowed. The toughest part about Software Engineering and Computer Science in general is that no matter how good you are at it, you can't focus on just programming or theory. You have to be able to work well with teams, be open to advice, and be willing to learn a new skill quickly to be successful. Most people who want to be CS students don't understand that it's not just writing programs in one language and learning what you need to make video games. Learning Assembly (something you may NEVER use), every Math possible, Operating Systems, Comp. Architecture, Digital Logic, and building compilers were all things I accepted early as necessary to succeeding in the program and graduating prepared, while other students fought it and suffered as a consequence. Without the necessary motive and mindset, you won't become skilled at anything.

The state of Computer Science education overall is in disarray. I'll agree with this any day of the week. When I started (Not so long ago), we were required to learn C++ on a Linux OS in which all of our steps had to be done from a bash shell with typescripts to prove we weren't point-and-clicking. It's not required, but it teaches you necessary navigation using of commands. It takes you out of your tunnel-vision view of what you've seen. Now they've been forced to move to Python in intro because the department gets so many people who don't understand how difficult CS is and fail horribly, even though I know for a fact it's taught very well and in understandable terms. My university's CS program, while not a national powerhouse like Cal-Berkeley, has a phenomenal CS department, and actually founded the first student chapter of ACM. Our department had an amazing new building built and a great, very knowledgeable faculty so I feel we have a good thing going here, and I hate to see that cheapened because of failures because people don't understand how difficult the chosen path of Computer Science is. This can't be said about the surrounding universities, including the state's "flagship" university, who have awful programs that require little work. They're not well prepared because they aren't required to be, and I think that's a national epidemic. Because of the advent of technological dominance in every day life, universities feel the need to have these Computer Science departments without the reasons for doing so (ie Creating a degree to drive up the admissions numbers). This would go hand in hand with the problem you described. I was lucky enough to live near a university that stressed, respected, and encouraged its budding Computer Science students, and demands them to be rounded individuals in their studies to be successful in the program, not just copy and paste programmers that you see in a lot of undergrad programs. Even worse is that there are a lot of degree programs out there that are handing out diplomas in Software Engineering and Computer Science for a curriculum that is clearly more in line with MIS degrees. While I'm not discrediting a degree in MIS/CIS at all, but if you're taking MIS classes, you're going to have an issue when you go to an interview for an entry-level Computer Science or Software Engineering position, and you know nothing of data structures and Big-Oh notation is something that you thought was used to rate pornographic films. I think the lack of support from universities is leading to graduates who leave there with a piece of paper and entitlement from 4 years of B's in Calculus I, a Computer Architecture class, and basic VB/C++ assignments. One of my driving goals and dreams in my career is to earn my PhD and go somewhere where I can build up a decent program. So, all in all, you are correct that the infinite disparity between the good programs and the rest is creating a majority of graduates who aren't prepared in the least bit.

In cliff notes, what I'm trying to convey is that although you do not need a piece of paper and these classes to become a brilliant designer/programmer/engineer, they can absolutely do a lot of good when in the right university. I don't, by any means, consider myself to be an expert or ready to take over at a major corporation as a major role player. I do know, though, I'll be ready to start at the bottom and excited to learn more from experienced people while still being able to competently do comparable work to everyone else. I feel like my education has helped me a lot in gaining that mindset. I do wish I could have taken your path, and I respect anyone who does. Most of the people I look up to made their names taking that path, and looking at people like Bill Gates and Zuckerberg, the ones who make it big under no circumstance need a degree. As always, it boils down to a situation in which your desire to be skilled at something, how much passion you have for it, and your drive to learn what it takes to become better at it will dictate what you are capable of and where it takes you.
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#12 Beach_Coder  Icon User is offline

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Re: College freshman contemplating a transition to computer science. Need

Posted 04 February 2012 - 10:50 AM

I would suggest that for every two guys who dropped out of school or didn't bother to go at all and says they are doing just fine, one of them is full of it. I would further suggest that the same holds true for any two guys who did go to school and finished.
For every guy who dropped out of school or didn't bother to go and actually is doing just fine, there are a million (if you'll excuse the hyperbole) hoping to someday be the supervisor of their ditch digging crew. There's also plenty of guys who have a degree who can't get a job as ditch digger and would love to have all of their tuition money back.
Whatever you do, if you are great at it (note: good ain't great) the job market won't matter. Having a piece of paper and/or letters after your name never hurts.
Banking sucks. Banking pay sucks. Investment banking is nice.
Learn how to think and solve a problem and produce something, it won't matter what you majored in.
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#13 ccubed  Icon User is offline

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Re: College freshman contemplating a transition to computer science. Need

Posted 04 February 2012 - 03:13 PM

View Postdanielcode, on 01 February 2012 - 08:54 AM, said:

1) How can i know if am fit for a career in comp science and if i will like it? I was never really interested in the sciences but i usually did fairly well if i applied myself. I am a fast learner and i enjoy math.


Good, because Computer Science is math, numeric theory. It's not programming, it's not computers, it's not any of that. If your idea of fun is finding the shortest and quickest way to represent the equation 2x+3=4 or finding a faster way to sort through a list of items, then you'll love computer science.

View Postdanielcode, on 01 February 2012 - 08:54 AM, said:

I am extremely interested in startups, technology, innovation and the internet. So this is the field i would like to join one day.


Then take Business. For internet take something other than computer science. This is not what Computer Science is, it's none of these things. Innovation and Technology are small parts of it and aren't exclusive to Computer Science. Now, if you want to know how to create your own method of compression across the internet? Yeah, you're in the right spot. If you want to know how to develop internet tools and applications? No. Wrong place.


View Postdanielcode, on 01 February 2012 - 08:54 AM, said:

2) I haven't taken any comp science course and i have only taken a calculus course that might not transfer in the school i am going. Do you think i will fall behind other students starting the program as a sophomore this year?


Most Computer Science students in my school started in calculus. So, probably not. Maybe one class, but it's really not going to hurt you in the long run most likely.

View Postdanielcode, on 01 February 2012 - 08:54 AM, said:

3) What do you think is the job outlook for this industry. Will jobs be outsourced?


It's fine. Just find a good area for it. All areas are different. I think this has been said a ton.

View Postdanielcode, on 01 February 2012 - 08:54 AM, said:

Would demand for software engineers decrease with technology becoming more sophisticated?


All indications say no.

View Postdanielcode, on 01 February 2012 - 08:54 AM, said:

4) Would you go back if you have that change? What are the pros and cons of your job? Do you program in a cubicle all day or you eventually advance in some sort of executive position?


Go back to what? Pros and Cons? I like my job, I do what I love. I don't know that I have cons. Except maybe corporate executives and rules.

And no, I program in a cubby hole - that we have full control over.

@Zachari: Degrees and Experience. You need both. I guarantee you nine times out of ten a company will opt for a proven track record over a degree. Why? Because they're spending money on you. A degree is nice, but doesn't do anything to show them their money is well invested. Experience? Programs you've made? Previous Jobs? That lets them know they'll get their monies worth.

IE: You need both. Having one without the other is useless. You can do fine without one, but you'll do great with both. A degree shows you have an aptitude, previous experience shows you have the verifiable skills.

This post has been edited by ccubed: 04 February 2012 - 03:17 PM

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#14 jon.kiparsky  Icon User is offline

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Re: College freshman contemplating a transition to computer science. Need

Posted 04 February 2012 - 03:39 PM

You've got a point there. All of the railing against going to school to learn computing seems to suffer from selection bias (picking from the pool of successful people rather than from the pool of people who never completed degrees in CS) and post-hoc reasoning (Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of school and became successful, therefore dropping out caused them to be successful). I suppose there are probably some other fallacies in there, but these two stand out every time the subject comes up.

Quote

Banking pay sucks.


There's a lot of jobs in finance that aren't banking. I'm in one. I'm not complaining about the pay. Nor am I complaining about the work - there's plenty to do, and I just pick up interesting projects and work on them. Finance is still an attractive area to work in.

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Learn how to think and solve a problem and produce something, it won't matter what you majored in.


Ferdamshure.
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#15 Programmist  Icon User is offline

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Re: College freshman contemplating a transition to computer science. Need

Posted 08 February 2012 - 06:22 AM

View Postdanielcode, on 01 February 2012 - 09:54 AM, said:

I am a fast learner and i enjoy math. I am extremely interested in startups, technology, innovation and the internet.

Just based on this I'd say you're probably cut out for CS. I'm not going to tell you whether or not you should go to college because you obviously already know which is the smarter choice. Find an institution that has a good reputation for CS and that will transfer all of your credits and go for it. You're still early in your college career, so if you changed your mind, no big deal. And if you have to re-take calculus...well, you like math right?

The job outlook for our field is pretty awesome. That's my technical assessment. Sure, commodity programming jobs will sometimes head overseas, but as someone who has worked with and led teams of developers in India and Argentina I can tell you that the quality of code coming out of those countries is, on the whole, shockingly bad. As long as you are a good, motivated developer who stays on top of technology you should have no problem finding a job in the US. The real threat to programming jobs is not outsourcing. It's AI, but that seems to be many years off, so Skynet won't be writing code anytime soon.

I love what I do and if I could go back, I'd to it again.

The industry is moving rapidly towards Agile development methodologies. This is a general term for several development methodologies that focus on certain practices that, they say, make the code quality better, the development cycle faster, and the finished product closer to what the customer wants. Your mileage may vary. The point of mentioning this is to say that Agile methodologies (e.g. Scrum) typically have an open work space, meaning no cubicles or partitions: just a big room with people sitting around a large table (or multiple tables) with much of the project knowledge on display. I've seen the transition from traditional development methodologies where developers sit in their own cube and have long, boring weekly/bi-weekly meetings, to agile where they work in an open work space and often have daily stand-up meetings that typically last 15 minutes or less. The catch is that many of the so-called-agile teams I've been on are doing it wrong, but I digress.

This post has been edited by Programmist: 08 February 2012 - 06:23 AM

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