Is a computer science degree worth the paper it's printed on?

  • (4 Pages)
  • +
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • Last »

46 Replies - 12264 Views - Last Post: 15 September 2012 - 06:02 PM

#1 KYA  Icon User is offline

  • g++ jameson.cpp -o beverage
  • member icon

Reputation: 3101
  • View blog
  • Posts: 19,141
  • Joined: 14-September 07

Is a computer science degree worth the paper it's printed on?

Post icon  Posted 11 September 2012 - 07:12 PM

Fascinating article just flew across my vision courtesy of slashdot.

Quote

...

When searching for talent, I've stopped relying on computer science degrees as an indicator of anything except a general interest in the field. Most schools suck at teaching theory and aren't great at Java instruction, either. Granted, they're not much better with any other language, but most of them teach Java. Not that there aren't bright, shining exceptions; for example, every single Virginia Tech grad I've interviewed has a firm grasp of theory.

Our most successful employees have been nontraditional hires. One of my most valuable players has a doctorate in music, got promoted on his first assignment, received wild raves from clients, and now leads large integration projects. I have another fellow who we hired directly from an Apple Store. On his first assignment, he developed the AJAX UI for a multi-billion-dollar financial institution that the client loved.

...


Link
slashdot

Interesting take. As a gainfully employed college graduate who taught himself to program ~13 years old, I'm torn.

What say you DICers?

Is This A Good Question/Topic? 2
  • +

Replies To: Is a computer science degree worth the paper it's printed on?

#2 tlhIn`toq  Icon User is offline

  • Please show what you have already tried when asking a question.
  • member icon

Reputation: 5529
  • View blog
  • Posts: 11,839
  • Joined: 02-June 10

Re: Is a computer science degree worth the paper it's printed on?

Posted 11 September 2012 - 07:18 PM

http://www.dreaminco...ut-your-degree/
Was This Post Helpful? 0
  • +
  • -

#3 modi123_1  Icon User is offline

  • Suitor #2
  • member icon



Reputation: 9210
  • View blog
  • Posts: 34,592
  • Joined: 12-June 08

Re: Is a computer science degree worth the paper it's printed on?

Posted 11 September 2012 - 07:25 PM

From the article:

Quote

In my experience, self-motivation, a nearly pathological interest in the field, and great problem-solving skills are vastly better indicators than a college degree that a hire will be successful. What's your experience?


Wow, really? That can be applied nearly universally.

I think the real take away here is if you are a wunderkind (degree or not) people will rave about you. If you are good at what you do, work well in a team, and have other interests outside of programming there's a spot for you. If you suck at programming, but can lie through your teeth, find companies that give a bit of training and exploit that for another job before someone finds out it is all smoke and mirrors.

The article talks with sweeping generalizations which water down the impact. On my team - hell.. everyone else slowly adopts new things, but for day to day business grind they are great... I on the other hand am a moderate here, do a bit of freelance, is constantly pushing into different areas, and spending my free time nerded out. It's shocking that I am the r&d goto-for-fringe-shit guy.

Do I have a piece of paper that says 'Comp Sci' on it? Sure! If anything I am attractive to companies that want dedicated programmers as well as those that like the safety of a college degree. Now if I was only attractive to the ladies... Why shut down to one field?

Over all the article is just one giant flamebait.
Posted Image
Was This Post Helpful? 4
  • +
  • -

#4 macosxnerd101  Icon User is offline

  • Self-Trained Economist
  • member icon




Reputation: 10568
  • View blog
  • Posts: 39,131
  • Joined: 27-December 08

Re: Is a computer science degree worth the paper it's printed on?

Posted 11 September 2012 - 07:29 PM

Quote

for example, every single Virginia Tech grad I've interviewed has a firm grasp of theory.

I would like to point out that I am a Virginia Tech student and our CS program rocks once you get past the Data Structures I and Problem Solving!

Honestly, I tend to agree with this article. I think CS focuses too much on intro to programming or web design at a lot of schools, or doesn't focus enough on programming at others. Tech has a course- CS 3114 Data Structures and Algorithms which covers the topic at hand in Java, but also focuses on program architecture and practices, which is key in the industry and what a lot of programs miss. The other thing I would like to see more of is group programming. Granted, schools may shy away from this to avoid the "mooching" problem. The approach needs work, but it gets people in the mindset of group development.
Was This Post Helpful? 1
  • +
  • -

#5 tlhIn`toq  Icon User is offline

  • Please show what you have already tried when asking a question.
  • member icon

Reputation: 5529
  • View blog
  • Posts: 11,839
  • Joined: 02-June 10

Re: Is a computer science degree worth the paper it's printed on?

Posted 11 September 2012 - 08:00 PM

What do you mean 'get past ..'

View Postmacosxnerd101, on 11 September 2012 - 08:29 PM, said:

Data Structures I and Problem Solving!


??

The only thing left is the syntax of your chosen language. 99% of a program is how you solve the various problems that the program is being written for in the first place, and the data being carried around to solve those problems.

This post has been edited by tlhIn`toq: 11 September 2012 - 08:01 PM

Was This Post Helpful? 0
  • +
  • -

#6 macosxnerd101  Icon User is offline

  • Self-Trained Economist
  • member icon




Reputation: 10568
  • View blog
  • Posts: 39,131
  • Joined: 27-December 08

Re: Is a computer science degree worth the paper it's printed on?

Posted 11 September 2012 - 08:06 PM

There are two classes- CS 2114 (Data Structures I) and CS 2104 (Problem Solving). The Data Structures I course focuses on Linked Lists, OOP, Queues, Stacks, the basics of Trees, and good programming practices. It's not bad, but could be stronger in my opinion.

The CS 2104 Problem Solving class is one of those classes where the material isn't hard, but it's hard to do well in. It jumps around a lot from things like the penultimate step to recursion to Gantt charts and business crap. We did a 3 week unit on math at the end of the semester, jumping from discrete calculus to recurrence relations to statistics. There was no consistency or focus, and it wasn't clear what we were going to be tested on. I feel like that class would have been a nice weekend seminar, not a semester long class.

Data Structures and Algorithms (3114) is a lot stronger than both of them, in my opinion. Comp Org I (CS 2505) is also a very strong course, in my opinion. It covers C programming, digital logic and circuits, basic assembly, some Linux, Regular Expressions, and GDB. This class very much teaches one how to think critically and problem solve. So does 3114, and a lot of the classes beyond like Comparative Languages, Algorithm Analysis, AI, Computer Systems, etc.

Perhaps more succinctly, after CS 2114 and CS 2104 is when you actually start getting into the meat and potatoes of the program. CS 2114 makes sure one has has some competency in programming, and the upper level classes really focus on the course material as well as thinking/problem solving/good practices.
Was This Post Helpful? 0
  • +
  • -

#7 tlhIn`toq  Icon User is offline

  • Please show what you have already tried when asking a question.
  • member icon

Reputation: 5529
  • View blog
  • Posts: 11,839
  • Joined: 02-June 10

Re: Is a computer science degree worth the paper it's printed on?

Posted 11 September 2012 - 08:16 PM

View Postmacosxnerd101, on 11 September 2012 - 09:06 PM, said:

There are two classes- CS 2114 (Data Structures I) and CS 2104 (Problem Solving). The Data Structures I course focuses on Linked Lists, OOP, Queues, Stacks, the basics of Trees, and good programming practices. It's not bad, but could be stronger in my opinion.


Ok - so a few chapters of any "Learn C# in 30 days" book. Stuff we cover here in our learning series tutorials. This is a prime example of why I'm not the only person losing faith in degrees. They take a year to teach the stuff that most of us pick up from self-teaching books in a month or less.

View Postmacosxnerd101, on 11 September 2012 - 09:06 PM, said:

The CS 2104 Problem Solving class is one of those classes where the material isn't hard, but it's hard to do well in. [...] I feel like that class would have been a nice weekend seminar, not a semester long class

Same response as above.

View Postmacosxnerd101, on 11 September 2012 - 09:06 PM, said:

Data Structures and Algorithms (3114) is a lot stronger than both of them, in my opinion. Comp Org I (CS 2505) is also a very strong course, in my opinion. It covers C programming, digital logic and circuits, basic assembly, some Linux, Regular Expressions, and GDB. This class very much teaches one how to think critically and problem solve. So does 3114, and a lot of the classes beyond like Comparative Languages, Algorithm Analysis, AI, Computer Systems, etc.

Perhaps more succinctly, after CS 2114 and CS 2104 is when you actually start getting into the meat and potatoes of the program. CS 2114 makes sure one has has some competency in programming, and the upper level classes really focus on the course material as well as thinking/problem solving/good practices.


Sounds like a huge amount of tuition dollars, and a great deal of material that really doesn't come into play once a person gets into the real world. Sounds like a lot of stuff the school system teaches that doesn't mean anything in the actual job. How much of that is used when the boss says "Write me a better pallet loading calculator program" - or "Write me a shopping cart for our web site" - etc. etc. sure there is a niche for a lot of that, just as there is a niche for needing any specialized schooling. Thats when you refresh your memory on the specifics.

Personally I just resent how the system works in that employers want all that to get higher pay rates, but so many of those people can't actually build a good application.

This post has been edited by tlhIn`toq: 11 September 2012 - 08:16 PM

Was This Post Helpful? 1
  • +
  • -

#8 jon.kiparsky  Icon User is offline

  • Pancakes!
  • member icon


Reputation: 7752
  • View blog
  • Posts: 13,110
  • Joined: 19-March 11

Re: Is a computer science degree worth the paper it's printed on?

Posted 11 September 2012 - 08:27 PM

The question is misdirected, I think. The degree is useful primarily to the student: it's one of several ways to learn something about the art of computer programming. And as such, it's worth exactly what they get out of the process of getting the degree. The diligent student who picks their classes well and does the work and is lucky enough to find a few professors who inspire them is likely to come out with quite a lot alongside their degree, all of which is quite irreplaceable.

As you've framed the question, though, we're supposed to be asking whether some generic CS degree is a good signal of a candidate's abilities as a programmer. No, of course not, and anybody who expects it to be is quite deluded about the point of the whole business, and should not be allowed anywhere near the hiring process.
Was This Post Helpful? 4
  • +
  • -

#9 macosxnerd101  Icon User is offline

  • Self-Trained Economist
  • member icon




Reputation: 10568
  • View blog
  • Posts: 39,131
  • Joined: 27-December 08

Re: Is a computer science degree worth the paper it's printed on?

Posted 11 September 2012 - 08:29 PM

Quote

Ok - so a few chapters of any "Learn C# in 30 days" book. Stuff we cover here in our learning series tutorials. This is a prime example of why I'm not the only person losing faith in degrees. They take a year to teach the stuff that most of us pick up from self-teaching books in a month or less.

I totally agree here. I tested out of CS 2114. Problem Solving was one I endured last semester, and an 8 AM on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday no less.

Quote

Sounds like a huge amount of tuition dollars, and a great deal of material that really doesn't come into play once a person gets into the real world. Sounds like a lot of stuff the school system teaches that doesn't mean anything in the actual job.

I think this comes down to the difference between computer science and real-world IT. CS 3114 does a good job of bringing both together in my opinion. It covers advanced data structures like balanced binary search trees, graphs and algorithms, as well as other material like file systems and hashing. It also focuses on big projects and scalability. It's more intensive than the standard projects we see on the boards here and really forces students to become quality programmers (ie., the workplace) and computer scientists (ie., higher-level classes).

Comp Org I is the first of a series of three required classes (Comp Org II and Comp Systems being the other two) that focus on low-level computer architecture. Systems is a class where you would dig into low-level tasks like virtualization, memory management, and networking. At the end of these courses, students usually have a fairly strong handle on C and Assembly as well.

While I am a strong advocate for CS programs turning out students that can write code with a degree of competency, I am also a strong advocate for theory in CS. In other words, a CS degree isn't *only* for industry training. I think employers that see it as such aren't well-informed. Blacksburg has a strong corporate presence as well, so I'd say industry and the CS department work closely together.
Was This Post Helpful? 2
  • +
  • -

#10 blankwall  Icon User is offline

  • D.I.C Head

Reputation: 5
  • View blog
  • Posts: 65
  • Joined: 12-July 12

Re: Is a computer science degree worth the paper it's printed on?

Posted 11 September 2012 - 08:36 PM

I agree with the degree is useless crowd. I have switched to electrical engineering because i find a lot of students at my college take computer science because it is an easy degree to get without having to take to many hard classes. I work very hard programming on my own time but school is just to slow to be of any real value when all the information you could ever want is available via google or books.
Was This Post Helpful? 0
  • +
  • -

#11 jon.kiparsky  Icon User is offline

  • Pancakes!
  • member icon


Reputation: 7752
  • View blog
  • Posts: 13,110
  • Joined: 19-March 11

Re: Is a computer science degree worth the paper it's printed on?

Posted 11 September 2012 - 08:40 PM

Quote

a lot of students at my college take computer science because it is an easy degree to get without having to take to many hard classes.



I find this hard to imagine. What school is this where you get a CS degree without taking hard classes?
Was This Post Helpful? 1
  • +
  • -

#12 blankwall  Icon User is offline

  • D.I.C Head

Reputation: 5
  • View blog
  • Posts: 65
  • Joined: 12-July 12

Re: Is a computer science degree worth the paper it's printed on?

Posted 11 September 2012 - 08:42 PM

San Francisco State you have to take up to calc2 and chemistry and physic 1 and 2 but thats it. Many people look at it aan "engineering"degree without all the engineering work. Thus it is a much easier degree to get then say an electrical engineering degree.
Was This Post Helpful? 0
  • +
  • -

#13 jon.kiparsky  Icon User is offline

  • Pancakes!
  • member icon


Reputation: 7752
  • View blog
  • Posts: 13,110
  • Joined: 19-March 11

Re: Is a computer science degree worth the paper it's printed on?

Posted 11 September 2012 - 08:45 PM

In San Francisco they get away with this? Um gottes willen...
Was This Post Helpful? 0
  • +
  • -

#14 blankwall  Icon User is offline

  • D.I.C Head

Reputation: 5
  • View blog
  • Posts: 65
  • Joined: 12-July 12

Re: Is a computer science degree worth the paper it's printed on?

Posted 11 September 2012 - 08:46 PM

I dont know what that means but CS is not nearly as prestigous or difficult as it once was
Was This Post Helpful? 0
  • +
  • -

#15 macosxnerd101  Icon User is offline

  • Self-Trained Economist
  • member icon




Reputation: 10568
  • View blog
  • Posts: 39,131
  • Joined: 27-December 08

Re: Is a computer science degree worth the paper it's printed on?

Posted 11 September 2012 - 08:49 PM

It looks like other math courses like Discrete, Statistics, and Linear Algebra are required for a CS degree at your school. I don't think Chemistry and Physics are fair judges of a degree's worth either. Most other fields of engineering rely more heavily on physics than CS does. Remember as well that CS is an abstract field, while a lot of engineering is very concrete. These are two very different styles of thinking. What year are you at your school? Have you talked to any upperclassmen in CS? I'd be interested in their opinions more than the people gravitating towards CS early on. What do the people who have taken Operating Systems or Algorithm Analysis at your school say about the rigor of the program?

http://cs.sfsu.edu/u...c-sequence.html

Also, at Tech, we are required to take a semester of Chem, a semester of Physics, and an additional semester of either Chem or Physics. Plus we have to take the two general engineering courses. We are not required to take statics or dynamics like most other engineers are.
Was This Post Helpful? 0
  • +
  • -

  • (4 Pages)
  • +
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • Last »