Graduate School

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31 Replies - 2613 Views - Last Post: 16 September 2012 - 06:07 PM

#16 blackcompe  Icon User is offline

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Re: Graduate School

Posted 14 September 2012 - 03:04 PM

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In that I would be tempted to argue that it would almost necessitate higher education if I wish to have a solid base in high level concepts.


Definitely not. Graduate school assumes a solid foundation in the core CS courses. IMO, graduate school isn't such a bad idea, but you should consider taking a few CS undergraduate pre-requisites. Usually, there are a few courses M.S. programs require non-CS graduates to take so they don't get left behind in the material. It sounds like you're doing an IT-"Applications Programming" degree, and you've missed out on the core CS courses.

I once did the material for a graduate Compilers course after completing the undergraduate course, and both assumed you had no prior knowledge of the material. The only difference is that there was more to digest and more complex coding in the graduate course, but I feel as though an undergraduate could of done the graduate work with more time and effort. Basically, you could have came into either class with the same background and done just fine in both. That same graduate course at UPitt was the undergraduate course at Stanford. Depends on the school really.

In IMO, most graduate courses just cram more material in a semester and make you work a lot harder. And from what research I've done on the net about it, most agree that conceptually it's not too much harder. It's made for CS undergrads who want to delve deeper into what they've learned (or they want a PhD), or for non-CS graduates looking to get a CS education. Hey... at least you'll know more than non-CS graduates!

As far as Math is concerned, I've rarely seen a need for more then College Algebra and Discrete Math. I wouldn't worry about proofs one bit. They're used a lot in certain courses, but students are never required to write them. Half the proofs I see, I don't even care to understand past a certain point. I have taken courses in writing formal proofs with predicate logic, but I've never seen a relation between them and the informal (and usually intuitive) proofs that are used in Algorithms courses. So.... just brave it out.

I've never formally learned Linear Algebra, but I've been able to pick up all the bits and pieces I need when it's time to. I want to say it's about the same with Calculus. A basic understanding of the concept of the derivative, integral, and knowing how to use Wolfram Alpha should suffice. Often, you don't need in depth knowledge of Calculus. You just need to know how to carry out a simple calculation that's required in the process. Yet, professors feel the need to list it as a pre-req. But....sometimes the listed pre-reqs really are necessary. It's usually pretty easy to figure out how much Math really is required of the course by talking to the professor, looking at the course website, or talking to past students.

On the other hand, you do have some programming experience and a degree, which may be enough to get you an internship now. I'm not a working programmer, never have been, but apparently, the preferred skill set is an aptitude in programming and a strong foundation in Software Engineering techniques. To me that means doing stuff the easy way -- plugging libraries together, using large pre-built software bases, adding small customized extensions when necessary, business requirements elicitation, etc. At least that's for the typical non-Systems programmer. So... a lack of mastery in theory is OK for typical development as long as you appear to have a good grasp on how to get whatever is asked of you done.

You could get some industry experience before deciding to go back to school, although I've heard it's a real pain, since graduate school will take up a considerable amount of time.

You could also take advantage of the various open education platforms (Coursera, edX). They offer very good classes, some of which are quite difficult and are the exact replica of what's offered at the school.

You could always ask someone, like KYA, who is currently in a CS graduate program. You could also visit the CS department and talk with a faculty member.

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I decided to buckle down and learn everything I could this summer to see what my limits were in that aspect. I ended up reading approximately 14,000 pages over the summer (May to August.) That's about the point where I really started to realize that I'm just consistently getting patch knowledge, even with books.


Tech reading is light reading, whereas Textbook reading is work. There's reinforcement there. As much as we hate working through dry material, it's the only way to truly understand things, where you won't have patches in your knowledge. If you're going to invest time into formally educating yourself, you should be reading through book material and doing book problems. If your time is mainly into programming, then tech reading is probably fine.

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Theory is great, but it depends on what kind. Calc, automata, number theory, etc were great but do they measure much more than say learning how to operate for loops, classes, or the tcp/ip stack?


Exactly. Math is just a way prove stuff or formalize about something. How the network stack works, how languages are designed, how Machine Learning works, they are considered CS theory as well and are usually what interests students the most. And when you apply what you learn from them, Math isn't crucial in doing so.

In summary, don't let Math scare you out of pursuing the degree. If you decide to matriculate, you should definitely take Discrete Math as a pre-requisite before fully entering the program. Perhaps taking a CS Algorithms and Systems programming course isn't such a bad idea as well. Based on your grades, judge whether you think you'll do well in graduate school. Also, if Math isn't your thing don't expect to take Math-intensive courses. You should probably refrain from "Advanced Algorithm Analysis" if you can. Lol... Go for stuff like Databases, Compilers, Operating Systems -- the Systems track -- as they don't involve a bunch of Math. And lastly, always remember there are people out there who are willing to help you get through what you can't on your own.
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#17 NecroWinter  Icon User is offline

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Re: Graduate School

Posted 14 September 2012 - 09:24 PM

if you want to do graduate school, theyll make you take prereqs that undergraduates are expected or needed to have (at least, according to what ive been told by people who have gotten masters degrees). So, if you want to do computer science/programming stuff, I would try to just get the math stuff out of the way as quickly as possible. I transferred from a community college where I had no intention of getting a bachelors, and all I did was college algebra, and I really regretted it because it put me behind, I could possibly be done with school at this point. You really dont want that feeling.

again, im only going off of what i was told by people, one of which was a math professor i had who told me he needed to take undergrad classes to prepare him for stuff.
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#18 nick2price  Icon User is offline

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Re: Graduate School

Posted 15 September 2012 - 01:38 AM

I think this is a perfect situation for khan academy http://www.khanacademy.org/library I have been slowly going through the math videos, they will teach you a lot.
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#19 Martyr2  Icon User is online

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Re: Graduate School

Posted 15 September 2012 - 08:47 AM

Lemur, you mentioned feeling like you have had "patchy" learning until now. Well, honestly you will probably always have that feeling because the industry and domain of computer science is patchy. You have a ton of very smart people looking for different ways of doing things, melding technologies together, being creative and hacking out solutions at all levels. It is like saying the art world is "patchy". It is! You have a ton of great artists like the master painters who are all doing their own thing and coming up with solutions. Schooling or industry is not going to solve that feeling. In fact, it is getting worse and the industry is becoming ever more fragmented. Just count the number of JS frameworks you have out there for an idea.

Personally I once thought I would go to a PhD level in computer science and then realized it would be a waste. The industry moves too fast and the technologies become so outdated that you will have worked your way to a PhD in one facet of the industry only to realize that it is outdated 5 or 10 years later. Sure, some things like algorithms may last longer but you know we keep coming up with new algorithms to replace the old ones. I just don't think it is worth it to go that far. I think you can have a great career with a bachelors and then specialization courses for the rest of your life as things progress. It is the only way I found you can stay relevant.

Now as far as your dilemma, why not go into your career and take classes on the side? Your work experience is going to show you how technologies apply and the problems that need solving. Your classes then can help you explore how you might solve those. The career will give you the direction, the classes will give you the base and the job will also help you pay for school. That is what I do and it works out great.

:)

This post has been edited by Martyr2: 15 September 2012 - 08:49 AM

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#20 farrell2k  Icon User is offline

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Re: Graduate School

Posted 16 September 2012 - 12:14 AM

100 pages of tech material per day? I guarantee that of you really do that, which I highly doubt, you only retain a fraction of it. Keep going to school. As long as you can afford it, more degrees have never hurt anyone.
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#21 jon.kiparsky  Icon User is online

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Re: Graduate School

Posted 16 September 2012 - 12:18 AM

View Postfarrell2k, on 16 September 2012 - 02:14 AM, said:

100 pages of tech material per day? I guarantee that of you really do that, which I highly doubt, you only retain a fraction of it. Keep going to school. As long as you can afford it, more degrees have never hurt anyone.



Really? Does the term "opportunity cost" mean anything to you?
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#22 farrell2k  Icon User is offline

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Re: Graduate School

Posted 16 September 2012 - 09:26 AM

View Postjon.kiparsky, on 16 September 2012 - 07:18 AM, said:

View Postfarrell2k, on 16 September 2012 - 02:14 AM, said:

100 pages of tech material per day? I guarantee that of you really do that, which I highly doubt, you only retain a fraction of it. Keep going to school. As long as you can afford it, more degrees have never hurt anyone.



Really? Does the term "opportunity cost" mean anything to you?


Yeah, and what's your point? That he could make or save x if didn't do y. Who cares? Not everything you spend money on has to be beneficial. Imagine the opportunity cost of coming to this site instead of doing something else.
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#23 Utael  Icon User is offline

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Re: Graduate School

Posted 16 September 2012 - 10:04 AM

I think you completely mis-understood, time is limited. You only have so much in your life. Is there something else he would rather be doing or is his goal to go to grad school? Personally a degree is a means to an end, if you could achieve the end why spend more time on the means? Oh and I personally have seen where a degree has hurt someone, they were "over qualified" for the only job available.

This post has been edited by Utael: 16 September 2012 - 10:04 AM

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#24 macosxnerd101  Icon User is online

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Re: Graduate School

Posted 16 September 2012 - 12:35 PM

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Not everything you spend money on has to be beneficial.

By very definition, if the trade of money for a good or service renders additional happiness for the consumer, then that is a beneficial purpose.

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As long as you can afford it, more degrees have never hurt anyone.

The law of diminishing marginal utility comes into play here. There reaches a point at which an extra degree doesn't garner extra utility. This is the optimal point. Anything after that, an extra degree garners negative utility.
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#25 jon.kiparsky  Icon User is online

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Re: Graduate School

Posted 16 September 2012 - 01:24 PM

View Postfarrell2k, on 16 September 2012 - 11:26 AM, said:

Yeah, and what's your point? That he could make or save x if didn't do y. Who cares? Not everything you spend money on has to be beneficial.


Investing several years of your life in something that "can't hurt" means not investing that time in something that can help.

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Imagine the opportunity cost of coming to this site instead of doing something else.


If I felt that what I gain from participating in this site were less than I'd gain from spending that time in some other way, I'd do that. The opportunity costs are real, and I've considered them: there is very little that DIC prevents me from doing, and I've learned a lot, so it's a net gain.
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#26 Lemur  Icon User is offline

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Re: Graduate School

Posted 16 September 2012 - 02:06 PM

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100 pages of tech material per day? I guarantee that of you really do that, which I highly doubt, you only retain a fraction of it. Keep going to school. As long as you can afford it, more degrees have never hurt anyone.


I retain quite a bit of it, if not all of it Has it occurred to you that some of us have special conditions that afford us such abilities? I'm autistic mate (aspergers), I have that ability to read and process massive amounts of information that most normal people could not possibly comprehend.

It's just that I'm not particularly good at sharing that information once I learn it, something I'm working on alleviating.

Now then, as to why autism is relevant at all:

http://www.ninds.nih...il_asperger.htm :

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...children with Asperger syndrome are isolated because of their poor social skills and narrow interests. Children with the disorder will gather enormous amounts of factual information about their favorite subject and will talk incessantly about it,


http://www.mayoclini...ECTION=symptoms :

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Showing an intense obsession with one or two specific, narrow subjects, such as baseball statistics, train schedules, weather or snakes


This is general par for the course, so at the risk of sounding ignorant I strongly suggest you drop that train of thought. I don't particularly like bringing this subject up, because of the other symptoms and how much difficulties they've caused me. I do not like to appear weak, so I tend to avoid talking about this subject.

I suppose next you'll suggest that I embrace YOLO or some other such nonsense. After all, it's only money and it doesn't matter. Illogical farce. I want to know if it's relevant and I do not believe in foolishly spending 20,000$+ on what would be a very well framed piece of paper that doesn't garner much more attention than the one I'm getting in December.

Remember, I'm a business minor. I know about economics and finances which is why I have a hard time justifying this to myself except for the suggestions of people whose opinions I value highly.

This post has been edited by Lemur: 16 September 2012 - 02:06 PM

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#27 Utael  Icon User is offline

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Re: Graduate School

Posted 16 September 2012 - 02:30 PM

If you don't feel you could go to college without opinions of others it sounds like you've made your choice.

This post has been edited by Utael: 16 September 2012 - 02:30 PM

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#28 farrell2k  Icon User is offline

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Re: Graduate School

Posted 16 September 2012 - 02:46 PM

View Postjon.kiparsky, on 16 September 2012 - 08:24 PM, said:

View Postfarrell2k, on 16 September 2012 - 11:26 AM, said:

Yeah, and what's your point? That he could make or save x if didn't do y. Who cares? Not everything you spend money on has to be beneficial.


Investing several years of your life in something that "can't hurt" means not investing that time in something that can help.

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Imagine the opportunity cost of coming to this site instead of doing something else.


If I felt that what I gain from participating in this site were less than I'd gain from spending that time in some other way, I'd do that. The opportunity costs are real, and I've considered them: there is very little that DIC prevents me from doing, and I've learned a lot, so it's a net gain.


You'll gain more in the amount that you extend your life by going for a jog, instead of spending time on this site. There is always something more beneficial you can do, but it's all relative, and only matters if you care.
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#29 macosxnerd101  Icon User is online

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Re: Graduate School

Posted 16 September 2012 - 02:48 PM

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There is always something more beneficial you can do, but it's all relative, and only matters if you care.

This is the foundation of economics. It's not more beneficial if you care more about doing something else.
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#30 jon.kiparsky  Icon User is online

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Re: Graduate School

Posted 16 September 2012 - 02:56 PM

View Postfarrell2k, on 16 September 2012 - 04:46 PM, said:

You'll gain more in the amount that you extend your life by going for a jog, instead of spending time on this site. There is always something more beneficial you can do, but it's all relative, and only matters if you care.


As I said, I have considered the opportunity costs. As it happens, I commute to work every day by bicycle, so I'm riding a minimum of 50 miles a week, spread out to two half-hour stints five days per week, so I'm not too worried about missing out on daily exercise.

Mac's got his finger on it: in analyzing economic behavior, that is, the allocation of scarce resources, we rely on the consumers of those resources to tell us how they value those resources, relative to each other.

Digression: They do this not by telling us "I prefer apples to oranges by a factor of .3" but by choosing apples over oranges in such a way that we can calculate the relative preferences. This is called utility, it's a fun topic in game theory and is used an awful lot in a lot of different sorts of analysis - my brother, for example, has used this sort of analysis in his research on water in the American west. It turns out that people's utillity functions can be used to predict things that they have no control over, so by asking people about their preferences in particular ways, you can extract useful information about the future.

This post has been edited by jon.kiparsky: 16 September 2012 - 03:09 PM

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