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#1 CaldwellYSR  Icon User is offline

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Is college necessary?

Posted 20 October 2012 - 03:14 PM

Hello guys,

So I made a pretty big mistake in my college choice. I chose a prestigious private university that I was absolutely in love with. Unfortunately that school came with a price that I can't keep up with. After family problems, surgeries, and other financial problems, I ended up having to drop out. So right now I have 2 full years of college finished and only one bloody class in computer science. Anyways, I'm working hard on trying to transfer to another school but I still owe money to the first school. I am beginning to wonder if it's even worth it to go back to school? How big is college in the decision making for who to hire? I'm a self taught web designer and I've taken a class in Java. I'm also a self taught iOS app developer although I haven't put anything out yet. So is it possible for a self taught programmer to get a job in the computer science field without finishing college?

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Replies To: Is college necessary?

#2 Utael  Icon User is offline

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Re: Is college necessary?

Posted 20 October 2012 - 03:27 PM

A degree only gets you in the door all else is you. That said I know of quite a few places won't look ate you without a degree
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#3 CaldwellYSR  Icon User is offline

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Re: Is college necessary?

Posted 20 October 2012 - 03:28 PM

I know that a degree isn't all. What I'm hoping is that I can at least have an opportunity without a degree. Seems like most places around me are looking for a degree before all else.
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#4 jon.kiparsky  Icon User is online

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Re: Is college necessary?

Posted 20 October 2012 - 04:41 PM

Only one of the developers in my office has a degree in CS. (out of five)
For what that's worth.
Also, for whatever it's worth, I do not have a degree in CS. (I've done a handful of CS courses along the way, and picked up a lot on my own, but no degree, nor plans for one)
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#5 macosxnerd101  Icon User is online

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Re: Is college necessary?

Posted 20 October 2012 - 04:46 PM

This question gets asked a lot. I think a lot of our Experts did a good job answering it here. To summarize, if you have experience and a portfolio, that's generally more important than a college degree, though a degree can help you get into the door.
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#6 The_Programmer-  Icon User is offline

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Re: Is college necessary?

Posted 21 October 2012 - 06:38 PM

I don't get the point in getting a degree. If you've read thousands of books on the topic and you are an expert, then why would you need a degree?
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#7 BenignDesign  Icon User is offline

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Re: Is college necessary?

Posted 22 October 2012 - 04:00 AM

Because many times the person doing the vetting of resumes isn't someone with technical or programming knowledge, it's someone from HR searching for applicants who match their predefined list of bullet points. If that list includes "Bachelor's Degree" and you don't have one, you'll likely end up in the unqualified stack.

There are programming jobs to be had without a degree, but they are harder to find.
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#8 DarenR  Icon User is online

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Re: Is college necessary?

Posted 22 October 2012 - 05:08 AM

As benign said the degree is key for the most part. I know around my city 99.9% of the computer jobs require a degree with out one your shit up a creek without a paddle.
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#9 Sergio Tapia  Icon User is offline

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Re: Is college necessary?

Posted 22 October 2012 - 08:37 AM

People who have one will say you need it.
People who dropped out will say you don't need it.

Blargh. This thread again! :lol:
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#10 CaldwellYSR  Icon User is offline

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Re: Is college necessary?

Posted 22 October 2012 - 08:54 AM

View PostSergio Tapia, on 22 October 2012 - 08:37 AM, said:

People who have one will say you need it.
People who dropped out will say you don't need it.

Blargh. This thread again! :lol:



Very good point there... Sorry for restarting this thread ;)
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#11 AnalyticLunatic  Icon User is offline

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Re: Is college necessary?

Posted 22 October 2012 - 09:44 AM

A degree certifies you have taken classes and should have the basic understanding for subjects in the degree's list field(s). Along with the paper, it also comes with stats such as attendance (will you show up to work, on-time, if at all), and how well you did on those courses (are you an avid learner, or some schmuck who says a 70 is good enough to pass the class, thus you can go play XBOX all night).

A degree is usually the first qualification listed on a jobs requirements, even if it is simply an Associates when they are ideally seeking a Bachelors, it will usually be enough to get you an interview if everything else (resume, portfolio, example projects/work) makes you seem worthwhile.

It used to be that not-having a degree didn't necessarily shut you out of the opportunities, but now things have changed into a much more paper and bureaucratic system.

This post has been edited by AnalyticLunatic: 22 October 2012 - 09:45 AM

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#12 BBeck  Icon User is offline

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Re: Is college necessary?

Posted 22 October 2012 - 10:18 AM

I don't have a degree. I've taken a whole lot of hours including Trig, C, Assembler, Pascal, and a couple other classes. Even in school I was mostly self taught. I think it's fair to say that about 98% of what I know about computers was self taught through reading books. I couldn't even begin to tell you how many computer books I've read, but I think I own about two full size (6 foot) bookcases full of computer books (that doesn't even begin to count the number of non-IT books I have).

I've worked at the top of the industry. I guarantee my resume is going to the top of the stack because of a couple things on it that few people in the world can say they have.

So, how has it affected my career? Well, I can tell you that I value what little college I did take. I taught myself to program at age 12; so you can imagine all of the bad programming habits a 12 year old develops. School helped me see why my code was impossible for others to work with and a real pain for even myself to debug. It also took me to the next level and gave me a firm foundation for everything IT related that I would ever study.

Also, about half of the jobs out there have been closed to me just because I had no degree. I think that still mostly stands even with my resume now, although the big things on my resume just came about within the last couple of jobs. They "might" make an exception for me, but usually my resume isn't even going to be allowed to be submitted without a college degree.

That really hasn't hurt me that much. I mean, for the most part, there were enough jobs that would hire someone with experience over a college degree that it didn't matter that about half wouldn't even look at me. The half that did look at me were generally enough to get a high paying job without a problem.

The "hard part" without a college degree is getting started with no degree and no experience. For me, it meant taking a minimum wage job as a programmer while I was in college (one of several reasons that I dropped out). That gave me enough experience to move on to a little better pay and another IT job within 6 months. And then I've just job hopped over and over again until I got where I am now. I had to work my way up from the bottom of the pay scale, and that was in a better economy.

Today, I would be worried that it's a lot more difficult. First of all, it IS a bad economy. I hear that IT unemployment in my area is 2%. But in the next breath they said that no one wants to hire someone who is currently unemployed. It's ALL about stealing employees from their competitors. (Although the 2% suggests that maybe it's not quite as much of a "rule" as they suggest. On the other hand, it "may" be 2% because any time they have to go for someone who is currently unemployed they outsource the job instead.) But you might find that getting that first job is really tough with or without a college degree. At least the degree implies you know "something".

But truthfully, I think certification would be worth more than a degree, unless they would be considering putting you into management eventually.

Oh! That brings up another point of how it's affected my career. My job title has the word "Senior" in it. But no one in the corporate world seems to be allowed to take a management job without a college degree. I'm not aware of a single manager, except "maybe" a few project managers who don't have a degree. Where I work, you are expected to have an MBA if you are much higher than a project manager and that's a Master's degree. Since I don't even have a BA, I'm a long ways off from having a Masters.

So, the advantage of college is that it shows that someone has tested you on your knowledge and that you probably have a very broad IT knowledge that will help you transfer into other areas as technology changes. It also means you're only 2 years away from an MBA (I think) and maybe a candidate for management.

Certification, will show that you've been tested on what you know and generally is much harder to get in that one area of certification. In college they are likely to blow over it at a high level, where as certification usually shows that you understand minute details of the subject. (Generally, the certification I've seen really requires you to have a couple of years of on the job experience in order to pass because there's just no way to pass the certification questions without knowing obscure things that you're likely to pick up only through experience. Certainly that's what they would like the certificate to prove. I can say that was true with my certification. I passed with flying colors, but it was a lot of obscure questions that even someone with a year of experience more than likely wouldn't know. But I had a whole lot of work experience before I went to go get the certification.

On the other hand, certification is probably not going to get you into management. You'll likely be stuck at a "senior" position.

But with the IT job market being an employer's market (largely due to the poor economy), you really need every edge you can get over the other people trying to get the job. Knowing what you're doing is the biggest part of that, but you can't easily prove that to an HR person interviewing you who knows nothing other than handing you a standard test to "see what you know". A degree could give you a serious edge. And with outsourcing over-seas and what not, you may be competing for the job with someone who has a Master's degree who is over-seas. India is full of people with Master's degrees who have no job to go to.

I might suggest that, if you are falling on economic difficulties, you might consider taking any IT job that will get you started in your chosen area. You may have to take low pay without experience. You should probably "jump" at an offer for a minimum wage job as a Java programmer or whatever. Six months to a year of experience is likely to be enough experience to maybe start looking for something that pays at the bottom end of the Java programmer pay scale (above minimum wage). Two to three years of experience and you are likely to have a solid career started. You might consider going to a less prestigious school for a BA in your spare time when the money once again allows for it. And then you could consider an MBA once you've got the BA. I think an MBA from a prestigious school is going to be more important than the fact that your BA was from "State".

Good luck!

This post has been edited by BBeck: 22 October 2012 - 10:20 AM

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