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Is a Computer Science Degree Worth Getting Anymore?

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the art-history-is-back-on-top dept.

Education 630

snydeq writes "Self-taught technologists are almost always better hires than those with a bachelor's degree in computer science and a huge student loan, writes Andrew Oliver. 'A recruiter recently asked me why employers are so picky. I explained that of the people who earned a computer science degree, most don't know any theory and can't code. Instead, they succeed at putting things on their resume that match keywords. Plus, companies don't consider it their responsibility to provide training or mentoring. In fairness, that's because the scarcity of talent has created a mercenary culture: "Now that my employer paid me to learn a new skill, let me check to see if there's an ad for it on Dice or Craigslist with a higher rate of pay." 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.'"

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I'll take getting a job Alex (5, Informative)

Anrego (830717) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308007)

Self taught and degree arn't mutally exclusive.

Most of the really good programmers I know were largely self taught. They probably did a lot of coding in their spare time through high school, THEN went on to get a degree and finally a job..

This is of course why there is a thing between getting a degree and getting hired .. it's called a job interview! An interest in programming prior to formal education is usually seen as a good quality and will put you ahead of a similar candidate who didn't know what a c++ was till his second year. You probably won't even get in the door at most places without the degree however... so still worth getting one until there is a massive (not just one recruiter) shift in thinking among the HR departments of the world.

Also university isn't just about learning a trade (that's trade school). It's about getting a rounded education in stuff you probably don't give a shit about, building non-technical skills that are important (writing for instance), proving that you can tackle non-trivial problems with minimal supervision, and proving that you can handle a certain level of stress.

Re:I'll take getting a job Alex (4, Interesting)

White Flame (1074973) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308173)

To pull out my standard Slashdot Car Analogy(tm), it's like a mechanic who knew nothing about cars before deciding that fixing cars looked like a stable career and went to trade school but doesn't tinker on his own vehicles because "that's work", vs somebody who's been under the hood of a cars since they were 13.

Sure, those who enter the field later in life might be great at it, but your average worker in that position won't hold a candle to the one who was self-taught through driven interest, especially if they then went on to formal education in the field.

Disclaimer: On the flip side, too many solo hobbyists don't know how to convert their hobby into professional work when it comes to demands, tradeoffs, and communication on the job.

And it can keyword match (4, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308207)

A job requires a bachelors? Well there you go it matches. If they require one in "computers" it also matches.

Also don't whine about keyword matching: Learn it and use it. In many big companies, resumes are filtered by HR. They don't know shit about technical jobs. So what they do is look at the list of requirements given to them, and see if the resume matches. If so, it goes in the "good" pile, if not it isn't sent on.

So if a company asks for experience in TCP/IP and you have networking experience, don't put networking, put TCP/IP. HR doesn't know those two things are related.

This is how it works at the university I work at. Most departments have HR filter their resumes so the manager doing the hiring isn't inundated by crap. Some people resume spam no matter how little their experience is related to the job so you can have literally hundreds to wade through. So they have HR filter. What that means is only resumes that meet the requirements are passed on and THAT means buzzwords have to match.

Like writing code, writing resumes requires using the proper terminology. Don't bitch about it, learn it and do it.

Re:And it can keyword match (2)

russotto (537200) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308393)

This is how it works at the university I work at. Most departments have HR filter their resumes so the manager doing the hiring isn't inundated by crap.

My theory is it doesn't work. HR filters out most of the chaff, but almost all of the wheat, so the manager gets more crap, percentagewise, than he would using random sampling.

Also don't whine about keyword matching: Learn it and use it.

The problem for many of us is we want our resume to be truthful. Sure, we may know we can do the job described, but we don't have every keyword listed, so we won't get it. The less-ethical persons who simply cut-and-paste all the keywords into their resume benefit get the interviews instead.

Re:I'll take getting a job Alex (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41308295)

You probably won't even get in the door at most places without the degree however

Probably true. Thanks to lazy employers and various other circumstances, we're at a point now where perfectly knowledgeable people have to waste their time getting degrees rather than just get tested by the employer. A round of applause for degree mills!

It's about getting a rounded education in stuff you probably don't give a shit about

Often, "getting a rounded education in stuff you probably don't give a shit about" just means that you'll forget most of it almost immediately. Especially if you don't have a fantastic memory. It is difficult to remember something or even try to do it well if it's not interesting or part of your job.

building non-technical skills that are important (writing for instance)

That's just a basic skill, and it's not usually all that's meant by a "rounded education." That usually includes a plethora of useless garbage, and it's why I highly suggest not bothering with university unless you're interested in learning many things (the "rounded education").

and proving that you can handle a certain level of stress.

Then just give someone an hour to dig a large hole in the ground with a spoon and see how they do. It's about as useful, and with the added benefit that they'll have to do physically intensive work!

Re:I'll take getting a job Alex (1)

Anrego (830717) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308339)

Thanks to lazy employers and various other circumstances

Well.. there's lazy and realistic.

Most employers do spend a fair amount of time and energy selecting between a few shortlisted candidates.. however there's no way an employer is going to have time to weed through hundreds of thousands of resumes from every kid who taught himself html and pick out which are bullshit and which are even worth interviewing. A degree makes an (imperfect) was of filtering that list down to a managable number.

That's just a basic skill

Which isn't taught in high school any more. It should be, but that's not the point.

Re:I'll take getting a job Alex (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41308343)

1) aptitude No Ability + Training = Null
2) Like Is coding fun? Code between semesters? Code Before going to school? Try things the school did not cover? Practicing stuff you do not like is work. like music or art you need to practice.
3) Training. Self taught means self directed. doing things the hard way or wrong way, because you never stumbled across the right way. Plus as pointed out it makes getting a job easier.

Is a BS worthless? It is if the holder thought hey programming pays go I will go to trade school, I mean college and learn that.
give me all the baseball, singing, and art lessons you want, I will still suck. even if I pass the classes. the conclusion should be to many people are getting CS degrees would should have picked something else. And There are a lot of good talent not getting degrees. What's up with that?

Full disclosure: Self taught, then went to school.

Re:I'll take getting a job Alex (2, Informative)

macbeth66 (204889) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308375)

Also university isn't just about learning a trade (that's trade school). It's about getting a rounded education in stuff you probably don't give a shit about, building non-technical skills that are important (writing for instance), proving that you can tackle non-trivial problems with minimal supervision, and proving that you can handle a certain level of stress.

Interesting. But then tell me why I find that less than 10% of newly minted CS grads are worth a damn? They can't write ( English ), think critically, express themselves or code their way out of a paper bag?

Give me a guy ( male or female ) who has a degree in anything else, or no degree at all, and worked their way through Corporate America and are articulate enough to describe the problem and I'll hire them. I'll even teach them the specific skills they need for the job. However, I stay clear of Java or Visual Studio only people. They have a truly warped and unrepairable mindset.

Self taught often have gaps in their knowledge (5, Interesting)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308403)

Self taught and degree aren't mutally exclusive ... Also university isn't just about learning a trade (that's trade school). It's about getting a rounded education in stuff you probably don't give a shit about ...

I can't agree more. Learning on your own **and** learning as part of a formal degree program is probably the best. Most purely self taught tend to have gaps in their knowledge. They are just as smart, possessing the same raw talent and I have worked with many and would be happy to work with them again ... but occasionally gaps are evident. There are classes in a degree program that a person has no interest in and they are unlikely to study on their own. However these "uninteresting" topics are sometimes important or may provide an unexpected solution or insight into something you are working on.

I have only met one person who is purely self taught, reads computer science textbooks or the equivalent, and reads such books covering a wide variety of topics comparable to what one sees in a traditional computer science program. When I was working on my degree I borrowed Knuth vol 1-3 from this person, these were not vanity books for a bookshelf, they were all obviously read.

Most people do not posses the discipline to do it on their own. They will benefit from a formal program that forces them to do things they would not otherwise do.

Re:I'll take getting a job Alex (5, Interesting)

frosty_tsm (933163) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308427)

This is just the once-a-month self-taught vs CS-degree article to start a flame war. Seriously, enough is enough.

Self taught people are effective, but sometimes they do things that are traditionally dumb like build their tree upside down. They can come up with creative solutions (because by their nature they think out of the box), but stumble on things a university graduate would find basic because we studied it and they didn't. Many can't do pseudocode or understand what big-O notation means because you never encounter it unless you've taken an algorithms class. On the flip side, non-CS-degree people are behind a large part of the CouchDB and no-SQL movement because they weren't constrained by traditional thought.

Re:I'll take getting a job Alex (4, Insightful)

Mad Merlin (837387) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308447)

A CS degree is a requisite but not sufficient property to make a good developer. They also need a genuine interest in the field, which most often manifests as being self-taught before getting a degree, and continuing to self-teach after getting said degree.

Purely self-taught developers will miss learning a lot of important topics, not because they're difficult, but because they don't realize what they don't know. In particular, data structures (anything beyond arrays), databases (and normal forms) and algorithmic complexity. I don't care how good you are with $language, if you don't understand the above topics like the back of your hand, you're going to make a mess.

On the flip side, purely academic developers are typically going to have knowledge gaps in more practical topics like input validation, version control systems and bug trackers. Again, you can get by without these, but you're going to make a mess (or someone else is going to make a mess of it for you when they exploit it).

Video killed the radio star (2)

2.7182 (819680) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308009)

I wish I had my pre-internet CS back, in many ways. In most not I guess.

Re:Video killed the radio star (3, Insightful)

Potor (658520) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308277)

I'm not a coder, but I did do CS in high school back in the pre-Internet late 80s. We first learned flow charts, then algorithms, then had to program functions on calculators, and finally got out hands on TSR-80s to write BASIC programs. The brilliance of this was that my education was not limited to languages, but rather to techniques and logic. And now I teach philosophy, and have a healthy fascination with computers.

As a professor, I ask my students to do the simplest thing - writing blogs with decent lay-out. They have all the tools they need, and I offer whatever help they request. Yet, this Facebook generation often gets confused with the simplest of tasks, including uploading pictures outside of Facebook. The Internet, obviously enough, has dumbed down everything. Students no longer try to apply techniques, but rather to respond to interfaces.

To bring this back on topic - schools need to teach the logic and the basic techniques - with those, one needs simply to learn a language, which is not that difficult.

Mercenaries (5, Insightful)

asmkm22 (1902712) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308025)

The mercenary culture is a direct result of companies not sufficiently increasing wages for existing employees. If you want to avoid having talent leave, then pay them what the competition is offering, and treat them well. It's pretty simple.

Re:Mercenaries (5, Funny)

Desler (1608317) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308121)

Pay your employees decent ages and treat them well? That's fucking communism! GTFO.

Re:Mercenaries (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41308191)

I think its fair to say loyalty is dead on both sides.

Re:Mercenaries (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41308407)

Loyalty may be dead on both sides, but it's the business that creates that culture, because the business is (more or less) in the position of power. An employee can do little to create an organizational culture that is conductive to loyalty (short of being the CEO, but that's another kettle of fish)- the only thing an employee can do is vote with their feet. It's whoever is in charge of the management that does things like set salaries, policies for fair and timely promotions, employee development, vacation time, quality of the health care, work/life balance, etc etc.

Re:Mercenaries (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41308355)

In addition to not wanting to pay decent wages, companies today have absolutely zero loyalty to their employees. Most companies for which I've worked treat programmers like disposable assets, and will ditch you in a *heartbeat* if someone with immediate experience with (insert latest API buzzword the boss read on the internet) happens by. They created the environment ... so if they don't like it, well ...

Troll? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41308035)


Making grandiose claims with no actual data?

Yup. He probably didn't go to college.

Experience experience experience (1, Informative)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308039)

Thats all people care about. Some HR departments will only use a checklist with CS degree if they are a very large company. But CS graduates are often unemployed after graduation due to the lack of experience in hard times.

What IT needs is someone to fix shit. Not talk about mathmatical models when the server goes down.

If you want to get those nice jobs my advice is to pimp yourself out contracting for 2 years. The work is hard and the pay is mediocre at best but your contacts get HUGE afterwards when your non compete agreement ends and you can make bank. After that only hte most beaucratic companies will weed you out on that piece of paper.

Bullshit bullshit bullshit (5, Informative)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308175)

But CS graduates are often unemployed after graduation due to the lack of experience in hard times.

Um, what? We just went through the worst recession in years, and recent CS grads were still getting jobs without a whole lot of effort.

What IT needs is someone to fix shit. Not talk about mathmatical models when the server goes down.

Now we're knee deep into WTF territory. If you have a CS degree, why the hell are you working an IT job?

Re:Bullshit bullshit bullshit (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308261)

I knew people who graudated when I did in 2009 who still work at call centers since no one will hire htem without experience first.

I am an exchange consultant. Let me tell you. You can't learn that on yoru own or in a computer science program where they teach you calculus instead. You need to know active directory, the quirks of all the versions of Windows, Outlook, AD, Scheme settings, and other garbage. One bad move can take down your whole active directory!

This is why they pay big bucks to bring a consultant in as your $14 an hour $27,000 a year help desk jockey witth that computer science degree had no clue you were supposed to raise your domain first! ... of course he probably didn't know about the prep tools you are supposed to run first and not even a tape backup can help. Just a flush of the whole Acitive Directory Scheme.

I am just one small scope of an enterprise but this is what employers want. You need training afterwards by a consultant company for a month or two to learn this and of course years of experience know AD. CS == IT jobs by the way.

Re:Experience experience experience (1)

sphantom (795286) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308451)

If you want to get those nice jobs my advice is to pimp yourself out contracting for 2 years. The work is hard and the pay is mediocre at best but your contacts get HUGE afterwards when your non compete agreement ends and you can make bank. After that only hte most beaucratic companies will weed you out on that piece of paper.


I took a consulting job with a medium sized services firm when i first moved into a new town and ended up gaining an insane amount of product experience and got to know hundreds of people. After about 4 years of consulting, the amount of effort got old and i took a server job for a company that was happy to grab me quickly (after taking one look at my resume and having a good interview). That job paid me almost double the job that immediately preceded the consulting experience.

Poor article. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41308041)

Poorly written and full of absurd sweeping generalizations.

Three questions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41308043)

Is a student loan an inverse indicator of future success? Does that mean that doctors with highest debt are the worst? Can I mark this article "Troll"?

Re:Three questions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41308099)

You can. Add the tag "troll" below the summary.

Is Betteridge's Law worth bringing up in response? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41308049)

Same answer for both.

CS != Coding (5, Insightful)

Strider- (39683) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308051)

People are making a fundamental error in terminology here. If you're looking to hire someone for a programming job, then you shouldn't be looking at someone with a CS degree. Computer Science is not about coding or programming, it's about the practices behind it. If you want a coder, go hire a code monkey from your local technical college. If you want someone to design the software, make sure it's sane, and then hand it off to a code monkey, then hire a CS grad.

Re:CS != Coding (4, Informative)

JoeDuncan (874519) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308077)

I second this. This is the crucial point.
Would mod you up if I had any points...

Re:CS != Coding (5, Insightful)

Anrego (830717) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308141)

Personally I don't think they should be decoupled.

My experience has been most people out of uni with a CS degree can't do either well. I'd rather someone in an architect role who worked their way up from code monkey and thus has a solid foundation in the realities of actual software projects (rather than someone spewing stuff out from their design patterns book).

Re:CS != Coding (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41308161)

If you want to understand how and why a compiler works, and how to build one, CS is for you.

If you just want to use one, it's probably not.

Re:CS != Coding (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41308149)

This is how it should work. If only it were true.

People with degrees, rather than understanding software engineering and architecture, (sorta) know a bunch of algorithms from various sub-fields, most of them stuff they'll never use. Occasionally you'll find one with a strong background in language theory, which can be transitioned, but that's the best case.

Learn to code so you can get a junior level position. Get a degree so HR will let you interview for the junior level position. Get a junior level position so you can actually learn how to develop software. That's the way it works today.

Re:CS != Coding (4, Interesting)

mooingyak (720677) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308201)

People are making a fundamental error in terminology here. If you're looking to hire someone for a programming job, then you shouldn't be looking at someone with a CS degree. Computer Science is not about coding or programming, it's about the practices behind it. If you want a coder, go hire a code monkey from your local technical college. If you want someone to design the software, make sure it's sane, and then hand it off to a code monkey, then hire a CS grad.

I've met some guys who were decent coders but not very good designers, but I've never once encountered the opposite. I haven't seen much in the way of correlation between lack or presence of a degree.

Re:CS != Coding (2)

bp2179 (765697) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308211)

I concur. I am in my second year of obtaining my CS/Math degree w/ teaching cert. I get the same question, student: oooh, you can write programs. me: Nope, I don't like to program student: wait, then why are you getting a CS degree me: because I want to be more rounded around the science of computers and, and CIS or tech school is for coders student: you don't know what you are talking about. I get it at least once a week at the university (in the Engineering/Comp Sci building no less) I want to teach CS on a high school level, since jobs are scarce, and I cannot do it without a degree. This is more of a backup to working for DoD as my university has a NSA grant and certification. I learn pentesting and anything else I see that is relevant to Comp Security in my spare time (usually over the summer)

Re:CS != Coding (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41308243)

If you want someone to design the software, make sure it's sane, then hand it off to a code monkey, hire someone language-agnostic with 10+ years of experience that hasn't gone down the management route. If you want someone to use state machines when an if/then/else would work and use Factory patterns for unsigned ints, hire that fresh CS grad with 4 years (Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, and Senior) of OOP experience.

Re:CS != Coding (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41308271)

One of my lecturers said, "Well, one advantage we have over hackers is a deep understanding of data structures and algorithms."

Re:CS != Coding (3, Insightful)

AchilleTalon (540925) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308279)

I second too, and I would like to add the universities do not have a mission to teach about industry products. Their mission is to transfer universal skills applicable in many fields and the state of the art knowledge about a specific field. Teaching about specific products is a dead end for universities. Employers seeking for graduates with a knowledge of specific products just don't understand what a university grade is and hence, underestimate the value of these candidates by making their own judgement on unrelated points.

Teaching about a specific product is the employer's responsability. And if your staff quit after that, as many others already said, probably you are, again, underestimating the value of your employees.

Think about it two seconds. If universities are to teach specific products, which ones should they pick? Are they supposed to decide what products the industry must use in accordance of their own teaching or the reverse, must the industry decide what product a university must teach to conform to their own requirements? And what about the student learning specific products for which there is no job available?

Re:CS != Coding (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41308315)

This is ridiculous. The people who understand the languages and practice them daily know them best.

Computer science is really only useful for research and invention. It's really becoming quite an impractical degree.

Disagree. (1)

raehl (609729) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308435)

It depends what kind of programming you want done. If you have code monkey coding you want done, then maybe you're OK. But if you really want PROGRAMMING done, you want someone who understands the practices. There are many, many, many programming jobs I've been on or needed others to do where correct application of the practices was necessary for a good final product. That's especially true when you're on larger projects where components and/or people need to work together, or on projects where you have data that needs to be associated/manipulated in interesting ways.

As a person that has hired a lot of developers-- (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41308053)

I would not hire anybody who is "Self Taught". In fact, I looked at schools, GPA, the whole shebang. I want to see that someone has the discipline to go through the process, work with others, and actually see something through to completion.

Tattoos, piercings, etc-- Didn't matter, I had lots of good people that may look funky. Degree from a good school- Mandatory.

Your mileage may vary, but I think you deserve to hear the truth from somebody that has actually hired developers and managed them.

Re:As a person that has hired a lot of developers- (2)

pwizard2 (920421) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308361)

What if an applicant had a decent portfolio/resume but no degree? We all have to start somewhere.

Re:As a person that has hired a lot of developers- (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41308389)

You are so right, because there is nothing that lets you work with others or see something through to completion other than going to school.

Re:As a person that has hired a lot of developers- (2)

barjam (37372) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308391)

I have been doing this a long time. Very, very few companies care about degrees once you have a certain amount of experience.

Re:As a person that has hired a lot of developers- (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41308425)

I would not hire anybody who is "Self Taught".

Then you're just another lazy employer that refuses to actually evaluate potential employees and instead chooses to rely on degrees. This is especially idiotic if they can show you that they know what they're doing and they have the required skills. At that point, a degree should not matter.

Re:As a person that has hired a lot of developers- (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308439)

I would not hire anybody who is "Self Taught"... etc

Ambiguous criterion detected.
Case the criterion fails to answer: having a formal degree in a non related field, with relevant experience for the position being self-taught (my case: graduated physics, have 20+ years professing as a software engineer/programmer, team lead, tech manager, etc).

No (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41308055)

These days, I'd recommend getting a degree in "Stupid and pointless article posts to Slashdot" What do you think, Soulskill, know anything about that?

Re:No (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41308115)

Is a journalist degree worth getting anymore?

Worst Article Ever (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41308057)

Go to college for your degree and teach yourself along the way.

You'll have a better chance getting the interview with a degree and teaching yourself will get you the job.


Doy what is piece of paper worth in todays dollars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41308059)

Newz i can uz 2 snooz! U looz!

Engineering was always a better bet.. (5, Interesting)

xtal (49134) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308067)

If you've got the chops for a real CS degree, you have largely the same options open for you with an electrical engineering degree, and a lot of other ones you'd be excluded from, too.

If you want to do applied math.. well.. I'd get a math degree and take some CS courses to bolster the programming. Discrete mathematics is just that. Math degrees aren't that common, and IIRC, sought after, especially in finance and statistical analysis.

CS is in an awkward spot. It never was meant to be a trade degree.. somewhere along the lines it was expected to be one. Hilarity did not ensue.


Re:Engineering was always a better bet.. (4, Insightful)

Dogbertius (1333565) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308171)

I'm still surprised that there are /.'ers cannot distinguish between the degree/career mappings that be. At least in Canada and the USA

-Learn: Active directory, Windows or UNIX servers, user management, e-mail server management, virus removal, setting up routers and VPN
-Jobs: IT help desk, corporate IT, call centres

Comp Sci:
-Learn: Discrete math, basic programming, databases and DB theory, algorithm design, basic physics,
-Jobs: University/academia, entry-level programming jobs

Engineering (Electrical and Computer):
-Learn: Calculus, discrete math, electrical circuits, electronics, materials, advanced physics, chemistry, economics
-Jobs: advanced programming/development jobs, embedded dev, chip fabrication, academia

Most IT programs in Canada are 2-year full-time/accelerated programs, while CS is a full-time 4 year program, and engineering is a 4-5 year double-full-time program. I still laugh when people are surprised that comp-sci majors know shit about removing viruses from PCs, while the engineering and IT students have been removing and even MAKING viruses since elementary school (ie: before they were 13 years old).

Sidelines (1)

betterprimate (2679747) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308071)

I think if you already have the real world experience, obtaining a CS degrees /may/ help your corp cred. Is this advisable? I don't know.

You are certainly going to have to do more on the sidelines to make your degree applicable.

YES (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41308073)

Next question...

Bullshit (1)

AdamStarks (2634757) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308081)

I wouldn't be surprised if your run-of-the-mill CS graduate wasn't as skilled as your average self-taught software engineer. The existence of a degree will mean that more people that aren't as deeply into it will enter the workforce, so yeah, there'll be a certain amount of watering down. But universities also do put out some skilled programmers, and so as the overall number of programmers becomes much higher, so does the overall number of skilled programmers.

In other words, there aren't enough self-taught programmers out there to fill every job, so limiting yourself to them only harms your chances of finding the right fit.

Apples and Oranges? (4, Insightful)

SA_Democrat (682459) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308085)

The Author doesn't seem to make the point that he's trying to make. Computer Science degrees may not be a good predictor for coding in language-of-the-week, but computer scientists would not make the kind of dumb rookie errors that you see every day in the real world. I still shudder about a self-taught contractor who wasted weeks trying to write a sort. I'm surprised that an article as poor as this one made the front page.


oldhack (1037484) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308089)

See subject.

A CS Degree is 4 Years to Teach Yourself (0)

bit trollent (824666) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308093)

For me, earning computer science degree was a scheme to get my parents to let me screw around and teach myself to code while finding my own way for 4 years.

If you graduate from high school and spend the next few years living off your parents while screwing around on your college, you'll find yourself cut off very quickly. If you do the same thing, but also earn a computer science degree, then your parents are satisfied that you aren't just aimlessly drifting through life.

If I hadn't had 4 years of time to really tinker with my computer I doubt I'd be half the coder I am today.

If you spend 4 years studying computer science, and got most of your learning from a classroom, then unless you went to a really good school, you are screwed. Hurry up and learn something marketable.

Derp? (4, Informative)

kelemvor4 (1980226) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308097)

[quote] that's because the scarcity of talent[/quote] Hogwash, no such scarcity exists. There is a scarcity of talented programmers that will work for minimum wage (inside the U.S.). But that's not really the same thing now, is it?

Description of most of my CS classes (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41308109)

I'm doing Bachleor's of CS now. In most CS classes I do the following: Look left, look right, look at palm, apply palm to face. I know most of these clowns won't make it to the end, but the fear of some making it is what keeps me up at night. To put it gently, the piece of paper is not enough. CS seems like one of the fields were you always need to take the concepts you learn, apply them, and take them further. You also learn more things not covered in the course, but that are in your book. Then you learn things not in the book. If you expect the average CS curriculum to turn you into a genius, then you have a problem. In addition to my studies, I provide supplemental in class tutoring in several CS courses at local community college. Now in their defense a lot of people in those classes are not CS, usually you get Engineers, and those that are usually have dreams of making video games because playing them is all they do with their time. But the most bizarre question I get after they learn a simple program is: "What can I do with this?" It's like you show a cavemen how to make fire, and they ask you: "What can I do with this fire?" It's like showing a cavemen the wheel and having them remark: "So what?" I just don't know how to answer this question properly. I have tried several responses.

Re:Description of most of my CS classes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41308415)

The problem with a CS degree is that plagiarism is rampant in a lot of schools. Professors would easily catch 30-40% of students in the *pre-internet* era. Now, it's nearly impossible to give an assignment which isn't posted on 100 websites, and a 3-hour proctored exam isn't long enough to test students for complex problems. You see these fools in the interviews, and they can't solve the simplest problems, since they've been cutting and pasting for the past 4 years. I ask a simple problem: remove the 0's from an array in place, in order-N time. 5 lines of code. The simplest question that can be considered an algorithm. It fails 50% of subjects.

Professors need to be aggressive with plagarism. The first is an F for the assignment and a warning, the second fails the class. The third in four years gets you expelled.

Mutually exclusive? (3, Interesting)

Axalon (919693) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308111)

There are self-taught geniuses, and there are incompetent people with CS degrees. There are also "self-taught" people who think they're badass because they've taught themselves PHP and Javascript and lurk on IRC channels but can't do crap outside their comfort zone and there are people with degrees that used every resource available to them to become experts in their field. In other words, where they learned their stuff doesn't matter, but rather, what they've learned and how passionate they are about knowing their field. A self-taught person will almost surely benefit from learning in an academic setting, provided you're not going to some joke school. Universities help you learn by guiding your learning and giving you access to resources and experts in the field, but they don't instantly make you a master of the material. That's on the student. Yes, being self taught implies that the person has the drive to learn, but it's also limited by how well they can steer their learning. And that's what schools and professors are for.

Fuck this asshat (5, Informative)

Desler (1608317) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308113)

In fairness, that's because the scarcity of talent has created a mercenary culture: "Now that my employer paid me to learn a new skill, let me check to see if there's an ad for it on Dice or Craigslist with a higher rate of pay."

Actually, in true fairness people do this because most companies have no loyalty to their engineers are more than willing to ship their jobs overseas or give it to some less experience person so that they can pay the person shit wages while overworking them.

Times must've changed (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41308123)

Most schools suck at teaching theory and aren't great at Java instruction, either.

My computer courses at University in the 80s:

Year 1: Structured programming using Pascal, Business programming using Cobol (course was half teaching the language, half theory)

Year 2-4: Data Structures, Operating Systems, Database Management, Graphics, Numerical Analysis, Compilers, Real-Time Systems, Software Engineering, ...

Every course that required programming used a different language, usually the prof would say something like "in this course we'll use C, for those of you not familiar with C, I'll give a half-hour introduction at the beginning of next class." People would groan and say "how can we learn a new language in half an hour?" The prof would say "you learn languages on your own by reading the manual, how do you think it works on the job?!"

I came out of University loaded to the brim with theory, that's the whole point of "Science" in "Computer Science." And the Uni placed us in internship programs where we got real-life experience... Maybe your Uni/college is doing it wrong?

Re:Times must've changed (1)

spinozaq (409589) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308467)

Not really. There are just a lot schools teaching a curriculum now that they call "CS", that isn't CS. I graduated in 2002 and my experience with college appears to be similar to yours.

When I'm filtering applicants. I first make sure their degree is from a place that actually teaches CS. Then I move on to experience if it's not an entry level position. An applicant isn't likely to make it past the interview if they don't have an outside interest in technology or programming. Even with the CS degree, I need people who never stop self teaching.

cost (5, Interesting)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308125)

Of course it's worth getting; assuming the cost of the education is low enough. I believe the average person goes through 3 career changes in the course of his/her life. That's about 16 years in the field, give or take. We'll say the average income in the field is $50,000 -- just for comparison's sake. And let's say your education costs $80,000 (a not unreasonable sum, considering how quickly costs are ballooning). Now obviously because of interest rates and taxes and whatnot, this is an overly-simplistic estimate and I won't consider those -- but given the above, you'd be paying 10% of your income back over the expected life of your career.

The real question you have to ask is -- is the increase in income greater than the cost of the education? Now, obviously, the above numbers are overly simplistic, but it's a starting point to a more in depth analysis. I think you'll find that when all the variables are taken into account, a college education only delivers a marginal benefit to your overall quality of life compared to either trying to get your foot in the door without one, or doing a job that doesn't require one. At least in my country (the United States), with the middle class rapidly imploding due to greed and other factors... you probably want every edge you can get. Work the numbers carefully; If you miscalculate, your financial future is grim.

Re:cost (3, Interesting)

xtal (49134) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308381)

The analysis is more clouded than the pundits think.

If you are average to slightly above, and risk-adverse, getting a degree is a logical choice.

If you are above average, and entrepreneurial, chances are you will succeed no matter what you do. If the opportunity cost is not to high, a degree is a good bet.

Those who do well with degrees are more likely to do well without them, on a different path - and that makes the analysis more difficult, as the variable is the opportunity cost while in school.

Many moons ago now I thought about CS or physics but did EE instead. It was probably harder but left open doors to management and different careers that would not have been there otherwise. My sister was going to do Chemistry but I persuaded her to do do Chemical Engineering instead. That opened up doors to a PhD in Nuclear Engineering that would not have otherwise been there in a pure science track.

If you want the practical, and you don't have a trust fund, then do what's practical, and that's engineering in a post-secondary, technology environment. If you have an engineering degree and are personable, you will not want for a job.

Do what you love, not what is easy, the life will follow. Not my words but wise ones.

What do you want to do with your life? (3, Informative)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308133)

Sure you can do coding without a college degree, and make a good living. Quite a few people I know do that.

BUT if you want to be more than a code monkey writing simple procedural stuff for an insurance company, and do more interesting work that requires solving hard problems then that degree and more besides are going to be needed.

The guys at Google working on stuff like image search need everything they can get from at least a MS in CS or math. PhD preferred.

It is possible to self-teach to that level, but it is very very rare.

Re:What do you want to do with your life? (1)

tokencode (1952944) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308347)

The degree is not needed to become more than a "code monkey". I dropped out of college while getting a CS degree and it has not hindered me one bit. In fact it was quite possibly one of the best decisions of my life.

BS could be more than a waste of time ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41308137)

A CS degree means that your mind are tough enough to support long hours of boring classes. OK, just kidding. Although I had a couple of years of experience in programming before I applied to a college education CS I can't just say that I haven't learnt anything. In addition to CS theory (I think it helps) I studied some useful things like Psychology, Entrepeneurship abilities, Mandarin Chinese (It is useful, believe me), and the last but not the least, I went to a lot of parties and drunk lots of beer.

What I want to say is that the Univesity environment helped me to open my eyes to world problems. I can't imagine my life without a college education. Life isn't just about coding, believe me. It's hard to believe if you do it for living.

The university academical environment is not for everyone at all. There are many programmers that would feel sucks at the univesity enviroment. That's ok, different choices for differente people.

Software engineering (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41308147)

is just 1 subset of computer science. And those who got a degree and can't code, were they from a top 10 school with a good GPA? Anyone can just barely pass, have to keep taking summer courses, repeat courses 3 or 4 times, and finally get their degree. Now if you showed me a grad from CMU with a 3.0+ GPA who couldn't do code or theory, then we have issues...

Proper engineering (1)

jones_supa (887896) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308155)

I assume that a fellow with a degree knows more about how to engineer things properly rather than just hack something together.

No, No, Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41308163)

Speaking as someone who holds a computer science degree, no, it is certainly not worth getting, don't even bother.
Translation: The fewer of us there are (lower supply), the more we degree holders will be paid (higher demand).

Speaking as a business owner, no, it's certainly not worth getting, don't even bother.
Translation: If you are skilled (can produce value for me), but don't have the degree (lower demand for your skills), the less I have to pay you.

Speaking from your best interest, yes, get the degree. Why you should do so is left as an exercise for the reader.

You'll just end up training your H1B replacement (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41308169)

Why bother?

New Skill SHOULD == More Pay (4, Insightful)

HapSlappy_2222 (1089149) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308193)

"Now that my employer paid me to learn a new skill, let me check to see if there's an ad for it on Dice or Craigslist with a higher rate of pay."

Or, you know, my employer could pay me what I'm worth now that I have expertise with this new skill. You paid for the training. Great, thanks; much appreciated. Now pay me the new salary I can command, too. Them's the breaks. You needed the skill to be brought on board, and I learned it, now pay for it. Consider it an investment in a better employee.

I went in to ask for a raise years ago, having just graduated with my (you guessed it) CS degree, and also now that I had many more responsibilities and was travelling for the company.

I was told that "travel is a perk, and your responsibilities are the logical progression of your position. We can't afford to give you that large of a raise." So I found someone who could. Best job I ever had, but below a certain threshold, the money really did matter.

Honest employers realize this, and while everybody likes to save a few bucks, the best employers are the ones who care. It's a rare gift when you work for one.

Re:New Skill SHOULD == More Pay (1)

Desler (1608317) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308257)

Exactly. It's not the employee's fault for wanting to be paid equivalent to their worth. You as an employer want to underpay me? Well you better be one hell of a place to work for and have other perks to make up for it otherwise I'm going to naturally find a new job. I've never understood the hypocrisy why it's okay for executives to jump around to get promotions and better pay but us plebes are given shit for doing the same thing and painted as being disloyal.

Yes (1)

Combuchan (123208) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308205)

Having just gone through an exhausting whirlwind of a job hunt in the bay area, I would say, yes, absolutely, a degree in CS is worthwhile. I was eliminated from consideration for a good number of positions because I did not have a CS degree and I was asked about having one in many phone screens and interviews. The act of being able to do pen-and-paper/whiteboard programming tests (something you'll get a lot of in CS classes) and talk about what I'm doing with some level of competence was key to my successful prospects. That, and working with people in paired programming sessions/being a nice guy helped too, something you'll probably get experience with in CS classes as well.

In the very-much-non-tech-town I am from, Phoenix, I was asked about having a degree once. This may be one of those things that varies on your area, but for areas that matter (here, probably a few select cities elsewhere) it would be advantageous to have one.

And if you think there aren't companies that feel the need to train you, that's ridiculous. I took what is all intents and purposes an entry level Ruby on Rails job after over a decade in PHP and some past (mostly 3 or 4 years ago) RoR experience. There are good companies that will hire good programmers regardless of what languages they know--I know this because I am working for one now. You do have to find them tho.

motives (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41308223)

step 1: tell everybody not to get a cs degree
step 2: ????
step 3: profit on the scarcity of your cs degree

Computer Science degree is absolutely needed. (5, Insightful)

sageres (561626) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308233)

Self-taught, learned Basic, Pascal, C back in High School. Got a job and career without a degree, wanted to get a degree, thirteen years after high-school eventually got Computer Science degree.
From that perspective I can tell you that it only made me a thinking programmer (not just a coder), a program designer. Topics such as asymptotic analysis are indispensable. Those who do not have such a degree, I found them to be lacking in code quality.
Computer Science degree is absolutely needed.

Re:Computer Science degree is absolutely needed. (1)

tokencode (1952944) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308419)

I completely disagree. Most of the talented programmers and network engineers I have worked with over the years have not had degrees. With so many examples of highly successful programmers and engineers without degrees, I find it intellectually dishonest to claim that it is "absolutely needed"

CS is no different from Engineering in this regard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41308247)

Freshly minted engineers of every stripe are virtually useless when first come out of school. That is nothing particularly new either. This is not really the fault of academia either. There are simply too many variations in the skill set required by potential employers to try to custom fit each perfectly. Does that make a self-taught engineer/machinest/mechanic/technician better than an engineer with a degree? Only in as much as the particular skillset matches the particular job opening. If nothing else, CS/Engineering degrees represent a rite of passage--it indicates to a potential employer that you have been exposed to some level of technical instruction and have achieved some mastery of it. It is likely a person with a CS or engineering degree will be more versatile and creative, but not necessarily more productive or capable.

What is really missing is simple Java/C/C#/C++ programming as a trade. Much like machinists learn just enough mathematics to do their jobs, two-year coders could be taught just enough about algorithms and discrete math in order to do the job. Because, let's face it...if you are programming today, you are likely using libraries for most everything and just writing enough code to tie the output of one call to the input of another. To do otherwise is to reinvent the wheel. That is the sort of thing that well motivated tradespeople can do all day long and with focus and consistency that would put many CS degree holders to shame. It is only the air of mystery that hovers over the curriculum that keeps "non-math" people from entering the field. And if you think that tradespeople lack the brainpower to do most of your jobs, try trading places with a CNC mill or lathe operator some time. Or maybe watch a mechanic diagnose an engine or transmission problem.

Most CS people are not thinking great thoughts, deriving algorithms from scratch, or coding to bare metal. They are stacking Legos. And I think that gets at the heart of the question. A self-taught and motivated Lego stacker might be a better fit than an inexperienced CS graduate, but a better option would be to have a certificate or technology degree with a practical programming focus.

CS is only part of it (1)

PhasmatisApparatus (1086395) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308267)

A CS degree, and consequently most CS graduates, are hyperfocused on one aspect of software development: algorithms and data structures. Unless you're making AAA games, your learning should not end or begin there. Any other, more useful, parts of software development (design patterns, TDD, etc.) fall by the wayside because so much time is spent familiarizing the students with, well, programming language and OOP basics. However, since the CS degree is the closest thing to a "software development degree", employeers will continue to require it for even the most basic programming jobs. I don't expect the complaints about CS degree holding aplicants that can't fizzbuzz ending anytime soon, either.

Look in the mirror, Andy (1, Troll)

Orp (6583) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308273)

Andrew C. Oliver is a professional cat herder who moonlights as a software consultant. He started programming when he was 8 and cut his teeth on GW Basic, BASICA, and dBase III+. He is most known for founding the POI project, which is now hosted at Apache. He also was one of the early developers at JBoss before it merged with Red Hat. He is a former board member and current helper at the Open Source Initiative. He is president and founder of Open Software Integrators, a professional services firm with offices in Durham, N.C., and Chicago, Ill.

And he has a degree in computer science.

Re:Look in the mirror, Andy (0)

Orp (6583) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308307)

Wait, I'm an idiot. He specifically says he doesn't have a degree. Stupid small font. Carry on.

Re:Look in the mirror, Andy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41308341)

From TFA: (3rd paragraph)

"I don't have a computer science degree, though I've worked at big-name companies and founded my own firm."

Most self-taught aren't very good either (2, Insightful)

jbplou (732414) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308303)

When I hire I find most self taught aren't very good either. I think those with a degree generally have better breadth and depth with different technologies and theories. This is partially because a degree forces you to do some things you aren't interested in. But if you're looking for corporate developers go with information systems majors. Databases design and applied programming languages are more useful to most internal business analyst/developer types than compiler design, Assembler language, and even C.

I am a self-taught engineer you insensiti...oh! (1)

eagee (1308589) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308313)

What this really boils down to is the fact that a lot of software development is a craft, and not a science. Schools don't teach the craft of programming, hell with a four year degree you barely touch on the basics. Figuring that out is something we're left to do on our own and it's largely up to experience to make that happen. So the reason self-taught developers seem preferable is because there's a certain comfort in knowing that we do this stuff for fun - but that never has been or ever will be mutually exclusive to the self taught. I've known awful self taught programmers, and I've known incredible programmers with a doctorate. It's all down to circumstance, common sense, individual strengths, and interests. There's a lot of reasons people get computer science degrees, not all of which are "because I fucking love it!", which is why it's not all that useful when picking out a candidate.

It depends (1)

erraticus (2461588) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308323)

No if you just want to sit to code like a monkey on whatever tecnology the industry is developing at a given moment.

Article is fact-free (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308335)

Look at all of us here, taking the time to discuss a proposition put forth by an article that didn't even bother to cite one fact or statistic in favor of its premise. The only near-exception is the claim that unemployment in the "technology sector" is 5% which offers no insight into any potential differences between degreed vs. non-degreed workers.

Nothing to see here, move along.

Funny (1)

Titan1080 (1328519) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308337)

That's funny; I've been a 'self taught technologist' since about 1992, and I am seriously considering a CS degree...

Most don't know any theory... (2)

c9brown (1828396) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308349)

...Then they didn't go to Waterloo, or they did but didn't pass. I have to wonder how low the bar is for your typical college CS degree is, if that statement can hold ANY water at all.

Data structures, algorithm theory and design fundamentals, run time analysis, software engineering paradigms, formal languages and parsing theory, complexity and computability, formal logic, operating system fundamentals, compiler fundamentals, matrix algebra and vector calculus are just some of the REQUIRED courses for a CS degree at Waterloo. Then you have to pass a bunch more courses of your choosing.

Don't other degrees require graduates to have studied similar topics? While you could learn these things on your own, its easier with a prof, TAs, peers, structured schedules, etc... (IMO expensive but worth it)

He is probably suck at hiring (1)

zome (546331) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308367)

I used to work in a team of 12 people. About half of them have master degree in CS. The rest have BS in CS or ECE. I have never worked in the better team. Pretty much everybody knows, say, not only what are getter and setter, but also when to use them. When someone doesn't really know what others are talking about, they ask a bit and do research on those things on their own, which is what I think a habit they got from grad school.

I joined that team when it is newly formed. The manager has all the freedom and time to choose people he really wanted. He did a great job hiring this staffs.

That was 6 years ago. Unfortunately most people went for greater things, including that manager and me, and that team is now just another team in the company.

Both sides are wrong (3, Interesting)

gtaluvit (218726) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308387)

Having a degree doesn't make you a great coder and neither does being self taught. Talent and understanding big picture concepts are what makes a great coder. If you don't have either of these by age 30, then having a degree or not doesn't matter as you're useless to all but the most bloated of organizations.

If you are a hot shot coder fresh out of high school and understand how to follow a schedule, estimate hours, generate unit tests, use an automated build process, use revision control, capture requirements, and can generate readable documentation, then you are FAR FAR beyond where most self-taught people are.

If you have a brand spanking new CS, SE, CE, IT degree and can do all of those things above but understand why compiler errors are typically on the line following the error, why C++ link lines need the libs in a specific order, why Java and .Net apps are trivial to disassemble, and have actually wrote something on your own that wasn't part of school to solve a problem you have, then you are FAR FAR beyond where most young people with a degree are.

If either are the case, contact me cause I would probably hire you.

Note: After age 30 or so, neither of these matter as you should have enough experience in the real world to do all of it.

Is a Gym Membership worth getting anymore? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41308409)

It's a silly question... the answer depends on the motivations and character of the individual. Just to have a piece of paper to wave at potential employers, probably not. As something that might get you started in a long (20 plus years) program of study that should be rewarded with good paying jobs along the way, yes, if you choose wisely. Avoid online programs for now, they're not ready for prime time yet.

Software Engineering as a real discipline (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41308421)

The IEEE and a number of states are working toward getting Software Engineering to be recognized as a real engineering discipline, with a PE available for those working in the field. Granted, programming is only a part of software engineering (an important, but not only part). As an IEEE member and software engineer (without degree), I can appreciate what is involved in this move. My friend Dr. Gary Blank (IEEE VP and presidential candidate in this year's IEEE election being held right now) is very keen on making this happen for real over the next couple of years, and has been working diligently toward that for several years now already.

At the company I work for, we generally don't hire new CS grads, with some exceptions - those with prior experience, or who have completed a successful internship with us. All of our new hires have to "hit the ground running" because of the demands of our business. I was a new hire just under a year ago, and felt like I had to strap on the rocket-powered roller skates the first couple of weeks on the job - and I have 30 years experience as a software professional. No sitting on your laurels here! Since then, all of the new hires who are showing a successful transition into the organization that I have observed have been totally competent at their jobs, and able to adapt to new requirements quickly and without complaint. Instead of someone saying "I can't do that - I don't know language X or system Y", they just dig in, learn the language/system, and apply it to solving the problem at hand. One thing that helps is that everyone here seems willing to help people get up to speed as quickly as possible. One intern-turned-employee after he got is CS degree earlier in the year helped me tremendously in getting my development environment sorted out with our various hardware emulators and such. I've helped others with advanced Linux development techniques, and am now mentoring a young engineer in formal modeling practices and advanced C++ coding techniques. He has a CS degree, quite a bit of experience in the company, and writes competent code, but his formal engineering training is sadly lacking - a lack I am trying to remediate now. He seems very receptive to what I am trying to teach him, so this will probably turn out well for him, me (he is helping me tackle a really hard/complex job in real-time predictive analytics of system performance), and the company.

More than just the language de jour.. (4, Interesting)

dthanna (1294016) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308433)

The professors at the university I went to specifically told us that they were not there to teach us how to program in a particular language. But to give us the fundamentals to program in any language that we needed to. If you need to program in x, go buy a book on x and learn the language. And, to make that point, we were thrown at Pascal (all the data structures classes), ADA, C (networking, operating systems), C++ (OOP) , COBOL, databases, a couple flavors of assembler, file systems (I can still do block calculations) computers and law, and, to top things off, PostScript. I also was able to pick up a minor in mathematics, classes on Russian history, Western Civ., communications, economics, physics, chemistry and all that other 'crap' that is to make you a well rounded egghead. Because of that expanded world-view, I can actually work with my counterparts in India and treat them like human beings. (For everyone that is bemoaning the fact that jobs are going over there - don't blame the Indians - they want the same thing for their families as you do - food on the table, roof over their head, clothes on there back and a better life for their children. Blame your local politicians and business leaders).

Because of the way they designed the CS environment, and how they approached the material, I was able to build stuff that ran circles around the 'self taught' folks. Sure, we can build a linked list and tree in COBOL 85 to do fast data lookups (COBOL didn't support pointers in that release, but it has this really good array system). I understand the multiple tree structures inside of a PDF - and how the file actually organized as it is written to disk.

I have a CS degree.. I work in IT... and to be honest, I rarely use the programming skills to actually program - most of what I did was in PostScript when I did program. But, I've also had to learn Python, JavaScript, Visual Basic, 370 Assembler, JCL, and SAS when the need arose. Lately what I've needed to do is advise other folks on good practices vs. bad. Talk to the engineering departments at my vendors how their systems work (or don't) .. sometimes with an uncanny insight into how their systems were actually programmed (I'll bet Bob wrote this at 3AM) hopefully with some great ideas on how to make their better. I can translate business rules into software rules (four years coding pension plans) and generally understand why business operates the way they do. Finally, I made some great friends there. The kind of friends that are still friends 20 years later.

Yea, at least for me, the CS degree was worth it.

CS is not = IT and IT needs more trades based lern (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308455)

CS is not = IT and IT needs more trades based learning with on the job learning / apprenticeship.

apprenticeship not tied to degrees are needed and can mix in with tech schools / Community Colleges. internships are a mixed bag and they should be not tied to College.

Experience and education (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41308457)

I review a lot of resumes and perform a lot of interviews for CS jobs. I value both experience and education. If you're a recent grad, don't try to feed me the argument that you have no experience because you just finished school. I get candidates who took it upon themselves to do their own projects at home. Proving that you're motivated goes a long way with me. Resting on a degree and assuming that alone will get you a job gets you no where with me.

when all things are equal (1)

db10 (740174) | more than 2 years ago | (#41308461)

the guy that invested time, effort, and money in a degree will get the job. That's 100% makes it worthwhile. Employers would like you to think that you're easily replaced, the reality is quite different.

Speaking as successful self taught (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41308463)

Get a degree, I'm self taught, I'm very very successful and sought after. HOWEVER it was touch and go many times simply because I was filtered by HR for not having a degree. Even now, I'm sought after by companies that have hired me before or from people that know me, but can't get even a low level job in any company that say "degree level".

PhD's are not worth it, the basic degree is. I know it sucks but lots of companies have HR that simply filter by degree as the first phase in recruiting.

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