Computer Science Degree or Self Learn?

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alex123711
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Joined: Fri May 15, 2020 8:33 pm

Computer Science Degree or Self Learn?

Post by alex123711 »

Have read conflicting opinions on whether a degree in computer science is worthwhile or not, some say it's mostly outdated and a waste of time as employers only care about projects/ experience others say that is a pipe dream and you won't get a foot in the door without at least a degree. Makes it difficult to make a decision either way. What is the best option?

Scott 2
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Re: Computer Science Degree or Self Learn?

Post by Scott 2 »

It depends what you want to do. If the decision is purely financial, and you are starting with no higher education, a degree doesn't make sense.

If you want to work on the developing the hottest AI algorithms, you might need a PhD.

GreenGentleman
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Re: Computer Science Degree or Self Learn?

Post by GreenGentleman »

Yeah, I agree with Scott, it really depends on your goals. Its very helpful for specialized roles (AI is the hot thing right now), CS research or you want to get high up in the IT food chain.

If you want to earn money doing fun stuff you don't need a CS degree and can get away with doing a traineeship/being self-taught.


Edit: Regarding getting a foot in the door, it helps if you did a degree (STEM preferably) to show you can think critically, but its not absolutely needed. I have several colleagues who did HBO studies that are completely unrelated.

ether
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Re: Computer Science Degree or Self Learn?

Post by ether »

I went through the university system for mine and also teach at a coding bootcamp. Many of my students at the bootcamp compete for the same jobs as university students and only need to pay 6k USD and 9months of time vs. easily 40k USD and 4 years for a university degree. Not all bootcamps are the same so feel free to ping me if you have questions about your local bootcamp

UK-with-kids
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Re: Computer Science Degree or Self Learn?

Post by UK-with-kids »

ether wrote:
Fri Oct 30, 2020 5:12 pm
I went through the university system for mine and also teach at a coding bootcamp. Many of my students at the bootcamp compete for the same jobs as university students and only need to pay 6k USD and 9months of time vs. easily 40k USD and 4 years for a university degree. Not all bootcamps are the same so feel free to ping me if you have questions about your local bootcamp
The bootcamp thing sounds interesting. You say your 'graduates' compete with university graduates for the same jobs, so how successful are the ones without the college degree in comparison? And presumably they get paid a lower salary?

nomadscientist
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Re: Computer Science Degree or Self Learn?

Post by nomadscientist »

Computer science is an academic discipline that overlaps with pure mathematics at the theoretical end, and to do that sort of work a BS Comp Sci is both useful and hard to avoid (you won't be accepted to a PhD Comp Sci just by showing you can code).

It sounds like you want to work as a software developer for a company(?) in which case you probably do not want one of these mathematically oriented degrees. An appropriate BS Comp Sci (really, a software engineering degree with a fancy title) and a coding bootcamp will teach much the same things. If you do choose the BS, check the course content carefully and make sure that the course you choose is practically oriented in line with your goals. But the bootcamp will be cheaper and probably faster.

The software industry is very open to hiring software developers who can demonstrate proficiency but do not have bachelor degrees. Unusually so. Bootcamps are undoubtedly a viable path to these jobs. However, as with all things, there is no guarantee that this will remain the case. Also, if you want to move out of line programming into management or other business functions, or just switch career, you may hit policy barriers to hiring if you do not have a bachelors degree (in whatever). You have to decide how much you weight the costs and risks.

Matt3121
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Re: Computer Science Degree or Self Learn?

Post by Matt3121 »

I earned 400k as a software developer with an 8th grade education (failed 9th grade, dropped out to do homeschool, but literally just never did it). Got my GED at 30 because I wanted to. Never has it been an issue at all. No one cares. That being said I did take 1 college course, and I have that on my resume. That has been helpful to some extent because then you aren't a complete second class citizen. I'd honestly take a Harvard Extension school course, or some legit university, online if possible, just so I could have that.

YMMV though obviously.

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Sclass
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Re: Computer Science Degree or Self Learn?

Post by Sclass »

Matt3121 wrote:
Thu Nov 26, 2020 6:56 am
YMMV though obviously.
Like others have said here a lot depends on you.

Not only what you want to do, I’ll add what you can do.

I’ve worked with a lot of capable SW developers who had degrees in something else. They had one thing in common. They had a passion for programming and they spent a lot of their personal time self learning. Their official training in CS was so basic it was irrelevant. Like CS101.

Not saying YOU won’t need a degree though. I went to school with a lot of CS grads and they ground out degrees and got recruited fast. I just never worked with any of these guys. These particular individuals only coded for class projects and exams and scoffed at coding for fun or contributing to open source projects. For these individuals I’d often wonder why they were majoring in CS. Like callous Med students who didn’t give a shit about healing people.

I think this shit finally caught up with these students too. Most are unemployed in their 50s. Their 1990s CS education is too far behind them to open any doors in Silicon Valley. They’re having trouble reinventing themselves without college environments. Their solution to this conundrum in the past was “take a class”.

Good luck. I have no idea what you’re all about. YMMV.

steelerfan
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Re: Computer Science Degree or Self Learn?

Post by steelerfan »

My son graduated with a BA in CS along with a degree in computational math. He works as a developer for a defense contractor. Most if not all of the people he works with went the university route. He had no internships at all but for whatever reason he was recruited by them as a junior and they kept in contact every few months. I think he met them at an on campus job fair. It was the only place he interviewed other than some phone screens. Maybe going to a specific school puts you on the radar for some employers. I highly doubt he is any better than some talented self trained folks, but I am not sure how easy it is to get your foot in the door in such a place unless you are military. There obviously are a multitude of jobs available in this field so his situation may not be typical.

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Sclass
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Re: Computer Science Degree or Self Learn?

Post by Sclass »

Yeah I’m not sure what I’m saying with my anecdotes here except that it really boils down to what an individual can do and wants to do. Certainly getting a degree in CS is a path to employment.

My experience has the caveat that it was from a particular industry - test and measurement and factory automation. Pure SW businesses and the defense business are certainly their own ecosystems.

I guess I was trying to say what you do depends on where you want to go and what you have to work with. I’ve seen a lot of variability fall under the umbrella of “software engineers”.

SavingWithBabies
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Re: Computer Science Degree or Self Learn?

Post by SavingWithBabies »

Really depends on what you want and as others have already said, either path will work. I tried one path (not getting a degree) and it didn't work out that well for me and when the economy slowed, I went back to school and got a BS in CS. Then I graduated and the economy was still not the greatest but I got my foot in the door (more than it had been before) and eventually ended up where I wanted to be. So honestly, try whatever you want and if it doesn't work, adjust your approach.

I honestly think the best thing is the software craftsmanship approach with an apprenticeship. That can be hard to find but certainly exists in many areas. It skews towards those who are personally interested and motivated I would say. To find these opportunities, look for software craftsmanship meetups and/or agile-heavy companies that hold meetups and talk to people (along with google search, etc).

In terms of learning, ultimately I found that getting the BS in CS rounded out some of my knowledge (I really loved my operating systems class with the basics like what a context switch really was, etc) and demystified some areas that relied on more math knowledge than I had before I took the degree. But in terms of practical knowledge it certainly is debatable how useful it was... Maybe the most beneficial thing was learning how people in CS approach a problem and seeing how, in retrospect, so many things that seemed arbitrary made sense. I also got exposed to more breadth than I had before even if it was in little morsels instead of big dishes. Bit difficult to explain or make sense of but as geek who was interested in all this stuff and was somewhat amazed to discover a well-paying career out of the whole thing, I'm really glad I went.

That said, when I walked out the door with my BS in CS, I felt like I was just beginning to get to the good stuff. The circumstances just weren't right for me to go for a post-grad degree. I could have gone for another free semester on NSF grants but I was ready to be out the door. Sometimes, I wish I'd stayed or circumstances had been different. You might find what you're really after requires a post-grad degree. That said, many focus their careers carefully and make jumps that lead them towards the areas they are interested in and probably find fulfillment that way (I personally like the jack of all trades approach and wanted to be rounded enough to be a self-person startup so I made choices in that direction, I'm not sure I'd make that choice again although it has served me well in terms of employment opportunities).

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