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Experience without a degree


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#1 roblane09   Members   -  Reputation: 108

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 04:46 PM

This is my first post in Gamedev forums in a long time, I used to have an account a little over 10 years ago but since forgot the username etc...  I would like to say it's great to see Gamedev is still alive and active and full of the same great content I used to see here.  That being said, I have a tough question that I hope I can get some experienced knowledge and perspective around.

 

I have been developing web services and web applications for about 10 years now, and I do love coding for a living.  Before actually landing a job in the industry I was coding only as a hobby, and hoping that I could some day trade in my retail job(s) for one in development.  My first language was C++ simply because that's what was taught at my local high-school   From there I toyed with VB, Java, C# and eventually ASP/PHP for web-pages.  I feel I have a solid understanding of data structures, algorithms, software design/enterprise patterns and computer architecture.  All of this I have attained with passion and seeking help from professionals in the field or related fields.  I have taken a total of 5 college classes in my entire life, and while I've always considered going to college a huge benefit, I've never actually made the commitment to go.

 

Present day I find it very easy to land a development position in web/biz dev. and the compensation is so far fantastic.  That being said, I still find an enormous amount of discrimination by engineers & co-workers who have one (or several) degrees.  I'm not exactly the most secure person, and I've always had a shy personality (with a touch of social anxiety) so I don't exactly brush off co-workers jokes or remarks.  Really it makes me question my situation and assess my goals.

 

What I want to get some feedback on is this.  Would someone in my position benefit from a Computer Science degree?  I don't want to ask if I would benefit from any degree, because to me this answer is almost always yes.  Other then CSC I have also considered electrical engineering as I would truly want to increase my knowledge of hardware.  I have also had experienced people tell me that I shouldn't worry about a degree and my experience is enough to continue to drive my career.  I understand where they come from, but can this statement really be true?

 

I try to take it all with a grain of salt, however I have a huge passion for development and want to do the next right thing when it comes to my career.  If you read my entire question, thanks for taking the time, and I appreciate any and all feedback.



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#2 frob   Moderators   -  Reputation: 22736

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 05:00 PM

 Would someone in my position benefit from a Computer Science degree?

That is the core of your question.

 

And the answer to your question is answered in the FAQs.  

 

You have identified several reasons to go back, and several reasons not to go back.  

 

So there are two items:  Get degree; Don't get degree.

 

There are several other options available, such as getting an associates degree, bachelors degree, or masters degree.  Or, since you have a decade of work experience, getting an MBA or a combined CS+MBA option.  There are also shorter options from trade schools like DeVry and such.

 

If you decide the degree is worth it for you, you don't necessarily have to go to a traditional school with a bunch of 20-year-olds; there are schools that offer night and weekend programs, there are schools that offer 'distance learning' and 'continuing education'.  Personally I'd recommend avoiding online-only schools because there have been many scamming institutions.

 

Ultimately you're the only one who can decide what is right for you.

 

Hope that helps.


Check out my book, Game Development with Unity, aimed at beginners who want to build fun games fast.

Also check out my personal website at bryanwagstaff.com, where I write about assorted stuff.


#3 roblane09   Members   -  Reputation: 108

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 05:33 PM

 Would someone in my position benefit from a Computer Science degree?

That is the core of your question.

 

And the answer to your question is answered in the FAQs.  

 

You have identified several reasons to go back, and several reasons not to go back.  

 

So there are two items:  Get degree; Don't get degree.

 

There are several other options available, such as getting an associates degree, bachelors degree, or masters degree.  Or, since you have a decade of work experience, getting an MBA or a combined CS+MBA option.  There are also shorter options from trade schools like DeVry and such.

 

If you decide the degree is worth it for you, you don't necessarily have to go to a traditional school with a bunch of 20-year-olds; there are schools that offer night and weekend programs, there are schools that offer 'distance learning' and 'continuing education'.  Personally I'd recommend avoiding online-only schools because there have been many scamming institutions.

 

Ultimately you're the only one who can decide what is right for you.

 

Hope that helps.

 

I have read through the FAQs and concluded that to break into the industry you need a degree, are you implying that this is in fact the case for someone with my volume of experience?  I appreciate the reference to a pros/cons grid, and I've done this several times already in my decision making.  What I'm attempting to attain is experience around this issue from others that have made the same type of decision and had a similar experience.  For example, knowing people that have 10+ years of experience without a degree, or perhaps knowing of someone that turned their career around by getting a degree.  I would also like some information on what intelectual benefits (what would I actually learn) should I go to school for Computer Science especially considering what I already know.  

 

I understand I'm the only person that can make my decisions, this is overly obvious.  I'm not asking someone to pick my options and tell me what to do, I'm looking for success or failure experiences before I decide to go get tens of thousands of dollars and change my day job to support school.  If you are saying "the FAQs say get a degree so get a degree", then I appreciate your insight and perspective, is this something you've done with success?



#4 roblane09   Members   -  Reputation: 108

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 05:39 PM

Sorry if my reply came off "snarky", I really do appreciate the information you provided smile.png


Edited by roblane09, 06 February 2013 - 05:40 PM.


#5 ApochPiQ   Moderators   -  Reputation: 16401

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 06:25 PM

My two cents?

If you're in an environment where your experience (and, more crucially, your actual degree of skill) is not appreciated on its own merits, then get the hell out and find a job that doesn't suck ass.

You can have zero degrees or five degrees; you will always find people who do not respect you and your capabilities. The trick is to avoid them, not to try and cater to their obscene demands.


I'm honestly unclear as to what the problem is: perception of your ability due to not having a degree, or that you genuinely feel that you are held back by not having the educational credentials (i.e. you don't know things that you should know). In the former case, change your environment; in the latter, get the degree.


There are plenty of IT careers where you will be appreciated and recognized for the quality of your work, and whether you're a high-school dropout or a post-doctorate genius makes no difference.

#6 frob   Moderators   -  Reputation: 22736

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 07:12 PM

A degree is strong evidence that you can do the job. It is a convenient HR filter.

Real world work-experience is also strong evidence that you can do the job. If you have that, you should also have no difficulty finding a job.

Many people have made that same lateral jump, from a programmer at one company to a programmer at another company in a different field.


From a career standpoint it makes very little relative difference at this point. A much bigger concern is transitioning from one kind of programming to another; if you were a business web developer moving to a console game maker it is a very big jump; moving from an embedded microcontroller programmer to a console game programmer is a much smaller jump.

Don't get the degree because you think it might transform your career. Get the degree because you want to gain the knowledge. You may be able to use that knowledge to improve your career, or you might not.

Check out my book, Game Development with Unity, aimed at beginners who want to build fun games fast.

Also check out my personal website at bryanwagstaff.com, where I write about assorted stuff.


#7 roblane09   Members   -  Reputation: 108

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 07:38 PM

Thank you so much for the information, it is very helpful.  I know the problem I'm presenting is ambiguous and it's clear that I'm a bit confused, however this clear cut perspective is refreshing. I can find good information on jumping from biz-dev. to game development, and it's not exactly an easy task but nothing worth while ever is.  

 

Based on the information here I will probably be pursuing a EE degree just for the hardware knowledge I wish to have, but I'm still considering jumping from web biz dev. to game development.  I'm not exactly an old man so perhaps theres room for both of these goals.

 

Thanks again for helping steer this lost dev. in the right direction!



#8 ISDCaptain01   Members   -  Reputation: 1443

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 11:58 PM

Dude you have 10 years of experience. No new college grad is going to be able to beat that.

Get a degree if: 1) To get passed the HR filter (which you already have)

                          2) To fail at impressing your coworkers(like your coworkers tried impressing you, but failed)

                          3) To get knowledge in a field you have no clue about

 

Honestly I think its your friends who are the insecure ones. They have to justify their degrees to you because you

are more successful than them without one

 

If you already know about CS and wanna try EE then go ahead. But Warning: its crazy hard, get ready to buckle down and study full time

 

good luck



#9 roblane09   Members   -  Reputation: 108

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 12:07 AM

Dude you have 10 years of experience. No new college grad is going to be able to beat that.

Get a degree if: 1) To get passed the HR filter (which you already have)

                          2) To fail at impressing your coworkers(like your coworkers tried impressing you, but failed)

                          3) To get knowledge in a field you have no clue about

 

Honestly I think its your friends who are the insecure ones. They have to justify their degrees to you because you

are more successful than them without one

 

If you already know about CS and wanna try EE then go ahead. But Warning: its crazy hard, get ready to buckle down and study full time

 

good luck

Thanks much for the positive words.  I understand a degree in EE would be difficult, but I have a pretty solid passion for computers and I think I can find a good program to build onto what I know.  

 

Do you have experience with EE degree?  So far my understanding is you can do "electrical track" and "computer track" (not sure if my terminology is correct here), I think I would want to go computer track but clearly I need to do more investigation.  

 

I also believe I would get a better foundation in mathematics with this type of degree, which can be beneficial in many ways.  At any rate thanks for the feedback, if you have any experience or suggestions on EE schools would be appreciated.



#10 Buster2000   Members   -  Reputation: 1776

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 02:18 AM

If you have several years of  proffesional experience then no you do not need a degree.  A recruiter at another company will be more interested if you can get the job done before looking at academic qualifications

However a degree may help you with promotion into management (ironically the further up the ladder you get the less development you actually do).

 

Also if you are really into Computer Science you may find it fun to do a degree anyway.



#11 Adam Spade   Members   -  Reputation: 161

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 07:59 AM

You do not "have" to have a degree. With or without a degree you will have to network and or apply for jobs. Work experience and skill is most definitely important. If you don't have the work experience, a company will most definitely want you to show them papers.

Also depends on who you are applying too. Are you applying to EA or a company of less than 30 persons? Even so, it depends on the hiring managers level of control.

I'd hire experience over a know-it-all college brat any day. When you interview, show them why you are better than all those college brats they just interviewed. Don't lose hope and be discouraged. Have a strategy and get your butt out there.

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#12 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 10160

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 10:33 AM

Present day I find it very easy to land a development position in web/biz dev. and the compensation is so far fantastic.  That being said, I still find an enormous amount of discrimination by engineers & co-workers who have one (or several) degrees.  I'm not exactly the most secure person, and I've always had a shy personality (with a touch of social anxiety) so I don't exactly brush off co-workers jokes or remarks.  Really it makes me question my situation and assess my goals.

 

It sounds to me like that's your real reason for pursuing a degree.  You already have no trouble landing jobs and getting excellent pay.  If the only thing you're trying to solve is the problem of people looking down their noses at you, you may never be able to solve that -- certainly not by just getting a degree.  The piece of paper is not a magic portal to the land of respect of your peers. 

 

Take the degree if you want to learn.  Not because you want respect.


-- Tom Sloper
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Making games fun and getting them done.
www.sloperama.com

Please do not PM me. My email address is easy to find, but note that I do not give private advice.

#13 roblane09   Members   -  Reputation: 108

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 11:02 AM

Present day I find it very easy to land a development position in web/biz dev. and the compensation is so far fantastic.  That being said, I still find an enormous amount of discrimination by engineers & co-workers who have one (or several) degrees.  I'm not exactly the most secure person, and I've always had a shy personality (with a touch of social anxiety) so I don't exactly brush off co-workers jokes or remarks.  Really it makes me question my situation and assess my goals.

 

It sounds to me like that's your real reason for pursuing a degree.  You already have no trouble landing jobs and getting excellent pay.  If the only thing you're trying to solve is the problem of people looking down their noses at you, you may never be able to solve that -- certainly not by just getting a degree.  The piece of paper is not a magic portal to the land of respect of your peers. 

 

Take the degree if you want to learn.  Not because you want respect.

That's an interesting point to make because I've generally reversed your last statement throughout my life.  That isn't to say getting a degree held no value of learning, it's just something that's always been preached as essential for being a part of society.  It's interesting at this point in my life to hear the opposite so frequently, and it's obvious to me now that it's not a golden key to getting hired.  

 

I think the point you are making is that there will always be people that find a reason to "look down their noses at you", which I agree with.  I do however have direct experience with being treated differently because I have never attended college.  I'm starting to think however that this is more of an issue with the environment I'm in.  One idea for the short term I'm considering is just applying for a different department at my company(get on a different dev. team)...

 

At any rate thanks for the words, much appreciated.



#14 Mayple   Members   -  Reputation: 187

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 01:12 PM

Take the degree if you want to learn. Not because you want respect.

 

I agree with this, but also disagree with it.

 

I feel the respect factor goes both ways. Not so much as a brag factor, but the respect of someone going to school and completing the system by dedicating their life into doing so. It is the same reason you respect someone going to Yale vs an online Chinese get your degree in 10 hrs school.

 

I agree though that you take the degree to learn and build off. You explore alot more than you think using a degree learning style. It also shows that your able to start something, stick with it even though its not enjoyable or a burden and complete it. Most game companies that I know of usually use the line of BS/MS or Equivalant experiance. This isn't just game design, this is about the field and the supposed knowledge you would have gotten at the school should you have attended the courses. They ask for that because the bare min that these offer will at least help push you in the right direction since you have the implied logic.


I usually just give my 2 cents, but since most of the people I meet are stubborn I give a 1$ so my advice isn't lost via exchange rate.


#15 L. Spiro   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 14267

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 05:38 PM

Would someone in my position benefit from a Computer Science degree?

No. Any discrimination you are perceiving falls under 2 categories:
#1: It’s there, but not related to your lack of degree. It is more likely your lack of professional experience and/or your ability to carry yourself as a confident being. Note that if you carry yourself over-confidently (as in above your skill level) you will just incite more discrimination.
#2: It’s not there and you have a mental issue/social issue/self-esteem issue to resolve.
#3: Any mixture of #1 and #2.


In any case, getting a degree isn’t going to make you less shy or more confident, nor will it make any actual discrimination against you stop.
Even if you had a degree you could be a total idiot and you will get the same or more discrimination. People judge others based on personality and ability to complete tasks correctly/overall skill level. Not on papers they got years ago.


A degree is not your solution.
Building confidence and skills/experience are, and the best way to do both at the same time is to just stick with it and work.

 

 

 

I feel the respect factor goes both ways. Not so much as a brag factor, but the respect of someone going to school and completing the system by dedicating their life into doing so. It is the same reason you respect someone going to Yale vs an online Chinese get your degree in 10 hrs school.

I don’t think this is correct.
I don’t respect anyone for going to Yale, Harvard, Stanford, etc. That doesn’t mean they are particularly skilled (in a lot of cases it means they had wealthy parents) or know how to function in a real work environment.
No, I don’t respect people for higher education.
Instead, I would be suspicious (“disrespect” is the wrong word here) of someone who got an online degree from China.

To put it in slightly less-accurate wording, no one gets respect for attending a high-end school.
They get disrespect for doing weird WTF things to get their degrees/diplomas.

 

 

L. Spiro


It is amazing how often people try to be unique, and yet they are always trying to make others be like them. - L. Spiro 2011
I spent most of my life learning the courage it takes to go out and get what I want. Now that I have it, I am not sure exactly what it is that I want. - L. Spiro 2013
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#16 Woland   Members   -  Reputation: 372

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 02:49 AM

After reading most of the topic, I agree with the ones associating your problem with social situation more than skills. That being said, it seems a psychologist or a supporting partner or a good friend would help you much more than a degree. 

 

A degree is nothing more than a piece of paper confirming your skills. Well, I don't have a degree in english, yet you understand me. You are getting the job done without a degree - good for you. Especially since it seems most of the schools won't really teach you much at this point.

 

Think of it like this: your coworkers may be the guitarists that finished music schools and after years of struggling, tears and being forced by their parents, and are probably able to play their guitars with a decent level of skill. That still doesn't mean you can't be a Slash that mastered the guitar while sitting on a toilet. Ask Slash if he cries all night because he doesn't have a music degree.


Edited by Woland, 12 February 2013 - 07:09 AM.

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#17 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 10631

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 12:44 PM

My 2 cents:

I'm a self made developer. What I know simply doesn't come with a paper to proove it.

I've landed every job I really wanted, therefore, the paper wouldn't help in that regard.

That said, all HRs know what they're coming up with: a bargain bin.

Compensation has always been smaller as a result, and the lack of a paper to show for has always been the summoned excuse (never my actual capabilities).

 

If what you want is a better paycheck, might be worth to add a few papers to your resume, but that's all its going to do, really.



#18 freakchild   Members   -  Reputation: 557

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Posted 18 February 2013 - 02:13 PM

2c...

 

I started in this industry at a time where most people had no degree...either from just not bothering or 'dropping out'.  Degrees became a little more the norm over time and as such there came to be a point along my path where most people new to the industry did have a degree and I was largely surrounded by quite a lot of 'qualified competition'.

 

i.e. I've been through this.

 

As a result, I spent many a year around that time wondering whether to get a degree or not.  I never did take the leap and nowadays I’m glad about that, as the time would have been wasted.  The only thing that really mattered was that I was always able to do the work and after years of doing that, the relevance of a degree that I might have taken time to earn 10, 15 or 20 years ago is just obsolete.  Nobody really cares nowadays and for the most part never legitimately did, either I just have much more experience than most people around me which nullifies their issue or, they have enough experience in addition to their degree to now understand it doesn’t matter.  Stick with it and you will find yourself in the same position.

 

People can be a judgmental as they wish but if you can do the work they will never have a legitimate complaint so please bear in mind that this speaks more of them, than any failure of your own.

 

Thus, I agree…if you do get it, do so because it adds to your skillset and not to get a +1 in the eyes of your shallow colleagues.

 

I would also add, the best +1 you’ll get is working with them and holding your own, especially if they ever struggle on something and you can help them out.  This will serve as experience on their part and help them overcome their issue.  Resist the old ‘well, look where your fancy bit of paper got you’ dance either way because that will just distract such people from appreciating your own efforts.


Edited by freakchild, 18 February 2013 - 04:16 PM.


#19 Drakonka   Members   -  Reputation: 286

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Posted 07 March 2013 - 06:59 AM

My opinion: I doubt you would benefit from a computer science degree. You have been programming for 10 years - a degree would be a waste of time aside from having a scrap of paper. A scrap of paper that you don't even need if you have solid experience and a portfolio behind you. You have the experience and you might even already have the portfolio - a degree would be useful if you were more entry level. If I can get a job without a degree with nothing but the benefit of having started to gain experience in peripheral IT industries early, making my own games/posting code to GitHub in my spare time, and having some not-sucky interpersonal skills for the interview, you definitely can.



#20 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 10160

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Posted 07 March 2013 - 10:47 AM

1. A scrap of paper that you don't even need if you have solid experience and a portfolio behind you. You have the experience

2. and you might even already have the portfolio

 

1. I agree.

2. Unsure about that one. It's always good to take a good hard look at one's own portfolio with a critical eye.  Never hurts to add to it.


-- Tom Sloper
Sloperama Productions
Making games fun and getting them done.
www.sloperama.com

Please do not PM me. My email address is easy to find, but note that I do not give private advice.




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