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CS Degree - Is it worth it?


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#21 Ravyne   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 7116

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Posted 08 September 2013 - 07:22 PM

I would say that if you have the opportunity to go to a good school, go. Maybe you're a programming prodigy, maybe you aren't -- right now, you're the only one that's convinced of it (even as you acknowledge your known shortcomings, if you think that you might be better off without university, you're already considering yourself as one among a rarified breed). But, a degree from a good school and the work to show for it has a tendency to convince nearly everyone with hardly an argument about it. There's also the matter that most young people who might be quite accomplished in a narrow field don't actually know enough about the broader field to even be aware of what else is important to know. Left to your own devices, would you slog through set theory? Category theory? Discrete math?

 

I was probably 11 or 12 when I started writing little programs of my own. I had read about programming and modified code from the backs of books before that. By the time I graduated high school I had written a couple small games, 3 graphics programs, a map editor, and a number of other small tools and utilities, some in C, others in QuickBasic. I did pretty much coast through my first year in college getting good grades, but sometime during the second year I began falling behind -- probably less due to any kind of lack of intellect, and more due to poor study and work habits, and to a general sense that I would be able to complete programming assignments and other work faster than I actually could. This had a cumulative effect, and I even failed a number of courses before getting myself back on track. This cost me a lot of time, and a lot of extra tuition, too. We have a lot of things going for us at the age when we graduate school -- our youth, our health, our positive outlook -- but we also tend to have a lot of hubris, and a stunning lack of ability to clearly see much more than 6 months into our own future.

 

Another way to think of it is this: whatever level you're at now, your contemporaries who go to university will probably have caught up or surpassed you in the 3-4 years it takes them to graduate. If you're able to skip university and enter the workforce now as some kind of developer, you'll compete with people fresh out of university, likely every bit as competent as you, but with a degree to show for it and 4 years wiser. If you are able to land a job, you'll likely do so at extreme entry-level, and it's probably going to take 2-4 years before you convince people that you do, in fact, know what you're doing despite the lack of any kind of degree. In your work, you'll likely spend those years focused on a fairly narrow niche, and while you may end up very proficient in that niche, your proficiencies in other areas will not be nearly as developed. This is not an uncommon experience, I know a very brilliant guy who's been at Google for 5 years now -- he's payed incredibly well, he gets great reviews, and when he says something, people at work listen. He's also a little worried that he's so focused on the task of making other people's code scale up, that's his ability to write his own code from the ground up is starting to decline. When you start working, you generally start getting pushed into one pigeon-hole or the other, for better or worse.

 

The point I'm making here is that its easy to see going straight into the work-force as "Proceed directly to Go, Collect $200." But if we're talking strictly about your professional life, its not about who can run the first 400 meters most quickly, but about who can cover the most ground before they run out of gas. Having a shortcut right out of the gate is a leg up, but others will come on quickly. If you intend to keep ahead of them, then you need to develop the legs for it. Very few places do that better than a quality university.



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#22 warnexus   Prime Members   -  Reputation: 1394

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Posted 08 September 2013 - 11:05 PM

Computer Science is problem solving. If you like that go for it, be expected to be pushed and commit some serious time into learning the material. You only really improve your understanding when you look at the material long enough. The lecture notes only acts as supplement. You need to use the lecture notes as leverage and go further beyond that to open your eyes and broaden your horizons. 

 

P.S. Do the homework and make sure you understand it. Memorizing and brute-forcing it won't do any good in the long run once you get your degree.



#23 Khatharr   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2960

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Posted 09 September 2013 - 01:03 AM

 

 

As a skilled programmer without a degree (yet), let me say in no uncertain terms: get a degree.
Even if you can _do_ the job, getting that first job is tons easier with a degree. HR departments (and most hiring managers) will hire a candidate with a degree over one without. And even when you do get a job, you'll get paid far less than a "more qualified" candidate.
And really, why would you *choose* to slave away 40 hours a week rather than spending 4 years hanging out with uninhibited coeds?

 
Uninhibited coeds tend to have an inverse financial effect when compared to employment.

I have lost somewhere around $25-30k *per year* over the past 15 years by making less than my degree'd peers. And that doesn't include the 15 months I spent unemployed because nobody would hire a non-degree'd computer programmer with no formal experience.

Not getting a degree is absurdly more expensive than even today's universities.

 

 

Obviously a degree pays more in the long term, or else nobody would get them. If you can't afford to eat then it's not a choice. The situation in the U.S. is pretty student friendly right now. You can get most or all of your education from loans and grants and live on food stamps, but you still need to pay rent and utilities. I'm just pointing out that some people don't have the choice, so if you do have the opportunity, don't waste it on trying to get laid.


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#24 Washu   Senior Moderators   -  Reputation: 4992

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Posted 09 September 2013 - 02:48 AM

 

 

 

As a skilled programmer without a degree (yet), let me say in no uncertain terms: get a degree.
Even if you can _do_ the job, getting that first job is tons easier with a degree. HR departments (and most hiring managers) will hire a candidate with a degree over one without. And even when you do get a job, you'll get paid far less than a "more qualified" candidate.
And really, why would you *choose* to slave away 40 hours a week rather than spending 4 years hanging out with uninhibited coeds?

 
Uninhibited coeds tend to have an inverse financial effect when compared to employment.

I have lost somewhere around $25-30k *per year* over the past 15 years by making less than my degree'd peers. And that doesn't include the 15 months I spent unemployed because nobody would hire a non-degree'd computer programmer with no formal experience.

Not getting a degree is absurdly more expensive than even today's universities.

 

 

Obviously a degree pays more in the long term, or else nobody would get them. If you can't afford to eat then it's not a choice. The situation in the U.S. is pretty student friendly right now. You can get most or all of your education from loans and grants and live on food stamps, but you still need to pay rent and utilities. I'm just pointing out that some people don't have the choice, so if you do have the opportunity, don't waste it on trying to get laid.

 

Millions of dollars in grants go to waste every year simply because people don't bother to apply for them, and that's just the normal every day "I'm poor" grants. We're not even talking about grants for those with learning disabilities, minority races, religious groups, etc. There is a great deal of money out there if you're willing to sit down, do the research, and apply.

 

You don't have to take out loans, and most student loans can be applied TOWARDS living costs. In addition, financial aid can be obtained (if you're over 23 its pretty easy to get, otherwise you're dependent upon your parents income bracket).

 

You can also get a job. I worked through college, I PAID my way through Berkeley. Yeah, I came out of it with a decent amount of debt, but as it was all student loans I could defer payment on them by simply taking a few classes every year. Guess what: YOU SHOULD BE DOING THAT ANYWAYS. There is a ton of stuff to learn and most companies will PAY for training. Any that don't or won't... you probably shouldn't work for.


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#25 powerdoggame   Members   -  Reputation: 105

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Posted 09 September 2013 - 03:45 AM

My major in university is also about programming,I have learned most of subjects what you have learned.but I think it's really hard to learn well.


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#26 bmsq   Members   -  Reputation: 134

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Posted 09 September 2013 - 09:00 AM

First off I'm going to say that I too am an Australian and although I don't work in the games industry, I have been working as an IT professional for close to 10 years.

When looking for new employees, you have to determine:
1. Does the candidate have the required skill for the job?
2. Are they are good personality fit for the team?

There are always exceptions to the rule (and this is a subjective process) but its very difficult to endorse a candidate's skills without a degree or professional work history. Given that government student loans (HELP/HECS) make university education in Aus extremely accessible from a financial perspective, you would be putting yourself at a real disadvantage compared to any other degree qualified candidates.

In addition to this, working as a software developer (regardless of industry) involves far more than just programming. As others have already said, even if the programming subjects seem easy for you, a university education will introduce you to the broader aspects of our profession while also formalizing areas which have been self tought.

Finally, software development is less about specific industries and more about problem solving. Although the games industry might be where your career starts, we don't always remain in the same industry our entire career. Having a degree can help ease that transition if/when you want to do so.

#27 Khatharr   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2960

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Posted 09 September 2013 - 04:32 PM


You can also get a job. I worked through college,

 

 

(That's kind of what I'm hinting at here.)


void hurrrrrrrr() {__asm sub [ebp+4],5;}

There are ten kinds of people in this world: those who understand binary and those who don't.

#28 swiftcoder   Senior Moderators   -  Reputation: 9856

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Posted 09 September 2013 - 05:13 PM

 


You can also get a job. I worked through college,

 

 

(That's kind of what I'm hinting at here.)

 

On the other hand, when else in your life are you going to have the time and energy to chase those uninhibited coeds?

 

Happiness isn't all about money.


Tristam MacDonald - Software Engineer @Amazon - [swiftcoding]


#29 ChaosEngine   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2290

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Posted 09 September 2013 - 05:21 PM


On the other hand, when else in your life are you going to have the time and energy to chase those uninhibited coeds?
 
Happiness isn't all about money.

 

Seconded :)

 

In all seriousness, get a degree for all the reasons given above, but also because going to university is a great life experience.

 

Aside from the knowledge I directly learned, I also learned how to think critically, how to research and how to manage my time.

 

I also played in bands, got drunk, screwed up, failed classes and learned how to work my arse off to recover from it. I learned how to deal with meeting new people, how to budget, how to cook, how to just get on with room mates.  I met my future wife there, and some of my closest friends too. 


if you think programming is like sex, you probably haven't done much of either.-------------- - capn_midnight

#30 Washu   Senior Moderators   -  Reputation: 4992

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Posted 10 September 2013 - 12:03 AM

On the other hand, when else in your life are you going to have the time and energy to chase those uninhibited coeds?

The only "uninhibited" people I met while at college either were too drunk to be a consenting adult, or had enough money and connections to make your life hell if you crossed them.

The former you help get back to their dorm room safely. The latter you either make lasting friends with, or stay the hell away from them.

Happiness isn't all about money.

It is when that money is what's paying for your tuition, boarding, and books.

In time the project grows, the ignorance of its devs it shows, with many a convoluted function, it plunges into deep compunction, the price of failure is high, Washu's mirth is nigh.
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#31 swiftcoder   Senior Moderators   -  Reputation: 9856

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Posted 10 September 2013 - 08:16 AM


The only "uninhibited" people I met while at college either were too drunk to be a consenting adult, or had enough money and connections to make your life hell if you crossed them.

You just have attended a funny sort of college, by my reckoning. I was teetotal (didn't drink alcohol) for the first 3 years of college, and there was still one hell of a lot of 'uninhibited' behaviour...

 


It is when that money is what's paying for your tuition, boarding, and books.

Eh. I was on fairly decent scholarship, lived cheaply, and still ended up with USD $40,000 in loans.

 

Took me about 1.5 years in industry to pay that off fully, so I wouldn't consider that much of a barrier.


Tristam MacDonald - Software Engineer @Amazon - [swiftcoding]


#32 Khatharr   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2960

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Posted 10 September 2013 - 04:28 PM

Happiness isn't all about money.

 

 

It's not about uninhibited coeds either. That's just self-gratification. You've got your whole life to sort out a relationship with someone who will build you up instead of just shining your pole and being sick in your sink. Handle your responsibilities first, then find someone else who does the same. You're far more likely to find lasting satisfaction that way.


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There are ten kinds of people in this world: those who understand binary and those who don't.

#33 swiftcoder   Senior Moderators   -  Reputation: 9856

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Posted 10 September 2013 - 04:59 PM


Handle your responsibilities first, then find someone else who does the same. You're far more likely to find lasting satisfaction that way.

I'm honestly not sure what part of experimenting in college you object to. Is it purely a moral objection?

 

I'm pretty sure it didn't hurt the studies or careers of any of my peer group...


Tristam MacDonald - Software Engineer @Amazon - [swiftcoding]


#34 Promit   Moderators   -  Reputation: 6614

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Posted 10 September 2013 - 06:10 PM

While I don't care one way or the other about your approach or preferred relationship structure, chasing women is a goddamn stupid reason to go to college.


Edited by Promit, 10 September 2013 - 06:10 PM.


#35 Telastyn   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3726

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Posted 10 September 2013 - 07:21 PM

Pssh. It's as good a reason as any. You're only 18-22 once, and if you're off being an adult you'll generally have a very hard time finding friends (and dating partners) around your age - they're all off at college.

Learning who you are is a key part of college, and sexuality is an important aspect of adulthood. Beyond that, the social aspects of finding and maintaining relationships are important skills to grow so that you can be successful both professionally and personally.

It's certainly not a key reason you should go to college, but seeing "I already know how to program" as the only aspect of improvement at school is absurdly shortsighted.

#36 swiftcoder   Senior Moderators   -  Reputation: 9856

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Posted 10 September 2013 - 07:52 PM


It's certainly not a key reason you should go to college, but seeing "I already know how to program" as the only aspect of improvement at school is absurdly shortsighted.

I'd even take that one step further: "improving my programming" is a terrible reason to go to school.

 

What you learn at school will be far more theoretical than practical, you're likely to end up with professors who haven't worked in industry since the 80's, and half your fellow students won't know a keyboard from a mouse...

 

But the piece of paper at the end is invaluable, as is the 4 years to dick around and learn about life (and yourself).


Tristam MacDonald - Software Engineer @Amazon - [swiftcoding]


#37 MJP   Moderators   -  Reputation: 10909

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Posted 11 September 2013 - 10:30 PM

Definitely get a degree. I'm sure that you would get a lot out of CS degree, but I also think it would be totally fine if you wanted to get an engineering degree instead. I got a degree in computer engineering and had a lot of great courses, and taught myself programming and graphics in my spare time. Then for my senior project I programmed a friggin' robot car that drove itself around an obstacle course, which was seriously awesome. When I got out of college I was more than good enough at programming to land a good programming job, plus I had a pretty solid math and physics background which comes in handy when doing games and/or graphics.

One word of warning: I'm sure it varies from school to school, but my engineering programming was a LOT tougher than the CS track at school. It was basically a 5-year course crammed into 4 years, and almost all of it was core courses that you were required to take. I had to work pretty damn hard to maintain a good GPA, and the drop-out rate was huge the first year or 2.



#38 ProgrammerDX   Members   -  Reputation: 149

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Posted 13 September 2013 - 03:29 AM

Many people here seem to think that getting a degree / complete certain courses like graph theory/set theory and stuff like that is a milestone, a 'goal in life'. It's not. Getting a degree or working is a means to the real goal: be happy, grow your family, interact socially with people you want to be social with (or whatever your true goal in life is). Don't focus on the degree, it's just a tool, like a hammer, it's lifeless, nothing more. What you can do with the tool/degree to achieve your true goals is what matters.

Can it help you with your goal in life? Then do so, otherwise, don't.
Also, a mentor is many many many times more valuable than a degree. The one way to find a mentor is to talk with older experienced people. You don't even need to know anything, only be motivated and he'll teach you and implicitly derive satisfaction from teaching you.

Some people are laying traps here mentioning subjects like 'graph theory' (or type in whatever subject) as being special/something you must know!!!! It really is not special at all. A consumer of your final product doesn't give one shit how it's done, just that it's working. When you face the problems, then you can learn these subjects. Perhaps the only thing you need to know is that it's there for you so you can learn it when you need to use it.

Remember in the end you die and whatever you learned dies with you. Only what you've done for other people will matter after your life. You don't need a degree for that, you only need TO DO IT and don't be a lazy bum that clocks from 9 to 5.

There's more to explain but I'll just leave at this.

#39 BitMaster   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3893

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Posted 13 September 2013 - 04:50 AM

Some people are laying traps here mentioning subjects like 'graph theory' (or type in whatever subject) as being special/something you must know!!!! It really is not special at all. A consumer of your final product doesn't give one shit how it's done, just that it's working. When you face the problems, then you can learn these subjects. Perhaps the only thing you need to know is that it's there for you so you can learn it when you need to use it.


That's awfully shortsighted. Problems in the real world very seldom come with an attached label saying 'can be easily solved using the theorems of X'. You do not need to be an expert in a particular field to realize the problem can be reduced to a common issue in field X, having some familiarity with it (for example by being forced to do some work in the field during your degree studies) is very often enough. But if you never did any work in the field, your chances to stumble over the relevance of field X are next to zero unless the connection happens to be extremely obvious.

#40 Shaquil   Members   -  Reputation: 815

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Posted 13 September 2013 - 07:59 AM

Many people here seem to think that getting a degree / complete certain courses like graph theory/set theory and stuff like that is a milestone, a 'goal in life'. It's not. Getting a degree or working is a means to the real goal: be happy, grow your family, interact socially with people you want to be social with (or whatever your true goal in life is). Don't focus on the degree, it's just a tool, like a hammer, it's lifeless, nothing more. What you can do with the tool/degree to achieve your true goals is what matters.

Can it help you with your goal in life? Then do so, otherwise, don't.
Also, a mentor is many many many times more valuable than a degree. The one way to find a mentor is to talk with older experienced people. You don't even need to know anything, only be motivated and he'll teach you and implicitly derive satisfaction from teaching you.

Some people are laying traps here mentioning subjects like 'graph theory' (or type in whatever subject) as being special/something you must know!!!! It really is not special at all. A consumer of your final product doesn't give one shit how it's done, just that it's working. When you face the problems, then you can learn these subjects. Perhaps the only thing you need to know is that it's there for you so you can learn it when you need to use it.

Remember in the end you die and whatever you learned dies with you. Only what you've done for other people will matter after your life. You don't need a degree for that, you only need TO DO IT and don't be a lazy bum that clocks from 9 to 5.

There's more to explain but I'll just leave at this.

 

^^^This guy knows what he's talking about. The point of studying Computer Science is the problem solving, not the specific classes/subjects you study. If you can get the problem solving knowledge and experience without college, don't go. Simple as that.






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