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what do you need for the industry?

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What do you guys out there think: Is the only real important thing to know "programming"? Or is there need of something more? Or in other words: Is it enough to know a programming language? If so, is studying computer science (at university) useful at all? I''m REALLY considering if my choice of studying CS was the right one and if it wouldn''t have been better to just go working with my programming skills... so thanks for your answers!

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I''ve heard people say that getting a CS degree is enough preperation to do game programming. Of course, you''d want to do a lot of game programming on your own, but having a degree is a good thing when you want to look for a programming job. Plus, you''d have the option of doing more boring, professional programming if the game programming didn''t work out. I think that''s the most logical way to look at it.




http://www15.brinkster.com/nazrix/main.html

"All you touch and all you see is all your life will ever be --Pink Floyd
Need help? Well, go FAQ yourself.

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Knowing a single language is a start, but I strongly feel that the college degree is as important, if not more.

My reason for this is that languages and standards, and all the neat tools that everyone raves about tend to change from year to year. So when these new version come out, you need to have the strong basic skills (logic, math, etc) to adapt your programming to these changes.

I''ve said it many times, give me an intelligent person, with a strong math background, and I''ll make them a programmer in a month.

- Start Flames here -

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Why do you say you have to goto college to be any good at Math ?

I can name several people very good at Math naturally..

All you need is some Intelligence and perhaps some creativity for the industry, now intelligence can be natural (aka pick up on things quick) or you may have to goto University for 50 years.

My point is I believe it''s different for every individuals situation.

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Since I started programming 12 years ago I''ve had experience in 12 variations of languages. I can translate between them as well. I''m 20 right now with no college degree and have only taken C++ and Apple Logo in school. One year each. I took C++ my junior year and Logo in 7th grade. It took two years for me to finally be able to really maximize C++ and DirectX.

Everything I know I''ve taught myself. College is good if you need a structured learning environment. Reading books and just giving yourself tasks to do will accomplish the same thing. I learned all the languages I know by making games. Except for HTML.

If you have the time and money go for the degree. It won''t hurt and it definitly will help. If you don''t take math you''ll hurt yourself. You have to know logic and structure. Writing programs that do complex math functions is good practice both learning programming and systemizing tasks. You may think you''re good at math but you shouldn''t assume so. Take classes anyway.

You can make a programmer in a day but it takes years of dedication to make a good one.

Ben
http://therabbithole.redback.inficad.com

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Hi, im goign to be a little ''biased'' in this answer since i hate college pricks to the Nth level but lets try to be civilized

First a programmer (taken from "Game Architeture and Design") is just a code monkey... nothing more, nothing less... just a code monkey, code slave, whatever you prefer to call them but that''s what they are.

But then again, this would be the optimal situation, when all code is designed and only needs implementation, and since I never seen this happening, a programmer needs to design his code, so knowing the language well, their DO''s and DONT''s, programming paradigms will not make a better programmer, but a better code designer (sounds weird ? it is since we associate Code Design Process to Code Implementation) and this is where different people stand appart from the simpletons.

Now for college. College will teach you some goods things, I will not say it doesn''t, but it doesn''t mae a good programmer, or a good designer, or a good pianist, or a good carpenter, or a good god (if you ever find a college that has this course let me know) but will give you some means to be one. The only use I have for college is the library where I can get many books I want.

"College is good if you need a structured learning environment."
I don''t believe this is particularly correct. In college they teach you how to organize code how the teacher wants to... If a teacher says its bad to use a recursive function, you will stick to that ''Rule'' for 4 years until you will not use it in the future and making it hard to get down with the new technologies and paradigms. Also, in college, they generally teach program organization, but all the techniques go around the future projects you will have in school... If you use some of the design techniques you learn from college in a 5000+ lines of code program you will be wishing you just had a shotgun to blast that Mr. Slazinsky that thought you those principles. Also, some colleges still like to teach Fortran, or ADA or languages that are almost never used in our times.

My girlfriend is taking a CS major and I encourage her the most, but sometimes I just want to go to that damn college and kick the hell out of her teacher for teaching her such STUPID methods of programming. It''s just plain old sick.

About maths, physics, whatever, college will aid you in your learning, but a library will just do the same thing if you have some good books, and you have the internet to answer all those akward questions that you always have.

The game development ''scene'' usually take graduates or people with similiar experience, like programming small games, contract work, even game dev. work. But be aware, if you ever want to get out of the Game development ''scene'' you will need a degree to do bussiness application programming or similiar programming (or even server maintainance).


Bottom line, if you think you will get something out of college, go for it, if you don''t, you think you stand a chance with what you know, with what you accomplished, then ditch it and program like hell until someone notices you.



References for you book eaters:

Game Architeture and Design
Code Complete

You can find both on GameDev''s books section

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Akura:
I agree with what you have said and I disagree. I think your conclusions about a college education are true for some of the less than reputable schools out there. If you know what you are looking for, then a little effort in looking through the course outlines for a CS degree can show you just how disparate these degrees are from school to school. It also helps to know what you are looking for. Are you looking for a tech school or are you looking for theory based degree outline. I tend to think that a mixture of the two is nice, and prefer the weight to err on the side of theory.

While the information you say is in math books and physics books, the ability to comprehend it is not and all the reading in the world won't help you if you do not have the foundation for understanding it. College can give you that foundation understanding assuming it is a theory centric schedule of courses and not all C++/Java classes.

Let me give an example. Discrete Math is an average math course in any given CS program. I was fortunate enough to have this class taught to me by an exceptional professor and as a result my understanding of set theory, matrix math, parity, trees, rings, and patterns in math is higher than it could ever be without this course. I can't tell you how may times in the business world discrete math has proven useful. Many times I meet wizbang programmers that are self taught, that couldn't explain the first thing about why a binary tree works the way it does. Give em COM and DirectX and they can program using APIs until their hearts content. Ask them to do something outside of an API with little or no reference code to draw from and that lack of understanding begins to shine through. On the database side many people stumble with SQL beyond selecting a list from one or two tables because of their lack of set theory knowledge.

When someone comes on here and asks what it takes to get into the industry. If they want to become a programmer, I usually start by saying get a foundation in computer science. For many people who haven't been bred on computer, that foundation is in college and to that degree it is almost indespensible for them. If you happen to be one of the fortunate few that have been programming since you were born, then the degree itself is not as important as taking selected classes to solildify a foundation that is already established and to broaden that same foundation. In an industry where there are 6 moth product cycles on technology, and 1 year of experience is a senior level employee, I tend to look for people with exceptionally strong foundations when hiring for work on my projects. So my advice after this long post is to get a foundation in computer science and then focus on getting yourself a specific marketable skill. You will thank yourself in the end when that skill is made obsolete by a technology cycle and your the only one capable of adapting fast enough. Purely technical skills are not enough anymore.

Kressilac


Derek Licciardi
President
Elysian Productions Inc.

Edited by - kressilac on February 14, 2001 11:19:17 AM

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Oh one more note. Don''t laugh at the STUPID methods college is teaching your girlfriend. They provide her a frame of reference for using another company''s system that many self-taught programmers can not begin to comprehend. We all hate things like change-control, production promotion, code-reviews, and other such management controls companies use. The lack of those controls instantly tells me that a company does not have a grip on the software process and therefore can not be making money unless their clients are giving them money for nothing.

Don''t knock procedures just because you think you know better. From my position as Director of Software Development with one firm and CEO of Elysian Productions, I can tell you that self-taught programmers are a blessing and a problem. 90% of them have absolutely no organizational skills for their coding and that lack of structure breaks down the entire software process until they can be taught how to work with others whom already posess those organizational skills.

Sincerely
Kressilac

ps As you can tell from my posts, I can''t stand Hero''s. One should always have a sense of modesty in this field because you will NEVER know everything. Hell, someday a 12 year old may teach you something new and that is why this industry is so amazing.


Derek Licciardi
President
Elysian Productions Inc.

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Your right...
We should all goto some of those colleges that are a year behind technology.. Since Technology changes everyday it''s always good to be taught old methods, NOT.

I think the best thing is to stay upto date.
A revolutionary new company that want''s to use state of the art technology, .NET for example and it''s web services, You''re going to have to learn a whole new language/format therefor rendering those old techniques useless.

Don''t get me wrong university is good for alot of people but there *are* people out there with good Math, Calculus, Physics, Logic skill''s that can pick up on thing''s easily. (I''m not one of them)

Kressilac, are you saying "self-taught" programmer''s can''t teach themselve''s code organisation skill''s ?
My Code is extremely well organised, well commented on what functions do and how they work.. Hell I even Put declarations in Alphabetical order so I can easily find them if I need to.
I can''t comment ''exactly'' what your talking about organised code because frankly I''m not sure what your talking about, you could be talking about documenting your code for all I know.

Also from my own personal experience, Source Code, applications, and demonstrating my abilities get''s me work. Not some Computer Science Degree I slaved over 7 year''s ago.

Don''t get me wrong though that CSD did help for the first couple of years. Also books can teach you got techniques, code structure too. Let''s take a look, "TCP/IP" architecture of the technology, 3D Graphics Programming this book is not programming related (believe it or not) but teachs you everything you need to know about 3D programming.. this book helps with Trig and Calc skills. Then you have books like "Tricks of windows programming" This book teaches you good ''tricks'' to how you should programe windows games.

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Hey, first I dont say I know it all.. gessh, I'm programming for 6 years now but I'm not saying I know it all dont judge me as one k kressilac ?? )

now, things I saw bad in programming class fo gf

1) bad identing (I mean bad) for ex: forbiding the use of TAB and needs to use 4 spaces for each ident, this is prefclty waste cause pressing space 4 times will lead to someimes on 3 or 5 or 2 and ident will be ****

2) forcing to not return values and pass them as parameters, it may be all pretty and stuff.. but it makes code undertanding harder.

3) etc etc...

I'm not defending college is bad, I even said to go if you think you will learn things there, but it isnt the only way...

Discrete Math heh
my gf has that class...

(she is a fresh'girl') this year 70 students signed to CS
you know how many ppl signed to do the Discrete Math 1 exam ??? 500+ (doesnt look like college is helping them heh)

there are a lot of begginers books that teach you the basics, and the INTERNEt really gives you a big edge...

Im 18, program seriosuly since 12, (programmed on the spectrum when I was 8 but I dont count thaT) I dont know it all... damn i dont know about anything... BUT... I do know many things... and I know what a bin tree is, and i know how to implement a stack and a queue, and all that stuff...

I have books from AI to compiler design, to MFC to 3d to APIs to maths... learned all I know from them (and the net) and I dont regret it a bit, neve had a programming/computer class in my life

I work as general programmer (AI now) at a game dev comp...

"From my position as Director of Software Development with one firm and CEO of Elysian Productions, I can tell you that self-taught programmers are a blessing and a problem. 90% of them have absolutely no organizational skills for their coding and that lack of structure breaks down the entire software process until they can be taught how to work with others whom already posess those organizational skills."

College will not teach this to 5k+ lines program, trust me.. at least all that i seen, they tend to organize programs very badly...

I learned how to structure programs the hard way, I remeber doing a 2k+ lines program on pascal a few years ago, after 2 weeks i wanted to add something and took me more time to find the stuff in the code then anything else, and trust me, if u see my code now, u will have a blast running thou it, using it, modifying it, all structured, all commented, all detailed etc !! (i develop a very strict coding spec for myself)

and btw, I know what it is to work with unmessy code... had to did many times....


oh and btw, 12 years never happen, but 14 years old, it did ) heh

im glad to continue this post if u reply heh

ohh sorry about typing, in a hurry

(btw, im talking always about portuguese college)




Edited by - Akura on February 14, 2001 12:45:58 PM

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Guest Anonymous Poster
"Your right...
We should all goto some of those colleges that are a year behind technology.. Since Technology changes everyday it''s always good to be taught old methods, NOT.

I think the best thing is to stay upto date.
A revolutionary new company that want''s to use state of the art technology, .NET for example and it''s web services, You''re going to have to learn a whole new language/format therefor rendering those old techniques useless.
"

Actually, you''ve just demonstrated one of the great things that a good college would teach you - not to be tied to one particular language/technology...

A good computer science course teaches you the fundamental principles of programming, of computing. It doesn''t teach you JUST the latest buzz technology or languages. It teaches you how to rapidly learn them - without getting tied to those particular languages.

Going to college isn''t for everyone. However, it''s a great way to get some solid structure to your background as a programmer. It''s a great way of being exposed to different computer *science* that you wouldn''t normally expose yourself to - that''s a great thing for a game programmer to do.

I know from my own university course, I got exposed to technques & theories that I would never have dreamed of looking at from a purely game programming way of thinking. All of it is really useful to me as a pro programmer.

If you don''t want to go the college course, fine. You better be damn good & have a good solid FINISHED project to demo your skills.

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Alright, first thing that needs to be said is that a college education is not a prerequsite for being a good programmer.

However, I think that you will have better odds at becoming a good programmer if you have that education.

Yes, they teach you many things that you will never use. Yes, some of the teachers have insane theories on "good" style or whatever. But, college teaches you good basics in Math and logic. Though I could have gotten that same information out of the textbooks that I bought, sometimes an author''s style is contrary to how I learn, and utterly unintelligable. It helps to have a real-live person available to hold your hand when this happens.

So, if you feel that you are already a coding god... can write a 5k line program and then go back and modify it with ease, hand it off to a newbie and they can understand it, etc. Then by all means skip the school.

But for those of us not so blessed, who have to go to a non-Game realted job to keep Dr Pepper in the fridge, a degree is invaluable.

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Ah, hell...I''ll weigh in on this one too...

To start off with, I''ve been programming since 1985, graduated college with a CS degree in 1991, and I''ve been programming professionally since then in several different industries. I''ve climbed up from the entry level, been a Programmer, a Programmer/Analyst, a Systems Analyst, a Senior Systems Analyst, a Senior Software Engineer, trained as a Database Administrator, and I''m now an Independent Software Developer. I''ve worked with people who have CS degrees, MIS degrees, CIS degrees, and no degree at all.

I recommend college because I enjoyed it and learned a lot more than I would have otherwise. I had been programming almost 3 years *before* I went to college, teaching myself, and I was doing well on my own. When I started, I considered college a 4-year dues-paying period to get the degree so I could get a job doing what I wanted to do.

Despite the attitude that there was little I would learn from college, I learned a huge amount: Data structures, object-oriented techniques, database structure and programming, low-level file structures, assembler, compiler construction, and on and on.

For instance, in my 3rd year I built a working 4-bit CPU from component NAND, NOR, and similar ridiculously low-level hardware. Can''t do that reading a book, and you get a good feel for why assembler instructions work the way they do. (I still have a photo of the mess of wires and breadboards around here somewhere...) Just an example of something done in college that I would probably have never done/experienced otherwise. Another is the semester spent programming in esoteric languages like LISP, SNOBOL, Prolog, Smalltalk, and others.

That being said...

1. Programming is programming. Learn the essentials of stringing together statements to produce a desired result, and you have programming down pat. Language used is irrelevant. The only reason I don''t know Java is because I''ve never bothered to learn. Give me a reason to learn it (hint: the reason probably involves money) and I''ll be up in running in a matter of days. Most professional programmers would say the same, and you don''t need a degree to learn this. On the flipside, though, complaining that colleges teach old or "dead" programming languages is being silly. If you can''t abstract the language you''re taught to learn the concepts of programming, teaching you C++ right off the bat because "it''s more useful in the job market" isn''t going to help.

2. Experience beats eduction...mostly. In many cases, it''s more desireable to hire the person who "does" than the person who "hasn''t yet." Experience without education, though has a tendency to ingrain bad habits. So pick your poison... But don''t count on non-professional experience to get you very far. I mention I''ve been programming since 1985 in informal settings. On my *real* resume, I only list my professional experience, which begins in 1991. Because that''s all anyone cares about. Don''t get me wrong, I''m proud of what I accomplished in those 6 years (2 years of high school and 4 years of college)...but I''m not so naive to think that any of it matters to the guy who wants *real* experience.

3. "Welcome to the club! Do you know the secret handshake?" A lot of times, a degree is required because the person doing the hiring has a degree, or the company has a policy of only accepting applicants with a degree. Sound unfair? Bummer. I hate taxes, but I still pay them.

When I was still in college, the discussion amongst CS majors was whether it was worth it to go on get a Masters degree. The common wisdom was that you could get a better-paying job with a Masters. But you could go to work with your undergrad degree and after 2 years you would be making the same as you could with your Masters. So it was rather a wash, no penalty either way. And after 4 years, most people just want *out*, so they went and got jobs (me included).

The shortage of qualified Information Technology professionals has changed that question some. Instead of wondering whether you should get your Masters, or go to work with an undergrad degree, you''re pondering whether college is worth the trouble when you can get a job right out of high school.

If you think you''ll be as valuable in 4 years *without* your degree as you will be in 4 years *with* your degree, then college is arguably a waste of your time.

I had a ball at college. It''s not all books and classes. It''s an incredible social experience. But that''s hardly a reason to go.

I guess it all boils down to this: Make up your own mind.


DavidRM
Samu Games

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Well said Daivd...

Also *if* people find they cannot get a job with their current skill''s, demo''s, and what not... what is stopping them from going to University say, 3 years down the track and completing their CSD, I suppose you could think of it as "wasting" 3 year''s for not going to College/University straight away. I don''t know about in the U.S but there''s only 1 *decent*, maybe 2 universities here that are somewhat upto date on the IT sector.

Another thing that people just want to "get out and work" is that IT is in demand in most nations. Israel.. don''t exactly know anyone who would want to go over there at the moment but if you can demonstrate IT skill''s then immediately you''ll be accepted over their with a well paid job, same goes for the UK, etc etc.

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Hello again

K, first I just want to say (again) "if you think you will learn somehing in college, GO FOR IT" I see some people didn''t paid attention to that line heh

Also, I didn''t what a discussion on the terms :"You go to college ? YOU SUCK", "You don''t go to college ? YOU SUCK" let''s be civilized, since this can help some 16''ers decide what they will do.

For first, Im going to contradict David on a couple things
"I had a ball at college. It''s not all books and classes. It''s an incredible social experience. But that''s hardly a reason to go."

You''re right, that''s hardly (if any) reason to go, but then again, I''m going to explain how things work here (Portugal). There is a freshmens ''initiation'' (which I think there is everywere) which is tough, I had a couple friends that were betean, I got into a fight cause I would refuse to be on my knees for someone that as in his 3rd year, and I didn''t even went there, just was with a couple friennds in the CS signing line cause I was going to go with them someplace, and even without being in college, I got that
Continuing ''initianion'' ideas, you proably heard this one, last year, in France, all this freshmen initiation all FORBIDDEN and PUNISHED BY LAW, when some STUPID (lets just call them stupid) send a guy in a coffin home as the initiaion task, and when arrived he was dead (I think they were found guilty of murderer or something)

Now, here, college isn''t that pretty and nice, you dont know how to integrate using Taylors method ?? tought luck cause noone will help you out, its just a competition, NOONE will help, they see you as a adversary.

Again, the library is proabably the best thing in a college.

Ohh btw dave, did you ever used that bunch of wires in a job ? heh (maybe you did, not trying to start anything)

About programming languages... hmm My gf in 5 years of her course, will learn, 3 (yes THREE) languages, and each language will be 4 months teaching, 4 hours per week, not more, not less..

Now, how can say they know Haskell ??? Anyone ??? Come on you little guy in the back you know it ??? No ??? Ok... She was introduced to programming using this language.... (dont ask me) second is C and the third is Java... And the more complicated thing they are teached (in C) is a single linked list... I wonder what will she do when she has to work with bin trees, bit manipulation, complex I/O etc etc....

One more thing... they only teach (li)unix... not even Windows 3.11 or NT, only UNIX, they dont let their projects be presented in any other enviroment... is this good ?? 90% of the computers in the world use a Windows OS, so that goes about 90% of the work opportunity off the window...

''If unix is the face of the future I wanna go back to quill pens.'' -Joseph Snipp

This was on the start page when I loaded Gamedev heh

About big game companies, they say: "CS/bla/bla Degree or equivalent experience" meaning, a CS is not necessary, I cant remeber if it was Bullfrog, Team17, one of the EA companies or Blizzard that had this motto:

"Even if you are taking a business course, but did programming as a hobby making pacman or tetris clones and have anything impressive to show us, do so, we are always looking for fresh new programmers with new and good ideas" (or something bvery very similar to that...


"Experience beats eduction...mostly. In many cases, it''s more desireable to hire the person who "does" than the person who "hasn''t yet." Experience without education, though has a tendency to ingrain bad habits. So pick your poison... " (again a quote from David

I second that... the thing is, CS graduates usually look to self learnes as unresponsabile, weird habits, bad style etc etc... but thins is changing and much..... making Code complete, and a couple other good books on design, the internet now has articles all over the place about code structuring, etc. where pepole learn. That used to be the case a couple years ago cause:

1) it was needed for optimization purposes, and callign 5 functions or just 1 for doing the same thing would be benefitial (it isnt in our days with this 800+ Mhz computers with 128+ Mgs Ram) or using weird loops using pointers to make the code faster

2) using cryptic names like x or y or t, why ? because in those days, a game was done in under a month, and there were no patched, there was no code reuse, there was only one programmer... so WHY NOT ?? saves a lot time of typing... Not it isnt the same, and now programmers know it, and do use xLoopTemp or tMatrix, or yCollumn (or whatever, it was the first 3 words that came to my mind)

3) Information sharing is now considered a must (almost) and big time guys do plan files, post in this boards, write articles for magazines etc etc etc... before ?? if they could find something in the internet about code design.... "WHOOOAAAAAA we have a winner, the bike goes to ...."

4) Many programmers learned from other code, and that code was like I said, BAD, so they learned how to code BADLY, it isnt the case now, 75% of the code available now is well designed, well commented, etc etc

5) MAny programmers also learned from those magazines that bought some games there or books that only had code you could type to your spectrum... thsoe where ALWAYS made to take the less space possible, so naming conventions would just be x y z t p o

K, I had some more things to say but I''ll leave it for the next time

Again, choose carefully what you want to do...

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jsut to add one thing i just saw in the news.....

"one out of three college people takes drugs.... and college provides an easy easy way to get first experience to a ''newbie'' start experimenting with them"

(Again portuguese college....

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Akura,
I truly am sorry for the situation you are in with colleges in Portugal. My assessment of the situation was based upon US colleges and should probably relax a bit if indeed your experiences seem to be indicative of the college system as a whole in Portugal.

That aside, I mentioned in my earlier post that in my experience, self taught programmers more often than not, lack the organizational skills and general group project skills that programmers with more formal education or training posess. This is a ''general'' rule of thumb that I have seen and does not apply personally to any one individual in this thread.

My advise to new programmers is two fold; if you have the skills to program then try out the market if you like or go take a few classes that can help solidify your foundation. If you don''t have the skills yet, then it is best to go get that foundation before you get into the messy state of affairs that is the current market. Its that simple.

Kressilac

ps When I mentioned organizational skills, I was referring to the ability of a self taught programmer to produce code that works well, is easy to understand, and has been well documented. My single largest indicator of this is how well a completed segment of code survives a peer review.

Derek Licciardi
President
Elysian Productions Inc.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
My position on this (CIS degree of a University of California campus) is that a degree is only valuable if you follow up on it. I have not worked a day as a programmer, so my degree is irrelevant.

However, I would also point out that being in an academic environment is almost as valuable as being in class. I learned at least as much from my fellow classmates as I did from my lecturers and professors. Some of the things I learned were not so much factoids or techniques, but approaches and philosophies.

Not that you can''t find this environment outside of universities, but they are the most obvious place to look.

$0.02

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Guest Anonymous Poster
How about a new wrinkle. Distance education. I started programming 6-8 years ago (you know the stuff, basic programs with ascii text and line drawings), slowly getting more advanced, finally arriving at c++ and game programming of the directx variety. Now I''m taking courses from an on-line college, you can check it out at www.accis.com, and working towards a Bachelor''s Degree in Computer Science. I enjoy this type of education, because you can skim parts that you''re already familiar with (one class took 3 weeks to finish), and go over rough spots until you''re ready. This seems like a strong alternative to some of the things mentioned previously.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Bad link on the last post. Try www.accis.edu
BTW all of the tests are taken online now, which means you get fast feedback on a number of them.

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Kressilac I agree on the organisation skill''s of ''self-taught'' programmers, how ever I''ve seen quite a few well organised ''self-taught'' coders... but your right there are more unorganised coders then organised in the ''self-taught'' area.

Took me about 2 year''s befor my code was even ''decent'' to look at.

Also to wrap thing''s up about Degree''s college and what not..
This is a decision for you to make and you alone based on what *you* want to do, what you are capable of, what you wish to gain from college, and what your personal situation is.

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