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Eagle11

What degree should I get?

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I am a junior in high school and I am starting to look at colleges. I have been programing for almost two years now. I started with one of the many forms of BASIC out there and after about six months I moved to c++. In c++ I have learned to make MFC applications and games using DirectX or Allegro. I am interested in being a game programmer or software programmer (leaning a little towards game programmer). What I need to know is what classes I should take to give myself a good chance at a well paying job. Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Thanks.

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For a general programmer, Computer Sciences. Then there are things like Software Engineering that I've heard thrown around. I haven't actually looked at a school that offers a degree in it, but I'm told it is a higher level view of things, and often includes more business managment than a Comp.Sci. degree offers.

Look at the schools you are interested in, and see what they offer.


Now, just because you want to get into game development doesn't mean you need a major in something directly computer related. Math and Physics are also good paths to take, but while they'll limit your scope of jobs in the computer world, they'll also keep jobs in other fields more open to you. A major in Math or Physics with a minor in Computer Sciences with a strong hobby programming portfolio will look very nice to some companies.


And don't forget to pick your extra classes wisely. If you do nothing but programming related stuff in your degree, then you'll have the skills proven for nothing but programming jobs. Take business and arts classes as well, make sure you can prep yourself for management positions.

(And stupid school computers don't have firefox upgraded for the spell check)

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Keep in mind - not all paths in software development end in being a hardcore programmer.

There is a HUGE market out there for developers who can actually communicate well, and know the business side of things. Programming / architecture wise may not even be as important..

Let me try to explain a little better. At my current job (software developer in a financial company) the application and systems we do really aren't all that complicated architecture and development-wise. All we are really doing is taking data from one source and shifting it around and allowing users to do something with it using business processes / rules, and then taking this data and feeding it somewhere else in the end.

You can sum up 90% of our applications & systems with that sentence. And let me tell you - very few of the developers here are 'hard core' programmers. Many of them have never touched C/C++ in their life, couldn't tell you what a linked list or red/black tree is. If you asked them if they knew MFC, they might think you were using a curse word acronym. They may only know higher level languages and paradigms like ASP.NET or WinForms... Now don't get me wrong, the systems are not all trivial... and there is plenty of complicated software that related to what I'm talking about.. distributed systems, services, backend servers, etc... I'm just trying to get a point across that it's not all about writing code (and it all is sure as hell a lot easier then commercial game development)

And that's perfectly fine for places like this, because again, the solutions are not that complicated, and make game development look like a walk in the park programming wise. However- communication, knowing the business processes, understanding *what you're actually doing*, and most importantly, again, communication - can you represent yourself properly in a room with VP's, business analysts, users, etc...

So basically, what I'm trying to get at is - don't think being the best programmer is the be-all-end-all to being a software developer. Communication & business skills come first & foremost for MUCH of the market out there. You can teach yourself programming concepts and syntax pretty easily - pick up a book and spend the weekend reading. Try teaching yourself how to talk to a room full of people and explain to them how your financial accounting application is coming up with their NAV. not so easy!!!

If it was me, and I could have done it over again.. I would have went to a really good school and got a major in Finance, or financial engineering, or business, business administration, etc.. with a minor in communication.. And taught myself all the programming concepts (which I wound up doing anyway..)

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Graveyard filla is correct about the need for industry specific knowledge, business acumen and the need for social graces. And he's certainly right about the common programmer not being hardcore, or even that skilled with computer science concepts. But you still need to make (and maintain) the stuff.

I learned through self study as well, but it is not enough (imo) to allow you to become a good software engineer in a reasonable timeframe. Industry knowledge you get on the job. Business and social skills come via experience. You don't get advanced CS topics by doing code monkey work, even though having that knowledge makes your programs hugely more stable, flexible, and maintainable.

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Quote:
Original post by Telastyn
I learned through self study as well, but it is not enough (imo) to allow you to become a good software engineer in a reasonable timeframe. Industry knowledge you get on the job. Business and social skills come via experience. You don't get advanced CS topics by doing code monkey work, even though having that knowledge makes your programs hugely more stable, flexible, and maintainable.


I guess you make a good point.. never thought of it like that before

but with that note, it depends on what you want to be in 5-10 years. Do you still want to be coding? Think about it.. how many programmer are making 150k, 200k, 250k+?? Then how many VP of software development are making that much? Almost all of them probably, at least in this area.... and I'd bet most of those guys were programmers who had to learn the business side the hard way, or went back to school for it... not business people who taught themselves programming or went back to school for it.. so IMO, if you go to school for business, & teach yourself programming, you will set yourself up nicely for a high paying mid/upper management gig in software devving.

Just my 2 cents... and yeah, money isn't everything... but it helps [grin].

[Edited by - graveyard filla on October 22, 2008 6:23:04 PM]

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Thanks for the responses guys! I completely agree with graveyard filla about the business side of everything. I think I will take some business courses... Probably not major because it isn't all that interesting to me. I also want to be able to have other job training besides the programing stuff. At the same time I would also like to do some programing courses. I have taught myself everything that I know so far and have had no problem with that, but there are gaps in my knowledge that I would like to fill. Once again, thanks for the responses, I will consider your advise when making my school choice.

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Enh, I know more programmers making over 100k than I do VPs. They're usually the one or two guys that actually know what they're doing and do the non-trivial work you described.

But it does depend on what you want to do. And it depends on who you are. Some people are just charismatic and maybe don't need the training (or want to play it up). Some people are really not and need the help.

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