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pinebanana

CS Degree - Is it worth it?

54 posts in this topic

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.
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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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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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...

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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
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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).

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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.

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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.
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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.
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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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If you can get the problem solving knowledge and experience without college, don't go. Simple as that.

 

Having known and worked with very capable engineers who eschewed university, my experience has been that a number of them suffer from a syndrome I term "cult programming".

 

Symptoms of cult programming may include:

  • Highly irregular solutions to common problems.
  • Regularly reinventing the wheel, because you aren't aware of the standard solutions.
  • A tendency to leap into implementation, without performing adequate design.
  • A tendency to leap into optimisation, without performing adequate profiling.

If you believe you may be suffering from cult programming, please consult your nearest senior engineer. If untreated, cult programming may lead to code bloat, feature creep, missed deadlines and failure to ship.

Edited by swiftcoder
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If you can get the problem solving knowledge and experience without college, don't go. Simple as that.

 

Having known and worked with very capable engineers who eschewed university, my experience has been that a number of them suffer from a syndrome I term "cult programming".

 

Symptoms of cult programming may include:

  • Highly irregular solutions to common problems.
  • Regularly reinventing the wheel, because you aren't aware of the standard solutions.
  • A tendency to leap into implementation, without performing adequate design.
  • A tendency to leap into optimisation, without performing adequate profiling.

If you believe you may be suffering from cult programming, please consult your nearest senior engineer. If untreated, cult programming may lead to code bloat, feature creep, missed deadlines and failure to ship.

 

 

I have seen lists very similar to that used to describe programmers who are recent graduates, and that aligns pretty well with what I have seen. Personally, I think it has more to do with your professional education/exposure. I count myself really fortunate that my first job was with really good engineers, and that helped me to progress from 'recent graduate' level to... well, a little better at least. And from that point I have worked with good engineers and so to steal (bastardize) from Newton, if I have seen further it is because I stand on the shoulders of giants. Or, more simply, I became a better software engineer because I worked with good engineers. College degree or not, if you end up working with crappy engineers you are unlikely to be exposed to concepts and practices that will help you to become a good engineer.

 

-Josh

Edited by jjd
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Having dealt with many bozos on forums who think snappy jokes are legitimate forms of long-term life advice, my experience has been that a number of them suffer from a syndrome I term "negative justification". People who suffer this syndrome tend to justify something they've done mainly through convincing themselves that things would have been worse had they not done it.

 

Symptoms include:

 

  • Justifying doing some action by denegrating the people who haven't done it.
  • Blaming the flaws of specific people you've met in your life on some arbitrary trait they all share, and assuming that the same flaws exist in other people who share that trait. (Ex: "engineers who have eschewed college ruin everything!")
  • Convincing yourself that all benefits from something you've done justify having done it. (Ex: Saying things like: "You can get industry contacts at school that land you a job!" As if you can't do that at conventions, conferences, club meetings, bars, and park benches)
  • Assuming, without justification, that you are currently better off for having taken some action than you would've been had you not. (Ex: "My CS Degree taught me problem solving!" As though you could not have learned problem solving as well, or better, without the degree.)

If you think you may be suffering from "negative justification" syndrome, please consult your nearest psychiatrist. If untreated, "negative justification" syndrome could lead to  working a job you don't love so you can pay off debt you shouldn't have. Eventually, you may find yourself writing unnecessarily argumentative forum posts to boost your ego during coffee breaks.

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I almost got kicked out of school for not having 2 semesters of a foreign language

I fell about laughing when I read this - I completely tanked my final year GPA because I decided to try and cram in a year of French to qualify for a second undergraduate degree...

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Programming jobs these days are usually not one-man-hacking-in-the-dark kind of jobs. Most programming jobs these days are with companies that have HR. HR can be a huge pain in the butt at times, but you still have to realize your resume goes through them first before you get an interview. And HR cares about certificates, degrees, etc. Even if you (or your future boss) don't care. You might think this is dumb and not how life should be, but that doesn't change the fact that that's how it is.

 

This. Seriously this.

 

My wife works in HR and has previously worked as a recruiter. She's told me stories where applicants for a job with fantastic experience weren't even interviewed because some higher up decided they needed a degree. 

 

Hell, you can have all the necessary experience and qualifications and still get discarded if that isn't clear enough on your application. 

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Programming jobs these days are usually not one-man-hacking-in-the-dark kind of jobs. Most programming jobs these days are with companies that have HR. HR can be a huge pain in the butt at times, but you still have to realize your resume goes through them first before you get an interview. And HR cares about certificates, degrees, etc. Even if you (or your future boss) don't care. You might think this is dumb and not how life should be, but that doesn't change the fact that that's how it is.

 

This. Seriously this.

 

My wife works in HR and has previously worked as a recruiter. She's told me stories where applicants for a job with fantastic experience weren't even interviewed because some higher up decided they needed a degree. 

 

Hell, you can have all the necessary experience and qualifications and still get discarded if that isn't clear enough on your application. 

 

I do not work in HR, but I do see a lot of resumes that have been vetted through HR departments.

 

Usually if we have a job opening, we may get a thousand or two thousand applicants for the job, and usually about 300-400 of those resume's end up on my desk at some point.

 

At that point you just need to find a way to sort through and discard resumes. There are a lot of techniques for this, but here's a list of things that tend to get me to chuck your resume:

  • Colored paper - Automatic discard. If its not on white copy paper, or high quality white paper, I'm not even going to bother looking at it. Nevertheless, I still get resume's on the occasion that are printed on tan, or other colored paper.
  • Too many pages - Three is about the maximum number of pages I'll allow, if you have more than three pages on your resume then I'm probably going to toss it. Not because the information on those pages might not be important, but because its probably a fairly generic resume listing experience and jobs taken for things that I honestly am not hiring you for. It also is usually a lot of filler material that could have been omitted in favor of more meat.
  • Pages that are too blank - On the opposite end, people who have a two page resume, and one page is half or more empty? Chances are I'm not going to bother looking. If you're going to have a two page resume it needs to be TWO PAGES. That the second page needs to be at least 3/4 full. If you have less experience or content for two full pages, don't have a two page resume.
  • Font, font-size and spacing - Oh god, the number of resume's I've seen that are double spaced size 14 comic sans... Seriously, your resume should be either single or 1.5 spaced in Times New Roman. Arial or Calibri are acceptable too. As for font size, not too small, not too large. 11pt Calibri is pretty good.
  • Hand drawn UML, and written code. Color coded code. Any type of embedded examples
    I swear to god. Someone once sent in a resume that went through HR and landed on my desk. The first two pages were pretty good, the remaining 15 pages were printed source files. Don't do this.
  • No cover letter - This one may or may not break the pile... Depending on how many resume's I'm left with after applying the above filtering I may start to chuck those that are lacking in cover letters, and of those that remain, I READ the cover letter and discard the "form" letters. Form cover letters will almost ALWAYS get you chucked into the discard pile. Sorry, but if you cannot put in the effort to write me an actual cover letter, I'm not going to put in the effort to vet your resume and interview you.
  • Do you have a degree?
    This one may or may not get used, depending on the resulting pile from all the other filters. I don't view WHAT degree you have as being important. I view you HAVING a degree as being important. Having a degree does not mean you know jack diddly about your field. What it does mean is that you have the wherewithal to stick around doing a lot of work for something for four years for few immediate rewards. I.e. Dedication. That means if I put you on a project, you'll probably be able to stick through with it to the end.

    I can TEACH you anything you need to know, so having a degree doesn't mean you know anything. Most CS graduates are TERRIBLE programmers out of college. Why? Because most CS programs do not have you PROGRAM. You instead study and practice THEORY. But, at the same time, having that theory backing you is important for a lot of the work I tend to be doing. People who make claims like "you can learn graph theory on your own" or nonsense like that are wrong. You can attempt to, and might even succeed at having a "decent" understanding of graph theory, but without a third party to verify your answers you've not proven you've learned anything except perhaps how to do something wrong. EECS students tend to come out with a lot better programming skills than their CS counterparts as they tend to write more code, but they lack in other areas. So, as I mentioned above, what degree you have doesn't really matter.

    Work experience doesn't really count in place of a degree unless you've been in the industry for a decade or more. If you've got 3 years of "programming" experience from "Best Buy" I'm probably not going to bother interviewing you :)
  • Portfolio
    Your portfolio matters. Not only do I want to see your source, but your formatting matters, your statement of purpose matters, your documentation (both inline and external) of your code matters. If you have a website that you link on your resume, I expect to find relevant samples of your work on or trivially linked from that website. If I have to hunt your website to find your samples, I'm not going to bother. So either setup a dedicated part of the site that your resume links to, or make your website your portfolio.

    Now, if you've got professional experience, then not providing source is probably a good idea, but I still expect you to link to those things you worked on, and I still want to see samples of YOUR WORK. That means stuff you wrote on your own, projects of your own. Not just "oh yes, I did this and that and that other thing I linked to." because you know what, I can link to anything I want too.
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I worked as a web developer for 6 months before going to uni.

 

I decided to go to uni (Computer Science) in semester 2 and caught up to people by doing summer school and extra papers, eventually i managed to finish my degree in 2.5 years :)

 

I was in a similar situation to you, it felt very easy at first but it quickly picks up. It was good because i had the option of taking on a higher workload and progressing quicker. You'll have an easy A+ for a while until things get harder around year 2-3.

 

For me after finishing uni with ~30k of debt in 2012, university has already been and always was, well worth it.

 

I went to uni at The University of Auckland, New Zealand. Other Good uni's in Aus are similar i believe.

 

You certainly can work while you study, i got an internship after my second year for 3 months, a 5k scholarship from the company for my last year and worked at the university teaching for about 12 hours a week in my final year which all really helped me get through it :).

 

There are some very real benefits of university which others have mentioned, it gives you time to work on things you want and gives you a huge network of friends which will help you through your career/life and heaps of other stuff.

 

I would recommend that if you choose uni go with a more flexible course like CS because it gives you more freedom to avoid dull subjects/lecturers and move into doing things you like, i wouldn't want to do the general first year of Software ENG but thats just me.

 

Lee Penkman

Addicting Word Games

Word Smashing

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