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## Computer Science vs Software Engineering

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### #21Tom Sloper  Moderators

Posted 10 March 2014 - 07:29 PM

That's not true, experience doesn't mean that you had a job before,

That's wrong. "Experience" absolutely means "paid job experience," if you are applying for a job in North America, and the hirer asks you what "experience" you have. http://sloperama.com/advice/m83.htm

Edited by Tom Sloper, 10 March 2014 - 07:31 PM.

-- 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.

### #22Valoon  Members

Posted 10 March 2014 - 07:58 PM

That's not true, experience doesn't mean that you had a job before, you can do open source projects anytime, or you can do your own projects. That's experience. I studied at university when i got my job, and you know what? No one cared about what i learnt at university, i got my job because my spare time project. And honestly, it wasn't a big deal, it was like a 1k row (but well designed) code base c++ (sfml) tower defense game project, what wasn't even finished. And it was enough for my current bosses to choose me instead of other guys, who had much better grades at my university, but nothing to show.

But that's because you compare yourself with guys who did nothing.

Obviously if you can show skills but no degree, it's better than showing a degree and "no" skills. At least that would be logical.

The problem is when you fall against people who have both the degree and the skills.

Edited by Valoon, 10 March 2014 - 07:59 PM.

### #23Norman Barrows  Members

Posted 11 March 2014 - 08:20 PM

If you haven't finished your degree, as an engineering manager I probably wouldn't even consider hiring you.

i wouldn't blame you one bit.

that's why i'm self-employed, cause i don't have the paperwork for a CS job, regular or gamedev - not that i'd necessarily want either.

of course, you have to realize that back then, game software was still being sold in little mom and pop computer stores, zip locked floppies on pegboard pegs, with a one page printout of installation instructions.

and $5000 per month in registrations vs going to philosophy lecture... which would you choose? since i never finished the electives, despite holding a 3.6 GPA in enough hours of engineering for FOUR engineering degrees (i was sort of a professional student), i never claim to be a degreed software engineer (or anything else). 99 and 44/100 % is as close as i get. <g> i guess the closest thing i has to something like that was my title of "systems analyst" during my engineering co-op stint working for the information systems division of the reconnaissance and weapons special projects office, and the air force electronic combat office, of the aircraft systems division, of the US air force, at wright pat air force base in dayton, OH (in millspeak acronyms for those fluent: ASD/RWI-AFECO, USAF, WPAFB, Dayton, OH). Oh, and i was offered a "graduate research assistant-ship" while still an undergrad by the Center for Interactive Management at Gorge Mason University, but i had already been accepted at OSU for Aerospace, so i declined the offer. No, i was just an engineering student, not a graduate. Like many entrepreneurs, i was lured away from finishing by the promise of immediate profits. Norm Barrows Rockland Software Productions "Building PC games since 1989" rocklandsoftware.net PLAY CAVEMAN NOW! http://rocklandsoftware.net/beta.php ### #24Tutorial Doctor Members Posted 11 March 2014 - 09:58 PM Honestly, most job don't even require degree, most company care about your knowledge and experience. Wow. This eases my worry a bit. I figured I would have to go to school, because as was noted, a lot of the applications say C.S. degree. I always figured it should be about what you are able to do in such a field as that, but then again, I am struggling myself to follow some of the more detailed conversations here. It starts to turn all alien on me after a while, but I am learning more every day. You might be an amazing programmer at age 23 with no degree and a limited portfolio, but when the interviews also include five other people each with a degree and a similar portfolio, I pick one of them. Nothing personal, but they proved they can finish a big project, you have not. Yet this knocks me right back down. haha. They call me the Tutorial Doctor. ### #25Tom Sloper Moderators Posted 11 March 2014 - 10:17 PM and$5000 per month in registrations vs going to philosophy lecture... which would you choose?

Either A or B, eh? I would choose C instead. Those two choices you presented us are not your only choices.
-- 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.

### #26Tom Sloper  Moderators

Posted 11 March 2014 - 10:19 PM

Honestly, most job don't even require degree, most company care about your knowledge and experience.

Wow. This eases my worry a bit.

Wrongly so. Melkon is not giving you advice that applies to game jobs in North America. You need to get a degree (if you are under 25 and have not yet gotten any game industry experience).
-- 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.

### #27Tutorial Doctor  Members

Posted 11 March 2014 - 10:32 PM

Well, I would say if you have the money to go to school, and the desire to, go ahead. There are advantages to school, but the main advantage is not the way it looks on your resume, but the resources you can get from there. Also, you will be meeting people who will be in your field, and most of the time your professor is accomplished, so they could help you get a job or something.

I am trying to learn this stuff on my own, and I just don't have enough access to good information and resources. And I am not being challenged like I would be in school. No deadlines or anything, so I get lax on some days.

I have read on another post that it is best to get a C.S. degree rather than game programming degree though, because the options of fields you could go into are larger.

However, I do think Melkon has a valid point also. I myself am not a fan of the American education system. I think it is more about money than actual education. If it were more about education and the benefit of humanity, then college tuition wouldn't be going up so much. So it seems to be about prestige (good school or not, learn anything or not) so that people will assume that the tuition was an investment for the future, and so that that school will get more people to go there and spend even more money. And it seems that preferring someone with degrees is a way for this society to pay a person back for all the money they had to spend to finish school (if they can get a job, which some schools promise now).

They call me the Tutorial Doctor.

### #28Tom Sloper  Moderators

Posted 12 March 2014 - 07:25 AM

I have read on another post that it is best to get a C.S. degree rather than game programming degree though

Yes. If you want to become a game programmer, CS is the way to go. If money for school is an issue (as it is for 99% of us), then choose a school that offers scholarships (usually that means local, at least same state) and does not cost an arm and a leg.
-- 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.

### #29Aardvajk  Members

Posted 12 March 2014 - 08:25 AM

I'm self-taught with no formal qualifications and work as a software developer now (UK) but I have to say two things were on my side:

• I live in a part of the country where there is little competition
• I landed a gig with a very small company that had no other applicants in this area

If either of those had not been the case, I doubt I would have made it to interview stage. If you have the opportunity to get a qualification and the debt incurred isn't too insane, always always go for it while you are young.

### #30Tom Sloper  Moderators

Posted 12 March 2014 - 09:38 AM

If you have the opportunity to get a qualification and the debt incurred isn't too insane, always always go for it while you are young.

What he said.
-- 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.

### #31Katie  Members

Posted 12 March 2014 - 09:57 AM

"I figured I would have to go to school, because as was noted, a lot of the applications say C.S. degree."

Go and get a degree. They're not hard.

If you don't then every time you apply for a job you'll have to phone up and have the discussion about why you feel you're special and shouldn't have to meet the "CS degree or equivalent" line in the requirements. You will be doing this with (at best) someone in HR who doesn't know software engineer from welding (and doesn't see why "CS degree required" is any different from "Must have current Welding Institute certification").

Or at worst someone in candidate sourcing who you will have to convince enough that they will spend their time convincing the client relation manager enough for them to convince their contact in HR (who still doesn't know software engineering from welding) enough that they'll convince the hiring manager to look at your CV.

Even if this gig works one time in two, you're still putting in way more effort for half as many applications not rejected as the guy next to you who went to uni.

For the next 40 years, every time there's a recession, you're the one who'll find it hardest to get a new job. You'll be the last on the list of interviewees. You'll be the one who can't convince a recruiter (who also can't tell software engineering from welding) to make you one of the just five CVs they're allowed to send through from the pile of people who've called up.

And this is for the entire rest of your professional life.

### #32frob  Moderators

Posted 12 March 2014 - 10:40 AM

I'm self-taught with no formal qualifications and work as a software developer now (UK) but I have to say two things were on my side:
* I live in a part of the country where there is little competition
* I landed a gig with a very small company that had no other applicants in this area
If either of those had not been the case, I doubt I would have made it to interview stage

Yes, exactly. Repeating myself and repeating the advice from the forum FAQ:

You do not live in a vacuum.

In most cities in the West, you will be competing against other programmers who have a degree, AND who have a portfolio. Later in your career they will have a degree AND a portfolio AND similar work experience.

If you chose not to get a CS degree and intend to live in such a location, you will ALWAYS be at a disadvantage over your entire career. The regular, normal, everyday programmer has a degree. Every time you apply for a promotion, every time you get laid off or switch to another employer, every single time you will be at a disadvantage relative to those who have the degree. You will be at a disadvantage when they sort through the applications. You will be at a disadvantage when they ask about education during the interview. You will be at a disadvantage when salary is negotiated.

You might not realize the disadvantage, but the employer absolutely will recognize it and absolutely will use it to their advantage. .

Now if you intend to live in a small city in Australia, (Yes I like to pick on my Aussie friends, where tertiary education is considered more of a luxury and less required in this field) or in parts of Eastern Europe like Romania or Hungary or Estonia, or any of the countries where formal tertiary education is much less prevalent, then in that case you don't need the education to compare well against your peers.

I note using my super-powerful moderator powers (okay, just seeing the IP address of posters) that the ones asking the questions are from well-educated cities, the ones saying it is unnecessary are mostly located in the places mentioned in the last paragraph. Both are right, depending on the location. If you are living in a place where college degrees are fairly rare, you probably don't need it. If you are living where college degrees are commonplace (like the US) then they are necessary.

In the US, college education doesn't need to be expensive. If you shop around, according to government statistics there are about 2400 four-year colleges and universities that cost less than $9000 per year. If you are willing to move and attend a community college for your first two years you can get a four year degree for under$5000/year.  In addition to inexpensive schools, many students qualify for financial aid. Students who are willing to study will almost always qualify for scholarships. Students who are willing to work can usually hold a job while in school. Students also can hunt around for work-study programs where they can do their job and earn credits while being paid by an employer who offers flexible hours. (Personally I had scholarships and a 30 hour/week job while in school.) There are many rather expensive 'popular' schools, you can get a degree from a fully accredited (and much less expensive) school if you want. When I see stories of people describing their $150,000 in student loan debt I see it as a sign of idiocy. Stats say 71% percent of college grads have a loan, and the average graduate's student loans were approximately$26,000, yet the median student loan at graduation is about $13,000. So over a quarter of the graduates have no debt. Half of those with a debt have a fairly small debt that can be repaid with$150/month for five to ten years. That leaves only about 35% of all total graduates have more than $13,000 in debt, and those students are more likely to have$50K or $100K in debt. Hopefully those 35% of graduates have a plan, but too many just went to school because it was a popular thing to do and didn't care about things like the ability to repay loans; there are many well-educated idiots out there. Most American families can afford a lower-cost school by living without some luxuries. Switch from a smart phone with an all-you-can-use$130+/month data plan to a voice-only plan costing $30/month to get$100/month. Cancel the TV satellite/cable system to get another $100/month. That is half the cost right there. Cancelling your WoW subscription gives you back not just 4% of the cost of education, but also frees up hours for study and work. The average family spends$300/month dining out, which can be reduced by about \$200/month by eating in. So assuming a 20-year-old being supported by an average family, simply having the family cut back on the luxuries of phone, TV, and dining out can cover the majority of your college costs. It is a small sacrifice for the family for a valuable item for the student. Even if you are on your own, working through school is quite common and readily accomplished. You'll be eating ramen many nights, but at least you will be eating 3 meals daily, which is more than many people in the world can say.

In the US, if you want a tertiary education money is not a realistic barrier. There are many other barriers, such as health concerns or providing and caring for family members, which unfortunately can limit the availability of education. But money alone is not such a barrier.

I live in a fairly average US city, I have access to five major university campuses within a one-hour commute, and eleven smaller colleges that all teach either computer science or 'programming' trade degrees. Around here if you don't have a degree you won't get a game programming job. When you are talking about cities with game studios in Florida or California or New Jersey or any other location, game studios are almost always in university-heavy locations. As such, you need the degree.

Edited by frob, 12 March 2014 - 01:00 PM.
Add a bunch of notes about costs and availability of education in the US.

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 occasionally write about assorted stuff.

### #33Aardvajk  Members

Posted 12 March 2014 - 10:59 AM

That's exactly what I said frob. I was very lucky and a degree is very important if you can get one.

Odd response to my post.

### #34frob  Moderators

Posted 12 March 2014 - 01:02 PM

That's exactly what I said frob. I was very lucky and a degree is very important if you can get one.

Odd response to my post.

It was in agreement with you, not disagreement.

You were lucky. You didn't have the typical competition found at a major studio.

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 occasionally write about assorted stuff.

### #35Aardvajk  Members

Posted 12 March 2014 - 01:10 PM

That's exactly what I said frob. I was very lucky and a degree is very important if you can get one.
Odd response to my post.

It was in agreement with you, not disagreement.

You were lucky. You didn't have the typical competition found at a major studio.

Ah understood, sorry. Yes, incredibly lucky. Although in fairness computers weren't really a proper subject back in the distant past when I made my educational choices

### #36Bregma  Members

Posted 12 March 2014 - 01:25 PM

Go and get a degree. They're not hard.

Well, they can be.  That's one of the reasons they're valuable.  That's one of the reasons obtaining one is usually one of the qualifications for getting hired in a job where things can get hard.

Stephen M. Webb
Professional Free Software Developer

### #37theflamingskunk  Members

Posted 12 March 2014 - 05:48 PM

This thread quickly deescalated from which degree to get, to whether to get a degree at all (or why to get one).

So I mine as well throw in my little quip.

I was one of those ignorant, naive people that thought school was useless.

I went to one semester at school and then dropped out to do an internship as a Backend Web Developer (so not Games) in New York City (which seems somewhat competitive). From my experience proving experience trumps school IF you put in the legwork to get an opportunity. You can not just blindly apply to places since you will get nowhere, but rather you need to sneak your way in. As stated you don't exist in a vacuum so you cant expect to get in through the front door with everybody else, but rather get in through a window. I was able to get interviews and offers by just emailing mid-level to high-level employees in the area I wanted to go into and just chatting them up for a bit. However this technique will still completely bar you from getting into a lot of companies. And you will be looked at with alot of glances and immediate judgment whenever school comes up so you are always on the defensive. (that and looking very young if you are young).

So all that being said, I am planning on going back to school part time next year to get a degree.

If you are as good as you say then you should be able to do that all well and good. If you cant find a job, then you probably answered your own question, and if you cant handle it then you probably need to go back to school anyway.

I realize that im not actually talking to anyone, so I am sorry for that. Just thought I would tell my story.

### #38Dwarf King  Members

Posted 13 March 2014 - 04:08 AM

So only people with degrees in CS and Engineering can succeed in the Game development/software business?

Somehow I do not believe in that. I have outsourced plenty of jobs to people with no degrees. Some of the best Scripters/coders I have seen and worked with had degrees in liberal art or just high school or were drop outs. I look at the actual skills and not the paper. Sorry if that offend some, but being able to make stuff will be the must important factor for me.

Some of the best of the best engine developers I have seen or worked with did not hold CS degrees or any engineering degrees(granted thay have read the same books or similar along the process in becoming so good) and quite a few did get head hunted by small firms later on. This sites hostility against creative resourceful strong people who know how to learn by themselves without paying expensive fees for universities really surprise me. Also it does not matter much as those kind of people will succeed no matter what as talent is talent. The rest is pure words. Also please bear in mind that not all people like to work in big companies as they feel that can grow in skills in the small companies.

Degrees are good but not the answer for all people. For me I found out the many of the CS classes I took did only merely scratch the surface of what I should learn to develop games or software. I got schooled hard by the very good open source society(games and software) and many of my simple CS theories about algorithms and workflow quickly turned out to become not so useful, however still valid(here I recommend Jonathan Blows talk at UCLA and pay attention to his talk about http://the-witness.net/news/2011/06/how-to-program-independent-games/). Please pay attention around 23:00 minutes. I think the most important thing I learned from the game industry so far is, do not reinvent the wheel and keep on learning new stuff from the old veterans out there even though they do not hold the relevant degree and are self taught.

The old guard of developers are really full of knowledge and skill. That is hard to come by in a CS department ;) Sorry if my post about reality offends some but someone had to speak out so I did it.

To the OP I say pick one you like if you can find the time and money to spend on it, but remember those degrees only teach you a small fraction of what you need to know out there. Keep on learning and keep the passion alive and do not judge people on a piece of paper alone but on their actual skills and personality

"The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education"

Albert Einstein

"It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education"

Albert Einstein

### #39Katie  Members

Posted 13 March 2014 - 05:32 AM

"Well, they can be."

People should probably find out they can't do it as early as possible then. Before they find themselves committed to a career they're out of their depth in.

### #40frob  Moderators

Posted 13 March 2014 - 07:39 AM

So only people with degrees in CS and Engineering can succeed in the Game development/software business?

Somehow I do not believe in that. I have outsourced plenty of jobs to people with no degrees. Some of the best Scripters/coders I have seen and worked with had degrees in liberal art or just high school or were drop outs. I look at the actual skills and not the paper. Sorry if that offend some, but being able to make stuff will be the must important factor for me.

Did you even read the discussion?

Yes, people *can* succeed without degrees. This is especially true in locations where few people hold CS or similar degrees. However, you don't exist in vacuum.

The people who are asking are located inside the United States, where game studios are located in heavily-educated cities where the vast majority have degrees.

Those who are most vocal that you may not need a degree (such as yourself) are located in other nations or locations without such education density.

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 occasionally write about assorted stuff.

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