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Ask Slashdot: CS Grads Taking IT Jobs? 520

Posted by samzenpus
from the welcome-to-the-help-desk dept.
An anonymous reader writes "I'm a soon-to-be Master's graduate from a public university majoring in computer science — with all that CS entails. Of course, it's come time to start job hunting, and while there are a few actual CS-type jobs around, I've noticed that a few IT jobs would be substantially more convenient for me personally. But this leads me to the question (assuming they would hire me, of course) — would having IT experience hurt my job prospects down the road? Would future employers see that and be less likely to hire me — or pigeon-hole me into IT?"
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Ask Slashdot: CS Grads Taking IT Jobs?

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Experience is good. Related experience is better.

    Holding down a job as a wrench turner doesn't hurt you.
    • Re:Erm... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by dintech (998802) on Monday September 26, 2011 @04:05AM (#37513236)

      If you have an instinct that something is going to be bad for your career and/or life, it's probably true. Even more so if it's something you find fundamentally dull. However, from a resume perspective it's better to be doing something than nothing since it's better to have experience than none. Cash in you pocket is nice.

      You might find yourself at an interview in three years time and the interviewer asks, "Why did you take a job doing X when you wanted to do Y?"

      That's a pretty dumb question considering where things are today with the economy. Try to answer it politely. :)

      Finally, you've been pretty vague about what IT means to you. If it means anything involving user support, desktop support, administration or telesales, avoid it. These are the IT equivalents of a McJob and put you at the wrong end of a stressful firing range. If the job-spec reads like a bunch of happy-clappy management buzzwords, avoid that too.

      • These are the IT equivalents of a McJob and put you at the wrong end of a stressful firing range

        These types of jobs will make your degree vaporware: there are large badges of these centres with people re-oriented in their carreers in a "2 week training program" because they "want to go into IT"

        Besides it, it will give you a wrong image of the IT-industry, give you a sense of disillusioning and burn you out before you can built up some kind of carreer.

        Avoid it if there are no alternatives.

        • Avoid it if there are no alternatives.

          So if there are alternatives, he should ignore them and take it?

          • by St.Creed (853824)

            yes and no :)

            • by Tsingi (870990)
              I like to be able to do everything. When I started here, I built my own servers. I had total control of everything. I built an ISP once. (circa 93, to get on the net)

              Sysops administer them now, but I have a thorough working knowledge of all my systems.

              What could possibly be wrong with that? I fail to understand how any knowledge would be a bad thing. Particularly knowledge relating to what you do.

              My own career has built on what has gone before and I always make an effort to at least learn about

      • This isn't entirely true. Being the Windows desktop weasel is definitely a lifetime of frustration kinda gig, but no one with any real knowledge or skill stays a Windows desktop weasel for long. I do user support for Linux desktops combined with system administration for Linux desktops and servers. I make as much as a developer with similar experience, and am considered a respected and important part of my team. Of course, for that money I don't point, click, and drool making someone's Office suite work

        • I started in ISP tech support. Competence was rewarded with doubled pay when I moved to a job as a sysadmin!

          So, yeah. Keep away from tech support ;-p

      • Server/DB Administration is certainly NOT a McJob.

      • While this obviously doesn't apply to the lowest bowels of IT digi-janitor hell, if you can land an IT gig at a shop of the correct size/managerial style, CS chops can be a serious asset:

        There are more than a few small/midsize places where the in-house supply of even scripting talent is rather tepid, so a lot of IT stuff either gets done manually, or is automated with some fairly expensive "solution" packages.

        Such a job won't involve "pure" CS, it'll still be IT; but if you are good enough at CS that
    • Re:Erm... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mikael_j (106439) on Monday September 26, 2011 @04:40AM (#37513408)

      That's not entirely true. There are definitely those out there who will hold past experience against you.

      If you don't believe this you should try the following experiment: Major in CS, work tech support at a call center during your last year, realize that the job market sucks and continue working tech support while looking for a "real job". After you've spent a year getting rejected for lack of experience you are very likely to instead get rejected because you aren't "quite right" for the job (or if they're a bit more honest they'll tell you outright that they're looking for developers, not tech support monkeys. And yes, I've been on the receiving end of that one a few times).

      An interesting twist here is that employers seem to be unable to understand that there is no career path at most call centers, if you start out in 1st line tech support you'll be lucky to be able to move to 2nd line within three or four years (2nd line tends to be quite cushy compared to 1st line), team lead positions are mostly assigned to 2nd line techs based on seniority (at least from my experience and from what I've heard from others working at other call centers) and only become available when a new team is created or an old team lead moves to a new job. In short, you're likely to be stuck in 1st line tech support telling people to power cycle their DSL modems until you quit or get laid off/fired, regardless of what you are actually capable of. But in the eyes of some guy hiring developers it looks suspicious that the applicant he's got in front of him worked at a call center for almost two years and never moved out of 1st line tech support.

      Oh btw, I haven't actually done tech support for a few years now, these days I'm a developer, but the mental scarring lasts a lifetime...

      • Re:Erm... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by St.Creed (853824) on Monday September 26, 2011 @06:14AM (#37513804)

        That's not entirely true. There are definitely those out there who will hold past experience against you.

        Fools live on every corner. If they're doing the hiring, I've found it to my benefit to go somewhere else. Because at the end of the day, your co-workers were hired by the same person and if he's an idiot, chances are so are the ones he hired.

  • CS is part of IT (Score:4, Informative)

    by janimal (172428) on Monday September 26, 2011 @03:42AM (#37513144)

    News flash. I'm a Comp Eng, I've been involved in writing software for all of my career, and I tell people I'm in the IT (Information Technology) business. Do you mean admin work? It shouldn't be a problem, unless you end up tailing log files and faxing the errors if you see them. Do you mean equipment/line installation? I wouldn't say the Cable Guy is in the IT business.

    • by AuMatar (183847) on Monday September 26, 2011 @03:46AM (#37513164)

      No, it isn't. CS is programming. IT is the maintenance of computer systems. That's like saying the guy who fixes your car and the guy who designs the engine are in the same field. They aren't.

      While an IT worker may do some light programming in his job, the average IT worker is not a programmer, and does not have the skill set to be one. You do a disservice to yourself and the understanding of the industry by continuing to perpetuate this mistake. The two fields are totally separate, and conflating the two only causes confusion.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 26, 2011 @03:55AM (#37513196)

        That's like saying the guy who fixes your car and the guy who designs the engine are in the same field. They aren't.

        They both work in the car industry. Why would you want to pretend otherwise? If you want to get more specific than that (and you often will) then they have different jobs within that industry just like a programmer and a systems admin have different jobs within the IT industry.

        Nurses, surgeons, dentists and hospital administrators all work in healthcare. That doesn't mean their skills are interchangeable (your average surgeon wouldn't be a great nurse) but that applies to different roles in most areas.

        • by AuMatar (183847)

          You've got to be joking. The car industry? Really? What earthly possible meaning could the "car industry" possibly have- how can you talk about two such different things under one header and have it make any sense.

          Fuck, you may as well call all jobs in the world "business" and not have any delimiters at all.

          • by modmans2ndcoming (929661) on Monday September 26, 2011 @05:14AM (#37513586)

            It sounds like you are an elitist... For most development work out there it is boring and lame. so have fun in your ivory tower.

          • by DrgnDancer (137700) on Monday September 26, 2011 @05:20AM (#37513616) Homepage

            Well, I know that if I go to the "IT" section of most job sites I see everything from "senior software engineer" to "windows support monkey", so he's mostly right. For that matter acting like all admins are dumb janitors and all programmer from genius engineers is pretty typical fresh from college arrogance. I make as much as a senior developer and have a masters in CS. I'd do dev work (I'm quite capable of it), but I would have to take huge pay cut to go from senior Unix administrator to junior or even mid-level developer.

            • Agreed. And fundamentally the bulk of your time in either development or systems administration is spent figuring out why something didn't work. Whether that's debugging code or troubleshooting an application error, it's a disturbingly similar skillset.

              I made the transition from developer to sysadmin six years ago and barely noticed.
          • by DarkOx (621550)

            Its called Taxonomy. Its how we sort things, first in to broad categories than into more specific sub categories. Organism is not very specific, animal and plant are more specific, mammal is still more specific than that.

            So yes, auto industry is not very specific, but is inclusive of both your local mechanic and the mechanical engineer designing engines. This is a useful classification by the way as there are broad trends and events that will impact both, that would not have an immediate or determinable

            • by hb253 (764272)
              To add a thought to your post, the mechanical engineer who is also a mechanic is most likely a better engineer. The same is true in reverse.
              • All automotive engineers should have to be mechanics. If you've ever worked on any car built in the '90s or later you'll get what I'm saying.

        • by fredmosby (545378)
          Suppose you need to hire someone to design a car engine. Would it be better to hire a mechanic or an engineer? Or are they the same because they both work in the automobile industry?
          • by SomePgmr (2021234) on Monday September 26, 2011 @05:15AM (#37513594) Homepage
            In the OP's case, you'd be looking at a candidate that is a qualified engineer and actually understands the practicalities of cars.

            I worked in IT, then as a programmer, then back to IT. One thing that blew my mind is that most of the best and brightest among the "engineers" (before I arrived) could barely turn their own workstations on. Being good at both made me more valuable than anyone. A good understanding of theories and best practices, with a healthy dose of actually being able to do shit, is every project managers dream.

            In short, having an IT Admin job won't hurt him. Unpaid student loans will.
      • by janimal (172428)

        Does this mean that at your bank there is a CS department and an IT department? You must be joking.

        • by AuMatar (183847)

          Yes. It has a development department and an IT department. There is absolutely no reason and no advantage to having the two lumped into one.

          • by janimal (172428)

            Curious. From my experience, there is an IT department under the CIO, which has an IT infrastructure head and an application development head. Both are in IT (or ICT as some would have it, because the PBX admins are in there too). Application development sometimes is the commando unit that can program stuff, and sometimes it's just a glorified procurement unit. To boot, the business users seem to all be convinced that if they order applications, they order them from IT, and not from "Application Development

            • We are what we are; i.e. the mechanic, who comes out from under the ship deck once in a while, dressed in rather unfashionable and perhaps even dirty clothes, to tell the capitan "I've giv'n her all she's got captain, an' I canna give her no more ..."

              LOL made my day... had many a discussion with colleagues on whether what we do (publishing papers on applied CS topics) is science or engineering... And I mostly share your point of view...

            • and in most cases of a shrink wrapped application, the application team needs to do some custom software to properly integrate the purchased system into the IT infrastructure.

          • by Kjella (173770)

            Yes. It has a development department and an IT department. There is absolutely no reason and no advantage to having the two lumped into one.

            I don't think anyone would consider that a good idea, we just use different names. Every place I've worked split IT into development and operations. The separation is usually less clear in practice though, because development resources are often pulled in to do maintenance and sometimes maintenance workers do minor enhancements in addition to bug fixing. I've had the pleasure of trying to model this and we had to go down to the task level in order to model it properly because projects were a good mix Well

      • Re:CS is part of IT (Score:5, Informative)

        by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Monday September 26, 2011 @04:08AM (#37513262) Journal

        CS is programming. IT is the maintenance of computer systems.

        Interesting. Is this the prevalent definition of IT in the US (assuming that's where you are from)? Because in Europe, IT in common parlance means "computer stuff" i.e. networking, software engineering, database administration, server administration/support, data analysis, web design, etc. My job titles include business analyst and solution architect, but when I state that I "work in IT" to others (all over the globe), it does not seem to cause confusion.

        • It doesn't cause confusion, but it also doesn't give anyone you know any idea what you actually do.
          If you had a secretary, she would also "work in IT" despite not having anything to do with IT.

        • by AuMatar (183847) on Monday September 26, 2011 @04:34AM (#37513382)

          In the US it's mixed. Some people, like the OP, mistakenly call all areas IT. Most people frown on that classification. You say "I work in IT" I assume you're a sys admin, a helpdesk guy, or a phone support person. I do not assume you do programming. It's a separate field.

          Here's an example of it causing confusion- the US is losing IT jobs. You can see all sorts of people worried about the loss of IT jobs. Programming jobs? The unemployment rate is actually negative- there's more jobs than coders.

          Let's turn this around- other than the physical tools (which lets face it, every job in the world uses now) what do IT and programming have in common? Absolutely nothing. So conflating the two isn't useful.

          • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 26, 2011 @04:50AM (#37513444)

            .. what do IT and programming have in common? Absolutely nothing. So conflating the two isn't useful.

            They are both about information technology.

          • by janimal (172428)

            You think the US isn't loosing jobs to programmers in India? Which planet are you from?

            • by AuMatar (183847)

              The one where I get 3 or 4 headhunters calling me a week when I haven't updated any online resume in over a year. Also the same one where every company I know has a ton of unfilled developer positions because we can't find the quality we're looking for. Individual jobs do move overseas, but there's no net movement there at the moment. In Seattle there's negative unemployment for programmers.

              • by Lumpy (12016)

                "I know has a ton of unfilled developer positions because we can't find the quality we're looking for, at the pay rate we want to offer."

                I fixed that for you. there are PLENTY of high quality programmers without jobs in the USA right now, your Cheap ass boss want to pay $42,000 a year instead of $67,000-$80,000 and thus you only get resumes from new grads or low skilled workers.

                Hell I changed career tracks because of that bullshit. DB admin and programmer pay dropped significantly, Bite me. I changed t

          • The IT industry has an unemployment rate less than 5% so I don't think anyone is worried about losing jobs.

          • by Lumpy (12016)

            "Programming jobs? The unemployment rate is actually negative- there's more jobs than coders that will accept India pay levels"

            Fixed that for you.

          • by Ash Vince (602485) * on Monday September 26, 2011 @07:27AM (#37514180) Journal

            In the US it's mixed. Some people, like the OP, mistakenly call all areas IT. Most people frown on that classification. You say "I work in IT" I assume you're a sys admin, a helpdesk guy, or a phone support person. I do not assume you do programming. It's a separate field.

            Here's an example of it causing confusion- the US is losing IT jobs. You can see all sorts of people worried about the loss of IT jobs. Programming jobs? The unemployment rate is actually negative- there's more jobs than coders.

            Let's turn this around- other than the physical tools (which lets face it, every job in the world uses now) what do IT and programming have in common? Absolutely nothing. So conflating the two isn't useful.

            Over here in the UK, saying you work in IT means you do something vaguely to do with computers. It is a very general term that encompasses a whole boatload of professions. Just had a quick poll in our office and everyone thinks IT is a really large definition that does not say a lot about what you actually do. So the only thing we all agree on is that we all work in IT, despite this including my department manager, his PA, a couple of software developers, a system admin and support guy.

            Generally if people want any further details about what I do, I actually tell them: I write software. It takes three words (two if you discount the 'I') and makes it abundantly clear what I do. If they want any further details then I tell them I am a technical lead who works on a web based learning management system but that would only mean something to people who work in a fairly similar field.

            To be honest though, this is a ridiculous argument about a label. Labels are never very descriptive and there is always room for some confusion when you use them. Short descriptions are often far more useful and usually take the same amount of words (ie - compare "I am a web developer" with "I work in IT").

            I also really hate using acronyms since they are often used as way to make something less clear to certain technical people. For this reason I try and and avoid getting in the habit of using them. I often now have to talk to people who are not as familiar with them as me. Some people are very reticent to hold up a conversation if they feel they are the only person who does not understand even if it very important that they do. Using plain and simple language often solves this.

          • by Jawnn (445279) on Monday September 26, 2011 @08:03AM (#37514452)

            In the US it's mixed. Some people, like the OP, mistakenly call all areas IT. Most people frown on that classification. You say "I work in IT" I assume you're a sys admin, a helpdesk guy, or a phone support person. I do not assume you do programming. It's a separate field.

            So are help desk and systems admin, dipshit. When someone says, "I work in IT...", I certainly don't assume that they are a lowly programmer. You know, that one-trick-pony who has to call the help desk when his network connection goes sideways.

          • by sgtrock (191182)

            In the US it's mixed. Some people, like the OP, mistakenly call all areas IT. Most people frown on that classification.

            Sorry, you and your programmer buddies are 'most people' for a vanishingly small subset of the population in general. Most people, as defined by everyone else, thinks IT means everything computer related.

            Even if we take your definition at face value, your view of IT is FAR too narrow. Where's the DBA? Network engineer? Systems design analyst? Architects of all shapes and sizes? Projec

      • CS is programming.

        I have a problem with this. Programming is not science, so 'computer science' is a complete misnomer. 'Information technology' more accurately describes what a programmer actually does.

        • No, computer science is not a misnomer. However, saying 'CS is programming' implies that the grandparent has very little understanding of what computer science is. It's like saying 'astrophysics is telescopes'.
          • If the guy is only solving problems in a specific domain by writing software, then he is not performing Computer Science.

      • by MrCrassic (994046)
        That is incorrect. Computer Science is about the science of computing. Programming is an applied application of this.
      • CS is programming

        Incorrect. There is much debate about what it is, but whatever Computer Science is, it certainly is NOT programming. Sure, a computer scientist may write software. But the same could be true of anyone at all, journalists, postal workers, physicists and philosophers. Programming does not make one a computer scientist. Programming is not computer science. Programming is programming.

        Computer Science is a subset of the discipline of Mathematics. Programming is not.

      • by discord5 (798235) on Monday September 26, 2011 @05:04AM (#37513520)

        No, it isn't. CS is programming. IT is the maintenance of computer systems.

        Seems to me like that term is defined differently in various (international) job makets. We don't even have the term CS here. If you have a technical job that involves programming, systems administation, networking, etc you fall under IT. Doesn't matter if you're writing software for scientific purposes, or if you're configuring routers, you're IT here.

        As for the question asked by the original poster:

        would having IT experience hurt my job prospects down the road? Would future employers see that and be less likely to hire me — or pigeon-hole me into IT?

        It depends on what you'll be doing. If you're going to be spending your days doing menial tasks below your level of education and skill set, it'll have an effect on your later career. My degree has never been important to my employers other than the paycheck of my first job. After the initial job it's more likely potential employers are interested in what you've been doing: what kind of projects, what kind of tasks you performed in those projects. Anything beyond that point is the interview and negotiating. However, there are still companies that look at your degree, but the further away you get from your graduation date the less important that becomes.

        So will it have an impact on your further career? YES. Probably a more profound one than the degree you have.

        How? That depends on what you're going to do. To give an example, I started out as a unix sysadmin for a consultancy firm with the odd job of programming various things in between (going from simple things like websites, to software to manage telco infrastructure, to writing a driver for a certain type of industrial lasers running linux). Now I do mostly C++ and java programming in the research sector and my background in being a sysadmin has helped me optimize hard- and software for use in an HPC environment. I doubt I would be where I am today if I hadn't taken the sysadmin job way back.

        Having said that : if you pick a job you like doing and find interesting (if the jobmarket allows for that), it'll go a long a way to your personal happiness, which in turn indirectly improves your job performance, which opens new opportunities. Don't be afraid to change jobs if a good opportunity arises, but don't do so on a whim. And for the love of all that's good, don't stop learning and applying new things, even if they're not directly related to your field of expertise.

      • CS is programming.

        Only in the sense that automotive engineering = driving.

        What was the quote about telescopes?

      • Please come to the UK, where a Computer Science degree means you are a nobody who cannot program, cannot manage, cannot use a PC, cannot do Tech-support but know a lot of theory ...and so are basically unemployable until you acquire some real-world skills

        This obviously is a title that does not translate ...

        If your local mechanic cannot design a car (badly but it would work), and your car designer cannot maintain one (again not perfectly due to lack of experience) then you are serious trouble

      • IT is certainly not "maintenanace" of computer systems.
      • Re:CS is part of IT (Score:5, Informative)

        by ToasterMonkey (467067) on Monday September 26, 2011 @08:13AM (#37514524) Homepage

        No, it isn't. CS is programming. IT is the maintenance of computer systems. That's like saying the guy who fixes your car and the guy who designs the engine are in the same field. They aren't.

        While an IT worker may do some light programming in his job, the average IT worker is not a programmer, and does not have the skill set to be one. You do a disservice to yourself and the understanding of the industry by continuing to perpetuate this mistake. The two fields are totally separate, and conflating the two only causes confusion.

        What GD planet do you and your moderators come from? IT is the name of the whole industry that employs both programmers and system admins.

        On top of that, you called everything outside of software development "maintenance". As if there aren't software developers out there stuck in maintenance mode, or people actually building and integrating infrastructure from diverse sources, including but not limited to software.

        In your own analogy, the guy fixing the car would also be a software developer! Then we have the driver, which I'm sure is what you are calling "IT". What department designs and builds all the roads, bridges, garages, gas stations, police departments, etc?? Cities don't just appear from nowhere, and they constantly change, just like IT infrastructure.

        You seem to really underestimate how much further work writing software enables or necessitates. It's like making a quilt, where software developers are behind.. who knows, maybe half of the patches that go into it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by rsandwick3 (1495819)
        Ha! CS is programming? I'm pretty sure CS is the study of the theory and principles of design and implementation solutions of computing systems. Key word: study. I have been programming since I started playing with assembly around 1993. I interviewed once and had no idea what design patterns were, let alone what Go4 was. When I looked it up, I found it was a collection of ideas I had been using for 12 years, and the company missed out on an outstanding candidate because of this foolish disconnect. Hen
    • Re:CS is part of IT (Score:5, Interesting)

      by batkiwi (137781) on Monday September 26, 2011 @03:48AM (#37513166)

      For some reason it's common in the US to consider desktop support, networking, and administration as "IT". Odd, as here in AU everything tech related is "IT".

      • by DiSKiLLeR (17651)

        Agreed. This whole 'programming' or 'CS' is not IT seems foreign to me.

      • by ajdlinux (913987) *
        Agreed. I'm Australian, and I'm enrolled in a CS major - but I do my classes along side IT and SE students... as far as I'm concerned, all three terms are fairly close, just with some subtle differences. The umbrella term for everything, whether it's programming, consulting, sysadmin, etc. is 'IT'. This American differentiation between IT and CS just confuses me...
      • For some reason it's common in the US to consider desktop support, networking, and administration as "IT". Odd, as here in AU everything tech related is "IT".

        I'm also in AU and whilst it's true that the industry here seems to use "IT" as an umbrella term that doesn't mean that it is easy to move between Development roles and Supoort/Admin roles.

        Although I personally think that Developers aught to be required to have some support experience I would have to say that the fears of the article's author are well founded... once you have one type of role on your CV management _will_ pigeonhole you.... my advice would be if you really desire to work in development then

    • I'm a sysadmin to developers. I describe my job to people as "computer roadie". I am but humble roadie, my job is to help the devs get up there and be Eric Clapton. Though "sysadmin" and "developer" cross over more than "roadie" and "guitarist".

  • by Nursie (632944) on Monday September 26, 2011 @03:42AM (#37513150)

    If so then get a job as a software developer when you graduate. If you want to go into IT then go into IT.

    If you're trying to build a technical career then you want to start doing so, and on as close a path to what you really want to end up doing, as quickly as possible. If you want to end up designing network layouts and server farms, start with IT. If you want to be in databases (and if you don't find it boring as hell there's great money there) then start yourself off as a Junior DBA.

    IT experience won't count against you, but it won't count as much for you either.

    • by janimal (172428)

      Every developer should be aware of the admin side of what they do. One day, you might aspire to be an architect, and by then, you had better know how to talk with the admin, who can't install your application even though you wrote the instructions well enough for an Apple user to follow. Yes, you will write the instructions for the admin. Your stint in administration will come in very handy. Word of caution - don't get stuck there. Get out after one year. 2 years is too long to admin, if you want to code.

    • And if you can't get a job directly in line with your chosen career, do something on the side to improve your skills and experience in that area.
  • You are making hardly any sense. CS is *the* degree you go for if you want to work in IT. The only "CS" jobs that exists are academic ones.

    • by catmistake (814204) on Monday September 26, 2011 @05:48AM (#37513738) Journal

      You are making hardly any sense. CS is *the* degree you go for if you want to work in IT. The only "CS" jobs that exists are academic ones.

      That's what some people think, but it is completely incorrect. There is NO degree for working in IT (ok, there's a few systems adminstration degrees at a few universities now... pretty cool). This attitide, I believe, is what caused the bottom to drop out of entry level IT positions about 10 years ago. In 2001, a crappy Windows administrator position could start at $65K/yr... by 2004 it was part-time $12/hr. You can't really do computer science without the foundations givin in academia. But anyone with a knack for trouble-shooting that likes working with computers can work in information technology, and with experience, get really very good at it, no degree (or social skills) necessary. A lot of what IT is is simply familiarity with the specific systems with which one is working. You don't learn that in CS, and what you learn in CS will only be useful in the abstract in such a specific environment.

      There are indeed real computer science jobs out there, but they are integrated into other disciplines. Just a couple that come to mind... in the field of Bioinformatics, and in the field of Meteorology —weather modelling (and, well... any complex computer modelling, fluid dynamics, cosmology, aeronautics... even marketing analytics).

      It seems that only real computer scientists know that computer science really has nothing at all to do with what we think of as modern computers. Its really mathematics. You'd be far more correct to think of computer scientists as specialized mathemeticians than as some glorified high-level computer repair techician. Actually, if you think of a computer scientist as a glorified computer repair techician, you are utterly and completely mistaken, and you are insulting both the bone fide computer scientist and the genuine computer technician. These 2 disciplines have nothing to do with each other.

      • by TheWoozle (984500) on Monday September 26, 2011 @08:49AM (#37514844)

        Computer Science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes.
            ~Edsger W. Dijkstra

  • As you see, after roughly 15 posts everyone has a completely different idea.

    Suppose you would work for MS and program/develop around the next Office Suit, then IT experience would perhaps not really be helpfull. However if you had a lot of IT experience you could indeed influence the development of the Office Suit into a better direction. Would MS want to hire an IT guy for developing, no idea!

    My "career" at a glance is like follows: I started with 16 roughly 1982/1983 with programming, Basic, Assembler, P

    • by Lumpy (12016)

      "But I'm on par at perhaps a 85% - 90% level of an expert. And with my crossover knowledge I very often can pinpoint the root of a problem in minutes where experts did already research for hours or days."

      In a sea of 35% "experts" you would shine like a beacon. I have met a LOT of fresh CS/IT grads and after 4 years of education they have a 35% knowledge level.

      Problem is they will accept the 35% pay rate as well. In michigan the IT job has dropped to $32,000 pay level for not just entry level, but for most

    • by g4b (956118)

      i think this long post just nails it.

      you can only use your past experience next to your intelligence in IT/CS. Where your strengths are, there you should be strong, and where your weaknesses are, there you should be humble.

      If anybody closes the doors before you, dont see it as disappointment. See it as an opportunity, that this job might have not been good for you anyway.
      It sounds stupid. But having fun at work, being challenged, learning new stuff, and being glad that small little project you once did now

  • Seriously, it's not nice out there right now. If it is a non-programming job, keep programming on the side so you have examples for later interviews that you kept up your programming skills.

  • Can you afford to be picky?

  • Get yourself into a nice safe government job plugging in machines made in China, don't start on a career which will relatively soon (two decades, i.e. half way through your working life) be done exclusively in India, Malaysia, China and wherever else looks the cheapest this quarter.
    • by g4b (956118)

      you mean like mind easy programming which can be done by cheap labor outsourced?

      those people who still think programming is a methodical simple thing which can be learned by anyone, and you can do it as a life job even without passion, they might get outsourced, yes.

      if you know that code is like music, the mix of art and maths, you are on the safe side. your job is your calling then. no fear there!

  • When strapped with huge loans (in the US, at least), would you rather spend two more years accumulating debt for a Master's, take a research job that's cutting-edge, but doesn't pay the bills or take a $65,000 job doing IT right out the bat?
  • If you are a server/DB Admin or work on Application Deployment projects or Information Security, then it can actually be helpful and you will have plenty of opportunity to apply your development knowledge (and you can even look like a super star due to your unique skills).

    If you are simply help desk support, or field support, then you will be more challenged at showing how the experience adds to your skills for development work, but a job is better than nothing and I have seen people who wanted to do develo

  • Being versed and experienced in IT can be a selling point, if properly framed during a job interview for a programming position, as well as programming positions for IT jobs. With SO many job candidates these days having narrow focuses, one can sell having more diverse background by explaining to a potential employer how you have a greater view than just the narrow focused candidates. For instance, a person with a good OS support background can know more about the internals of how the OS actually handles
  • by Lumpy (12016)

    My first experience out of college before my First CIS/CIT job was laboratory technician at a chemical lab. Unrelated completely unless I need to analyze the bacteria on keyboards....

    I STRONGLY suggest joining and being a very active member of a Open source Project so that you also have related experience and example code to show during that time.

  • I am a medical doctor, and just finished my surgical rotation. But right now, working as a nurse would be very convenient for me. I am wondering if, as an M.D. working as an R.N., will hurt my future job prospects.

    /bullshit

    I'm just trying to show the OP what a really poor question he is asking. Its bad enough that the bottom has dropped out of IT jobs, and $12/hr part-time Windows Admin positions are requiring a CS degree (why? HR is entirely comprised of idiots).

    OP, If you want your Masters degree to be

  • IT is an umbrella term. It means "Information Technology", and encompasses all aspects of it - from the "highest" software analysis ("Here's how we'll build the application, and how we are prepared to scale") to the "lowest" customer support ("I can't print this file! Help!"). Definitively, any computer science-ish task is also part of IT.

    "IT" is NOT only limited to "lower level" work, as the OP implies.

    • by St.Creed (853824)

      I agree completely. Not sure where the OP lives, but perhaps this is a translation issue.

  • If you work in the support and maintenance or even business software development side of IT for only a few to maybe five years or so I doubt you will have a problem. As long you keep up with developments in the field of computer science and can have an intelligent discussion with an interviewer when the times comes you will do fine. The thing is you won't take that interview.

    What will happen is you will start to build a career around IT. You will start to build a life around your career. That life will

    • by St.Creed (853824)

      A friend of mine was a project leader at HP (with a CS master, he'd climbed up). He found he actually started to hate the work there and decided to retrain as a professional photographer, at which he's quite successful. He's taken a pay-hit, but not so much it's hurting him.

      For smart people with skills, there are *always* options. Just make sure you are able to keep up in the field you'd like to be in.

  • Define "IT". For many folks "IT" is setting up networks, provisioning machines, tech support, etc. For some folks "IT" is writing code for a living instead of doing theoretical research.

    If I were looking at someone with a master's degree for a coding position and his only experience was "tech support" I might wonder why he couldn't get something more in keeping with his qualifications. But I wouldn't reject him just because of that. I'd probably ask him about it in the interview though.

  • Depends (Score:4, Interesting)

    by YttriumOxide (837412) <yttriumox&gmail,com> on Monday September 26, 2011 @06:24AM (#37513858) Homepage Journal

    I guess it really depends on the job and the environment. I started out with my current company as a third level support guy in a copier company helping out with print, scan and general network related stuff. Basically, end users had problems; they'd talk to technicians (who were generally of the "mechanically oriented" mindset rather than IT) who would then call me for IT help. Definitely an "IT job" rather than even vaguely CS related.

    Definitely not glamorous at all... however, after a while I identified common questions and problems and started writing a bit of code to make the technicians lives easier - point and click interfaces for stuff that they previously had to do a lot more manually. This got noticed and after a while I found myself writing a bit of end user software as well. After 5 years with the company (a good 3 or 4 of which I was doing quite a lot of coding) I decided to move to a different country and since it's a large international firm, applied for a job in the European head office. They took me on as a specialist for an API that our company makes for interfacing to our devices. Four years here in Europe and now I'm the Software Development Supervisor, responsible for software development activities across Europe. I write code, look after a small team of other developers, design apps from "fuzzy" marketing ideas in to real products and generally have a lot of fun and creative freedom.

    While I wouldn't say my current job is CS heavy - I don't spend much time coming up with cool new algorithms (except a little work on OCR that I did) or designing operating systems and languages - but nevertheless it's definitely moved a long way away from the "IT job" beginnings with the company and is now almost all creative software development and a just a tiny bit of management thrown on top. I'd imagine most CS grads would be happy to end up with a job like mine, so I guess it's relevant for you.

  • On a purely knowledge-level alone aside from pay and career track I would highly recommend taking an IT job for a couple of years, but at the same time you need to keep up your programming skills--which involves picking up side contracts for development work. All of the rage right now is web development (Java, PHP, hell even ASP.NET--if you don't know C#, you need to learn).

    In this manner, nobody can say you didn't "work in the programming field" while maintaining an IT day job. I recommend this because you
  • "pigeon-hole me" (Score:4, Interesting)

    by vlm (69642) on Monday September 26, 2011 @06:44AM (#37513944)

    pigeon-hole me

    My god man, the entire American technical community is oriented around pigeonholing. Its not a "IT vs CS" thing. Its how management is trained to treat techs. Its an American cultural thing, not just an oddity.

    My cousin the chemical engineer got pigeonholed into semiconductor polymer device packaging early on, never to escape. My father got pigeonholed into DBA work/consulting and he was stuck there until retirement. My high school chemistry teacher started off in some obscure corner of food chem, and was forced to stay there, until she got fed up and went back for an education degree. My Uncle: Once a fine cabinetry maker, always and forever a fine cabinetry maker never to be allowed to do anything else for money (at home he made furniture). My uncle in law: Once a medium size diesel mechanic, always and forever a medium diesel mechanic, never to escape.

    I've been doing more or less the same type of work since the summer of 1998. Like everyone in the paragraph above, am I qualified and capable of doing much more? Hell yeah, look at what I do at home. Which brings up the important point that if you're going into a technical career where you're going to eventually be bored to tears, make sure its a field where you can do "cutting edge" work at home. Software development, carpenter, mechanic, yeah that works at home. Biochemist, chemical engineer, umm not so easy to do cutting edge work at home.

    If you're going into a technical field, you almost certainly will be doing at age 67 what you were doing at age 23, so make sure you like it...

    The only way you'll ever get a job in a different field is:
    1) Dating and/or friends and/or related to someone in management
    2) Another "tech boom" or similar occurs (for example, I'm told that in certain areas out west, anyone who can pass a drug test can become an instant oil field worker)
    3) You go back to school for a new field and new degree, don't worry it'll only be $50K to $200K plus living expenses.
    4) You start your own business in a new field you know nothing about. Good Luck, you'll need it.
    5) Give up technical work, and start at the bottom of a non-tech field. If you've got enough brains to survive in a tech field, you'll rise to the top of a non-tech field. Non-tech fields actually have career paths and opportunities, unlike tech.

  • Tier II/III (Score:4, Insightful)

    by luis_a_espinal (1810296) on Monday September 26, 2011 @07:11AM (#37514074) Homepage

    "I'm a soon-to-be Master's graduate from a public university majoring in computer science — with all that CS entails. Of course, it's come time to start job hunting, and while there are a few actual CS-type jobs around, I've noticed that a few IT jobs would be substantially more convenient for me personally. But this leads me to the question (assuming they would hire me, of course) — would having IT experience hurt my job prospects down the road? Would future employers see that and be less likely to hire me — or pigeon-hole me into IT?"

    As a CS-grad who has also done IT (and by that I think you mean "IT Support" as opposed to "IT/Enterprise Computing/Software Development"), if you get a gig in IT, make sure that it is a tier II or tier III type - the type dealing with actual server/dba/network configuration, administration and troubleshooting. Having that type of first-hand knowledge will prove valuable for most CS-work that you do down the road (too many CS grads down know how to root cause (or even account for) server/network-related problems when they develop enterprise/distributed systems (with hilarious consequences.)

    On the other hand, a tier I type of IT support job is the type that gets calls from people requesting help with their PC-integrated cup holder, and you'll be eating a bullet in no time.

    Having said that, and also from my own first hand experience, you run the risk of getting pigeonhole into the "IT-can-admin,IT-can't-program" stereotype. Make sure that when you do IT work, you do programming (a lot). Use Python, Groovy or Ruby or Haskell or Lua for your administrative shell scripts as opposed to simply shell scripts + perl. Sounds a little bit overkill, but you *need* this, to both keep your practice, and also to put it in your resume (to demonstrate that you have been programming.) BTW, if you do this, make sure to take one language and stick to it - nothing worse for a poor employer to find itself with a bestiary of admin scripts written in 4-5 different languages. In a nutshell, pursue your programming practice on the job in an ethical, professional way that benefits both you and your employer.

    Also, while you do IT, keep your eyes on what's going on out there in terms of software development. Things change very quickly and you can find yourself obsolete rather fast if you are not proactive with your career development.

    OTH, if you end up liking it, why not, specially if you get a chance to do paid overtime. If you do this, though, be ready to have your cell on with you at all times, getting level 2 or 3 calls from Bangalore, Buenos Aires or Panang at 3am :P

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