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Ask Slashdot: Best Degree For a Late Career Boost? 234

Posted by Soulskill
from the definitely-philosophy-for-the-big-bucks dept.
Qbertino writes "I'm in my early 40s, and after a little more than 10 years of web, scripting and software development as a freelancer and some gigs as a regular, full-time employee, I'm seriously considering giving my IT career a boost by getting a degree. I'm your regular 1980s computer kid and made a career switch to IT during the dot-bomb days. I have quite a bit of programming and project experience, but no degree. I find myself hitting somewhat of a glass ceiling (with maybe a little age discrimination thrown in there). Since I'm in Germany, degrees count for a lot (70% of IT staff have a degree) so getting one seems fitting and a nice addition to my portfolio. However, I'm pondering wether I should go for Computer Science or Business Informatics. I'd like to move into Project Management or Technical Account Management, which causes my dilemma: CS gives me the pro credibility and proves my knowledge with low-level and technical stuff, and I'd be honing my C/C++ and *nix skills. Business Informatics would teach me some bean-counting skills; I'd be doing modelling, ERP with Java or .NET all day. It would give me some BA cred, but I'd lose karma with the T-shirt wearing crew and the decision-makers in that camp. I'm leaning toward Business Informatics because I suspect that's where the money is, but I'm not quite sure wether a classic CS degree wouldn't still be better — even if I'm wearing a suit. Any suggestions?"
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Ask Slashdot: Best Degree For a Late Career Boost?

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  • Glass Ceiling @40s (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ohnocitizen (1951674) on Saturday May 12, 2012 @06:14PM (#39981723)
    I'm curious when people find the glass ceiling beginning to show it's face in their respective countries. The age discrimination the poster hints are starts pretty early in the USA, I've seen it start in as early as one's late 20s (though usually it seems to pick up in the early 30s).
    • Seconded. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Saturday May 12, 2012 @06:24PM (#39981791)

      I'm pretty sure that any limits are really ageism and not related to whether you have a degree or not. It's all about how many hours-per-week they can get out of you for $X per month. The older you are the fewer those hours are.

      Even if the hours you do provide are really worth more in terms of productivity because your experience means that you do not go off on unproductive tangents.

      But just in case the limit really is the degree .... get the fastest cheapest degree you can. It does NOT matter what the subject is. As long as it is fast and cheap. It is just the first step and at this point you really aren't concerned about making the correct relationships with the other kids in the frats.

      THEN start working on an advanced degree in the subject that you really want. Such as computer science. Or whatever.

      • Re:Seconded. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ghostdoc (1235612) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @02:44AM (#39983747)

        I'm pretty sure that any limits are really ageism and not related to whether you have a degree or not. It's all about how many hours-per-week they can get out of you for $X per month. The older you are the fewer those hours are.

        Even if the hours you do provide are really worth more in terms of productivity because your experience means that you do not go off on unproductive tangents.

        I see the same ageism (Australia), and definitely the same need for paper qualifications.
        But I took the need for paper qualifications to be a reflection of today's reluctance to make judgement calls. If two candidates walk in and one has a degree and the other hasn't then the HR drone is immediately biased to take the one with the degree regardless of experience (because graduates are better than non-graduates right?). Taking the non-graduate requires a judgement call on the relative worth of their experience, and judgement calls expose you to liability.

        As the entire software industry knows, experience trumps any formal education for productivity in coding. Yet there's still a lot ageism around, an impression that somehow good coders are in their 20's and work 12+ hours a day (when every single formal study done has shown that a project staffed by inexperienced coders working long hours is pretty much a guaranteed fail).
        I have a partly-formed theory that it's because the young inexperienced candidate reacts to the PHB's ideas with 'wow great idea I'll get working on it immediately' while the older hand responds with 'yeah we tried that five years ago and it failed because...'

        But just in case the limit really is the degree .... get the fastest cheapest degree you can. It does NOT matter what the subject is. As long as it is fast and cheap. It is just the first step and at this point you really aren't concerned about making the correct relationships with the other kids in the frats.

        THEN start working on an advanced degree in the subject that you really want. Such as computer science. Or whatever.

        To a certain extent this is true, in my experience, but why bother getting the bachelor's degree? Most uni's will accept your experience instead of a bachelor's and you can go straight to the interesting bit.

        I'm in very much the same situation as the OP, and I've done two things:
          1. Started an MBA, which has been useful and interesting, and provides all the credibility I need for the paper-brained. I'd massively recommend this over starting a bachelor's degree because you'll be mixing with people in their 30's and 40's and not sitting there in a class full of kids wondering wtf you're doing there.
          2. Refocused on consulting/coding for small companies and startups. They really value the experience and what works rather than what looks good on paper, and they're not afraid of judgement calls. Also, no HR drones - you get interviewed by the founder, usually in a pub.

        good luck

        • Re:Seconded. (Score:4, Insightful)

          by dadioflex (854298) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @05:37AM (#39984359)
          If two people walk in to an interview with the HR Drone, who is an actual real life (the nature of IT being automated systems, the snake that eats its own tail, suggests a future when we are able to do away with the IT guys altogether because the agents they created are as good as them and because they aren't real people with issues and lawyers we don't need as many HR people anyway. So rue the day that dawns upon an HR free world for that will be the day when the machine has taken over and all your qualifications and experience will count for naught as you drive the treadmills charging their batteries. I digress.) person by the way, will probably hire the one with the best interview technique, if their experience is similar. Qualifications don't count in actual interviews. Qualifications count in the screening process prior to getting an interview.

          A forty-something wanting a degree to boost their career in IT, is akin to a chimp that wants to learn to smoke cigarettes because it'll make them more like a person. If you're still shuffling code at forty your career has gone so far off the rails that a degree won't save it. If you're a smart, accomplished, hard worker, you should be looking to retire by the time you're in your mid-fifties. If that isn't likely right now with ten years to go, then the cost of a degree isn't going to help you achieve it.

          OP is making the classic mistake of thinking that his lack of opportunities can be fixed by a magic bullet. A degree course is not that magic bullet. Work harder, work better doing what you do and everything else will fall into place. At your age you shouldn't need qualifications to characterize who you are. You should have a body of work, and a trail of satisfied clients, employers and work-mates reinforcing it. You should be able to name names and call upon personal endorsements. You should be beyond this.
          • To me, shuffling code is the best part, provided it's solving real technical problems and not writing yet another script to manipulate a text file or add a differently shaped icon to a weekly report that gets mailed to investors. My goal for my 40s and 50s is to be working as a lead developer or chief software architect or equivalent - I don't care about the official title, that's just the kind of work I hope to be doing.

            Retirement in your 50s is realistic if you have no children or had a really well-pay
      • Such as computer science.

        I realize its popular groupthink that a computer science degree is the degree to get for information technology... but its a pretty silly and rather ignorant notion. Of course, a computer science degree will benefit any occupation... from flower arraingment to landscaping, to medicine or rocket science. But IT isn't science, its a trade, a practice, and IT isn't computer science, any more than IT is mathematics... because, what very few seem to acknowledge is that a computer science degree is a mathematics

    • by Matheus (586080) on Saturday May 12, 2012 @06:56PM (#39981945) Homepage

      At that young it's not as much age discrimination in the US as it is $$ discrimination. They are saying that because you are older you expect more pay and therefore if we can find someone fresh out of school who can do the same job we'll hire them because we can pay them peanuts.

      Honestly, in person, the only people I have run into complaining about age discrimination before showing lots of grey hair haven't put forth the effort to keep their skills fresh and are completely surprised why no one will just hand them a job. Interviewing for a high paying, higher level position when unfortunately they are only qualified for the entry level / junior positions still. This is probably true in all trades to some extent but in the computer field I think more than others if you are not constantly learning new things, adding new capabilities to your repertoire then you are moving in reverse. There are too many people resting on their laurels and I will hire a young kid a couple years out of school long before I'll hire someone who has demonstrably become stagnant.

      If anything, for the OP's OQ, reverse age, or at least experience, discrimination helps him. If I'm hiring someone fresh or recently out of school then their schooling will play heavily into whether I bring them into an interview or not. Once someone has 5-10 years of experience under their belt, as he says he has, I rarely even look at that part of the resume as, frankly, it's not relevant anymore.

      • Watch out for "Which Skills".

        What experience brings you is low level knowledge like how to change the data file of a construction estimate when the database is miscoded to an invalid cost code so that the upload to accounting works.

        Then someone decides to dump the entire software package for something cheaper so all that low level knowledge is thrown away, then you have to "hope" that anyone else will use that knowledge.

        You're molded by your experiences, so no, you do not have experience at the live data le

      • At that young it's not as much age discrimination in the US as it is $$ discrimination. They are saying that because you are older you expect more pay and therefore if we can find someone fresh out of school who can do the same job we'll hire them because we can pay them peanuts.

        Bingo.

      • by King_TJ (85913) on Saturday May 12, 2012 @11:12PM (#39982989) Journal

        I agree with much of what you said here. But the problem I've always had with the idea that a "good" I.T. worker being one who is constantly learning new things and adding items to a resume is, it's not that realistic when one works for a small to mid-sized company. (Even more unrealistic given a slow economy.)

        I've been pretty much self-taught and self-motivated to try out new technologies and computer solutions since I got into this stuff in the mid 1980's, but I've never been the type to hop around from job to job. Most of my job changes actually came about only because the place I worked for closed up. (I started out working for several "mom and pop" type computer stores, for example, all of whom eventually went out of business.)

        The problem is, my peers in I.T. who were basically "in it for themselves" without much regard for their employers racked up more impressive resumes than me, especially in the dot com boom days, when it was possible to accept a position, stay JUST long enough to claim you were responsible for X,Y and Z (cool new technologies of whatever type the place happened to be using), and then jump ship in the middle of a project for better pay at the next place needing someone who used those same technologies before. Lots of burnt bridges behind them? Sure -- but there are plenty of companies out there, especially for the young and single who can move from city to city if and when it's needed.

        I, on the other hand, honestly hated the stress and uncertainty of job interviews ... and just wanted a stable job doing what I enjoy.

        So where did that get me? Well, I was able to ride out much of the commotion from all the failed start-ups when the dot com era went bust, so that was a plus I guess. But the places I've worked for 5+ years in a row always stuck with the same "tried and true" technology. Sure, we'd do incremental upgrades on such things as Microsoft Office, or migrate Windows Server to newer versions eventually. But there's really only so much "resume building" one can do by staying at the same company, when their budget doesn't allow for buying lots of new software or hardware -- and they're (rightly, IMO!) trying to avoid high costs of re-training people on all new ways of doing things, once they've got something in place that's effective.

        I guess what I'm trying to say here is -- it's not necessarily "resting on one's laurels", just because one hasn't added all sorts of new products to a resume. But I really do think recruiters and hiring managers look at it that way, most of the time. If a business paid me for 5-6 years to take care of the same set of technologies for them, that likely means those were good, solid choices that really got them their money's worth. There's no negative in having a deep familiarity with such solutions, vs. the next guy who can list of 5x as many technologies -- most of which were failures, so got removed after money was WASTED on them.

      • by Gr8Apes (679165)
        There is no ceiling that I'm aware of, but there is a major reluctance to pay wages above the initial 3-5 years. Especially when most of those 5 year folks churn out almost the same quality code as brand new grads.
        • by ghostdoc (1235612) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @02:51AM (#39983785)

          There is no ceiling that I'm aware of, but there is a major reluctance to pay wages above the initial 3-5 years. Especially when most of those 5 year folks churn out almost the same quality code as brand new grads.

          Except that they don't. All the studies done have shown that experience really counts for code quality and productivity.

          Of course, that's assuming the rest of the development chain is working. If the management have poorly-conceived ideas and don't listen to their techies about what's feasible in the first place, then they might as well employ actual monkeys in the coding role because the project's going to fail regardless.

      • by khallow (566160) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @08:23AM (#39985099)

        At that young it's not as much age discrimination in the US as it is $$ discrimination. They are saying that because you are older you expect more pay and therefore if we can find someone fresh out of school who can do the same job we'll hire them because we can pay them peanuts.

        I doubt it's wage discrimination simply because who's paying the older workers that extra money, if they aren't employing them? I think it's simply that young workers can and will put up with more crap than older workers. They have more time (less commitments and more ability to maintain weird hours) and they're less experienced in the ways of business (that is, more gullible, less cynical). If you want someone to dump 80 hours a week into a salary job for a projects that's probably going nowhere, it's not going to be a 40 year old with a couple of kids.

  • by MaerD (954222) on Saturday May 12, 2012 @06:21PM (#39981763)

    Wait.. wait.. hear me out. The MBA will give you insight into how those who are MBAs think (and therefore, most of management). Also, your experience will say "I can do IT/CS", while the degree will say "I can do business". Which means you're more likely to be able to make a jump to management if you find your career options topping out on the IT/CS end.

    And you'd be following in the footsteps of Alan Cox.

    • by garcia (6573) on Saturday May 12, 2012 @06:36PM (#39981847) Homepage

      Yes an MBA might be a good choice depending on the person. As an IT manager myself, I work(ed) with and supervise a variety of individuals who are very well suited for IT but are not at all suited for management.

      Just because you earn an MBA doesn't mean that you will suddenly have the personality or qualities required for IT management.

      ---

      On a related note: I chose to go with an MPA instead of an MBA. Why? Well, I'm personally interested in the public sector but both types of degrees provide a fairly similar background--just with one providing more for the public sector's unique needs.

      I still get the HR, finance, etc, etc, etc, but I have the ability to leverage both sides of the fence more easily. If the government changes its focus to move away from "smaller" to "larger" I may have an advantage that MBA degree holders do not.

      • by Nerdfest (867930)

        No, but it balances quite nicely with a background in software. You can be both part of the solution and the problem.

    • Agree about the MBA. If you are interested in moving into project management, you'd also do well to get the PMP as well as the MBA. PMP is universally recognized as *the* project management qualification, and you can get it in a reasonably quick time period.

  • by gristlebud (638970) on Saturday May 12, 2012 @06:21PM (#39981765)
    Since you're doing this for the money, and hitting the "glass ceiling", honing your business skills will give you the best chance of moving into a position where you can make significantly more money. You say that you want to go into project management, and having business skills in achieving the trifecta of a successful project (scope, schedule, and budget) will go far. Since you've spent a significant part of your career in deep technical fields, it will also give you a different perspective on what your employer thinks is important. It will also give you a hand-up on your peer competition, because being able to tell when the tech folks are bullshitting the "suits" is extremely valuable.
    • by hughbar (579555)
      I had a similar thing in my mid 40s. I'd worked in computing all my life, had a science degree but felt that I lacked structure in my knowledge and therefore lacked confidence in many fairly areas of judgement. One example, I didn't really know how to normailse database structures, although I knew most of the arguments for and against.

      I ended up doing an MSc for Commerce and Industry at the Open University, since I'm from the UK. There were a lot of foundation modules to do, project management, the datab
  • by HunterZero (102709) on Saturday May 12, 2012 @06:33PM (#39981831) Homepage

    I don't know how it is in Germany, but here in the USA (especially in the Silicon Valley) if you want a late career boost, go get an MBA. Having an MBA isn't a four-letter word around here, especially if you get one from a good program. MIT has an excellent executive MBA program that can be done remotely, and everyone I've encountered with one has been top-notch. Same goes for an MBA from Stanford or even the other colleges local to the area.

    Having an MBA opens a lot more doors for you. If you already have a good amount of experience in IT and Software Development, go get a degree in something outside of those fields to help expand your options.

    You could also get a degree in something you enjoy personally but won't directly get you a job. Education doesn't just have to be for professional development.

    • by garcia (6573)

      Yeah the Executive MBA program at MIT is probably great. But, it's also completely cost-prohibitive for the vast majority of people.

      From: http://emba.mit.edu/admissions/tuition-and-expenses/ [mit.edu]

      Required fees (Class of 2014, matriculating October 2012)
      Tuition: $141,000 (includes books, course readers, and printed materials)
      Other estimated expenses (not included in tuition fees and not required for all MIT EMBA participants):
      â Hotel accommodations: $20,000 (not required)

    • by Weezul (52464)

      I believe the poster lacks an undergraduate degree, making an MBA too much work for too little gain.

      I always recommend a degree in mathematics or physics honestly, they're the queen subjects from which everything else flows. If you like one, then you're pretty much set. Any machine learning problem is trivial by comparison to understanding General Relativity, Stochastic Differential Equations, Quantum Mechanics, the C^*-algebras and Gelfand–Naimark theorem, etc. If you quit, fine you've still acqui

  • by taxman_10m (41083) on Saturday May 12, 2012 @06:35PM (#39981843)

    Anything you go for will take time and put you into debt. What are the odds you will make enough money so that the degree pays for itself? It's something I've thought of myself. I'd rather plug along and slowly build or maintain what I have rather than incur a great deal of debt. Maybe a cert here and there, but that's it.

    • by Lurks (526137) on Saturday May 12, 2012 @06:45PM (#39981879) Homepage
      "What are the odds you will make enough money so that the degree pays for itself?"

      I'm a little loath to reply to this on the basis that the vast majority of posts from the Slashdot crowd on anything to do with university tend to view education as all about money. I suspect that's a heavy cultural bias from the US... anyway.

      As someone who is a 40-something about to finish a degree this year, I have some experience of this but for me, at least, your question loads the dice. I was earning plenty of money doing what I was doing before, I just didn't like it. I'd be happy to earn a living, doing something I love and that is what, in my experience, most mature students are doing back at university.

      Granted that might be a little skewed because useless public services like healthcare and universities cost more in the US than anywhere else in the world, and maybe you do feel some pressure to get a career result to pay back the debt. That said, there are cheap or even free ways to get educated if you're willing to move beyond the top-tier universities.

      Finally, I'd add this: It's easy to make the decision to go to university to study something based on some sort of future goal. What universally happens is that by the end of the degree, you have a different idea about what that goal is. It's also quite hard to motivate yourself, do well, and even benefit particularly well from a degree if you aren't really interested in the subject.

      So my advice is this: do a degree in something you're really interested in and when faced with choices, go for the flexible choices. There is every chance that you'll run into some niche off of something you're interested in which will turn out to be a gold mine. It happened to me. I found a field that blended my previous skills with what I was learning and it's the best thing that ever happened to me.

    • by Surt (22457)

      A degree completed at age 50 that buys a 5K increase pays off a 50k degree before retirement. Unless you are going for a top tier MBA you shouldn't pay that much.

      And of course that doesn't factor in life fulfillment.

  • Long view (Score:5, Insightful)

    by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Saturday May 12, 2012 @06:44PM (#39981875)
    Where do you want to be 10-15 years from now? Aim towards that.
  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Saturday May 12, 2012 @06:44PM (#39981877)

    You did not mention if you have a higher education degree in anything else. This makes a big difference. If you have a university degree in a science field, I would not bother. I see plenty of successful IT folks who are retreads with physics, chemistry or other engineering degrees. If you have none at all, or something in arts or social science, I would consider getting a degree.

  • by Salgak1 (20136) <salgak&speakeasy,net> on Saturday May 12, 2012 @06:45PM (#39981883) Homepage
    . . .my bachelor's dates to 1983. Lot of been-there-done-that IT engineering since then. 2006, got TOLD that if I wanted to advance, I'd need a Masters' and at least one advanced certification. I went and got a Masters' in Management Information Systems online (fairly painless, other than writing 20-30 pages every weekend) and followed it with a CISSP cert and a CEH cert. Income is up 50% since I started the Master's program. Except for a few things, like an introduction to Forensics, and crawling into database theory, it wasn't anything new and/or hard. And most of my fellow students (who were either just out of undergrad, or late 20s) weren't much competition. The few that WERE, I'm still in contact with: their inputs and opinions are as valuable as anything I'd learned in the classes. Mind you. my employer paid for most of it, I had (at max point) about 7K in student loans. But considering the uptick in salary, even doing it ALL on student loans would probably have been somewhere between a good and very-good investment. Your mileage may. of course, vary: I was a security geek BEFORE my Masters', CISSP, and CEH. . . but all three combined opened doors and definitely raised compensation. . . .
  • by rsilvergun (571051) on Saturday May 12, 2012 @06:48PM (#39981895)
    do something useful. Write software. School is there so when you get stuck someone's there to help you over that hump. You've got the Internet now. Google + forums. There's nothing in this world you can't do. Nothing. P.S. I'm not against school as a social construct. It gives us something to do with people we don't need in the job market. Just sayin' in you're goal is to succeed you don't NEED school anymore. That said, we've got plenty of room in society for it.
  • No Degree. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Saturday May 12, 2012 @06:50PM (#39981903) Homepage

    Stop working for Faceless Corps and switch to a smaller company where you rub elbows with the Owners daily. They are not stupid and do the "only youngsters here" stupidity. They realize the older worker is a pro in the field they have been in for the past 20 years and use them to compete with the morons that have MBA's

    I'll never work for another Fortune 500 company again. I prefer having beers at the end of the day with the guys that own the business.

  • by RedLeg (22564) on Saturday May 12, 2012 @06:50PM (#39981907) Journal
    First, I'm from the US (lived in Germany for a few years and speak Deutsch), so I'm acutely aware of the different business cultures.

    My assumption is that the degree is not so much to teach you something, as to "check a box" and get you through the glass ceiling....

    That being said, I would go for the Business Informatics track rather than pure CS. You are more likely to learn new things which are useful in the future career you describe there.

    All you have to do to earn cred with the t-shirt crowd is to format your CV in TeX, show up with a linux laptop for your interview, and build a RepRap.

    Red

    • by wrook (134116)

      I've never worked in Germany, but what you say makes sense to me. Reading the summary, I was feeling confused. I have *never* worked anywhere where a CS degree impressed good technical people. Either you have the chops or you don't. There are lots of people with CS degrees that are crap. There are lots of people without a CS degree (either other degrees, or no degree at all) who are good. A 40-something with 20-odd years of experience should not be having *any* trouble impressing people on the technic

      • Re:Game the system (Score:4, Interesting)

        by frost22 (115958) on Saturday May 12, 2012 @08:40PM (#39982479) Homepage

        You have SO no idea what the working environment in Europe is, especially in Germany. A university degree is the entry card to a very invisible club. I work in a Telco, and that sector has had many lateral recruits in the 90s. One of my colleagues is a journeyman pastry chef. Another one is a licensed railway train driver. We have tons of physicists, electrical engineers, a few engineers of other disciplines, chemicists, a few MBAs, even a Master of Divinity, all doing IT and network engineering work.

        Those without a university degree usually don't play in the same level though (exceptions do exist, but are rare). And even among those - Germany has an extensive sub-university education system. Folks with a technical journeyman qualification can easily find a job elsewhere. Those without have a very very hard time. They are chained to their current job - because to the HR dept in another company they are just a guy without papers.

        • by wrook (134116)

          Fair enough. If that's the case, then the poster needs to get a degree in whatever will make HR happy. Techies don't enter into it...

          As it happens, since my teaching gig is over in Japan and my wife wants to live in England, I'll be looking for programming work there. Luckily I have a degree, but I worry about my 5 years of teaching English :-D Learning how to jump through the right hoops in Europe should be an education in itself...

  • I went straight into operating system and microprocessor design in the 1970's and frankly don't remember too many people complaining about a lack of a degree after 4-5 years of job effort. I did have a few people get excited about hiring me but then change their minds when they found out I wasn't carrying a masters or doctorate. I decided I didn't want to work for buttheads who were more interested in the paper than the ability.

    After ten years, it was more of a "wow, you don't have a degree?" as a minor

  • In IT in the UK degrees are pretty much worthless bits of paper. Companies that want degrees only care that you have a degree, they don't care what the subject is, and frankly if you've had that much working experience in your field then the content of a degree isn't likely to teach you anything you don't already know.

    Therefore do something for yourself, a subject you want to learn about that may not even be related at all to your working life, archaeology, history, politics, philosophy, physics, music,
  • I have some bad news for you. If you're in your early 40's, you're not looking for a late career boost because you should be considering yourself mid-career.

    If you work until your expected retirement age, that will be until your LATE 60s. You're half way there at best.

    But there's some good news too. If it takes you 2 to 4 years to get your degree, you'll have 20 years of work ahead of you over which to make it pay.

    But there's some more bad news for you. You're likely to have to change careers again some

    • You're apparently unfamiliar with the highly entertaining lack of work for techies in their late 40's+. If you aren't preparing to move into management or a leadership role of some kind, or you're ridiculously specialized you'll be forced out of the job in favor of a pair of 25 year old kids who together will be making the same money you are.

      Don't think so? Think of all the 55 or 60 or 65 year old primarily technical guys you know that went through the recession and kept their jobs. There are some, for s

  • Here's a guy who picked up his degree at age 72. His life work (NBA coach for 30+ years, Hall of Fame) was deemed good enough to satisfy the "student-teaching" requirement.

    http://sports.yahoo.com/news/don-nelson-iowa-graduate-50-185357704--nba.html [yahoo.com]

  • Career Boost in 40's (Score:5, Informative)

    by David_Hart (1184661) on Saturday May 12, 2012 @07:12PM (#39982029)

    I'm in my 40's and just completed a Masters degree in IT Management from Brandeis University, I already had a Bachelors in both Business and Computer Science. The degree spanned two employers, both of which offered employee education reimbursement.

    I guess you could say that I am now three degrees above zero... ; - )

    A Masters degree is 10 courses and can be completed in 3 to 5 years when going part-time. For most Master's programs, if not all, you first need a Bachelors degree. Some educational institutions will recognize work experience as an equivalent.

    It sounds like you have not completed a Bachelors degree. A Bachelors degree takes 120 credit hours or 30 per year over 4 years. It's a lot of work and time which is why most students go full time. Basically, you wouldn't be completed in time for it to help your career.

    The first step to get a Masters degree, assuming you are working full time and are not a contractor, is to determine if your employer has an education reimbursement program, what their limits are per year, and what you need to do to apply. If they do, you next need to research the type of Masters degree you want and the schools. Narrow down the schools to your top 5 and begin calling their Admissions department to determine if you can use your work experience and what, if any, additional courses you will need to take. While doing this, talk to your manager and let him/her know that you are interested in advancing your career by taking a Masters degree. Go into how it will prepare you to take on a greater leadership role, in project management and as team lead. Once you have all of the information about the school, put it together in a package with your employer education application and begin the employer approval process. Once approved at work, you then need to apply to the school and get accepted. The rest is just a lot of hard work...

    David

  • by Zadaz (950521) on Saturday May 12, 2012 @07:30PM (#39982121)

    I hire people and I work with and know a lot of people at big and small companies who hire people, so I'll say this:

    Qualifications for most jobs and the amount we pay for them is almost completely unrelated to type or number of degrees. Create a portfolio and be able to answer questions about it. Period.

    (There are a few very very large employers who look for specific degrees, but they are shrinking as they can no longer afford to spend a year training a potential candidate if they want to stay competitive.)

  • by frost22 (115958) on Saturday May 12, 2012 @07:30PM (#39982123) Homepage

    First - you are right. A degree is substantially more relevant in D than in the US. A tech without a university degree is presumed to play in a lower league. A guy with a degree gets a certain respect from his peers, but can of course loose it. A guy without is assumed to be a simple mind and has to earn peer respect the hard way - up front. In large organizations, people know exactly who has a degree and who doesn't. Funnily, the exact subject of the degeree is less relevant in practice. Anything remotely serious will get you going, even BA (BWL), though that is borderline for techs.

    But - having said that - somewhere in your fourties, going back to University is not an option any more. You can basically do 2 things

    - a get a cheap part-time degree. With cheap I mean BA or some such (aka BWL). Part time means internet or study-by-mail - Fernuni Hagen comes to mind, but I'm sure there are others.
    - accumulate non-academic/professional certifications. If you want to go into project management, there are at least 2 relevant certification bodies. You could mix that with tech vendor certs, or not.

    And whatever route you go - start going. Now. Your time has run out, If you want to do project management, start getting into project management roles in large projects now.

  • OP mentioned project management background and desire to move more in that direction. One thing to consider is the PRINCE 2 certification in Europe or PMP for those in the States in similar situtations.
  • You've been around long enough to know all the technical stuff and you've seen a lot of the business side. If you just do one degree, you'd be coasting through. So do both degrees at once, then you won't be wasting your time. You can mention only one or the other when talking to a fellow geek or a PHB.
  • by eulernet (1132389) on Saturday May 12, 2012 @07:50PM (#39982241)

    Being myself without diploma, but with 26 years of experience (I'm in my middle fourties), I think that you should try to find what is your value for a company, and make yourself known in this area.

    In my case, I realized that I have technical skills, but my human skills were most important (perhaps 30% technical skills, and 70% human skills).
    So I'm trying to become a coach, and competition in this domain is tough, so I had to learn how to sell my product: me.

    It's not as obvious as it seems.
    You need to work to increase your visibility:
      - I'm using linkedin to create my own network
      - I'm using a blog to convey my ideas
      - I'm trying to discover new ideas, which might be of interest
      - I'll probably write a book (not for the money, but for the reputation, you can easily become an expert with a single book)

    Degrees are useless if your goal is to make money ("making money" is a terrible goal, you can make money in almost any domain, as long as you believe in what you do), you really need to know what you want to do, and this comes after discovering what you don't want to do anymore.

    After that, you need to discover what you want to share with people (I call that "passion").
    I recommend that you keep your current job, and negotiate to attend all the conferences about your subject.
    You'll discover that most of the speakers don't master the domains they talk about, and that you can do a better job than them.

    The next step is presenting conferences related to your domain.
    After a few years, you'll be well known and you'll be able to earn your life with your passion.

    In my case, I had to learn how to speak in public, and how to convey my ideas with powerful words, but I'm still working at my job, since I don't earn enough money with my new part-time activity.
    My way requires dedication, but I don't take tremendous risks, since I still work at my last job.
    I'll be able to quit when I have enough business.

  • If you are not being promoted because you don't have the credentials or experience, maybe you are just hitting a normal ceiling.

  • First off, you can do it because not every company marches lockstep with the prevailing age-discriminatory practices of Silicon Valley.

    There are a ton of shops out there who aren't primarily IT but rely on it. I have a friend who just started programming - in basic and something else I'd never heard of (I think) - for a company that has an inventory system written in such. They need to keep it running the owner/ founder is in his mid-60s early 70s and - get this- doesn't buy into "that whole Windows-GU

    • OK I fucked up. Mea culpa. I now RTFA, sorry for he useless advice.

      The last thing I would do is go into debt for an education. Assuming that isn't going to happen, I would go for Biz Dev since you're getting out of being a programmer.

  • by billybob_jcv (967047) on Saturday May 12, 2012 @08:33PM (#39982437)

    Just get a bachelor's degree - any degree. The people who say you don't need a degree are probably people without a degree. It doesn't matter whether the degree is useful or not, and in most cases it doesn't matter where the degree came from or what major it is - what matters is that you have it. The hiring processes of most companies (big or small) are fairly similar. The job description is written and given to the HR recruiter. If the job description says "Bachelor's Degree", then anyone without that requirement will most likely be excluded. The entire point of your resume is to NOT be eliminated from contention so that you get a chance to actually talk to the hiring manager. If you can't get into the manager's office, you never have a chance to wow them with your brilliance and charm. So, if you get a degree in Underwater Basket Weaving, your resume is perfectly accurate if it simply says: Bachelor's Degree, University of Late Bloomers, 2012. You really don't need to say more than that, and you will have passed that hurdle. If they want to know more than that, let them ask you - at least you will be talking to them!
               

  • Career Boost (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hackus (159037) on Saturday May 12, 2012 @08:34PM (#39982443) Homepage

    Here is what I did, last year I came off a really good year, 6 figure income from my personal consulting business so I took a year off, and went back to UW-Madison to finish my foreign language requirements and took one advanced course towards degree CS credit.

    I however, am back to work full time with my business and am making Bioinformatics tool sets for the mobile genomic researcher.

    Now, if you can take a year off an pay for cash all of your expenses, plusd have a independant income like I have then you can do what you want.

    However, even I would never consider taking all the time off to get a CS degree. That would be nuts and too costly.

    So I do it when I have the time and money.

    If you are thinking about taking off, or quitting your job, and taking out loans, you should see a doctor and have your head looked at to insure you haven't had a recent stroke or something.

    -Hack

    PS: It was a nice vacation too. The student lifestyle is pretty nice. Most of my friend at my age (47) look at me in wonder because they have no independent income, have a huge mortgage, and are in my view no better off than I am with thier degrees in hand. (Certainly far more stressed out it would seem.)

  • Enroll in AppStore U (Score:2, Interesting)

    by l0ungeb0y (442022)

    If you already have practical experience, school is a waste of time and money. You want to increase your potential employability and/or income? Then create an App, publish it to iTMS, Google Play and Amazon.

    There's many ways to monetize apps, but even if it's just a free app with no ads, you can put it on your resume and link to it.

    Don't know Objective-C or Java or the Mobile APIs/SDKs? No problem in fact, in most cases it's more practical for a lone developer or small software shops not to use native code.

  • Does the Germany system have IT tech schools? I know they have a dual system there and things are different then in other places there.

    • by frost22 (115958)

      yes.

      There are IT and related tech qualifications at the craft level, and also intermediate (tech) level schools.

      But they both have in common that they are intellectually less demanding but not faster than an Bachelor
      in CS or engineering. And the craftman's qualification is only available full time.

    • Yes, but the diplomas from that kind of schools aren't worth much and become worthless when one gets older. The guy who asked the question has probably got one of these (they count as "no degree").

  • Check out www.coursera.org The quality and price are perfect for an older person needing to sharpen skills/develop new skills. No degree or college credit, but a lot of street cred, I hope (I'm taking three of them right now.)
  • by Reeses (5069) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @01:13AM (#39983409)

    Look. You're 40. It's time to sit down and think for a while. No, really. Just sit and think.

    Think about where you've been, and where your career has been. Think about where you want your career to go.

    Factor in the fact that you probably have 20 more years of work ahead of you, if you're lucky.

    Think about all the things you hate about the current scope of your work, and think about whether you still want to be doing them when you're 50.

    Think about the things you can do if you hire two young buck programmers, teach them right, and have them do your programming for you.

    Think about what people have said about what you excel at, and if it's different from what you've been doing, think about going that way.

    Think about going into management.

    IT (I'm using IT as the whole sphere of computer related degrees) + MBA = CIO position.

    Think about that. Even if you don't make it to the CIO, and you may not, what you're buying it looking at problems from the 50,000 foot view and choosing the direction of a company.

    If you get a master's degree in BioInformatics, you'd better focus on doing something no one else is doing, preferably something forward-looking. By the time you get done with school and what not, it's probably not going to be as forward looking as you thought.

    Computer Science could be easy, it could be tough. You've got programming experience, that's great. You're probably reluctant to pull all-nighters though, and there's some 18 year old kid who will. And what is it really going to get you?

    Here's what you do.

    Look around the world. (Yes, the world.)

    Find the people who are a few years older than you doing work that you think you'd want to do.

    Shoot them an email. No, seriously, shoot them an email. Get over that fear of "Oh, they're too busy and don't have time for my little measly email." Politely lay out your case, and wait for their advice. It might take them up to 3 weeks to reply. You might have to email them a few times (no more than once every two weeks).

    Find out how they got there. Master's degrees? Fellowships? Luck?

    Follow in their footsteps as much as you can.

    Just remember, you're 40. If you were to quit work and go to school full-time, you'll be 42+ by the time you graduate. In two year's time, some jobs you want will no longer exist. They will have been discovered to be dead ends (see: Ruby on Rails in large applications) The industry will have moved on. You'll have to be above that on some level. Figure out whether going to school is going to pay off. You can finish undergrad in 2.666 years if you set your mind to it. A master's will take two years no matter how you slice it.

    Here's a hint: A Master's degree is not as much about the education as the opportunities you will be provided as a side effect of the school you go to and the people you meet there.

    Therefore: Go to a good, real, school. Discard the University of Phoenixes of the world right off the bat. Apply somewhere there are people that might be smarter than you. Many companies use specific Master's programs as feeder schools. (Stanford -> Apple + Google, Cornell -> IBM).

    Remember, you're already 40. Going back to school is going to be weird.

    But it will probably be rewarding.

  • While I do think seeking a degree is a worthwhile endeavor and personally rewarding (you are lucky to be working in this field without one, really), it is time for you to get out software development. You might try and become a business analyst or a project manager. Being in your early 40's is way past the shelf life of your typical coder because you cost too much and your are increasingly outside the culture of the younger guys.

    It's awful. It's unfair. It's true.

    There are statistical outliers working i

  • Your timeline doesn't quite work out. You say you're in your 40's (born ~1970?) with around 10 years web and programming experience (implying you started in 2000). Then you say you were a "1980's computer kid", so what happened to that extra 20 years (1980-2000)?

    You said you have 10 years in web, scripting and web stuff. How "up to date" is that? If you are still working on website knowledge you acquired even 5 years ago, your skills are now 95% useless as IE6 has died, HTML5 has arrived, python servers
  • by Rogerborg (306625)
    EOT.

The superior man understands what is right; the inferior man understands what will sell. -- Confucius

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