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Ask Slashdot: Job Search Or More Education? 182

Posted by Soulskill
from the can't-it-be-both dept.
Matt Steelblade writes "I've been in love with computers since my early teens. I took out books from the library and just started messing around until I had learned QBasic, then Visual Basic 5, and how to take apart a computer. Fast forward 10 years. I'm a very recent college graduate with a BA in philosophy (because of seminary, which I recently left). I want to get into IT work, but am not sure where to start. I have about four years experience working at a grade/high school (about 350 computers) in which I did a lot of desktop maintenance and some work on their AD and website. At college (Loyola University Chicago) I tried to get my hands on whatever computer courses I could. I ended up taking a python course, a C# course, and data structures (with python). I received either perfect scores or higher in these courses. I feel comfortable in what I know about computers, and know all too well what I don't. I think my greatest strength is in troubleshooting. With that being said, do I need more schooling? If so, should I try for an associate degree (I have easy access to a Gateway technical college) or should I go for an undergraduate degree (I think my best bet there would be UW-Madison)? If not, should I try to get certified with CompTIA, or someone else? Or, would the best bet be to try to find a job or an internship?"
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Ask Slashdot: Job Search Or More Education?

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  • Find a job (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 25, 2013 @06:35PM (#42696327)

    You should work on finding a job first. Academia tends to be very different then the work environment. A lot of companies also offer money for further training and certifications so you can always build up on that.

    • Concur - get the job. The economy is really good right now, lots of opportunities out there, pick something you love and run with it.

      When I got out with my BS (1988) the job market was... less robust, so I went back and got an MS, but all in all, a good job would have been just about as good for most of the worthwhile opportunities in life.

      On the other hand, if you ever want to teach at a snooty institution of higher learning, go ahead and slog through your PhD right now, otherwise they'll never consider y

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I received either perfect scores or higher in these courses.

  • Or... (Score:5, Funny)

    by robably (1044462) on Friday January 25, 2013 @06:39PM (#42696361) Journal
    With your name, have you considered becoming a crime-fighter, or super-hero?
  • Yes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rwa2 (4391) * on Friday January 25, 2013 @06:39PM (#42696365) Homepage Journal

    Get a job, and make them pay for more education / training / certifications. It's tax-deductible if it's relevant to your job.

    It'll also help you maintain your sanity a bit, since the work and projects you do and how you approach things are very different between work and school. You'll also end up less frustrated with the work projects that you don't have complete control over, and more motivated with the school projects that would probably be pointless if you were just doing them for a grade.

    And don't worry too much about the BA in Philosophy bit... a lot of the good IT folks I know have bachelor's degrees in English or other stuff. And they're great, because they can communicate with people a bit better sometimes. Certs and perhaps an MS degree in your field will help you later secure more pay and promotion opportunities with the HR of larger companies, though. But to get in the door, you just need demonstrable skills and experience, which sounds like you're on track for.

    • by Snotnose (212196)

      This. It's how I did it. Self taught, got a job, worked full time whilst going to college part time with the company paying the bills.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      experience over formal training. any day of any week.,

    • Get a job, and make them pay for more education / training / certifications. It's tax-deductible if it's relevant to your job.

      This is a pretty good idea. If nothing else, you can hang out and party with us in Madison until you get your degree.

      I know of several top-500 companies in Madison that would hire you in something entry-level and push you through the ranks if you're good at it. Several of them definitely offer education assistance/reimbursement.

    • Get a Job (Score:5, Informative)

      by kramer2718 (598033) on Friday January 25, 2013 @10:08PM (#42697973) Homepage

      Numero Uno: get a job. Get more experience in the real world.

      How best to do that?

      Well, you are lucky in that the job market is pretty good for tech skills. Companies would like to hire more experienced people, but can't always find them. Put your resume together as well as you can and prep for interviews by Googling potential questions and working on them.

      Better yet, if you know anyone in IT, have them grill you.

      If you are going for a programming job, make sure that you know and can apply basic procedural program concepts such as working with arrays, lists, queues, stacks, iteration, and recursion. Understand the basics of object oriented design. Write programs to practice these things. Find a good CS course online and do the homework.

      Wrox's Programming Interviews Exposed [wrox.com] is great practice for programming interviews.

      If you want to move up, learn more advanced algorithms concepts.

      If you are going for a sys admin job, install Linux on your home machine and manually manage it. Ubuntu is great, but learn about partition, booting, permissions, sudo privileges. A Linux admin handbook can teach you a lot.

      Don't sweat the philosophy degree.

      I do a lot of interviewing/hiring technical types, and have no problem with an non tech degree. Just know your shit.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I "only" have an AA degree, and it automatically eliminates me from most positions.

    It doesn't matter that I have over 20 years of professional experience, that I've developed everything from embedded systems used in commercial and general aviation, to a major Point-of-Sale system, a hotel reservation system, two financial trading systems and numerous business and accounting systems.

    Most H/R departments and recruiting companies won't even talk to me, because I don't have a Bachelor's degree, even though they

    • well we need more hands on training / apprenticeships.

      The college system is kind of out of date and comes with the full load of fluff and filler classes. Tech schools are roped into the college system as well.

      There is lot's stuff that is poor fit into a 2 year or 4 year plan and other stuff that needs a lot more hands on training that is a poor fit for a collgle class room. When more of a community College setting is better. Yes community College offer classes non degree.

      Also the cost of college is getting

      • Well, I think in my entire curriculum for Computer Science, I had like 3 'fluff' classes which were not surprisingly all general education classes, which were part of every degree program offered. I think the more disappointing part was when some of the classes that 'taught' something I wanted to learn, in fact, did not teach me much aside from how to shirk teaching responsibility with concept drills and endless worksheets on the basics.

        When I took an optimization class, we didn't learn to optimize our code

        • and all of that CS does not tech you IT / desktop / severs / networking skills that are needed and ARE there own job.

        • I'd agree with Joe_Dragon that apprenticeships can make a lot of sense. Your post makes me think about something else, putting a few factoids together in a new way. I'm thinking, speculating a bit from what I saw in academia the 1970s and 1980s, that there was a time, decades ago (like before the 1970s) when academia was growing so fast (exponentially) that people from industry without PhDs or much anything beyond real knowledge could become well-respected reasonably-paid teachers (unlike today's somewhat d

    • by rubycodez (864176)

      nonsense, I have friends with AA pulling down serious monies. experience and accomplishment are much more valuable than the sheepskin.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Fast forward 10 years. I'm a very recent college graduate with a BA in philosophy...

    I stopped reading right there. As a philosophy graduate, I'm sure you will appreciate a little Kafka:

    Give it up!

    It was very early in the morning, the streets clean and deserted, I was walking to the station. As I compared the tower clock with my watch I realized that it was already much later than I had thought, I had to hurry, the shock of this discovery made me unsure of the way, I did not yet know my way very well in this town; luckily, a policeman was nearby, I ran up to him and breathlessly asked him the way. He smiled and said: “From me you want to know the way?”“Yes,” I said, “since I cannot find it myself.”“Give it up! Give it up,” he said, and turned away with a sudden jerk, like people who want to be alone with their laughter.

  • by Raskolnikov42 (1197829) on Friday January 25, 2013 @06:43PM (#42696409)
    It depends on what track you want to get into IT on. If you want to start in programming then yes, you most likely need more schooling. With the glut of applications most companies are seeing these days you will have trouble even getting an interview without a BS in EE/CS or something similar. That said it sounds like you are comfortable with the hardware end of things, and if you would like to pursue that track the degree requirements tend not to be as stringent. Most of the network engineers/ops positions at my company are people with certifications, be they CompTIA, Cisco, M$, etc. They aren't any less skilled at their positions, but the networking world tends to place more value on results than degrees, in my experience. So assuming you want to stay on this track I would suggest starting with certs. You can always work your way sideways into a dev position if that's what you want to do, but that's the easiest way to get your foot in the door AFAIK.
  • "IT work" is quite vaque. It covers running a supercomputer cluster to maintaining systems for small businesses. What would you like to be doing in the IT field?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Stay the course.
        The world needs fewer Code Monkeys and more Standup Philosophers.
        Soon you could become an Able Bodied Seminarian.
        And then...
        Woof!

  • Certs (Score:4, Informative)

    by tom229 (1640685) on Friday January 25, 2013 @06:52PM (#42696481)
    I'd go the certification path. Going to university or college for IT isn't a terrible idea, but in my experience it's not necessary and probably a waste of money. I've had many co-workers that come out of university and college programs that don't know anything, or worse, memorized how to do something in one particular controlled environment and think they know everything.

    IT is about experience, confidence, and skill. If you already think you have good troubleshooting skills then you're well on your way. I'd get some core certifications like CompTIA A+, and CCENT and then look for an entry level job. Consulting companies that provide helpdesk support or managed services for small/medium businesses are a great start. From there you'll build contacts, start to specialize, they'll pay to get your more certs, and before you know it you'll be a lazy sysadmin on someones payroll.
    • by aheath (628369) *
      I value hands on experience much more than certifications when interviewing candidates for any IT job. A certification tells me that the job candidate has the ability to study a body of knowledge and pass a test. A certification doesn't tell me if the job candidate has any real world experience that they can apply on the job. I use a behavioral interviewing technique and ask questions such as:

      What approach do you take to troubleshooting problems?

      Can you give me example of a problem that you investigated

  • ChiPy.org (Score:5, Informative)

    by stox (131684) on Friday January 25, 2013 @06:54PM (#42696513) Homepage

    If you feel comfortable with Python, come out to the Chicago Python Users Group meetings, hone your skills and network. There is a lot of Python work in Chicago these days.

  • "IT work" is roughly the same as "I like computers". If you go into an interview with "I want to do IT work" you'll end up grinding your years away on the help desk. You mention that you worked with multiple desktops and AD, did you enjoy it? Do you prefer working on end user machines, or would you prefer to control them at a higher level from central servers? Do you gravitate to systems architecture and building out data centers, or would you rather be programming? If programming, are there languages you h
    • Also where do you want to work? Are you willing to move to California? Do you need to stay in the midwest or southeast? Are you willing to move to Mexico City?
    • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @08:48AM (#42699875) Journal

      "I like computers"... it only gets worse when the hopeful claims to know "how to take them apart". Gee whiz! We got a rocket scientist here! He grasped the concept of the SCREW! Pity that by the way he phrased it, it is clear he has never managed to actually put one together again. But he has a golden future at a recycling center.

      Neither is taking courses and getting perfect scores any clue. I took some exams and passed them with perfect scores even on languages I never used. It is easy. Most computer courses already give you a passing grade if you refrain from trying to eat the keyboard.

      In The Netherlands, the current shortage is NOT in guys who can hook up a PC, or even those who can code. It is in people who can finish an application to specification within a budget. Coding is EASY. Coding well is harder but very few computer courses require you to write more then a few thousand lines of code. Hell, in university most students will build their own OS or something SEEMINGLY difficult. But building a base OS that just runs on one machine and doesn't really do anything is easy. Supporting an entire eco-system of hardware and making it fully functional for daily use by real people, THAT IS FUCKING HARD. Why do you think there are only so many OS'es out there? Why do think many of the "new" ones are really just Linux with a skin? (Android, Meego and its offspring, various realtime OS'es, Bada can use a Linux kernel as an option).

      Same with a web application, Webshops are a booming industry yet the number of packages available is truly limited, especially ones that are any good. 4chan software is re-used on countless sites. Most forums run on the same code base.

      With mobile Apps we have seen that there are PLENTY of would-be developers out there but the vast majority can just code, have a bright idea but cannot develop it. they cobble pieces together and shove it out the door with "it works for me" and wait for the money to roll in.

      IF the poster wants a job in the very wide field of IT OR development (in many ways IT is so wide that development can't be considered a part of it) he FIRST needs to get an idea of what he wants to do, and then get some experience doing it.

      If you came to me for a development position, no matter how junior and said "I want to do something with computers" I would tell you politely I have no room for you. Anymore then a carpenter has room for someone who wants to do something with hammers. I can teach you how to code, I might be able to teach you how to become a developer.

      I can't teach someone who thinks everything that involves proximity to a computer is the same job.

      I have had occasion recently to once again see the difference between a senior DEVELOPER and a senior CODER. One guy on a project I was reviewing happily showed me amazingly well written clean code with full documentation, fully complete and accurate unit tests, continues deployment. Full A+ material.

      Just a tiny pity that it had taken him apparently 1.5 years to do as subproject budgetted for a few weeks in a project that was supposed to be finished in less then half a year... he had completely overshot the mark, gone completely beyond the spec and written something vastly more complex then what was needed.

      And yet, he was in the company highly regarded despite essentially being worthless to the company... without the main project being ready, there was no use for his code. But the owner of the company told me, "he writes really nice code, nicer then yours, so why should I contract you to fix it". Needless to say I didn't take the interview further, if the owner of a company can't see the difference between being productive and being on a hobby project in this bosses time, there is nothing to manage except a fast exit.

      Once again, coding is easy. Finding good coders is trivial. Getting a project out the door on time and with in specifications is the hard part. Don't impress me with your fancy one page script, show me shoddy

  • by gestalt_n_pepper (991155) on Friday January 25, 2013 @06:55PM (#42696533)

    Then start peddling it. Then start working for the organizations that become dependent on it. Finding the application to write is the hard part.

  • by rsilvergun (571051) on Friday January 25, 2013 @06:57PM (#42696547)
    dying business. The core of IT is viruses, failing hardware and codemonkying (e.g. simple, lego style programming as opposed to the stuff that's basically just really hard math). Assuming you're not a math guy that just happens to have a Philosophy degree, you're looking at one of those 3 core things. Now let me explain why they're dead ends.

    The bot nets got too big for their britches. Microsoft started tracking them (cheap) and sending the American DOJ (expensive, but free for Microsoft) out to get them. Virus removal work has been plummeting ever since. Hardware is about 50 to 70% longer lived than 10 years ago, due mostly to cooler running chips. As for codemonkying, good luck competing with cheap offshore labor.

    There are still jobs, but they're few and far between, and many go to Visa applicants. Your wages will be low, your hours long and you'll be on call for the rest of your life.

    IT as a profession is dead unless the gov't steps in for some protection. I thought of running a lobbying group (god knows Unions are dead), but there's too many "independent thinkers" and they're basically divided and conquered. For your own well being get the hell out of IT.
    • by RoknrolZombie (2504888) on Friday January 25, 2013 @07:02PM (#42696597)
      I wish I could mod this up. I've been doing the computer thing for about 20 years, been doing IT work for about 15 of that. The industry is dying and being replaced by carbon-copy morons, businesses don't want to pay fair value for experience, so experienced people who know the value of their skills can't get paid for them.
      • Yep. Just, yep. I really really wish I had gone to school and gotten a PhD in math/cs, the hardcore math stuff *is* truly awesome to see, I just had no idea it existed until I was already in the game of life and past college season. So I'm relegated to being asked to monkey plate code from A to B with an extra textbox in B, and competing with less skilled workers who ask much less money, to which companies don't see value in skill when they can save money.

        Yep.
    • Try a MSP (Managed Service Provider). It's basically a single IT service company that provides local support with anything ranging from printers, workstations, servers, networking, to overall IT consultation. The problem with an MSP is that it's only good as its employees. Many MSP companies rise an fall primarly because of ego. And lord knows that IT is way over inflated with inflated heads so large that it's any wonder the fit into the door in the morning. That shit causes all sorts of problems unless the

      • and they live and die on the charisma and connections of the owner, not on the quality of the techs. Customers can't tell a good tech from a bad one, but when they're pissed off a likable owner keeps the contract.
    • Don't be so quick to despair. One of the best ways I think you could differentiate yourself, and trust me you'll have to do that, is to improve on what I assume are strong communication skills. Probably one of the most valuable skills I have is playing referee between business and IT, or rewriting a guide to be more 'customer friendly'. It's beyond counting the number of times that that skill shooed me into a job that would have fallen to someone else. Also, apply to Google. They love people who have strong
    • by Anonymous Coward

      My experience is that the software development industry is quite lucrative and enjoyable. Moved to a major tech region this past year, and have found job hunting to resemble the guy's experience in The Firm as he was graduating from college.

    • by Velex (120469) on Friday January 25, 2013 @08:49PM (#42697517) Homepage Journal

      This. A million times this, a billion times this, a googol-plex times this. (That's a lot of this!)

      The problem is that a lay person has absolutely no gut instinct for what a properly functioning network infrastructure looks like or what a properly built API looks like. They say that if we built buildings like we build software, the first woodpecker that came along would destroy civilization. There's wisdom to be had there. Any lay person who's not a total moron has a gut instinct for what constitutes a solid building and what's going to burn down, fall over, and sink into a swamp in 3 years.

      I started to think about why that should be. When I started working at the call center I'm working at (got referred by my roommate who was also working there at the time), bringing up notepad or calc was viewed as misuse of our workstations. Notepad! Calc! Knowing to press win+R and type fscking calc was enough to be branded a hacker! (Of course, the only thing that's changed in that regard is I'm now part of the IT team, so I may now press win+R to my heart's content and draw forth the deep magic of the Run dialog. The problem was never some draconian IT policy; the problem has been and is the kinds of individuals who become successful supervisors in a call center environment and their utter, willful technical illiteracy. That being said, a lot of our supervisors are good people who are well intentioned, it's just that they absolutely cannot abandon their superstitious beliefs about computers.)

      So what? How does a lay person get a gut instinct for whether a building is solid or ramshackle? He learns how to kick bricks, and he learns that if kicking a brick causes a wall to come down, there was something wrong with the wall to begin with. We recognize that as a society. If I'm buying a house, of course it's within my rights to poke a wall here or there to look for water damage and kick a brick or two.

      Except what do we do to people who do the "cyber" equivalent of kicking bricks? As was noted in another discussion, read this in a dalek voice: PROSECUTE, PROSECUTE, PROSECUTE.

      Shitty code that crumbles to pieces is legally protected because we as a society haven't figured out the "cyber" difference between kicking a brick and causing the whole thing to implode and launching an RPG or two at the structure. All we see is evil mastermind hacker did SOMETHING and it FELL APART, so HE MUST HAVE BEEN DOING SOMETHING BAD!!!eleven1!1

      In other words, if we viewed architechts of buildings that are so easily toppled that the first woodpecker that comes along would destroy civilization the same way we view the individuals and especially companies and corporate entities that pay these individuals who are responsible for such unsound software, then our entire military-industrial complex would be researching the latest anti-woodpecker weaponry.

      This is what you're asking to be in the middle of when you want to get into IT. Institutionalized incompetence. Parent is correct, there needs to be some kind of government intervention or else some kind of buy-in with the IT community as a whole for some kind of bar association or certification process that allows one to call oneself a capital P Programmer like there is for capital E Engineers.

      Personally, I think the best way forward is targeting individuals instead of corporations for poor software. Hear me out for a second. I used to be a trucker so I know some things about going after individuals (not everything, it's been years since I was out on the big road, my own mistakes I freely admit, I write software better than I can back up a big rig). As a truck driver, I was legally required to keep a log and track when I was behind the wheel, when I was on-duty, when I was off-duty, and when I was sleeping. If I was behind the wheel too much, it was my ass. So if my dispatcher was asking me to drive too much, I had a choice: either I could go cowboy and keep two logbooks or I could politely

    • I posted similar thoughts.

      basically expanding to: get the hell out of THINKING based jobs.

      if you can think, so they can; and they will work for less.

      if you can do something physical, that has a better chance of keeping you in a job. if a car breaks down, they need a local mechanic to fix it; overseas thinkers can't fix local cars.

      we DO need gov protection on this. capitalism has no lower bounds and there are NO checks or balances on this.

      get out of IT. get out of thinking-based jobs.

      (btw, you want fries

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 25, 2013 @11:47PM (#42698479)

      Hey Matt,

      Don't listen to the above losers. These are the same eight guys that would complain whatever profession they ended up in.

      Really.

      • I mean that. So it doesn't matter too much what profession you're in. Doctors & Lawyers still do OK, but if you've got the resources to go into that (money, unnatural brain power and/or you get by fine on 4 hours/night sleep) then you're in the top 1% of workers. The reason you hear so much bitching from the other 99% is we're becoming superfluous, unnecessary. Robots and computers are replacing us, and there's a sizable portion that say just let us all die. Hell, a sizable portion of that 99% says let
  • get a degree. Programming jobs are heavily resume/GPA filtered. Unless you have someone on the inside ("who you know"), what you know will only get you so far. The great jobs, IMO, for a newbie, are best approached with a great GPA and transcript.

    There is so much more to programming than just banging on a keyboard. Get a good discrete mathematical background, algorithms, data structures. Study the hardware level as well (don't sleep through Comp Arch like I did). For the best bang for your buck, dual degree CS with something else engineering related (mechanical, chemical, physics, etc). STEM is the big thing these days.

    Do NOT bankrupt yourself or your future with crazy loans. Yes, "get a degree" and "don't bankrupt your future" are almost mutually exclusive these days. But even from a smaller college, a great GPA and transcript will get you in more doors.

    • by Blackhalo (572408)
      >get a degree. Programming jobs are heavily resume/GPA filtered. Unless you have someone on the inside ("who you know"), what you know will only get you so far. The great jobs, IMO, for a newbie, are best approached with a great GPA and transcript. This seems absurd to me. With today's college costs, the value that employers put on experience over education, and the 60% unemployment/underemployment rate of recent college grads, getting an entry level job through a temp agency in even the most esoterica
    • I'm getting my grey beard. I'm an EE; I don't do tech so much anymore, but I've done enough and .. seen things.

      The myth that good programmers cannot find work is just that. What is a myth is how common "good" programmers are. I only know a few, "good" programmers. Some of them have degrees, some of them do not. The common thread is that based on their demonstrated proficiency and speed, none of those people are out of work, ever. Spanned over decades.

      Go out and hack on some projects. You will be noticed, an

      • your samplesize is too small.

        I have been looking for work for much longer than a year, without success. I won't go into my background but I'm at least a capable c programmer for a few decades now. while I don't win speed awards in coding, I can keep up, I document my code a lot and I don't write bad code.

        in the valley, at least, age is a lot of it. once I hit 50, I fell off a cliff. the cost to employers is higher (even legally); if they want to fire you later, they have to jump thru more hoops to 'prov

        • by swillden (191260)

          If you have the ability, try the big names. Google, Apple, Microsoft, etc. They're always hiring and they don't care about age, just ability. Of course, their standards are high, and even for people who meet them it's somewhat random if you get an offer. Still, definitely worth a shot. Make sure you're prepared, though: I suggest working your way through one of the programming interview question books first. People with lots of experience tend to do very well at that stuff once they do a little refresher, b

    • lol, this is just completely inaccurate. The only time anyone even looks at the degree is for people straight out of school or have less than three years experience. Experience is king and completely dominates any sheet of paper you're going to get from your school.

  • by magic maverick (2615475) on Friday January 25, 2013 @07:01PM (#42696589) Homepage Journal

    I finished my first degree, and after some futzing around decided to do a masters. While I think I could have continued to get good jobs with my BA and hobbies (I too learnt QBasic, and then downloaded QuickBasic from the net, when I was young), the second degree will get me to where I want to go faster. That's the thing, I have a direction I want to go to (which I didn't have when I finished my first degree).

    With a BA and computer skills you should be able to find a varied number of jobs, including in communications type situations (you can read and write, and you can do (or learn to do) web stuff? that's all you really need). My advice, get into the work force for a couple of years and see if you can cope with the sort of jobs you are getting. If you want something extra, go and do more study.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    A lot of big companies pay for job-relevant education. Join as entry-level, get your degree working in parallel, then switch to a job with higher requirements/better pay

  • Step 1: Teach yourself how to code. This can only help and there is plenty of resources. Kahnacademy, MIT's Opencourse ware, Python the hard way. The key to getting any IT job is the ability to develop the skills required.

    Step 2: Work on the cheap and be humble. There's plenty of non IT shops in dire need of a little bit of HTML, a little bit of maintenance, a little bit of what have you. Offer to be paid in beer and you will not only develop real world skills, you will make connections.

    Step 3: Specia
  • Fast forward 10 years. I'm a very recent college graduate with a BA in philosophy (because of seminary, which I recently left).

    Question – did you take advance courses in logic? Did you enjoy it? If you answered yes to both then I would suggest finding something that would mold those skills – something more theoretical and abstract. Technical and practical gigs will pay the bills today but tend to stagnate fast.

    Formal / Symbolic logic can have the same level of rigorous thought patterns as upper level math courses – and are highly prized skills in IT. The 2 best programmers I knew both had philosophy degrees. (one

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Hacker School (sometimes called dev bootcamps) is the new Computer Science degree.

    Here are links to some Hacker Schools:
    http://natashatherobot.com/hacker-school-the-new-cs-degree/

    In Chicago they have "Starter League" (http://www.starterleague.com/).
    Hacker School is very economical and many graduates (for one school it was 88%)
    get jobs.

    Also, go to "Hackatons" and find some tech meetups (meetup.com) in your area.
    Hackathons are marathon programming sessions.
    Groups give a presentations at the end. You'll be abl

  • You'll find that not getting a degree will hold you back down the road even if you manage to find a low level job now. If you can afford it, go to school, transfer as many credits as you can toward a 4 year degree, with summer school, etc., you should be out in 2 years. You have no job experience, which works to your advantage when you graduate a 4 year program. Try to get an internship while in school. That may be better time spent than summer school. You would be in worse shape if you were laid off, the
  • UW Madison is a good school (ok, I'll cine clean, I go there) although I'm not a cs student I can tell you that their programming courses are fun although the introductory ones with bore you half to death.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I don't care how many people come out of the woodworks to say "You don't need a degree to get a job in IT, cause look at me, I got one 20 years ago and am still working in IT and never had a degree". To them I would say the times have changed and almost every company out there either requires or strongly prefers a 4 year degree. Unless it's a start up (i.e. like a younger version of Facebook or Zynga or insert latest startup to go public and lose everyone a bunch of money here) in which case you either ha

    • shit, corporate jobs are easy without a degree with just skills, it's the fun ones that have engineers lining up outside the doors that you really need a degree for (hint, corporate jobs aren't the fun ones engineers jump at). He's already got his undergrad, great; go get that masters and or PhD in crazy math and become a quant or work for google. The money you'll make with the PhD will pay off the cost of the extra education more quickly than the money made off an undergrad cs pays off an undergrad cs.
  • I just recently received my masters (not in computer science) and I regret my decision to go to school, a bit. Sure I learned things but it is also 2 years away from the fast moving technology world. My experience and skills are ancient, relatively speaking, to those who have worked the last two years. Only go to school if you want to switch fields or if you cannot advance your career without a more advanced degree. Plus, the education may not be that great, considering professors (at large research univers
    • Don't go to school if you only plan on going to class and get good grades. Like you say, classroom information is usually a few steps behind industry.
      If you are motivated then big research universities are amazing places to get experience and network. Sign on doing research with a professor, and instead of being behind the technology curve, you'll be ahead of it. Join a competition team (robotics, programming, solar car, etc), to challenge yourself, build new skills, and demonstrate your ability to solve
  • That's what I'm doing. It seems to teach you much more practical matters and how the real world works. My least favorite part of college is the idealistic (and incidentally, philosophical) arguments people have. I will however, also recommend you learn more along the way. Not to sound like an ass, but you do have some gaps in knowledge as you yourself pointed out. I'm seeing no mention of C, which is pretty huge, or Java (although you know C# which might even be better at this point). Also, as much as I ha
  • You shouldn't have much trouble passing the GRE; see if you can find a graduate program where you can get a master's degree. That should only take ~2 years and then you have something to show for your efforts. The CompTIA certs are a joke, the MS certs change all the time, and the rest are too poorly defined to be worth the testing fees.
  • Any time spent in school just to get some extra paper would be better spent expanding your network while looking for the right job. In the mean time, there are probably quite a few IT consulting companies in your area that are always looking to fill entry-level positions (basic network administration and desktop support). The pay isn't usually that great, but it's much better than retail, and gets you good working experience with the industry. Not to mention contacts.

    Just be honest and upfront about your

  • by hendersj (720767) on Friday January 25, 2013 @07:51PM (#42696975)

    70% of IT professionals these days have some sort of degree.

    Tech skills on their own won't get you far - back in the late 80's and early 90's when I got started in the field, it was sufficient. I dropped out of college to pursue an IT career and did very well for 15 years in the field before moving on to other stuff.

    Then I got laid off, and the lack of degree has really hurt my ability to get a job in this economy. I currently do contract writing for software companies, and that pays well enough - when there's work to do.

    My advice would be to pursue the degree while working full-time, either as an intern or other full-time position. The degree, sadly, will be more valuable than the experience.

    In the IT field, things that help are the ability to solve business problems (IOW, don't focus strictly on technology) and to manage projects. PMP certification will get you farther than any technical certification (the tech certification market has been in decline for years). Companies don't want to hire someone with specific technical skills - they want people who can function independently and can manage IT projects. Being able to do that will really help you.

    A CS degree in combination with project management skills, familiarity with Agile/SCRUMM development methodologies, and business skills will take you farther these days than tech skills alone.

    Jim

    • by Zeromous (668365)

      As someone who broke in in the 90s and is still in 'the shit', this is precisely how I've branded myself. It has served my quite well. Get that PMP, if you're lucky, whatever company you get a foot in the door with will help pay for it.

      • by hendersj (720767)

        For my own part, I've done the studying for the PMP and just need to get to the point that I'm ready for the exam (I'm pretty good with project management, but I learned mostly "by doing", so I had to study up on the official terminology and such - and I'm not a very good exam taker, sadly - and I worked in technical certification and testing for a number of years).

        Personally, I've ended up moving into technical writing, documentation, and training materials development. My background in programming, IT, a

    • by Kjella (173770)

      My advice would be to pursue the degree while working full-time, either as an intern or other full-time position. The degree, sadly, will be more valuable than the experience.

      It's not an either-or, companies want people with a degree and real world experience so if you got one, work on the other. It can be really tough to land a good first/early job no matter how good your degree is if they got other applications also with good degrees and a bit more experience and the less prestigious jobs will often see that you're looking to get a bit of experience and leave for greener pastures. I have a Master's degree and I felt in years of education/experience that 5/0 and 5/1 was tough,

      • by hendersj (720767)

        It's not an either-or, companies want people with a degree and real world experience so if you got one, work on the other. It can be really tough to land a good first/early job no matter how good your degree is if they got other applications also with good degrees and a bit more experience and the less prestigious jobs will often see that you're looking to get a bit of experience and leave for greener pastures.

        Yes, it is important as well not to spend a lot of time early in your career hopping between different jobs. Employers want people who are stable, and I've seen plenty of people who spent 6 months at a string of different jobs be turned down because they're perceived as "too opportunistic".

        It costs money to hire and develop an employee, and those who jump between jobs are perceived as not worth the investment of time or money to hire.

    • by hibiki_r (649814)

      SCUMM - Script Creation Utility For Maniac Mansion
      Scrum - An agile methodology, Not an acronym.

      If you tell me you have experience in SCRUMM, It's like telling me you have been using 'C pound' for 5 years.

      • by hendersj (720767)

        Gah, I misspelt it. Of course, I meant Scrum. :) (What was I saying about being familiar with the terminology being as important as being able to do it?) :)

  • If you want to become a professional software developer as opposed to being locked into IT support, the Masters program at the University of Chicago sounds ideal for you. It is specifically designed for those with little or no formal programming experience [uchicago.edu] before beginning the degree.

  • yes, me. I'm going to try to convince you to pick another field.

    (enable GOML mode)
    it used to be that having a thinking-based job was good in the US. outsourcing was not in vogue and the social contract was about you studying, working hard, moving up in the corp world and as long as you can still work, there would be a job for you.

    fast forward to today and extrapolate to today+n. do you really think that the trend we see (outsourcing and the local race-to-the-bottom) is going to reverse? what chance do yo

  • What's your age? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MindPrison (864299) on Friday January 25, 2013 @08:00PM (#42697077) Journal
    Your post sends me mixed messages. First you are telling us that you started out with Qbasic (that's pretty old-school, that's from when I was a kid, and I'm no youngin anymore I can tell ya)...and then you're asking about internship. From where I come from, internship is for the kids right out of school, not for 40-50 year old computer dinosaurs like you and me (if ...you're around my age). I've been around since Pong and Zx-80(81) days, democoder on C-64, Amiga, Atari etc...In fact, I know that if I where to start all over again, I'd go the education way today....back in the days, things where different, you could just take any computer and code stuff from scratch, no libraries, no pre defined variables, no gazillion calls to various OS related libraries and locales.

    If you're indeed in my age group, then I can offer a little advice, it may not be right for you, but chances are - if you're like me, then you're better off following your passion instead of trying to start off where the kids today are starting, they'll rip you apart and probably reverse engineer your soul (not kidding about that) before you can say DirectX.

    Find a special niche instead, use your "old school" abilities where it'll do you real good, that's what I do. Even though I have all the latest gear, latest ARM microcontroller kits from TI and whatnot and love to play with my toys, I'll be no match for any kid around 20 today that knows his worth in salt.

    You have to weigh in the choices of what you REALLY want do do. After 30+ years in IT, I've toned things down, trying to find real meaning in life instead, discover new places, see where my ready-knowledge can be put to good use, repair arcade machines perhaps? Old retro collectors items can be worth a fortune, not to mention the old mainframe systems no young person seem to know, who's going to repair and maintain those? Etc...find a niche, and you'll find happiness.

     
    • by bogjobber (880402)
      I'm 26 and the first programming language I learned was QBasic, followed by VB6. Presumably the author is around my age, although possibly a bit older.
  • computers. You'll be much happier and richer re-programming humans.

    Honestly with your background you'll go broke in no time trying to be a programmer.

  • ...if you choose school, that is. This approach finally occurred to me after I'd received my Master's and worked for a few years. I made the mistake of waiting to think about finding a job until after graduation. I did not make the same mistake when I went back for a postgrad degree. I started looking at job postings long before I started filling out school applications. This helped me determine the appropriate program and qualifications necessary for where I wanted to be. I did not stop until I'd landed a
  • by cortesoft (1150075) on Friday January 25, 2013 @10:23PM (#42698039)

    Just go get a job. I was a self-taught programmer as well, and got my BA in Philosophy, too.

    When I decided to try making my hobby a career, it was RIDICULOUSLY easy to get a job. All I did was use some personal projects as my resume. Showed them my code, showed them what I could do, and was hired.

    No one has ever cared that I didn't have a degree in a computer-related field. In fact, my boss never even went to college. You just need some way to show you can do the work. If you don't think you are good enough yet, practice! Create some side projects. Work on open-source projects. Add these projects to git, and suddenly you will be getting a TON of emails about work. Trust me.

  • I undergraduate degree in in law. And I am now happily employed as a software engineer at a tech company.

    But then, of course, it's all networking -- I wouldn't have gotten past the HR resume screeners otherwise. I know some companies will give you an interview if somebody in the company is willing to refer you. And once you get into the interview stage, the degree is usually not a big deal. To be honest though, for younger candidates, the choice of doing a non-CS degree does add a tiny bit of doubt whether

  • You would be better off creating your own job. Don't go work for a company. Don't waste time on further education. Start programming, start producing products, start solving problems for people. Don't be a Dilbert. Be a creator.

  • If you want to go the employment route, bite your tongue and get your info to places like Robert Half Technology, TekSystems, Tata Consultancy Services, etc.....etc.

    They can get you enough short term work to build your resume'.
    In some cases, the companies that they place you at can and do hire contractors on occasion.

I cannot conceive that anybody will require multiplications at the rate of 40,000 or even 4,000 per hour ... -- F. H. Wales (1936)

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