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Ask Slashdot: Fastest, Cheapest Path To a Bachelor's Degree? 370

Posted by timothy
from the assume-the-identity-of-a-current-holder dept.
First time accepted submitter AnOminusCowHerd (3399855) writes "I have an Associates degree in programming and systems analysis, and over a decade of experience in the field. I work primarily as a contractor, so I'm finding a new job/contract every year or two. And every year, it gets harder to convince potential employers/clients that 10-12 years of hands-on experience doing what they need done, trumps an additional 2 years of general IT education.

So, I'd like to get a Bachelor's degree (preferably IT-related, ideally CS, accredited of course). If I can actually learn something interesting and useful in the process, that would be a perk, but mainly, I just want a BSCS to add to my resume. I would gladly consider something like the new GA Tech MOOC-based MSCS degree program — in fact, I applied there, and was turned down. After the initial offering, they rewrote the admissions requirements to spell out the fact that only people with a completed 4-year degree would be considered, work experience notwithstanding."
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Ask Slashdot: Fastest, Cheapest Path To a Bachelor's Degree?

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  • Check out WGU (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FictionPimp (712802) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @01:55PM (#46575663) Homepage

    http://www.wgu.edu/ [wgu.edu]

    Solid course material. Industry standard certs tied to the courses as finals, and fully accredited.

    • by mbaGeek (1219224)
      ditto on WGU (got my MBA in IT management from there) - another low cost, accredited option is Excelsior [excelsior.edu] (one of the older "distance education" institutions)
  • by slinches (1540051) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @02:02PM (#46575761)

    Ask Slashdot: Fastest, Cheapest Path To a Bachelor's Degree?

    Yes, it seems like a free education can be had just by posting the right ask slashdot questions.

  • by BenSchuarmer (922752) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @02:03PM (#46575783)

    I don't know much about on-line options.

    I got my degree from a local state university that has a lot of non-traditional/part-time students. I'd suggest seeing what colleges in your area are like that.

  • by Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @02:09PM (#46575861)
    He will sell you any degree for only $149.95
    Cars painted while you study. :)
    • by DriveDog (822962)
      ESI ! I'm an alumnus. But I went back when it was only $99.95 (plus 29.95 for a "sealer" coat). Problem with that is I assume he wants a lifetime degree, and Earl's only lasts you about 3 years. Also, at least in the past, you had to choose one of the colors, er, disciplines, they already offered. No design-your-own interdisciplinary resprays, um, degrees.
  • It's relatively fast and easy to take community college courses at your own pace. You can then transfer to a full university for your final year and get the BA/BS.

  • Ask them for a list of colleges and universities that accept their courses as transfer credit. Don't want to redo work you've already done.

    If your associate's place doesn't transfer anywhere at all, the good news is that your options are all open, and the bad news is that you'll have to do two years of work over again. (The other bad news is that it's a sign that no other college likes the college you got your 2 year degree from, for some reason, which either speaks to the quality of education that you
    • by PRMan (959735)
      Also, the bad news is that the Admissions office is usually more generous about transfers than the Records office. Once you get there, you may find that your credits don't transfer as well as they led you to believe before you got there.
      • Even if only half the credits transfer over, that's still less work that needs to be done - and less you have to pay for. If the originating associate's degree was worth the paper it was printed on, they'll probably let you transfer over credits from the core classes (English 101, basic math etc.)
    • He should also be aware that some schools will discount the value of old credits. Requiring testing (at least) for coursework more then 5 or 10 years old.

      Further he should look for flexibility in testing for industry experience. It really sucks taking a class in a subject you know better then the teacher. Imagine taking a database course from a teacher that loves higher normal forms (read as: 'has never run a real world database').

    • The other bad news is that it's a sign that no other college likes the college you got your 2 year degree from, for some reason, which either speaks to the quality of education that you received or to some underlying college political issue, and you won't know which without digging a bit

      In the USA, there are two tiers of institutions of higher education: regionally accredited schools and nationally accredited schools [wikipedia.org]. Regionally accredited institutions tend to be more prestigious and more academic as opposed to vocational. Credits from nationally accredited schools seldom transfer to regionally accredited schools, and students have sued over this [nwsource.com].

      • Even within schools accredited by the same agency, some will not accept transfers from others because the schools themselves are run by different organizations. For example, in Georgia the "University System of Georgia" is different from the "Technical College System of Georgia." (GA Tech is part of the University System, so school names mean nothing.) Most USG schools will accept partial transfer credits from each other, but they'll snub the TCSG schools and may transfer little or nothing, even though m
  • A lot of practice!!

    Ba-dum-da.

    No seriously, there is a shortcut... Private colleges who are funded by shady government-backed loans. Didn't we just have this discussion? Or was the answer "Plastics!"?

  • Send me a cheque for $300 and I'll send you a Degree.

  • by Subm (79417) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @02:16PM (#46575949)

    By the principle of "Quality, price, speed, pick any two," when you ask for price and speed, just know what you're asking for.

  • Apply to a local state funded university. Talk with an admissions counselor about your goals and how well your associates will transfer (10 years old, the answer is usually Not At All). State schools provide the best bang for the buck. It also helps that their programs tend to be quite good. You also have to accept the fact that this isn't going to be convenient or easy. If it was easy to get a degree worth the paper it was printed on, everybody would have one.

    If you just want to throw money at the pro

  • Hi... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by beelsebob (529313) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @02:19PM (#46575993)

    Hi, I want to pretend that I've done a bunch of academic learning, because I feel that I have the right to the title because I have some experience.

    Hint: Bachelors degrees are different from experience. Experience is valuable, but it's not the same thing as academic learning, in the same way as academic learning is valuable, but not the same thing as experience. If you want a bachelor's degree... go and do one.

    • Re:Hi... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by metlin (258108) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @03:01PM (#46576465) Journal

      I have met a number of people who are rock solid programmers and have a deep understanding of technologies. People who can program device drivers in their sleep and have implemented a godawful number of systems over the years. People who have licked networking or embedded systems or whatever (take your pick).

      Naturally, they assume that CS is the same as IT, and enter CS programs to get a degree.

      And then, I have seen them fail miserably as they realize that programming does not equal discrete math, graph theory, or computational complexity. Usually, it's been a while since they've been out of school, so even simple things like Graphics 101 with vector math and basic physics isn't quite a cakewalk. Plus, I have found that they are quite limited by their own experience and biases (mostly because they've had a lifetime to learn bad habits) and find it quite hard to reconcile real world experience with the academia.

      You can especially see this with older, more experienced folks in a class teaching, say, Operating Systems, Architecture, Data Structures, or Compiler Design. And it is not necessarily their fault -- their real world experience sometimes does contradict what's recommended in the "ivory tower" world. Networking is often quite the opposite, though -- it is one of those fields where real world experience proves valuable, and the experienced folks learn a little something about the math behind network routing and such.

      Honestly, whenever I see someone with experience wanting to study CS, I just recommend that they get a degree in something like MIS simply because it is a way for you to move up, and it is a lot easier -- handing computer science at a later stage in your life is usually significantly harder unless you've been keeping yourself mentally challenged in math and related subjects. You are in a very different place mentally in your early 30s than you are in your late teens.

      • Re:Hi... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by rabun_bike (905430) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @07:50PM (#46579417)
        Very true but you can still teach an old dog new tricks. I went back to school for the third time to get my under graduate coursework in CS out of the way so I can apply to a MS program when my youngest starts 1st grade (in about three years). I started taking CS classes in my late 30's and have 2 more courses to go and I am now in my 40's with 2 kids. What I found is that even though I have a minor in Mathematics it provided me almost no help in Discrete Math. Honestly Discrete Math taken at a large engineering university was an eye opening experience for me. The only thing that helped me was Linear Algebra and some graph theory I already knew. And it really made me angry that the US education system had shorted me so severely on what I would call classic mathematics. To catch up I put in many, many hours to do well in that class. And I did OK with with a B+. Going back to doing proofs after 20 years was a a challenge but it was not impossible. I already have a MS in Computer Information Systems but my heart is in Computer Science and so is the type of work that I do. You can take challenging courses later in life and I think it can be very rewarding. In my Data Structures class the final project was an impossible task for undergraduates. I spent hours working on the project which combined graph theory, and many different data structures and related concepts into a large final class project. I put the effort in and got a 100 on the assignment along with a single fellow classmate also in his 30's taking coursework for another masters program. We both got A+ grades in that class. The class average for that assignment was a 45 which included our two perfect scores. I then went on to take Computer Architecture and Assembler programming and had a similar experience. The undergraduate kids did pretty well on the tests and it was difficult to beat them but when it came to the projects the older students like myself could beat them hands down. We simply have many more years of experience in building things that work as well as tenacity in completing the projects to our best ability. It takes a lot of work to go back to school and complete challenging coursework but I personally have found it very rewarding.
    • This is very true. In my experience, actual work is about getting the job done well enough to serve a particular purpose while academic work was more likely to require delving deeper. The deeper academic delving sometimes really pays off when the real job requires just getting something to work right, right now.

  • My school (University of Cincinnati) requires all engineering grads to have 1.5 years of industry experience (co-op) to graduate. That means that you get paid for 1.5 years at a decent rate and likely will have an offer at graduation. Worked great for me, though, it does require a 5 year program to complete. Regardless, you get a solid grasp of the fundamentals and a job.
  • by DriveDog (822962) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @02:21PM (#46576015)
    But not wasting your time... I'm all for a solid CS education and I'd give brownie points for it. But if it bugs you to study what you think you already know, then don't. I really can't imagine that a BS in CS is going to impress most hiring managers more than your dozen years of experience plus some other 4 year degree. So get the 4 year degree in something else quantitative in which you have interest. Physics, statistics, math, chemistry, etc. Take your time, and enjoy learning something outside of your normal field.
  • Obviously, your local state school is probably the cheapest.

    http://www.dailyfinance.com/2009/11/09/cheapest-colleges-13-standup-schools-that-cost-less-than-5-000/

  • by TsuruchiBrian (2731979) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @02:25PM (#46576045)

    every year, it gets harder to convince potential employers/clients that 10-12 years of hands-on experience doing what they need done, trumps an additional 2 years of general IT education.

    Both are pretty meaningless if you don't actually have the necessary knowledge to do the job properly. There are plenty of people with degrees that don't know anything. There are plenty of people with lots of experience that don't know anything. I know lots of people who talk a good game, and can't deliver. There are plenty of people paying for software development that don;t know what good software is, and that's what allows these hacks to survive. The fact that you want to get a BS in computer science with doing the least amount of effort, makes me not want to hire you. What it says to me, is that you don't think the knowledge gained by going through a real CS program is very important. There is also quite a difference in quality between "accredited" computer science programs, and most employers are aware this difference. Maybe you think you know the material already, but I have literally never seen a single "self-taught" person who knew a damn about proper software engineering. Maybe you are a genius and an exception, but I also wouldn't take the word of some self-proclaimed CS/IT genius. Everyone who does computers thinks their a genius, myself included. It's a psychological disorder that's rampant in the field.

    Don't be surprised if a fastest cheapest accredited degree (i.e. where you learn the least), doesn't yield the results you were hoping for.

  • by Rinikusu (28164) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @02:31PM (#46576131)

    I've always wondered what it is that prevents us from creating a fully accredited* Computer Science Degree (bachelor's) completely online, for cheap. I'm not talking code-school, I mean let's learn Computer Science, with all the math and non-shortcuts that entails. The "industry" might want programmers, but *I* want to be more than that, and I'd like a formal education to get it without spending $30-40k/semester and would prefer to do it at my own pace while I continue working in the field. Perhaps this needs to be a Y Combinator style start-up. Courses from Algebra (yes, Algebra), Geometry, Trig, first principles kind of stuff focusing on the WHYS not just rote memorization. Sure, you'd still need the social sciences and what not (and I would be happy to just take those at the local community college for $cheap and transfer them in), but the real meat at the real school. Hell, it doesn't even have to be accredited if you actually learn something.

    This also brings me to self-taught computer scientists: I've begun an adventure down "Teach myself math from scratch" lane because, at age 40, I'm still rather annoyed at my math education in high school. I was more concerned about learning to the test, not the concepts, and that's haunted me ever since. Anyone have recommendations for learning math starting from, say, Algebra I or II level (high school) that will actually teach in a way that will be useful rather than taking a test? Stuff that will carry over into future classes as the proper building blocks, etc?

    • by peter303 (12292)
      I thought Georgia Tech was stringing together a bunch of MOOCs for a discount online degee. CS is one of the few majors where there is a sufficient coverage of MOOCs for a whole degree.
      • by Rinikusu (28164)

        It's a master's degree program from what I can tell. I'd rather start at the undergraduate level. What's sad is that even though I denigrate my math skills/comprehension I've still probably forgotten more than most non-STEM people have ever learned. SIGH.

        What does it mean when your biggest regret from high school at age 40 is I wish I hadn't slept through Algebra II & Advanced Math instead of "I wish I had asked Suzy out" or, I dunno, gone out for the wrestling team? :)

    • I've always wondered what it is that prevents us from creating a fully accredited* Computer Science Degree (bachelor's) completely online, for cheap.

      The "For Cheap" part is the only thing.

      Florida State University has (had?) an actual online Computer Science degree (AA had to be completed offline). It was actually Computer Science, too.

      Algebra through Calc + Discrete and Calc-based Statistics for the math;

      Operating Systems and Programming Languages (design and concepts of, not just usage)

      Programming Instruction in OO (C++, not Java - gets them points in my book, may reduce them in yours) and Functional (LISP). Even some assembly for the OS course (MIPS).

    • Khan academy is pretty incredible and the math lectures are really excellent (IMO). They've also got a built-in practice software that is decent.
  • ...does an accredited (presumably) school come up with that? That sounds like a trade school degree. Might as well be self-taught.

    When did people stop going to college to get "educated" as opposed to "resumated"?

  • They allow you to transfer lots of credits, to write essays to demonstrate life learning, and offer tons of independent study courses to top off any remaining gaps. The essays are pure gold though.
  • by tom229 (1640685)
    Just put on your resume that you have a BSc. They'll never require proof and they're idiots for demanding you have one anyways.
    • by timeOday (582209)
      Even if he declined to accept any offers obtained by lying about a degree, it would be interested to see if it helped him to get more offers. As it stands, it could be anything - a declining market in his technical specialty, or in the region where he lives, or a slip in the freshness of his skills, or age discrimination.
  • Worked for me (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NoImNotNineVolt (832851) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @02:49PM (#46576323) Homepage
    Get a degree in Electrical Engineering from your nearest State University, filling all your elective credits with Computer Science courses.

    Gets you access to all those "4 year degree" tech jobs, plus a whole slew of other tech jobs that you didn't know existed. That's what I did because I didn't want to pigeonhole myself into a field that is rife with bubbles and outsourcing. Worse case scenario, if at some point I can't find work writing code, I can try to get a job with the power company, a telco, etc.
  • Wherever you get your degree, don't run up a fortune in debt to pay for it. It would be better to not get it at all then to run up, say, $30,000 or more of debt to pay off - in my opinion. I do agree with you that it probably really is harder and harder to get jobs without a 4 year degree. I've seen this happen to IT people I know who don't have 4 year degrees and get laid off.
  • This is, without a doubt, the fastest way to get your bachelor's degree. You can study at your own pace, and you can take tests for materials that you already know without investing time into the studies.
  • A lot of government research entities will pay for your advanced education (Georgia Tech Research Institute, Sandia Labs, etc) because they value advanced degrees. I know this works great getting MS degrees. You just have to sell your soul to the same company usually for an additional 4 years. I recommend you just get a BS degree with a decent in-state public school. Usually you can help pay for tuition by working for the school as a TA or Research Assistant.
  • Get a job doing support, call center, help desk, whatever, with a company that has tuition reimbursement. Get most of it done at a community college as they are usually easier & better schedule wise for the working adult. Just be sure it has a transfer program to a state college so your degree has a better name on it. This worked well for me.
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Tuesday March 25, 2014 @04:50PM (#46577571) Journal
    I hired a guy who was in a small time band for 20 years after high school. Traveled all over US. No one ever paid an admission price to hear them. Hotel lobby. Restaurant. Etc. Decided to get a degree at age 40. 20 years of travel showed him the cheapest place in USA. Upper peninsula of Michigan. Mich tech or some such place. Finished degree in three years with summer session. Started as entry level coder at age 44. One of the smartest guys I have met. He joined and enjoyed our London times cryptic crossword puzzle group. So go north young man.

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