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Ask Slashdot: Finding an IT Job Without a Computer-Oriented Undergraduate Degree 504

An anonymous reader writes "Contrary to what many individuals think, not everybody on Slashdot went to college for a computer-related degree. Graduating in May of this year, my undergraduate degree will be in psychology. Like many undergraduate psychology students, I applied to a multitude of graduate programs but, unfortunately, was not given admission into a single one. Many are aware that a bachelor's degree in psychology is quite limiting, so I undoubtedly have been forced into a complicated situation. Despite my degree being in psychology, I have an immense interest in computers and the typical 'hard science' fields. How can one with a degree that is not related to computers acquire a job that is centered around computers? At the moment, I am self-taught and can easily keep up in a conversation of computer science majors. I also do a decent amount of programming in C, Perl, and Python and have contributed to small open source projects. Would Slashdot users recommend receiving a formal computer science education (only about two years, since the nonsensical general education requirements are already completed) before attempting to get such a job? Anybody else in a similar situation?"
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Ask Slashdot: Finding an IT Job Without a Computer-Oriented Undergraduate Degree?

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  • Not really needed (Score:5, Informative)

    by jhaygood86 ( 912371 ) on Sunday March 18, 2012 @11:54AM (#39395695)
    I dropped out of college (was in the CS program, but barely completed the early requirements), and I have a really good gig as a senior software developer. It takes a bit more to get your feet in, but in general, most places I've seen could care less about the degree if you can get the work done.
    • by Dr. Sp0ng ( 24354 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [gnopsm]> on Sunday March 18, 2012 @12:11PM (#39395883) Homepage

      I'm in exactly the same situation, with no regrets. Interviews were a little tough early on, but once you have it, experience trumps education. My lack of a degree hasn't been an issue in a long time.

      And the great thing about this industry is that you can get the experience and prove yourself without anybody else's permission. Contribute to open source, release a smartphone app, etc. It's in your hands: just do it.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I did the same thing. Got 2+ years into my CS degree at a university and then life happened. I got a basic tech job and worked it into a programming position. From there moved into SQL server and other server management. I did pick up a 2 year degree and a certification while working there.

        My solid computer skills got me the position and our IT director saw my potential.

        Now I am about to run into an issue though. They are setting me up to possibly take over the department. My lack of a 4 year degree will

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by techhead79 ( 1517299 )
        I'd like to add another example to this. I'm also working in the industry as a programmer analyst. It is VERY difficult to get your foot in the door and very difficult to convince upper management that you don't actually need a degree to do your job even better than those Senior programmers above you. Depending on the company you work for you can expect a lot of hard work ahead to even get noticed. But it does and will happen. In my personal opinion I know that someone without a degree worked far harder to
    • Re:Not really needed (Score:5, Informative)

      by houstonbofh ( 602064 ) on Sunday March 18, 2012 @12:36PM (#39396091)
      With this experience you can get good hands on tech jobs, but with no degree, you will hit a ceiling. If you want to go into management, it does not matter what the degree is as long as you have one. And that was serious, not a Dilbertism... Unfortunately.
      • with no degree, you will hit a ceiling. If you want to go into management, it does not matter what the degree is as long as you have one.

        Fortunately in this case, by the time the OP hits the "any degree, I don't care which" ceiling, the OP will already have one in psychology. But in the short term, how should one keep a roof over one's head while contributing to open source projects to gain experience?

    • by tooyoung ( 853621 ) on Sunday March 18, 2012 @12:52PM (#39396211)
      It's comforting to see examples of this working out for people.

      I actually find myself in the exact opposite situation as the submitter. I have just obtained a bachelors in CS, but I have a deep interest in psychology and was thinking about finding a job in that area. Sure, I may not have the formal training, but I have always been interested in the subject and picked up a few books in the area. I can hold my own in conversations on Freud, Skinner, stages of coping with loss, sour grapes, cognitive dissonance, etc.

      I'd like to apply for a job as a psychiatrist, but I'm concerned that employers may find my qualifications lacking. Are there any slashdotters out there who have managed to find employment as a psychiatrist with only a bachelors in a hard science? Any advice on the process? Or, do you think my best shot would be to finish up a quick two year psychology degree (I already have the gen ed stuff done from my CS degree), and then go on to get my Masters and PHD in psychology?
      • I'd like to apply for a job as a psychiatrist, but I'm concerned that employers may find my qualifications lacking. Are there any slashdotters out there who have managed to find employment as a psychiatrist with only a bachelors in a hard science?

        I can pretty much guarantee you there aren't, because a psychiatrist is a physician who's done a residency in mental health. Psychologists don't have the requirement of an MD, although I believe most states don't allow you to practice clinical psychology without a PhD or PsyD. There are all kinds of other mental health jobs with lesser degree requirements, but all of them, AFAIK, will require some kind of formal education in the field.

        Or, do you think my best shot would be to finish up a quick two year psychology degree (I already have the gen ed stuff done from my CS degree), and then go on to get my Masters and PHD in psychology?

        Yes, that would probably be the way to go. You may want to consider a

  • "Many"? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by eugene ts wong ( 231154 ) on Sunday March 18, 2012 @11:54AM (#39395701) Homepage Journal

    Contrary to what many individuals think, not everybody on Slashdot went to college for a computer-related degree.

    Really?? How many of us really thought that everybody here had a computer degree? I thought that there was a huge diversity of us. I thought that everybody else did too.

    Out of millions of readers, did even 10 think that we all had computer degrees?

  • by Paul Fernhout ( 109597 ) on Sunday March 18, 2012 @11:56AM (#39395737) Homepage

    You could emphasize the fact that key aspects of solving problems with computers entail understanding customer requirements, building user interfaces, and providing technical support, all of which relate to understanding how people think.

    You could also look for working situations that are the intersection of psychology and computers, like AI or cognitive science-related applications.

    • by vlm ( 69642 )

      You could also look for working situations that are the intersection of psychology and computers, like AI or cognitive science-related applications.

      User interface design? Although given recent trends a patent lawyer would probably be better at navigating that minefield. Lots of modern user interfaces are somewhat indicative of abnormal psych so you could travel that route too. What mental illness makes people think Microsoft is ready for the enterprise, etc?
      Take some accounting classes, especially forensic, you might "synergy" it all together into investigation work?

  • I would (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lightknight ( 213164 ) on Sunday March 18, 2012 @11:58AM (#39395751) Homepage

    I would go for the degree, to be honest. The economy being what it is, I have some doubts that potential employers are willing to entertain the idea of a non-IT major in an IT major slot. Do not get me wrong, I am not saying you are not capable of doing IT, nor that you are not good at it (some of the best programmers do not have an IT-related degree), only that the current bias is one of fear / a safety strategy when it comes to employers.

    One thing in particular, I will note, is your lack of experience with C++ / Java. While it's not required, I do recommend becoming comfortable with those languages. Throw in C# if you want to do MS work (always a money-maker), some web languages (just HTML / Javascript / etc., almost a requirement these days), and perhaps study some Windows / Linux / Unix administration books. If you go the O'Reilly route, it should cost you about $500 to get all the books you'll want (O'Reilly being the standard; if you don't have a zoo, you need one).

    • It would be a lot cheaper to just subscribe to Safari instead of buying the Oreilly books individually. You should be able to go through about one book a week if you dedicate 20 hours or so.
      • Or check your local library system - my county library ( has a safari subscription...

    • This is wrong, in my opinion. Expanding education is a great idea, but do so by teaching yourself new languages or platforms, not by degrees.

      Right now, Ruby on Rails is an extremely hot technology. Learn it, and there are tons of rails jobs out there for you to jump in to. I promise that your education level will not matter as long as you can show you are good.

      I'm sure the same is true for django, node.js, iOS/Cocoa development, and anything else that is "hot" technology. If anything, focusing on C++ an

    • First step, stop mixing up "IT" and computer professional or software development. IT is service work; keeping the computers running for your corporate overlords, installing software, manning help desks, keeping web sites running, etc.

      Best bet is to start learning computers. Not just programming, and not just super high level scripting languages. And avoid MS work, it will shrivel your soul.

  • Otherwise you will just be exploited and never make it up the career ladder. Sad but true.

    • by vlm ( 69642 )

      Otherwise you will just be exploited and never make it up the career ladder. Sad but true.

      Getting the degree won't change that result for almost all employees.

    • Otherwise you will just be exploited and never make it up the career ladder. Sad but true.

      I have made it up the ladder, and had a wide variety of jobs with no IT degree. Mine is social science... Perhaps it is attitude. No one ever told me I could not do it. (Or if they did, I didn't listen.)

    • No, it's not true. If he's good he'll move up. If he's not, he won't. If you're judging from the people around you and who moves up, I think you may be making a corellation vs causation error. Most CS people suck. Most computer people suck. The best are the ones drawn to it early, and they're more likely to get a CS degree. Therefore the best move up, and they predominantly have CS degrees. Doesn't mean that CS degrees = upward mobility.

      If you're at a company where you're valued by your paper and no

  • by Laebshade ( 643478 ) <> on Sunday March 18, 2012 @12:03PM (#39395797)

    I work with a linux admin, now an admin supervisor, who just earned his BS in Psychology. He's an excellent admin and probably an even better supervisor.

    It's actually really easy to get a job in web hosting as a linux admin. Learn linux/cPanel, other web hosting stuff, then apply for a linux admin job at a web hosting. Your background in programming will help, too, as we do a lot of scripting day to day.

  • by daemonenwind ( 178848 ) on Sunday March 18, 2012 @12:05PM (#39395821)

    I've spent the last 15 years in IT performing various tasks, from programming to server admin.

    You can do what you're looking to do. Here's the problem: Someone, somewhere, has to be the first to take a risk and hire you to do this.
    Once you have experience, you're on your way, because IT is still an area where experience and excellence speak louder than degrees or certifications. (although that is starting to change)

    The problem is, with the influx of people from around the world, offshoring, and new grads with legitimate degrees every year, who would take you? If you can find that person, great - you're "in". So the key is to network, get yourself in front of people, and highlight your development experience. I guarantee your resume won't get past the HR Drone filter looking for a specific degree. So you need to pound pavement and press flesh. It's what I did for my first 2 jobs; after that it was easier. It will also make your subsequent career easier to navigate.

    If that sounds like a bit more than your interpersonal skills and contact network can handle, stretch your graduation day a couple of years out and take the classes you need to get the degree. It will make the task much easier.

    • by walterbyrd ( 182728 ) on Sunday March 18, 2012 @12:58PM (#39396253)

      I've spent the last 15 years in IT performing various tasks, from programming to server admin.

      It is only fair to note that, when you got in, anybody who could spell "I.T." could get an IT jobs. There was an explosion of tech job in the late 1990s, but that bubble has, long since, burst.

      The field totally crashed in 2000, and before it recovered, there were more massive layoffs in 2009.

      Today, IT jobs are offshored at a furious rate. And the few IT jobs that cannot be offshored, are being filled by foreign visa workers. The IT field may be okay for those who got in at the right time, and now have 15 years of experience. But I think other Americans may be well advised to avoid the field.

      Just because something worked for, at a very different time, does not mean the same strategy will work for others.

      • It is only fair to note that, when you got in, anybody who could spell "I.T." could get an IT jobs. There was an explosion of tech job in the late 1990s, but that bubble has, long since, burst.

        The field totally crashed in 2000, and before it recovered, there were more massive layoffs in 2009.

        I'd like to address this directly, because it does come up a lot, and actually illustrates what I'm talking about.

        In the mid to late 1990s, there were indeed lots of people flooding into IT. Most of them were picking up a little bit of HTML, building horrible websites, and making really inappropriate amounts of money. They had no interest in technology, they just had interest in money.

        The crash of 2000, which went well into 2002, swept all of these people aside. They went to follow their next get-rich-qu

  • I don't have a degree of any kind and managed to have a rather successful career. I taught myself early programming and PC maintenance in the 80s, and UNIX in the early 90s with Linux following shortly thereafter. One continual drawback was the lower starting pay and drudgery tasks, but I quickly demonstrated myself and overcame that in every position held until I was the one in charge of the IT Dept.

    I am willing to contemplate that I am an unusual case, and that you might not be able in your life circumst
  • by NFN_NLN ( 633283 ) on Sunday March 18, 2012 @12:08PM (#39395847)

    Why is IT always considered the dumping grounds of careers? This is why the field is so messed-up; there is no regulation.

    In your example alone you mention how anyone with a high level psychology degree is protected even from B.Sc graduates. It would be unheard of for someone outside the psychology field with no credentials to just come in and start lowering the bar; on quality of work, overtime, general working conditions and wages. Yet this happens ALL THE TIME in IT.

    I see plenty of people with no proper background make simple mistakes they shouldn't. Or worse, argue about something that is completely wrong.

    Why can't I start practicing medicine, prescribing drugs, charging for advice on the law, auditing financials, etc, etc. I promise to self-study really hard. I'm not saying someone can't learn these things on their own. But then how do you distinguish someone who has the fundamentals and someone who doesn't: that's what credentials are for. This is the way it is in EVERY OTHER PROFESSION. Until people stop treating IT like a dumping ground and inject some regulation and standards it will always be looked down upon.

    • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Sunday March 18, 2012 @12:18PM (#39395927)

      They don't set in a class room for 4+ years before getting a job and they have apprenticeships that tech real job skills.
      They also have on going education that is not just go to class for 2 years to get a masters or BA or PHD.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by lightknight ( 213164 )


      IT is a meritocracy. As such, the only true test is one of actual performance, which cannot be granted with a degree, certification, or other form of writ. And it's not the dumping ground of careers, it's just one that doesn't require a hideous amount of investment (money) to get started in, though it does require a lot of time and patience. What more, the major contributors to the field are people with Bachelor degrees, not PhDs. As such, you can see the effects of your work earlier, and self-modif

    • Here's the thing: you *can* start practicing medicine, prescribing drugs, charging for advice on the law, auditing financials, etc. Without a degree. Or without a license. But it becomes a matter of risks and rewards and liability. Without the proper education, credentials, licensures, and professional memberships; you can't expect the state, employers, or other individuals to protect you from liability in the case something goes wrong. If you're willing to accept the liability yourself, or have some
  • As an IT manager, degrees are all well and good, but what the potential employee has accomplished and understands is most important to me when hiring. A prospect with a BA, code examples, and a good understanding of the real world will get the job 9 times out 10 over a green CS grad. Being self-taught goes a long way too, as it demonstrates that they're capable of growth of their own accord. I also tend to favor certifications over (bachelor) degrees, as I've learned from experience that you get way more ou
  • I double-majored in criminal justice and psychology - my true intention was to go into law enforcement but I had always been interested in computers and technology. The second semester of my freshman year I worked for the university doing network and IT support for students in the dorms. That work experience opened my eyes and I decided to pursue a career in IT. I started out by working for a local phone company to get some soft skills, then slowly moved up to being a helpdesk support person, then helpdesk

  • I'm a working software developer and I have no degree, only a hell of a passion for coding and the ability to learn on my own.

    It's possible. There are plenty of places who will be looking for cheap junior software devs. The work won't be terribly interesting, but they're excellent places to jump start a career.

    A recruiting agency like Volt [] is an easy place to start. You don't pay them a dime. I recommend grabbing some certifications – with a lack of experience or degree, anything can help get your foo

  • by kamelkev ( 114875 ) on Sunday March 18, 2012 @12:09PM (#39395863)

    My bet here is that some Slashdot posters are going to enter this conversation and tell you that you don't need a CS degree to be successful. That you might even be able to get away with taking a few formal classes, working on some more open source projects, and to keep trying. That you can somehow salvage your situation and make something of yourself in this field.

    I believe this to be true, but only in an outlier sense... statistically your current situation does not put you in a favorable light to be hired. There are surely people who got into computer science through unconventional methods - but there is always a common driving force behind their efforts. They don't end up being successful with computers by accident, they have a long history of psuedo-study that has given them the ability to be competitive in the space.

    To put it bluntly, why should I hire you? You've got a soft-science degree which frankly many people don't respect. People with Masters and PhDs are working in bookstores right now - and you have a basic Psychology degree. This shows a lack of planning on your part that I would hold against you on an interview... and to be clear: I do a lot of interviews. You would never make it to me as our filtering process would eliminate you along with the bus drivers who are also applying for jobs with us (that actually happens, pretty amazing).

    The economy of the situation is clear. There is a huge swath of unemployed people right now with more skills than you, with more experience than you, with better training and a more appropriate degree (lots of EEs are unemployed for example). So it's going to be really tough for you to sort of slip through the cracks and get a job. Is it possible? Yes. Is it likely? No.

    If you are truly interested in getting into the field, you should consider that at no other time has it been easier to be an independent developer. Work for yourself, make your own projects. Make some games for the apple app store (forget android, so hard to make money there) or something, and get cracking.

  • Buy a one way ticket to India.

  • At the moment, I am self-taught and can easily keep up in a conversation of computer science majors.

    Talking is not the same thing as doing. I can hold my own in a conversation about playing a piano, but I can't build one, and I can't can't play rachmaninoff's piano concerto no 3.

    One of the double-edged features of computers, coding and modern IDEs is that anyone can sit down and write a program, and have it work. This is good in one sense- it SHOULD be easy for people to use computers as a tool to do whatever they want. But it is bad in the sense that self-taught developers have all sorts of bad habits,

  • The best DBA I know is a fellow who only has a Grade 12 education and who was a sheet metal worker/sign maker until he was 45, when he discovered computers.

    12 years later, he's one of the best Oracle DBAs I've ever met, and in high demand.

    One of the best designers I knew over the years was a Philosophy major at Northern Telecom.

    A university education teaches you how to learn, and how to identify what to learn. Within 4-5 years, anything you learn from university programming courses is outdated and o

    • Just an observation: the reason it is so hard for people to find work is that they often are not wiling to move. The more specialized your knowledge is, the more valuable you are... but the more scarce positions are for you.

      • by msobkow ( 48369 )

        That used to be the case, but no more. No matter where you apply, there are hundreds if not thousands of resumes going in for every job. SaskTel used to get as many as a hundred resumes a DAY when they weren't even advertising positions! My last job, a "mom & pop" sized outfit, was receiving a half dozen resumes a week without needing or advertising for people.

        Times are tough all over. Unless you're willing to take any IT-related job that comes up, you're going to be out of work for a while.


    • by vlm ( 69642 )

      A university education teaches you how to learn, and how to identify what to learn.

      The problem is he's going up against people who merely have training in C++, and most places want to hire a guy with C++ skills, not someone who is educated.

      The odds are even the languages you use to program will change within a decade.

      True, but that's where the ageism kicks in and you won't be able to find a job anyway, so don't worry about it. Hire a recent grad to work 80 hour weeks, or a 30-something guy with a house, wife, and kids who wants 40 hour weeks... Hmm. Just to be nice we'll tell him he's not trained in "language fad of the month"

  • Contrary to what many individuals think, not everybody on Slashdot went to college for a computer-related degree.

    I don't know where you got this idea, but in my experience with IT there's actually more people without computer related degrees than with.

    Whether you get a computer science degree is really entirely up to your own interests, and economic circumstances. It'll certainly help you, but it's not required. The people I see without degrees are (very generally) less knowledgeable about the field than

  • It might be the bottom rung, but with a good attitude in the right company it's not a bad starting point and you can sell your psychology degree as being a useful skill for doing dealing with the more problematic callers. The initial goal is to get off the front-line and into second line support; take an interest in the day to day running of the company's own IT setup, find things you like doing and volunteer to help out whenever you get the chance. If you can convince your employer that it's worth their
  • by vlm ( 69642 ) on Sunday March 18, 2012 @12:21PM (#39395957)

    How can one with a degree that is not related to computers acquire a job that is centered around computers?

    You don't. "Lots of people" with IT degrees are not able to get generic IT jobs, you will not either unless you're incredibly lucky, maybe your future boss graduated from the same place with the same pysch degree, or your best friend works there and is a reference, or parental connections, that kind of thing.

    You need to get a job centered around computers at an employer centered around psych.

    I had a pretty intense electronics and RF communications background, a long time ago that got me a "tangentially computer-ish" job at an intensely electronics and RF focused company. Eventually I went back for my formal CS degree (corporate tuition reimbursement, back in the "cheaper tuition days" so I didn't pay a cent)

    Just a week or two ago there was a /. story where I mentioned my anecdote that most "psych research testing" I saw and heard of is done on or with computers now. Those profs and researchers would kill for a programmer/IT guy who actually knows their language and can intelligently cooperate with them to gather, transfer, and manipulate their data. You better hit the stat analysis programs hard, like R and S and all that. And work on your skills with graph generation.

    Your sales pitch at the interview will have to be something along the lines of "so... you run psych research studies... I might not be a certificated expert on cloud based microsoft solutions, but I know psych and what you're trying to do... wouldn't it be nice to talk to a IT guy who speaks your language instead of their language (assuming this isn't a multicultural interview, in which case that language would be kind of awkward, better rephrase that). Make sure to talk in their terms about their work about a quarter of their time... too much and they'll think you're an unqualified guy trying to interview for a PHD position, too little and they won't get the idea that you live in their world.

    • by Nethead ( 1563 )

      Good advice. Reminds me of my path from broadcast engineer to computer/network guy back in the late 80s.

  • In my experience, a computer science degree is not needed to work within IT, what mainly counts is your skills. That being said, a lot of companies weed out applicants based on education; however, most are just looking for a degree of some sort, not necessarily a degree in computer science. Put together a portfolio of your work and be able to discuss technical issues when they do the techie call and you should be fine.

    I'm not sure what else to tell you, but if you hit the job market and see what's out t

  • My entire tech team is full of people with liberal arts undergrad degrees (Classics, Philosophy, Humanities), and equally non-techy advanced degrees (International Policy, Journalism). You need to find the right team to connect with. Look in non-traditional spots for jobs; interesting non-profits who need generalists, thinktanks who could use your research skills as well as some coding skills, startups who need your psychology chops to help with marketing and your coding chops to build what they manage to

  • Job hunting is all about the filters, whether literal ones or HR dumping resumes in the trash based on an arbitrary set of written requirements from some one else. I've rarely seen a position that states a specific degree is a requirement, unless you're trying to get into a highly technical field (engineering, medical practice, etc). A degree (of any kind) plus relevant experience is usually sufficient to make it past HR and get the interview. In this case, highlight all the open source work

  • by SeNtM ( 965176 ) on Sunday March 18, 2012 @12:25PM (#39395993) Homepage
    So, the dirty secret is that most IT employers know that degrees and certificates mean absolutely nothing. The bottom lines of them is that the individual was able to memorize the required information long enough to pass a test. Most do not retain that knowledge for longer than is required...and nearly all students do not practice what they have learned long enough to gain any true experience. There are exceptions to this rule, but far-and-few between.

    When IT managers are not directly doing the hiring, HR departments are often asked to include the phrase "blah degree or equivalent experience" in the job postings. This opens the door for those with X number of years doing hands-on work and no degree to get past the submission process. But it often comes down to who actually hires the individual. Some bottom-line oriented companies will hire droves of fresh graduates for no other reason than they are cheap. It is quite a bit harder to get someone with 5 to 10-years experience to want to work for <30k/yr.

    IMHO- I would rather hire someone with 5+ years working experience than a fresh BS recipient. That being said, any BS degree is often sufficient to meet a minimum job posting the end of the day, it comes down to how much you really know and how well you can articulate your skills.
  • I graduated with an even less practical degree (English/Creative Writing), and also didn't get into grad school. I also wasn't able to find a job in publishing or anything else related to my degree. I had a lot of computer skills (mostly sysadmin) and wanted to find a job using them, and also had no luck with that.

    This was more than a decade ago, but I think I'd still recommend the same strategy I went down to a temp agency, and filled out all the skills inventories. I took the typing test, etc. And I

    • by vlm ( 69642 )

      I graduated with an even less practical degree (English/Creative Writing), ... I had a lot of computer skills (mostly sysadmin) and wanted to find a job using them

      I wish someone with your skills wrote more of the manuals I've had to read over the decades. Is the "tech writer" market that hard to get in?

  • Pay for the cheapest web server from a place like linode or elsewhere. Get everything installed, setup, and design yourself a simple "about me" website. Make your resume on that website and direct potential employers there.

    There's nothing like demonstrating that you know the content to land you a job.

  • Seriously. It'd be nice to have a UI designed by someone who actually knows how we work rather than how the computer expects us to work. Larry Wall is a linguistics expert - he took that skill and wrote perl.

  • What you need to do is find jobs that will give you experience in the job you actually want.

    It might be things you already know how to do, which means the job should be easy, but you can put on hard experience showing
    you know what you're doing and work in this field. You do that and climb up jobs until you get the one you want.

  • by mcavic ( 2007672 )
    I'm a big fan of college degrees. Academically and socially, I probably learned as much in college as I did in high school. That being said, experience is what employers want. If you can do the job well, then you deserve the job.
  • by dmomo ( 256005 ) on Sunday March 18, 2012 @12:37PM (#39396093)

    Contrary to what many individuals think, not everybody with a Masters in Computer Science got their bachelors in the same field. Why don't you go for a Graduate degree in CS? You'll have to take a lot of catch up courses to meet certain prerequisites. You claim to be interested in "hard science". CS is much more than learning Technology. I know many people who learned to program without school. Far fewer go further to study Computational Theory, algorithms, and data structures on their own. So, go ahead. Apply for grad school as a CS student.

  • You can do it, but you've chosen the hard way to do it. Like you I also have a non-science degree and I've been successful in IT. Without the science degree you will absolutely have to be better and work harder. As already mentioned you will also need someone who will take that first risk on you.

    I strongly suggest you start working on a BS in comp sci, even if it's part time. That will help you get your foot in the door.

    As to others ranting about "soft" degrees messing up IT, this past week it was my "

  • There is nothing employers hate more than "training people for their next job." If an employer hires Americans with no tech background, then as soon as those employees get up to speed, the employees will take their valuable experience, and leave for better jobs.

    By contrast, and H-1B is something of an indentured servant. No matter how much the H1B is abused, it is very difficult for the H1B to leave and work elsewhere.

    So an employer is much safer hiring a foreign workers.

    If you doubt this, watch the hdnet,

  • The company I work for has lots of openings, and we recently hired a guy with a PhD in Nuclear Physics but no CS background to be one of our testers. The qualifications for the job involve some Python knowledge, and the ability to think.

    Actually, we'd probably hire someone in Dev without a degree in CS as long as they again met the basic qualifications of knowing something about the relevant programming language (for us, C, C++, and Python), knew CS fundamentals (data structures, analysis of algorithms, e

  • I'm a doctoral student in industrial & organizational psychology and work at a start-up. I'm also technically inclined, but by no stretch of the imagination a serious programmer. Good psychologists can set behaviorally based seeds for machine learning to increase accuracy from the get-go. Psychology & machine learning are very complementary, as are the statistics skills needed to make sense of big data - I would suggest you ensure your statistics skills are strong if they aren't already. That's

  • As others have said, it's perfectly possible to get a job in IT without the corresponding degree. But if that's what you're interested in, and you're looking at CS programs, why not do both? Apply or start in on the CS degree and simultaneously look for a job in the industry. The fact that you are at least starting down that path educationally might assuage some potential employers who might otherwise look at your move as one tinged with desperation ("Couldn't get into grad school, now hopes we're going to

  • Either get 'papered' or start your own business.
  • by Ukab the Great ( 87152 ) on Sunday March 18, 2012 @01:04PM (#39396311)

    And to boot, I was primarily skilled in Cocoa/Objective-C development. Which really wasn't very popular in 2005 when I graduated. "Cocoa? What's that? Did you work at Starbucks?" I eventually got a call out of the blue from the lead tech guy of a very small company in the rust-belt to come up and fix a programming project that had gone terribly awry. The key to me getting that job was that the company was too small for the HR drone to block my path.

    You might want to take a look at smaller companies where the first person who reads your resume is a technical person. It also helps if you work with recruiters because they might possibly be able to get you past an HR drone. Finally, I'd say that if relegating the initial tossing of resumes is assigned to an HR person, you might find that if you get the job a lot of other technical decisions at the business might be frustratingly assigned to non-technical people who are least able to effectively make those decisions. So sometimes being filtered by the HR drone is a blessing in disguise.

    The difference between a psychology major and a CS major doing software engineering is that when the CS major has someone report a bug in a feature that doesn't exist in the software, they want to strangle the person who reported it. When a psychology major gets a bug in a nonexistent feature, they understand that human memory is a constantly and actively reconstructed process and isn't surprised that the human mind invented a feature that doesn't currently exist.

  • by wdhowellsr ( 530924 ) on Sunday March 18, 2012 @01:31PM (#39396521)
    True story. My previous contract was with LPS - Aptitude Solutions in Maitland. One of the top developers there was a long haul trucker who after getting injured on the job was offered cross training. They gave him an IQ test and he scored in the 140s but they forced him to take it again because he was 6'4" 300 lbs and looked like he could snap your neck with one hand like a twig.

    After realizing that he wasn't stupid they put him in a six month C class. Not C++, not C#, not objective C but plain old pain in the ass C. By the third month he was conducting the class when the teacher was out sick or otherwise.

    So what the hell does this mean?

    1) College will never teach you how to program in the real world, not now, not ever.
    2) If you get a CS degree but can't program you may find work but it will never pay a high salary until you moved into PM.
    3) The demand for natural programmers completely outweighs the need for a degree.

    So what do you do?

    This part is actually simpler than I thought when I started writing this post.

    1) Whether you are a Freshman in High School or someone who has just graduated with a non-CS degree, your best bet is to endure the joy, the pain, the good, the evil that is C. Buy any book on it, download free compilers from anywhere and program, program, program. If you can successfully program seriously basic applications such as a Calculator or a Text Editor without putting a bullet in your head, you may very well be a natural programmer.
    2) Pick your poison. I committed to C# in 2005 and have never looked back. Short term contracts for me have been the most lucrative and most reliable and generally speaking pay in the range of $45.00 to $75.00 per hour and usually last three to six months. The longest I went between contracts in the past three years has been about three weeks. I will defer to the Java, C++ developers on slashdot but believe that if you are highly skilled you will be successful in those languages as well.
    • by Lunzo ( 1065904 )

      I agree that learning C teaches (should that be forces?) you to be a better programmer, but disagree about just get any book. If you're going to get a C book, get the original and the best "The C programming language" by K&R.

  • Before you put yourself through 4-5 years of debt acquisition process they like to call 'higher education', fancy this:

    If instead of doing it, you take 4-5 years and right away hit the pavement and go look for a job in IT, without any skills at all, whatever, just come to a shop and say: let me do some documentation for you, I'll do it very very very cheaply, just let me in the doors. Let me do some stupid stuff, that you don't want to do, but needs to be done, and I'll do it really really really cheap for you, just let me work and learn on my own, I won't bother you too much.

    Give me a 6 week trial period, I don't even want a single dollar for that time I'll spend fixing fixing your printers, running papers around, whatever you have to do. Try me, I am very motivated and I really want to do this without getting into stupid debt that the country seems dead set at piling on top of me.


    I bet you take that speech and you learn it and go around the block a few times, in 2 weeks you'll have your first tech related job and in 4-5 years you'll be way ahead: no debt, no wasted time, but 4-5 years of experience, a salary that may not be stellar, but you'll be CLEAR OF DEBT and you'll be rising on that corporate ladder, doing something you may find you either like or not and all of this you'd do on your own.

  • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Sunday March 18, 2012 @05:20PM (#39398007)
    The one suggestion I'd give you is to take what you can. My first IT job was call support in a crappy call center. A year of that, and I moved into a help-desk position with a company. A year after that, and I was Systems Administrator with an MCSE and CCNA (both self study) and am now CCIE level (no company would pay for the test, as it's a trip and a test, not just a test, so I've never been tested, so I'll be one of the many that has the skills, but not that cert) and do quite well.

    Take what you can, and get your foot in the door somewhere. Start with crappy jobs, and small jobs in small companies that you can leverage for references or promotions. You'll get there, but you won't get the first job out there at the level you want to be. It takes work and career development.

    Oh, and for the post above mine that says "remind people you are a psychologist", don't. You'll just undermine your technical ability in a technical job if you do.
  • by GodfatherofSoul ( 174979 ) on Sunday March 18, 2012 @06:07PM (#39398283)

    And, I say that as an IT guy who's been in the field for 12 years without one. Why do I say that? Three basic reasons:

    • * Getting your resume to the top of the stack. A great way to get your application buried is to show some HR button-pusher a glaring "Not Qualified" stamp. You can't quantify how smart you are, how good your code is, or what projects you've already worked on when a non-techie has such an obvious flag for dumping you into the "maybe" pile.
    • * Nothing compares to a formal education. I've just recently returned to school to complete my degree. While I got a very good education in the workplace, I also got a very targeted education that never covered much of the formal concepts. So, my ability to communicate with other professionals had always been compromised. Secondly, getting a degree forces you to get a basic comprehension of all aspects of IT and not just what you need on the job. Thirdly, you're going to find that your technology toolkit will add lots of nifty little items.

      Finally, if you really are that good at IT, you're going to find yourself in classes with people who aren't IT-saavy and who're basically looking for a high-paying job. You have a great opportunity to excel in school which will make you even more appealing as a new hire.

    • * Job security. By job security in include getting rehired as well has staying hired. Let's face it, we can debate about the relevance of a degree all we want, but the fact is that a degree in general is looked upon as a badge of competency. If you're wearing it and the guy next to you isn't, that will give at least a superficial edge (which often is all you need the corporate world).
  • by 0111 1110 ( 518466 ) on Monday March 19, 2012 @01:43AM (#39400511)

    In college I couldn't decide what I wanted to do. First I was an English major. Thought I wanted to write novels. Then I switched to Electrical Engineering. My parents were paying for it, but after 5 years they said to hell with it and I was dumped into the job market with 2 years of English and 3 years of Electrical Engineering.

    During my EE degree I took programming courses and I discovered that I absolutely loved it. Assembly language, C, Pascal... It was all great. I loved the process of building a kind of machine from nothing and then winding it up and watching it go. I wrote lots of programs and spent more time on coding than I probably should have somewhat to the detriment of my math and physics classes.

    I was dumped from the academic world around '91 and I searched for programming jobs for literally years. I guess it was mostly looking through newspaper ads. Maybe other stuff as well. I can't remember. Every single ad, without exception, had a requirement of 2 years of experience minimum and a CS degree. Only very rarely did I see a job that only required the CS degree. Those were the "no experience necessary" jobs. Boy was that depressing. I always thought I would enjoy working as a programmer because I really do love programming for its own sake. It doesn't even seem like work. It's fun.

    I was sad about it but never bitter because it made sense to me. As some have pointed out you can't just get a job in most other serious professions without a degree. Why should we expect to do so in computer science?

    I eventually took a job doing CAD for a manufacturer and just stayed there for more than a decade after college because it was better than washing dishes or something.

    So the merit based world you guys are describing seems totally alien to me. I wish some of you would describe how you got the job in the first place. I've never seen a programmer listing that didn't require either a degree or years of work experience and nearly always both. It seriously is like you guys are describing something that happened on another planet.

Competence, like truth, beauty, and contact lenses, is in the eye of the beholder. -- Dr. Laurence J. Peter