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The value of a CS degree

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  • User profile image
    dpratt71

    I ran into this post recently, which prompted me to post this. Channel 9 seems to have a fairly diverse audience -- well, besides the fact that we're all geeks -- so I'd like to ask: To what degree (pun intended) is a CS degree worthwhile?

  • User profile image
    alwaysmc2

    I'm getting education (freshman at Virginia Tech) AND experiance (at work right now D-: ).


    Oh man, I learned so much about C++ today.

  • User profile image
    Bass

    I think a CS degree is very valuable. Of course I'm sure you'll find people to argue the opposite. It's really not the value of the paper but it's really the experience. But yeah I would also say it helps a little with the job finding aspect, a lot of places only hire graduates, and some only hire CS graduates. So take it as you will. It's not easy to get a college degree either, let alone a CS degree. It's 4 years of sometime very difficult coursework.

  • User profile image
    evildictait​or

    Someone with a degree in CS needs to have demonstrated that he/she has programmed outside of just his/her college studies to get my attention - that said, someone with just hobby projects and no formal experience is likely to have a very narrow understanding of design process and other coding styles.


    Another important thing of a CS degree is that it teaches you the limitations of computer science - there are lots of things computers can't do, no matter how cleverly you try and make it.

  • User profile image
    ManipUni

    evildictaitor said:
    Someone with a degree in CS needs to have demonstrated that he/she has programmed outside of just his/her college studies to get my attention - that said, someone with just hobby projects and no formal experience is likely to have a very narrow understanding of design process and other coding styles.

    Another important thing of a CS degree is that it teaches you the limitations of computer science - there are lots of things computers can't do, no matter how cleverly you try and make it.
    Do I think you need a degree if you can already do the job? No...
    Do I think other people (inc. Your bosses) overvalue a degree? Yes...
    Do I think a degree is worth while? Yes... Because other people overvalue them...

    Ultimately a degree is valuable in what you learn but 90% of its value comes from a piece of paper that a lot of people respect. Similarly to going to a "brand" University (e.g. Oxford, Harvard, Stanford, etc) they might not provide you with a better education but just by the respect people give them they have power.

    That is just the world we live in. Businesses and the people behind them have to cover their own asses and a Collage/University is a great scapegoat if someone turns out to be terrible. "How was I meant to know they couldn't code? They had a degree from X!"

    If you want to go and study to actually learn something then I congratulate you and the many thousands of unemployed art/drama students that went before you...

  • User profile image
    dpratt71

    ManipUni said:
    evildictaitor said:
    *snip*
    Do I think you need a degree if you can already do the job? No...
    Do I think other people (inc. Your bosses) overvalue a degree? Yes...
    Do I think a degree is worth while? Yes... Because other people overvalue them...

    Ultimately a degree is valuable in what you learn but 90% of its value comes from a piece of paper that a lot of people respect. Similarly to going to a "brand" University (e.g. Oxford, Harvard, Stanford, etc) they might not provide you with a better education but just by the respect people give them they have power.

    That is just the world we live in. Businesses and the people behind them have to cover their own asses and a Collage/University is a great scapegoat if someone turns out to be terrible. "How was I meant to know they couldn't code? They had a degree from X!"

    If you want to go and study to actually learn something then I congratulate you and the many thousands of unemployed art/drama students that went before you...
    That's pretty much my perspective, Manip.

    Is anyone willing to out themselves as a working professional without a degree? I don't have one.

    Of the people I work with, I'm not aware of anyone else who does not have a degree. What do we think is the percentage of people working in this industry who don't have a degree?

  • User profile image
    Lee_Dale

    dpratt71 said:
    ManipUni said:
    *snip*
    That's pretty much my perspective, Manip.

    Is anyone willing to out themselves as a working professional without a degree? I don't have one.

    Of the people I work with, I'm not aware of anyone else who does not have a degree. What do we think is the percentage of people working in this industry who don't have a degree?
    I've been working for 10 years in the industry without a degree and have worked for many large companies and not once has not having a degree been a problem.

    I'm currently doing a part time degree for personal gain really and I haven't learned anything yet that would be valuable in a commercial environment.  I think wanting to learn, having common sense and ambition will get you on in life far more than a university education.

    At 25 I had started my own company and working as a consultant earning a very good wage through sheer determination.  Am I the cleverest person out there? No not even close my maths is terrible but I know how to develop and I get projects developed successfully and guess what that's what companies want, good value, hard working people that get the job done.

    How did I get into IT without a degree, well I started from the very bottom, I learnt my worth at each level of my career the more projects I completed, the more knowledge I gained the more I was worth simple as that. 

  • User profile image
    W3bbo

    leeappdalecom said:
    dpratt71 said:
    *snip*
    I've been working for 10 years in the industry without a degree and have worked for many large companies and not once has not having a degree been a problem.

    I'm currently doing a part time degree for personal gain really and I haven't learned anything yet that would be valuable in a commercial environment.  I think wanting to learn, having common sense and ambition will get you on in life far more than a university education.

    At 25 I had started my own company and working as a consultant earning a very good wage through sheer determination.  Am I the cleverest person out there? No not even close my maths is terrible but I know how to develop and I get projects developed successfully and guess what that's what companies want, good value, hard working people that get the job done.

    How did I get into IT without a degree, well I started from the very bottom, I learnt my worth at each level of my career the more projects I completed, the more knowledge I gained the more I was worth simple as that. 
    I suppose when you're contracting or consulting you sell your company to the client, rather than the people that make it up (even if it's only one or two people), and that's where past success is more important.

  • User profile image
    Lee_Dale

    W3bbo said:
    leeappdalecom said:
    *snip*
    I suppose when you're contracting or consulting you sell your company to the client, rather than the people that make it up (even if it's only one or two people), and that's where past success is more important.
    True but when I was working permanent for companies I didn't find not having a degree an issue as my past experience and subject knowledge was sufficient.

    I suppose there is no right or wrong way and id rather have a degree than not but it's only a small part of the overall package.

  • User profile image
    Bass

    leeappdalecom said:
    W3bbo said:
    *snip*
    True but when I was working permanent for companies I didn't find not having a degree an issue as my past experience and subject knowledge was sufficient.

    I suppose there is no right or wrong way and id rather have a degree than not but it's only a small part of the overall package.
    Well I think one value of the degree is you don't have to start at the very bottom. Especially graduating from a place like MIT and Stanford, you have no problems finding a job paying $130,000+ with no experience. Really from any old CS school you'll make at least $55-60k. Microsoft and Google used to hire college grads directly (apparently not anymore due to economy), and six figure salaries are not unheard of. But really the higher level your education the more they often pay. MSCS is worth more then BSCS, PHD is worth the most. Smiley

    You can work your way up to a salary like this without a degree. Some places though, specifically list a requirement as a CS degree. It's possible to get around that I guess, but usually they mean it. You risk having HR throwing your Resume away in seconds. My girlfriend used to work in recruiting, that's basically what they did (and surprisingly a A LOT of computer people lack CS degrees, so it's a really easy way to narrow down applicants).

    The other option is to start your own company, but with all these big corporations around, it takes a lot of effort to be competitive, I think.

  • User profile image
    dpratt71

    Bass said:
    leeappdalecom said:
    *snip*
    Well I think one value of the degree is you don't have to start at the very bottom. Especially graduating from a place like MIT and Stanford, you have no problems finding a job paying $130,000+ with no experience. Really from any old CS school you'll make at least $55-60k. Microsoft and Google used to hire college grads directly (apparently not anymore due to economy), and six figure salaries are not unheard of. But really the higher level your education the more they often pay. MSCS is worth more then BSCS, PHD is worth the most. Smiley

    You can work your way up to a salary like this without a degree. Some places though, specifically list a requirement as a CS degree. It's possible to get around that I guess, but usually they mean it. You risk having HR throwing your Resume away in seconds. My girlfriend used to work in recruiting, that's basically what they did (and surprisingly a A LOT of computer people lack CS degrees, so it's a really easy way to narrow down applicants).

    The other option is to start your own company, but with all these big corporations around, it takes a lot of effort to be competitive, I think.
    I know of at least one instance where I was explicitly not considered for a position on the basis of not having a degree. Any knowledge or experience or other credentials I could claim were not considered relevant. As well, I'm sure that there have been other cases where not having a degree was the reason I was not given serious consideration.

    On the flip side, I really can't complain. The company I work for is fantastic, the pay is reasonable considering the local economics, and I feel that I get more respect I deserve from the people that I work with.

    As I found out first-hand recently, finding qualified people is hard, regardless of claimed credentials. If a company has a process where they can find good talent, regardless of whether that talent comes with a degree, that may be a significant competitive advantage over another company that will not consider non-degreed candidates.

  • User profile image
    zian

    For me, taking college classes provides a great springboard towards being able to understand things. It's like learning how to build all sorts of different types of keys that can open doors to massive worlds when you go out into the real world. None of my classes in and of themselves make more particularly qualified to do anything. It's only when I actually use the knowledge on a real-life project that I really gain the sticker of "does things."

    Until knowledge is applied, I view it as "has the information needed to learn to do ____, ____, and _____."

  • User profile image
    Cream​Filling512

    I didn't really find most of my CS classes very useful, I still consider myself self-taught even with a CS degree.  But being in a CS program gave me access to different opportunities in internships and networking which I consider valuable, even if the classes were not.

  • User profile image
    W3bbo

    Bass said:
    leeappdalecom said:
    *snip*
    Well I think one value of the degree is you don't have to start at the very bottom. Especially graduating from a place like MIT and Stanford, you have no problems finding a job paying $130,000+ with no experience. Really from any old CS school you'll make at least $55-60k. Microsoft and Google used to hire college grads directly (apparently not anymore due to economy), and six figure salaries are not unheard of. But really the higher level your education the more they often pay. MSCS is worth more then BSCS, PHD is worth the most. Smiley

    You can work your way up to a salary like this without a degree. Some places though, specifically list a requirement as a CS degree. It's possible to get around that I guess, but usually they mean it. You risk having HR throwing your Resume away in seconds. My girlfriend used to work in recruiting, that's basically what they did (and surprisingly a A LOT of computer people lack CS degrees, so it's a really easy way to narrow down applicants).

    The other option is to start your own company, but with all these big corporations around, it takes a lot of effort to be competitive, I think.
    Not necessarily.

    Whilst an MSc gives you a higher "lifetime earnings over money lost being in education" ratio than a BSc, a PhD doesn't. If you've got a PhD it means you can apply for more positions doing more specialist things in research, but it does not necessarily mean you command a higher salary. Those RA and Postdoc positions pay significantly less than what an MSc would be earning if he went straight into industry. The only real way a PhD can earn a 6-figure salary is if they go into the financial sector and put their qualiatative skills to use in enhacing some hedge fund.

  • User profile image
    Minh

    I think you have to look at this from 2 views, 1) from an employer's view and 2) from your own view:

    1) From an employer's view. IT is perhaps the biggest meritocracy field out there. If you can do the job, and can prove it, you'll probably have one. Your merit is your degree. Different jobs require different level of knowledge of course...

    2) I read recently about what makes one person more successful than another, and it's not talent, or genetics, or anything innate like that. It's perseverance. Perhaps a CS degree shows perseverance. To me, school is just fun. Plus you get to learn lots of theoretical stuff. I'm sure you can self-taught anything taught in a CS class... (if you're persevere enough of course  Wink  )

  • User profile image
    blowdart

    Of course as you gather more experience the worth of your degree gets less and less (unless you're going for snobby consultancies where it's more about talking than doing)

    Certainly employers may filter junior employees by the presence of a degree (although small shops won't care, nor will those with technical staff who can override personal and their blinkers).

    But once you a decent amount of experience under your belt (and realise all that theory you learned can be wrong, or too heavy, or misapplied, just like patterns can) then the experience is going to count for more.

    When I've been recruiting I've ignored degrees. And MSCDs.

  • User profile image
    Minh

    blowdart said:
    Of course as you gather more experience the worth of your degree gets less and less (unless you're going for snobby consultancies where it's more about talking than doing)

    Certainly employers may filter junior employees by the presence of a degree (although small shops won't care, nor will those with technical staff who can override personal and their blinkers).

    But once you a decent amount of experience under your belt (and realise all that theory you learned can be wrong, or too heavy, or misapplied, just like patterns can) then the experience is going to count for more.

    When I've been recruiting I've ignored degrees. And MSCDs.
    When I've been recruiting I've ignored degrees. And MSCDs.

    Yeah, but... the example I often cite is if you have 2 seemingly equal candidates... and one has a degree  and/or Certs...  they aught to count for something....

    I know "equal" is hard to parse... but you get those once in a while...

    Of course as you gather more experience the worth of your degree gets less and less (unless you're going for snobby consultancies where it's more about talking than doing)

    You're such a cynic  Tongue Out
    A CS degree is meant as a background for your future self... To be built upon... not meant as replacement for real-life experiece...

  • User profile image
    blowdart

    Minh said:
    blowdart said:
    *snip*
    When I've been recruiting I've ignored degrees. And MSCDs.

    Yeah, but... the example I often cite is if you have 2 seemingly equal candidates... and one has a degree  and/or Certs...  they aught to count for something....

    I know "equal" is hard to parse... but you get those once in a while...

    Of course as you gather more experience the worth of your degree gets less and less (unless you're going for snobby consultancies where it's more about talking than doing)

    You're such a cynic  Tongue Out
    A CS degree is meant as a background for your future self... To be built upon... not meant as replacement for real-life experiece...
    Heh, not really; but I've never had to recruit junior staff; which obviously makes a difference. Actually I've never had equal candidates either, someone always shines more in the interview or the technical tests.

    As for cynic? Meh, the consultancies that require degrees in the UK are the same consultancies that botch government project after project with massive cost overruns. And still get to bid again. Not somewhere I'd want to work anyway Smiley

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