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The value of a CS degree

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    Sven Groot

    I think one big advantage of doing a CS degree hasn't been mentioned yet. When doing a degree, you spend several years surrounded by very smart people with a far more diverse variety of specialisations than you're likely to get at a single company. A smart mind can make good use of those resources. And of course if you want to go into academia or research, it's pretty much a must.

    You can get a degree by going to classes and writing a thesis and doing nothing else. Then it doesn't have much more merit than the piece of paper at the end, which may give you a slight edge in a job interview. But if you actually open your eyes and look around while you're there, you can find there's a lot more to be gained than just a piece of paper. And sometimes while doing that, you get an opportunity that you would never have gotten otherwise. Like the opportunity to go study in Japan for a few years. Smiley

    Just my 2 yen. Wink

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    cheong

    Since noone seems to cover this...

    IMO, in a lower programming position(P or AP), an I.T./CS related diploma/higher-diploma from technical colleges will provide you more relevent knowledges for your job (as it is designed to be).

    When you climb higher, the university degree will prove to become more valuable. (I still can't understand why someone cannot be promoted to higher position even if he demonastrated that he has adequate skill/sense/knowledge to lead, when his highest education level is diploma only. Shouldn't education level be relevent for career building only when you apply for a new job, when the employer don't know you and the only objective document he/she can trust is your certificate?)

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    timothychung

    Hey dpratt71,

    Personally, I think your the value of a CS degree can be broken down into 3 components:
    1) economical value - it is an entry ticket for a decent job and you will get economical return from it.
    2) practical value - you have learned both generic and specific skill and knowledge, so that you are able to increase your rate to generate value with your IT and knowledge intellectual assets.
    3) social value - you can help other people with IT problems. CS degree can serve as an interest for you and you become happier after doing it.

  • User profile image
    cheong

    Sven Groot said:
    I think one big advantage of doing a CS degree hasn't been mentioned yet. When doing a degree, you spend several years surrounded by very smart people with a far more diverse variety of specialisations than you're likely to get at a single company. A smart mind can make good use of those resources. And of course if you want to go into academia or research, it's pretty much a must.

    You can get a degree by going to classes and writing a thesis and doing nothing else. Then it doesn't have much more merit than the piece of paper at the end, which may give you a slight edge in a job interview. But if you actually open your eyes and look around while you're there, you can find there's a lot more to be gained than just a piece of paper. And sometimes while doing that, you get an opportunity that you would never have gotten otherwise. Like the opportunity to go study in Japan for a few years. Smiley

    Just my 2 yen. Wink
    > When doing a degree, you spend several years surrounded by very smart people with a far more diverse variety of specialisations than you're likely to get at a single company.

    It gain of it depends. If you've been classes where all teaching staffs having no experience on real world programming, the gain may be negative. (In the "programming project" which worth 6 credits, the curriculum said we shall form groups to produce a website following the software development cycle. Being taught by someone with no real world experience, while the workflow is the same as on the textbook, the detail is quite "acedemic", I'd say...

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    vesuvius

    cheong said:
    Sven Groot said:
    *snip*
    > When doing a degree, you spend several years surrounded by very smart people with a far more diverse variety of specialisations than you're likely to get at a single company.

    It gain of it depends. If you've been classes where all teaching staffs having no experience on real world programming, the gain may be negative. (In the "programming project" which worth 6 credits, the curriculum said we shall form groups to produce a website following the software development cycle. Being taught by someone with no real world experience, while the workflow is the same as on the textbook, the detail is quite "acedemic", I'd say...
    This in the words of the Eric Meijers, is what is known as the "vegeterian butcher". For Eric, it is why he left Academia (he is a Professor) and headed towards somewhere like Microsoft where he could see the fruits of his labour.

    I also think that you find very smart people that are not necessarily academically distinguished, though these are few and far between. Bill Gates, Anders Heijlsberg are not short in the brain department, and in my experience, in the real world meeting business leaders and thinkers, knowing your domain/business through experience is equally valuable.

    Most of the time, these people cannot explain what an alogorithm is, but if you try to change a business process for example, having theorised about it, you are in for a big surprise. Both Academia and experience are essential, and the academics should not need to be told this - being as smart as they are - but they always lack this essential experience, hence always vote for x instead of x=y.

    PS: In my Avatar I have "The Glass Bead Game" - a nobel peace prize winning book - which is a perfect example of this argument by the way. In it you have Castalia a supreme pedagogic province for the best students. It is secular, but they allow people from "outside". In the end you come to realise that both academia and experience are necessary.

  • User profile image
    Bass

    cheong said:
    Sven Groot said:
    *snip*
    > When doing a degree, you spend several years surrounded by very smart people with a far more diverse variety of specialisations than you're likely to get at a single company.

    It gain of it depends. If you've been classes where all teaching staffs having no experience on real world programming, the gain may be negative. (In the "programming project" which worth 6 credits, the curriculum said we shall form groups to produce a website following the software development cycle. Being taught by someone with no real world experience, while the workflow is the same as on the textbook, the detail is quite "acedemic", I'd say...
    Well you are assuming everyone wants to be a programmer their whole life. Smiley CS is far more then programming (in fact most people would say it's a minor part of CS)..

    You don't need a college degree to work as a programmer, especially as a CRUD programmer. You don't need a college degree to be a sysadmin either. These are probably the most common "computer" jobs out there. But they are also IMO very boring.

    But here is some examples where a college degree really helps.

    • Any kind of research position. For instance, Microsoft researchers [all?] have PH.D. degrees. This is true for many/most other companies as well, and most definitely for University research (well at least BS/BA degree, but most have PH.D. and are called "professor" or "research professor").
    • Mangorial positions often require at least a BA/BS. Sometimes they even want Masters degree.
    • Some companies wont even hire programmers without a BSCS. This may become more common if the demand for programmers decreases.
    • At least in the federal government (and many local governments), simply having a college degree means you make often make more money with the same exact job title and responsibilities. What this means is you CAN get a job without the college degree, but you'll make less! The incentive pay is proportional to your academic level: High School (lowest pay), Bachelors (mid), Masters (mid-high), Doctorate (pretty high). Sometimes this has a huge effect on your pay, entry level college graduate can make more then H.S. programmer with 20 years experience. (Federal government tend to not value experience as much as education, from my "experience" with them.)
    • Another good example is the military. What separates an enlisted person from an officer? Well, really, [mostly] the college degree (Bachelors degree). Even the most big shot enlisted solider with 30 years tour E-9, still is of lower rank then the lowest ranked officer O-1 and on his/her first day of duty with just a  Bachelors degree. So at least in the military, experience is much less important then academic achievements.

    Of course I am just talking about pay & benefits, which having a college degree is a bit more then that. University education is not job training. It's something different.

  • User profile image
    cheong

    Bass said:
    cheong said:
    *snip*
    Well you are assuming everyone wants to be a programmer their whole life. Smiley CS is far more then programming (in fact most people would say it's a minor part of CS)..

    You don't need a college degree to work as a programmer, especially as a CRUD programmer. You don't need a college degree to be a sysadmin either. These are probably the most common "computer" jobs out there. But they are also IMO very boring.

    But here is some examples where a college degree really helps.

    • Any kind of research position. For instance, Microsoft researchers [all?] have PH.D. degrees. This is true for many/most other companies as well, and most definitely for University research (well at least BS/BA degree, but most have PH.D. and are called "professor" or "research professor").
    • Mangorial positions often require at least a BA/BS. Sometimes they even want Masters degree.
    • Some companies wont even hire programmers without a BSCS. This may become more common if the demand for programmers decreases.
    • At least in the federal government (and many local governments), simply having a college degree means you make often make more money with the same exact job title and responsibilities. What this means is you CAN get a job without the college degree, but you'll make less! The incentive pay is proportional to your academic level: High School (lowest pay), Bachelors (mid), Masters (mid-high), Doctorate (pretty high). Sometimes this has a huge effect on your pay, entry level college graduate can make more then H.S. programmer with 20 years experience. (Federal government tend to not value experience as much as education, from my "experience" with them.)
    • Another good example is the military. What separates an enlisted person from an officer? Well, really, [mostly] the college degree (Bachelors degree). Even the most big shot enlisted solider with 30 years tour E-9, still is of lower rank then the lowest ranked officer O-1 and on his/her first day of duty with just a  Bachelors degree. So at least in the military, experience is much less important then academic achievements.

    Of course I am just talking about pay & benefits, which having a college degree is a bit more then that. University education is not job training. It's something different.

    > Well you are assuming everyone wants to be a programmer their whole life.

    No. Actually I think being able to program is a requirement. For managerial positions of I.T. (which is common target on most people's career path), most company's entry position is a PM (Companies seldom hires high position with less than 5 years of experience.). If you're in-charge of a project and your programming skill is not good enough to read the codes, just imagine what mess could happen to the project. And if you can't understand the difficulties of the people under you, I doubt the overall morale of team will be good as well.

    I've seen inexperienced people with higher education level, hate to program, yet choosen PM position and dreamt to climb to higher position wreaked all kinds of havoc ranged from mis-calculated man-day to gradual deformation of program structure within programs. Promising "seemingly simple" function with impossibly little workday adds huge unnecessary stress to the whole team as well.

    And no, at least in the short future, the demand ratio for non-BSCS holders for programming positions will increase. The economy situation is not good. I predict more companies will want to hire non-BSCS holders who can do the job for lower wages. This will cut down the cost and allow price drop in SI packages, hence making the company more competitive for new contracts.

    Agreed on other things. Just as I said, if you climb to higher position, the knowledge you gain from CS degree will be more relevent.

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