T Nation

Computer Science Degree


#1

Hi friends,

I am considering studying computer science and I was wondering if any T-nationers have studies this before and give me some insight?

I have been out of studying for a few years now, and I am currently successfully running a small business. My current occupation and previous studies have got nothing to do with IT/computer studies. I just want to study something for a challenge/increase my knowledge and possibly open doors for a career change down the track if I wish.

Thanks in advance.

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#2

If you already have an income that you’re happy with, I wouldn’t necessarily stop to return to university for computer science. Pick a language to search on google and you’ll see that all the resources you need are readily available, online, and for free.


#3

I don’t know how advanced or progressive workforce development is in oz, but you could look into an apprenticeship program. There’s a couple scattered around the US and most of them are to help people transition careers as opposed to the younger folks. There’s a local program to take free IT classes at the local community college; you have to prove that you’re unemployed/underemployed, though.


#4

[quote]MattyG35 wrote:
If you already have an income that you’re happy with, I wouldn’t necessarily stop to return to university for computer science. Pick a language to search on google and you’ll see that all the resources you need are readily available, online, and for free. [/quote]
Im not going to stop my current business, but I only need to work 4 days a week at the moment and I wouldn’t mind spend 1-2 of those days doing a little study. I don’t think I know enough to just learn via googling online.

[quote]1 Man Island wrote:
I don’t know how advanced or progressive workforce development is in oz, but you could look into an apprenticeship program. There’s a couple scattered around the US and most of them are to help people transition careers as opposed to the younger folks. There’s a local program to take free IT classes at the local community college; you have to prove that you’re unemployed/underemployed, though.[/quote]
Thanks for that. But Im looking to study something and became good at it. Sounds like those courses are more for people that have had hardly used a computer before.

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#5

If what are you interested in is software application development, just take some free online courses. Udacity is a great place to start. Coursera is okay. Even CodeAcademy if you are completely new. Start working on a mini-project to get your feet wet. If you want to dive deeper than that, you may want to look into extra reading material and tech forums. Whatever a computer science degree can offer will be dependent on the department you enroll in. If what you really want is the academic experience, then go for it. If that is not what you’re looking for, then self study is the way to go in my opinion.


#6

This is often a subject people try to learn but unless they have a real interest in it they end up giving up eventually. These are mostly people with IT/computer background so without that I think the success rate is even lower. If its just for curiosity that’s one thing but there is a huge step from that to making money from it or even doing anything remotely useful.


#7

[quote]theBird wrote:

[quote]MattyG35 wrote:
If you already have an income that you’re happy with, I wouldn’t necessarily stop to return to university for computer science. Pick a language to search on google and you’ll see that all the resources you need are readily available, online, and for free. [/quote]
Im not going to stop my current business, but I only need to work 4 days a week at the moment and I wouldn’t mind spend 1-2 of those days doing a little study. I don’t think I know enough to just learn via googling online.
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If you can’t learn from what’s online, how do you intend to study at all?
There is literally thousands of practice problems, lectures, seminars, and plenty of other resources available for just about any language one would want to learn.
As spar4tee mentioned, coursera, codeacademy, rosalind.info (python practice), MIT, OCW, other MOOCs, edX.

I’d look into it before quitting so easily.


#8

I studied electrical and computer engineering, which is a little different, but I have worked with many Comp Sci grads. It is an interesting field. You will learn most of the real practical parts on the job after school, but many times w/o the degree you just can’t land the position (obviously there are exceptions to that).

If you imagine yourself happy spending a lot of quiet time in a cubicle being creative and solving problems, then it can be an amazing career. If that sounds like hell then stay away. I enjoy the coffee sipping peace and quiet and save up all my energy for the gym at lunch or after work. Some people will tell you all software guys work like slaves 80 hours a week, but that has not been my experience. That may be true for many web developers, but at large aerospace contractors and such, you are treated well and work reasonable hours. Like all creative work there is the satisfaction of seeing a product go out the door that you had a role in developing.

You likely won’t strike it rich or become influential, but you can easily be quite comfortable.


#9

Thanks friends.

I think I am going to go ahead with it all. Worst case scenario is I don’t like it and give it away after the first 6 months.

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#10

Why shell out for a degree? You can do advanced diplomas at TAFE and it probably won’t cost you anything.


#11

My sister is working on her undergrad for that right now, slogging her way through tons of calc and trig. She even has to take some physics courses as part of her degree path, which I thought was odd.

Good luck.


#12

I started with a CS + Software Engineering double and dropped the computer science in favour of engineering. I do the same sort of job as all my CS buddies :slight_smile:

In any case CS is a great graduate program in that CS + some other discipline can really open some doors if the other discipline is useful. You’ll find very few good real-world CS grads that don’t have an in depth knowledge of at least one other discipline. It comes with the territory that to write software for some area you have to have a pretty darn good understanding of it.

As to the specifics of your case I seem to remember CS being very easy to study in your off time (internet + time + computer = easy study) and of course they’re usually at the forefront of removing the need for time in class. We had plenty of mature age students kicking butt when I was at Uni.

From memory CS is very heavy in math and number theory. Outside of that there really isn’t much else to it other than learning the patterns and practices of software development. The best grads are generally working before they leave university. Personally I had a full time job for the last 2 years of my degree and most of my friends had jobs paying them to write software.

If I were a mature age student I’d probably also have a good look at combining it with information systems or something of that nature as straight up CS is not really career oriented like engineering or IT. If you’re just looking to increase your brain power and perhaps get a few new insights on how large chunks of the world work now then CS is a great starting point.

Good luck!


#13

Thanks for all of the insights my friends.

This information has been vert valuable.

Uncle Bird.

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#14

I don’t see the market for CS as all that big in Australia and it is shrinking (we’ve had our multimedia, games and apps development experiment). It may give you the opportunity to get into a Master or Business IT, for which there is a huge market and it’s not a bad hobby.


#15

You definitely have to have a high aptitude for programming in order to go anywhere with it. I took the intro CS courses a few years ago, enjoyed them, and finished around the median at a good school, but when some kids finished tests in half the time it took me, it became clear that I needed to find another field.


#16

[quote]boatguy wrote:
She even has to take some physics courses as part of her degree path, which I thought was odd.
[/quote]
Departments have to meet accreditation standards. It’s a bit of double-edged sword really. Physics has a broader application than what most people would expect though.


#17

[quote]belligerent wrote:
You definitely have to have a high aptitude for programming in order to go anywhere with it. I took the intro CS courses a few years ago, enjoyed them, and finished around the median at a good school, but when some kids finished tests in half the time it took me, it became clear that I needed to find another field. [/quote]
Not good advice lol. What is your idea of going somewhere? The totality of my experience and the breadth of my research back the notion that skill level is far more dependent on experience than intelligence. That, of course, would depend on what you are doing however. Bird never specified what area of CS he had an interest in.


#18

I have CS degree and it has served me well but it really depends on your career aspirations.

In my career path I have gone from QA analyst - programmer - senior programmer - system analyst - IT lead - senior system analyst - Project Manager - Solution / application / Enterprise Architect

I loved being a programmer and if I had to I would slip back into that role happily. I love where I am now too but it is high stress and hard work. And high risk for making a bad decision that is very visible. Lots of dealings with execs and clients and that is a whole nother world of pressure. PM was the one I enjoyed the least. It was exciting and fast paced and very gratifying and if you have leadership skills things get done, but the stress wasn’t worth it. ( I actually had grooves in my toenails 6 months apart that aligned with project launch dates due to the stress)

Not that you asked about my career or anything, :slight_smile: but when I started school the only jobs I new about was coder and boss of coders so it might be good for you to research the career paths a bit and see what you are interested in. Although I wouldn’t have thought for a minute I’d have gone in the non coding direction I’ve gone so I guess you change as you go too.

I have a bunch of certs too, ITIL, PMP, TOGAF etc. I don’t know how much the certs help. I mean, I don’t think I gleaned an awful lot getting them, but HRs love to tick things off lists so if you don’t have a degree certs can probably go along way.

It varies a lot but how far down that track you can go might constrained by your education. Not a rule of course. As a programmer and a sys analyst I worked with a lot of programmers, network admins, sys admins and other IT people who did not have degrees but now It would be rare for my peers to not have a degree and some have masters or multiples. That said, beyond programmer, all my promotions and new jobs were landed by reputation rather than education so perhaps it’s correlation more than causation.

If you are like a lot of IT types and are overly introverted and do not work well with others, don’t have business skills or any interest in working with the business side of things, then moving beyond programmer probably wouldn’t be a good career path anyway. But the harder time you have explaining to potential employers how awesome you are, something difficult for introverts, the more I think you need on your resume.

For myself, I don’t think I would have gotten as far as I have, but that has a lot to being a woman, and women in the field were rare when I began, and a meek timid girl before entering University, and still one although somewhat less so after graduating. (There are still very few women where I am currently, about a 10:1 ratio, but I’ve grown and fit in well.)

We’re doing some interviewing right now for some developers and the people who have a hard time getting a second chance for an interview are timid types. That is often the young women who act like girls, unable to bring out the interview Awesome that some guys can pull off without the experience just by entitlement and ego. And sometimes it is the nicer quieter guys who struggle to get their abilities showcased. If they look really good on paper with degrees and stuff they have a much better shot.

4+ years full time is a long time though! But personally I feel enriched and enlightened in many ways more than is required for my job so to me it was worth it.


#19

Hey theBird, I apologize for quick hi-jacking…

I’m about to start a database management graduate class and I was wondering if anyone knows of some good online resources for some background, terminology, etc…? I’m just looking for something to sink my teeth into before the textbook arrives. Maybe something dumbed down for an accountant…

Some of the topics I’m unfamiliar with are:
DB Environment
Logical DB design
SQL I (DDL)
SQL II (DML)

If the resource talks about ERM, relational model, and/or normalization I’ve covered those in the past, but would still be a useful reminder.

Thanks,

*Thanks theBird


#20

Computer science is not the same thing as programming. What a computer science professor does in his research is often very different from what top-level programmers do for money or entertainment. If you just want a basic ability to program, you can certainly teach yourself jQuery, vanilla javascript and PHP/Ruby/Python for web development, or Objective C for basic iOS development. Theory can and does help, but it is not strictly necessary.

As far as a career change goes, you’re better off with a CS degree because it shows that a third party has vetted you. In the alternative, some successful, impressive demos of your work might be sufficient. While there is still a culture, in some places, that embraces the self-taught coder, large companies usually want to see a degree or a lot of work experience. And that is your second problem: if you get a CS degree four years from now, continue to operate your business for another ten years beyond that, and then decide to change careers, you will have a problem if you do not have a body of work and experience that spans from graduation until the point at which you seek work.