What's a Computer Science degree worth these days?

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With all the news about outsourcing jobs to India--something that
President Bush agrees with wholeheartedly, according to his aides--has
the value of a CS or IT degree taken a nosedive?

Think about it this way: no college offers degrees on "American
Automotive Design," or "Railroading." Has a degree that focuses on
software engineering gone down the same path? If the necessary skills
can be obtained with some hard work and a bunch of O'Reilly books,
what are colleges charging for, anyway?

I don't want to knock everything about college. A lot of people
definitely could benefit from a well-rounded, liberal-arts education.
But are the days of college as an IT trade school dead?

-- Devin Murphy, February 13, 2004


The problem may be more general. I wrote about this a bit in http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/philg/2003/10/26. The most interesting reference is to a study by NBER showing that being rich and getting into a selective college yielded high lifetime earnings but whether or not someone actually attended that selective college had no effect on lifetime earnings (i.e., kids who got into Harvard but went to U Mass ending up earning just as much as kids who graduated Harvard).

The Federal Trade Commission did a study of the lifetime value of various kinds of degrees. Trade schools for things such as heavy equipment operation did pretty well. Medical school was by far the best investment. A bachelor's degree is a good investment but it probably gets better the cheaper and faster you do it. Look at Sho Yano (story), who got his bachelor's from Loyola at age 12 and proceeded directly to the MD/PhD program at University of Chicago. Should he choose to work until the standard retirement age his lifetime earnings will be huge compared to those who finish their MDs at age 26.

So the best financial advice that one can give a 12-year-old is probably to enter college as quickly as possible and then find a prestigious graduate school to attend. Most of the best jobs (high pay, little accountability, easy work) seem to require a graduate degree and if you've got a PhD in biology from Stanford nobody ever asks where you went to undergrad.

Where does that leave the bachelor's in computer science? If you love building systems and want to work in a big software development enterprise the CS degree might not be a bad place to start. On the other hand most universities haven't updated their CS curricula in 30 years and that has exposed them to competition from innovators. The classic example of innovation is University of Phoenix, which will give you an accredited bachelor's in IT online, in the evenings, or in a mixture of online and face-to-face, all without you giving up your full-time job and at a modest cost.

A more recent innovation is Northface. They do a full-time on-campus program that has a shorter calendar (2.5 years) and results in the graduates having Microsoft or IBM certification. As the use of computers becomes more specialized and application domain knowledge becomes more imporant, perhaps we'll see more schools like DigiPen (story), where students spend four years learning how to code video games.

-- Philip Greenspun, February 14, 2004

I think it's more instructive to ask yourself what you want to do and decide whether you'll need a degree than to try to calculate the worth of any given degree. In particular, I question the feasibility of estimating the lifetime value of a degree in a field that is not yet a lifetime old.

I for one wanted to build systems, and all I had was a lousy English degree. I learned a lot on my own, but I couldn't be taken very seriously without a technical credential. I got a master's of software engineering from another innovative program at the University of Texas. Unfortunately, in spite of being innovative, the program was pedagogically weak, but none of my employers have to know that, and I feel like I can be taken seriously now as an engineer. I was writing software for a living without the diploma, but I think having it greases the rails. See my essay on the subject, "How to Be a Software Engineer When All You Have is a Lousy English Degree."

As far as the spectre of obsolescence in the face of outsourcing, I think any alert engineer can still survive and thrive. There are still tons of software problems for which outsourcing just doesn't make sense. I believe we're entering a renaissance of boutique software shops like Cerulean Studios and Six Apart.

If you just want to maximize your earning potential, there are plenty of options that have nothing to do with computer science, and you wouldn't have to move to India. Good luck.

-- Zach Thomas, February 25, 2004

A computer sicence is very important in the life of a man bcoz of the ages we are now,And computer can be very good for some works the people want for there project and it also good for my works.

-- martins Tiliky, February 15, 2006

The prior individual should complete his or her public school education to learn the basics of reading writing and such before entering a University. I have been working in the computer field as a software developer since 1979. I am currently working for Oracle and developing an Oracle Practice in Latin America. A degree in Computer Science has allowed me to travel all over the world for the past 30 years. I live in a small town in the moutains of Panama. I am able to choose where I work, where I live and when I work. I held a law degree and medical degree but I have done very well with my computer background. It still is an advantage, I have learned Spanish, Portugues, English, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Arabic.

-- Raquel Frame, February 15, 2006

The prior individual is a pompous wind bag, bragging about how many spoken languages he knows as if that has anything to do with this topic. Also, nothing says MATURE like correcting an obvious young person's spelling/grammar. The bottom line is you get what you put into it, find something that you believe you can fully imerse yourself in and go all the way with it, if you have ANY doubt in your mind that this is what you want to do then I would reconsider or strongly think about it. College is a big experience and you dont wanna look at yourself 8 years down the line and regret your choice. You can go far with any degree if you take time and effort to learn and stay on top of your field. If you work your life away like this douche you too can know countless worthless languages and brag on obscure websites. If you wanna be some slack ass help desk person then you probably just dont care. Work hard, Play harder and enjoy yourself if you wanna go far then bust your hump, but dont bust it to hard or youll end up like this guy.

-- Eric Sita, October 19, 2006

The prior individual, while having the intent of being more helpful in nature than the one before him, can be viewed as a fair example of his own point.

College is an experience -- a great experience -- but unfortunately it is also a "system." Work hard at what you enjoy, but don't let the system pull you down or force you to walk a path that you don't wish to take. Think hard and make your own decisions about where to go with your life.

The "real world" is in many places a system, like college is. In this way, getting a degree may help you succeed within the system of "the workplace."

Don't forget that life is about the EXPERIENCES you have -- NOT your performance. No matter how hard you work or how successful you are, you will inevitably be forgotten. Success is a transient treasure, and it will never completely satisfy you, because there will always be another goal to reach.

But hey, don't stop eating just because you have to eat constantly to stay alive. All I'm asking is that you define success in YOUR OWN TERMS. Many college students and those who seek higher education are drawn along garden paths laid down by the institutions. The true value of success, like all value in life, is only determined for you by your own judgment.

This may seem like a terrible tangent, but it's relevant. Take my word on this: if you work hard and earn a degree, you'll be able to get a job somewhere. The system takes care of that. What you need to decide is what will make you happy -- that's all that matters, after all, isn't it? Achieve all that you can, all that you desire, within the bounds of your environment.

-- Jay Jech, February 21, 2007

Hi, i just would like to say that education is a valuable tool in life. It's not however a means in of itself. What I'm trying to say is what matters is what you plan to do with it and if it will benefit you in the long run. I have a BA in Business Administration and I'm going back to school to earn a CS Degree. I would like to expand my knowledge towards technology since i would like to be a part of the creative aspects of software & information technology . I believe that any extra education helps in terms of expanding your horizon and can open many doors.

-- Anthony Wheeler, October 26, 2007

I use to buy into the "do what makes you happy theory", but my mind has definitly changed. I worked and supported myself through college for a History degree. It took me ten long years, because I had to support myself/work, etc. etc.. The results-a bad back with two surgeries and heart disease with 5 major blockages. Now the only job I can get is as a Security Officer.

My advice is go for the money! One of the degrees mentioned in the prior commentaries would be good. Get the degree early in age, make the money, invest and retire early. Life is short. Me? I have started an online business to at least try to supplement my income. Good luck to all! www.safetymantech.com

-- Lewis Hoffman, December 28, 2007

Response to What's a Computer Science degree worth these days? (revisited)

Lewis brings up a good point. In the real world, your happiness is very likely to be affected by more than just "what you do."

That said, I still stand adamantly beside "do what you love." There's no evidence here that Lewis's health problems were caused by his choice of major, rather than by poor health habits or a genetic predisposition. Furthermore, if "life is short," why wait for it? Live the ENTIRETY of your life happily, rather than putting off your happiness until retirement!

After all, who's to say you'll still be around for retirement? If you dedicate your entire life to your retirement, and you happen to die young, then what value did your life hold?

On the contrary, if you're doing what you love and you happen to die young, well at least you were happy doing it!

-- Jay Jech, December 31, 2007

I'm tired of people bashing computer science degrees. I would say if all you want to do is write software for business with Microsoft tools, then you may have a point. That is not intellectually difficult work though. I would have to agree somewhat with the thoughts on this topic though. a BS degree in Computer science gives you a lot of building blocks to work with. Things such as Finite Automata theory, Compiler design, Computer architecture helped me infinitely write better software. I would also say that most computer science programs are lacking in a key component and that is Software Engineering. SW engineering is different. If you don't understand the difference between a real Software Engineer and a computer hack I can't help you as I don't have enough room to break it down for you. A CS degree also covers areas of emerging technologies in graphics, multimedia, Internet, etc. So for those who say the curriculum has not changed in 30 years, try looking again. Also, a firm understanding of algorithms will help you pick the right solution for the right problem (even if you are using STL or .Net collection classes). to be frankly honest, I've worked with enough people who don't have a CS or technical degree and pretty much would throw them all under the bus as they generally are not adding enough to the development process (and this includes many who have been writing SW for 10+ years). Computer science and software engineering is not a discipline that you get your degree in and say "there, I know it all". You continually have to keep up with where technology is going and what is useful and what is not. I've worked with enough managers and engineers who get fixated on a specific technology and stay there while their skills rot. I've also run into enough managers who are asking "How many years do you have in the xyz technology, (specifically .NET)". My general response is I have X, but I can ramp into anything you need as I have a deep theoretical and practical knowledge base to ramp from. This comes from a Bachelor's in CS, a Master's in SW Engineering and a deep love of the craft (which means I read all the time). That is what it really takes to be successful. If all you want is a job doing yet one more tired "Get data from DBase, display on screen so accountant has proper information to look at" then you may not need a CS degree. If you want to do cutting edge technology, multi-threaded concurrent infinitely distributed systems with 3D Graphics front end, advanced iamge heuristics algorithms back end, then you need a little more than the University of Phoenix can offer you. I have worked on or led projects in the following areas: military, accounting, robotics, multimedia, broadcast video, digital watermarking and cryptographic systems, streaming audio/video, etc. You don't learn this from U of Phoenix. You also don't get it from a BS in CS. You get it from a solid theoretical base (BS in CS) and a love of technology and desire to be on the Bleeding edge.

My personal interests are: 3D Graphics and Multimedia (streaming, non, broadcat, mpeg, etc.), highly scalable network server technology, highly concurrent systems for multiprocesor and cluster server support, general performance engineering and driver level development

-- Greg Bohrn, March 7, 2008

Not much. You become obsolete quickly and as you accumulate more years of experience you become less valuable and unwanted, unlike a doctor, lawyer or accountant. I made the mistake of getting into this industry without realizing that I was planning to live past 40 years of age and that this career wouldn't be able to sustain me till retirement. My advice? Go to medical or law school, or become an accountant. At least with those professions once you get started you'll be working till YOU decide to stop. Our administration seems adamant about sending work offshore or flooding the market with cheap labor. Thats fine but don't cry foul when you can't find enough talented people because they've been discouraged from this industry.

-- J D, May 21, 2008

There are a multitude of uses for a computer science degree. As many others have already contributed it will give you a solid base upon which to expand your software knowledge; many people wind up deciding to run a business with this knowledge, by applying their networking knowledge in one way or another. One innovative company I've come across is Willing Minds, at http://willingminds.com/ . Their work is a bit more advanced than a baccalaureate degree pertains to, but it is largely due to experience in the field AFTER attaining a bachelor's degree.

-- Zach Ramirez, July 1, 2008

Wel im from south africa and i totally love software nd wit al the sites iv been visitin there is such a lot of hatin on da computer science degree which has left me totally confused. If anybody hu has information on the computer science industry in south africa, pliz e-mail me on raseg@webmail.co.za

-- Mokgadi Rasekgala, August 2, 2008

JD---> what do you mean?

-- Mary Mary, October 27, 2008

As a person who is completing a BS in CS I am concerned; I believe my degree which is math and physics based will translate into any field if I feel a need to change later in the future.

Yes, people in our field can resort to help desk, but hell even that field will pay a decent salary; not a wage. The road is long and windy but the rewards are great.

My point is simple people need to stop worrying about jobs being secure, put forth a little creativity along side ambition and make something damm it. Make it faster, better and cooler and they will come.

Graduates out there are always worried about landing a job. Well CS, EE, ME, all make it happen; simple see a need fill that need and you will make it. People have lost the desire to do this. The very thing that has made America the greatest place in the world.

-- Brian Hayman, November 5, 2008

We do not feel very confident if our doctor, instead of learning the main medical concepts at university, his only qualification is something like "medical x instruments tm value professionel" and his own gained experience. Or the engineer of the airplane we travel on is "HC avionics certified professional" instead of having some degree on engineering.

This invented certifications are actualy ocurring in computer science. As we see in other fields that the makers of means could not cope the edutation on the term, we should not accept it on computer science. This concrete education on the means is quite usable on top of a more neutral and broader education on term that university could do, but not as a replacement.

We do take seriusly what a bad CS profesional could do; programs are on planes, vital support systems, our company managemant, and so on. On many things that our lifes, salaries, etc. depend on.

A better explanation than mine, could be seen at E.W. Dijkstra's notes - How "they" try to corrupt "us"-



-- Carlos Alonso Vega, November 20, 2008

A computer science degree is important based on the basic principle that the 21st Century job market requires persons with the Technical skills and know how to progress our nation and the entire global economy into a more interconnected and a more process efficient workplace. That's (1), the outsourcing in this industry will not stop unfortunately, but I believe that it would be very short sighted for US students to stay away from this profession. It is already happening. The industry (IT) was started without persons receiving a degree in the subject matter but it is becoming more and more necessary in the global workplace.

Other professions require this background and CS or CE's are necessary to provide effective IT solutions. In the global workplace the survival of one's livelihood depends on our creativity and a love for the art of Computer Science. We can't look across the pond and give up on our love for innovations. A computer science degree has afforded me a great life, but I only see more opportunity in the future. Lets continue to innovate in this profession and let us continue to innovation and lead in the global workplace. Its our passion.

-- Bill mathis, December 4, 2008

from my own point of view considerin where i reside(zambia),the course it self is not considerd to be one of the most high interlecture courses on the market.so i beg to defer with the perception that the above colegues are putin across.cs is an intresting course that requires selfless effort in order to aquire a degree,but the conception on it is totally wrong and misleain i guess its high time we the student took it the higher heights

-- crosby hangandu, January 31, 2009

Thanks to Jay for such inspiring answers! I agree. I am a Computer Science graduate, and I used to worry so much about building my own company, about earning big money when I graduated, about being the next Bill Gates, and all that type of stuff that is abundant in Computer Science circles... or at least I wanted to work for Google, Microsoft, etc.

Truth is, it wasn't as easy as it seemed. Times are not the same. Coming up with a revolutionary software package is more difficult than ever precisely because it is not as it used to be where there was little competition, the field was new, etc..

I figured out I wouldn't land a job at a huge company, the chances were too little. I guess I could have "pursued my dreams" or "fight" for them, that I was a coward, but at what cost? I basically had no life, I was fat, looked ugly, did not like myself and my life was just passing me away...

I decided to live according to my own rules, my own environment. I am an orphan since age 13. I did not have the money to even travel to where Microsoft or those companies are. In fact, I didn't even have the money to buy nice clothes to present myself into an interview.

So, I just stopped trying to follow what was supposed to be "success" in the field and I just decided to get my life back. I lost weight, felt better, started eating healthy, felt even better, got temp jobs for 1 week or two weeks installing PCs, bought myself nice clothes, landed a job as Desktop Support in a very nice company. I am happy. I am happy with myself. This is just the beginning, I know I have a whole life in front of me. For this to be my 1st real job, the pay is really good and I'm happy. I know I don't want to stay there all my life,, but I'm just walking in my own path. Growing each day at my own pace.

I don't care if there are people who graduate and earn millions or go to work for Microsoft. I'm jealous? maybe? haha but I'm content with my life because everybody's life is different. There are way too many variables in life for a single variable, our will, to take us to the same place as everybody else. Life always takes us to inexpected places. There is no one key or book for "success" since our lives are all unique. (Issues such as bad parents in childhood even kick in too haha). There is no single formula that can be applied to all individuals.

I say, live your life, live your moment, live the day.

My best advice, live by the day, don't force yourself to stuff, if you change your mind later on your life, that's ok.

as for the usefulness of my computer science degree, well my first real job is in a nice office, pay is ok, I'm happy,... without it I would probably be bagging groceries on some grocery store.

I was always a home kid that knew nothing about real-life. My degree is the only thing that opened me some doors.

-- Fernando Vidal, March 4, 2009

If you want to make the most money in the shortest amount of time, you have to be willing to place yourself in danger. Military contactors with a CS degree can earn up to $500,000 a year by working in Iraq.

-- Matthew Merchant, March 6, 2009

after looking at some of the sites that help job seekers find employers I find that most want a degree or certifaction of equial worth plus experance. but in holw want peopls with degrees. so if one can find a goos school that offers class that certife then that is a plus.

-- chartroose foree, September 18, 2009

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-- FCC Fan123, January 6, 2010

Fernando that response made me feel very good! I studied Automotive Technology for two years, currently work as a logisticss analist, but look forward to be a Computer Scientist. Despite the fact I'm almost 30, I've finaly managed to to get rid of all the pressure I (and other people) was putting on myself and I decided to live the present and I'm happier than ever. If I succeed with my commitment then great If I don't well I know I'll get somewhere if I try and there is no rush. Live your life plentiful, do what you want. A degree of any kind helps a lot when it comes to get a job, sometimes even if it's not related to the field. It's your work ethics what counts.

-- Sergio Anonymous, January 10, 2010

Good for you, Fernando ! You took stock of yourself, weren't happy about where your thoughtless choices had brought you in life, and resolved to make better, more rational choices that led to your much better place in life, both personally and occupationally. Bravo !

My advice is this: If you have a passion for any type of computer work, get a bachelor's degree. Once you get that first job and are an "insider", explore the career paths within it, identify the one that best suits you, and get further formal education if necessary (a certificate, a masters degree, PhD). Of course, read everything that you can get your hands on that pertains to the computer industry in general, and to your particular niche, so that you are on top of the latest trends. The people who thrive in the computer industry, like those in my and every other industry, are the ones who are sincerely passionate about the work as an end in itself; consequently, they are well rewarded, are in better health, and have a much more positive outlook on life. Most occupations, including those in the computer industry, have no set age limit. If one is in good, general health, and keeps oneself current in one's field, one can remain employed (or self-employed) into one's 70s, and beyond.

-- T. Arthur Poudrier, March 10, 2010

it is the world largest subject in these days . ..... by the way if anybody work on it then he will get everything in his life. best of luck for a great future....... i will meet u n the top of this field bye bye.......

-- sachin kumar gupta, June 3, 2010

Because of decisions by politicians and American executives, getting a CS job in the US is now close to impossible unless you are Indian and require sponsorship.

-- mark gibson, July 10, 2010

First.. Do most people on here speak another language besides English? lol - Most of you type like it! lol.. anyway, moving on. I think that a CS degree is well worth it today... anything that an individual does to further their education and become a more productive citizen is worth it. Regardless if you make the "big bucks" or become the next Bill Gates, there are so many things you can do with that type of degree.. the possibilities are endless! If you love the technology field, I say Go for it! It's better to do something you love everyday than something you hate and make good money doing...

-- Steve doesit, August 11, 2010

I agree with you Steve, they cant speak English. I'm currently taking a lousy English Degree In CS. I must admit when I first started the course (last sept) I never expected such dated content. I hope to move into a practical job which may deal with customers (sales), I've been told I have too much of a personality to become a programmer. At this moment in time I'm clueless. Network Security sounds interesting and sounds like it will never move to india. Due to the security risks. So if you or anyone else have any advice; I would be greatful. Thanks

-- Michael James, October 7, 2010

This is certainly a topic that I know much about and have very strong opinions about as well. I work as the CTO for a large financial company, I am 31 years old, and don't have a degree in computer science. I will go so far as to say that I am thankful that I did not pursue that particular degree. *GASP* Such blaspheme! To be clear, I do not think that a computer science degree is necessarily a bad thing. I think it largely depends on what you really want to do with your life. If you are really interested in the theoretical end of computation theory then I think you should totally go for it! However, if you are interested in developing business applications, web applications, mobile products, games, etc., I say learn it on your own.

I began programming when I was about 15 or so trying to hack various computer games and then creating my own with my dopey friends. We didn�t have much success in marketing our games but it was fun and we learned a lot. When it was time to go to college I balked and wound up working as a COBOL programmer of all things in a very boring insurance company. Sure, it was terribly mind-numbing but I learned about software development in the business environment. Thankfully, after some time, I got a job doing Java development with a fairly progressive group of guys. They were heavily into agile development and again, I learned something new. I did eventually go and get a college degree but it was in something totally different; ready for it... Technical Writing! Yep, how exciting does that sound? Actually it has served me tremendously well over the years.

What is in extremely high demand, as many of you have pointed out, is the ability to communicate well. I am perhaps, not the biggest rockstar coder out there. I can definitely hold my own though and have been involved in many interesting projects. What gave me the boost into a management position was my ability to communicate well with project stakeholders and developers alike. There is such a deficit of good writers and communicators in the technology world its unbelievable. Some of it has to do with off-shoring, but I find that many (truly great) programmers don�t want to talk to people. They want to sit behind their screen and just pound out code. There is something to be said for coding in isolation, but in a team environment you must know how to communicate.

I work in a place that employs mostly .NET developers, and now some Rails developers as well. The first thing that I ask for when I am interviewing people is a writing sample. Write me a 2-3 paragraph explanation of why you think you�d be perfect for this position. If I can�t understand what the hell you are writing, you�re out! I have no time for people that can�t communicate well. Sometimes I will pass on a developer that has extreme coding chops and take someone more junior if the the latter has better communication skills. There are plenty of people that code circles around me, or you, or anyone for that matter. These people are a dime-a-dozen in India, but what is more rare is someone that can communicate clearly, concisely, and persuasively to both ends of the software development spectrum. Granted, this post is not a stellar ornament of grammatical wonder, but I am writing it from my iPad and as such am not going to be able to review it easily.

Also, lets not forget that coding doesn�t really cut it anymore. You can�t just be a drone sitting in a chair that does not get involved in meetings. Businesses are more complex, requirements are forever changing. You must understand the business and its processes. Sometimes people coming from disparate subject matter arenas are able to more clearly see the problem needing to be solved. I have known many genius-type coders that are great at solving the nitty-gritty technical problems but tend to get too bogged down in the details. You need to strike that balance between business and computing prowess. Anyway, I can go on for days like this...

In my experience a CS degree is nice, but its not necessary if you have the passion, aptitude, and interest in succeeding. Above all else, try to hone your writing skills a little. You don�t have to go back to school for it - just start writing. Even starting a blog is a good idea, even if nobody reads it. Writing is just like programming, the more you do it, the better you get at it.

Ok, that�s it for me -- good luck!

Best, Steven

-- Steven Elliott, October 19, 2010

I was reading a very encouraging piece of news about how the big guns of IT (the MS, Google, IBMs of the world) are looking for college-trained IT professionals to fill up important positions. Outsourcing may have caused a dent in the IT job market, but I still feel there is space for college educated computer professionals. The key is to get a college degree instead of focusing on professional certifications and experience alone. I have, in fact, urged my brother to pursue a computer science degree since he is passionate about computers and is really good at it. He is looking forward to starting school at CollegeAmerica and is pretty upbeat about his prospects.

-- Paul James, November 1, 2010

Ok here is some first hand experience. My wife and I went to a university in cs. I have almost 2 years out and she has almost a year. We have all the benifits we could need and our household makes over 100k a year. Am I worried about a job? No the longer you have in the industry the easier it is to get a job. You can expect at least one phone call a month about a job. If you really want to make money move to dc and get top secret clearance then you can make 50% or more per year. It is a good major and has a good return. Go to a university they will work you to death but I have worked with people from smaller schools and they are usually paid less and know less.

-- Josh Hedges, November 9, 2010

Reading all the above comments have let me down as I wanted to persue a career in Computer Science, I am in South Africa and if any one has any knowledge to share with me about computer science industry in south africa plzzzz Email me at hinaghaffar7@yahoo.com. Awaiting replies thanx

-- Hina Ghaffar, December 6, 2010

If the hiring and pay decisions are left in the hands of technical staff (including technical managers) then a CS degree is 'nice' but not of much importance when compared to skill and experience. If the hiring and pay decisions are left to HR departments then a CS degree is much more important because it is on their 'checklist'.

-- Gustavo Sigas, December 12, 2010

I recently chose to return to school to pursue a second bachelor's in Computer Science. I currently hold a B.A. in Criminal Justice (ask me about the job market) and was working full-time in the distribution business. I was very unhappy with my life and where I was at. I researched the job market for IT and CS and it seemed promising, but didn't hear about outsourcing until recently. Have I made the wrong decision?

-- Chris Dargis, February 17, 2011

Hi Chris, I think you made the right choice. I am 27 years old, and I grew up around computers. I did not unfortunately go to college right away and I'm now just almost finished with my AA degree. I am hoping to transfer to the university and obtain a computer science degree.

I've recently found a longing interest and passion for mathematics and graphics engines. I'm teaching myself advanced math while I work on my AA degree. I've purchased many inspiring books. What I'm trying to say is that if you really dig into this field, you will be earning more than money.

There are so many possible questions one can answer with a computer and graphics. I've written some simple examples such as Roger Wolfram built, but with modifications and seen so pretty amazing results from simple rule experiments. It is really bizarre and yet exciting to see some of your concepts show you unexpected results. What I'm really saying is enjoy your work as much as you can.

The only sad thing about returning to college for me, was that I had to transfer some of the specific passions around math and graphics to subjects that are very interesting but take up that valuable time. I used to run those experiments I mentioned, but now I no longer have time. I would have one word of caution. I do freelance programming and I've come to realize what I really enjoy doing I have less and less time for. Because I essentially work part time and go to school full time, I have to make sacrifices to earn my credentials.

Once I get into the core computer science curriculum though, I'll be focusing more on the actual science and algorithms aspect of my degree.

-- John Edwards, February 22, 2011

I learned about computer science during high-school and absolutely loved it. However, now that I'm a sophomore in college about to get an AA for comp sci and transfer to get a BS I feel overwhelmed by the amount of advanced mathematics. Everything goes by in a blur. There is simply not enough time in the day to study everything to the full content of the teachers nor myself. I'm having doubts about this degree, wondering if crunching numbers and getting headaches by staring a computer screen all day is really what I want as a career. Money is hardly a factor for me, it was merely out of intense interest for programming games and software applications. Then I hear about out-sourcing and think what's the point? A business degree would look better at this point...

-- N Amu, February 26, 2011


Let me repeat that again. CS is not equal to IT. They are completely different. For all of you who are worried about outsourcing, if you are getting a degree in computer science, you will be fine. If you are getting a degree in IT, you could be a little worried. What IS being outsourced? IT. What is NOT being outsourced? CS. When you call a company's tech support line, you hear the Indian accent over the phone. Was that job outsourced? Yes. Was that job related to computer science at all? No. Software companies need smart computer scientists who can communicate effectively. Typically hiring managers will choose somebody who can express their ideas clearly over somebody who may be slightly more qualified but who doesn't even make eye contact and can't be understood or who must be prompted for information and answers. If they aren't willing to hire an individiual, IN PERSON, who can't communicate, what makes you think they would be willing to send that job overseas? Don't let the false fear of outsourcing discourage you from pursuing a degree in computer science. It is one of the most rewarding degrees you can get, and jobs are plenty.

For the person who wrote previous to mine, there is some math involved in CS, yes, but it really isn't that bad. Computer science is about algorithms and data structures, not primarily just equations and mathematical concepts. However, they do show up sometimes. None of the math classes I had to take were that difficult. I didn't have to take differential equations. I did have to take calculus 1 & 2, but those can be beaten if you study and ask your professor or teaching assistant questions in office hours.

The most important part of getting a degree in computer science is that it requires critical thinking. Is critical thinking ever going to go out of demand, even when technologies change? No. It will always be a valuable skill that employers want.

Get a degree in computer science.

-- Brent L, March 4, 2011

Hey guys !

I have been following this forum lately about getting a degree in Computer Sceince and I would like to thank everyone for making valuable comments...

I have been a Application Tester for a while, almost 7 years now and as a QA person I have made many recommendations to our system to make it better but interestingly as a QA I have been always looked down. Some of our programmers and Business Analyst thinks that Iam a QA person due to the fact that I am not smart enough to be a BA or SW Engineer. The truth is I chose to be QA because because I love testing applications and breaking codes.

Right now I am in project where the Project Manager is not a big believer in QA and I once even overheard someone in our team saying "I got promoted to a Business Analyst, yesterday I was just a QA person" and most important of all another developer said " Oh I wish I could be a QA. It's so easy"

It's insane how some people are so narrow minded and sometimes the bugs that I come up with in the application I wonder what they would do without me.

But anyways I have decided to get into doing a Master's Computer Science. I just got admitted into the school. One of the reason is that I would like to be a more technical person and I am getting bored in the QA world. I would like to get more into Software Architecture and Databases. So I am thinking of doing school part time and it will take me a good three years to graduate. In the meantime I will continue doing QA work

My question to all the experienced SW Engineers is how do I get my first break into Software Engineer. Should I wait until I get my degree and start applying ? Will a Computer Science Masters teach me how application development is done in the real world ? If I apply as a junior Developer and being alway 35 of age could I compete with college freshers ?

I guess I have more question but this is a start..

-- Nabs ramon, March 25, 2011

I posted earlier that it's not necessary to get a computer science degree, but I must admit I just enrolled into a computer science program. I feel like I might have missed out on something and the thought of that has been driving me crazy. Anyway, I still push the importance of good communication skills and I am nervous about starting a MS in Computer Science but it's also kind of exciting!

-- Steven Elliott, April 13, 2011

I'm glad that I got my degree in Computer Science but the entry level job market is horrible. I currently make around 3 times as much money as a junior programmer would selling cars.

-- Mike Kojetin, May 3, 2011

Or Look at it this way, I have NO degree, I barely finished High School, But I can do Just about anything to a cluster, Network or server, & in about half the time & better than an entry level guy. Why ? Experience. In a booming market I was knocking grown a pile of cash per year, 3 months worth of paychecks uncashed... etc.. then the crush, real estate, the stock market & several burned bridges later, I'm making 14.00 an hour... my competition are 50 somethings that were the Xerox guys of yesterday & the outsourcing, & even now, BRINGING THEM IN ON A WORK VISA.... the average wage of a help desk guy ? somewhere around 25k a year. Network Engineer, (me) in a good market, anywhere from 75k to 125k. the degree is not worth the paper, Certs are where it's at. if you're a Joe from the street & have a CISSP, even if you have a masters in CS, without the CISSP, you're worth nothing to a recruiter, or if you're like me & have an MCSE, + .net & ALL of apple's Certs, & have worked in this industry since the days of Serial baud.. If you know nothing about VM, Cloud, VDI, etc along with the CISSP You're out in the dust, In this field, you can BS your way to certain people, but that only lasts so long, & you make a horrible name for yourself, & believe me, this is a very small community.. IT. Look at trends in hardware, look at what the government is hiring for... A programmer? unless you want to develop for iOS or android, you're wasting your time.. So, What Am I doing these days ? other than choking, I'm fighting my way in to SaaS, to re sell per cloud based infrastructure.. VDI & Virtualization. I won't "own a thing" nor will I work a lot. but I'll be the slumlord of data warehousing. Think of the tech, almost all tech is portable, Apple Has given up on highly scalable servers, save for a huge cluster of pros or mini's 10.7 is a Very VDI based OS, Win 7 is a VDI or cloud based OS. android & chrome.. enough said, WebOS, Blackberry will be out of business soon, because their model, on BES is bloated & although secure, you can remote wipe any android or iOS device tied to any exchange server.. whoa, that was a LOT of Sheen on my part... & oh yeah.. If that smoking hot woman of a bosses wife invites you to come fix the computer at the home while the boss & kids are away, Do it at night & borrow a friends car... it's all a hustle. no matter what the field, just be personable & likable & don't LIE about your capability. you only look worse when something breaks.. this is 20 years of experience telling you the caveat & the joy of IT.

-- Kevin Pera, July 28, 2011

College Education is a basic need in a society. Either you want a 2-year associate's degree or a 4-year bachelor's degree in consideration with your financial education budget. Job hunting is a great challenge after all. Highest-earning jobs with community college education is now a demand, has an advantage compare to others and a rewarding career for great living eventually.

-- Hiviita Coumn, September 15, 2011