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To degree or not to degree

To degree or not to degree

To degree or not to degree

Like alot of the people I've seen post in this forum, I, too, have been faced with various barriers to entry into the I.T. field. I have a BA, but, in Economics, not CS or ISDS, and, only decided to go into programming after I graduated. I've taken a VB class, landed a few, short-term job assignments, and, recently, finished about 80 hours worth of coursework for CIW (Certified Internet Webmaster). Unfortunately, the city that I live in has a very, very low concentration of hi-tech industry, coupled with a large university that cranks out lots of CS and ISDS grads, all of whom have to move out of state to find decent paying work (i.e., most local employers only want paople with very heavy back-end experience).

So, I know that a move is in order for me, here, in the near future (I'm thinking Austin or Boston), and, while I've got about 6 months experience, altogether, and, I've learned alot of the basics of various web development tools, like MTS, IIS, and others, along w/ some HTML, a little networking, and so on. I've, also, started learning some Java, and, plan to get into XML, DHTML, and XHTML, in hopes of getting into E-commerce. At this point, though, I'm wondering if I need to go back to school for an ISDS degree (or, part of one), or, if I can move to one of these places where there IS alot of hi-tech going on, and get a good job?

I've studied several foreign languages, and, ideally, would like to get involved with a company that has multi-lingual content issues, plus, I have other, non-computer, business  skills to bring to the table, as well. Thanks.


RE: To degree or not to degree


There are so many people in IT with "relevant" qualifications that don't seem to know what they are doing that I would say "Go for it!"

I think this requires qualification:

I'm not suggesting you don't know what you are doing!

I'm saying that if you want to work in IT, it's a great environment to work in. If you have a degree (mine is in music!), you are several steps up the ladder already. If you are very keen and can demonstrate IT savvy, so much the better.

You could go for some of the industry qualifications, such as MSCE, but, in my limited experience, many such people might just have well not bothered.

What's most important is enthusiasm and aptitude. MSCE gives you some textbook answers. Enthusiasm for the subject helps you learn and aptitude comes with experience and willingness to start a peg or two lower and work your way up.

I started on a helpdesk, and 4 years later, was running almost half of the network for 2,000 users. I had great fun answering folks calls (although it had its low points), and even more fun visiting sites to fix PCs. When I got into the networking, it was just a natural progression. I watched others leave, and filled shoes until I was ready to make my latest job move into a global blue-chip software company with over 24,000,000 customers.

My last tip is use your other skills, if you can, and try to do what you enjoy most. A helpdesk is a good way in to any company, because most people would rather not do it! Take advantage of that fact, and do helpdesk for a year or so. It will feel like a long time while you're doing it (it's extremely thankless work), but you will learn about the company, it's goals and aspirations, and it's the best place for gossip - such as upcoming internal vacancies!

RE: To degree or not to degree

(I'll be breif)

Its like this for me, if you have a degree, it shows your employers that you are commited, an MSCE can be received just taking the test, not very commited as puting in 4 years for a BA or something, besides, College can really help your learning paterns in other areas, not just the IT courses you'll be taking.


Experienced in : C++(both VC++ and Borland),VB1(dos) thru VB6, Delphi 3 pro, HTML, Visual InterDev 6(ASP(WebProgramming/Vbscript)

RE: To degree or not to degree

Well, I appreciate the advice. I'm thinking that I may try and pursue an ISDS degree, in the evenings, or, at least part of one, until my feet are planted firmly in the industry. While the technologies they work w/ @ the university aren't typically anything that I'll use much, it would just give me a better general perspective on things. I may end up at a help desk position, too, if I continue to struggle breaking into web development.

Interestingly enough, the company that I worked for until a few weeks ago has a staff of 6 or 7 Citrix engineers. I was the only programmer, as such, except for the boss, who's idea of teaching programming was having me watch over his shoulder. So, that didn't work out. Once I get CIW certified, I might go for an MCP for Visual Basic, but, I probably won't go the whole MCSD route, just yet. I'd probably be better off with the night classes. And, alot of it just has to do with the fact that I live in a town that is not tech-intensive, and, may need to move elsewhere.

RE: To degree or not to degree

Interesting. I graduated with top honors but nobody cares about my education after twenty years. They want to know about my "back end experience".

Keep current, learn the new technology, refresh your resume with the latest and greatest... that's the only way you can compete in the Year 2000.

A plain black box
"Suffice it to say that adding disk drives and a disk operating system to a personal microcomputer is guaranteed to increase its power dramatically."
CP/M and the Personal Computer

RE: To degree or not to degree

I agree with Alt255. I have two degree's (Business & Computer Science) yet since I been in the IT field the past 4yrs I can't recall any time when anyone asked what my GPA was. The flip side of the coin if I had a dollar everytime they asked my what software, UI's or client servers I messed around in I would be rich. Nonetheless education is important.

RE: To degree or not to degree

Here's my thoughts.   The degree will pay off in the long term especially if you're going to try to get into management.  But in the short, employers wanna know what you can do NOW.

The best is a good mix of experience and education.

I had worked on a help desk 3 years and was almost to my MSCE, and it was very for me to find a job, and Im still not making what average IT people make, regarding of my education.

RE: To degree or not to degree

It would seem that the industry, being so new and dynamic, expects people to make it on there own, more or less, and lacks a certain amount of institutionalized career development. They'll give new grads jobs, but, if you  don't stay up on the new technologies, one day you'll be left out in the cold. But, if you're working for one company, doing one thing, how are you supposed to get server-side experience doing something else?

It's like the wild west, or something. I'm thinking that, considering that I'm making a mid-life career change in the first place, and, since the industry has an aversion to older people, I might be best off getting help-desk work, going back to school for ISDS, and trying to play it safe. Are companies afraid to train people because they'll be attracted to better offers?

It really seems like you not only have to master new technologies all the time, but, that you have to be an expert, aggressive job-hunter, too - always sending out resume's, like they tell you to in the Parachute book; getting new contacts and keeping abreast of what's going on out there, in order to survive. Seems like the industry is going to be cut-throat, perhaps, because they've been burned on obsoleted technologies and so forth, so, we might as well be, too, I'm guessing.

Does that sound about right? Do I need to just hire a professional career counselor, or something?  Thanks for all the advice, everybody. Some of you scared me, but, it's good to have one's bubble burst, from time to time, anyway.


RE: To degree or not to degree

No one needs a professional career advisor. If you know IT fundamentally rather than just peripherally there is no need for you to be unemployed. The only problem is that as you get older your fee goes up and you can price yourself out of the market compared to others who can do the same job for much less and are half your age.

If you stick to the same field or at least very similar fields, going from company to company should not be difficult.

And I have a degree and enough IT qualifications to line wrap...

RE: To degree or not to degree

I would highly advise you to keep on working towards getting your degree or certifications. I work in the Dallas area and their are alot of the companies in the area that are looking for both the Technical degree, and experience in the industry. For the most part it seems that if you have some education in the field along with good work experience they will give you a chance, it should at least get your foot in the door like you said possibly in a help desk job.

Good luck,


RE: To degree or not to degree

OK, here's a cynical English view of this subject: At least in the UK, most employers have no idea how to recruit in IT. So they use a degree as a "yardstick" of intelligence, commitment, application, whatever. This then becomes company policy ("Must have a degree"). So when someone like myself with years of experience, commitment that is obvious from my resume and a high IQ comes along, it makes no difference - no degree, no interview. Somewhere along the line, the reason for requiring a degree has been forgotten, and no other yardsticks are allowable.


RE: To degree or not to degree

Interesting story: Draw your own conclusions

I had an agency enquire whether I would be interested in a job a week or so back. I was on their books as having Citrix skills , which is why they contacted me.

I'm happy with my current job, but they persisted, telling me what a wonderful opportunity it was.

So I went along with it, until they asked me whether or not I had an MSCE (they assumed I had). I do not, and have my own reasons for this.

Suddenly, the agency lost interest, saying that this was important to the employer.

I almost snarled at them "I suppose 12 years experience, and a degree in Computing doesn't count, then.", and proceeded to detail some of the many huge and high-profile projects I have taken part in and led over the last few years.

A quick about-turn from the agency followed, and large salaries were mentioned, company cars, travel packages and generous bonuses.

I'm happy where I am, so I gracefully declined, but pondered on the many missed opportunities these companies face by restricting applications in this manner.

There must be some really good tech. guys out there, put off from great opportunities simply because of an artificial barrier like paper qualifications.

The REAL qualifications, in my opinion, are enthusiam for the job - a real interest backed up by hands-on, proveable experience, aptitude, and a personality profile that matches closely that of the company.

The best place to find out these qualifications, after a stint in the test lab, is in the pub!

RE: To degree or not to degree

In my experience, I had a company post a job that looked like they had cut the requirements straight from my resume.   I went in, filled out an application, submitted it and my resume, and patiently (yeah, right) sat back to wait for their call.   

After almost two weeks, I called the HR department to see when they were going to start the interview process and the lady said they were already doing it.   I asked about my application and she pulled it up and said I was not being considered.   I was a little shocked and asked for a reason why and she said I was not qualified.   

I looked at the job posting again and at my resume and couldn't understand why.   I asked her and she said that my resume just said Oracle DBA and Unix SysAdmin.   They were looking for a Oracle 7.3.4 DBA and an Digital Unix 3.02G SysAdmin.   Exactly what I was working on, but just being an HR person, not a computer tech person, I "didn't fit"

So, I updated my resume, re-applied and got the interview.   Didn't end up with the job, but maybe thats for the best.   My personel file would probably get lost...

Terry M. Hoey
Ever notice that by the time that you realize that you ran a truncate script on the wrong instance, it is too late to stop it?

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