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Higher Education

By Miniluv in Culture
Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 12:06:45 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)

I'm a 20 year old tech worker who skipped college due to problems in my life after I dropped out of high school. I've gotten my GED, but have started running into College Degree required jobs, and I'm curious what people think of the importance of college.

I'm in a tough place because at this point in my life, college is virtually impossible for me to do, even with night classes or something...it'd take me approx 12 years to finish the course requirements, by which time my first 2-3 years would've become invalid. Do people really think college is that big a teal for high tech work, or is it just management not knowing the "new economy" doesn't need degree's?


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Do techies need degrees?
o Of course, everyone needs college. 26%
o Depends on the field 34%
o Not really, these aren't all school taught skills 23%
o College is bullshit 15%

Votes: 189
Results | Other Polls

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Higher Education | 89 comments (86 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
Redundant (3.00 / 6) (#1)
by evro on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 12:55:07 AM EST

This question comes up every year, seemingly every few weeks. Really, there are studies all over the place (and past k5 stories) on this topic, so I don't think we need to go over this again (yet).
"Asking me who to follow -- don't ask me, I don't know!"
Re: Redundant (4.50 / 4) (#2)
by Scriven on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 01:01:18 AM EST

To perhaps aid the poster a bit more in pointing out the more recent discussions of this topic: Slashdot: Techies Saying No To College was one of the more recent ones that comes to my mind.

There's some interesting information there, if you can filter out the noise.
HTH, and good luck!

This is my .sig. It isn't very big. (an oldie, but a goodie)
[ Parent ]
Re: Redundant (3.00 / 1) (#21)
by the coose on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 01:44:45 PM EST

This question comes up every year, seemingly every few weeks.

Yes I've seen this topic discussed many, many times. I think the general consensus is always something a long the lines of College won't teach you anything about the latest technology, but you'll gain valuable experience in... What follows is a list of the poster's experience in college. All fine and well.

Realistically, this is all you need to know: If you want to open all the possible doors of opportunity, get a degree. It's just a piece of paper, but many employers want their employees to have it. It's a fact of life (at least nowadays). If you don't want to go to college, then don't but remember your opportunities may be somewhat limited.

[ Parent ]
Useful (2.16 / 6) (#3)
by battery841 on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 01:02:35 AM EST

This would be very useful for me. I am 17 years old, just beginning to look at college. I would love to see a conversation based on this, as this same question is echoing in my head.

i am a freshman right now (2.40 / 5) (#6)
by hepatitis_bee on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 01:30:39 AM EST

I am earning a telecommunications engineering degree which five years after i graduate will be useless, i accept this fact. Yes it is true that i don't need a piece of sheepskin to prove that i know my stuff but college does open doors, and makes it easier to get a job

Re: i am a freshman right now (4.00 / 1) (#15)
by vinay on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 11:44:12 AM EST

I don't know about telecom, but at least in the realm of computer science/engineering, obtaining a college degree (as has been stated repeatedly above) gives you a deep background into the technologies you use. Sure, there's no java class at the university I go to, but I've studied how languages are designed, so it doesn't make too much of a difference. Picking up java has been incredibly easy because of it. a college education gives you a great theoretical background that will almost never be obsolete.



[ Parent ]
Re: i am a freshman right now (3.00 / 1) (#34)
by hepatitis_bee on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 03:25:29 PM EST

basically, a B.S. in telecomunnications engineering is a combination of cs and ee, since they share alot of common classes, all they did is basically make it a cs program with ee electives. It's a new program, started by the University of Texas at Dallas and claims to be the only program that prepares students for a carer directly related to telecommunications, which is good because a TE graduate has a wide variety of opportunities for futre employment after graduation

[ Parent ]
Hmm (2.00 / 4) (#7)
by mattc on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 01:50:14 AM EST

I've found that in the tech industry real world work experience is just as valuable as school experience. "Equivalent work experience" I believe is what they call it.

If you have two years experience programming CGI scripts (or whatever) at some company, it will be worth just as much as two years learning programming in college to the typical employer. Be sure to put a lot of buzzwords and product names on your resume. Also, make your resume longer than it needs to be.

That said, I still think it might be a good idea to get a degree. I got a 2-year Associates Degree.. yes, I already knew just about everything they taught, but I took evening classes and 4 years later I had a degree. It is bullshit, but it is something to put on a resume. You don't want to look TOO lazy.

when school is useful (3.50 / 4) (#8)
by tokage on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 02:13:00 AM EST

I think college is useless obviously as far as the cutting edge technologies go, but it builds a good base of knowledge which many people in IT lack. It's been my experience while people are really good in some subjects, they're lacking a lot of fundamentals that course in college teach, being structured..but then you can get the same things in classes for certifications etc. As for me personally, the only reason I'd have for going back to school(dropout with a GED) is to get into quantum computing type stuff, its really interesting.

College/universities also are a once in a lifetime thing..you can meet lifetime friends there, girlfriend/wives, or just have some cool stuff to look back on(except we all know us geeks wouldnt form any social type relationships anyway). I don't go because i'm too lazy to do homework/show up to classes regularly.

I guess it all just depends on the person, and what they want out of their lives/careers etc.

I always play / Russian roulette in my head / It's 17 black, or 29 red

FYI (3.75 / 8) (#9)
by Inoshiro on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 02:17:31 AM EST

We've already had this discussion :-)

[ イノシロ ]
Re: FYI (2.00 / 3) (#14)
by trust_no_one on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 09:56:40 AM EST

This subject seems to come up all the time. There have been several discussions here and on slashdot. I can't see what another one will accomplish.
I used to be disgusted, now I try to be amused
[ Parent ]
What you learn in college (3.42 / 7) (#10)
by pwhysall on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 03:16:28 AM EST

is not so much the cutting edge stuff, but rather the more fundamental skills, like design and analysis. In this respect college/university is probably more of a prerequisite for the programmer than it is for the BOFH, whose accumulated knowledge and people skills *ahem* are far more important than a grasp of formal methods.

Some of this junk you'd never learn outside university; things like formal methods, OOD, how to do software engineering. These things are crashingly dull and I'd be very suspicious of anyone who claimed to have taught themselves Z-code....
K5 Editors
I'm going to wager that the story keeps getting dumped because it is a steaming pile of badly formatted fool-meme.

Previous discussion / article lifespan (4.85 / 7) (#11)
by driph on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 04:12:39 AM EST

Scrolling through the rest of the comments I've found that Inoshiro located the previous article found here.

Remember that articles live on here at Kuro5hin, and since this is a good topic, and people will read these comments and find the link to the older article, I'll bet you can continue the discussion there.
Also, don't forget that you can Hotlist interesting articles so that you can keep an eye on them for discussion. For an example of the potential longevity of an article, take a look at the Who Are You? thread!

Vegas isn't a liberal stronghold. It's the place where the rich and powerful gamble away their company's pension fund and strangle call girls in their hotel rooms. - Psycho Dave
College is absolutely essential (4.13 / 15) (#12)
by dlc on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 08:08:10 AM EST

College will not teach you about current technology, but it will teach you the fundamentals that are almost impossible to learn on the job. Things like architecture and system design, algorithms, and how to optimize your code. Chances are very slim that you'll be able to learn about things like operating systems outside of an academic environment, unless you work in research or have a particularly easy-going boss.

I say, take the 12 years and get a college degree. But don't take classes on time- and context-dependant things like programming languages, specific operating systems, or multimedia; take classes on computer architectures, LISP, software design, kernel archtectures, algorithms, data structures, and object oriented desgin philosophy. These are "timeless" things, which will help you no matter where you end up in your tech career.

And, most of all, good luck!


Re: College is absolutely essential (3.33 / 3) (#16)
by bort13 on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 12:31:08 PM EST

Like most qualitative questions, I would have to respond with "it depends". It depends on you as a person, on the college you choose and the business you'd like to be in.

I've known great coders who were terrible in school and hated to have their hacking skills messed with by institutional professors/TAs whose ideas have mold growing on them. College helped me with the aforementioned "fundamentals", but I find me day-to-day using very little of what I learned. There is something to be said for just raw learning opening "brain pathways" for future, more applicable knowledge, but it doesn't pay the bills. Remember, too, that often in undergrad you're surrounded by people who may not be focussed, and if you're used to a business context, it can be distracting/irritating.

There does, in some businesses, exist a palpable ceiling for those non-degreed professionals, but I think that's evaporating somewhat in tech businesses as the age of the GED hardcore tech is maturing. If you go to college first, you still have to change skill sets once you get in business. Being a tech student is nothing like being a tech worker, and a greenhorn 4.0 grad is still a 'trainee', basically a writeoff until they get some skills. Personally, I think college helps more with my non-business existance than with business, and I take it as inessential in my hiring decisions.

But I'm an exception, I think.

[ Parent ]

Re: College is [not] absolutely essential (none / 0) (#33)
by pretzelgod on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 03:16:40 PM EST

This is such a lame argument. Everything you learn in college you can easily learn on your own. You're right that you probably won't learn the more academic subjects on the job, but there's no reason you can't buy a text-book and teach yourself. Buying a textbook and working your way through it on your own is much cheaper, faster, and more fun.

Ever heard of the School of the Americas?

[ Parent ]
Re: College is [not] absolutely essential (none / 0) (#51)
by afc on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 05:46:28 PM EST

His argument is not lame at all. The fact is, self teaching is possible and may be very worthwhile if:
  • You have the discipline it takes to do it;
  • You have some type of guidance in your studies;
That, my friend, is precisely why university matters. Although it cannot inflict learning discipline upon you, it can provide helpful guidance. Think about it: if you really endeavoured to learn just a tiny bit of a standard CS programme, who would be there to correct your exercises? To critique your programming style or your problem-solving approach? And don't underestimate the peer review process that is at the heart of academic research: you simply cannot have that with a few cowboys learning on their own.

The problem with most people's opinions here is that they seem to think a successful sysadmin is the epithome of the computer professional. Being able to effectively configure and run today's technology is not the same as being able to think up tomorrow's.

Information wants to be beer, or something.
[ Parent ]

Important, but how much? (2.00 / 2) (#17)
by Mr. Penguin on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 01:27:37 PM EST

I've got the idea that college is important, but I have questions as to how much.

I myself have no degree, yet I have a good job that many people with a degree can't even get. In my position, the degree isn't as important as a solid work ethic, enthusiasm, and knowledge of the field.

However, I have to wonder how long this will remain. Currently, technical fields are hard pressed to find good people to fill posistions, but there may come a time in the not too distant future when that's not the case. The job market may become flooded. It's hard to say for sure, but recent trends and enthusiasm in technical fields point to such.

Therefore, I believe that it is important to work towards a degree just to keep ahead. Perhaps it is best to obtain a quality position and work towards a degree while working during the day. We can't all be luck enough to get dream jobs, so you have to be prepared for the future.

I think it depends on your goal (1.50 / 2) (#18)
by el_guapo on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 01:41:13 PM EST

If your goal is a good job that you like AND that pays well, 12 years to get a degree is a waste IMHO. That 12 years would serve you better earning experience and "networking", and you'd be earning money while you were at it. Any chance we can do a sort of mini-poll by responding to this message with everyone elses version of the same, and maybe we can see if degrees have any relevant professional use (i.e. they earn you more money, a job you like better, etc.) I'll withhold my specifics (job, salary, etc) to see if there's any interest (don't want to be tacky)
mas cerveza, por favor mirrors, manifestos, etc.
Already on the front page, dammit... (1.00 / 2) (#19)
by fprintf on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 01:42:03 PM EST

Here http://www.kuro5hin.org/?op=displaystory&sid=2000/7/20/124551/210 is where it was discussed.

Jeez, it seems like a recurring topic here and on puntuation.org... should I got to college or not. Anyway, the answer is... maybe. College can be good for expanding your horizons, but should not necessarily be your ticket to a well paying career. Also, if the company requires a degree there is nothing to say that you cannot go and get a different type of degree - say, a BA or something, in 4 - 6 years part time. Stuart
Wear sunscreen.

The Importance of College. (4.00 / 8) (#20)
by Alarmist on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 01:42:13 PM EST

As far as the technical types go, college can provide them with one thing that it's hard to get in the real world: exposure to new ideas outside your field.

To stereotype a bit, let's say that the average techie tends to be focused fairly intensely on his or her chosen field. Let's also say that sometimes, that focus excludes other things. In other words, a lot of tech people have tunnel vision. Their lives are consumed by what they do. I realize that this doesn't apply to everyone in the field, but it applies enough that it's worth looking into.

So yes, go to college. If you must, get a technical degree. As others have said, it will give you a good understanding of the theory and fundamentals (no one goes for a tech degree expecting the cutting edge), but while you're in, take electives outside your field of study. Audit a few courses--psychology, sociology, history, even English can put things in a different light. You can self-learn all of these things, but the point of a good college education is that you get to discuss them with other people that you might not have otherwise talked to. It is a place for synthesis. Nothing will teach you the ins and outs of an idea like arguing for it (or against it) against a similarly-prepared person. They'll point out things that you don't see, raise objections that you might have overlooked.

(3.20 / 5) (#22)
by aphrael on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 01:49:27 PM EST

I think it depends on your goals, and on how willing you are to pay in the medium-term for positive effects in the incredibly long term.

I'm a professional computer programmer without a degree in computer science; one of the best people in my department doesn't have a degree in anything, and a whole set of people who worked in another department at this company dropped out of school to go from intern status to full-time status. It is completely possible to get high-paying jobs which are technically interesting and mentally challenging, so at first blush college appears unnecessary.

But it seems to me there are two caveats -- one technical, one political. The technical one is in some ways the more troubling one -- i'm constantly finding that the type of code I can write, and the type of project I can do a good job at, is strongly limited by my lack of theoretical knowledge; and, because i'm working more-than-full-time, i don't have the time to go back and acquire that theoretical knowledge. Because of this, there's some risk that i'm eventually going to get shunted into work I find intrinsically boring (database work, etc). This strikes me as being something of a trap.

Then there's the political problem. While some companies won't hire people without degrees, in general the industry needs people desperately enough to not care. However, there have been movements lately to require certification of software engineers, and if those pan out, it is possible for the community to evolve in such a direction that having a degree *will* be a requirement for membership. That is --- just because it's true today that a degree isn't necessary, doesn't mean that it will remain true.

Re: (2.00 / 1) (#23)
by Matrix on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 02:00:00 PM EST

Something else to think on, related to the claimed shortage of IT workers. Perhaps these companies are willing to hire people without a degree because they can pay them less money for doing the same job? After all, that is why most companies prefer to go for young, straight-from-college types and shun more experienced computer scientists.

"...Pulling together is the aim of despotism and tyranny. Free men pull in all kinds of directions. It's the only way to make progress."
- Lord Vetinari, pg 312 of the Truth, a Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett
[ Parent ]

Sometimes you can find the right employer... (2.40 / 5) (#24)
by reverend_greg on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 02:01:10 PM EST

My current employer, who shall remain nameless to protect the innocent employees, pays for our
  • A+ Certification
  • Network + Certification
  • NT 4.0 Fundamentals
  • Microsoft Certified System Engineer for Windows 2000
They are trying to arrange it so that we get reimbursed for everything. The downside? We never get time off to pursue a career outside the company that takes advantage of these skills ;) Actually, one guy that used to work with me had a BA in English Lit (lot of good that does in technology field) and because of his experience in the industry (2 years at my employer) and his certifications through our employer, he's now 'running the show' at a local isp. They hired him based soley on his certs and on the job experience. No formal (read: college) technology training. So it all depends....

Re: Sometimes you can find the right employer... (none / 0) (#59)
by deanc on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 06:35:26 PM EST

One of the interesting things about this anecdote is that the guy has _some sort_ of degree. Anyone with a lot of technical experience, particular if they are a sys admin or manager sort, would not find the "technical training" in college courses particularly useful. But if you consider getting a degree in english, physics, biology, or history particularly interesting, then you'll have a lot of fun learning stuff you enjoy, _and_ you get a piece of paper granting you a bachelor's degree, so you win all around. There's no requirement to get a degree in a field like CS. Also, I don't really think it would take 12 years to get a degree... generally, lots of people I know who take classes at night take 2 classes per semester, including summers. That adds up to 6 classes per year (plus or minus lighter or heavier night semesters), so the degree gets finished in 5.5 to 6 years. -Dean

[ Parent ]
Why College is not essential... (2.14 / 7) (#25)
by skeezix on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 02:01:27 PM EST

It really depends on what sort of person you are. Are you the kind of person that is self-motivated and learns well on your own? I don't know how self-motivated I am, but I have developed the skill of self-teaching. I began learning this at a young age as I was homeschooled until 8th grade. While I had direction from my parents, once I had the basic skills to teach myself, I was largely on my own in my studies. After graduating top of my class in highschool, I went on to the university for 2 years. Those 2 years were a complete waste of my money and time. I dropped out, feeling like a complete failure for a while, working in restaurants and the like, meanwhile still developing my computer skills on my own (Linux is a wonderful OS for teaching you the skill of self-learning). About 5 months ago I decided to give the corporate world a shot and made up a resume, sending it off to dozens of recruiting firms. I'm now working at a software firm with a salary in the upper 30's doing C++ programming. Not bad for someone who hasn't graduated from college. The point is, you don't really need the college/university to be educated if you have what it takes to teach yourself. I think it was Mark Twain who said something along the liens of, "I never let school interfere with my education." School is not a bad thing...it can be very beneficial, but don't let it interfere with your education...The field of computers (and in particular software) is one area where a person who has a degree will not necessarily have an advantage over someone who does not.

college == better pay (3.41 / 12) (#26)
by Anonymous 242 on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 02:04:35 PM EST

There will likely always be exceptions to every rule. So take my insight with a grain of salt.

Per CRN's 1999 salary survey, the median salary for techs with only a high school diploma is US $35.5k. The same survey says that the median salary for techs with some college is US $49.7k. Techs with a four year degree have a median salary of US $60k. Folks with masters and doctorates have a median salary of US $72.2k.

Can you get a decent job without college? Sure, I did. I managed to land a help desk job with no degree at all. I then spent four years acquiring an associate's degree (a two year degree). This helped me get out of the helpdesk profession and into software testing in a Unix shop. Two years later I was programming. I now sit just under the median salary for techs with some college. I doubt I would be in the position I'm in without the associate's degree.

Of course there will always be the elite geeks that can drop out (or never go to) college and make millions (like billg). But for most of us mortals, a college diploma will pay for itself. This assumes that one goes about acquiring the college diploma in an intelligent manner. It's all to easy to end up bankrupt and/or discover that one is about to flunk out of school.

My current employer reimburses for continuing education, so I'm about to head back for a four year comp sci degree in my spare time. The only down side I can see to the route I'm about to take is that I'll have to pass Calculus.

One doesn't need a college diploma in this day and age, but it gives one a greater breadth of better paying jobs to choose from.

Perseverence... (1.70 / 10) (#27)
by Luke Scharf on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 02:19:41 PM EST

I've heard that a college degree shows that you can put up with 4 years of crap, whether it's relevant to your job at all.

Other than that, I've heard that a technical degreel helps you get your first job.

I'll find out soon enough!

Why it can matter (2.40 / 5) (#28)
by Langley on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 02:45:52 PM EST

I am in the tech field now, and have never got past my freshman year of college (I guess I'm just not a 'school person'). I am doing just fine for myself, yet I still plan to go back to school to get a degree of some kind.

Once at an interview, it was explained to me very clearly why a degree is useful to an employer (well, to this particular one). My interviewer stated they like to see a person with a degree (a CS degree in the case of programming) simply to use it as a list of subjects the new hire should already know, this way they will not have to spend extra time training the new employee to get them up to speed.

This may not be true for all employers. Personally I like the argument that all a degree really proves is that you can sit through four years of crap if you have to. Just like you will in the real world :)

Either way, good luck. Get the degree

A Prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded. -Abraham Lincoln (Sixteenth President of the United States of America)
Importance of Higher Education (4.41 / 12) (#29)
by BinerDog on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 02:54:04 PM EST

First, disclaimer - I am an English teacher who also codes in C++ and Java, and makes as much doing freelance web work in a given year as I do full-time teaching.

Formal education is important for these reasons:

  • Companies do not look for reasons to hire people, they look for reasons to not hire people. Lacking a degree is an easy excuse to reject a resume.
  • Some degrees, particularly engineering degrees, imply a certain knowledge of development cycles, problem solving methodolgies, and aptitude. There are other ways to show these same things (certs, work experience, etc) but an EE from a reputable school understands the standard development cycle from feasibility through roll-out. Companies like not having to guess.
  • Overall knowledge and aptitudes: a college degree can indicate a certain breadth of knowledge that is difficult to obtain in other settings. Breadth of knowledge is rapidly being replaced by depth of knowledge as short term jobs become the norm, but having a certain breadth of knowledge is still important to some companies.

Now, most of what I discussed up there has more to do with presenting yourself. Fact is, once you are in the job very few will require much that you learned in college. Before you get to manage a project all those college engineering courses that taught you how to do so will be pointless as you have worked in enough projects to know how to do it inside and out.

Where I, perosnally, see the true value of a degree, after getting you in the front door, is back to the breadth of knowledge thing. I am able to succeed in my diverse interests because was exposed to a wide variety of topics. In teaching I have found the most successful students are those who pull very divergent interests into each other. The student wh,o earlier today, pointed out that standard expository form for structuring essays is very similar to what they were doing in his Java class (I don't think he caught his own pun) where they were learning OOP. This ability to apply knowledge from wide domains to a problem is something that college, and particularly the liberal arts, lends itself to.

Unfortunately L.A. dgrees are frowned upon heavily in the IT field. C'est la vie.

Of note, research has shown, with out a doubt, that adults who go back to college, or who first enter college later in life, learn far more and can apply what they learn far better than students striaght out of high school.

Gonna shut up now. Have fun!

Frums (as BinerDog since someone already nabbed my name)

-- The Entity Formerly Known as Frums (Cuz someone nabbed my name on K5) (I want it back :)
Re: Importance of Higher Education (3.00 / 2) (#39)
by torpor on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 03:47:48 PM EST

I agree with you. I'm a 30 year old high school dropout (yes, its true) with over 15 years of production in the I.T. field - I dropped out because the schools in my area weren't going to offer me the sort of education I wanted, and I couldn't afford to move, so I took it upon myself to get the training I wanted as a programmer. I've been a productive programmer, and now own and manage my own consulting firm, ever since. And when I hire someone, the last thing I care about is their degree or education - I look instead at just how interested they are in maintaining their technological prowess, and all too often formal education is used as an excuse to *not* do this on a personal level. I'm more interested in what the person does with their off-time - are they lazy couch potato's, or do they pursue technology-related hobbies - do they code for fun as well as for a living, are they involved in techn hobbies such as robot-building, RC's, paintball, rocketry, amateur astronomy, etc? Having said that, if someone has had an extensive career as a student, and have proven project records during that career, I'll take interest. Its a good thing for someone to have had the discipline to get through college. I may just be a bit more wary of hiring them because they more than likely are not team-oriented - all too often someone goes through an extensive IT related college program without garnering much team-work experience, and this is a serious detriment in the fast high tech realm I operate in. One question - "L.A." degrees? L.A. = Los Angeles? If so, what's the problem with LA degrees in the IT field - anyone know?
j. -- boink! i have no sig!
[ Parent ]
Re: Importance of Higher Education (none / 0) (#49)
by BinerDog on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 05:17:36 PM EST

L.A. == Liberal Arts

- The Entity Formerly Known as Frums
-- The Entity Formerly Known as Frums (Cuz someone nabbed my name on K5) (I want it back :)
[ Parent ]

We live in a world of perceptions, not reality (2.00 / 1) (#30)
by mark.wallace on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 03:10:21 PM EST

A couple of points in response. One doesn't, and shouldn't need college to be well educated. College is merely one way to acquire education; taken seriously, college can be an efficient way to get educated. Alas, there is a perceived need for college. Frex, although I will hire someone without a degree, my boss will not. (fortunately, in my division, he's willing to trust me to hire who I see fit). I've lost track of the number of non-degreed friends whose career has been hurt by the lack of a degree. A foolish predjudice, but an ubiquitous one. Last, a sidenote. Degrees have an impact on the diversity of the company. If you require a degree, it skews your applicant pool to anglo-males. Minorities are less likely to get a degree than non-minorities. (I really don't care why - I'm merely repeating a statistical correlation). SO if you do hiring, and your company hasn't met its diversity targets, you might want to look at policies like "must have a B.S."

I'm in the same boat (2.00 / 3) (#31)
by Lee^ on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 03:12:57 PM EST

Your situation is almost identical to mine, but I'm 17. I got my GED due to problems with my life, but it cetainly wasn't because I didn't like school. I got my A+ certification very recently, and I'm looking for a pretty entry level job just to pay my bills while I can work on some other certs and gain a bit of experience. employers seem to look at the GED and think I'm some dumb kid, and forget about me. I'll be watching all your posts carefully, if any of you have advice for me, feel free to email. zision@triad.rr.com

College is useful... but not essential... (3.00 / 2) (#32)
by Joshua on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 03:14:00 PM EST

Okay, I'm not sure where to begin. Like most people here (I would venture to guess), I got into computers at a rather young age (around 12). I was teaching computers by 13 (ad in the local paper), and was making pretty good money, so I dropped out of highschool at 15. I eventually got bored of computers, and my skills fell into disuse, so I went travelling for a while. I eventually ended up visiting a good mate in Boston and decided I missed computers. I decided to get back into the computer world, and proceeded to look for a job.

Now, not only don't I have a highschool degree, I never even bothered with my GED, but still, I managed to find a job as a network admin (thanks, admitedly to the help of a very good friend) making around $35k a year. I was planning to use this time to rebuild my skills, and find a better job in six months or a year, but at the moment, I'm very undecided what to do.

I rather fancy going to college. My interests are very very varied, which contributes to the problem. I am interested in all fields, technology included. I'm going to get my GED, and look into financial aid, and if I can manage it, I'm going to go to college here in Boston, because being a student sounds like good fun.

Do I think it's necessary? No, absolutely not.

Do I think it's valuable? Yes, absolutely I do.

Also, the last thing I wanted to say is that I am in a much better position now to go to college then I was when I was actually supposed to go to college. I feel like I know why I'm doing it, and really want to do it. I think this is the most important thing.

I know, a terrible rant...

Same ol' story (3.33 / 3) (#35)
by Breakdown on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 03:25:41 PM EST

As with many people here I left school after my second year to pursue a job in the internet biz. That was 3 years ago. I think the market was more open three years ago than it is today. It seems that companies are really looking for people who know their stuff now. I think the "can we train this person" mentality is fleeting quickly and is being replaced with "does this person already know what we need them to."

If I were to do it again I would have stayed in school. Not so much for the education but college life is great. I passed up a great time at college to enter the "real world." Looking back on it the real world will always be here while I cannot recover my college days. I'm now a successful and established web developer. Exactly what I wanted to be. But I always wish I would have just stayed in school.

Its good for a pedigree (4.20 / 5) (#36)
by rrhal on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 03:26:33 PM EST

I'm a database specialist because one semester there wasn't much on the schedule I hadn't already taken so I took a database class to fill out my class list. The class did an inordinate amount of proofs in relational algebra and the many normal forms of a database but we didn't ever create a table or learn any SQL. I got an A in that class - I received my first job out of college based pretty much on that. I learned everything I know about database from the manuals On The Job.

Right now times are good for computer professionals - its easy to find work. This wont always be the case.

Put yourself in the position of the person who does the hiring. You are an overworked underappreciated geek that has had manager attached to his title and workload because you've been there the longest. Your company has just advertised for a position in your department. You don't really have time for this shit but you need help despretly so you tear into the stack of resumes HR just sent you. You want to winnow down those resumes quickly so you divide them into two stacks - degree/nodegree - and bingo you just cut your work in half.

Right now that times are good there may not be that big a stack and the overworked manager may only have 3 or 4 resumes so it may not be a problem for you. But times will not always be this good. Get your employer to pay for you to go to college (any college) and give you paid time at work to go to class/do homework etc. If your employer wont go for it find one who will (remember times are good).

A BS in CS wont make you a better computer professional. Most of what you learn in college, that you will use on the job, you picked up already. You just want the paper so your resume can be in pile 1. Your intrucors will say some stupid shit that just isn't true - but its the right answer on the midterm.

Personal Experience (3.33 / 6) (#37)
by cnladd on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 03:31:39 PM EST

No, in most every case, a college degree is not a requirement. It does, however, depend on what kind of position you're going to be looking at - for most government positions, for example, the requirements listed are usually very strict.

Otherwise, the primary requirement is skill. A degree is usually listed as a requirement ONLY to validate that an individual has skills in a particular area.

As for my experience: I'm 23 years old. I dropped out of high school and got my GED a little more than a year later. Right now I'm in a senior technical position making more than $70K/year. After dropping out of school, I immediately got a job at a local ISP. From there I learned just about everything I could get my hands on - especially the commercial UNIXes. In most cases, I'm perfectly willing to tell a future employer my age and lack of degree - because I have a very decent amount of experience behind me, I can back that experience up with technical know-how, and every single past employer can vouch for my abilities.

It's all in how you market yourself.
-- Welcome to the land of the easily amused...
Boot camp for the real world (3.33 / 6) (#38)
by malb on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 03:32:35 PM EST

One of the biggest benefits of college is that it gives a punk-ass 18 year old (not judging anyone) a four year gestation period to grow up, learn about life and generally get their shit together.

I spent the first two years of school goofing off, partying, getting stoned and generally acting like a fuck-up. After dropping out and spending a year off in a dead end job, I returned and spent the next three years learning to act like a grown-up, taking classes and fighting to get out.

I graduated with an English degree from a technical school. Almost nothing I learned in classes is relevant to my job as a Web Developer. All of my skills in Unix, HTML, etc. were picked up while I was there, just not in my actual studies.

How "virtually impossible" is it for you to go to college? I worked my ass off, lived in squalor and built up a huge debt, but I put myself through school. You should at least try. Within 5 years you will probably hit a ceiling at any job that you can't pass without a degree. In the short term it may seem easier to skip school, but long term it will hurt you a lot.

Re: Boot camp for the real world (none / 0) (#64)
by 3than on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 07:13:32 PM EST

I agree. A lot of people coming out of high school can't deal. At all. They need some time. If you can deal, god bless you. I can't deal. And I'm a senior in college.

[ Parent ]
Re: Boot camp for the real world (2.00 / 1) (#72)
by Lee^ on Wed Sep 20, 2000 at 12:57:57 AM EST

I work in a college town, and if you read my post below, I'm only 17. Some of these college kids I work with are 22 and have half the maturity level I do. Having to provide for yourself and not having your parents buy you everything makes you grow up real quick. Someone else posted below that generally people who go to college later in life do better, which I don't doubt one bit. College is nothing but high school with the chance to party every weekend to a lot of these kids. Anyone can memorize parts of a book to pass a test.

[ Parent ]
Like a degree in Art or History is worthwhile (2.40 / 5) (#40)
by mxmasster on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 04:07:12 PM EST

These things all depend on the personality involved. I didn't go to college. I manage 12 people (most of them are older than me), and make over 6 figures. BILL GATES dropped out.

People are going to be successful because of their personality, what drives and motivates them to succeed.

I recognize that without a degree I will never run HP, or Compaq. But hey, i'm a tech-nerd. CEO's of huge companies almost allways come from finance. So I will have to start my own company to get to that place in life.

You can waste your life in college, it's not the answer for everyone. btw... just what do you do with a degree in Art History or Philosophy? Work in sales, marketing, pump gas? Why did you go to school for that?

College is good for a lot of things, maturing, meeting new people, and finding yourself.

Re: Like a degree in Art or History is worthwhile (4.75 / 4) (#42)
by bmattern on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 04:33:23 PM EST

The problem with this viewpoint is that people look upon college education as job training. That is NOT its purpose. I am now a freshman in college, so the inevitable question is, "Why am I here?". Is it because everyone tells me that I can't get a job without it? No. I could easily get a job. I worked part time at an advertising agency doing web design for a year in high school. I have enough knowledge at the moment to go out and freelance web design for a while and possibly even get a job at a design firm. I'm here to learn. About everything, including Art History and Philosophy (especially these). They interest me. Even if my job has no relation to these subjects, I still want to know about them. I would never learn about the cultural significance of art throughout human existance, or different thinker's viewpoints on the purpose of human existence, etc, if i were in a tech job right now. I totally agree that college isn't for everyone. But it IS for me. So don't bash those who love to learn and are motivated by things other than personal greed. Sorry for the rambling rant, my original reply didn't post (k5 doesn't work w. mozilla?) and the v.2 is never as good. Peace

[ Parent ]
Re: Like a degree in Art or History is worthwhile (5.00 / 1) (#47)
by Dirac Tesseract on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 05:09:51 PM EST

I just wanted to briefly state my agreement with your post here... college is more than just studying to make more money or join in a lot of parties. Who wants to work with a person who can only think in terms of machinery and code? Granted, people like that probably make great work-slaves in the catacombes of development, but the reality is that there is a ton of worthwhile knowledge that doesn't involve getting more money as the result of that knowledge, and college is an excellent place to learn about such things. Hell, I'll admit it - I'm an English Major. I study Theosophy for personal curiosity. I write poetry because I want to. Oh, and I'm also a damn good UNIX Sysadmin, working for a computer startup and for the college I attend. Being an English Major won't make me a lot of money, but it will teach me how to express myself more eloquently, how to enter into interesting discourse with my fellow man, and how to understand the underlying nature of humanity. In short, studying the Arts has made me a better human being. It is unfortunate that so many talented and intelligent people deny themselves the knowledge of the world around them.
Sendmail may be safely run set-user-id to root. -- Eric Allman, "Sendmail Installation Guide"
[ Parent ]
Re: Like a degree in Art or History is worthwhile (2.00 / 1) (#55)
by cypherpunks on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 05:57:41 PM EST

Who wants to work with a person who can only think in terms of machinery and code? Engineering schools. Large employers in technical fields. Most engineering schools don't teach people to think anymore, they teach them a bunch of equations or programming languages (or in the case of VLSI, how to draw squares and rectangles :) ) and then shove them off into the real world. Humanities credits? Most students are "strongly encouraged" to take business classes. All the schools want their undergrads to do is get out in 4 years, so they can go get filthy rich and then give lots of money back to their alma mater.

[ Parent ]
I make more $$ than my friends with 4-6 yr degrees (1.66 / 3) (#41)
by BaMBaM on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 04:18:39 PM EST

I admit that I am extremely lucky. I went in the USAF, and received electronics training. I got out and went into an unreleated field. I got bored with the job and a started community college program for network engineering. I quit halfway through to transfer inside my company (cross-country) to an IT job for $18k. Nite Operator. Execute batch jobs, distribute print-outs, execute backup & reboot scripts. After 12 months, was promoted to Systems Admin for $25k. 12 more months was promoted to Lead Systems Admin for $35k, then a another raise to $43k. during this time, this company sent me to the all the training classes for that UNIX vendor, six 5-day courses and quite a few 3-day courses. The workload was tremendous, 60-90 work weeks, maybe one day off a month. Then I decided to search for something else, so I could enjoy time with my family, and posted my resume on monster.com. Within 3 weeks of that posting, I turned in my 4 week notice and left for a job in an IT Services company for $67k. After 7 months there, I hired in with the company the IT Services company placed me at for $82k. I have been here now for 4 months and have received more than $11k in different performance bonuses (not part of base salary). No college degree, a little over 5 years IT experience, and will probably gross close to $95k for tax year 2000. I know I'm lucky.

Why college is important (2.66 / 6) (#43)
by DJBongHit on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 04:43:47 PM EST

College is important because it's your last chance to really have a good time and party a lot. Chances are, if you're a geek majoring in Computer Science, you won't have a whole lot of trouble with the classes. Spend the 4 years having a good time and socializing, drinking, having sex, and doing drugs. This is a lifestyle you can't maintain if you're trying to hold down a steady full-time job, and it's definitely a good experience.


GNU GPL: Free as in herpes.

Re: Why college is important (1.00 / 1) (#62)
by 3than on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 07:10:28 PM EST


[ Parent ]
Re: Why college is important (2.00 / 2) (#67)
by bjrubble on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 08:06:43 PM EST

Speak for yourself, dude! I have less trouble living a life of vice in the working world than I did in college -- if nothing else, I can afford to smoke dope all day now.

But I agree with the general point -- college is a good time. Since this discussion seems to take wild generalizations in stride, I'd venture that the only reason *not* to go to college is that you feel the need to add another 4 years onto the 30 or 40 your career would otherwise span.

PS. All those who thing DJBongHit should not be allowed to advertise his site until he gets the damn thing back up, raise your hands. ;-P

[ Parent ]
Re: Why college is important (2.00 / 1) (#84)
by DJBongHit on Wed Sep 20, 2000 at 09:45:20 PM EST

PS. All those who thing DJBongHit should not be allowed to advertise his site until he gets the damn thing back up, raise your hands. ;-P

As of this morning, Smokedot.org is back in business :-)


GNU GPL: Free as in herpes.

[ Parent ]
To degree or not to degree (2.00 / 3) (#44)
by Narmacil on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 04:44:31 PM EST

I think there are so many variables that play a role on each persons need for a higher education, that its really impossible to have one right answer for every person. In my case, I took off a year after highschool, then went back to college where I dropped out after the first semester of compsci (i have been into just about all aspects of computers since I was 13 or so, but professionaly it just wasnt for me). I worked for a few years and am now just going back to college for a number of reasons. One is that my peak salary, 55-60k, is already in sight and im only 21 years old. With a degree it jumps up to an average of 90-120k a year depending on how lucky I get and how good I am. School also means more to me now than it did just a few years ago, I get much more out of it and am able to contribute what I know of my field (Computer Aided/Industrial Design) to my other classmates. Im looking at graduating when im 26/27 but I feel its well worth it, if not for the higher salary, then just for the courses and the people I meet. I think each person has to judge for themselves where they're times best spent though. Personaly I need the drawing skills and styles that in this feild on can only really be learned in a good college, for something like programming, networking, and other apsects of the computer where you can pretty much learn everything at home (like I did) it may be different. But if anything a degree cant ever hurt you.

College Degree?? (3.83 / 6) (#45)
by oobeleck on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 04:49:50 PM EST

I have a college degree in managment. I am currently an Unix SA and making a pretty good wage. I don't think you "need" college. I gained all my UNIX skills on the job. But I have noticed that if you want to eventually want to get out of the trenches and go to the managment darkside then you will probably need a degree. My degree has helped me a lot here mostly because they saw I was willing to stick it out and sacrifice 5 years of my life for a goal. It really depends on what your long term goals are. If you want to be a techno-geek your whole life (I do!) You don't need a degree. But if you have higher aspirations you will probably need a degree. It's mostly an image thing with degree's. You can do great without a degree. You can do even better with one. Take it for what its worth.

college and hobbies (1.80 / 5) (#46)
by Spider-X on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 04:56:47 PM EST

I was talking to my friend / co-worker today at lunch about the same thing. The way I see it, college is for people who had a worthless hobby. A hobby that could turn into a career is the best kind of hobby to have, and me and my friend had the same one... computers. Those that didn't have a hobby that they could turn into a career go to college to get the knowledge to get a job. Those of us that got into the field because we love what we do don't look at a job as just a job, but as a vital part of life. Don't get me wrong, we're just as greedy as anybody else but we're more willing to spend all day with computers / technology than someone who was only interested enough to get a degree.
Tracking Number: X00369S16
Warning: Soapbox :=) (1.00 / 1) (#50)
by lazerus on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 05:37:49 PM EST

Ok, here goes. About degrees. Why, oh why, in the US, do there seem to be so few types of degrees? It seems that the only degree you can do in a technology-related field is a BS (known as a B.Sc in most other countries around the world).

Here, you can do a B.Sc, B.Tec, and B.Eng (Bachelor of Science; Technology; Engineering) etc. To my mind, it would make the most sense to put "pure" sciences under the B.Sc category. But stuff like Electronics and Computer Science? No. Please, give me a break. A B.Sc should be for stuff like Geology, Mathematics, Physics, Biology, etc. A B.Tech should be for applied sciences, like Computer Science/ Info Tech, Cryptography (which is really just advanced Mathematics applied to encryption and decryption codes, etc), Biotechnology, Bioinformatics, etc etc! And then, commercial and law-related degrees should be put under B.Comm (which they are to a certain extent, here). Bachelor of Commerce. Here, you can get your B.Comm, and from there, can go on to either MBA (Master of Business Admin), M.Acc (Master of Accounting) or D.Comm (Doctor of Commerce) in any commercial/law related field.

That brings me to my final gripe. PhD. Why is this the only known Doctorate in the US??? It's ridiculous. It stands for Doctor of Philosophy, and shouldn't be applied to every field from Sex Theraphy to Biotechnology. Doctorates should be structured in a similar way to that I mentioned earlier in this post (in reference to Bachelors' degrees). It's quite astounding that it isn't already. Other countries seem to be more logical in their faculty/degree groupings, but the US seems to be stuck in a BSc/BA/PhD-only thing.

Sorry for the rant:=)

[ Parent ]
Re: Warning: Soapbox :=) (1.00 / 1) (#54)
by cypherpunks on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 05:51:08 PM EST

That brings me to my final gripe. PhD. Why is this the only known Doctorate in the US??? Um...you mean besides MD, DO, and JD? The title PhD is used very generically in the US, but there are actually quite a large number of doctorate degrees. And these include titles like "Doctor of Science", "Doctor of History" and so forth.

[ Parent ]
True, but you're still missing the point. (2.00 / 1) (#56)
by lazerus on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 06:00:24 PM EST

I talked to a friend of mine from the United States on the Internet once. We've known eachother for a long time and he's a truly brilliant guy. He has his Masters' degree in Computer Science.

But when I asked him what he thought about a D.Tec degree, he was totally confused. He just couldn't understand how anything besides a Ph.D could exist for Computer related subjects. He even said to me: "There's no such thing as a Doctor of Technology. You made it up. What do you do, cure sick Technology with a Doctor of Technology?"

Now, I've already mentioned that this is a guy who's ability and intelligence I respect immensely. However, when you start getting situations like this, it's a bit worrying. Do companies and organizations in the US not recognize degrees from other countries that happen to not be generic B.Sc/M.Sc/Ph.D's? Or was this friend of mine just slightly confused?

[ Parent ]
Good thinking! (3.00 / 2) (#57)
by Alanzilla on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 06:16:33 PM EST

It is important to judge all Americans and all of American society by your one idiot friend.

[ Parent ]
Re: Good thinking! (2.00 / 1) (#75)
by lazerus on Wed Sep 20, 2000 at 03:30:03 AM EST

Hum :=)

I think you misinterpreted me, Alanzilla. Basically, all I was asking is: Would US companies and organizations recognize international degrees like the Bachelor of Technology qualification? Or, would they declare them invalid?

[ Parent ]
Re: college and hobbies (none / 0) (#58)
by Girf on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 06:21:20 PM EST

I think we have all preety much the same hobby here... I'm not yet to the point of college/university. I'm stuck in high school, and making the best of it.

I beleive that your idea of 'college is for people who don't have a hobby' is dead wrong, at least for me.. I would think of university as a extension of my hobby. It will be a time of my life where I will be surrounded by like-minded people, where I can learn a lot more then will be ever taught in the lecture hall.

I don't know however if I will use my degree to get a job. The thought of spending the rest of my life in a large corporation with a thousand other monkeys just like me doesn't really appeal to me.

But frankly I don't know where else other than college/university (most probably the U of Waterloo) to meet other techies just like me..

James deBoer
-I've got a brain, why can't I use it?

[ Parent ]

Re: college and hobbies (none / 0) (#61)
by Zagadka on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 06:54:59 PM EST

Computers had been my hobby for about 10 years before I started university. During university, I learned lot more about computers than I could have learned on my own in such a short amount of time. It probably depends on the school (shameless plug: I went to the University of Waterloo). Computers are still my #1 hobby, and the knowledge I picked up at school has been immensly useful to me both at work and in my own personal projects. It's also great meeting other students and professors who are interested in the same things you are.

I think anyone planning on being a software developer should definitely go to college or university. If you just want to be a sysadmin or tech support rep, it probably isn't necessary.

One other thing: if you ever want to work in a country where you are not a citizen, a degree is probably mandatory. I'm a Canadian, and if it weren't for my degree, I wouldn't be able to work here in the US. (of course, the US is far more xenophobic and has far more draconian immigration policies than most countries, so YMMV...)

[ Parent ]

Re: college and hobbies (none / 0) (#71)
by sr105 on Wed Sep 20, 2000 at 12:47:06 AM EST

One of my hobbies is system administration. I have my own network at home(linked to my domain) complete with all of the usual servers, etc. But if I had to work as a sys admin, I'd probably change industries. I'd sell cars (well, maybe not stoop that low<g>).

Granted: one of my best friends' hobby is doing system administration, and he does it for a living. He loves his job, and he's good at it. So for some, like yourself, making a living with your hobby may be ok. I've read so many little "wisdom" books from CEOs, presidents, and such and often they say the same thing: leave work at work, and leave your hobbies at home. If your hobby is your work, then how do you "escape" at the end of the day? That was their point: that it helps you keep fit mentally if you have a release or just something else to think about and focus on. It also helps you to be more well rounded.

(If I had to fight with Sendmail & bind 8 hours a day, I'd soon develop a new hobby involving four pretty, white walls.)


[ Parent ]
No degree == No job interview (2.40 / 5) (#48)
by bafungu on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 05:14:26 PM EST

No degree == No job interview at any of the places I've worked the past ten years.

Seriously; resumes with no degrees don't even make it past HR screening to any of the guys like me who are involved with hiring. Even so, we end up with more candidates than we need. It's that simple.

socialization (3.00 / 3) (#52)
by mrr on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 05:49:39 PM EST

Part of the degree requirement is filtering down the number of applicants to a managable level.

A greater part is checking to see if you have the same values as the hiring organization. Do you value education? Are you willing to work on an extended project (the degree) without immediate reward? Do you have the dicipline to stick it out?

I'm working as a network administrator. My Bachelor of Fine Arts degree isn't even remotely applicable. It wasn't applicable for the last 15 years worth of jobs that I have had. Yet for every one the interviewers were happy to see that I had a degree.

You might consider an Associate degree at your local community college. Those programs are designed to fit in around work and be completed in two years. Most, if not all, the credits will be transferrable to a four year school. Then you'll have your own experience to use in making a decision about a four year degree.

It depends... (3.66 / 3) (#53)
by dead_penguin on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 05:51:03 PM EST

I think this depends on what you want to do. If all you want to be is a systems administrator of some server somewhere, then I think college or university is by far the wrong way to go. If you want to be a coder, I think you can go either way; degree, some form of diploma, or self-teaching. If, however, you want to do higher level, abstract things, you'll really want that degree.

There's so much that's taught at universities that you could never pick up on your own. I noticed that for most of my courses, coding skills were basically assumed. "Don't know Tcl/Tk? Better go learn it; we're using it this year in the project management course!"

I guess it all depends on where you want to end up on the "technology food chain" in the end.

No one */needs/* to go to college! (2.20 / 5) (#60)
by prometheus-ng on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 06:46:08 PM EST

Give me a break, I keep see'ing this thread. It comes up here, at Slashdot, at Ars... It seems to boil down to a bunch of people who went to college justifying it to themselves by explaining why you need to go as well. Well give it up! It is a big F***'ing lie.

You don't need to go to college to have a good career, to have fun, or to enjoy your life. You can have all of these things without going to college.

Yeah, there are certain jobs you can not have without a college degree. But in the tech field things are wide open. I'm 27 and working as an SA, I supervise one person (our company's whole IT department) and I am doing just as well if not better than most of my peers who attended college. Why? Because instead of wasting four years getting drunk, accruing debt, and finally graduating with a worthless piece of paper. I got four years of OJT. Which means I own my house and my car, all without going in to debt.

Let's have a reality check. Which would you rather have.

1. Punk kid who has just graduated from XYZ college with CS degree.

2. Kid who has four years of experience and actual professional references.

Sure, there are jobs where your resume will not even be screened because you did not go to college. But on the other hand the last three jobs I have had, all claimed to require degrees, and they still made offers.

So as far as I am concerned, here is the deal:

If you want to go to college for its own sake, then do it and enjoy it.

But if you just want to get a good job in the computer field, then forget it. Keep your job, read books, join a LUG, etc.


Re: No one */needs/* to go to college! (2.00 / 1) (#63)
by DJBongHit on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 07:12:50 PM EST

1. Punk kid who has just graduated from XYZ college with CS degree.

2. Kid who has four years of experience and actual professional references.

What about...

3. Kid who went through college and has four years of experience picked up while in college?

I've been working in the CS field the entire time I've been in school so far - doing system administration, perl coding, PHP coding, OpenGL programming, and various other things, and I think that being in this position is better than either of the two you mentioned.


GNU GPL: Free as in herpes.

[ Parent ]
Re: No one */needs/* to go to college! (4.50 / 2) (#65)
by sp!neboy on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 07:25:42 PM EST

Having a college degree will never hurt you. One of the few chances in life where youget spoon fed tremendous amounts of knowlege. Bonuses include learning the theory of WHY you do things and not just the knee jerk responses. It can show you HOW to learn and teach you so that you don't have to go and re-invent the wheel.. I'm a surgeon and many of the operations that I do could be taught to any joe shmoe...but if anything funny happens, or if anything unusual pops up, then Joe Shmoe won't have the background to know how to recognize or solve it - only someone who's been educated will know how to deal with it any fully solve the problem. Anyone can learn the basic day to day mundane, simple practical stuff, but the educated person can make better use of the available material and will be a better asset. The eyes see what the brain knows..
Dammit Jim I'm an orthopaedic surgeon, not a doctor!
[ Parent ]
Not entirely right. (4.75 / 4) (#66)
by simmons75 on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 07:31:21 PM EST

Yeah, for some fields, you don't need a degree. Doing things like joining a LUG might help you make some valuable connections. It helped me in a few cases. :^)

However, depending on what job you're seeking, a degree may be absolutely necessary. Why? For one, at a large company, this sort of thing is used during the weeding-out process. No degree, trash can. Simple as that. Hell, I had an English teacher in college whose former job was as a personnel manager at a large company. The second step was generally to throw out any/all resumes with grammatical errors. Myself, having always received good grades in English up until that point, was shocked to learn I would have been among the first heads to roll.

Also, it depends on what you want to go into. There are just some things that, upon reading them in a book, bear some explanation. Most the crap I learned about, say, filesystem implementation & design, are pretty worthless (especially since CS is just my *minor*) but some things are worth knowing. I doubt that reading a book on the subject would have been as informative has having a teacher who was a student/grad student at the time CS was wrestling with the ideas being hashed out for the first time.

College is also a good place to work on those connections. I can honestly say I didn't do any of this. :^( Internships are a great way to work on your connections (and resumes.) Most don't pay for shit, though, which is what sucks. They're generally good experience, though, and help you in the eyes of a CS department head (of your school, of course.)

And, come on. Your examples?

Let's have a reality check. Which would you rather have.

1. Punk kid who has just graduated from XYZ college with CS degree.

2. Kid who has four years of experience and actual professional references.

I'd say, neither. Loaded language won't win you many friends here (and I learned a bit more about loaded language in a logic course than I did in "real life"). Many people I had classes with weren't "punk kids." We weren't all just a bunch of snot-nosed drunks for four years chasing tail. Goddamn, I hate it when people generalize like that! I waited 'till I was in the "real world" before I started drinking...can't help it, it drove me to it... :^)

You're right. You're also wrong. :^) I really doubt that, say, the Linux kernel would have ever come into being if it were being implemented by some 17-year-old high-school dropout with a bastard kid to worry about (sorry, I thought it was OK to generalize here. :^) Then again, I don't think the average college student would have produced the Linux kernel; I suspect it helps that Linus had Andrew Tannenbaum as a prof.

OK, short answer: if you know your stuff, are willing to study on your own, know how to schmooze, and are willing to put up with shit jobs a couple of years and permanently get lower pay, the paper is totally worthless. If not, then the degree is necessary.
So there.

[ Parent ]
Right! .....and Wrong. (5.00 / 2) (#70)
by sr105 on Wed Sep 20, 2000 at 12:29:07 AM EST

I've had this talk with some Engineering VP's and I've gathered the same comments from them all. They've all had some great employees who had no college education, but those people usually required more attention. Even if you don't learn one single thing about your major in college, you'll probably pick up some of the following:

1. the knowledge of what it's like to have 3 times as much work as you can handle.

2. the ability to recognize what's important, what's not, and how to prioritize. (Read: requirements and schedules)

3. the ability to work in a team of people and achieve a common goal (a passing grade <g>)

4. the experiences of meeting people from completely different countries, cultures, religions, etc. and learning to appreciate and respect the differences and similarities

Those are just part of what college is about.

I've never heard a complaint from a manager about a no-college employee with regards to their learning potential or skillset. What I do hear, however, is "Jim's really bright, a fast learner, and a great employee, but I just wish he knew how to manage his time better, prioritize, and was a bit more disciplined."


To answer prometheus-ng: You're right college isn't necessary, but it's a big, big boost, and you can't just make the argument that college isn't necessary based on intelligence and aptitude. There is so much extra stuff that you learn in college. You *can* learn those things in the work force, but it's arguably<sp?> many times easier to learn them in college.

To answer [the original poster]: You seem to be in a different situation all together. From a recruiting point of view, I don't think anyone will refute that a college degree will open many more doors. Even the note on your resume that you're taking classes is a *big* plus. It shows to me that you probably know the value of hard work and dedication since you're working *and* taking classes to better yourself. It's a judgement call. It most certainly won't hurt if you can manage it. I know that I haven't given a yes or no, but it's not my place to say.

Background (very brief):
from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA
Engineering High School including 3 years of programming (Pascal, C, x86 assembly/machine)
University of Pennsylvania
BS in EE, BS in CSE
Currently working for a startup company as project lead on a network management system.

Best of luck to you both,


[ Parent ]
10 Things I learned in college I wouldn't hacking (3.83 / 6) (#68)
by Carnage4Life on Tue Sep 19, 2000 at 11:17:44 PM EST

This is a short list I composed after reading a similar article on Slashdot.

  • Algorithms and big-O notation
  • When, how and why to normalize a database
  • Compiler theory, parsing and grammers
  • How to elicit a requirements document from a customer
  • Various software development models from Waterfall to Spiral
  • How to write a design document for a 3 tier project including UML diagrams, Entity-Relationship diagrams and architectural diagrams
  • How to work well with others (numerous team projects)
  • Time management skills
  • Distributed computing (CORBA/DCOM/Java-RMI)
  • How hardware works down to the most miniscule level

  • The above list is stuff I have learned in 3 years of college that I am very sure I would not have learned if I rushed off into industry to become some C++ developer.

    Ask yourself this question, how far do people without college degrees go in industry? Besides the prodigies who create their own companies (e.g. Shawn Fanning, Bill Gates, etc) most people who rush into industry will spend their lives as code monkeys instead of software engineers. Companies rarely high school/college dropouts project managers or lead developers and when they do that is usually their glass ceiling.

    Frankly my time in college has given me a larger skill set and more knowledge than if I was just cranking out C++ for some company for the past 2 years. This means I am more valuable as an employee and more able to set my own career path unlike a high school graduate who knows how to hack C/C++/Java but not how to engineer projects or exactly how and why certain things work.

    Re: 10 Things I learned in college I wouldn't hack (none / 0) (#73)
    by Greyjack on Wed Sep 20, 2000 at 01:02:27 AM EST

    Companies rarely [hire] high school/college dropouts project managers or lead developers and when they do that is usually their glass ceiling.

    Damn straight. I'm a college dropout, had a senior developer position recently m'self, but no degree; job wasn't bad, but there was *no* way up from there. Wasn't even remotely considered for project lead type positions w/o the degree.

    Me back in college now, full-time, finishing up in the Spring (wahoo!). Will be getting Oracle DBA certification in the spring whilst taking classes, and get credit for it as an independent study.

    So, in a few months, I'll have a degree, a *very* in-demand certification, and several years' worth of solid experience under my belt. However, it would've made life much easier if I'd had the degree *before* I went out and got the experience :)

    Here is my philosophy: Everything changes (the word "everything" has just changed as the word "change" has: it now means "no change") --Ron Padgett

    [ Parent ]
    Re: 10 Things I learned in college I wouldn't hack (none / 0) (#82)
    by daani on Wed Sep 20, 2000 at 07:01:39 AM EST

    Best thing about college was it was so much fun.... Anyway:

    I agree with everything you've said, except that you have to go to college to get those skills. I understand the difference between coding and computer science too. But get into books, white-papers etc. There is a lot that can be gained from the academic world that you just can't get as a coder. But you don't need to waste your time or money to do it! Heres how you start: Go to a library and get out one book on each of the topics mentioned in the above post. Read 'em. Now you will find you know heaps more than you used to.

    Anyway, what would I know?

    [ Parent ]
    advice: go to college (4.66 / 3) (#69)
    by xah on Wed Sep 20, 2000 at 12:10:30 AM EST

    On average (in the US), people with high school degrees earn more than those without. On average, people with some college education earn more than those with a high school education. On average, however, people with a college degree earn much more than those with some college.

    There's a reason for higher education.

    In your case you have a GED. That's okay, but might have to be improved on before you get accepted by a good college. I would look into two options: (1) a good four-year school, or (2) a junior college. If your test scores (SAT or ACT) are high enough, your recommendations are good, and you have a good life story, you can get into the right four-year college now. If so, do it.

    If your test scores aren't really high, go to a junior college and get an Associates degree ("A.B.") That's a two-year degree. (Don't disrespect it. I have a cousin who started off with an A.B. He worked his way up to a Ph.D., his doctoral material science. Recently he became a rocket scientist, literally.)

    When you go to junior college, study hard. Get good grades and line up recommendations. Then, apply to a four year school. Just two more years there and you'll have your Bachelor's (B.A. or B.S.) Then, your career really begins.

    If you're thinking about it, that means you should try it out. You might have to work part-time or even full-time to put yourself through school, though. Go for it.

    College proves one thing: You Can Learn! (3.00 / 1) (#74)
    by rwc_2001 on Wed Sep 20, 2000 at 01:13:12 AM EST

    Much of what you learn in a tech degree will be out of date soon after you graduate. Big deal: Everyone knows that to survive in the tech industry you must learn continually, and never stop learning.

    How can a potential employer know you can do this? Simple: A college degree proves you were able to consistently take and pass classes for four or more years.

    If you can do it for four years, it greatly raises the odds that you can do it for the rest of your professional life.

    Employers like to see that.

    Surprisingly enough, the subject of the degree doesn't matter so much, and matters not at all about five years after graduation. Some of the best programmers I have ever worked with had degrees in Music, Chemistry, Nursing, English, and even Political Science. I had one friend who studied Irish language and literature and could program circles around the best of them: We called him the Cunning Linguist.

    Doing tech does NOT require a tech degree. It requires a deep and abiding interest in the field, a proven capability to research and solve problems, and the ability to learn forever.

    Skills that, by and large, are independent of the degree area chosen. Most of these skills can be demonstrated in an interview. But not the ability to learn:

    That skill is best demonstrated by HAVING a degree.

    Any degree.

    The problem with (some) degrees. (2.00 / 1) (#76)
    by lazerus on Wed Sep 20, 2000 at 03:34:58 AM EST

    The problem with some degrees is that if you happen to get them, while they may make you an excellent theory person, they can introduce several drawbacks.

    Say for example you earned a Doctor of Technology in Computer Science or a related field. For one, you would have studied for 7 or 8 years and would have too much mathematical and not enough practical experience. Secondly, you would be overqualified for the typical sys-admin/programmer/PC technician job.


    [ Parent ]
    The way I wish I'd worded it... (4.00 / 1) (#77)
    by Miniluv on Wed Sep 20, 2000 at 03:46:00 AM EST

    I kinda realized after I submitted that I didn't word this quite the way I intended...I was actually hoping this'd get moderated out of the queue and into the trash so I could resubmit with a better summation. What I wanted to know is, what sort of programs have people run into other than "night school" by which a person who cannot take time off, not a single day out of the week, to do school can participate in to continue their education while waiting for a situation to change. I cannot do school now because:

    1)I just started my new job, it's gonna be months before I am out of the 90 day probation and have gained some seniority to ask for schedule allowances.

    2)I'm getting married, timing thanks to our wonderful INS, soon and she cannot pursue her career period without trade school so she gets priority for 18 months and first crack at debt.

    3)Lifestyle adjustments such as marriage are setting my budget to the point that I would need financial aid in a big way to pay tuition, but yet, I make $45k a year...so I don't qualify for anything but the most minimal of financial aid.

    I don't want things like junior college suggested, more in the nature of if people know of solid correspondence courses which are accredited, or of schools that give credit for "life experience" as I've heard some do... If possible, please email miniluv@miniluv.com.
    "Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'

    Why not start with distance edu? (none / 0) (#78)
    by lazerus on Wed Sep 20, 2000 at 04:24:43 AM EST

    Seriously, do a correspondence degree. Most of them work like this: You do your studying, they recommend materials etc, give you coursework and outlines, etc. You have to do several projects during the year, and at the end of the year you have to go into one of their centers for writing the exams.

    For a Bachelor of Technology in Information Technology, for example, the typical structure would be something like this:

    Year One

    Information Systems I

    Quantitive Techinques I

    Numerical Mathematics I

    Development Systems I

    Year Two

    Cost and Management Accounting I

    Engineering Science I or Electrical Engineering I

    Information Systems II

    Development Systems II

    Year Three

    Data Analysis II or Numerical Mathematics II

    Data Analysis I

    Development Systems III or Information Systems III

    Quantitive Techniques III or Internet Law I

    Year Four

    Year Four is for Honours (Convert your Bachelor of Technology into a Bachelor of Technology with Honours).

    [ Parent ]
    Re: The way I wish I'd worded it... (none / 0) (#79)
    by lazerus on Wed Sep 20, 2000 at 04:31:32 AM EST

    Also, what you might find (sorry, I hit submit on my previous post without finishing what I wanted to say)...as many people find out when they start a college course, they actually enjoy it.

    A lot of people, when they finish high school, think to themselves: "Nah, this sucks. I don't want to study anymore. I had a terrible time in high school and I'm not interested in any further formal schooling." So they take a year off, do their own thing, and, much like you, later realize that they want a degree. And to their amazement, they actually enjoy the work.

    So, once you've done the Bachelor of Technology with Honours, you might even want to go for either your Masters or Doctorate.

    [ Parent ]
    Re: The way I wish I'd worded it... (none / 0) (#80)
    by codemonkey_uk on Wed Sep 20, 2000 at 04:48:39 AM EST

    Okay, I'm from the UK so some of our education terminology might be out of sync, but I think I know what your getting at...

    I didn't go to univesity, and my tech career is going fine. :)

    To address your points,
    1) you have your foot in the door, thats what matters. 90 days *isn't* a long time. Stick it out. Your employer will train you. If they don't, wait 6 - 9 months (again, not a long time) and start applying elsewhere.
    2) Congratulations. Forget education, it to late now. Get training, even if its just reading books. Build your skill set on the job. Finish projects. But don't burn out. The love of a good woman is worth more than any job will pay you.
    3) Dont Fall Into The Debt Trap. Never Borrow Money. It sounds like you've got a good job, as I said, get training, if your emplayer won't pay save for it and pay yourself, but don't borrow money to pay.

    Correspondance courses will tire you out, and arn't worth as much as a good work history. But this is just in my experiance.

    "The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way." - Bertrand Russell
    [ Parent ]

    Re: The way I wish I'd worded it... (none / 0) (#81)
    by lazerus on Wed Sep 20, 2000 at 06:11:31 AM EST

    Tire you out? Typically you'd need 12 modules to do an undergrad degree. 4 a year will be 3 years (that's without honours though)...so what if you do 3 a year. That'll take you 4 years. Or 2 a year. that'll Take you 6 years. But the point is, you don't have to rush it, pace yourself evenly, and even if it takes 6 years instead of 3, so what? You could be a Bachelor of Science/Technology etc!! How wonderful!! Also, the subjects I posted below are not all fixed. You can variate them depending on what degree you want to do.

    [ Parent ]
    Correspondance courses vs. Night school (none / 0) (#83)
    by Anonymous 242 on Wed Sep 20, 2000 at 11:29:45 AM EST

    Your two big options are (1) correspondence courses and (2) night school.

    If you're the type that learns best in a traditional fashion, night school is your best bet. Many (perhaps most by now) universities offer degree programs for adult students that work full time. The downside to most night schools is that they typically only offer a limited selection of degrees. The local school I'd like to pick up a four year degree from Xavier University has an adult student program that looks fantastic, but they don't offer a computer science degree. They do offer an Information Systems degree, but I really want the hard core comp sci classes which aren't offered at night. The best way to find out more on this is to call your local schools and ask what they have to offer.

    Correspondance schools are currently booming. The big thing to watch for is to find one that is accredited by an organization recognized by either the US Department of Education and/or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. There are three accredited correspondance schools I know of that offer Computer Science degrees, the Grantham College of Engineering, the American Institute of Computer Science, and the California National University for Advanced Studies. Of these three, California National looks like the best for me. Needless to say, correspondance schools should only be entered by people that are good at learning somewhat independantly and are extremely self-motivated.

    The accredited correspondence schools are pretty expensive (California National is $235/credit hour + a $150 registration fee per trimester). There are other correspondence schools that are much cheaper and -for the highly self-motivated auto-didache- I don't know if the difference in price is worth it. How many future employers will check up on whether a school is accredited or not. On the other hand, if a person wants to continue their education, having a bacholers from an accredited school is a must before going for a masters.

    There are also some traditional colleges that offer distance education. I haven't yet been able to find any that offer a comp. sci. degree.

    Have fun.

    [ Parent ]

    Re: The way I wish I'd worded it... (none / 0) (#87)
    by Rainy on Thu Sep 21, 2000 at 05:26:30 AM EST

    I'm in a sort of similar position. I think what you may
    do is study on your own. Although, it does depend on your
    field. For instance, if you want to be a nuclear scientist,
    you *need* college. Same with alot of other things:
    engineering, law, medicine, biology. Some things can be
    approached amateurishly, like web design, programming
    (no I don't mean reading VB for dummies.. I mean reading
    knuth's books, learning lisp, if only for perspective,
    starting a free software project), music, art. I think
    college is a good thing, generally (especially if it's a
    good college), and I wish I went, and I still might, but
    in some cases it does require sacrifices that might just
    be too much. If you want to get into one of these fields
    where college is not an absolute must, studying on your
    own and perhaps distance learning in addition may be enough.
    Rainy "Collect all zero" Day
    [ Parent ]
    The "other" option (4.00 / 1) (#85)
    by Knitebane on Thu Sep 21, 2000 at 12:14:39 AM EST

    I see this thread everywhere but I don't belive I've ever seen military service mentioned. As an 8 year Navy veteran, as well as a veteran of a year of college, I can assure you that any employer that sees 4 year of military experience will certainly be aware of your ability to handle stress, deadlines, equipment shortages, red tape, impossible rules and regulations, long hours, long engagements, family seperation, conflicting requirements, bad food, terrible living conditions and usless supervisors and still be able to deliver product. I never learned any of that in college. I college I learned that freshmen-level professors don't want to talk to you, your dorm room-mate doesn't bathe, and that if you take enough notes, you might actually pass. I quit college after a year and never looked back. I'd do it again in a heartbeat, and my $100K a year in Raleigh/Durham is well in excess of my needs. College? College is for people that can't shoot. Regards, Knitebane

    Re: The "other" option (none / 0) (#88)
    by mrkoeller on Fri Sep 22, 2000 at 01:10:14 AM EST

    Bang! (miss) Bang! (miss)

    I may not be able to shoot a gun, but I also spent 6 years in the navy shooting torpedoes, missles and the like. My experience in the military was as Knitebane describes (long hours, family seperation, conflicting requirements, bad food, terrible living conditions, etc). Having come from the midwest, growing up in a family that didn't really push college, the military seemed the best option...at the time.

    I got out and went to college. I'm just getting ready to enter my senior year, and the benefits of my time in college are too numerous and too substantial to describe in mere words. Not only does college provide you with a piece of paper that may enable you to make a bit more money, it also provides you with perspective, challenge, and motivation.

    Then again, maybe my extreme joy at being able to routinely sleep in a bed that is actually longer than I am tall skews my take on this. :)

    [ Parent ]
    Film studies dropout.... (none / 0) (#86)
    by kmself on Thu Sep 21, 2000 at 02:25:35 AM EST

    God knows, a film-studies dropout would never amount to anything....

    College -- do it if you possibly can. It ain't the cure to everything, but it's so much more interesting when you understand the problem.

    Things I got from college: time to explore. Great friends and experiences. Seeing and/or meeting Stephen Hawking and Garrett Hardin. Knowing the true meaning of falling-down drunk. Unix at the ez-access labs (sudz@ucsbuxa.ucsb.edu). Getting into a shouting match with a professor -- in the men's locker room showers <g>. Stats. Economics. Urban geography and economics. The music library. I still hear former professors quoted on radio and in print. Online library catalogs -- a curious precursor of the Web -- and online chat.

    I'd say the bulk of the benefits were extracurricular. The total environment matters a lot. And yes, the school does matter, though if you're in a reasonably good state system (University of California, in my case), you can get an education, and contacts, matching those in the most exclusive schools, though you may have to work at it.

    While you may not need to finish, I'd say the first two or three years are very important. True talent often rebels at the administration of school, though a good school (or more likely, professor) will also realize when it's got talent, and ease the pain.

    As a friend put it, speaking of her mother who'd finally gone back and earned her baccalaureate, one of the biggest revelations was discovering that all of those "college people" who sounded so sure of themselves were often silly, stupid, childish, and/or full of themselves. It was the assurance she'd lacked -- otherwise she'd always been the same as them.

    If you don't go to college (or haven't been able to): don't wear a chip on your shoulder. If you're as good or better than someone who's been to school, dont' let them put you down. If you're not, own up to it (and try to improve). There are assholes and angels in every walk of life, possibly in your own shoes.

    Another analog. O'Reilly Open Source conference. I presented a session on free software licensing. Preparing slides, I debated adding a book to my references, finally removed it -- it was interesting, but I couldn't lay my finger on the relevance. The day after my session, I discovered that Mike Tiemann of Cygnus/RedHat was doing a full session on the topic: Jered Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel -- and the parallels between the emergance of a predominantly Eurasian culture in the world with the growth of open source software. Turns out Mike and I are both NPR nuts, and draw a lot of material from various ideas -- quite often utterly unrelated to computers and technology -- discussed in various programs.

    College expands your horizons. This is a Good Thing. Comperable experience may be substituted, but make sure it does compare.

    Karsten M. Self
    SCO -- backgrounder on Caldera/SCO vs IBM
    Support the EFF!!
    There is no K5 cabal.

    Long rambling commentary (none / 0) (#89)
    by terran on Fri Sep 22, 2000 at 04:47:30 PM EST

    Background: I went to college. I have a Bachelor of Science degree, and I'm currently working on a Master's degree; I doubt the utility of having put in all the time that I did. I've read this discussion, but not the previous one(s) on the same subject.

    I'd like to distinguish between three different things which are provided by going to college. These are a college degree, college classes, and the college experience. I believe that the benefits of these three are largely unrelated, it would be best to consider them separately.

    College Degree
    My conclusion on the value of college degrees, for me, is that they will help me get jobs I do not want. My analysis of the situation, based on experiences that I have had thus far, is that the best jobs are had not by submitting your resume, but by personally knowing someone who believes you to be competent. If I were doing the hiring, I would certainly take someone I know personally and believe to be competent than someone about whom all the information I have is on paper and from one interview. To a slightly lesser extent, the same applies to people recommended by someone competent. This is, as far as I can determine, how many if not most top jobs are filled. It makes no difference whether or not you have a college degree for this, except perhaps in bureaucratic situations where someone other than the persion doing the hiring has set requirements.

    The wallpaper will help me get a job at bureaucratic corporations which do things like throw out all resumes that don't list degrees, and then throw out all the ones that aren't grammatically correct, aren't indented according to the preferred style, etc. However, a company that does things like that is not among my first tier of choices in places to work.

    Thus, I conclude that the wallpaper will almost certainly never help me get a good job, but will help me get a mediocre one instead of a totally bad one in a situation where I have already failed to get a good one (which is certainly a possibility I take seriously; I may well need a job at some point in the future and have no useful connections with which to get one at the time/place I need.)

    This conclusion, of course, is entirely dependent on my own personal opnion of what consitutes a good job; I happen to prefer the small-company environment over the large one. If this is not the case for you, or if you want to work in areas where there are no small companies, a college degree may be more important - what I've called a mediocre job for me would be a good job for you. (I am, of course, assuming a correlation between company size and bureaucracy; I believe this correlation is difficult to dispute.)

    College Classes
    It seems that there are people on both sides of the debate as to whether or not it is possible to learn things in college which cannot be learned from books. My own opinion is that it is usually possible, but sometimes not.

    I think it would be difficult to maintain that any introductory-level classes aren't covered quite adequately by books; you don't need to go to college to learn how to calculate (or even rigorously prove) the running time of algorithms. The places where classes are more useful are areas which are either sufficiently new or sufficiently obscure that there do not exist books on the subject. In these cases, the only available material is in the form of articles and research publications; it is certainly possible to look these up yourself, but it's hard to know where to look, and the professor of the class provides a useful function in digesting the material and collecting it all into one place. These are the classes where the professor says "There's no book for this class, because there aren't any good books on this material..."

    We might also be remiss to neglect the fact that some people simply learn better by hearing than by reading, and in this case would receive extra value from lectures.

    For myself, I feel that being spoonfed the introductory subjects in lectures instead of learning it myself from a book was nice, but not nice enough to be worth what I paid for it. The advanced classes are much more worthwhile, and I will seriously consider going back and taking more on a part-time, non-degree-program fashion while working, basically just for fun and personal enrichment.

    College Experience
    Some people people have said that college is fun. This is arguably true in some cases, but going to Bermuda is fun, too, and may well cost less than college with the price of college these days.

    Another argument which I find less than persuasive is the claim that college is useful for the breadth of education. It is my belief that people are fundamentally repsonsible for their own actions and capable of making their own choices; if you aren't interested in breadth of learning, I do not see it as being valuable to have it forced on you. If you are interested, you'll do it yourself anyway.

    One thing that the college experience does provide is contacts, connections, and even some genuine friends if you're lucky. In light of my comments above about how to get first-rate jobs, you can see that I would value this. However, college is by no means the only way to obtain any of these.


    To summarize, I believe that college degrees are useful only when my situation is already suboptimal, college classes are useful at higher levels but not particularly at the introductory level, and the college experience is nice but often overpriced.

    Higher Education | 89 comments (86 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
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