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Journal Trolling4Dollars's Journal: Ask TrashSnot: Is a CS Degree Worth it? 12

After having worked professionally with computers since 1997 and having gotten only one professional certificiation (an NT4 MCSE which was dead simple to get), I've often wondered about going back to school to get a CS degree. But is it worth it for a 34 year old guy to do this?

My college degree was a BS in Communication (Telecomunication with emphasis on audio production) and was basically just to appease my folks. I've been out of college for over ten years now and the degree only really helped me in terms of being resume helper. Considering that it wasn't a hard science and I suck at math, I imagine I probably have a good deal of catching up to do before I could even pursue a Master's in CS. The thing is that over the past seven years, I've picked up a lot about networking, general OS support, scripting in CMD, Bash, Perl, a little TCL and programming in C (my big project is to really do a lot of C after the kid is born). Computers as a profession never occurred to me before because I mostly used them for music and graphic design. But once I moved to Linux, I got bit by the bug and started to play with computers at a much more advanced level and found it to be enjoyable. The whole D.I.Y. feel of the *nix OSes is much more fun than just using applications on Windows. So... the big question, should I try and take this interest and really hone my skills by getting a CS degree.

Finally, the setback. Like I said earlier, I suck at math. Not that I don't understand it, but I have a severe problem seeing my own mistakes unless someone points them out to me. Once, when I was taking a geometry class in undergrad school, I would literally check my work five times over. This made what should have been a 45 minute homework session more like 4-5 hours. But, I STILL couldn't catch my mistakes. When I would go in to talk to the teacher, they would instantly spot the error. usually a set of transposed digits or a minus sign instead of a plus sign. Even today, when I write something in Perl or Bash, I will make mistakes that I can't see... until the machine points them out. Fortunately, since the machine points them out, I "get" the problem and can usually fix it about 99% of the time. But working with computers hasn't required much actual math for programming in C or writing scripts in Perl/Bash. Instead it seems that logic is much more important and at that I excel. I knew this back in undergrad when I took a deductive logic course and aced it without trying while the rest of the students bemoaned their Cs Ds and Fs. So... in the "real world" of programming, how much math (as in figuring out the calculation before the computer can tell you that you made a mistake) is required?

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Ask TrashSnot: Is a CS Degree Worth it?

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  • If you're going to be doing business apps like billing management, there's a lot of business math. Basic arithmetic, ratios, and formulas. Doing scientific design is extremely math intensive. Doing "business support" type programming usually doesn't require much, but I've found that when it does, it requires some serious doozies.

    I'm a college dropout. I have about half an associate's in "web development" finished, but dropped it in favor of getting work experience. I've mainly been doing the business suppo

  • I have a Counter-Strike degree and it never got me anything.
  • You say you suck at math but excel at logic. But math is the logical manipulation of numbers/symbols. Perhaps you need to re-learn - not spotting a mistake, but when it is pointed out being able to, suggests you have some doubt or ambiguity in what you're looking at - but math is unambigious so logically reviewing what you've done should bring out any mistakes. Otherwise be more critical and if you don't like reading your own work force yourself to again and again.

    As for a Masters, if you have identif
    • It's possible to be good at other forms of logic than mathematics. Euclid isn't the only logical master out there- nor is the form of logic you're familiar with the only set of rules for being logical and thinking things through. Heck, computers don't follow standard mathematical principles- Boolean, not Euclidian, rules inside the computer.

      I would point out though that being bad at math and good at logic can get you very far- I never got much better than a C in any math class until I got to Numerical Me
  • Calculations : Math = Programming : Computing Theory

    What I am trying to say is that Math is not what you think Math is. The part you struggled with is more like assembly in programming, which can simply be a sign of mild case of dyslexia. To prove this you could simply use Mathematica (from Wolfram, or Matlab, etc) for doing the part you had problems with. Math is more abstract, it simply relies on that you learn the mechanical part as a skill. My fellow PhD students which were good at math were usually te
  • by goon ( 2774 )
    But is it worth it for a 34 year old guy to do this?

    If you already have a basic science degree don't bother. Programmers are commodity items, CS will only get you so far. To make dollars these days concentrate on *concept development* (see de Bono [] about thinking and ideas) and building a business for yourself. This way is hazardous but ultimately more rewarding. If you want to learn more CS then do some MIT online [] courses.

    Will add more about this latter gotta go.

  • I too am 34 years old; after I lost my job last year I started back to school to get a Professional Writing degree. I had started in CS way back when and then got sick of taking classes and decided to work instead. During my first semester back I ended up getting the (awesome!) job I am in now. I decided against getting a CS degree because the classes have very little to do with any kind of work I want to pursue in the future (but programming might be an exception if that is your thing). My advice? Figure o
  • If you mean paying back the student loans required to get the degree in the first place, NO, software engineering will never again pay well enough to pay for the education required to get the job. As long as India continues to use a combination of taxes and low standard of living to subsidise their students to give them the equivalent of a $40,000 degree for $4,000- you will NEVER be able to earn enough to pay for the degree. If you mean rounding out your education to learn more algorithims and do a bette
    • I'm a software engineer with $0 in student loans. I paid for school with scholarships, but even if I hadn't I could have paid for the 3.5 years of school (BSCS) in my first year at my new job.

      I went to a public university and paid in-state tuition of less than $2k/semester. I also worked throughout school and was hired (pending graduation) in my current position before starting my last semester.

      As far as math goes, I wouldn't worry about it.

      I'm really slow at math and I got through Calc II with a C. Th

Syntactic sugar causes cancer of the semicolon. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982