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Techies Saying No To College 689

peter303 writes: "Todays NYTimes reports (annoying free subscription required) how many young men are skipping formal college to pursue high paying IT jobs. Is this a wise move?" Every fall this debate comes back up. I enjoyed college, but I don't know how much of what it taught me will be relevant in my career. But should techies skip out?
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Techies Saying No to College

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  • The mistake made in the article is that of equating the sysadmin area with all of computing.

    Sure, kids from highschool make excellent Windows reboot jockeys. That is more of an indicator of what sysadminning has been reduced to, not an indicator that a university education is not useful.

    The fragile networks of PC's have created a large demand for people to act as computer babysitters. The natural result is that bright children can get these jobs.

    A sysadmin is basically just a computer user who knows slightly more than the average computer user.

    Could these same kids get into a software engineering job? Advertisements for such jobs ask for bachelor degrees, with a hint that a master's degree would be an asset. And there are good reasons for that; you actually have to know something about computing beyond reading the user's manual or online help, plus a couple of books.

    These kids are kidding themselves if they think that they are staying ahead of change by working as reboot jockeys. Knowing the user interface layout of the latest network administration tool is not really a form of keeping up with change; it's just a form of accepting software created by those who *make* the change happen.
  • You have it totally wrong.

    IT companies pay for smart people. They don't pay for graduates, they don't pay for people with a piece of paper, they pay for "Can you do the job".

    While it used to pay to say "my college says i can" it doesn't work that way. 2 kazzillion other people are saying that. Meanwhile an accomplished set of go getters that are both graduates and non graduates are getting these jobs and moving up because of HOW THEY SOLVE THE HIRRING MANAGERS SOLUTIONS.

    I wouldn't want to work for a company that needed a piece of paper. That would mean a boring job for me. I could tell by that single mindset alone its probably a boring job, dead end until you get something better then a diploma.

    Its alot harder to prove you can. It is alot easier to reiterate what you HAVE ACCOMPLISHED.

    I feel sorry for the people who go to school and expect life to solve itself because they have a piece of paper. Those are the blue collar workers of the future.

  • Thanks for saying that really, that is about as true as it gets.

    A degree in *anything* shows you can learn something to xyz degree of complexity and that you can handle the responsibility of getting that degree, That is why skipping the college part proving yourself can be a very difficult task :-|

  • by drenehtsral ( 29789 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @11:07AM (#797753) Homepage
    I'm sorry to break it to you, but the Ithaca in Upstate New York is actually spelled "Ithaca". Ithica is a Greek isle.

    Secondly, I am able to write a paragraph if I need to, but in the case of a slashdot post, it is not important. Slashdot is an imformal setting where it doesn't matter. The only people who seem to care are snobs like yourself.

    Another factor in my decision (as mentioned above, if you actually _read_ what I had to say), was my uncertainty as to _what_ I wanted to study.

    Well, I'm glad they taught you "how" to program. I took some Computer Science, and it was neat. I expose myself to a lot of different things, including art and literature. In a way I almost dread going to college for fear I'll end up with an obnoxious and condescending world view similar to the one you are so eloquently expressing.

    As for knowing "how" to program, there are several ways to do that. Your method is certainly a valid and proven method, and I'm sure it has served you well. It is not, however, the only viable way to learn. By a combination of self-teaching from textbooks obtained at the local public library, tutoring, users groups, formal instruction, and on-the-job training I have learned quite a few languages, but more important than that is the underlying logical basis of programming that transcends languages, platforms, and paradigms.

    Right now (if I were not on lunch break) my employer is paying me to learn as much as I can about Neural Nets, and has supplied me with as many books as I can go through to do so.

    My points are in order of importance:

    Try to be a little more accepting of other styles learning.

    Your reply is dripping with contempt. All it does is go to show your own insecurity.

    Don't be superficial. This is in informal forum. The fact that you were so eager to pick on my form distracted you from actually listening to the content.

    That's all folks.
  • If they can get a good job now, why the heck not. Work while the economy is smokin'.

    When you can't get the job you want is the time to go to school.

    I'm all about continuing education, but folks have to remember that learning for the joy of learning doesn't have to take place in the classroom and learning to qualify for your dream job is stupid if you are already qualified.
  • I find those traits in more college graduates than any other person.

    Typical college graduate engineers get the company pocket protecter, max out there credit cards get married, get a belly and grow old with a company. While not bad, not practical for me. I don't want that.

    I guess people perceive me as being cocky because i quit to achieve something for me rather "then the company"

    But to me, life isn't about "College" it isn't about "The company" it isn't about what is right or what is wrong to society, its about how you choose to live it.

    By being a biggot one way or another you limit your sociall beliefs to one specific group and are considered narrow minded. By not conforming your considered uneducated.

    I don't want a world of beuracracy, politicians, war, animal science, biggots, fraters and single minded people. I want a world were society is evolutional instead of so twisted on perception.

    Too bad taking control of your life and making decisions on your own pisses off the followers. Some people win, some people loose. Even when you loose you only truely loose when you give up.

    I've lost everything several times, and that tought me to be prepaired and cautious. I didn't have to spend 20 grand at school to learn that, it only cost me some cheap furnitre and a girl i shouldn't have dated in the first place :)

  • by lars ( 72 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @06:00PM (#797778)
    I also used to stay up late running a BBS, hacking, engaging in drawn-out philosophical discussions with friends, reading, and such in high school. In fact, I was probably much like you. I had started my own business in high school, and likely could have continued that full-time, or perhaps gotten a job as a programmer. I had a lot of contempt for higher education, and, like you, thought that since I was smart and motivated enough to learn a lot on my own, it would be a waste of money to attend University. Yet I chose to go that route anyway, did very well in first year, and have now become very academics-oriented, a side of me I did not know existed. I am now very happy with the path I chose for myself, and realize how completely misinformed I was previously. To think that I might have drudged through life, never knowing what I was missing out on makes me appreciate this experience much more.

    It disappoints me to read these comments on Slashdot along the lines of "I'm smart, so I don't need a University education", or "a lot of University graduates are stupid, therefore a degree is useless", etc. In my experience, this notion is incredibly wrong. I think if you are smart, that's all the more reason to get a degree! It's not about learning to code, it's not about getting a piece of paper. Higher education is about enlightenment, appreciation, and thinking. If you are smart, you'll be a better thinkiner, and be able to better appreciate the field you are studying, leading to enlightenment. I think it's a crime to be too stubborn to take advantage of one's intellectual ability in this way -- you are cheating yourself. A large portion of the most brilliant people on this planet are to be found in academia. I have had the good fortune, through attending a well-respected institution, of being exposed to some of the most brilliant minds in mathematics and computer science. I sincerely doubt that there are many people that smart in the "real world", as such a truly bright individual would simply not be able to find satisfaction in an ordinary line of work. So this begs the question: if academia is good enough for them, why isn't it good enough for you?

    Regrettably, I find it difficult to put into words precisely what I am getting out of my University education. I KNOW that when I graduate, my academic accomplishments will be meaningless and insignificant to anyone else in the real world. But I take great pride and interest in them anyway. I don't feel this is born out of any psychological need to justify my chosen path. I actually disliked my first two years of University, and thought it was largely a waste of time (except for the social aspects). Had I not attained top grades, I may even have dropped out. But now I've become more comfortable with the academic life, and am beginning to find the experience more enjoyable and more rewarding as I study my field in greater depth. In fact, I wish I didn't have to stop soon in order to graduate. But when I do graduate, I know that the PROCESS of getting a degree will have made me a better person -- I already see that.

    P.S. if you go into mechanical or computer engineering, as I believe you said in another message in this thread, you likely will not experience what I'm talking about. At least at my University, the engineering programs tend to be too practical, and in particular, lacking in intellectual content. You will study a broad range of subjects, but never in much depth. In my opinion, to truly get the most out of a University education, one must study some kind of art, such as philosophy or mathematics (which I would consider more of an art than a science, and computer science is essentially a branch of mathematics). I know several extremely intelligent people who have started in engineering programs, and virtually all of them have hated it. Some are struggling through and not getting much out of their university experience, whereas others have transferred to other programs and begun to enjoy it more. Engineering programs are great if you want to get a job or learn practical things, and you certainly do learn interesting things, but they are definitely not for everyone, particularly those looking to be challenged intellectually.

    To return to your point, I did not get any offers of entrance scholarships either. MIT was certainly not an option. Yet I managed to put together pretty decent grades in high school, and be admitted to a University that is highly respected in its own right. Since then, I have been awarded a couple of upper year scholarships, which I didn't need because co-op jobs covered all my expenses anyway. Seriously, it sounds like you're just looking for excuses. There ARE options other than Harvard you realize, and if you have the skills to get a decent tech job right out of high school, then you certainly have the means to cover all of your school-related expenses by working during the summers. The bottom line, is that it's worth it. I would have made hundreds of thousands of dollars by now had I not attended University, but I have no regrets.

  • And how many of them will know anything about philosophy, or psychology, or history, or any of the other things that a higher education can offer?

    They're called night classes. Take the courses you want to take, when you want to take them. Maybe even take enough to get your degree while you're still working. People have been doing that for years now, and people can continue to do it.

    Oh, just for the record...Hi, I'm 18 years old, and I'm the system administrator for Town Hall where I live, with additional duties helping admin the four schools.


  • Wasn't a junior College, it was the University of Georgia. Which isn't a BAD school. Not all of us can afford Harvard or an equivelant ivy league school. And when you sleep through high school so you can stay up late reading Tolstoy and running a BBS and learning things that actually interest you, you don't usually end up with much in the way of academic scholarships.

  • would you go to a doctor who didn't go to college? a lawyer? would you trust a pharmacist who didn't? how many Nobel prizes are awarded to non-grads? how many of the most important computer algorithms (RSA was in the news this week) were developed by the self-taught? Recent Presidents of the US? Name a large bridge, dam, or other engineering project designed by people who didn't go to college. I mean, come up with your own favorite measure of learned achievement... it'll be the same story.

    Sheesh. Just because you may not have learned anything in school or didn't even attend, don't denigrate the achievements of those who did. If you didn't go to college, you're not a bad person, just like I'm not a bad person because I don't play basketball as well as those in the NBA, but I'm not going to pretend that I play as well as they do to make myself feel better.

    If you have the opportunity to go to college, go. If you have the opportunity to go to a more competitive school, do that too, doesn't matter how much in debt you wind up. No matter where you go, do the work, do the reading, do the homework. Sit in the front row and ask questions. In the end, you'll learn more, meet more movers and shakers, and have a richer intellectual and professional life.

  • You can be a perfectly good NT administrator by just getting your MCSE.

    Please tell me you don't really believe that...

    Where I work, the consulting firm sent us a relative newbie -- but he's got an MCSE. He's constantly frustrated with NT because it almost never acts the way they said it would in the book.


  • <metarant>

    ... Okay, then, these 37331 boyz know how to write CGI scripts. It'll land them their dream $70K webmaster jobs. Now, maybe they could explain to me briefly Turing's Halting Theorem and present an informal proof in a paragraph or less.


    Sadly, these 18-year old high school kids are probably more likely to get hired than a 23-year old college graduate for some jobs. The reasons are that (1) they don't need to be paid as much, and (2) that they know all the latest buzzword languages (Java, C#, Delphi, etc.). The college kid will have the background to pick up this buzzword crap quickly, but will not necessarily have it on his resume.

    I think this sums up what I mostly hear from pro-college types. It also demonstrates how a good education can make one a lot better able to deal with theory than practice.

    This guy (who I have nothing personal against) seems mystified/irritated that companies are more interested in hiring webmasters who can write CGI scripts than "proper" computer people who can write one paragraph informal proofs of Turing's Halting Theorem.

    Guess what: I hire people for tech jobs. I work a tech/management job. And I personally want people who can write CGI scripts, and who know the latest buzzword languages. I have the utmost respect for academics, and people who love CS for the sheer joy of it. Without those people, the industry I work in wouldn't exist. They are undeniably better educated, better coders, and have a better understanding of how this stuff works than the $70k/year webmasters I work with and hire.

    But I don't need Turing's Halting Theorem proved (or disproved, or debated, or whatever). I need software developed. And yes, I have worked with some college grads who are fantastic. But I've also worked with others who think that doing actual, practical work is somehow dirty or beneath them. On the whole, my experience with college grads leads me, as a hiring manager, to be neutral with regard to degrees.

    Bottom line: as far as I'm concerned, I care about how well people do their job. Having the college experience may make people better coders, but it may also make them prissy academics who think that information technology should be treated as an art, not a business, and who will miss deadlines and simply not *do* their job because they have philosophical objections to some 10 year old API's structure. On the whole it's a wash.

    So get a degree if you're into learning Turing's theorems. If you keep your feet on the ground, you may even be employable after that. But don't be upset if you fall in love with the cerebral purity of ivory tower CS, then graduate to make less than CGI scripting webmasters.

  • >I don't think it would be a bad idea <I>if</I> CS/Engineering majors were required to take an ethics course.

    oh but we are required to take an ethics course as CS/E majors at UCLA!

    now if only BillG took an ethics course when he was in school...

    Seeking; proceeding by inquiry.

    A specious but fallacious argument; a sophism.
  • I dropped out of school this semester for a lead developer position at an up and coming web/etc firm. I took a bunch of classes, I got up to about 70 credits.. no comp sci, mostly math. I've read all of the undergrad compsci algorithms books, and I can still code circles around and prove stuff just as well or better than any of my friends still at school doing compsci. I'd say from experience that finishing college really depends on the person.. For me, its just two more semesters of 400 level math classes, and some BS English/Diversity stuff. I'd get my piece of paper, and I'd lose the opportunity to move to manhattan right now, have some fun and make a lot of dough. I'll probably regret not taking those math classes, I find them really interesting.. but math isn't gonna disappear, I can come back to that anytime, but my opportunities might not sit around and wait for me.

    If you still haven't figured out how to learn on your own, stay in school. If you want to work for some uptight company where a degree/your age directly translates into your salary, finish school. Otherwise, you might wanna give the real world a chance - I'm having more fun than I ever did in school; the college thing just isn't for me.

  • I've seen three repeatable varieties of seriously successful software engineers:

    1) Traditional BSCS college grads
    2) U.S. Navy (or Marine Corps) ratings
    3) Tech-school (e.g. DeVry) program grads

    And I notice something else: The BSCS types (including myself) had something in common with the sailors and the certificate holders: Practical experience before graduation. We either got jobs with the computer center or a department or school doing practical things with computers, or we entered the Co-Op program and did real work for real companies as interns. Whatever the route, we had real-world experience on our resumes before the school ever deigned to give us our paper and set us free.

    Bottom line: Get your schooling, however you choose, but make it practical . Make sure you have something to offer that recruiter when you hand him that piece of bond that has your life's work on it.... not a lot of fluff. The theory, the philosophy, the social conditioning, this is all well and good and useful, and I recommend it for those with those for whom it fits.... but get PRACTICAL, and you'll find success.

    warp eight bot

  • Instead of being a moron, why don't you actually visit the Warpstock 2000 Presentation Schedule [] and see what's going on. If your company does a lot of OS/2 development, then they would certainly be interested in Warpstock. IBM was there in full force and had lots of great stuff to say.
  • Yeah, i may live in the evil empire according to some people, but i choose not to act in a fashion that most people do.

    And yes, STATE colleges are beer drinking, getting chicks pregnant doing nothing colleges. I tried Texas Tech, i spent some time at UT down in Corpus Christi Campus.

    I felt better at a small community college because it was focused, genuinly smart people, but not uber inteligent so they seem dictational.

    I didn't have the money for MIT, didn't make the grades in high school frankly. I was too busy doing whatever.

    You do miss on getting into psychology and such, but college isn't always the answer to being well rounded. Church group, civic groups, donating your time to ederly and exploring life is more rewarding then siting in a classroom.

    It could have been public schools that spoiled me. But i think this topic is so hot because its filled with jealousy, rage and cockyness on both sides. Its a win win situation when you do whats best for yourself.

    There is academia, there is the business world, the arts and physics and social services along with an unexplored and still young IT world. They all have there place in reality. And reality is to do what YOU want and makes YOU happy.

  • ah, you're getting off topic. As you argue against the philosophy going to college, you admit that you will go back. The thread said: "...many young
    men are skipping formal college to pursue high paying IT jobs." You, obviously, are planning to do both because apparently you place value on a
    college education. I personally would not be where I'm at had it not been for my college education. I own my own consulting and training firm. Without
    the ability to communicate with customers and students, I would be nowhere fast. Without a great understanding of accounting principles, I wouldn't
    be able to control my books. Without my understanding in psychology, I wouldn't be as insightful when dealing with employees and students. You get
    the point. Yes, some people can skip the college, and do just fine. If you're interested in management, and understanding business, I sincerely believe 4
    years of college places you LEAPS ahead of taking the road of "hard knocks" and learning it on your own. Lastly, yes, I could have read all those on
    my own, but lets get real. Once in a career, you seldom can catch up to what you have to do, let alone learn to count beans, the human psyche, etc.

    The reason I am returning is because I want to be able to play with things that regular people just can't buy. I'm going back to go into Mechanical Engineering and Robotics. And while I can work on junkyard battlebots at home what I'd really like to do is work on creating a perfect human exoskeleton thatis controllable by nothing but a brain. A perfect cure for paralysis. And while the mechanics are relatively simple compared to the control mechanism it still is an extremely difficult problem and requires multi-million dollar equipment to test.
    But I digress, I've been working full time for a year and a half. That hasn't cut into my time very much at all. I still get in 3 hours of Martial Arts every day. I still read a couple of books a week, and I still discuss philosophy with me net enabled friends. I have no desire to associate on professional or personal basis with idiots if I can avoid it. However I LOVE doing tech support. I enjoy teaching people things, and explaining, and figuring out problems. It doesn't matter if the person is rock stupid. I've taught kids that could barely walk because of a physical disability Taekwondo. I don't mind helping idiots. But I don't want to associate with them on a personal level. And I don't want to be in a learning establishment that can only go as quickly as the person who is both uninterested and an idiot.

  • Sorry, didn't mean to imply anything was wrong with JCs. I find them to be an excellent way of making education accesible to those of us who aren't rolling in dough. It just happens that Athens is 20 minutes from where I grew up and the University pretty much IS the town.... So that's where I went.>:)

  • Its not this is what i expect, it is this is what i do.

    A college degree wouldn't give me any more self esteem then knowing i have done it on my own. If shit happens, then shit happens. I've learned to move on, be prepared and move through life the way i see fit. I can't control anything in reality other then immediate issues.

    College doesn't teach you reality. I'm sure alot of kids hit it while they're in school, but there is alot more chapter 7 or whatever bankruptcies out there because of ill founded college experiences. I'm sure there alot of pathetic dropouts as well. Too each there own. Your world is what YOU make of it. You accept everyone elses world and its YOUR loss for not doing anything to make it better for you.

  • Yeah, let's not forget the social and community interaction we had before
    computers were the "in thing", and all the comp sci folks were uber-nerds.

    Average uber-nerd: Hi, um...would to go out for dinner
    some time?
    Hot ch1x0r: *slap*
    Average uber-nerd: *picking up glasses* damnit.

    Here's another fun scenario.

    Jock-type: Hey look guys! It's one of the computer geeks!
    * Angry mob approaches, hanging Average Uber-nerd by his underwear from a

    Ah yes, the social interaction. I so miss those days *sigh*
  • that doesn't mean everyone who is in college is goona be 'behind' on Real World languages. Based on your experiences, your friends went to college and came out not knowing linux/php/js/sql, but that doesn't apply to everyone. I'm (about to) go into college and I have been exposed to a lot of linux... Afterall, Linux is an operating system that was initially created as a hobby by a young student, Linus Torvalds, at the <I>University</I> of Helsinki in Finland.<BR><BR>

    Besides, many people (there will always be exceptions) with a good background from what they learned in school can pick up another programming language such as js/php/perl quickly while someone who simply learned one language may not be able to learn a second language quickly because they don't really understand the concepts behind programming.<BR><BR>

    OTOH, some people just can't stand school, and if they can make a living w/o school, why force them to go to college? I agree with your conclusion, but I just don't think "my college grad friends don't know linux" is a good reason for a person to skip college and join the workforce.

    Seeking; proceeding by inquiry.

    A specious but fallacious argument; a sophism.
  • (on the off chance that this #800+ comment will actually be read...)

    I started college a year ago knowing exactly where I wanted it to take me. I love computers, and I wanted to be a UNIX System Administrator. So I declared myself a Computer Information Systems and Management Science major (being less than excited about programming and figuring it was more relevant to a mangement setting anyway).

    A lot changed in a year.

    I discovered that the direction the CMS degree would take me didn't seem to line up with where I wanted to be. In fact, where I wanted to be doesn't even seem to be on the map anymore. Looking through various job listings, it seems as if the career I really wanted is rare to non-existant nowadays. But, I had discovered after taking but one class that I absolutely LOVE economics. So I had to figure out what I was going to do. Would I finish the CMS degree even though it seemed worthless? Become an economist? Something else?

    My current, tentative plan is to change my major to economics (I've already started taking some of the advanced classes) and to get that degree, if for nothing else than my personal edification. Then I'll probably start at the bottom of the IT ladder and work my up the old-fashioned Andrew Carnegie way and see where I end up. Of course, if someone just happens to open up an Austrian-school economic research institute in Denver, then.... ;)

    The point is that there are better reasons to go to school than to help you on to a career. We're computer geeks, and these blasted boxes make up a huge portion of our lives, but they're not everything. Some of us might be really interested in history, philosophy, economics (w00t!), theoretical physics, astronomy, whatever! If you jump right into a career after high school or whatever, you'll probably never have a real chance to go to college ever again. So my advice would be to go for a year. It doesn't have to be MIT or UCB, it can be a local state school, or a community college (many of the best teachers teach in these places, where students are more important than research, and 101 classes usually aren't in 200+ student lecture halls). Take 5 classes each semester, each in a different subject, and see if anything makes your mouth water. If nothing clicks, you've only wasted one year, and you can jump right into making the big bucks with the satisfaction that you were right in the first place. But maybe something /will/ strike your fancy, something so interesting you'll be willing to sacrifice 4 or 5 years learning about it (well, minus requirements...) before you join the rat race...

  • "Teaching yourself" literature, history, and philosophy is admirable, and better than not learning it at all, but there's a distinct taint of insularity and limited vision that marks most autodidacts.

    When you control your own canon - when you decide what you read based on your internal map of the discourse at hand - you are likely to avoid being deeply challenged. You can reduce the discipline you are studying to a game over a limited map, and miss a vast range of alternative perspectives. (Observation: if you say that you've looked at "both sides" of an issue, you likely haven't really looked at the issue at all, but only a sketchy cartoon version of it.)

    Many of the autodidacts I've met have much too much faith on the quality of their sources and their interpretations of it, of their initial strategies of dealing with new information, and in the novelty and brilliance of their inferences (I've seen 28 year old self-taught intellectuals congratulate themselves endlessly for observations and discoveries that most undergraduates in a decent liberal arts program had mastered in their first weeks.)

    Again, better self-taught than not-taught at all, but don't be naive about the pitfalls of an unguided education.

  • You must be about 14 and have no real idea how things work. Only a true savant can skip over entirely the things you're "restrained" into taking. IIRC Every accredited University in the country is required to make you take English and higher levels of math. While you think computers are everything and anything, theres plenty more to the world than keyboards and command lines. If you have a degree in anything you can be considered pretty competent in the area of your degree. If you've got some sort of "personal" training you may or may not have the level of skills required for a job. Most CIS and business classes now are set up to provide you with advanced skills for your future job.
  • I feel a bit sorry for people skipping a good education for a high paying job that has no garauntee of being around in five years. Today you may be able to program in modern languages in just a few years they will all be old hat. You'll end up being one of the legacy programmers a company keeps around to maintain old programs that are written in older languages and only one in ten of you will actually have that job. Unless you've got other skills that will allow you another career you're fucked. If you've got a BS is computer science-not JUST programming mind you- you will be able to get another job after your web firm dies when it's venture capital runs out or you simply become obsolete as a programmer. If you program well enough to get a job, go to school as a business major and you'll land yourself a VP job making ten times as much money for less than a quarter of the grunt work. If four years of effort are too much for you to handle go to a trade school or a JC and work towards an Associate's degree or some certificate in a useful field. You may scoff at people in college now but you need to remember that the people who invented the shit you write code for went to college and many of the technologies came about because of colleges. You're riding on someone else's laurels, don't get cocky because you're going to be working for the people who actually diciplined themselves to get a degree.
  • "If you've got a BS is computer science-not JUST programming mind you-"

    Exactly right, couldn't agree more.

    FWIW I've been working in the "IT" sector for the last 3.5 years, and it's only proved one thing: I actually find some of the stuff I despised in CompSki now interesting. They tried teaching us functional programming, because teaching us "ML", "C++" and "Pascal" is obviously a no-brain route to obsolesence in a few years.

    Thought for the day: IT is dumbed-down CS.

    .|` Clouds cross the black moonlight,
  • You omit the idea that colleges (around here, they're *universities*, dammit) actually have something useful to impart, that you'd probably be an idiot to miss out on.

    ...Not that you necessarily have to go straight from high-school into Uni immediately, of course.

    "*employers*! Their work consists exclusively in conditioning productive people, called employees, "...
    "Buzzz! Off to class!"

    Either you're right, you should stay in class until grown up, or you're getting your cynicism-for-BOFH training in early.
    .|` Clouds cross the black moonlight,
  • Like others that have replied to this post, I think it's still really important to go to college, not just for the piece of paper you'll get at the end, but for the life experience. Granted, you won't make much money during those four years, but you will make good friends your own age, become independent, and learn about looking after yourself and how to relate to other people. I don't think you can get this same experience from the workplace - people are there for different reasons. My advice to anyone deciding between an IT job and a college degree is: take the degree. You will enjoy it far more in the long run, and you'll never be able to have the same experience again. College is totally different when you return as an adult student.
  • by FallLine ( 12211 )
    Obviously his point is that you can't look at a few successfull non-college educated people as statistical proof that a high school graduate is better off not going to college. Because those without a college degree that lack significant intelligence or the work ethic remove themselves from the IT population [if you will], it is hard to take such a trivial statistic seriously. In other words, for all you know from these examples, for every 1 successfull non-college educated [unusually intelligent] techie, there are at least 9 [not so intelligent techies] who are flipping burgers right now.

    Compare this with college, where we can say definitively, that, the average starting salary of a CS graduate these days is approximately 50k (or whatever it is now). It does not necessarily mean college is better, but that it is a much more accurate statistic than what many of the proponents of forgoing college offer.
  • You completely missed the point. Its a natural selection type process. The only techies that don't go to college are the techies that are still techies, and not working in McDonalds. They're the ones who are smart enough to skip school and still make it by with good impressions on people.
  • Are you implying that someone who has taken the time and effort to train himself (or herself) to be qualified for a high paying tech job are hopelessly unable to train themself in history, literature, art, philosophy, and so on?

    I personally, as one who has finished college (simply by saying I'd had enough), disagree. For some people the classroom is the way to go. For me college moves too slow. I want information at my pace, not someone else's.
  • Okay, a college degree does not necessarily mean anything. My sister-in-law got hers and she is as stupid as a stick.

    But, the college time means a lot more than that. It means that your non-technical upper-management will be more likely to pay attention to you - where I work, my ideas have to go up via one of my college educated peers in order to be reviewed by the executive board.

    Having college also means that you have more opportunities for advancement. Many corporations have certain job requirements that must be met in order to advance to the next salary range, and often that involves college or at least a certain amount of college credit.

    College is also the last time many tech-types will have to goof off before the real world comes crashing down around your ears. Enjoy it while you can.
  • UGH. I have to spend every day debugging hacked together code with no regard to commonly accepted standards, much less actual algorithms. If I could help it I would never hire a programmer who doesn't have formal training.

    Newsflash - numerous colleges have very few programming requirements of students (amazing as that sounds).

    A college degree in no way indicates any exposure to rigorous programming practices.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I'm currently in college, majoring in mathematics. I am also employed by a DoD contractor, working as a programmer-- I have held this position since I left high school.

    Going in to college, I wanted to major in Comp Sci. It's a great field. Interesting problems, fun stuff to learn, abstract thinking, a fast-changing field (well, parts of it, anyway), and so much diversity that you can learn new stuff from just about ANYBODY.

    Part of the requirement of getting a CS degree is at least SOME proficiency with mathematics. So I naturally took a few math courses.

    And instantly, I was hooked.

    This was cool shit. Differential equations, Algebra, Geometry, Topology, Number theory... God, it was amazing. Like a drug-- I couldn't get enough of it. I loved it. I HAD to do this.

    So I changed my major. I haven't regretted it. Don't get me wrong-- I love CS. But I love math even more. I could have been very happy as a CS student. I would have lived without regret, had I never taken a math course. But once I did-- I had to run with it.

    I guess that's why I'm glad I've gone to college. It introduced me to the one thing that I find fascinating beyond all else. Math. I know what I want to do, and how I'm going to do it. Some people don't need that, I know-- they already found what they love. But I hadn't found that yet-- college gave me that chance.

    The keggers ain't bad, either.
  • If all you want is to get job training, go to a tech school. If you want an education, go to college. The point of college is NOT just to get job training. You take philosophy, history, language(s), various science classes - and you interact with people from many different walks of life with many differing opinions. This is GOOD for you and good for society as a whole.

    You gain information and grounding in the hows and whys of Western Civilization. You gain a grounding in the hows and whys of the (in the US) Constitution and our system of laws. You gain information about things that in a tiny, job-training-only school, you never even realize existed. You learn that people are different, have a right to be different, and that you MUST accomodate these differences.

    Ignorance is evil. Merely seeking job training is an "education" in ignorance. One should ALWAYS seek to expand their knowledge and experiences rather than keep to their parochial, insignificant little worlds of unfounded, fear-based opinion with no basis in reality.

    If you don't know how we got where we are, technologically AND socially, then you are in danger of repeating time-worn mistakes rather than actually learning from them and NOT repeating them. THAT is what a broader, non-job-training-only college is about.

  • by waldoj ( 8229 ) <waldo&jaquith,org> on Thursday September 07, 2000 @08:15AM (#797940) Homepage Journal
    I think it's fair to say that most of us geeks are much in need of college. Knowing a few languages hardly means that one's education can safely grind to a halt. I mean, if all you want to do for the remainder of your life is a little Perl and SQL, that's cool, but that's really not a great approach.

    I think that there's a big difference between "saying no to college" for now, and "saying no" for good. I'm skipping it for now. There's too much gold to be mined in the tech industry for me to hold off right now. I'm sure that lots of others feel the same. Anybody that says that there's absolutely nothing to be learned from college is a liar or a fool.

    However, there are plenty of geeks here that learned little or nothing in college. And that's quite possible. But you could learn things if you went back and re-focused your work.

    I still think that going to college for the purpose of furthering your programming knowledge borders oon foolish. Again -- possible, but generally unlikely. Some people float through their teenage years, and don't really focus until college. I like to think that I had a hell of a productive time in high school. I did more in those four years than most people do in high school, college and grad school combined.

    Does this mean that I don't need college? Hell no. I want to major in everything, learn everything that they have to teach, and die at 99 with a dozen degrees. But right now I shouldn't be in college, as I'm sure that many of you aren't for the same reasons. There's too much life to live, tech will change too much in the next four years while you're pursuing that philosophy major.

    Or maybe mwarps [] was right when he wrote of me [] (well, flamed):

    Anybody with ½ a brain, and even two nanoseconds of a real college education knows this guy is full of crap either because he's completely moronic, or hasn't been to a real school.
    His picture looks like he spends his time sitting in front of a sticky keyboard looking at alt.binaries.erotica.* and 'coding' HTML. Another fine candidate for the "Why Couldn't Social Darwinism Take This One" award.
    But really... If you seriously think you're going to get anywhere significant in this world, without that piece of paper, you're going to end up nothing but a bench-drone or a tech somewhere useless, fixing a useless piece of hardware, broken by a worthless collegeless geek, just like you.

    I'm not so personally insulted by this as I am by the implication that all of us that aren't in college are "worthless" to the world, and would be better off dead.

    But what do I know? I've never been to college. ;)


  • by Paladin128 ( 203968 ) <> on Thursday September 07, 2000 @08:15AM (#797941) Homepage
    Bad move... I'm working full time while going to college, and I'm paid less than people who have less experience. Why? Because they have a degree, I don't. Who will be the first one out if layoffs hit? Me, even though I'm the best at what I do here. Besides, college, getting away from home, interacting with other classmates, dorming, etc. are all things everyone should experience for at least a year or two. I got handed my first issue of 2600, got into medieval re-creation, introduced to Japanese animation, experimented with overclocking, learned to live on a $5 a week food budget, and learned a great deal about women at college. Although I'm anxious to graduate, and classes are driving me crazy, I wouldn't have given up this experience for the world.

    "Evil beware: I'm armed to the teeth and packing a hampster!"
  • I've sat on both sides of the interview desk and I totally agree that the college-educated make for much more attractive candidates. They have more experience in Just Plain Learning. (Of course, there's a causation arrow problem here, but I think it points the right way).

    However, there's another factor involved: fundamentals. When you are sitting in "Algorithm Analysis" it seems like none of it applies to making $75k-$100k typing HTML into a text editor. But trust me, things like that help--maybe not often, but when you need it you need it.

    For instance, I had someone come to me with a program idea: He was a divorce lawyer and wanted software you could type all the assets of the couple into. Then the program would allocate the assets in such a way that each member would have an equal amount. "Uh-oh", I thought, "Knapsack Problem." I immediately told him that would not be feasible , but we could work on an approximation.

    Another example: When I was hiring, I gave out a programming problem. One of the problems I used was "write a program that will multiply two arbitrarily large numbers together". I can't tell you how many people tried to use a variable of type long to do this. I can tell you that none of them were college-graduates.
  • by lazarus ( 2879 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @08:17AM (#797945) Homepage Journal
    A *VERY* long time ago when Corel was but a 50-person company, I asked Mike Cowpland to hire me before I had finished university. The fact was, I was learning far more at my part-time job at Corel than I was in school (in fact, as I remember it, my next programming course was in Fortran...)

    Mike said that he would be more than happy to bring me on full-time, and made an additional offer. He told me that he would pay 100% of my university tuition costs if I wanted to keep taking courses at the university. If I only managed a C grade, he would pay %50 and for a D or less I was on my own.

    More high tech companies need to consider making offers like this to their employees. Educational institutions cannot keep up with the high-tech market - it is simply impossible to teach the teachers while they themselves are busy teaching their students.

    I don't know about other "nerds" but taking random courses that I am interested in paid for by the company I work for seems a lot more appealing than going through someone's idea of the perfect high-tech ciriculum. All you prove in the end is that you've learned how to memorize.

  • I'm not really sure that anyone ever believed that college constituted learning "everything you need to learn for the rest of your life" in one "four year stint". Most people in business today are not doing exactly what they learned in college. Outside of academia, it is highly unlikely that your field of study in college is going to determine what job you get. And even if you take a job in a related field, even in the non-information world, you are going to be expected to learn a lot more depth in that area, or to learn business aspects that are not related to the technical aspect.

    As has been driven into the ground in earlier posts, college is more about learning to learn for that lifelong cycle of learning than it is about acquiring all you'll ever need to know at once. True, not much you learn in college or grad school is going to make you a better modern programmer. But, a robust college CS or IT program might do a good job of teaching you how to quickly evaluate and learn a language, how to understand larger conceptual issues in writing a program, and how to go about learning the real-world techniques that will make you a better programmer.

    "Sweet creeping zombie Jesus!"

  • Things might be good now. And if you're good at what you do you won't have a problem.

    What will happen when the economy finally turns down and employers start getting swamped with resumes again? A lot of people receiving resumes will start employing a filtering mechanism, for example, throwing resumes for people with no degree straight to the reject pile without even reading it. It seems a shame to put yourself at a disadvantage when you're good.

    Then there's the other aspect. When you get bored and want to go and learn something new, it's good to already have an undergraduate degree. I say get it out the way as soon as possible. I certainly wouldn't want to go back and start as a beginner.

    I have a friend (used to be my mentor at my first job). More than years experience and also a very good software engineer. He has no degree. He wants to go back to school and learn more about computers. Unfortunately all of the stuff that he's interested in is at a post-graduate level (obviously). The stupid system of pre-requisites has put him off: too much effort pursuading the schools to give credit for his career experience, and too much effort taking classes he could do his sleep years ago.

    It's unfortunate that society places so much emphasis on having a degree. You can't even get immigration visas for most countries without a degree. So not studying rules out living and working abroad (and I wouldn't change that experience for anything!).

  • Yep, that's the book that convinced me that being a sysadmin was for me.

    Some of you all went to college for a few years before dropping out. I never even started. I went directly from high school to working for a friend's consulting firm.

    Not having a degree has NEVER been a hinderance to me. Going through four years of school would have basically put me four years behind where I am now, and given me a piece of paper. Having a CS degree is the equivalent of having a BS in Business. Grads are a dime a dozen. I routinely win jobs over college grads, cause I spent that four years actually learning my field, not the complete waste of time classes that the university makes you take to be a well rounded individual.

    The one thing in this industry that is prized more than a degree is knowledge. I've got my MCSE certification, and I'm working toward my Cisco CCIE. I've seen people with no degrees, but with a CCIE get offered six figures, even with no real CCIE job experience. Ever seen a grad from a four year school get offered that much right out of graduation? OK, it does happen, but it's RARE!

    A degree is nothing more than a sign that you can read books and memorize stuff. A CCIE is the tech equivalent of defending your doctoral thesis. It's frigging tough! But, if you have the CCIE, that's your sign that you know what the hell you are doing!

    College is not a guaranteed path to financial security. My dad has two bachelors degrees, and I make twice what he did when he retired. My wife has a Masters degree, and I make twice what she does. She hates her job and her field. I absolutely love my job (not necessarily where my job is, but I love what I do here). I play on computers at work, then I go home and play on them there.

    A note to all teenagers. Quit school and move out on your own. Odds are, you really do know more than your teachers do.

  • I am working full time in the 'smokin hot' economy and finishing my undergrad at the same time. There is alot to be said for *directly* tying your career to your formal training. Certain things that wouldn't sink in without job experience are much more profound and applicable. At least that is my experience as a software developer and a CS student in my last year. Also, there is a depth of understanding about the fundamentals and behind the scenes concepts that you can't get by just getting a certification/degree or just being in the industry. Where in your MCSE class do you learn about interrupt service vectors or compiler design? Or, conversely, would any of the formally defined steps in Software development 101 actually sink in at all if you hadn't had the experience to realize they really aren't a load of arbitrary crap? It seems reasonably obvious to me that people who forsake one for the other, e.g. pure academics or experience only techies, are shortchanging themselves in the long run. Pure academics will always have a disconnected idealized view of the world and experience based techies will spend the rest of their lives scrambling to pick up the specifics of the 'Latest New Thing' without understanding it's basis or history at all. This also assumes you are aspiring to be a good computer scientist. If you are simply gambling for a quick buck or an IPO, by all means just dive in. Unfortunately, there are too many people like this today and the direct result is the sorry state of the industry today.
  • This debate bring out more equivocation from people than any others I see. The majority of the participants here are in or have been to University. I don't think any of them want to admit a simple fact that closes the discussion:

    If you're career-oriented, and you're sure you want to be in software or systems/network engineering, a CS degree is worth less than industry experience.

    Obviously, if you're unsure of where you want to be in 10 years, or if you're not motivated enough to take the initiative in building a career, college-at-18 is a good idea. But everyone here knows that CS is not trade school. The knowledge you need to compete in the IT/development workforce is obtained by doing, not by reading. I'm sure even the staunchest advocates of college education have horror stories about clueless CS grads starting jobs full of a sense of entitlement but completely bereft of any practical competance.

    The word I hear most when talking about the way practical computer education SHOULD be is "apprenticeship". And we're fortunate to be at a point where meaningful (if informal) apprenticeship is available to everyone. Development and deployment projects of every level are open to participation in the form of open source projects.

    If you're planning on becoming a software developer, contributing to a well-run open source project is a much better use of your time than theory classes. A solid 4-year history of real contributions to well-known projects looks much better on a resume than 4 years of undergrad schooling. It also costs less, and is more productive than undergraduate CS.

    Speaking as someone who has been responsible for hiring people in the Valley for the past 3 years, I can confidently assert that the naysayers who claim employers will frown on a resume without a degree are completely full of it. The few exceptions I can think of (hardware engineering and research positions) so obviously require schooling (from a practical perspective) that they aren't worth debating. In the technology workforce, it's a sellers market. No serious employer has the luxury of waiting for a "traditional" candidate with a degree --- there are 10 companies competing for every job hunter now.

    Even if the bottom drops out of the technology market in 5 years, a few years of industry experience is clearly more valuable to a resume than a degree. The market today is a huge opportunity for tech workers. It's silly to ignore that.

  • I left University after first year to pursue a carrer in Electronics. I started off as a trainee and soon acquired enough experience to be on the top engineers wage for my company at the time. Had I continued studying, it would have taken me years to gain the experience that I would have missed.

    At 23 years old, after leaving a well paid job for a major ISP, I set up a company to provide networking solutions. As I now regularly interview and employ both graduates and non-graduates, I can appreciate the advantages of both. Often a young school-leaver is easy to train, as they are genuinely interested in the work and want to learn. All too often, graduates come out of college and believe they have learned enough at college to start in at the deep end. Trying to train an employee who is hostile to the idea of going back to the fundamentals and learning everything from the beginning again is a tiring task.

    I've got nothing against employing graduates, but they work under the same conditions as school-leavers, on the same salary. Although they may be able to fast-track to management, there is no preference in our company and a 17 year old who is good at his job has exactly the same prospects as a 25 year old finishing his degree and coming in to employment.
  • I graduated from high school in 1976, and went to University in 1977. I had gotten interested in computers in 1974, though a "computer concepts" course in high school (working on teletypes and time sharing with a bunch of other schools in my region). I got very good with the computers there, quickly surpassing my teacher in knowledge (although he helped me find better references and manuals to read).

    I was interested in a computer career, so I asked a few programming professionals that I knew what I should do in college. All of them told me to FORGET about taking computer courses , they were too theoretical for the "real world" (read "business world"); if I wanted to be successful, find an industry that is using computers, and learn that industry. In other words, learn a bit about accounting if you figured you would be doing payroll, A/P, etc.

    I took their advice (and a couple of scholarships and grants) and went to University as a pre-med (figuring that doctors would always have enough money to make computing for that profession worthwhile). When I visited the computer room at the place, I was VERY glad that I didn't become "just another computer geek." Those guys were sleeping next to the terminals... bad hygiene... all those other stereotypes we have today.

    However, the problem with my decision was that it turned out that I **HATED** the science courses that were necessary for a pre-med occupation, and really DID love programming.

    I eventually dropped out of college, and got a job as a computer operator, and then worked my way up to programmer, etc.

    Today, I don't know if taking more computer courses in college would have helped (I am probably an exception), but I have two daughters that will be considering college in a few years, and I know that my advice to them would be to NOT do it the way that I did... it was most definitely the hard way.

    If you really like something, then spending 4-6 years immersing yourself in the depths of the subject in an educational setting is money well spent.

    Although, looking back, I can say that after I left University, I *did* have fun.
  • I would say there are certain fields in which having a degree helps more than a certification. Being a software architect does require experience designing large systems, but it helps a lot to have formal software design courses under your belt. Perhaps most importantly, you have reasonable expectations about how long it will take to write a given program. Something that most programmers fail to comprehend unless they've seen the research or done it a half-dozen times: Time spent actually writing the code should be well under 20% of the time budgeted for the entire project. I know it sounds painful, but in terms of programmer hours, companies spend the majority of time in design, fixing defects (bugs to those who regard them as inevitable rather than the product of poor design), and maintenance. This is just an example of the kind of thing you learn in a degree program. Most companies and certifications don't bother with a strong software engineering component, and I think it really contributes to the buggy code we all see every day. Having to take software design as a course and practice doing it right helps.

    Also, if your idea of a fun job is to explore things that no one has ever done before, a degree and some research experience is very beneficial. Rather than go work for established software companies, I choose to take my BS from (shameless plus) Harvey Mudd [] and do research. While most places that are doing research require at least a BS as a standard thing, it makes sense because they don't want to be stuck with someone who has no experience in pursuing open-ended problems with no known solution. If you think you're in a research job, and you don't discover at least occaisonally that what you've been trying to do for the last week has been proved to be impossible, you're not doing research. Having a degree gets you experience with that sort of thing.

  • by drenehtsral ( 29789 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @08:30AM (#797964) Homepage
    In the united states at least there is a decent segment of the population (mostly working class families) that are above the level where they can get financial aid, and way below the level where they could afford to pay for school on their own without taking on unmanagable amounts of debt.
    This comes in part from reigional differences in wages and cost of living. Where I grew up (and still live (working as a programmer)) in Ithaca, NY there are a sufficient number of college students that have come for the ivy league experience at Cornell that they raise the cost of living quite a bit, and then there are also grad students that are starving enough to build a nuke, program the next greatest software suite, run your network, etc... for $8/hour. A small (less than 15' x 15' ) studio apartment in a lousy neighborhood (across the street from a crackhouse actually) is $350/month. I got lucky and snagged a tech job by knowing the right people and being in the right place, and after 4 years i've worked my way up to 36k/year as a consultant...
    In any case, i decided to put off college indefinitely because i couldn't afford it, neither could my parents, and i wasn't ready enough to pick a field to go into, since i'd pretty much be locked in after i finished until i could pay off a massive (probably $50-100k loan)... with the constantly shifting future of the tech industry it is hard to pick a feild to go into that is both interresting, having new developments, and is going to be able to provide you with a job 4-6 years later and ofr long enough to pay off a loan.
    My reasoning for not going to college right after high school was more born of a pragmatic evaltuation of my options, with many options and not very many known variables, i took the one which gave me the least chance of making a catastrophic mistike. For me this was to settle into a 9-5er until i could either afford to go to college (and had a good idea of what i wanted to go for...), or until i found a neat enough and stable enough job not to care.
    As it is now, after passing the 4 year experience mark i've had a lot more offers for work (and good stuff too) than i can take, so i'm okay for the moment.
    I guess i just wanted to be a voice for people who didn't go to school, because i've seen a lot of people putting that decision down as irresponsible, impatient, or just poorly though out. I'm seeing a lot of people writing off the non-degreed people as a bunch of idiots, which i think is a particularly narrow view. A good portion of the programmers i know have taken a similar path, and most of them have been successful. Several have found their calling and gone to school, several have saved up and bought or build houses and settled down in the community, and several of the younger ones (me included) are still feeling things out.
  • The notion that one must spend $100k and spend four years of your life just to prove that you can learn, is simply ridiculous. I understand that is currently how things are, but come on, we should be able to do this in high school (which has become a complete joke in North America).

    As it stands, a college degree really proves virtually nothing - look at all the dimwits out there with degrees (as well, of course, as the smart ones). Its almost impossible to draw any useful conclusion from a degree.

  • I did some college but didn't finish. I've found that most employers who know what they're doing will treat 4 years in the industry about the same as 4 years of college. Most important on the resume seems to be the technology and the fact that you'll hit the ground running.
  • Here in Pittsburgh, you NEED to have a degree of some sort to get in the door at IT companies. They ignore that fact that you may have integrated databases on multiple platforms, built 100mb lans from the ground up and can make a machine sit up and bark, if you don't have that paper (or at least proof that you're working towards it) you're SOL.

  • This is curious to me...

    I spent alot of time in college, but never actually finished a degree.

    My goal in life was to become a history professor (after wasting lots of time thinking i wanted to teach philosophy). However, i was funding this entire venture working temporary and contract positions as a tech support specialist.

    I almost accidently made my way into programming and here i sit as a developer now, having given up collegiant pursuits in favor of my High Paying Tech-Job(tm).

    Whats interesting to me, is how many people i know in the industry who are officially degreed, whos degrees have very little relevence to what they do now. My project team leader has a bachlors and mastors in geology, my co-developer has a degree in psych and our little companies CTO holds a doctrate in child development.

    I think a large part of this, is that the industry is surrounded by this mystique of strange techy geekdom, so that only people who are intrested in it seem to get in it and accel.

    Additionally, this is a (reletively) very new industry and therefor (unlike history) demonstratable merit suddenly becomes more important to your educational certificates.

    As the industry grows and matures, this _will_ change. All academic (or pseudo-academic) pursuits eventually become overrun with qualified individuals, and then who you know and where you went to school start to become more important( as in history, economics, and to a large degree, law).

    Who knows how long that will take though? There are still many many companies that you walk in to and get in on the "ground floor" of their IT departments, and quickly move up in position and salary. The industry will become alot more eastablished before these types of opportunites begin to really dry up, though the market is harder now than it was perhaps 5 years ago. I don't mean that its harder to find a job, i mean that the skill sets required are higher now, as companies know more about what they actually need, rather than just looking for bright enthusiastic individuals.

  • You could learn all that stuff at temp jobs. That way, if you screw up they just put you on another assignment, if you hate the job you can just quit, and best of all they pay you to learn what you're doing.
  • could go to college, pay $15k/year, be too busy with studies to generate any income, learn obsolete technology, and live in a crappy dorm with annoying roommates while getting no real world experience other than "how to cope with hangovers".

    Or you could get an entry/mid level IS job, earn $50k/year, learn new and interesting technologies, live in a decent apartment/house, and get started learning the stuff which will ultimately make you worth $250k/year.

    Sure, college offers chances for cultural exposure and a self betterment. Me, I'd take the paycheck now, retire at 35, and travel the world. That's what I call cultural exposure and self betterment.

  • Obviously, going to college to learn something you already have a mastery of is a waste of your time and money, as well as a waste of the school's resources.

    Something I've noticed about the cream-of-the-crop coders is that we teach ourselves more than schools do anyway. I've dropped out (for the 2nd time now) because at this point, the CS department isn't going to teach me anything I can't learn on my own.

    I can honestly say that the amount of computer-related knowledge I aquired (and retained) at school would have taken me less than a month to learn on my own time. HOWEVER, I shudder to think about what sort of person I'd be had I not gone to college for 6 months in 1996, and a a year and a half in 98-99.

    I am considering returning to school to study something else - psychology perhaps. One of the posts joked about making sure you go to a school with lots of women - a perfectly valid suggestion, especially given that plenty of us techies have a level of social skills that approach absolute 0. College is good for more than teaching you what you need to know to get a job.

  • by Claudius ( 32768 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @08:34AM (#797982)
    I'm all about continuing education, but folks have to remember that learning for the joy of learning doesn't have to take place in the classroom...

    Having taught at a top-10 university in CS (I taught a physics course the CS program used as a "weed out" course), I would have to add "...and if you don't get any joy out of learning material that isn't directly related to coding for cash, if the only compelling reason for your being in college is to make making money easier, then go out and do it. Don't waste your time with college."

    As an anecdote of no statistical relavence, two of my former students who received this advice from me and acted on it (they were intending to do this anyway--I just reiterated their convictions) are very happy with their decisions. They both plan to go back to school when they are good and ready--30-somethings make better "nontraditional" students than 90-hour-workweek IT slaves anyway, IMO.

    YMMV and all that.
  • by Nagash ( 6945 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @08:21AM (#797986) Homepage
    I'm about to spew off on my views about education and how it is very much misunderstood, thus, condemned on traits that are not really applicable to it. Update: I basically stick to CompSci and Programming. I didn't get to the College/University paradigm...

    Firstly, people tend to not quite understand the difference between the fields of programming and computer science. They are not the same thing. A computer scientist has a ciriculum rooted mostly in theory and discrete mathematics. Programmers, conversely, deal in a much more pragmatic atmosphere. It's theory vs. the practical.

    Computer science is mostly concerned with computation in a general sense (asymptotic analysis, formal langauges, automata, etc.). These, on their own, do not stem from programming. They do, however, enhance it. A computer scienctist can live without programming (usually, they don't...) but a programmer sure can't live without computer science. I'm sure people can tell a programmer who doesn't understand the notion of a time complexity analysis or data structures. They probably suck.

    Programmers are concerned with actually getting some tangible system up and running. In other words, they have real jobs =). Many more esthestic issues arise in programming. Style, modularity of code, etc.

    They tend to collide in the world of software engineering. Whether this is an engineering discipline or a computer science one is still up in the air. Suffice is to say, it uses the theoretical and some time-tested practices to achieve it's goals. It is much more practical than computer science.

    Now, here comes the real problem: people tend to not know what field they are in. They misuse the terms. Also, those who go to school tend to find that it is not what what they thought, mostly because of the misunderstanding and gross misuse of the terms. I find those who want to program do this the most. They can't understand why they have to use something that they see no use for. Often, this is a mix of short-sightedness and bad instruction. As soon as some math-oriented theory creeps in, a large chunk of people say "This is stupid". When you have to program in a language you don't see as useful (e.g., Scheme), they say "This is never used in the real world". Perhaps you should stop and think - what is the point to the course I am enrolled in? In the class I had that used Scheme, it wasn't to learn Scheme outright, but rather to grasp concepts in programming languages that Scheme demonstrates more clearly.

    Think about this: how in the world would you tailor an education system to meet the expectations of everyone who used it? You probably can't. What is important to realize is that even if some of the course doesn't seem useful, there probably is - you just need to look deeper. That's a sign of a good student as well. Getting more out than what is put in. Following the implications.

    However, after extolling the virtues of education, I should note that it is not for everybody. Assess what you need and don't go just becuase you are supposed to. However, don't put it down as wasteful because I can guarentee you many people down the road will say "I'm glad I took that."

    This post got a little off track and has to be cut short due to time, but I think I (sorta) got my point across =).

  • They should go to college to develop a social life! That's right people, go to college, move in to residence and meet some humans.

    That's a lot of money to spend to get a social life. You can save more than HALF of that just paying people to be your friend.

    -- Give him Head? Be a Beacon?

  • Oops!

    Anyway, I also meant to say:

    Just cause you're happy doing something now, doesn't mean you'll be happy doing it for the rest of your life. Having a degree under your belt can be used to other fields. Going back to school later in life to do an undergraduate degree is much harder than getting it out the way when you're young.
  • The economy is good, so there are plenty of jobs now. But how about 20 years from now, when most of the perl coding/c hacking/etc. has been moved to low wages countries such as india? As always the interesting jobs will go to well educated young people and experienced, well educated older people. Uneducated (i.e. without a formal proof of that education) will get the left over jobs.

    Place yourself in the position of a future employer: one job two candidates. One with a master degree and some relevant experience, one without any degree and some experience. I'd hire the one with the master degree because that one has the brains to get a master degree and was strong enough to finish the job. The other one was a loser who went for the quick money and/or was not clever enough to finish his master/bachelor thesis.

    Spending some time in college is time well spent. It will shine on your CV and you might actually learn something. The IT business is full with ignorant losers, you have to look for knowledgeable people with a candle. And when you find them you usually find out they did finish school.
  • has a co-op program... You work and go to school alternating semesters in exchange for staying an extra year at school... You get a top notch education plus alot of practical experience. (this isn't "fetch my coffee boy" it's "change the routines to work with OpenSSL 0.95, finish the ODBC 2.5 routines, then start on the 3.0 driver")

    I'm actually overloading on classes because I'm having such a blast in them. Sure, I could have taught all this stuff to myself, but I'm not arrogant enough to think that I'd be able to do a better job than some of the people who are being paid to do it for me... I say some because while most of my teachers have been great, there are still a few who aren't. ^^;;

    There's nothing wrong with holding a professional IT job w/out a college college education... Hell, I was a computer tech Junior year of HS, and a web developer (backend, not frontend) Senior year... But from what I learned in college (things I overlooked because they weren't obvious, like data structures, run time analysis, induction) I can see that alot of the code I wrote way back when was inefficient/insecure and could definitely stand some improvement.

    Obviously this doesn't apply to anyone except me because of one big deal: I'm in this because I like coding, I'm not in it for the cash. People who skip college for work are obviously going for those stock options, etc. But I'll be damned if I graduate without getting at least one cool research paper published.

    Huge huge question: yes, money talks, so what? Where are you gonna find it easier to pick up nice chicks, after work in a bar or cocktail party or at a college? Skipping college for work is a choice, but I don't think it's a good one.
    Lord Omlette
    ICQ# 77863057
  • by GlitchZ ( 205899 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @08:54AM (#798004)
    "Education is what remains after what has been learned has been forgot". Certs and working knowlege are time limited. The education I'm getting at University is timeless. Sure that "Physics of Semi-conductors" class may not apply to my sys damin job, but figuring out complex realtionships between properties of physics definatly helps the overall thinking process.
  • by Ex Machina ( 10710 ) <jonathan.williams@gmail . c om> on Thursday September 07, 2000 @08:36AM (#798006) Homepage
    This summer I worked at a .com and got stock. This is good considereing I'm making a lot on it. However I did consider moving to California to take a tech job. I decided against it. College is good. Girls and parties are fun. Working in a (nearly) all male office over the summer gave me a new appreciation for the other sex. But i made the decision because I LIKE LEARNING ABOUT PROGRMAMING. Sure I'm a decent programmer right now but there's no way I could... say... impliment an operating system with TCP/IP from scratch right now. Also, I'm interested in grad school. I think that if I can come up with an interesting idea in grad school I can make my .com million$ rather than my current .com thousand$.
  • so you're making 40k doing web design... how long do you think this will last? you think web design is going to be around for the next 10 yrs?

    the difference is that people with a high school education are learning what they need to learn for today's market.

    the people getting a college education are learning to think (hopefully) so that they can adjust to whatever job market and marketable skills they need.
  • by frantzdb ( 22281 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @08:37AM (#798009) Homepage
    Yes and no. That was not the main point of my argument. I imagine that most of the scientists involved with the bomb were college educated but with a highly technical background. They clearly were aware of the conciquences of their actions to some extent but some went on to kill themselves. Your Oppenheimer quote, if I recall correctly, was after the first full test. I take it to mean that, although Oppenheimer knew scientificly and politically what he was doing, it was not untill the test that he fully saw the ramifications of his actions.

    Anyway, that was not the point of my original post, just some context for my school's philosophy.


  • The experience he's reffering to is from the other side of the silicon, so to speak. CSc types (especially if they skip college) often lack communication skills, which can introduce just as many (or more) problems in the development cycle as technical flaws.
  • ...up your arse.

    IMHO, college is a way for people who cannot get a job by outshining their peers to do so. Having a college degree is almost like being in the good 'ol boys network. I don't know why a lot of companies even bother to ask for 4 year degrees. Why the hell does my manager need a poly-sci degree to manage 20 people?

    The only people who really need degrees are the doctor/engineer/lawyer types. Comp sci degrees? Not. When's the last time a computer science major actually went on to be a computer scientist? Most of 'em are programmers now. I quit myself because I wanted to be a sysadmin. Now I'm leaning more towards programming and development, but you still don't need a computer science degree to do that kind of stuff. I'm almost certain that there are more good programmers that read /. that did not get a comp sci degree than did. The people who program as a hobby, not as a career, are the ones who know more about programming than most 4 year degree'd folks.

    Another important thing about programming, project management, I didn't hear about until I got into the real world. I don't think universitys (maybe with the exception of CalTech and MIT, et al.) really prepare their comp-sci students for the real world.

    In defense of college...I loved it. I wish I had the resources to go back. I had more fun in college that I've ever had anywhere else. You can get all the sex, drugs and booze you'd ever want there. That's what college is good for.
  • by ChadN ( 21033 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @08:23AM (#798019)
    We almost hired a very bright young programmer who hadn't gone to college. He scored VERY high on the [] C and C++ skills tests, and had other good credentials.

    I asked him to provide some example code for me to look at, and he gave me a a short example where he had to optimize a C++ program that did a string rewrite (ie. convert character "A" into "BC", etc.) for a specified number of times. He precomputed the translation once, and gave up there, not realizing that he had taken steps toward moving from a O(N) algorithm to an O(N lg N) algorithm.

    It was clear that he had never been drilled in recognizing certain algorithmic patterns, and thus his optimizations employed many language speed up tricks to make C++ faster, but largely ignored using a simple but better algorithm to improve the speed. I rewrote it to use the better algorithm (compute string replacements for levels 2, 4, 8, etc., when needed, rather than 1-N) and eliminate the repeated string copy (by rewriting front to back, then back to front, in a single buffer), and beat his "optimized" version.

    In short, while he was great with language skills, particularly w/ C++, he had a lot to learn about algorithms in general, which is the kind of formalism that a university will drill you in, and which is very helpful. For the type of numerical and graphical software development we are doing, it is almost critical.

    Still, we would have hired him anyway, but he decided to work elsewhere. Language skills alone made him quite valuable to many employers. But for someone who seemed as talented and bright as he was, he could really achieve much more.
  • by jallen02 ( 124384 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @08:23AM (#798021) Homepage Journal
    That is actually very insightful, if not a tad idealistic.

    Most young men "skipping" college dont have the first damn clue what the hell they are doing. A good number of people right out of college still barely have much of an idea.

    I have had very little college and right now it does "work for me". I have been programming professionally about two years (I am only 20) and I love it, I get tons of actual real world practice and when tough situations come up I have enough knowledge of theory to formally handle the problem. It may take me just a little more time than someone who is practiced at say writing a spell checker.

    But the first time you do any kind of transition from "Theory to Practice" OR "Practice to Theory" where you see the need for something you are not familiar with working with or you are doing something that you are not familiar with actually doing but you know the dry theory of 'how' something should work down pat.

    Its a trade-off the problems come in when people who skip the college part dont really know enough, then your career is in very serious danger and the only implications in your future are going back to school if you cant actually do the work

    Does a college education garauntee you can make it as a programmer? No.

    It does show and prove to any potential employer that you have made it through four years of training and you should be able to make it through the transition of Theory to Practice, its just more learning.

    What do I have to show that I can adapt and learn other than raw experience without a degree? All I have is my resume listing all of the work I have done and if that is not enough to prove to an employer I can adapt then they will hire someone with a degree who has a better chance of making it.

    With a degree I would say as a developer with a few years of experience the possibilities for you are very endless.

    I do kind of have a central point, neither way is the wrong way IMO, its just harder to actually make it without the degree everyone knows that but the most obvious things tend to be overlooked

    Now thats not relevant to what this poster was saying which is without a education that is equally wide in knowledge not just programming you cant truly understand what missing your education means to you.

    Since I have had about a year of college it really *does* change the way you think, maybe not about programming but about people and everything else in your life (at least for some people)

    The year I spent in college inspired me to get the heck out and work for a while but I know that the degree will enhance me as a person beyond what most people without a degree ever really push for..

    Its great that you can program in every known assembler to man and you make 90K / year but what if you cant do something really simple like write a well formed document describing your work?

  • Recently, Fortune updated their "40 Richest Under 40" Index. Meaning, it lists the 40 richest people under 40 living in America.

    Every single person on that list is an executive or founder of a technology company - with the exception of Number 40: Michael Jordan, and even he is on the Board of Directors for MVP.Com.

    Now, guess how many graduated from college? More than half? Hah. The site is slow, so I wish I could go and count how many of them actually did, but I remember that many of them dropped out, and one never even went - the former CEO of Datek Online was once Datek's mailroom clerk.

    Should techies not going to college expect to become that rich? Certainly not, but there's no reason that forgoing academia can lead to a dismal life...

    The list is here [].
  • Trends will always have exceptions, but every IT salary survey I have ever seen that asked about college education has always placed salaries for degreed individuals higher than non-degreed individuals.

    In a population (such as /. readers) where there is an abnormally high percentage of highly skilled there will be an abnormally high level of anecdotes about degree-less techs making a killing.

    For most people, however, a four year degree will virtually always pay off over time. The average salary for degreed IT workers is about 20k higher than non-degreed IT workers. Degreed workers have higher ceilings when moving up the ladder in their career.

    And as always, those with sharp enough skills will start their own consultancies and and bring in lots of dough whether they have a degree or not.

  • With only one variable assocaited with each asset, (value and not
    weight) your asset problem isn't 0-1 Knapsack. It looks similar to
    the Bin Packing problem, which is NP hard.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Whatever happened to knowledge for the sake of kowledge? College should not be simply about getting a degree to make money--but rather about a preparation for life & continued learning as a whole. "Cura Personalis" as Marquette University puts it, "Care for the whole person." For my age, I have a very good job as a Java programmer. The company I work for would take me full time in a second. However, I feel my education is something that it is important for me to complete. Thus, I'm taking the "golden mean"--9 credits/semester school, 35 hrs/week work. It allows me to apply what I learn immediately, make a decent amount of money for a college student doing what I love, continue steadily in my studies, and still get trashed on weekends. Life is good :-)
  • I agree. I don't think it would be a bad idea if CS/Engineering majors were required to take an ethics course.

    "Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life."

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I met a geek recently, in fact, he told me about Slashdot. This is guy is WAY out. He's 21 years old, has no degree, talks about weird things, and is generally quite interesting. He finished high school and did really well, but decided not to go on to college, but instead studied for two certifications. On the course, he soon became bored with the pace of the certifications and did 2 extra certifications in the year-long course. He ended up with an A+, N+, MCSE and MCSD. (Even though he got the MS certifications, he hasn't used any Microsoft products in the products he created.)

    So, when he was 19 he finished the course he was on and instead of going to work for a local MS shop that extended an offer to him, he went to work for an Equine institute. When I asked him why he took half the salary he could have, he exclaimed, he "just wanted to pet the horses"!!! Now, if that's not interesting, I don't know what is. He eventually went on to form an allainace with a top Equine official from another company, and wrote certain software (I'm not going to name the software or the individual, besides the fact that it has to do with E-commerce, because I don't want to "out" the individual because of certain other things), that has been a hit in the Equine industry, world-wide. He's now got more than $25 million dollars in his bank account.

    When I asked him what it was written in and what it ran on, he told me that instead of using Microsoft products, he decided to use FreeBSD 3.5, Apache, Perl, Python, and Zope, with some C modules, even though his "education" was in Microsoft products!! Later he was fired for having been caught having sex with the mares at the company he worked for, but the software he wrote had already raked in more than their original business. So, you see, while he doesn't have a college degree, he is strange, weird, and knows his stuff well enough to write a product that is widely regarded in Ecommerce business.

  • In college, classes only occupy a small portion of your day. Unlike work in an IT department, which we leave you drained and too tired to really do meaningful independent work, college will leave you with plenty of time to pursue whatever you want.

    I can't wait to hear you say how much free time you have during college after you've been there a while and get bogged down with actual work :)
  • I believe that if a person is ready and able to tackle the IT world at a young age, they should go for it. However, the people I was able to network with when I was at college made the extra four years a great investment for my future.
  • This is very similar to my experiece!

    I dropped out of college, I had a total of @28 credit hours, for a high paying job. I started at $35/hour plus a hefty per-diem package. I had an upward battle of gaining acceptance of my peers. I was 19 with 3 years professional experience in C/C++.

    I was woking with people who were twice my age and with 4 to 5 times the work experience. They looked down on the young "wipper snapper."

    I had a keen ability to sniff out bugs that just seemed impossible by everybody else. Finding a couple of them that everybody had given up on was the turning factor in gaining acceptance. But technical ability was only part of the acceptance. I had to learn quickly that I had to treat these people with much respect even though they didn't respect me. With the finding of bugs I didn't announce, or paraide the fact. I just humbly asked for the next bug/project to work on.

    I emphasise the word "humbly" because the showed the older programmers that I was there to help the project in the best way that I could that was the best for the project and the people on the projects.

    After about a year my software archectecture(SP?) skills were recognised and I was involved in almost all decisions on the development of some major software. In fact I was given a project of my own, I was 20, dealing with 50 year olds. They were all bent out of shape because I had won the title of lead. The project was for Windows CE utilizing a GPS reciever for tracking and docking of large freight ships. The projecst was deamed still born when it was given to me. I was given an impossible situation. I pulled it off by scrapping the old software and starting fresh. Everyone laughed, but they stopped when I had working software in 3 weeks that did more than the software that had been worked on for 6 months.

    With that project along with a couple of other details gave my managers enough confidence in me, as a contractor, to send me to Oragne County CA at the age of 21. My responsiblilty was to train a group of software engineers on the fraimwork and ideals behind the software that I was woking on. I was a contractor with absoutly no obligation whatsoever to staying with this company. They paid Every expense.

    I say all that to say... Technical merit will only get you so far. To really succeed you need to show initiative with out appearing cocky. You need a good atitude of looking out for what is best for the project and the other people on the project. Humility and Meekness is also very important. The best definition of meekness I've ever herad is, Power restrained. Think of a gentel giant. He could crush everything in his path but instead restrains his power, meekness! Humility is not, "Oh Woe is me." Humility is understanding your abilities and the abilities around you. With your abilities try not to inflate your position at your job. Let you co-workers do this. Humility is also tring to build an air of synenergy. Trying to build everyone up around you to better the project. It is to some extent every one for everyone else. The word humility is the combination of two words Human and Ability. Humility is the ability to effictively interact with other Humans to better their environment and yours.

    I failed speelling all through my school career!

  • by Masem ( 1171 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @08:24AM (#798044)
    IMO, college is still a necessary thing for a serious IT firm to consider when hiring. It's not that college will teach a student everything they need to learn about programming or whatnot prior to their job (I'm sure many here are in high-school yet have at least as much programming knowledge now as would be taught to them in so many years of school). It's the non-technical aspects, which include:

    • Communication skills - most high schools, even good ones, seem to avoid this, and though they offer the standard college-prep course, it's laughable (Let's analyze works of fiction, instead!). In my school back in the 80s, parents would call up teachers and complain that their children had too much schoolwork (HA!) and the first thing would be dropped would be essays and papers. Even a decent college education will tell you how to present ideas appropriately for both formal and personal communication, and this is NOT a skill that can be easily picked up by programming -- you need to have the critiquing that completes this. And given that code should be 50% comments, I'd think this is highly necessary.
    • Teamwork - I hate it too, as I was always an individual learner, but you have to be able to work in a team in today's society. While the way many OSS projects are run are like that, you sometimes don't have the choice of who's on board your team, and you have to work with them personally, thus the group assignments they give in college are very necessary.
    • Responsibility - College is odd - you go typically from an envirnoment that you don't control (due to parents, teachers, etc), to one where you have nearly full control. Many students have problems adjusting to this, as seen by freshmen dropout rates, the Freshmen 15, and how many go running back home to find part-time jobs to pay for extras that they initially thought they could afford. However, after 4 years of this, most learn how to handle their time and money to be able to do well in classes and still enjoy themselves. Showing this type of responsibility can be impressive to a potental boss, knowing that you know how to manage time and resources. Many (not all) high school kids can do that.
    Those are just a few, I strongly believe there is more. And there are cases where skipping college may certainly be justified, but that doesn't work for 99% of those going into IT out there.

    But with colleges now aiming towards 5 yr programs, costing more and more, and the fact that IMO computer science/eng training tends to be about 3 years behind the rest of the world and focuses too much on specific aspects instead of a general feel for it, suggests that those that doubt the need for college will feel justified in skipping, and may or may not succeed later in life. It would be nice for companies that do actively hire students out of high school to provide tuition credit for night classes or online degrees, if only to help train their employee better.

  • by Gepard ( 10087 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @08:24AM (#798047)

    Everyone who says that going to college is falling behind in the field is adding to my growing list of reasons to bring back clinical lobotomies. Pure and simple.

    They think that learning to hack out a shopping cart is what CS is about. Sure, they can learn that without college. They probably learned to do all these things from ``Teach Yourself Perl in 24 Hours'' or some other shit book.

    This sentiment infuriates me. They think they're not going to learn anything by going to college... Okay, then, these 37331 boyz know how to write CGI scripts. It'll land them their dream $70K webmaster jobs. Now, maybe they could explain to me briefly Turing's Halting Theorem and present an informal proof in a paragraph or less. Or maybe explain the Knuth-Morris-Pratt string matching algorithm and present a proof of correctness. Or... how about implementing user-level multithreading with continuations and briefly explaining what basic problems need to be overcome once the basic operators (fork et al.) are implemented.

    These people can't do those things, whereas a college undergrad could, probably starting around sophomore year. And guess what, that college kid knows more about better coding and theoretical CS than the high-school dropouts ever will. College educations make for much better programmers, even if graduates do not choose to become computer scientists per se. Having a college education is not about falling back by four years, it's about spending four years learning about how to be very very good at what you do.

    Sadly, these 18-year old high school kids are probably more likely to get hired than a 23-year old college graduate for some jobs. The reasons are that (1) they don't need to be paid as much, and (2) that they know all the latest buzzword languages (Java, C#, Delphi, etc.). The college kid will have the background to pick up this buzzword crap quickly, but will not necessarily have it on his resume. Very sadly, that makes a huge difference when it comes to hiring, though the college graduate will be doing a far better job simply because he will have learned e.g., good coding techniques.

    Aside from these purely practical considerations, the kids who go from high school into the workforce are missing out on other things. Ever hear the phrase ``well-rounded?'' Well, I personally know of no more boring entity than someone who can only talk about computers. A college graduate will at least have been forced to learn something about art, history, literature, and science (other than CS). That makes for far better people.
  • by ibot ( 219510 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @07:59AM (#798094) Homepage
    This seems to be old news. I am sure the trend has changed after the dot-coms started collapsing. Check out the article Some college grads are shunning dot-coms []. Not all (or even most) IT jobs are in dot-coms, but if you don't see instant millions then you are more likely to plan long term and finish college.

    Founder's Camp []

  • by rm -rf /etc/* ( 20237 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @08:00AM (#798099) Homepage

    I've always though what's important about school in general is not to memorize how to code, etc, but rather to learn how to work. Thinks like how to manage time effectively, how to get the job done even if you don't want to, how to effectively use available resources, how to ask for help, etc. These are things that do you a lot more good in the real world than a class on C...
  • by Chris_Pugrud ( 16615 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @08:01AM (#798102)
    It all comes down to what you know and how far you want to go. Without a degree upper management is pretty much out of reach. Some senior technical positions are out of reach. You basically have to go a lot farther to prove yourself to those around you, but once you do prove yourself, nobody cares if you do or don't have a degree.

    There are companies that require degrees for decent jobs. Do some research into where you want to work. Do some research into if you want to work for such a narrow-minded company.

    I've tried going to college 4 times. I have about 60 credits. Sure I want a degree eventually, but it's just not worth it at this point.

    The worst part about college is paying thousands of dollars for classes where you occasionally know more about the subject (or at least the current state of the art) than the professor.

    Make your own decision about college, nobody else really cares.

  • by tiny69 ( 34486 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @09:45AM (#798112) Homepage Journal
    (Apologies to Frater 219, for some reason I could not find a link to the individual post.)

    What follows is a post that discussed this very issue over a year ago. I took it to heart and have enjoyed college ever since. It has opened my eyes up to a whole new world, one I would have never seen if I'd kept my nose buried in a keyboard. People should not go to college just to help them start a career. They should go to college to learn about life.


    Geeks, go to college. (Score:5)
    by Frater 219 on Monday April 12, @01:05PM EDT
    (User Info) http://

    Don't go to college to learn to be a better geek. Academic computer science won't turn you into a system administrator, Web designer, or Perl hacker. You won't learn how to optimize a kernel configuration, recover files from a crashed disk, build a fast database, or tell your boss nicely that his ideas about information technology are stupid or violate the laws of physics. You may learn a lot of good theory -- but you could pick that up elsewhere, too.

    Go to college to learn about culture, or history, or philosophy, or literature. Go to college to sit up late nights screaming at your best friends about what an idiot Rene Descartes was. Go to college to watch your best friends do the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Go to college to find out what the hell this postmodernism thing is that Larry Wall's always on about. Go to college to refute postmodernism, and to be called postmodern for doing it. Go to college to meet people who will be impressed with your intelligence instead of thinking of it as threatening.

    Don't go to an easy college, and don't go to a place that lets you get by doing nothing but technical stuff. Go to a place that makes you do a lot of heavy reading and writing. Take tough courses. Learn to write well; not only will it help when your boss asks you to document your project, but it'll also help you sound better on Slashdot and USENET. Don't scorn "well-roundedness" or "communications skills"; the stars of geek culture are no bunch of illiterates.

    Study music. Music, as Pythagoras demonstrated, is a form of mathematics, and musicians, like hackers, keep pounding on their work in search of the Right Thing. Study psychology and sociology. They represent our attempts to figure out how the systems called the human mind and human society work, so that we can make them work better.

    Read Nietzsche. Refute your parents' religion. Then refute your refutation.

    Get into politics. Which politics don't really matter -- be a socialist, or a libertarian, or even a Republican if you have to. Go to activist events. Take politics courses. Insist on bringing up free software in the middle of your classes. Derive the Debian Free Software Guidelines from the works of John Locke.
  • by ch-chuck ( 9622 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @09:46AM (#798124) Homepage
    academia is where a lot of GPL software comes from! What would we freeloaders do w/o college students sharing their homework with us??
  • by forgey ( 84323 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @08:47AM (#798132) Homepage
    I agree those things need to be learned, but I disagree that going to college is the place to learn them.

    College doesn't prepare you for the working world. Every college student/grad that I know is grossly unprepared to the rigors of daily corporate life.

    What prepares people for work and teaches them time management, how to ask for help, responsibility for ones actions etc. is work. The more jobs you have the more you learn about how to work. I think that starting in an entry level position and learn form the people who are there. They have a lot to teach people who are interested in learning.

    Aside from that getting a college degree is important to some people, and sometimes is very important to getting a job. Not all places will hire people without degrees. I know in my office there are a handful of people working in the MIS department without degrees, and most of them have some heavy experience instead.

    If you don't live in the US and would like to move there to work having a degree is almost a must. A 2 year diploma from a community college is acceptable with 2-3 years of experience. If you want an H1B (3 year) though, you either need hefty experience, or a degree.

  • by austad ( 22163 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @08:01AM (#798135) Homepage
    I found college fun, and it was a good way for me to hook up with some job experience in computers. But other than that, it was a waste of money. I didn't graduate because I got hired before I graduated and the company that hired me didn't care. Most IT places are looking for people with experience and brains anyway. Just because you have a college degree or any other kind of certification doesn't mean you know jack shit.

    My brother just took one of those 6 month crash course Oracle/VB/Powerbuilder thing that says they have a 99% placement rate. He doesn't have any real job experience in IT, and no one will hire him because of that. Crash course certs are usually useless anyway, but it does go to show that most place want experience above anything else.
  • by Speare ( 84249 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @08:02AM (#798150) Homepage Journal

    A long-standing professor once shared his opinion with me that a college degree didn't mean that you were trained in a certain profession or pursuit, but that you were trainable.

    Not sure if I 100% agree with him, but when I look to hire someone, I really can see the difference between somebody who pursued advanced education and someone who didn't. That's not the only criteria of course, but college courses add a good dose of structured learning that high school just doesn't do.

    From an AI point of view, it's like comparing a procedural solution to a neural net: the procedural solution has a better chance of reflection, of telling you HOW they got to a certain conclusion.

  • This is a short list I composed after reading a similar article on kuro5hin.

    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.

  • by waldoj ( 8229 ) <waldo&jaquith,org> on Thursday September 07, 2000 @08:04AM (#798205) Homepage Journal
    Last time we discussed this was in January of '99, when we all argued over the relative merits of my existence []. (One of the more nerve-wracking experiences I've ever had.) Adam Penenberg [] (who has since quit after Forbes [] wanted him to expose a source in a hacking story) did a story on me called "Quit School. Join the web []." I guess I'm a better example now -- I've got my own company [] that's actually doing very well. So I guess you can still chalk me up as an advocate of "joining the web."


  • by msnomer ( 226842 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @08:05AM (#798237)

    And how many of them will know anything about philosophy, or psychology, or history, or any of the other things that a higher education can offer? College isn't just about job training, it's about expanding your mind and your knowledge, of discovering areas that you didn't know existed.

    Most of the managers I've worked for, the good ones at any rate, preferred to hire software engineers who had degrees in subjects other than Computer Science, because they knew that they would bring a richer mix of experience and creativity to their work.

  • by LaNMaN2000 ( 173615 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @08:06AM (#798262) Homepage
    As a student who is just beginning his Freshman year in CS at Cornell, I have to admit that this was a question that I had to consider over the past year and will probably grapple with all four years of college. Each month, when I write a check to make the monthly tuition payment, I wonder whether I would be better off earning about 2 1/2 - 3 times more each month than I am currently giving away. And each month I come to the same conclusion--no.

    While most of what you learn in college will not in any way relate to your future career, the people you meet and the experiences you have will be carried with you the rest of your life. If you always dreamed of working in a shared office space as a UNIX sysadmin, then maybe college is not for you--but, if you have ever wanted to start your own business or do high-level research in CS, then there is no better place to be than a major university.

    In college, classes only occupy a small portion of your day. Unlike work in an IT department, which we leave you drained and too tired to really do meaningful independent work, college will leave you with plenty of time to pursue whatever you want. If you have any aspirations or career goals that extend beyond IT, then you can use the extra time that you have in college to get a leg up. For instance, I want to develop my own web network; where will I be better able to begin--working 40+ hour weeks for an established company or in my bountiful free time at college (especially considering that there is nothing else to do in Ithaca). If I acheive my objectives and reach a point where I would be better served by dropping out, I have no qualms about doing so. Remember, it is easier to drop out of a good college after getting in than it is to reapply to a BS program after going directly to work.

    For those who aspire to nothing more than the IT life, go ahead, college has little to offer you. But if you would like to meet smart people, learn interesting things, and get a leg up on a future career in your free time, then give college a chance. I think Bill Gates answered this question best when he said that college is an excellent option that should only be dismissed in favor of the opportunity of a lifetime. Take his advice if you ignore mine.
  • by Sits ( 117492 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @08:07AM (#798273) Homepage Journal
    You may never experience speeds so high elsewhere. Your poxy ADSL lines can't compare to a fight pipe. Of course you'll have to be up at around midnight to get it but there's nothing like downloading a redhat image at 600k+/s...
  • by frantzdb ( 22281 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @08:08AM (#798306) Homepage
    Though skipping higher education for a great job is the right thing for some people, I think the trend in the technology field is disturbing. Here at Harvey Mudd [] they have the saying ``technology without humanity is worse than no technology at all.'' (or something like that) I worry that if too many highly intelligent people skip school to join the workforce they will not have sufficient breadth of education to fully understand the impacts of what they are doing. This school was founded just after WWII so the reason for that mantra is clear. Brilliant people are great but if they can't consider the broader implications of their work they can be very dangerous*.


    *This is not to say that nuclear weapons were the wrong thing at the time but too many of the scientists involved weren't considering the outcome of their work.

  • by kevlar ( 13509 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @08:11AM (#798348)

    I think that the vast majority of techies you see in the industry without a degree are because they are genuinely smart people. You never hear about the stupid tech who dropped out of college and is now working at McDonalds, because the fact that he's working at McDonalds removes him from the tech industry.
  • by kbonin ( 58917 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @11:40AM (#798362) Homepage
    I spent most of the last 10 years in the video games industry, my responsibilities usually revolved around lead programmer of tools group, lead (3D) engine developer, and more recently lead developer of cross platform distributed systems for massively multiplayer. I'm currently ranked a "Programmer 4" in the industry HR vernacular, which is as senior as I can get without putting on a manager hat as CTO.

    During this time I've participated in the hiring (and firing) of a decent number or people, and I've seen many more come and go. One of the more interesting things I've noticed over the years is the statistical signifigance of an observed inverse correlation between college experience and raw creativity for complex problems.

    In the games industry, understanding the implementation and optimization details of Knuth-Morris-Pratt is useful only in the abstract. You must then understand how and where it is applicable, and know when to use Quicksort or merging presorted lists instead.

    The level of design creativity needed, at larger and more complex system levels, quickly surpasses the mindset of most college trained programmers I've seen. They seem incredibly well prepared to calculate a good O() factor for an algorithm, but lack the more important ability to understand how to balance several algorithms whose O() terms are interdependant.

    Most game programmers today are not "hackers" in the old school sense. Yes, the idiotic schedules force most to skip the formal prototyping stage (the prototype becomes the game almost invariably), but the design complexity and elegance signifigantly exceeds that of most catagories of software in use today. (This is an educated opinion, I've also worked in CAD/CAD/CAE, embedded systems, distributed networks, and avionics before getting bored and coming to games.)

    Bottom line, your assertions about the ignorance of non-college educated programmers is true only for some subset of self-educated programmers. Yes, I would agree that many web site coders fit your description. But I know for a fact that in games, one of the most demanding programming carreers, _most_ of us (including myself) do not have degrees. Also, the more senior level the programmer, the less likely they are to have one.

    By the way, most of the better game programmers continue to spend 1-4 hours a _day_ on pure and applied research. (What percentage of CS grads can say this?) My personal CS library is better than the community college I grew up near. Most of us continue to read confrence proceedings, and if we were patenting our innovations most of the senior programmers I know would have hundreds of actually non-obvious and unique inventions filed. (Instead we have an unwritten code that lets us continually steal them from each other once we see them on screen from a legitimately obtained demo.)

    You would be surprised how well rounded some of us uneducated programmers are.
  • by Kintanon ( 65528 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @10:26AM (#798377) Homepage Journal
    There may be quite a few "self-made intellectuals" out there, but nothing can replace the interchange that takes place within a community of learning. Communication skills are essential to good product (and personal) development, and college is the best choice for the vast majority of people to develop those skills. If there's one thing I regret about my college years, it's that I didn't indulge myself with more philosophy, history, or lit courses.

    Community of learning? Oh, you mean the coffee house! I get it....
    I mean really, I expemted eng 101 and went to lit 102, in that class I found out that the sophomores were no smarter than the freshmen, and just as few were able to hold a conversation for more than two minutes without mentioning getting drunk. I met exactly 2 people out of the 200 I had contact with that were on my level in any way. The classes were dull repetition of things I'd gone through countless times in high school. The occasional insight was marred by the fact that we had to halt the entire class while a dozen people had it explained to them. I went in to college with high hopes of encountering intellectuals, people interested in knowledge and learning, people able to discuss a vast range of topics. Instead I found that it was exactly like my senior year of highschool, only infinitely more expensive. When I go back, it will be simply to take the classes I want to get the degree I want. My general knowledge and interests will continue to be excersised outside of that area in places like Slashdot, and in group philosophy sessions with my the group of friends I've gradually acquired over the years who can keep up with me and occasionally surpass me.

  • by ( 188228 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @08:12AM (#798378) Homepage
    It's not that obvious of course, it depends on the person. To me programming and system architecture are an art. I spend a lot of time working with clients trying to find the right software architecture to match their organizational needs, or trying to match their security requirements to what their corporate culture will bear. From that standpoint, I don't regret my BA in Anthropology at all. College taught me how to learn, Anthropology (and Psych) taught me about cultures and personalities. And since software is typically designed for *people*, that background is very helpful.

    I've known great CS majors (my wife has a masters in CS). But with one exception, the best programmers and architects I know were dropouts or majors in completely different fields (Nuclear Physics, Philosophy...).

    The key to college is learning how the world works. If you can pick up skills on your own, then don't bother with CS. If you feel more comfortable with formal learning, then by all means take it--but don't focus on it exclusively.
  • by deacent ( 32502 ) on Thursday September 07, 2000 @10:27AM (#798400)

    There was I niavely thinking it was about opening one's mind. You should study what fascinates you, not what's going to pay the most when you leave college, uh I mean university. It's no wonder there's so many ignorant college grads walking around, I can see the t-shirt now 'I want to college and all I got was this lousy job'.

    First, excuse me while I LMAO and make a note to myself to start marketing these shirts on college campuses everywhere.

    I used to think that was what college was about too, but that's one of the hardest lessons that I learned while getting my degree. It's about getting the piece of paper so you can get your foot in the door. If you're lucky, you learn a lot about yourself and about how the world works in a relatively safe environment. At my alma mater, they seem to be more caught up in their own finances (and they're a public university). The education was just meeting their end of the agreement, but it was clear that their heart wasn't in it (with the exception of a few individual professors). It's quite sad. I guess it comes from a college degree being the status quo. Nowadays, the average college student is just an average person of average intellegence. When universities deal with that kind of quantity, what's their incentive to create a challenging curriculum for the above average student?

    This has gotten me thinking recently that this mediocrity has seeped into the tech industry. It has become a popular career choice, encouraged by schools and government (in the U.S. at least). Back before it was popular, most of the programmers out there were folks who got into it in spite of how unpopular it was. Now, I am underwhelmed by so much of the programming talent that I see. Of course, there are still many traditional geeks, but they're so much harder to find when they're standing in a crowd of people who got into programming for all of the wrong reasons.

    Even worse, I've noticed that the CS curriculums seem to be dumbing down a bit to accomodate this new breed of programmer. For example, teaching Java as Programming I, without bothering to teach object oriented thinking and skipping over many of the useful basics like trees and linked lists. What's next? Drop assembly because it's too hard and nobody uses it anyway? (For those who are sarcasm-impaired, I realize that all programmers should be exposed to at least a little assembly or machine code, if for no other reason than to give you a real understanding of what is happening when your code executes. And yes, I know assembly for various archetectures is still used.)


"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"