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what about us liberal arts majors

All the talke I've seen here has focused on CS degrees vs no degree, what about people who have a degree, just not in computer science?

I have been working for about 5 years now,
I know database theory,data structures several languages all that good stuff but never really delved into some of the more fundamental topics like os and compiler theory (and have never really needed it since I work mostly with DB's, J2EE, VB etc ...)

I am currently employed and believe I will stay employed in the near future, but hypthetically lets say I found myself looking for a job as an application developer- would it really be held against me that I do not have a CS degree even though I have a four year degree, and all the skills of a four year degree?

Daniel Shchyokin
Friday, April 19, 2002

One factor that's overlooked in the discussion about degrees is that software development requires intense learning skills. More than any other profession.

A requirement to have a 4-year CS degree can actually rule out the best learners - those with a degree in another field who have successfully mastered new disciplines. Someone like that will easily ride the new waves of the future.

I've worked with excellent CS people and excellent non CS people.

Hugh Wells
Friday, April 19, 2002

Few of the programmers where I work have degrees in computer science.  I hold degrees in literature and philosophy.  And I've worked with programmers who have degrees in literature, linguistics, philosophy, music, psychology, history, and so forth.

I have noticed that the ones with computer science degrees tend to be less articulate -- less capable of explaining "the big picture."  The people with computer sciemce degrees are more likely to try to impress you with their own technical knowledge.  The liberal arts majors, perhaps because they are more broadly educated, tend to be more cooperative, less condescending, and just as good at programming.

I'm glad I don't work with many computer science majors.

A Bachelor of Arts
Saturday, April 20, 2002

I'm glad I don't work with you!

:)

b
Saturday, April 20, 2002

At this point, with your 5 years of relevant experience, I think your lack of CS degree is a non-issue. 

At this point, your are the "college? yup" point. 

Bella
Saturday, April 20, 2002

I don't think a CS degree is any better than a non-CS degree as long as you know how to learn. It boils down to --are you smart with some business savvy. If you are, you will succeed in anything you do.

Jeb
Saturday, April 20, 2002

I am a liberal arts & cs grad.  The cs degree came about 6
years after the liberal arts degree.  I completed it while I
was working as a programmer. 

If you haven't already, I would recommend taking a few
classes or reading a few books on the theory of
computation and discrete mathematics.  I know too many
non-cs programmers whose day to day work is limited by
not knowing the theory behind their domain.

If you plan to keep on doing what you're doing now, I don't
think that not having a cs degree will hurt you.  Lets face it,
there are a lot of people in this field that don't have any
degree.  I work for a guy that never even went to college. 
Just having any degree will help seperate you from the rest
of the pack when applying for jobs. 

However, a lot of the jobs that I have an interest in want
more than just a bachelors.  They tend to want a masters
or PhD in CS.  A bachelors in CS bare minimum.  Google, for
instance, wants their senior level software engineers to
have a PhD.

p.s.  If you decide to go back to school, don't get a 2nd
undergrad degree, find a school that allows non-majors
to enter their ms program.

mlr
Saturday, April 20, 2002

What's all the fuss with Discrete Math? I'm doing my CompSci degree at the moment (and have to do Discrete Math) but we're only taught set theory and relations, functions etc.

The questions is: WHY? I can see how functions in programming languages are based on the math functions and how relational DBs are based on discrete math in a way but why does everything think it's soooo important?

Just wondering :-)

Patrick
Saturday, April 20, 2002

everyone even.....buh i want an editing function for this forum!

Patrick
Saturday, April 20, 2002

First, I'd like to say CS degress are overrated.  It just makes the geeks feel superior and acomplished.  Elitism is a core human tendency.,  In normal business programming, it simply rarely comes into play.  I'm talking about GUI's , databases, and design specs.    If your doing anything related to complier design, or multiplexer logic, you're reinventing a wheel, and should be fired for making things more complex than they need to be., 

Case in point:  I got a BA in CS from a top tier university, and didn't know what a SQL statement was when I graduated.  However, I can now do nested subquerys, self joins, query optimization tuning, and trick mind bender SQL with the best of them.


Google is a novelty act that can be quirky and esoteric if they want to be..In fact, It would be disappoinitng if they weren't.  We all need a MSFT of the early 90's (IBM of the 70's?) where all the left field genuises go to work....

But dont confuse their hiring practice with that of Fortune 500 firms.    Ph'd's are not the norm, and in the reaility Ive seen, a BA or PHD wouldnt make spits difference.  It all about practical work experience, and stuff you do NOT learn in a classroom.    Don't let anyone tell you otherwise, assuming your goal is to make lots of money in corporate america,

Bella
Saturday, April 20, 2002

" got a BA in CS from a top tier university, and didn't know what a SQL statement was when I graduated."

why blame your knowledge of a concept on the type of degree you chose to obtain. I beleive after the first 2 yr.s of college you are responsible for yourself to find out what to learn and know why you are learning it. you won't learn all you need to know from CS classes and that can't be blamed on the CS degree. The moment they start teaching 'what a SQL statement is' in a CS class then you have the whole community college thing going again.

No BS
Saturday, April 20, 2002

Bella,

Once there was an airline.  They had lots of programmers.
Most of the programmers wrote business apps.  Managers
needed reports, the website needed updated, they needed
a ticket purchasing system!!!

The airline also had another group of programmers.
This group of programmers concentrated on scheduling
algorithms.  They all had advanced degrees in CS & math.

I would rather be with the second group.  Its a more
interesting problem domain.  YMMV, but don't assume that
CS knowledge is irrelevant.

mlr
Saturday, April 20, 2002

>Case in point: I got a BA in CS from a top tier >university, and didn't know what a SQL >statement was when I graduated.

So spend the 3 hours it takes to learn SQL and be happy. College is not meant to teach you vocational skills it is meant to teach you to think.

Jeb
Saturday, April 20, 2002

>>College is not meant to teach you vocational skills it is meant to teach you to think.

Colleges are businesses. They are there to make money.
I'm very skeptical of an institution that is there to "teach me how to think." That sounds like a religious cult. 

Vocational skills are fun. I learned the most and had the most fun in the one EE robotics practicum I took which was basically a high tech shop class. The stupid courses where I was being "taught how to think" were largely a waste of my time and money.

tbone
Saturday, April 20, 2002

In response to the original question, you might be put out of some jobs because you don't have a CS background, bu tyou might not. I suppose if you want to start making compilers, someone might look more favorably at your resume if you had a CS degree, with a focus in compilers. For writing a VB app, it would be weird if anyone cared.

That said, one way to ensure perpetual employment is to build a "portfolio" of applications that you write on your own. One or two small little apps or utilities...that don't totally suck. 

Some might argue that it is hard to get a "portfolio" past "HR." In my experience the resume robot jobs are rarely worth doing unless you really need the money and have NO contacts in the industry whatsoever.

tbone
Saturday, April 20, 2002

"worth doing unless you really need the money and have NO contacts in the industry whatsoever. "

I live in San Francisco, have tons of contacts, but most of them are unemployed right now

Daniel Shchyokin
Sunday, April 21, 2002

Yea, whether a CS degree is relevant really depends on the job.  It's too diverse to make a blanket statement.  That said, I do feel that the face of the IT workforce, the demographic, etc is going to radically change over the next decade. 

The bottom line is, at least for certain IT jobs, you definately don't need a CS degree to do it, and the marketplace WILL refelect it sooner or later.  Look at the dotcom boom, the person with a CS major was not teh standard..  I was who ever stepped up to the plate.  Skills talk.  I believe this will continue moreso.  The now defunct IT labor shortage opened the doors to let firms realize you don't need a degree to program.  Yes, it really depends on the job, but bottom line, it's about money, and will a firm always pay for a CS degreed guy when they can get a high schooler with some kind of tech institute cert.  to do their more mundane IT work?  For half the cost, it isn't a no brainer.  Market forces.  Supply and demand.  The marketplace always adjusts to the realities.  Yea, it can never hurt to have formal credentials, but are they always absolutely needed? I say no.

Bella
Sunday, April 21, 2002

>"Yes, it really depends on the job, but bottom line, it's about money, and will a firm always pay for a CS degreed guy when they can get a high schooler with some kind of tech institute cert. to do their more mundane IT work? For half the cost, it isn't a no brainer. Market forces. Supply and demand. "

Ever thought about the difference between perceived value and real value? (Hint: The employer has to judge how much you are worth before he employes you. Therefore, he cannot compare the real value of two programmers but only the "on paper"(resume or what a friend told him) value. That is at least what this whole "supply and demand" field tells us.)

In addition what if the CS grad guy offers his services at the same price as the high schooler? Will you hire the high schooler?

I know, I am just being picky, but IMO our skills are going to become more and more a commodity over the next decades and there is going to be much more competition. As in every efficient market (with competition) whatever you have to distinguish yourself from the competition is to going to make a difference.

If two people would apply to me:
1) CS College Grad
2) Guy who made 5 freeware tools (one of them in revision 4) with over 10000 user

I would without question employ number 2.

But what if it looks like this:

1) CS College Grad who made 5 freeware tools (one of them in revision 4) with over 10000 user
2) Guy who made 5 freeware tools (one of them in revision 4) with over 10000 user

I would employ number 1.

So basically a CS degree is not going to get you there alone (real programming is where the rubber hits the road), but everything else being equal it can give you the needed edge over your competition.

Mark
Monday, April 22, 2002

      I know nothing about the IT field at all, but as a man with a business degree I am interested in how the field works.  I search IT jobs at Monster.com all the time, and continually I see either Electrical Engineering, CS, and Mathematics as the required degree.  Now tell me this, why the hell would you want a Mathematician doing the work.  Do they typically take IT courses in school?  Is it the mathematical language that employers want?

Tarkusy Uzbekirhek
Monday, January 19, 2004

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