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Value of degrees?

I've been developing for 12 years and over the last 4 I've slowly completed my Masters degree (in Software Engineering).  Now, I'm really proud of it, but I've heard conflicting opinions on whether education should be prominently displayed early on the resume or nearly a footnote at the end.

Thoughts?  I suppose this mirrors the fact that some folks see formal education as a total waste of time in our industry, while others believe it's a strength.

Chris Kessel
Monday, January 26, 2004

Someone who has 12 years of experience doesn't need to highlight their degree, especially when applying for general development work.

Why did you get your Master's Degree? Was there some specific branch of work you wanted to do that required a higher degree?

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Monday, January 26, 2004

As with most things, I think it depends where you're applying.  If you're applying for a spot in, say, IBM's research division, the Masters is probably a great thing to highlight.  If you're applying for a job writing a VB frontend for a simple database, not so much.

Mister Fancypants
Monday, January 26, 2004

It's a software engineering degree, not a CS degree associated with a specific research technology.  See http://www.omse.org.  In brief, I started at a medical company with really strong documentation.  Probably overkill on the process, but it did show how good practices can help make things easier down the line.

As I transitioned to less rigorous companies I kept thinking it seems like someone must have studied what practices work well and under what circumstances.  What does it take to write a good requirements document?  Can you measure that beyond a touchy-feely "Seems solid"?

So, in a nutshell, that's what the Software Engineering curriculum is: all the stuff we've learned about requirements, design, maintainability, testability, etc.  The context that swirls around the code. 

It interested me and I felt I'd do a better job if I understood more facets of the full develoment cycle.

I'm sounding like a cover letter and that wasn't the intent, but you did ask why I took it :).  I'm obviously a believer in the content, but I know not everyone does.  Which is what led to my original question.  How much emphasis do you put on education in your resume?

Chris Kessel
Monday, January 26, 2004

Education? Why bother? Your job is going to India, anyway?
http://www.yourjobisgoingtoindia.com

Raj Aryan
Monday, January 26, 2004

> http://www.yourjobisgoingtoindia.com

That site is fairly interesting, but what is with the hideous, nearly-impossible-to-read dark text on dark background?  ... pretty much ruins the experience.

Mister Fancypants
Monday, January 26, 2004

"I suppose this mirrors the fact that some folks see formal education as a total waste of time in our industry, while others believe it's a strength."

Of course it's a strength, and I think the only people who would claim that it's a weakness are envious morons afraid of being overshadowed.

Having said this, what people in your position are often _really_ asking is "Does this allow me to trump everyone else? Surely people without such achievements shouldn't even be considered, much less allowed to do software development" -- if that's what you're really answering, then the answer is no. It's yet another colour in the vast canvas of skills that make up a good candidate, and you should be proud of it, but accept that others have taken different routes to earn credibility and respect.

Dennis Forbes
Monday, January 26, 2004

I have no degree (went to Coleman College in San Diego, and relaized all programming languages are pretty much the same), but I've been working as a programmer since 1983.  I taught myself Pascal in 1983 and then C++ in 1991.

I was at one job for 12 years. I applied six times over a six-month period before they hired me, and I finally cajoled them into an interview at which I brought my trusty almost-portable computer and showed them a Pascal menu program I had been writing.  They hired me on the spot.  I took them from DOS/Pascal to Windows/C++ (learning C++ myself on the way).  Ohg yeah, I learned all about "estate planning", too (and let me tell you, death tax laws make no more sense than income tax laws).

I'm currently living in the low-tech center of the universe, aka San Antonio, Texas, and high-tech jobs are a scarce commodity in these parts.  Right now, I'm working at a company that produces hardware and software for real-time image capture and transmission of secure radio links.  On the way, I've learned how to hate Windows CE in all of it's evil incarnations and guises, from the lowly custom-compile minkern devils to the pretty popsie-doodle-I'm-so-cool PDAs.

I have no problems learning new languages, but the tools are extremely expensive, and it's really hard to justify to the wife why I need an annual $1200 subscription to MSDN.  I guess I'm just old (48), because when someone says something costs $1200, my sphinctre squeezes shut and it takes days to get it relaxed enough to do anything useful again.  Of course, that could also be a sign of old age...

What's this got to do with degrees? Why, nothing at all beyond being an example of how hard work and experience gained through a willingness (and inate ability) to learn can take you any place you'd like to go.

John Simmons
Monday, January 26, 2004

> ... but what is with the hideous, nearly-impossible-to-read dark text on dark background?  ... pretty much ruins the experience.

Because "your-job-is-going-to-India" is a dark matter anyway, isn't it?

BTW, do you know how dark was "your-manufacturing-job-has-gone-to-China-logn-time-ago.com" ? I cannot find that one.

Raj Aryan
Monday, January 26, 2004

No, I'm definitely not asking if I trump anyone.  I've just noticed over the last couple years a backlash against formal education. Often mentioned hand in hand with the importance of being Agile, though the two don't have to be in conflict.

I've even worked with one fellow that's stated formal education constrains your thinking and is counterproductive to being a good engineer.

I'd certainly love to trump everyone else :), it was hard work doing school and a job.  But no, that wasn't why I was asking.  I was asking because of this backlash I've seen and whether this is widespread, or just an anomaly within the small sample set of folks I've talked with about it.

Chris Kessel
Monday, January 26, 2004

>What's this got to do with degrees? Why, nothing at all beyond being an example of how hard work and experience gained through a willingness (and inate ability) to learn can take you any place you'd like to go.

Very true.  It wasn't a matter of degree vs. non-degree qualifications.  There's great developers with and without degrees.  I'd like to think the education will give me a heads up on avoiding mistakes other's learn through the once bitten-twice shy method.  But then again, it was hard work, so even if that wasn't true I'd still want to believe it for my own sanity :).

The original question though was if you have a degree, how much do you promote that?  Do employers care?  How much do they care?  Is it just a "pass the HR screen" thing, or do the hiring managers actually also look at education?

Chris Kessel
Monday, January 26, 2004

Dude,

> do the hiring managers actually also look at education?

Why are you so worried?

There are more or less two kind of managers:

1) Who has a fund and need a body to fill the place.

2) Who are genuniely looking for talent, and talent comes in two forms: 1) formal education and 2) good experience. They look at both.

In short, I would display the degrees on first page, and may be even in the beggining, it can do no harm.

Really, its not that complicated.

Raj Aryan
Monday, January 26, 2004

If given a choice between a guy fresh out of "programming school" (no matter the degree), and someone with an equal number of years of experience working as a paid programmer, my boss will almost ALWAYS go with the guy with experience.

It's not because he doesn't value degreed people,  but instead, he values the project timeline. 

More and more companies need people that can hit the ground running, and quite simply, people that are fresh out of college and having worked odd jobs to make ends meet in something other than their chosen profession simply don't fit the bill.

Not only that, but workforce virgins with a shiney new sheepskin stapled to their foreheads seem to want exhorbitant sums of money for amounts to zilch experience.

John Simmons
Monday, January 26, 2004

(and I desperately need a proofreader - grin).

John Simmons
Monday, January 26, 2004

Folks:

These are really great comments and all valid.  As one of the hiring managers, the only thing I am measured on is the ability to meet deadlines within budget.  If I can hire someone that can apply OO design that does not have a degree I will hire them.  Likewise I won't hire someone just on the strength of their degree.  Productivity and ability to adapt are the only criteria that counts, it should not matter where you acquire them.  By the way, I have a degree in Engineering rather than software development...

Richard Holmes
Monday, January 26, 2004

Value to you as a person: Whatever you got out of it. Some people find formal education to be an enriching experience, others find it a total waste of time and money.

Value to you in looking for a job: Well, it will get your foot in the door of places that lack attachment to reality and demand that you be degree qualified before even taking a look at your resume, so that's a plus. Sometimes it seems like you need a degree just to clean toilets now days.

When it's all said and done, I personally feel that an IT related degree is a bit of a waste, when you could have put the time and money towards getting a more useful degree. My experience may be tainted by the fact I also feel that the CS/Soft Eng courses are boring as bat shit. ;)

Sum Dum Gai
Tuesday, January 27, 2004

John,

why on earth would one need an MSDN subscription just to learn a new language? If you are going to do professional development and support, sure, but there is nothing in that MSDN subscription that is not available for free (or at most 99$ if you want the VS environment (recommended))with regards to learning a new language.

Just me (Sir to you)
Tuesday, January 27, 2004

>> http://www.yourjobisgoingtoindia.com

>>That site is fairly interesting, but what is with the >>hideous, nearly-impossible-to-read dark text on dark >>background?  ... pretty much ruins the experience.


Use the RSS feed and it's easier on the eyes
http://www.yourjobisgoingtoindia.com/backend.php

Timothy_R_Platt@developercoach.com
Thursday, January 29, 2004

On the degree: if you have a lot of experience, you can use it to appear younger. I am finishing a Masters and will list it with the year awarded (2004).  I do NOT put the date for my bachelors - 1975

Geekette
Monday, July 05, 2004

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