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Degrees are good (aka: No sh*t Sherlock)

There has been a lot of discussion about degrees, in various contexts.

"What about advanced degrees for ba's"
Obvious answer:  Yes, having more degrees can only help.  Well, DUH!

"Public vs. Private Universities?"
Obvious answer:  Private is more prestigious, so that will benefit you.  Well, DUH!

"Associate Degree vs. Bachelor Degree"
Obvious answer:  Yes, a bachelor's is more valuable than an Associate.  Well, DUH!

"What about us liberal arts majors"
Obvious answer:  Yes, in our field, having a CS degree is better than having a liberal arts degree.  Well, DUH!

The people opposed to the degrees are NOT saying they're worthless.  They are just looking at the problem differently.
The detractors are weighing in other real life factors, such as cost, time, expected benefit, etc.  It's called a cost/benefit analysis, a ROI analysis, risk/reward, opportunity cost, etc

If you want to be dogmatic, well, SURE, no one ever got fired for having too many degrees.  This is a given!    But that was not the point of my stance.  Everyone knows degrees and formal knowledge are swell.  That was not the point of any debates.

Friday, April 26, 2002

Just a comment on the topic of degres, and the expected resulting "Success".  I'd like to add again, IMHO, that a degree is just an ENABLER.  People who think it's a ticket to any kind of guarantee are way off base.  A degree gives to a chance to PROVE YOURSELF, by getting your foot in the door. 

With anything in life, success is not SOLELY the result of a "ticket in", it is also the result of the traits such as the following:

belief in yourself
risk taking
following thru
accountability for your actions
people skills
making no excuses
entrepreneurial instinct

And yes, of course, the above traits may have also been used to obtain the degree in the first place. 
But make the distinction between the person and his degree.

Friday, April 26, 2002


Perhaps I didn't follow the threads closely enough, but I don't think I saw anybody making the arguments which you're trying to shoot down.

In the Associate's versus Bachelor's degree thread, for example, the most common argument that an Associate's degree was so much less effective a career tool than a Bachelor's degree that it didn't warrant the investment, because the ROI on the first was unlikely to match that on the latter.  Even given the initial lower investment.

And with regard to disassociating a person from his degree - sure, a degree is not the be-all and end-all of learning or ability.  But degrees provide, in my experience, pretty damn valuable learning curves.  And whilst you may have met some fairly hot code monkeys who've never done a degree, I'd be willing to bet they'd be much better at what they do if they had one.  Particularly when it comes to relating their code to the business around it.

Still, the only evidence I've got to hand is anecdotal.  Which is worth approximately nothing.  Mind you, that's all the evidence you have, too....

Friday, April 26, 2002

Actually bella, if you had read my post more carefully you would have noticed that my question was not about whether an advanced degree is good (it probably is), but asking for peoples opinions on which ones were the best to get. i.e. MSCS vs MBA ...

Daniel Shchyokin
Friday, April 26, 2002

If you have spent any time working the real world, you have encountered people who have very impressive degrees. Some of these people will never be able to translate the degree into practice (cranial to rectal inversion or, more commonly know as head up ass).  We have also met the self-trained person who has a better grasp of how to get actual work done that 10 PhDs.
Why would I hire someone with a degree over someone with experience? The sad answer is because of the lawyers. When your company gets sued because of an unseen bug in the mission critical software, what do you want to say in your deposition? “This programmer has a degree from Wherever U.” or “They taught themselves in only 24 hours.”
You can argue about which programmer would have made the mistake, but it is a moot point. I have no way to know at hiring time which programmer will put a bug into the code. At that time, I am trying to hire the best candidate with the least liability, so I am looking for a degree.
I do feel this is a sad and unfair way to run a business.

Doug Withau
Friday, April 26, 2002

also bella, public vs private lets test this one:
usc vs ucla? "WELL DUH"
uc berkeley vs standford? tossup (definately not a "Well DUH")

so yes Bella this is a discussion worth having.

Daniel Shchyokin
Friday, April 26, 2002

if I were asked in desposition the question you posedI would answer as follows: I hired the programmer with a proven track record of delivering high-quality bug-free software, rather than the guy that spent 9 years creating apps with few users, and no real world production exposure, any good lawyer would counsel you to do the same.

on the other hand if the lawyer could prove that I hired "some guy" that just spent 24 hours leaning basic, because he cost 40k less, and I made claims to the client that "All my programmers are certified geniuses" and charged accordingly, then YES I would be screwed.

so, no CYA does not hold water as a reason not to hire non cs types

Daniel Shchyokin
Friday, April 26, 2002

--usc vs ucla? "WELL DUH"

Er...are you saying USC is better than UCLA?
I suppose, if you prefer blonde bimbos to asian ones...

UNLV Running Rebel
Friday, April 26, 2002

I wonder who is more boring to read, Bela or Joel.
They make such a nice couple.

Saturday, April 27, 2002

I think Bella's point of view is...why on earth would one spend time and money getting a degree that just gets you (maybe) a 15% better salary in the rat race. Sure, going back to school for a PhD in astrophysics or cultural anthropology is cool. Going back for a MSCS so that you can be a SENIOR java programmer at LameCo instead of a JUNIOR one seems incredibly silly. Same thing with an MBA. Getting an MBA so that you can make partner at McKinsey is a good idea. Getting an MBA so that you can manage a team of senior java programmers is a sad, sad goal.

Most people who have been doing joelonsoftware garbage-y business apps for longer than 2 years want to maximize their income so they can get the fuck out of the industry as soon as possible. Getting an advanced degree is going to be counterproductive in this situation.

UNLV Running Rebel
Saturday, April 27, 2002

I'm afraid that I'm at the height of my career.  I work
for/with great people and I make good money.  I get to
design my projects how I see fit (w/in certain constraints)
and I carry them through from concept to completion.  Its
everything that I wanted out of a programming job.

I'm going to ride this gravy train all the way.  However,
train wrecks do happen, or sometimes they make
unexpected stops.  I want to be preparing for that
situation now.  I want to know where the escape door is.

The problem?  I don't want to have to program anywhere
else.  I'm afraid it isn't in me.  I'm thinking an MBA is my
ticket out.  Move into project management or something.
Even a 10% raise would cover the cost of the program.

Its too bad teaching pays such crap.  Any thoughts?

somebody loves me
Saturday, April 27, 2002

no running rebel, I mean a UC vs. university of spoiled childeren

Daniel Shchyokin
Saturday, April 27, 2002

Teaching at uni pays crap. Teaching seminars as a talking head can pay way more than actually doing the work you are teaching about. ;-)  $300 for a 1 day course X 30 people == gross $9000/day - renting the room ($200-$1500) ends up being a lot more than what the highest paid consultants can pull down in one day...or even in 1 week.

the issue with MBA is often times you end up with a job that is more soul-crushing than the one you had before. Most of my pals that went to business school spend a lot of time drinking... MBA typically does NOT lead to a head exec position (well, unless you are George W Bush). It usually leads to "whipping boy for head exec" position.

UNLV Running Rebel
Saturday, April 27, 2002

daniel...whew. ;-)

Actually though UC schools are a very special case in USA education. I would reckon UC berkeley is one of the most difficult schools overall to get into, because every student in california is trying to get in there (in state tuition, one of top 5 unis in world) and the state can't just economically weed people out (if you can't afford just can't go there. )

UNLV Running Rebel
Saturday, April 27, 2002

Running rebel:
some more good examples:
michigan state, colorado state, university of illinoise all top notch engineering schools, and there are way too many private schools like USC to simply state public beats private.

the key thing to remember is that comparing universities is not like comparing other private vs public institutions.

1. Universities as a rule are not run for profit
2. they all recieve substantial amounts of money from gov't
3. all are in a position where there customers (students)need them more than they need their customers
4. all things being equal, those liberal academics often prefer public education.
5. All universities prestige (I am talking about famous universities not small less-known ones) is built on things like:
how nice campus is, how good football team is, how many papers got published ... none of them have very much to do with teaching (with very few exceptions)

Daniel Shchyokin
Saturday, April 27, 2002

I don't think teaching at universities pays crap.  In fact, I can't think of a higher paying profession.  That is, after you take into account that you have vacation for 4 months a year.  And you certainly dont put in 12 hour days.  More like 12 hour weeks, LOL.

Saturday, April 27, 2002

Bella, I suspect that when your web-surfing and trolling on this discussion board is subtracted out of your workday, your schedule is not much different from the schedules of those professors whose jobs look so easy to you.

And did you really need to start a new thread to discuss this?  Were you afraid your troll wouldn't get the attention it deserves, buried under twenty messages?

Saturday, April 27, 2002

Who's the troll ?

Saturday, April 27, 2002

> That is, after you take into account that you have vacation for 4 months a year.

Some professors are seen as sitting on (or abusing) their tenureship, but during those 4 months of not lecturing a professor can do their research or writing.

Christopher Wells
Saturday, April 27, 2002

I keep hearing that IT is a high burnout field.  Where do
all of these people go?  What's the best way to leverage
past programming experience in a future career?  Not
necessarily the same question.

somebody loves me
Saturday, April 27, 2002

>>I keep hearing that IT is a high burnout field. Where do
all of these people go? What's the best way to leverage
past programming experience in a future career? Not
necessarily the same question.

i don't believe programming experience translates into anything. I for one am giving myself until september to save up enough cash for a sweet (pro digital) camera kit. then, I'm going to become a sports photographer. a pipe dream perhaps, but at this point, I don't give a shit.  I would rather work at starbucks than sacrifice another day of my life to the machine. ... at least i'd be able to work in an upright position...

the end
Saturday, April 27, 2002

There is a strong rebuttal against those who don't see the strength in degrees.  More and more it becomes important to translate the language of CS to that of your target market.  Colleges tend to require that you take courses outside your given concentration.  Therefore a college grad has a clear advantage in translating to fields where formal study is more standard.  (Or at least appearing to.)

Of course, I didn't feel I needed to do this, because I'm a cocky sonofabitch.  But the reasoning is sound.

Anyway, I think this conversation is going in circles.  There are two perspectives:  1) you're trying to get an advantage in the industry and 2) you're interviewing people.  Whereas this discussion is just nebulous.

conservative arts major
Saturday, April 27, 2002

"Anyway, I think this conversation is going in circles."

Yes, yes.  Degrees are good insofar as you gain value from
them.  The hard part is determining value, because there is
no _one_ right answer.  Hence the endless arguments.

Enough with the degrees.  What are some good ways to
leverage past IT experience? 

I thought of one -- tech writer.  I'm hoping you people have
some better ideas.

somebody loves me
Saturday, April 27, 2002

> What are some good ways to leverage past IT experience?  I thought of one -- tech writer. I'm hoping you people have some better ideas.

The book _What Color Is Your Parachute_ suggests that when changing career the easiest way is to leverage past experience: experience in a "skill", or in a "domain". For example, An accountant in the TV industry might become a reporter in the TV industry, or an accountant in the medical industry. There are many (innumerable) jobs that benefit from computer skills. Jobs within the IT domain include programming, being an operator/admin, doing networks, tech support, writing, management, sales, QC/QA, product specs and design, ...

Christopher Wells
Sunday, April 28, 2002

15 years ago I was a college mathematics teacher, but only lasted 2 years because, a) I was a bad teacher because b) I really hated it. Having studied mathematics at University (a proper university, i.e not USA) I had done a fair amount of numerical analysis, fortran and number theory. This led me to be a software developer, merely because it is easy (you are kidding yourself if you think its not, at least intellectually). I  did a post grad CS degree at another proper university which was baby stuff after a mathematics major, amazingly it has seemed to matter that I have that CS degree, despite its simplicity, in fact some of the high paying jobs I've had simply would not have been offered to me if I did'nt have it.

So degrees are good, degrees are real good. My career would have been vastly different without some.

Tuesday, April 30, 2002

Sorry to flame, usually not my style but,

"I really hated it. Having studied mathematics at University (a proper university, i.e not USA) "

You arrogant prick Tony, if I had a fucking nickel for every time I had to each one of you supposedly "educated" foreigners how to do simple basic stuff "But I typed in jar and it said -cvf why is it taking so long", I would be sipping tea with Bill Gates.

I've worked british, german, indian, russian and chinese grads ... let me just say there is a reaosn most people come to american universities, rather than the other way around, but what can I say, someone needs to civilize you savages in Europe and Canada

oh yeah and lets not forget all the wonderful companies all you foreigners are starting with your proper educations, oh whats that you came to the U.S. to get a job, loser

Tony you are a loser
Wednesday, May 1, 2002

I laugh, in your general direction.

Wednesday, May 1, 2002

Tony, didn;t you say you were burnt out on another thread?  Have you considered going back to teaching Math, since you did it before?  Do you think you'd like it this time around ?

Sunday, May 5, 2002

>oh yeah and lets not forget all the wonderful companies all you foreigners are starting with your proper educations, oh whats that you came to the U.S. to get a job, loser

sorry, I do not want to hurt your all American pride, but I would not think about coming to the US for working, even though salaries might be considerably higher than in Germany, as far as I read here. Working conditions, including regular hours, vacation days, health care and social security to me seem much better in Germany and other European countries, and I find them more important than a mere figure on my bank account.

I would not think about attending an American college or university either (with some notable exceptions like the MIT, but they sure would not take me), except maybe for the "fun factor" some college movies suggest is involved. I spent a highschool year in Kentucky 14 years ago and it has not been a very funny experience (rather educating in its own way though).

I found Tony's comment about "real" universities rather harsh, though, and I am sure there are quite a few good universities and highly educated people in the US. Still the same is true for many other places of the world. I have some American colleagues at our (German) company, and some German colleagues, who prefer to live and work at our US branch. It seems to be a question of personal preference rather than a general rule. Of course there are Germans going to the US for work. There are also Germans going to New Zealand to become sheep farmers.

Sorry, I felt rather rebuked being titled a "savage" and just felt that I had to respond. Actually, the problems, solutions, jokes and experiences exchanged here normally seem to apply to many of us developers worldwide. We are all in the same boat in a way and starting to fight over something as irrelevant as nationality does not do us much good.


Jutta Jordans
Monday, May 6, 2002

Fighting over nationalities is pointless, but can be funny.
Being an employee software developer sucks in almost any nation. I think the advantage the US has over Europe is that it is far easier to start a company or be an independent consultant.

Jutta, that's really too bad that you got shipped off to Kentucky. Someone in Europe could do a real service to those considering study abroad by building a multilingual website detailing which areas of the US are best avoided as a young person...

As far as math goes, the Oxford/Cambridge "tutorial" style seems a much better method of learning than the standard USA factory style of education. However, it isn't clear to me (I'm an american) that any other UK universities use that style of teaching. (I guess i don't really know if Cambridge or Oxford still use that method, either).

I can't speak for tony, but I have also taught mathematics, and it is not very rewarding, dealing with university bureaucracy is a nightmare, and the pay is crap. Even if your software job sucks, at least you can afford a nice place to live.

Monday, May 6, 2002

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