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Dear JOS-Abbey: Need School Advice

I'm in a quandary about my schooling and need encouragement, advice, or maybe just a push off a cliff.

I'm 3 terms into a Masters program in Computer Science, and I've done well in all my classes until this term.  My Automata is killing me (I'm not a theorem-proof kind of guy).  If I ace the final I may be able to get a B in the class, but it's more likely that I'll end up with a C.

The first problem I have is that I haven't applied to the program yet.  The school allows you to take a number of courses before applying, then bypass many of the application requirements (GRE, fewer letters of recommendation, etc.).  But, if you get a C in any of the classes, you're OUT.

The second problem I'm having is that I've been questioning grad school as a whole.  Even if I get a B, I'm not sure if I want to continue.  The class work and reading take so much time, that I've got little free time left over to program! And the programming in classes is minimal, so grad school is making me rusty.

I've been considering switching over to another school and taking their post-bac program and just getting a BSCS. (My current BS is in Chemical Engineering and the other school has an accelerated program for post-bac's with technical backgrounds.)  The BSCS program requires tons of programming - which is good.

Neither of the MS or BS programs are prestigious - they're just local and convenient.

I'm determined to never to wear a bunny suit again in my life, but there really aren't any other viable options for Chem E's with process engineering backgrounds in my area.  I've done the equivalent of 2-3 years of software development during the past 12 years - from simple VB GUI's to complex C algorithms.  But my resume doesn't seem to be opening any doors.

So, I have 3 options as of now:
1 - Continue grad school (if possible)
2 - Get a BSCS instead
3 - Forget 1 & 2 and do personal and/or open source projects to widen my portfolio.

What would you recommend?

Disillusioned Grad Student
Monday, May 24, 2004

You must first know your destination before you can know your path.

That said, finish your class, get a B (in case you decide later you want to go back), and get a job.  Life's too short.

Greg Hurlman
Monday, May 24, 2004

>> "But my resume doesn't seem to be opening any doors."

1. The IT field is overflowing.
2. Resumes don't open doors you do.
3. More school will not help you obtain a programming job.
4. You need an internship.
5. Working on side projects is ok, and a lot of people recommend this, but it makes up about 1% of an employers decision to hire you.
6. Get the hell out of school ASAP. You don't need more school you need experience.
7. Don't be wishy-washy.  Know yourself.  Know where you're going and what your doing.  Determine your goals, let other people know your goals and then achieve your goals.
8. Network. Network. Network.  In order find a job you have to network with other people.  Professors, fellow workers at internships, other students, Professional IT groups etc.. etc..  The more people you know in positions of power the better.

Monday, May 24, 2004

I don't know about 2 and 6, above.  The IT field is opening up locally, and I have an OK network of former co-workers, school-mates, etc.  The problem is, they're the ones that told me that I need at least a BSCS.

Disillusioned Grad Student
Monday, May 24, 2004

I meant 3 and 6, above.  As for 2, the resumes are being forwarded to hiring managers via friends on the inside.

Disillusioned Grad Student
Monday, May 24, 2004

Stay with the chemical engineering you fool. That field is going to boom as demand increases for better handling of industrial waste.

Monday, May 24, 2004

I always hear people in this site preaching about "networking." Come on, you know it's a pain.

I wonder how many programmers/nerds/whatever would actually go ahead and do cold-calling. Yeah, I know there are going to be SOME that would, but can you see why I suspect that maybe some aren't practicing what they're preaching?

Warren Henning
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

>>Stay with the chemical engineering you fool. That field is going to boom as demand increases for better handling of industrial waste.

Not in my neck of the woods and re-location isn't an option.

Disillusioned Grad Student
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Do everything you can to pass this class, and then decide.

If you get a C, well, that rules out staying in your present school.

If you get a B, I would suggest that you try to finish the degree you started rather than change schools. I know it's hard but I think everyone feels this way when they hit a really difficult class.

Also, to get more work experience, is there any way you could switch to part-time classes after this term and try to get some kind of job in the meantime? There might be more space for a student-looking-for-an-entry-level-computing job than for a graduate-with-no-experience. Could the university job service help you with that?

Fernanda Stickpot
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Oops, sorry, rereading your post it seems like an entry-level computing job is way beneath you.

Regardless, I would suggest that you finish the degree you started and think about switching to part-time. Keep looking for work, I know it's a pain, but the more you look for the more you find.

Fernanda Stickpot
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

One thing:  Don't cold-call.  Join professional organizations, get a leadership position, and present.



Matt H.
Tuesday, May 25, 2004

If you end up with the C, can you simply retake the class?

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

"I always hear people in this site preaching about "networking." Come on, you know it's a pain."

Yep. It's work, especially for geeks. But it's work that pays rewards. Look - you love slinging bits, you might as well do *something* that's like real work. [grin]

For the original poster - I understand you like programming, and don't want to be a chem engineer, but $$$ and long-term income seem to be issues, so one more suggestion - if there's a law school near you, think about patent law. As biochem takes off, there is going to be an early shortage of patent attorneys with CE degrees, which means $$$.

Of course, that's 3-4 years of your life, so it's not a decision made lightly, nor should you do it for the money. It's just another option.


Tuesday, May 25, 2004

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