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Ask Slashdot: Finding an IT Job Without a Computer-Oriented Undergraduate Degree

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the not-worth-the-paper-it-was-printed-on dept.

Education 504

An anonymous reader writes "Contrary to what many individuals think, not everybody on Slashdot went to college for a computer-related degree. Graduating in May of this year, my undergraduate degree will be in psychology. Like many undergraduate psychology students, I applied to a multitude of graduate programs but, unfortunately, was not given admission into a single one. Many are aware that a bachelor's degree in psychology is quite limiting, so I undoubtedly have been forced into a complicated situation. Despite my degree being in psychology, I have an immense interest in computers and the typical 'hard science' fields. How can one with a degree that is not related to computers acquire a job that is centered around computers? At the moment, I am self-taught and can easily keep up in a conversation of computer science majors. I also do a decent amount of programming in C, Perl, and Python and have contributed to small open source projects. Would Slashdot users recommend receiving a formal computer science education (only about two years, since the nonsensical general education requirements are already completed) before attempting to get such a job? Anybody else in a similar situation?"

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Yes (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39395687)

I don't see why not, such a degree, as long as you have the time and money etc. to do it, it would be nothing but benificial.
And since you seem to take a interest in it, you should glide right along.

Re:Yes (3, Interesting)

Motard (1553251) | more than 2 years ago | (#39395891)

Look around at what software, systems and/or online services you're currently using and are well familiar with. Then look for a job at one of these companies doing phone (or other) support. Your psychology degree will help to establish you has someone who can help people. Once you get in the door and can get your hands on the internals, you can use what you learn talking to customers to propose improvements (including offering to develop them yourself).

Re:Yes (1)

stanlyb (1839382) | more than 2 years ago | (#39395973)

BA, Support, QA even, all these require a degree in psychology (imho). So, you would be a perfect fit for all these positions, and of course, be ready to fight your coworkersk, who does not have this requirement (again, imho).

Re:Yes (4, Insightful)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 2 years ago | (#39396051)

I see a reason why not... It does not matter that much. When I am hiring, I am looking for experience and skills more than degree. Get some entry level support jobs to train up, or a summer IT internship. And once you have some experience, that Psychology degree will help a lot. I have 25 years in the IT industry, and a Social Science degree. I have no formal cirts either, but I helped develop a few...

WTF (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39395691)

You like hard sciences but applied to psychology? Why not social sciences, or the arts? Shoulda thought of this before applying.

Re:WTF (5, Interesting)

lightknight (213164) | more than 2 years ago | (#39395777)

Hush. Some of the more interesting CS professors out there dual-majored in Psychology. They usually end up doing Human/Computer Interfaces.

With a Psychology degree alone, they end up doing a lot of Lisp / Scheme.

And what more, I see it as a good thing that someone wants to expand their understanding of other fields, if only for monetary gain. That's something to be encouraged, not mocked.

Re:WTF (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39396137)

That was my degree (cognitive psychology) and I got a job programming. It's what you know and how you can contribute that matters - not who "blessed" you with the acknowledgement of your achievement. I've had no problem with transitioning to technology (then architecture, then management). Like anything, find a craft you love and pursue it. I'll always hire a motivated, intelligent person over someone who holds a certification or degree, but lacks passion.

Personally, I don't think people should expect much out of recent college grads - most places I've worked recognize you'll have to basically start from scratch with most (which is fine) since so much of what you'll be doing is related to domain knowledge.

Your biggest challenge will be getting through the HR "acronym" machine. Network. Get out there and get involved. Volunteer. Blog. Learn stuff. You're already doing the right thing(s) - just stop acting like your degree is some sort of disability. It's a job asset.

Not really needed (5, Informative)

jhaygood86 (912371) | more than 2 years ago | (#39395695)

I dropped out of college (was in the CS program, but barely completed the early requirements), and I have a really good gig as a senior software developer. It takes a bit more to get your feet in, but in general, most places I've seen could care less about the degree if you can get the work done.

Re:Not really needed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39395725)

Agreed, honestly, IT is a merit game for a large spectrum. I don't have any degrees and I've worked my way up as a sysadmin. You gotta start as a help desk monkey and you'll be promoted and cross-trained as they see aptitude. I know a lot of managers that dislike hiring fresh grads anyways, and like to promote internally. This isn't the case everywhere but its a big one from where I see.

Re:Not really needed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39395833)

As an IT hiring manager, and someone else who dropped out of their colleges' CS program, I agree with this comment as well as the grand parent comment.

Work your way up. Find out what you like to do as you work your way up. I went from being in a CS program that focused on large application development (COBOL-based, C/C++, operating system, and theoretical work) to being a successful web developer and ERP administrator.

Re:Not really needed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39395871)

My experience has been very similar to jhaygood's experience. I'm a high school dropout and when I got my foot in the door, nobody cared. We all laugh about it and I make jokes about it. I'm not a senior yet, but they don't give that out to anyone with less than 3 years of professional experience. They might make an exception for me this year at 2 years of professional experience. ;)

Getting your foot in the door will be the hardest part, so get some contacts and shake trees to see what falls. My folly was that I didn't do that or think to do that for a long time. For better or worse, HR tends to use anything negative to thin out the pile.

Re:Not really needed (4, Insightful)

Dr. Sp0ng (24354) | more than 2 years ago | (#39395883)

I'm in exactly the same situation, with no regrets. Interviews were a little tough early on, but once you have it, experience trumps education. My lack of a degree hasn't been an issue in a long time.

And the great thing about this industry is that you can get the experience and prove yourself without anybody else's permission. Contribute to open source, release a smartphone app, etc. It's in your hands: just do it.

Re:Not really needed (5, Informative)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 2 years ago | (#39396091)

With this experience you can get good hands on tech jobs, but with no degree, you will hit a ceiling. If you want to go into management, it does not matter what the degree is as long as you have one. And that was serious, not a Dilbertism... Unfortunately.

Just Give Up... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39395697)

...there are too many other people out there with the appropriate degree.

Re:Just Give Up... (2)

lightknight (213164) | more than 2 years ago | (#39395803)

Nonsense. IT, especially the upper levels, is not about just having the right degree, it's about being able to contribute something of worth. No one cares if you have a CS degree from Princeton if you can't program something to save your life.

As it stands, the technology realm is conceptually one of a meritocracy. Companies doing the hiring may not be, but the realm itself is.

Re:Just Give Up... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39396113)

No, it's not about having the right degree.

However, getting your first job out of college is very much about making it to an interview; having a resume that doesn't get thrown in the trash helps. There are many (not sure if most or not) places where, despite the IT chief's sanity, HR will trash incoming resumes with no past employment in the field and no applicable degree, before anyone sane even sees them. So it'll take a while to find a job, and it may be less fulfilling, than you'd get with a CS degree. I don't agree with GP that one should give up, it's hopeless, but if one is well adapted to university life, and can afford another couple years, it's the course I would take. Then, instead of being thrown out, HR droids will put you above the CS-only chaps, because two degrees means you're better.

Re:Just Give Up... (0)

Penguinshit (591885) | more than 2 years ago | (#39395853)

"DeVry" != "Degree"

"Many"? (3, Insightful)

eugene ts wong (231154) | more than 2 years ago | (#39395701)

Contrary to what many individuals think, not everybody on Slashdot went to college for a computer-related degree.

Really?? How many of us really thought that everybody here had a computer degree? I thought that there was a huge diversity of us. I thought that everybody else did too.

Out of millions of readers, did even 10 think that we all had computer degrees?

Re:"Many"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39395819)

I have been in IT (programming and analysis in manufacturing) for 12 years now. My degree was a BS in Environmental Health and I worked 6 years in that field before changing careers.

I had always been a hobbyist for the time I was very young, and found someone to take chance on me.

Once your older and have the experience, the degree itself doesn't really matter - so long as you have one.

UX (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39395705)

With a psychology degree, you entryway into the field of computing will probably be user experience design/testing. If you really do know some things about coding, the developers on the project will love you - too many "designers" have no idea how difficult it is to actually implement the pie-in-the-sky concepts they draw up.

No degree here, very successful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39395709)

If you are good at what you do and live in a place that can evaluate a person based on their skills and not what's on a piece of paper you can do very well for yourself. If not, your career is going to suck.

Games (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39395713)

Why not apply at places like blizzard to help make games more rewarding for players.

Re:Games (5, Insightful)

lightknight (213164) | more than 2 years ago | (#39395827)

Because game programming is hell on earth. To people who are not IT, it sounds awesome (design your own game! could it be cooler?). But to those inside, it's working the coal mines.

Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39395715)

In my experience working in IT is much, MUCH worse than having Computers as a hobby and writing open source software.

Most IT companies have no culture and passion and crap out the same product over and over.

Re:Really? (1)

lightknight (213164) | more than 2 years ago | (#39395841)

Then working for yourself might be a good idea.

More school isn't the answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39395723)

both of my roommates (econ and psych) got programming jobs within the last month because they just spent all day every day for six months after they graduated learning as much javascript as they could. They're both personable, non-insane looking people, and when they applied for those sorts of jobs, they had to submit a bunch of code to be evaluated and were chosen because they could actually do the jobs and because they had a lot to show for themselves, i.e. portfolio.

If you can do the job and do it well, you'll be able to demonstrate that fact without a special document verifying you paid someone else to verify you are at least capable of completing said task whether or not you already have :)

Re:More school isn't the answer (3, Insightful)

NFN_NLN (633283) | more than 2 years ago | (#39395965)

both of my roommates (econ and psych) got programming jobs within the last month because they just spent all day every day for six months after they graduated learning as much javascript as they could.

So this is how shitty developers are created? What's that, you're searching through an array instead of using a hash... Or pulling an entire table in SQL instead of optimizing the query. But it works right, who cares?

I did it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39395731)

I never finished college. It just wasn't for me.
A few years ago I landed an entry level support position for an IT company that services health care providers.
Just last week I took over as the "main man" in the company.
Maybe I got lucky, I don't know. But here I am, a college dropout, managing a small IT company of 7 employees and the only person I have to answer to internally is the owner, who pretty much sits back and trusts that we will run the company properly.

Yes, I very well could run it into the ground. But he has faith in me, and I like it there.

yet other places want CS and there IT sucks (2)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#39395815)

yet other places want CS and there IT sucks as they get people with loads of theory and it's so bad at some colleges that you can learn more in a 2 year tech / community colleges then in a 4 year CS.

Re:yet other places want CS and there IT sucks (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 2 years ago | (#39396135)

But who wants to work for those places, even if you have a degree?

work your way up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39395735)

I myself and some of my friends all got undergraduate degrees that were not "hard science" degrees, and we still managed to get IT careers. How? well in two cases, it was by starting at the bottom and working our way up. If you are lucky you might spend less than a year in a shitty grunt position like taking help desk calls. I paid my dues, and made the extra effort when appropriate to show that I had the skills needed to advance. I can't describe to you how awesome it is to put in your notice someplace after six months, and have them begging you to stay, only to tell them your new salary, and watch their spirits fall as they realize they can't keep you.

In another case, it was who-knows-who. Before you write this path off, ask yourself, do your parents have any connections at any decent companies? Do any of your friends parents? Networking really can be extremely helpful. even if it doesn't work out today, it may come in handy at some point down the road.

I have a degree in psychology (but from the 1980s) (4, Interesting)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | more than 2 years ago | (#39395737)

You could emphasize the fact that key aspects of solving problems with computers entail understanding customer requirements, building user interfaces, and providing technical support, all of which relate to understanding how people think.

You could also look for working situations that are the intersection of psychology and computers, like AI or cognitive science-related applications.

Re:I have a degree in psychology (but from the 198 (2)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39396003)

You could also look for working situations that are the intersection of psychology and computers, like AI or cognitive science-related applications.

User interface design? Although given recent trends a patent lawyer would probably be better at navigating that minefield. Lots of modern user interfaces are somewhat indicative of abnormal psych so you could travel that route too. What mental illness makes people think Microsoft is ready for the enterprise, etc?
Take some accounting classes, especially forensic, you might "synergy" it all together into investigation work?

two or three choices (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39395739)

Get a Job in your degree field, which I assume you've rejected already.

Find somebody willing to take a gamble, or who needs your existing skill set more than the other.

Go back to school. Get your card punched, find a job.

Of those, the third is the least risky to get what you want.

I would (2, Insightful)

lightknight (213164) | more than 2 years ago | (#39395751)

I would go for the degree, to be honest. The economy being what it is, I have some doubts that potential employers are willing to entertain the idea of a non-IT major in an IT major slot. Do not get me wrong, I am not saying you are not capable of doing IT, nor that you are not good at it (some of the best programmers do not have an IT-related degree), only that the current bias is one of fear / a safety strategy when it comes to employers.

One thing in particular, I will note, is your lack of experience with C++ / Java. While it's not required, I do recommend becoming comfortable with those languages. Throw in C# if you want to do MS work (always a money-maker), some web languages (just HTML / Javascript / etc., almost a requirement these days), and perhaps study some Windows / Linux / Unix administration books. If you go the O'Reilly route, it should cost you about $500 to get all the books you'll want (O'Reilly being the standard; if you don't have a zoo, you need one).

Re:I would (1)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | more than 2 years ago | (#39396095)

It would be a lot cheaper to just subscribe to Safari instead of buying the Oreilly books individually. You should be able to go through about one book a week if you dedicate 20 hours or so.

IT in non-tech companies (1)

hism (561757) | more than 2 years ago | (#39395753)

I've met a handful of programmers who had a liberal arts background (i.e. Classical studies) who did programming at a non-tech company. For instance, working in the back office of a retailer or a bank to code up some internal desktop apps, web apps, or create-remove-update-delete business apps. For these jobs, knowing trade-type of skills (i.e. some experience programming especially in the "trendy" technologies) I believe is adequate. However, these jobs may not always feel very rewarding, what some computer scientists might call "code monkey" jobs... As a computer scientist, I would say it'd be very good to get a degree in it to strengthen your understanding of the theoretical background, which will help you to get a deeper understanding, helping you to become a smarter programmer and likely open the doors to more interesting projects/positions.

Same here... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39395759)

Yup...I am still in this situation...what I am doing is undergraduation in law which is equivalent to J.D. in U.S., being in a country like India I am still thinking if I could get any legal job in any IT company. So, I am thinking if anyone could help me get a decent legal job in an IT company in India or around the world!

Get the computer-degree (1)

gweihir (88907) | more than 2 years ago | (#39395769)

Otherwise you will just be exploited and never make it up the career ladder. Sad but true.

Re:Get the computer-degree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39395843)

What career ladder?

My first job out of school was "senior software engineer." Now, twenty years later, that's still my title, and that's how I expect to retire.

That's what I was educated for, am good at and enjoy doing, so I don't think there's any way "up" from here.

Re:Get the computer-degree (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39396041)

Otherwise you will just be exploited and never make it up the career ladder. Sad but true.

Getting the degree won't change that result for almost all employees.

Never too late (1)

murder_face (2574275) | more than 2 years ago | (#39395779)

I decided that felonies were better than a college degree when I was younger, and ended up doing construction for the last 10 years. Now, I am regretting those choices I have found from a few friends that stayed on the right path that my best bet would be getting a few CompTIA certifications to get my foot in the door and taking it from there.

It's been done already (4, Interesting)

Laebshade (643478) | more than 2 years ago | (#39395797)

I work with a linux admin, now an admin supervisor, who just earned his BS in Psychology. He's an excellent admin and probably an even better supervisor.

It's actually really easy to get a job in web hosting as a linux admin. Learn linux/cPanel, other web hosting stuff, then apply for a linux admin job at a web hosting. Your background in programming will help, too, as we do a lot of scripting day to day.

Build a case and get noticed (1)

GrMunky (1184115) | more than 2 years ago | (#39395801)

Build a portfolio with what you have accomplished, give examples of skills acquired and show what your contributions to the small open source projects were. A letter of recommendation from someone in the field you are looking in doesn't hurt. If you have the time to do an internship or donate time and effort to other small projects to help build your list of accomplishments in the meantime and show a commitment and passion for the field. An easy add-on is an Oracle certification or something similar. They may not have alot of weight with those who know how easy they are, but they help build a case for getting you that all important first interview. Remember there are alot of people looking for tech sector jobs who DO have those degrees and they are having trouble too. So the important part is standing out from the crowd somehow. If there is a particular position you want, research it and know exatly what they want, and retool your resume and approach to show your strengths that align with their needs. I know there is nothing new here, and it applies to any field or job really, but the basics of job hunting apply. Keep trying and be prepared for alot of "NO", if you can even get an answer.

dont worry about it - i have a ged (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39395805)

i have a ged and as a linux admin i make in the 85k range at a fairly large company.

Re:dont worry about it - i have a ged (2)

Laebshade (643478) | more than 2 years ago | (#39395875)

I have a GED, too, and about to start a job with another company in a similar salary range.

"Never let formal education get in the way of your learning." - Mark Twain

Get experience! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39395807)

Getting 'into IT' is done by getting experience, an interest alone will get you nowhere. If you get this experience through a degree or through jobs or through contributions to open source projects is a choice you make yourself.
Myself, I did not have any computer experience having a masters degree in Chemistry. But, during a PhD in chemistry I chose a subject that meant programming for 80-90% of the time. The four years gave me a good basis for programming scientific software, and I've been doing that ever since in various fields.

Use both your skills and your degree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39395811)

A huge number of programmers are people in your situation. Perhaps not hard nosed computer systems engineers and developers, but people who use programming to solve problems in their respective fields.

So, my recommendation is to apply to jobs where your knowledge of psychology and programming skills can come together to provide value. Companies that do standardized testing have huge piles of data they want to churn through. Advertizing firms and marketing departments have data crunchers. Those people can code. They also know about more than code.

Just like you.

I did it; here's what you need to know (5, Insightful)

daemonenwind (178848) | more than 2 years ago | (#39395821)

I've spent the last 15 years in IT performing various tasks, from programming to server admin.

You can do what you're looking to do. Here's the problem: Someone, somewhere, has to be the first to take a risk and hire you to do this.
Once you have experience, you're on your way, because IT is still an area where experience and excellence speak louder than degrees or certifications. (although that is starting to change)

The problem is, with the influx of people from around the world, offshoring, and new grads with legitimate degrees every year, who would take you? If you can find that person, great - you're "in". So the key is to network, get yourself in front of people, and highlight your development experience. I guarantee your resume won't get past the HR Drone filter looking for a specific degree. So you need to pound pavement and press flesh. It's what I did for my first 2 jobs; after that it was easier. It will also make your subsequent career easier to navigate.

If that sounds like a bit more than your interpersonal skills and contact network can handle, stretch your graduation day a couple of years out and take the classes you need to get the degree. It will make the task much easier.

NOT necessarily (1)

Penguinshit (591885) | more than 2 years ago | (#39395831)

I don't have a degree of any kind and managed to have a rather successful career. I taught myself early programming and PC maintenance in the 80s, and UNIX in the early 90s with Linux following shortly thereafter. One continual drawback was the lower starting pay and drudgery tasks, but I quickly demonstrated myself and overcame that in every position held until I was the one in charge of the IT Dept.

I am willing to contemplate that I am an unusual case, and that you might not be able in your life circumstances to start on the extreme low end of the payscale.

Lots of startups don't care (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39395837)

Quite a few startups would interview you based on your merits alone, and not really care about a degree. If you can prove you can work and deliver code on deadline, why should they care?

I dont hire people out of college with degrees (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39395845)

I hire lots of "IT professionals" and our company is growing leaps and bounds. A long time ago I learned that anyone fresh out of college with an "IT" degree isn't the kind of person I want on the team. I would MUCH rather have someone who is self taught and took the initiative to learn the basics themselves. People with degrees tend to think they "know it all", yet I've seen more IT graduates who couldn't even setup an email account, much less do anything complicated. The best employee I've hired used to be a welder, he knows more than any "Cisco" certified tech I've ever met and his attitude is awesome.

how do you feel about tech schools? (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#39395911)

how do you feel about tech schools?

As they are not college and they do give more skills then college?

Re:how do you feel about tech schools? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39396125)

Years ago I hired a guy from ITT and a gal from Devry. Wasn't very impressed. Fired the Devry girl when I asked her to reformat a hard drive and she asked me how. Would rather have someone who didn't spend a couple years trying desperately to understand last years tech, being taught by someone who most likely has little real world experience, than someone who taught themselves and then spent 2 years in the real world proving themselves in an entry level position and learning from guys like me with 20+ years in the biz. (FYI, I was a theatre major in College, I really don't know much about tech...but I sure know how to act like it). Seriously, I've been a keyboard jockey for 20 years and I'm 'self-taught', actually I was taught by other guys like me who gave me on the job training.

Why is IT the dumping grounds? (3, Insightful)

NFN_NLN (633283) | more than 2 years ago | (#39395847)

Why is IT always considered the dumping grounds of careers? This is why the field is so messed-up; there is no regulation.

In your example alone you mention how anyone with a high level psychology degree is protected even from B.Sc graduates. It would be unheard of for someone outside the psychology field with no credentials to just come in and start lowering the bar; on quality of work, overtime, general working conditions and wages. Yet this happens ALL THE TIME in IT.

I see plenty of people with no proper background make simple mistakes they shouldn't. Or worse, argue about something that is completely wrong.

Why can't I start practicing medicine, prescribing drugs, charging for advice on the law, auditing financials, etc, etc. I promise to self-study really hard. I'm not saying someone can't learn these things on their own. But then how do you distinguish someone who has the fundamentals and someone who doesn't: that's what credentials are for. This is the way it is in EVERY OTHER PROFESSION. Until people stop treating IT like a dumping ground and inject some regulation and standards it will always be looked down upon.

Make IT a trade like Plumbers and electricians (4, Insightful)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#39395927)

They don't set in a class room for 4+ years before getting a job and they have apprenticeships that tech real job skills.
They also have on going education that is not just go to class for 2 years to get a masters or BA or PHD.

Re:Why is IT the dumping grounds? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39396073) []

Skills Needed, Skills Defined
January 10th, 2012

The Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) recently posted guidance that employers requiring a high school diploma, used as a employee screening tool, may be violating the American’s With Disabilities Act (ADA.) This guidance explains that the job must now be defined based on necessary worker skills and detailed as to how the high school diploma matches the job skill criteria. This determination could have long-range impact in the use of diplomas as blanket screening tools. Unlike industry-based certification, diplomas and degrees from schools seldom define demonstrated and assessed skills. This EEOC guidance could speed the adoption of skill-based, industry driven, skill certification. Currently, the US Department of Labor lists over 4,400 industry-based certifications on the Certification Finder at the website. These certifications will rise in importance to employers while education-based credentials may fade. Effective skill development on the job requires a structured approach based on the defined skills used in the workplace. In such a structured OJT workplace, meeting this EEOC guidance will be readily accomplished, and new employees quickly trained in the need skills.

Re:Why is IT the dumping grounds? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39396111)

Things are slowly moving in that direction. Remember that as a field and profession, IT is still very young and immature. We are still trying to decide whether to be a degreed profession, or a skilled trade profession where certifications, licenses, apprenticeships, etc. are the way to advance.

Personally, I think there is room for both, as it is a diverse enough field.

In the meantime, until those decisions are formally expressed, IT is one of the few professions where individuals still truly have the chance to be self made. Often the self made path can be more rewarding, and certainly makes for a better movie of the week American success story. But it also takes at least as much effort, and usually more effort, and over a longer period of time as it would to get the degree.

As you have found though, degrees can be just as restricting as they can be liberating... So, the choice is yours.

Re:Why is IT the dumping grounds? (2, Insightful)

lightknight (213164) | more than 2 years ago | (#39396129)


IT is a meritocracy. As such, the only true test is one of actual performance, which cannot be granted with a degree, certification, or other form of writ. And it's not the dumping ground of careers, it's just one that doesn't require a hideous amount of investment (money) to get started in, though it does require a lot of time and patience. What more, the major contributors to the field are people with Bachelor degrees, not PhDs. As such, you can see the effects of your work earlier, and self-modify easier.

Many of the other fields are regulated, with high barriers to entry, and that hasn't necessarily improved the quality of service. It has only limited the field to those with enough resources to play in it.

What more, understanding technology is a science, creating technology is an art.

And IT is only looked down upon by the people who are unaware how much they owe their lives to its existence. Were it not for computers, nay electronics in general, we'd still be living in the Dark Ages. As such, looking down on IT is akin to looking down on the Earth; it's below you because it's supporting you, not because you're superior to it (when has the air ever supported your weight?). Remove that support, and your life as you know it is over (without IT, society would fall apart in weeks; without the Earth, you'd drift into space).

As such, let the business people, many of whom are high on their belief in their superiority to the trolls / dwarves / elves who perform IT, continue to f*ck up with their games on the Market and their chronic attempts at outsourcing critical functions. I point to their handiwork at some of the larger companies, such as HP, where they considered spinning off their computer business. Their mismanagement of their respective companies is quickly becoming legendary, and soon they will fall. No one will want to hire a business major, for fear they will drive the business into the ground.

It all comes down to experience. (1)

TheRedDuke (1734262) | more than 2 years ago | (#39395851)

As an IT manager, degrees are all well and good, but what the potential employee has accomplished and understands is most important to me when hiring. A prospect with a BA, code examples, and a good understanding of the real world will get the job 9 times out 10 over a green CS grad. Being self-taught goes a long way too, as it demonstrates that they're capable of growth of their own accord. I also tend to favor certifications over (bachelor) degrees, as I've learned from experience that you get way more out of a Red Hat cert than you do from a couple Linux classes at a state university.

Re:It all comes down to experience. (1)

wildfish (779284) | more than 2 years ago | (#39396087)

Your spot on about being self-taught as an asset. In IT, the tools and in many cases the problems to be solved are changing many times over a span of 30 years. Showing that you can attain a functional understanding of tools and problems on your own is worth alot as it will be a skill you need. It might also demonstrate the willingness to work long hours to get the job down which is a double edge sword, good for managers, not so good for the general working conditions.

Worked out for me (1)

citking (551907) | more than 2 years ago | (#39395857)

I double-majored in criminal justice and psychology - my true intention was to go into law enforcement but I had always been interested in computers and technology. The second semester of my freshman year I worked for the university doing network and IT support for students in the dorms. That work experience opened my eyes and I decided to pursue a career in IT. I started out by working for a local phone company to get some soft skills, then slowly moved up to being a helpdesk support person, then helpdesk manager, then into server and network administration.

It is true that most companies look at work experience and not degrees - at least that has been my perception on both sides of the interview table. Many of the good IT folks I work with have degrees in accounting, business, and marketing. Some companies, though won't hire programmers unless they have demonstrable experience in the languages they need.

Essentially I would just make sure you get hands-on experience or take a few classes at a local community college in whatever area of IT interests you. Even a certificate goes to show that you're serious about educating yourself and that you can do the job.

It's possible. (1)

PhrostyMcByte (589271) | more than 2 years ago | (#39395859)

I'm a working software developer and I have no degree, only a hell of a passion for coding and the ability to learn on my own.

It's possible. There are plenty of places who will be looking for cheap junior software devs. The work won't be terribly interesting, but they're excellent places to jump start a career.

A recruiting agency like Volt [] is an easy place to start. You don't pay them a dime. I recommend grabbing some certifications – with a lack of experience or degree, anything can help get your foot in the door to an in-person interview. Even ones from Brainbench [] will help, and they're pretty cheap.

Go for the degree and get your stuff on github (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39395861)

Hey man,

I've been in the same boat. I graduated in 2007 with a degree in Communication Studies (liberal arts) and about ~6 years of experience writing code and web apps freelance. It was HARD getting a job at that time for everyone, but I got turned down a hell of a lot because I didn't have the CS degree. A few years later I was looking for work again, and in my experience about 50% of the jobs I was qualified for had one poison-pill: "BA CS or equivalent" is what it usually said. The "or equivalent" was never taken into consideration.

So I have two recommendations for you:
1) Go get that degree. Having dual degrees in CS and Psych is a pretty cool twist and has great implications for management, with awesome fallback potential should you need to just get a job as a codemonkey to pay the bills
2) Put your open source contributions and C code on github (where feasible)

The reason I mention github is because I see a LOT of places that want to see actual code commits. They'll look to see what you're doing, why you're doing it, how you're testing it (automated testing/agile practices/etc. are big these days) and even what your commit messages say. Even with code commits, be ready for some fairly tough technical screening questions over the phone and with some companies, even tougher interviews.

Bear in mind, I'm speaking strictly from my experience in working as a software engineer and writing code. If you're looking to do sysadmin work instead, which can be every bit as challenging, you'll probably want to find different ways to express your awesomeness to a potential employer. I'll let other more experienced sysadmins comment on how to stand out when looking for a sysadmin position (something I'd be interested in hearing about myself).

Good luck to you!

Planning for success (4, Insightful)

kamelkev (114875) | more than 2 years ago | (#39395863)

My bet here is that some Slashdot posters are going to enter this conversation and tell you that you don't need a CS degree to be successful. That you might even be able to get away with taking a few formal classes, working on some more open source projects, and to keep trying. That you can somehow salvage your situation and make something of yourself in this field.

I believe this to be true, but only in an outlier sense... statistically your current situation does not put you in a favorable light to be hired. There are surely people who got into computer science through unconventional methods - but there is always a common driving force behind their efforts. They don't end up being successful with computers by accident, they have a long history of psuedo-study that has given them the ability to be competitive in the space.

To put it bluntly, why should I hire you? You've got a soft-science degree which frankly many people don't respect. People with Masters and PhDs are working in bookstores right now - and you have a basic Psychology degree. This shows a lack of planning on your part that I would hold against you on an interview... and to be clear: I do a lot of interviews. You would never make it to me as our filtering process would eliminate you along with the bus drivers who are also applying for jobs with us (that actually happens, pretty amazing).

The economy of the situation is clear. There is a huge swath of unemployed people right now with more skills than you, with more experience than you, with better training and a more appropriate degree (lots of EEs are unemployed for example). So it's going to be really tough for you to sort of slip through the cracks and get a job. Is it possible? Yes. Is it likely? No.

If you are truly interested in getting into the field, you should consider that at no other time has it been easier to be an independent developer. Work for yourself, make your own projects. Make some games for the apple app store (forget android, so hard to make money there) or something, and get cracking.

Easy (1)

pkbarbiedoll (851110) | more than 2 years ago | (#39395865)

Buy a one way ticket to India.

Experience trumps Education (1)

stonith (928478) | more than 2 years ago | (#39395879)

It's been my experience that education only gets you so far. Education might get you in the door, but a good portfolio and knowing what the employer needs will get you in a lot quicker. Of course, YMMV depending on which job you're applying for.

You don't know what you don't know (1)

niftydude (1745144) | more than 2 years ago | (#39395887)

At the moment, I am self-taught and can easily keep up in a conversation of computer science majors.

Talking is not the same thing as doing. I can hold my own in a conversation about playing a piano, but I can't build one, and I can't can't play rachmaninoff's piano concerto no 3.

One of the double-edged features of computers, coding and modern IDEs is that anyone can sit down and write a program, and have it work. This is good in one sense- it SHOULD be easy for people to use computers as a tool to do whatever they want. But it is bad in the sense that self-taught developers have all sorts of bad habits, that they generally don't even know are bad.

Techniques and concepts for building modular, maintainable and scalable code are important (even if the words themselves have been used so often by bad management that they have almost lost all meaning), and are typically missed by self-taught programmers who are more interested in getting the program to work than worrying about the architecture.

Having said that - quite a few of the IT and CS courses floating around are so bad that you are better off not doing them. But if you can find a good course, I seriously recommend doing it.

Getting a foot in the door (1)

paulxnuke (624084) | more than 2 years ago | (#39395895)

Not quite the same thing: my undergrad was physics, and I did non-CS things for a good many years. I got my first dev job on the strength of a 3D package I wrote on my own, and the fact that no other Mac guys could be found (this was quite a while ago.) Now I have no problem getting work, but the first one is the hardest.

The main advantage to a formal CS education: sounding like a CS guy. I don't instinctively know all the types of sorts or their O()'s (I think of it as being upfront about having to look stuff up), the names of patterns (almost never need to), or UML (never needed it yet except for HR.) That sort of thing will keep you out of google, but not out of a job.

Being able to interview is by far the most important thing: you'll eventually get past HR somewhere, and then you have to impress someone who knows what they're talking about. We've hired some awful losers (didn't have the gift!) because they could sell themselves. Pursue contract work: the bar is lower, the pay is much better than the average postdoc, and it looks almost as good on a resume. If you're in the Pacific Northwest, you should have no problems.

Why Not? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39395897)

I was in the same situation about 15 years ago. You should find a good head hunter, or someone who can assist in your resume because that is what will be necessary to get the initial interview. I had no trouble getting a job by demonstrating what I knew in the field despite the fact I had no CS degree. I was active in various projects and was able to show a current set of skills that someone will pay for as well as potential, self motivation and a true hunger for learning. Your biggest obstacle may be getting in the door so that is why the resume will be critical.
Now, I am in a position where I work in a major corporation, and manage people (from a technical aspect) from top universities with CS degrees. Believe me, when it comes to hire someone. I would rather take an individual with no CS degree who has a good understanding of the basics, is motivated to learn is a self starter over any CS major. From my experience, I have only seen a CS degree serve as a good foundation, which could certainly be self taught. Everything else is up to that individual. This is critical if you are working in the industry for a top company as things change rapidly. The languages you learned in college will have been of no advantage. It's the ability to think analytically and apply it to everyday problems that is really the basis of your future success. There are far too many people in this industry that just do and don't think about the context of the problem. Psychology certainly lends itself to that.
Although hiring seems to be picking up these days and opportunities exist. It's still an employers market. You had better know what is on your resume inside and out and don't get discouraged. I'm sure you will find something and flourish. Good luck!

The best DBA I know... (1)

msobkow (48369) | more than 2 years ago | (#39395899)

The best DBA I know is a fellow who only has a Grade 12 education and who was a sheet metal worker/sign maker until he was 45, when he discovered computers.

12 years later, he's one of the best Oracle DBAs I've ever met, and in high demand.

One of the best designers I knew over the years was a Philosophy major at Northern Telecom.

A university education teaches you how to learn, and how to identify what to learn. Within 4-5 years, anything you learn from university programming courses is outdated and obsolete, except for the basic theories of algorithm complexity and your texts of "standard" algorithms. The odds are even the languages you use to program will change within a decade.

So don't sweat it -- point people to your OSS work on your resume to prove you can do it, and let them judge for themselves.

Just don't be surprised if it takes a while to find a good job. It can literally take a couple of years in the current economy to find a "good" job, so be prepared to do some pretty tedious and hideous grunt work, or to get by at a tech support call center for a few years.

Re:The best DBA I know... (2)

salesgeek (263995) | more than 2 years ago | (#39395969)

Just an observation: the reason it is so hard for people to find work is that they often are not wiling to move. The more specialized your knowledge is, the more valuable you are... but the more scarce positions are for you.

Re:The best DBA I know... (1)

msobkow (48369) | more than 2 years ago | (#39396105)

That used to be the case, but no more. No matter where you apply, there are hundreds if not thousands of resumes going in for every job. SaskTel used to get as many as a hundred resumes a DAY when they weren't even advertising positions! My last job, a "mom & pop" sized outfit, was receiving a half dozen resumes a week without needing or advertising for people.

Times are tough all over. Unless you're willing to take any IT-related job that comes up, you're going to be out of work for a while.

That's the facts of life in modern North America. It's the result of outsourcing the majority of the programming work overseas. And it is NOT going to get better.

Re:The best DBA I know... (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39396117)

A university education teaches you how to learn, and how to identify what to learn.

The problem is he's going up against people who merely have training in C++, and most places want to hire a guy with C++ skills, not someone who is educated.

The odds are even the languages you use to program will change within a decade.

True, but that's where the ageism kicks in and you won't be able to find a job anyway, so don't worry about it. Hire a recent grad to work 80 hour weeks, or a 30-something guy with a house, wife, and kids who wants 40 hour weeks... Hmm. Just to be nice we'll tell him he's not trained in "language fad of the month"

You need proof of your skills (1)

hattig (47930) | more than 2 years ago | (#39395905)

Without the computer science degree, you will have to have solid proof of your abilities, probably best done via having a showcase of your work available (your contributions to open source projects will help if they are substantial, otherwise maybe you can set yourself a project, code it, and open source it). You may find it useful to undertake a course in programming, just to get the certificate. You need some OO languages on your CV - Java, C++, C#. With Java you get the jobs by knowing the common APIs used as well as the language itself - Spring (or Struts), Hibernate (+JDBC), JUnit/JMock/EasyMock, Wicket, and so on.

However many companies will not look beyond the fact your resume/cv does not include anything CS, Maths, Engineering or hard science (particularly physics) related on it. You may be able to get a role in testing, and then prove your skills within that company to move up.

Contrary to what you think... (1)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 2 years ago | (#39395933)

Contrary to what many individuals think, not everybody on Slashdot went to college for a computer-related degree.

I don't know where you got this idea, but in my experience with IT there's actually more people without computer related degrees than with.

Whether you get a computer science degree is really entirely up to your own interests, and economic circumstances. It'll certainly help you, but it's not required. The people I see without degrees are (very generally) less knowledgeable about the field than those with degrees. There's many exceptions, and there's no reason you can't learn everything on your own without formal schooling. Not everyone is a good candidate for self learning, so that's why I suspect the degree holders have an edge (as a group) over the non-degree holders. You sound like you're relatively good at self learning, so this likely doesn't apply to you.

So should you get the degree? Nobody can answer that but you. I will tell you that you don't really need it to get a job. It'll help you a little in starting out at a better job, but after that it doesn't matter terribly much after a few years. If you like school, or have the money (rich parents?), or don't mind more debt, then more school might be a good idea. If you're tired of accumulating more debt, can't afford it, or are tired of college, then I'd encourage you to find a job in IT.

Help Desk, then work up (1)

Zocalo (252965) | more than 2 years ago | (#39395941)

It might be the bottom rung, but with a good attitude in the right company it's not a bad starting point and you can sell your psychology degree as being a useful skill for doing dealing with the more problematic callers. The initial goal is to get off the front-line and into second line support; take an interest in the day to day running of the company's own IT setup, find things you like doing and volunteer to help out whenever you get the chance. If you can convince your employer that it's worth their while to start sending you on training courses to improve and expand your skill set, then you are on your way; once you have a few of those under your belt you don't need the CS Major anymore as you've got real world, hands on experience instead. If they won't, then use your newfound job experience to look around for somewhere else that will.

After that, you should hopefully have and idea on where you want your career to go. Maybe specialise a little and aim to go beyond the CompTIA stuff most helpdesk types have and go for certifications from Cisco, Microsoft, Oracle, Red Hat, etc.; whatever you like doing and have an opportunity for. Perhaps you want to go into software development; look into new languages (C/C++/C# would be a good language set to add to those you already have) and associated certifications. Maybe go into team management, or project management (PRINCE2 or similar).

Finally, don't sweat the paperwork and don't be afraid to switch employers! The former can be useful and can open doors, but if you've got the skills and a proven track record, it can also be largely immaterial, the latter is often necessary to move your career onto the next step and can often get you started on a new area of expertise.

I had a similar situation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39395943)

If at all you can afford it, go for a Masters in CS. I did my bachelors in Dairy Science (don't ask) and decided to get a Masters in CS. Of course, I had to finish many undergrad courses to complete my pre-reqs and it took me a year to do that because I started with zero exposure to anything CS. It took me another year to finish all my grad. courses. I have never looked back ...

Time to make this decision is now. Good luck.

Build resume bullets (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39395947)

Everything on your resume is a datapoint- nothing more, nothing less. Speaking as an employer, what I'm looking for is things that tell me whether you can do the job, and how much knowledge/experience you already have. So, the fact that you completed a bachelor's degree tells me something. The next thing I'm looking for is some demonstration that I don't have to teach you basic development or IT skills. If you're going for an IT job, then certifications are great resume bullets. There are classes out there you can take that won't set you back for as much time or money as two more years of formal schooling. If you want something more development-oriented, then I'd be looking for something verifiable. A BS in computer science is one such thing, but it's not the only one. Work experience with one or more references is, of course, another. Contributing meaningfully to a well-known open source project is another.

Marketable Degrees DO NOT INCLUDE Psychology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39395951)

Nobody else will be saying this, so I will

Marketable Degrees DO NOT INCLUDE Psychology.

Know it.
Learn it.
Love it.

The fact that you were stupid ... AND that is exactly what you were ... isn't our fault.

You can make a fantastic living freelancing, but there is no way that I'd hire you into any programming or computer engineering type position. Perhaps helpdesk would be the best you can hope for in a larger company.

Be certain to tell all your soft-degree friends of the diffuculties you face. Heck, I think a Polysci or history major would have an easier time finding a job than you.

If you want to be hired from college, get a math, physics, engineering degree.

The sad part is that folks who get those types of degrees generally are not risk takers, so they will be stuck working in a cube farm for most of their careers.

Self-taugh means diddly + squat ; unless you are the lead of an extremely popular and useful F/LOSS project.

I'm not saying that psychology is a worthless degree, far from it, just that nobody will hire anyone so stupid as to think that a psychology degree makes them ready for a computer industry job in anyway. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Sorry to be so harsh, but perhaps if someone was before this point, you wouldn't be stuck now?

Re:Marketable Degrees DO NOT INCLUDE Psychology (3, Interesting)

ThorGod (456163) | more than 2 years ago | (#39396127)

Self-taugh means diddly + squat ; unless you are the lead of an extremely popular and useful F/LOSS project.

I've heard of people contributing to an OSS project to land work. It demonstrates ability, and that's all a degree does anyway.

Having said that, I do agree with your sentiment. I lived through the .com bubble and went to college during the aftermath. For a while there, everyone and their brother was saying they could "program". I'm sure that tendency still exists, and not having a CS/IT oriented degree does not help differentiate yourself from the crowd of fakers.

I know I said a degree "only demonstrates ability", but I only partially agree with that sentiment. My background is math. If you call yourself a mathematician because you like reading math books, well, I might half believe your claim. If you have a BS degree in math, I'll still only have so much confidence in you. If, how ever, you let me see your college transcripts and they show you took a full complement of math courses (real analysis, logic, discrete/combinatorics, complex analysis, linear algebra, modern algebra, some differential equations, and some decent proof classes) then I'll actually believe you're a mathematician. You can be competent in a subject, probably any subject, and not have a thorough understanding of that subject. But, for certain tasks, you really need a thorough background before your first day on the job. A degree symbolizes that understanding better than simple claims on a resume'.

Work at a psych place. (2)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39395957)

How can one with a degree that is not related to computers acquire a job that is centered around computers?

You don't. "Lots of people" with IT degrees are not able to get generic IT jobs, you will not either unless you're incredibly lucky, maybe your future boss graduated from the same place with the same pysch degree, or your best friend works there and is a reference, or parental connections, that kind of thing.

You need to get a job centered around computers at an employer centered around psych.

I had a pretty intense electronics and RF communications background, a long time ago that got me a "tangentially computer-ish" job at an intensely electronics and RF focused company. Eventually I went back for my formal CS degree (corporate tuition reimbursement, back in the "cheaper tuition days" so I didn't pay a cent)

Just a week or two ago there was a /. story where I mentioned my anecdote that most "psych research testing" I saw and heard of is done on or with computers now. Those profs and researchers would kill for a programmer/IT guy who actually knows their language and can intelligently cooperate with them to gather, transfer, and manipulate their data. You better hit the stat analysis programs hard, like R and S and all that. And work on your skills with graph generation.

Your sales pitch at the interview will have to be something along the lines of "so... you run psych research studies... I might not be a certificated expert on cloud based microsoft solutions, but I know psych and what you're trying to do... wouldn't it be nice to talk to a IT guy who speaks your language instead of their language (assuming this isn't a multicultural interview, in which case that language would be kind of awkward, better rephrase that). Make sure to talk in their terms about their work about a quarter of their time... too much and they'll think you're an unqualified guy trying to interview for a PHD position, too little and they won't get the idea that you live in their world.

CS degree? (1)

Lando (9348) | more than 2 years ago | (#39395971)

In my experience, a computer science degree is not needed to work within IT, what mainly counts is your skills. That being said, a lot of companies weed out applicants based on education; however, most are just looking for a degree of some sort, not necessarily a degree in computer science. Put together a portfolio of your work and be able to discuss technical issues when they do the techie call and you should be fine.

I'm not sure what else to tell you, but if you hit the job market and see what's out there, it will probably be more informative than advice from people here. I worked at a time where you didn't even need a college degree as long as you knew how to use a computer. Things have become more difficult in the last 10 years since the tech crash, since then HR generally weeds out people without degrees, but I don't think they've gotten to the point where they require a computer science degree. Most students in the computer science field won't have the skills that someone interested in computers and spends their own time working on them will have. And since most college is just proving that you can learn, and since most graduates need to learn about the actual job they take, it shouldn't be a big deal.

Find the right niche. (1)

griffjon (14945) | more than 2 years ago | (#39395977)

My entire tech team is full of people with liberal arts undergrad degrees (Classics, Philosophy, Humanities), and equally non-techy advanced degrees (International Policy, Journalism). You need to find the right team to connect with. Look in non-traditional spots for jobs; interesting non-profits who need generalists, thinktanks who could use your research skills as well as some coding skills, startups who need your psychology chops to help with marketing and your coding chops to build what they manage to sell. That being said, make sure your self-taught programming is top-notch; audit some courses and find some mentors as you go along to help you not only write beautiful code, but understand the architecture.

Overall, you just need one first employer to bite, and everything after that is built in to "or equivalent experience"

You're already past the hard part (1)

achbed (97139) | more than 2 years ago | (#39395981)

Job hunting is all about the filters, whether literal ones or HR dumping resumes in the trash based on an arbitrary set of written requirements from some one else. I've rarely seen a position that states a specific degree is a requirement, unless you're trying to get into a highly technical field (engineering, medical practice, etc). A degree (of any kind) plus relevant experience is usually sufficient to make it past HR and get the interview. In this case, highlight all the open source work and everything you've been doing, and downplay they KIND of degree you have. Be prepared to answer a lot of questions in the interview about why you chose the degree you did, and what that gains the prospective employer, but you're already 50% of the way there.

Good luck with the hunt!

You can but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39395985)

I majored in history, and worked in IT for five years. The best IT department I worked in was at one of the larger and more famous US universities where two people who never even finished college (myself included at the time) a philosophy major, and a medieval studies major. We also had an EE major, and a Math major. I eventually moved onto into the corporate IT world, then burnt out gloriously. This friday I finally put my two weeks notice on my hopefully last IT-related job in order to start something new in the language field.
So yes, you can get into it, I just don't recommend it. In the academic world you can get away with having more of a merit based qualification, in the corporate world, not so much.
Be aware that anything that started out as a hobby that you now do as a job, you will end up hating, and will eventually be unable to do as a hobby.

The Dirty Secret (2)

SeNtM (965176) | more than 2 years ago | (#39395993)

So, the dirty secret is that most IT employers know that degrees and certificates mean absolutely nothing. The bottom lines of them is that the individual was able to memorize the required information long enough to pass a test. Most do not retain that knowledge for longer than is required...and nearly all students do not practice what they have learned long enough to gain any true experience. There are exceptions to this rule, but far-and-few between.

When IT managers are not directly doing the hiring, HR departments are often asked to include the phrase "blah degree or equivalent experience" in the job postings. This opens the door for those with X number of years doing hands-on work and no degree to get past the submission process. But it often comes down to who actually hires the individual. Some bottom-line oriented companies will hire droves of fresh graduates for no other reason than they are cheap. It is quite a bit harder to get someone with 5 to 10-years experience to want to work for <30k/yr.

IMHO- I would rather hire someone with 5+ years working experience than a fresh BS recipient. That being said, any BS degree is often sufficient to meet a minimum job posting the end of the day, it comes down to how much you really know and how well you can articulate your skills.

Start small (1)

esme (17526) | more than 2 years ago | (#39395995)

I graduated with an even less practical degree (English/Creative Writing), and also didn't get into grad school. I also wasn't able to find a job in publishing or anything else related to my degree. I had a lot of computer skills (mostly sysadmin) and wanted to find a job using them, and also had no luck with that.

This was more than a decade ago, but I think I'd still recommend the same strategy I went down to a temp agency, and filled out all the skills inventories. I took the typing test, etc. And I got a job answering phones, typing letters, working weekends, etc. This was at a small company (15 employees), and I eventually got promoted when the "computer guy" quit. This gave me some decent computer-related experience to put on my resume, and got me taken seriously when I applied for jobs.

My temp job wasn't fun. There was a lot of crap work and overtime. But it got me started, and my next job was much better.

host your own server (1)

ThorGod (456163) | more than 2 years ago | (#39396007)

Pay for the cheapest web server from a place like linode or elsewhere. Get everything installed, setup, and design yourself a simple "about me" website. Make your resume on that website and direct potential employers there.

There's nothing like demonstrating that you know the content to land you a job.

Become a UI/UX designer (1)

JustShootMe (122551) | more than 2 years ago | (#39396013)

Seriously. It'd be nice to have a UI designed by someone who actually knows how we work rather than how the computer expects us to work. Larry Wall is a linguistics expert - he took that skill and wrote perl.

Degree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39396023)

I grew up with computers (the early days, think Atari ST, Commodore 64). In order to reconcile my self taught skills with the real world I took a 9 month tech degree course and have not looked back. In computer related fields the most important thing is "what have you done lately". I might also suggest you get some experience in more commercial packages like Java or .NET. I am not saying they are better than python or anything of the sort but you want a job making money you go with tools with a high business market saturation in my opinion.

Professional experience (1)

Tyr07 (2300912) | more than 2 years ago | (#39396045)

What you need to do is find jobs that will give you experience in the job you actually want.

It might be things you already know how to do, which means the job should be easy, but you can put on hard experience showing
you know what you're doing and work in this field. You do that and climb up jobs until you get the one you want.

I don't see why not (1)

callmehank (2128210) | more than 2 years ago | (#39396047)

If you are willing to put in huge hours to impress people it doesn't matter what your degree is in or even if you have one. Degree or no degree, what's really valued are entirely company-culture things. You don't even have to be all that smart. Just be a good technician, be loyal and enthusiastic. Getting a job may not be that easy for anyone these days, but it sounds like you have enough experience to start anywhere. Keeping a job and building a career is another problem. If you have the intestinal fortitude to put in extraordinary hours, be enthusiastically interested in understanding the Goldberg machines and the mess that other people have created, and deluded enough to plan to stay for a lifetime at a single job (or single company) - you should be fine and will eventually become astonishingly well-paid, comfortable and arrogant. That's what you're aiming-for, right?

Yes, actually studying mathematics and computer science in undergraduate school would have been the correct choice of major and to built a solid foundation of understanding of the underpinnings of the occupation, but nobody in the business world really cares about that. They just want people who work like dogs and are loyal to their masters. No degree required.

suggestion (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39396059)

Yo may have to look at more companies likea Google, that hire more non-traditional backgrounds.

Yes (1)

mcavic (2007672) | more than 2 years ago | (#39396065)

I'm a big fan of college degrees. Academically and socially, I probably learned as much in college as I did in high school. That being said, experience is what employers want. If you can do the job well, then you deserve the job.

Go for the degree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39396079)

Being able to "keep up in a conversation with computer science majors" means nothing; I can keep up conversations about black holes and relativity with some physics major friends - talking about something isn't the same as truly understanding, yet you can still have intelligent conversation.

Unless they had some real talent or worked on something in a significant way, I generally wouldn't hire someone without a computer-related degree for computer-related work. There's not a lot of reason I'd really have to, either... there are lots of people with CS degrees looking for work. Argue it if you like, but having the degree gives some credibility; being able to apply what you've learned gives a whole lot more. That's not to say there aren't exceptions.

What's the down side to having a psych degree AND a CS degree, apart from some more time in school?

You claim to want a Graduate degree (3, Insightful)

dmomo (256005) | more than 2 years ago | (#39396093)

Contrary to what many individuals think, not everybody with a Masters in Computer Science got their bachelors in the same field. Why don't you go for a Graduate degree in CS? You'll have to take a lot of catch up courses to meet certain prerequisites. You claim to be interested in "hard science". CS is much more than learning Technology. I know many people who learned to program without school. Far fewer go further to study Computational Theory, algorithms, and data structures on their own. So, go ahead. Apply for grad school as a CS student.

If you have time and money to blow, then sure, but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39396097)

You don't need a CS degree to be a professional developer. If you have time and money to blow, then sure, why not get a CS degree. Most of us dont have that luxury. There is a lot of useless theory taught in CS that is not directly applicable to the types of solutions that are needed. I see many CS grads who don't have the skills we need to create business web applications. To much theory, not enough practical experience. The majority of developers I have worked with in my career do not have CS degrees, myself included. Keep writing code, and read Code Complete 2 by Steve McConnell. If you want to be a back-end developer, read a book on Data Structures and Algorithms, and learn how to use a database. If you want to be a front-end web developer, learn html, css, and javascript. Basically, decide what you want to do for a living every day, and learn it. There are many, many software shops that dont care what your degree is, or even if you have one. If you show up to work everyday, write good code, and finish tasks on time, you will do well.

Project Management (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39396109)

Apply for a job as a Project Manager. It's actually a good fit for someone with a degree in Psychology, same withe Sales. Customer Support is another obvious but far less desirable alternative.

IT gruntwork (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39396131)

I'd highly recommend working part-time at a helpdesk, phone support if you must, tier 2 desk-side if you can get it, while working on the computer science degree.

Far too many "IT people" are running around in the trenches without the necessary education to do it well. Far too many people with the IT education have never worked helpdesk, deskside, or WAN support.

If you want to have a real understanding of what it takes to do IT effectively from the user, to the servers, to the enterprise, that experience is ABSOLUTELY critical.

Academics talk about solutions that any 2-year tech could tell you are unworkable. Grunts do things that any academic could tell you could be easily automated or the need for eliminated. Educated pragmatism is the secret to real-world success.

Note: I test systems for a living, and I've met MANY computer science PhDs who are completely incapable of designing and running even a small system effectively and efficiently. When these guys are done building their multimillion dollar systems, I tear through them like a hot knife through butter.

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