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Ask Slashdot: Getting a Tech Job With Skills But No Formal Degree?

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the have-you-tried-turning-it-off-and-then-on-again dept.

Unix 266

fmatthew5876 writes "I have a friend who graduated with a degree in philosophy and sociology. He has been spending a lot of his spare time for the last couple years learning system administration and web development. He has set up web servers, database servers, web proxies and more. He has taught himself PHP, MySQL, and how to use Linux and openBSD without any formal education. I believe that if given the chance with an entry level position somewhere and a good mentor he could really be a great Unix admin, but the problem is that he doesn't have a degree in computer science or any related field. He is doing stuff now that a lot of people I graduated with (I was a CS major) could not do when they had a bachelor's degree. Does Slashdot have any advice on what my friend could do to build up his resume and find a job? I know a lot of people think certifications are pretty useless or even harmful, but in his case do you think it would be a good idea?"

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266 comments

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Whatever -- Smarts and Work Ethic Come First (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40263077)

I barely graduated high school and I hold a high level IT position.

Key plan: don't lie about your college degree!

Re:Whatever -- Smarts and Work Ethic Come First (4, Insightful)

Cute Fuzzy Bunny (2234232) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263213)

Same here. Worked hard and cheap for a while, then worked hard and for a lot of money once I had the street cred.

Re:Whatever -- Smarts and Work Ethic Come First (5, Interesting)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263545)

Same here; art school drop out (was having too much fun playing with computers and then making money freelancing repairs). The first actual in was meeting a guy at a wake and talking computers. He said his team at Honeywell needed desktop support and that go me into the door. From there, writing documentation (learning systems/processes), some classes and certs and now am admining HPC clusters. My coworkers are mostly CS/EE degree holders, all the way up to PhD but turns out most of the actual job requirements are still job related knowledge (be able to learn quickly), basic problem solving skills, able to communicate clearly and straight forward and having decent people skills.

Oh yeah, in last two years, have started picking up people at the help desk and training up support personnel. Some of these folks have moved into our department as well. After our example, other teams are also looking at help desk as a potential talent pool. Used to be the only way out was up the desktop support ladder but that's changing. May want to look at help desk work and ask what their career options are.

Re:Whatever -- Smarts and Work Ethic Come First (1)

shaitand (626655) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263757)

Me four! We exist.

CS is not IT (3, Insightful)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263089)

CS is not IT

Re:CS is not IT (0)

CubicleZombie (2590497) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263237)

CS is not IT

"He is doing stuff now that a lot of people I graduated with (I was a CS major) could not do when they had a bachelor's degree"

When I was in the IS program, the CS students would come over from the math building and take our courses so they could learn to write code that actually does something.

Re:CS is not IT (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40263429)

Coding is not CS, and CS is not IT.

Re:CS is not IT (5, Informative)

Sir_Sri (199544) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263465)

because CS is about science and doing actual science. Developing new hash functions if you want a relevant example for todays news. Being a programmer is one thing in the toolkit of being a scientist, it's not the entirety of it.

Different schools have different emphasis though, but some places, where CS grew out of math departments it's much more about things like complexity theory, formal theory of languages and theory of computation sort of stuff than learning to write code.

For places where CS grew out of physics departments it can be much more hardware based, (Wilfred Laurier, the closest school to waterloo is a mostly hardware based CS programme, where waterloo is much more theoretical), or software, depending on what sorts of problems the people who created the department wanted solved, and how much money they could get to start the department.

Lots of CS grads, probably most of them, are not coders. They're scientists, some of whom can write code, and some of whom are much more about problems that can be solved with computers, and how efficiently that can be solved. Teaching people to code in a particular language is relatively easy if they have the math skills. Teaching them the maths skills is hard. Lots of them can't even replace a video card on their own, which seems kind of sad, but that's the same as an electrical engineer is not an electrician. They are related fields, but one is not entirely inclusive of the other.

CS *is not IT*. As part of doing CS you may have to learn to do some IT, but IT isn't programming necessarily either. A 5 year old can get a LAMP or Windows IIS php mysql setup going. IT is about being familiar with how to use particular software packages someone else has written to support whatever your business is. Being a network programmer, and sometimes that's part of being a sys admin, is about writing tools to solve your own unique problems, but not at the level of the packages you can download usually. The CS students who wandered over to your information systems or information science or... whatever programme did so because they want to know how to write code, but they don't have to be hardcore coders to be computer scientists. It's certainly useful for some people, and at some schools being able to code well is definitely required, but that's not universal.

Re:CS is not IT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40263787)

A bachelors in CS makes you no more a scientist than it does an engineer. It can only be considered a relatively high level review of various aspects of both. Most people coming out of a CS program with a BS are useless unless they have spent their own personal time working on projects and learning things.

Re:CS is not IT (2)

JonySuede (1908576) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263473)

If an expert system, an openGL based implicit 3dregrees of freedom equations solver, an A* chess game, a radiosity+multipath refraction aware ray-tracer, a numeric solver, and a symbolic algebra system that could preform derivation and reduction are considered code that actually does nothing, I would like to know what you did in your IS classes that is considered code that does something as I just listed the major practical works we had to implements in my CS Bachelor's degree?

Re:CS is not IT (5, Insightful)

CubicleZombie (2590497) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263661)

99% of software jobs involve taking database column x and putting it in text field y. I hate to burst the bubble of any CS students reading this and dreaming about "expert system, an openGL based implicit 3dregrees of freedom equations solver", but reality is not that exciting. We all sit in the same cubicles churning through millions of lines of legacy Java code, filling in our change requests and putting cover sheets on TPS reports.

You're right. I did NOT do the same things you did in your CS classes. I'm STILL not doing any of that, and neither are many other people.

Re:CS is not IT (1)

Genda (560240) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263743)

Ooooh, Ooooh, Ooooh! Don't forget making endless XSL Templates for e-commerce sites... because all the interesting web stuff happened over a decade ago, and now most folks spend their waking hour polishing turds. Actually there's a ton of interesting stuff, going on, you just need to hunt down someone who's doing it and sit at their front door until the let you in or call the police. Worked for a lot of people I know.

Oh and someone will be happy to pay really good money to polish turds, problem is they forget to tell you it'll cost a piece of your soul. Pick the thing that lights you up, and if you only make 70% as much count yourself lucky, and who knows, perhaps you get stupid wealthy in an IPO (avoid anything that looks like Facebook.)

Some of us design and develop new things (2, Insightful)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263943)

I hate to burst the bubble of any CS students ... We all sit in the same cubicles churning through millions of lines of legacy Java code, filling in our change requests and putting cover sheets on TPS reports.

No, we do not all do that. Some of us went into CS because we actually had an inherent interesting in coding, not because a parent or guidance councilor told us it was a good career path. Because we had an inherent interest in building things. An inherent curiosity regarding puzzles, practical or academic. We appreciated the theory presented in many classes because it better prepared us to design new things. And many of us matching the preceding sit in our cubes designing and developing new things, not maintaining old things.

I'm sure someone who came up through an IS program can probably make a similar observation.

What you end up doing has a high correlation to what your inherent interests are and to how seriously your took your degree program, CS or IS. I would not trust most of my fellow CS grads to design and develop new things, however these individuals typically were just in class to get a piece of paper to get a higher salary.

Re:CS is not IT (1)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263639)

CS is not IT

"He is doing stuff now that a lot of people I graduated with (I was a CS major) could not do when they had a bachelor's degree" When I was in the IS program, the CS students would come over from the math building and take our courses so they could learn to write code that actually does something.

Like learn how to program in COBOL? ;-) At my university the CS department had classes that used C, FORTRAN, Pascal, Lisp ... but no COBOL. One had to go take a class in the IS department for that. We laughed at the two guys who did that. They laughed years later when the Y2K updates were underway and they were charging outrageous fees.

Joking aside, you are entirely correct that CS is designed to be the more theoretical degree program. For example you will study the theory and design of operating systems in class, but you are expected to learn to program UNIX, MS Windows, etc on your own time. In general you will study the theory and mathematics of 3D graphics in class, but you are expected to learn OpenGL, Direct3D, etc on your own time (maybe a TA will help in a discussion session). The logic was that class time is spent on the theory, designs and mathematics that will persist as we migrate from one operating system to another, from one graphical environment to another, etc.

Re:CS is not IT (0)

Tridus (79566) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263683)

That's nice. And here in the real world, a surprisingly large number of IT jobs want people with CS degrees.

Since this is a question about the real world, please take your BS and kindly shove it.

Volunteer and/or do an Internship (5, Insightful)

x0mbie (415207) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263091)

I have had friends do this (and myself to a degree) and it can open doors you didn't know you had. Also join some local user groups (like I joined my local VMware User Group) and made a lot of good contacts, one even got me a job when I just got RIF.

Re:Volunteer and/or do an Internship (1)

clarkn0va (807617) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263571)

Exactly this. I have a degree in psychology and now work full time in IT, with IT-related business on the side. For several years before my first full-time IT gig I did things like maintaining computers and networks for the local youth centre and chairing the tech committee of the regional Skills competition. Volunteer work like this can build a reputation quickly if done well, especially in smaller communities. The person who made the decision to hire me at my current position was somebody I had worked with in the Skills competition, or it likely never would have happened.

Nah (4, Interesting)

Stargoat (658863) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263103)

Certs are good for non-IT degree folks. Heck, certs are good for everyone. Yes, there are people running around with certs that cannot problem solve their way out of a cardboard box while holding a knife. But mostly, they make you look better. Definitely go for them.

Re:Nah (4, Insightful)

bobcat7677 (561727) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263253)

Yes, as a senior software engineer with no degree, I can say that certs definitely help. Yes, they don't mean much really, but they make your resume more attractive than the stack of resumes with no degree and no certs. Some employers won't even give you the time of day if you don't have a degree. The ones that will consider applicants with no degree have to wade through mountains of resumes from all sorts of riff raff that think they can bullsh1t their way into a job. Anything that makes your resume possibly look better then the next guy's and seem more legit increases your chances of getting an interview and ultimately the job.

Re:Nah (1)

bobcat7677 (561727) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263299)

Also, tell him to consider entry level government jobs. The pay is usually not that great to start, but does get better and the benefits are great. And some times government technology jobs that require a degree don't specify that it has to be a CS degree.

Re:Nah (2)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263331)

I would go for a 2-year technician degree since it sounds that's the level he's currently at. Overload with credits and do summer classes, and he'll probably finished in 1.3 years. You need the "sheepskin" to get past the HR people.

Re:Nah (1, Insightful)

The Mighty Buzzard (878441) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263351)

To anyone who actually knows anything, they're worth less than toilet paper because they're too stiff to use in anything but truly desperate situations. Unfortunately, management almost never satisfies the "knows anything" condition.

I've been working without a degree since 98 (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40263113)

BUT things were a lot different then. And without any resume good luck getting a job, I've had to climb hills and start out with far too low salaries to get where I am.

I'm going to go back to school and finish up just because of this reason, you should consider doing that while doing open source projects that you can put in your portfolio

Re:I've been working without a degree since 98 (1)

chicago_scott (458445) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263795)

You definitely need to try if that what you want to do. It can be done. There may not be as many opportunities now as in the mid-late-90's, but there are still A LOT. Particularly in here in Chicago, SF, Austin and Atlanta. There are tons of startup that are looking for talented Software Engineers that will work for lower-than-industry wages in return for an opportunity to get experience (and a lot of then offer great experience, even though some of their products may not be so great.)

I graduated with a degree in Journalism (along with taking several CS classes) in '96. I had been a programming hobbyest since I was a kid, but never had an interest in pursuing it as a profession because it seemed boring and, frankly, I just didn't fit in with the culture. Then came the Internet and the culture changed! (for the better in my opinion).

As other posters have said, when I got out of college I worked for really cheap and initially for free. I was able to get an internship at a weekly newspaper under the guise of being a writer to satisfy my Journalism degree, but they really wanted me for my development skills. So I worked for free for three months and then was hired on full-time at a salary about 60% lower industry standard for an entry leve Software Engineer. Did that for a year and half and cut my teeth and then put my resume out there and was able to get on a project at another company working custom implementation of JSP, before JSP even existed, at a standard salary for an entry level Software Engineer.

I've been in the business for sixteen years now and have never regretted making the decision to turn my hobby into a career.

Suggestion (1)

RogueLeaderX (845092) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263115)

See if the college's placement/career department can find an internship for him. Or perhaps one of your CS professors.

Certifications can't hurt at that point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40263137)

I've worked many places that hired experienced people without degrees. Many are looking for solid knowledge and passion for doing a good job. Just don't lie about a degree. But, it may also be helpful to enroll in school or at least look into it and be prepared to discuss it in an interview.

Tech Support position is usually the best way... (1)

Assmasher (456699) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263141)

...if you don't have a formal degree.

As a matter of fact, software companies will often have those with degrees who are fresh out of school work in tech support for at least 6 months. Then move them up when a slot opens or they show that they are capable.

Re:Tech Support position is usually the best way.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40263311)

Tech support? Why don't you suggest this guy suicides right away?!

Re:Tech Support position is usually the best way.. (2)

NotSanguine (1917456) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263575)

Tech support? Why don't you suggest this guy suicides right away?!

I've been continuously employed in a variety of IT roles (Sysadmin, project manager, network manager, InfoSec among others) since '92. I don't have a degree of any kind and while that's kept me from interviewing for a few jobs, it hasn't really negatively affected my career. Certs and degrees are nice, but there's no substitute for experience.

That's why I usually recommend getting a tech support/help desk job to those trying to break into IT (if you want to be as developer, tester is a good starting place) IT if you don't have a degree or prior experience. That's the advice I give most folks who want to get into IT. Since quality IT people are few and far between, IT management will pick from the best of the TS/HD folks and move them up quickly if they show they have the right attitude/skills/outlook.

Yes, tech support/help desk work blows, but we all have to pay our dues. If you don't want to pay your dues, then you should consider suicide because you're a worthless piece of shit.

Re:Tech Support position is usually the best way.. (1)

NotSanguine (1917456) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263589)

I think that was the most poorly written post I've ever done on /. My apologies.

Find a book and a project to do (2)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263143)

And complete it, for someone. A church, or a nonprofit would be good. Another alternative would be to build a useful application and add it to SourceForge. Nothing spices up a resume like free downloadable open software that you've written, assuming it's well tested.

Portfolio (5, Insightful)

Zaphod The 42nd (1205578) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263145)

I wouldn't recommend getting a Cert, probably more trouble and cost than its worth. Not as negative to have on your resume for a SysAdmin than a programmer, but still, it doesn't exactly shine, so it doesn't feel worth it. Its going to be hard, no doubt. There's just so many people who apply for IT jobs that have NO idea what they're doing at all, hiring is a nightmare. So much of the "interview process" is just to weed out people who should never be applying in the first place. You mentioned, "He is doing stuff now that a lot of people I graduated with (I was a CS major) could not do when they had a bachelor's degree" There's the answer. That's how you get a job without a degree, you do really impressive stuff that shows you know what you're doing and you care about it. Tell him to do as many personal projects as he can, and try to find everything he can do to show evidence of having done them. Set up a personal website, and make it as in-depth as possible. Write extensive notes on all the stuff he's doing that graduates couldn't even do, and include that with your resume. Take pictures, include links to live things on the web if you can, everything and anything to show that while you don't have a formal education, you still have experience. That's what counts. Other than that, I'd just say apply everywhere imaginable. Getting your foot in the door is the hard part, once he's got a job on his resume or two, people won't care about his education at all.

Re:Portfolio (1)

swanzilla (1458281) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263447)

Spot on. I broke into the game with a math degree and code in the wild. I was hired by an EE who fell into software dev in a similar way.

GO to user groups (5, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263153)

make friends and contacts.

And if you already have a degree:
Go to user groups,
make friends and contacts.

Re:GO to user groups (2)

Missing.Matter (1845576) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263205)

This is the real answer. The number one thing I hear from people who do hiring is "Yeah, we post the job but it's just a formality. By the time it's posted, we already have a guy in mind who was referred to us by a colleague/business parter/stake holder/trusted friend etc."

So if you want a job, you want to be the guy that's being recommended, and that comes from knowing the right people, not having the right degree. However, it's no mistake that in the process of getting the right degree you meet the right people as well.

Re:GO to user groups (1)

NIN1385 (760712) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263269)

Having just lost my job due to our small computer store closing this comment makes me happy, a guy I worked with there has put in a good word for me at a major corporation he works for.

Comp Sci != IT (3, Insightful)

Missing.Matter (1845576) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263157)

Given that sysadmin is not in any way equivalent to Computer Sceince, I'd say he's in luck. Anyone who requires a CS degree for a sysadmin job is just ignorant of that fact.

let him eat cake (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40263421)

He doesn't have an IT degree either. Way to totally fail to grasp the point of the question, sherlock.

Re:let him eat cake (1)

Missing.Matter (1845576) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263579)

No, you didn't grasp my point: he's not missing anything by not knowing CS. Many places ask for a BS, but don't give a specific field. If he has a BS and lots of related experience, he could easily turn that into a job and not feel under-qualified lacking of a CS degree.

Re:Comp Sci != IT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40263791)

Tell that to the moron's in HR and the boss who asked them to require a CS degree for a sysadmin job.

he's already qualified for entry level (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40263171)

Depends on your age I guess. If you get hooked up w/ a team at a school or other laid-back atmosphere, work hard, maintain a good attitude and actually do have some skill, you will be able to build some real-world demonstrable experience. I think in this field your degree doesn't matter so much 5-6 years down the road - it's experience and demonstrated ability (i.e. good references from the people you impressed w/ your work ethic).

maybe (1)

KingBenny (1301797) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263177)

your friend should apply and see what happens, if he dont he'll never know, if he does he loses nothing

Get through the door and have something to demo (1)

Anrego (830717) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263181)

Have something you can demo. A personal project that you put serious time into. Have it well presented (a good website or document that highlights what you are trying to show off).

That's the easy part. The hard part is getting in the door. Focus on smaller companies as most big ones will just bin your resume. Go in there and apply in person. Easy to delete a document when you see there is no degree. If you make the effort and go in there in person, usually they'll at least talk to you.

The fact that he has _a_ degree is good. To many, a degree has little to do with proving you know computers and more to do with proving your character.

Re:Get through the door and have something to demo (1)

approachingZero (1365381) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263887)

Good idea. Very good idea.

IT is still good like that (1)

theillien (984847) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263187)

IT is one of the few industries where a person can still work his or her way up from the bottom without any formal education in the field. Having a degree is good no matter what it is simply to be able to say that you have a formal education, but not necessary. Your friend has already displayed one of the things that IT hiring managers seek almost above anything else: initiative to learn on his own and the ability to put the knowledge to good use. That alone is going to carry a lot of weight.

Re:IT is still good like that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40263305)

IT is one of the few industries where a person can still work his or her way up from the bottom without any formal education in the field.

I don't think that's the case any longer. In the last few years - especially with this tight job market - employers are very demanding and picky. I'm seeing less and less IT jobs where you'd see something like this in the education requirements: "....or equivalent experience". Computer Science or Computer Engineering degrees are becoming the only tickets - even for an admin job. Yeah, yeah, yeah, CS != IT but tell that to the folks doing the hiring.

Get a portfolio (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40263189)

The future of IT/sysadmin is automation. You'll need to be good at programming in at least one language like perl/python/ruby. The scripts, recipes, and what not for automating data centers are artifacts that can be created and shown off to potential employers. Look and see what employers you're interested in are using like Chef, Puppet, Fabric, CFEngine, etc... Then learn to use them with a bunch of VMs (VirtualBox is free) and write some libraries and put them up in a public place like github. Find a big complicated open source project like a nosql database and write a bunch of comprehensive recipes/scripts for setting up clusters of it on AWS. Then getting a job will be no problem because people can look and see that you know what you're doing.

No formal degree? (1)

OhHellWithIt (756826) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263207)

You said your friend had no formal degree, yet you describe him as having degrees in philosophy and sociology. Those would be degrees, even if they aren't CS degrees.

Re:No formal degree? (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40263297)

Ah come on now, no one actually thinks that Philosophy is a real degree [/flamebait]

A BA/BS doesn't matter anymore (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40263211)

It really doesn't matter if you have a formal education anymore. At least that's been my experience in both hiring and getting hired in New York and the Bay Area. If you are doing web development it double doesn't matter in most situations. If you want to get a job at Oracle or Amazon, or a company that has some heavy Java/C backend you are going to need to have some serious knowledge of theory that you might not get without a degree. But you probably won't get that kind of education with just a BS anyway.

The degree helps, but it just isn't necessary for most of the web/app development that goes on these days. It almost appears to me as if there are two markets of software engineering: a skilled labor market and an unskilled labor market. The skilled labor market is those who know what they are doing. It's smaller, and it's damn hard to find and hire people. The unskilled market is anyone who can make something work, doesn't matter how. That market is huge, and often pays better (in my limited experience). You can teach yourself Ruby, Python, JS, Objective-C etc. and land a pretty sweet job these days.

Two Words (0)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263217)

1: Certifications

2. Networking (the people kind)

With a Sociology degree, he may have better luck looking into the data-mining/ "user-engineering" side of I.T. than actual system administration. Probably better money there as well.

hiring manager for IT roles (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40263221)

As someone who interviews people at our company for IT positions(i work in teh IT dept as the lead tech), I dont look for anything other than experience when I want someone to come in for an interview. When we are sitting in the room, I ask questions related to past jobs and what they wrote down on their resume. If they pass our tech questions and have a reasonable understanding of what they wrote down, they can start once they go thru background checks. Certs and degrees are overrated in IT, I hold a degree from SIU(take that as will...haha)

Re:hiring manager for IT roles (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40263643)

Oops, should have included the link. [seafarers.ca]

There are exceptions (1)

kurt555gs (309278) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263223)

I have been lucky. With only high school I have work all over the world doing software development since the early 1980's. I have worked as a consultant for mega corps with a staff of PhD's and invented some world changing algorithms ( which of course the mega corps patented ).

If you are good enough, or have a perspective that is outside the box and produce results, the degree doesn't matter.

It's just harder. Harder to get in the door to present yourself. Harder to win acceptance of your work. Harder in just about every metric you can think of.

Don't let it stop you.

Re:There are exceptions (2)

Sir_Sri (199544) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263507)

If this was the 1980's the suggestions would be very different.

Back then finding anyone who knew anything about computers was a small miracle, and you could get your foot in the door and then experience matters. Today you're competing with people who are already a step above you, so you pretty much have to have demonstrable skills doing the job for someone, or you have to know someone that thinks you're competent enough to help you get a job.

I think it depends on Job Market (1)

foradoxium (2446368) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263233)

This is my personal experience, others may vary:

A while ago before I got my degree, I tried getting a basic tech support job within the same medium sized company (2-3k people) that I worked for in a non-technical nature. I had a friend that was a network admin for the company and he personally tried to get me in, talking to the hiring manager, vouching for me, etc. The hiring manager called me and told me that he had over 100 applicants and most of them all had degrees, and that even though one of his own employees was vouching for my skills he had a hard time justifying hiring me over one of the many people who had degrees.

It was shortly after that when I started on my degree. Immediately after my degree (actually 2 months before I finished) I was hired.

I know some older people that became senior network admins and started (in the late 80's) with no degree at all. One of which owns a successful small (2-3 people) consulting company. I just think that in modern times without a degree the odds are heavily stacked against you. Even though it sounds like a long time..4 years goes quickly.

Agreed to an extent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40263543)

For anything like programming, you'll likely need a degree in this job market. If you want to be the guy who maintains the LAN of a small company, you may be fine with certifications, some connections, and luck. The people who worked their way up with just a high school diploma did so 15+ years ago when far fewer people had degrees and more decent/well paying jobs were available.

I hunt for these people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40263241)

As a hiring manager I hunt for people that train themselves and work hard at it. Its a rare quality and shows a talent that schools can not teach. I would suggest users groups and community forums. Until he gets that perfect job take any job he can get in IT just to get through the screening filters of most recruiters.

No degree needed (1)

gizmod (931775) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263271)

You don't need a degree to do programming, web, development or syadmin type jobs. What you need is experience. Lots of it. experience.experience.experience. That's what the last 17 odd years in development taught me. I have no formal education at all, self taught all the way and I'm pretty good at what I do (if I do say so myself) You are going to have to prove yourself in the beginning, but once you gain their trust along with some good solid experience, nothing can stand in your way if you persevere. It's easier if you have a passion for it. Good luck.

Same here, but 100% of the good jobs didn't do HR (1)

DCFusor (1763438) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263283)

The best jobs - find someone already working there to skip you around most of the HR, dropdown list checking paperwork idiots. I've seen all too many people who could check off all the boxes, but who were idiots, and disruptive and entitled on top. Places where you can't get around that HR BS aren't worth working for - if HR is totally in CYA mode, so is the rest of the joint, in my experience. I skipped out of college (in '71) to take a good paying job. Not long after that, someone gave me a job with "engineer" in the title. No one since has ever seriously asked for paper quals - my rep preceded me - if you got the stuff, and people find out, that's how you get the juicy jobs. Of course, since '80, I've been totally freelance/contractor, when I feel like working. It's been profitable enough to let me have the choice.

If that sounds too smug for someone, hell, I deserve it - 60-80 hour weeks, total dedication and loyalty to customers, and always on time and in budget - time to market is worth a lot to the right customers, and part of it is finding those guys in the first place to work for. I earned it - an hour at a time. And so did the guys I hired when it was time to expand the outfit. Now retired, but that's what has worked for me.

He has a degree (2)

JonySuede (1908576) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263287)

He has a degree that's what is important to a lot of employer, now he just have to spin the logic part of the philosophy classes, if he took descriptive logic's even more so, emphasize his societal knowledge he should list his relevant experience, then provide a link to a demo. With that he should be quite ahead of the bottom of the classes CS grads, as far as the recruiter is concerned.

For a monetary interesting UNIX admin position, a cert*1, from redhat or from oracle, is a fast-track to a corporate position as he already have the degree.

1- CS major are not good at system administration usually

Expectations (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263295)

This isn't a huge issue. There are a lot of IT jobs with no requirement formal training or education. However, in addition to not having any training or education, he also apparently has no experience.

Oh, I get it. He set up a server and has taught himself PHP. There can be a significant divide, though, between "someone who knows how to run a Linux server" and "someone who is qualified to be a Linux sysadmin." It's not all technical knowledge; it's also about understanding how businesses work, how to work with other people, how to manage your workload, and how to cope with problems and mistakes. Experience counts for a lot.

So your friend has no formal training and not a lot of experience. He'll probably need to start at the bottom, which means being a low-level tech.

Re:Expectations (1)

Sir_Sri (199544) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263537)

Ya, anyone who can read (which is, admittedly, a surprisingly high barrier when it comes to computing) can setup a linux box and hack out a PHP webpage. That's basically starting at the level of a highschool kid or a 1 year college course, so that's about where you'd expect to start employment wise.

Make one up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40263303)

Juat put it on your resume from a school that no one has heard of and let your skills speak for themselves during the interview. You might even end up as the CEO someday!!

Part-time (1)

Tarsir (1175373) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263313)

Study part-time (you can fit one or two courses a semester around a full-time job without too much pain) for whatever degree fits best for high level system administration (it's not, or shouldn't, be Computer Science). Put that degree on your resume, with the projected completion date in the future--if you're worried, put a bullet point underneath stating that it's a degree in progress. This will get you past quick filter passes which throw out resumes that have no undergrad degree.

Anyone who is looking at these resumes closely enough to notice the undergrad isn't actually completed yet will likely be more interested in work experience than in education, so you're okay on that front. Once you get to the interview you can spin it as a positive: you're qualified to do the job based on past experience, and you're sufficiently ambitious to get the degree anyway to 'round out your skillset', or however you want to phrase it.

Free Karma! (1)

tooyoung (853621) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263323)

It's so nice that the editors post this same question once a week. I might just look back at the last few times this question was asked so that I can get a few +5 mods.

Lots of good comments (1)

the_B0fh (208483) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263359)

Everyone already pointed out a bunch of things. The key is this - if you don't have a degree, what can you show? Is there a website? A blog? A job somewhere, be it nopay/littlepay/volunteer that shows what you did? What can you show a potential employer as something you can do?

Second - show that you have a good attitude about learning. Show how you made mistakes, and then fixed them, and improved upon them.

Next - network! Join local usergroups. Help others. Answer questions. But please don't give stupid answers if you don't know what the hell you're doing. Like that guy who swore up and down that "tracert" is the Microsoft Trace Report tool. Or that idiot "hacker" who posted on youtube a traceroute to google, and then claiming the numbers indicate how many users are on each google server. Please don't embarrass yourself like that...

Also, find something and *FOCUS* on it. I have a ex-network guy on my team who makes $120k. He focused on networks and did that for a long time. Now he's doing something else for us, and doing a damned good job at it. Doesn't have a degree.

Same situation I was in (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40263369)

I have an education that has nothing to do with C.S. (I.T), but because of my nature I have learned quite a bit over the years. And to be honest, when I had tried to get into IT in the past the door was never opened to me because everyone required some type of degree or experience in a business environment. So, the best way to do it is to know someone who can get them in - then they can prove themselves and keep on moving.

Now the question you might have is "why haven't you gotten your certifications if you really want to work in IT?" Well, after having seen a few friends who literally bought their certifications, I just can't justify the cost involved in getting certified when I know many others will have simply bought their certifications without having really learned what they're supposed to know. That's just one side of the story. The other is that you need to learn a lot of things that just don't apply - such as voltage levels...

While you will learn many things in a structured environment, for me having learned by banging my head on BSD systems, I have been exposed to so much more. I've been able to do some great work with my abilities - all learned outside of work. It's not only helped me out personally (at home) but professionally as well. But even then, that doesn't mean the IT doors will open up easily for me.

And truth be told, even now I'm in a position which requires certifications that I don't hold - yet I am here because I have worked for this company for 6 years and they now know what I can do. That's why I've been asked to open this account (we're contractors). At the several different places I've been to in the last 6 years, many in the IT departments have been hired and brought on by friends, or co-workers from previous jobs. So I'm of the opinion that the best way to get in, is to know someone. If not it'll be difficult for them just as it was for me.

Tried logging in from work and couldn't... - Socz

He's on the right track (1)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263371)

My degree was in Manufacturing Engineering, but by the time I graduated there was no money and few opportunities in manufacturing in the UK where I lived compared to IT. So I went into IT. Started at the bottom of the ladder at PC support. I was able to talk my way into that job because I had a bit of CAD/CAM knowledge and some experience as a CAD draughtsman, but it actually didn't work out very well because it was in a small company where I was thrown in at the deep end and expected to learn a million things all on my own. It was more than I could take in.

I ended up doing various agency jobs doing clerical work, but along the way I was able to teach myself little scripting tricks using the macro languages of those office software tools. It was around this time that I got a lucky break and got some free Microsoft training that could have led to certification. The training company also set me up with a job interview for a position as a UNIX administrator. At that interview I openly admitted that I had limited UNIX experience (just as a user) but I talked up the self-teaching aspect of what I did in those clerical jobs and assured them that I wasn't intimidated by complexity or a different system from what I'm used to.

That's what swung it for me in the end and I got the job, although it helped that I was able to get across that I'm a good communicator. All other job applicants had computer science degrees, but mine was unique and it helped me to stand out from the crowd.

The fact that your friend has a degree of some sort means that he's in the running (the headline of this post is very misleading, it implies that your friend has no degree at all). If he's a good communicator and can give examples that show he can learn and apply new skills then I think he has every chance. I'd tell him to pick up any scrap of knowledge from any source that he can get it from. If he can do pro-bono work for non-profit organisations, friends or anyone else on a tight budget then that might help to build up his resume. I was able to do that with my web developer skills, building websites for friends' sports clubs free of charge (apart from hosting expenses).

To answer your question about certification, I don't completely discard the value of it and if he can go down that route then by all means do so. But I think his energy might be better spent getting practical experience under his belt and grabbing any scrap of training he can get from any source.

Good luck!

PS, I never followed through with the certification in the end.

IT degrees of varying quality (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40263379)

CS and IT degrees are of such varying content and quality that generally they are not a great indicator of job performance, especially as a lot of such degrees are based on dated material and spend too much time focused on non-tech subjects (human-computer interaction anyone? How's that going to get the Exchange server running at 4am Sunday). Ability to pick things up quickly and (crucially) have a genuine interest in the subject matter are more important. I.T. is a real meritocracy, if you work hard and keep current then you'll generally trump someone with a 10 year old MSc who's worked the same team leader job for half his career or more. Get an entry level job and start to learn, learn everything you can about your job and other peoples', your knowledge will start to grow above your role and you'll naturally progress into something more challenging, at which point the cycle starts to repeat itself. There's enough dead wood in this profession that good people shine brightly and are noticed.

Also agree with the guys who said do some volunteering, I took an unpaid position at my Dad's company tutoring ex-juvenile offenders; the first I.T. job interview I had spent way longer quizzing me on that than my 4 years of college (non-I.T. degree).

Move to a hot market... (1)

ztexas (1351217) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263381)

... such as Austin. Opportunities abound. There many small companies who are eager to hire smart, motivated folks with demonstrated capabilities, regardless of the field of their degree. Wait... *don't* move here. There are already too many people here.

Get a degree (1)

Lab Rat Jason (2495638) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263397)

This is going to sound really obvious and snarky, but just go out and get the paperwork done. I'm in pretty much exactly the same situation, except I am no longer entry level. Not having a degree hurts my options every day. Sometimes you can fake it 'till you make it, but eventually your friend will hit the glass ceiling. So my advice is this: Get the paperwork done!

His career options will be limited (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40263415)

He can probably get a job, even a well paying job, but he I doubt he'd be considered for a leadership position in a medium to large sized company without a B.S. in Computer Science or related field.

Networking (the personal, not digital, kind) (2)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263425)

Does Slashdot have any advice on what my friend could do to build up his resume and find a job?

If he has actual demonstrable knowledge and skills, then he needs to build contacts with people working in the field, specifically, people working in places with sufficiently non-bureaucratic hiring practices that a recommendation from a skilled current employee can help him get to an interview where he can demonstrate that to a hiring manager.

At least, that's how I got my first technical job with a degree in the social sciences and minimal formal experience (e.g., coursework) in computer-related fields. (I didn't actually build connections for that purpose, they were preexisting.)

Demonstrate skills (1)

Cmdr-Absurd (780125) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263431)

When I'm hiring for unix admin jobs, I don't give a fig about what degree you have. Just what you can do and how fast you can learn.
Demonstrate that, and there will be no shortage of job offers.

Have a sociology degree? Easy (1)

the_B0fh (208483) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263453)

Here's one idea that works really well. If you have a non-IT degree, consider getting an MBA with a concentration in MIS. That "Management Information Systems" bit is equivalent to "IT" for most recruiters.

Do your MBA part time. Continue getting experience. Then you have both a degree *AND* experience when you're done.

As an IT admin..... (1)

jpedlow (1154099) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263455)

As the IT admin with no CS degree that has a healthy job with decent pay...Allow me to elaborate on a couple small things:
1. CS is not IT. So many newbies come out with a CS degree and think they're shit-hot at running a network. Then they dont even know how to swap the tapes out.
2. Social Networking is EVERYTHING. It's not alllll what you know, but who you know -- you may be great with GPO's and cisco gear and write a mean shell script, but if you dont have the industry connections, you're not likely to get that special job that someone knows YOU are perfect for.
3. Idiotic HR departments & Municipalities look for a degree over real experience. I've been told before that I got 2nd place in an interview to someone who had 1/10th the experience but had the degree. Subsequently he was fired a couple of months later, but ALAS the door was still closed because I didnt have my papers. Then I became an IT director for an insurance company with a healthy six figure budget. Their loss is my gain, I guess.

TL;DR: MAKE FRIENDS & KNOW YOUR SHIT. I dont demand you're a cisco god, or anything like that, but smart and willing to learn doesnt hurt. Everyone gets experience on the job, but the really good guys are eager to learn EVERYTHING, inside & out.

Re:As an IT admin..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40263675)

This.

Networking. Getting jobs with the 'right' companies. Getting the 'right' certifications. All of it helps if you don't have a technical degree.

That said, having a degree, AT ALL, even if it's not even remotely related, is often all one needs to pass the 'degree' test with HR.

My career has been primarily with startups - I've yet to run into one, that I want to work for, that gives a single shit about a degree. There is MUCH more care given to 'do you know your shit?'.

no formal degree? (1)

LeoDeSol (1323269) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263457)

"I have a friend who graduated with a degree in philosophy and sociology." I wouldn't consider that a formal degree either...

Hosting company (1)

DataDiddler (1994180) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263461)

The degree's subject doesn't matter. Just having one will give him a leg up.

As long as he knows what he's talking about, he should be able to find work at a hosting company which will have plenty of entry- to low-level sys admin type work. Some sort of volunteer work beforehand to prove that he's not totally inept would help, too.

Start low (1)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263471)

I got a psychology degree 15 years ago, and in my last 3 jobs, I've been the highest technical person in the company (two jobs ago, that excepts the CIO, who was non technical). Start low, work hard, and get some certifications. I know Slashdot hates certs, but so many people doing hiring require some paper support for skills.

Re:Start low (1)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263515)

I did the same thing with my psychology degree 30 years ago, but without the certs. These days I design and code automated testing systems and manage the virtual machine environments. Certs might have helped. Hard to say. Never had time.

Re:Start low (1)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263839)

Certs weren't as important 30 years ago, but in the late '90s, certs were everything. I had my MCSE and CCNA and got a really good job on the strength of those two alone.

Reality Check: (1)

gatfirls (1315141) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263481)

The market is completely flooded with "shade tree" sysadmins/IT who fit that exact same description. No one cares about the degrees they just care about *anything* that will help them weed out the thousands of applications from home grown (no experience) Sysadmin/IT Tech. No offense to you or your friend.

Look at small businesses (1)

pelirojatica (533396) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263487)

Small businesses need people who are flexible, and who are ready and willing to learn. A business with the need for his skills might not be tech-focused, and might not be looking for someone with a CS degree. Having a degree in Philosophy has never hurt me, and it makes for a great interview question. In some respects, I have (and he has) a degree in "figuring things out".

Because small business need greater flexibility in their employees, and all the independent learning he's done would demonstrate that flexibility. There are down sides to working for small companies, but not everyone is cut out for corporate culture.

If he can combine his skills with another interest, he'll be valuable to a small company in that area.

Find a niche job (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40263539)

A lot of it will boil down to being in the right place at the right time. I hire "non IT/CS people" generally because it is harder to break them of bad habits then to teach passionate, competent people how we do things. Built a good portfolio find a position with transferable knowledge, and be passionate about IT and look outside the mainstream world.

That is what got me where I am (A manager at one of the largest technology companies in the world) with a high school degree and some college (Design and Philosophy) :)

What's important (1)

Caerdwyn (829058) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263541)

I can't speak for any other workplace, but when I go through resumes I pay very little attention to the "Education" section. This is due to encountering so many people with Bachelor degrees in Computer Science that can barely write "Hello World" when asked to, and Masters degrees who can't write a simple recursive script to crawl a directory structure and do X to files with criteria Y. Putting it bluntly, college degrees have lost their credibility.

The industry I am in is network performance; I'm in QA. We need people who understand IP networking, who are good enough with Linux to administer their own test machines and get around on the command line of our (Linux-based) product, and who can write test automation scripts in Perl, Python, or bash. When I interview someone, I ask them to write a couple of very simple scripts in the language of their choice. I give them a couple of straightforward network-based problems (hint: the answer is that it's not working because of NAT). I ask a couple of simple Linux questions. And it's still damned hard to find anyone who can even do THAT, regardless of what their degree or GPA is.

In other words, at least from my perspective, the lack of a degree isn't an issue. What's important are specific skills, the ability to discuss them, and to demonstrate that they can perform those skills. Having projects that you can point to (such as a t1.micro instance in Amazon EC2 that's a fully-functional LAMP system that you can give a tour of, and demonstrate skills upon) is important. If coding skills are being claimed, something on Sourceforge that can be examined is good. Breaking in to the tech industry is very doable, and people are doing it all the time. But you have to have something that gets you past the first filtering session of resumes, and projects is the best way of doing that.

Suggestion: since your friend seems heavily Web-oriented, have him find a local non-profit group that interests him that has a crappy website. You can figure out what step 2 is... bam. Instance experience and project people can look at, complete with warm fuzzies for helping out a nonprofit.

And once he has his first tech job on his resume, the degree (or lack thereof) becomes much less important. Your degree gets you your first job, but not your second; after that, it's almost purely experience and references that matters. Recent password issues nonwithstanding, LinkedIn is a major pathway for getting into tech. It's served me very well, as well as most of my techy friends, and showing the initiative of tracking down recruiters on LinkedIn will eventually pay off with an interview.

Of course, the best way to get an interview is personal recommendations. Unless the hiring manager is a friend, the friend can only get you the interview; you still have to convince the manager and the rest of the team to take you on.

Apply for jobs? (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263549)

I wouldn't notice if a resume I got for the positions we are advertizing didn't have a degree listed. And he would have one for the places that deal with HR requiring such a thing.

Of course lack of experience is a harder nut to crack but having a degree in CS doesn't make up for that anyway.

Linkedin (1)

LeoDeSol (1323269) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263551)

This social site (minus the current security issues) has become a great networking and job hunting tool, IMO. He could, for example, create a full profile complete with as much detail about the skills he is really comfortable with, and start networking just with friends and his non-IT coworkers at first. He could then start to do IT as odd jobs (rent a coder, craigslist, etc) or volunteer work even for Churches and non-profits, etc. and ask the contacts he makes through those efforts to give him recommendations about his work, if they are happy with it, on linkedin. Recruiters seem to contact me through linkedin, more than any other service (Monster.com, dice.com, etc.) now.

tips (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40263557)

Try finding a contact that will get your friend to talk directly to the IT Manager or the CEO than sending a resumé in the first place; many companies only hire certified employees. Face to Face contact often make more impression than a piece of paper

Tell him to to find a trainingship/ internship and climb up the ladder

If he has done any kind of remotely related IT tasks in a company before, he will have to focus on this past experience and give a detailed description.

Even if he succeeds, he will have to get certified at some point because getting promoted without a degree can take a longtime even if you are excelling at your job,

I hope that will help
System Admin for 6 years now without a degree in IT

Sorry english is not my mother tongue

Don't hate certs (1)

ginyard007 (2657989) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263587)

Experience and certs can be acquired concurrently, pick certs up for the technologies you work with and do the reading/hands on rather than braindumping it. You'll learn and make your C.V. look better. If nothing else a lot of shops need certified people to maintain partner agreements and if they've had a couple people leave then that CCNA or MCITP might push you into a job over the more experienced non-certified applicant, or into an interview for a position with 1000 applicants. Just don't take advanced certs for techs you have no experience with, these paper certs make job-hunting difficult for everyone and waste time for recruiters and hiring managers. Some certification programs are quite challenging and intellectually rewarding and make a candidate stand out from the crowd.

Destruction of Economies by Human Resources Strat (0)

bluecommenttor (2657983) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263601)

One of the fastest ways to destroy the USA economy is through the LESS THAN intelligent Human Resources Dept. Let's review the case of the 1.)out of the field degree. Philosophy. Most of philosophy arguments require STRENUOUS critical thinking skillsets. Much of IT Certifications/community college degree is similar to a JOKE. ... oh, yes, I am a FREEBSD expert, the hard way and the ONLY way. 2.)single mom - working three part-time jobs. SHE'S NO GOOD for she might take some time off for her kids. Too bad that she is working on a DOCTORATE part-time meaning she is super-smart. Too bad that she has extreme focus, balancing work AND family. Too bad she has NEVER declared bankruptcy or 'GAMBLED' on the housing market. 3.)tell the TRUTH, HR DIRECTOR! What car do you drive and WHY did you choose your mechanic? Uhhhh, I drive a MERCEDES, but I am using my brother-in-law because my wife told me to? Mmmmm, I go to the ten minute oil change for a Mercedes Expert?? I have trouble picking out QUALITY TECHNICAL people and in Silicon Valley I cannot produce a simple FINANCIAL spreadsheet about why 'stock options' HERE is better than the competitors. After age 54.5, with experience in different industries, I PRIDE MYSELF on finding the TOP 20% in one month. Often this select group HAVE INVERSE CORRELATION (this ten dollar word will throw off the HR low technical staff) with the positions and even 'promotion ladder.' Yes, I have done plenty of NON-profit volunteering BECAUSE this is a way of benchmarking myself against the competition. Starting to get into OPEN SOURCE. South Korea is a poverty country or WAS a poverty country. It is still AT WAR. Most of the CEOs are PhDs. Much of the staff have 'real skillsets' and they place low emphasis on the 'Microsoftie Certifications.'

Re:Destruction of Economies by Human Resources Str (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40263697)

I dare you to make less sense.

Go into tech support for a couple of months (1)

guruevi (827432) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263603)

Start with a simple tech support job which can be had anywhere. After 6 months or so you could spruce up your resume and get a better job. If he thinks he's good enough right now, look for local companies and start freelancing.

After either option, you can pretty much get a job anywhere as a second level support or junior sysadmin.

Take a shitty first job at a company with talent (1)

sdguero (1112795) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263649)

Then work your way up and make contacts. Leave after 3-4 years using said contacts and get paid 2x more money. That's what I did with my History degree, and it is no longer an issue. Although I still regret not graduating with a CS degree, I now try to spin it as a good thing because it brings a different viewpoint to teams with all CS majors.

Experience is more important than paper (1)

subreality (157447) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263679)

I don't have a degree. School bored me to death so I dropped out and took the GED. That's all the paper I have.

I got some things on my resume by working on my own hobby projects that demonstrated that I could work on moderate-scale systems. I also got a bit of white-collar job experience working as a drafting monkey. Those two things demonstrated the two primary things that employers want to see: a) I'm capable of doing technical things; b) I'm capable of showing up for a job sober enough to not get fired for a few months at a time.

With that on my resume, my formal education has never been an issue. It was enough to get an entry-level sysadmin job. It was relatively low pay and under my skill level, but I didn't care - I stuck it out for a year at which point I had solid relevant experience on my resume. From there I was able to jump into jobs that challenged me and made me learn rather than the ones that paid the best - those are solid resume gold, and result in the next job paying much better than this job would have if I'd simply gone for max pay. (I also simply prefer harder jobs - it also keeps me from getting bored.)

The other thing I do is keep learning. I hated school, but I love learning at my own pace and on my own time. It's its own reward, so I don't have any problem with motivation for it, but if you're not like that, do at least try to completely immerse yourself into learning something relevant to your career. Again, hobby projects are great. Then when you're in an interview you get to show off all the things you know.

Perhaps I'm biased, but when I'm hiring people the highest weighted thing when I'm scanning resumes is to look at their most recent job and see not what they were responsible for, but what they accomplished. That matters much more than job titles or formal education.

Get the resume out (1)

Fujisawa Sensei (207127) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263731)

Have him put together a resume and get it online, he should at least be able to get a contract job.

Then there's the big consulting firms like Accenture, they love guys with degrees other than CS.

And as others have said, network.

But do not take a job doing techsupport, it's a career limiting move and it won't actually be developing marketable job skills.

get a degree (1)

jehan60188 (2535020) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263747)

do some post grad work. some schools have 2-semester programs where you can get trained/certified. the problem is that there are so many resumes out in the wild, that employers use education (and then gpa) as a way to cut lots of them out. it's not always right, but that's the way the world works.

Are you sure this is what he really wants? (1)

approachingZero (1365381) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263855)

Making assumptions about what other people want out of life is a dangerous hobby. You say you believe you know what he wants and you ask all of slashdotdom for help. Mother Teresa meets highly opinionated technology forum. All I can say is be careful. As for your buddy, as the Moody Blues say just what you want to be you'll be in the end.

You can sell philosophy (1)

jonathonjones (844293) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263905)

I started programming professionally about 2 years ago. Before that, my education was all in Philosophy, like your friend.

In general, although businesses SAY that they want someone with a CS degree, it hasn't really stopped me - I apply for the job anyway, and then talk about how I think the philosophy degree actually helps. My first job programming came because I went to a Ruby on Rails conference, and at the end they had a jobs board where employers could write their name if they were looking for someone, and potential employees could write their information if they wanted a job. So I wrote my name on the board, and was contact in a few days and offered a position as a Rails software developer. I had no professional experience doing programming, but I was able to sell the philosophy background as being relevant.

So my advice is twofold:

1) Think about ways his background actually helps (for example, being able to conceptualize well and think through the logic of things are very well trained in a philosophy programming).

2) Go to conferences and programming groups. There are groups in every city, you just have to find them.

If your friend is looking for some other tech job, not necessarily a programming one, I imagine the same advice applies.

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