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Should Geeks Skip College?

CmdrTaco posted more than 15 years ago | from the hell-yeah dept.

News 224

WaldoJ sent us a link to a Forbes article about geeks and college. The question is if college is worthwhile or not. It was a 4.5 year time vacuum for me. Education can't really keep pace with "modern" technology, sure, learning theory and getting some practice never hurts, but if you're already a geek, is it a waste of time? This article seems to say so.

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If only Bill Gates took an OS class. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2043546)

Things would be different.

Hey, It worked for me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2043547)

I never finished school, but I have never regretted leaving. I am currently looking into going back to finish my BS and get a masters, but I think in terms of real money, four years more of field experience would have been more valuable to me than a degree. Im 24, and well into the upper middle income as a developer. I just don't see the need.

yeah, this guy is real reputable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2043548)

Yeah... he has a free kevin mitnick button on his webpage. And he doesn't have a college degree, which wold probably explain why he thinks highly of kevin mitnick, and his life is designing webpages. That's not even real coding. Yeah, I wanna live a life like that.

My Opinion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2043549)

I strongly oppose the whole concept of skipping college. I think one could choose program other than computer science, or one could choose to do part time program, or even do it after a year or two of working experience. Skill college is no, especially when one never attended college at all.

Who say you can't study latest technology and attend school at the same time? Most people do.

There's an upside to going (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2043550)

I've got to say, college was definitely a good idea for me -- there's no way I would have had access to the kind of equipment I did otherwise. Corporate toys are cool, but companies seem to take a dim view of "wasting time" with non-profitable use of their systems. No such problem at a university.

Plus, I went to a tech school; met more incredible geeks than you can shake a stick at. Useful people to know and they tend to make life interesting.

No Subject Given (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2043551)

College/university is probably not worth it, if you only measure "worth" in dollars. If you go to college/uni only to learn how to program in C, to make a living in a typical corporate environment, it's not worth it either. However, if you go to college/uni to learn about the scientific method, critical thinking, research, reflection, the theory behind _why_ things work the way they do etc. then it's very much worth it. If you're one of those "if it takes more than 10 mins to explain it, it isn't worth knowing"-"hell, I can figure out everything myself - who needs background and theory" kind of geek, then don't waste your time (or money).

Yes, college (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2043552)

It should be required, otherwise the geeks I know (um) would die from lack of sunlight. At least most colleges require you to go outside, if only to switch buildings.

I loved college. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2043553)

I have to agree with the others on here that _not_ going to college isn't real smart. College isn't necessarily about learning everything you'll ever need to know (unless you're going to teach it). I found that college was more about socializing and dealing with other people. Sure, I picked stuff up in class, but there's a lot to learn from everybody you meet in the classes you go to.
If you're really into programming, it's nice to have a bunch of friends to sit back with and talk shop. Sure, some people may be 'wasting their time' going to college, but I don't think that's true for everyone. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2043554)

Hey, did anyone happen to see his creation.... Looks an awful lot like if you ask me!

College is good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2043555)

First sorry about the AC - I am away from home and can't remember my /. password.

Okay, I don't deny that you can make a lot of money without going to college, or that you can be extremely successful without a college degree, but the article seems to miss something about what a college education is for. Colleges and universities are not technical schools. Sure you might not learn the latest web based programming language or what not, but that does not mean that there is nothing to learn.

Take the example given, fortan. I took a class (it wasn't and my degree isn't in CS) that tought fortran, but that was not the purpose of the class. The class taught methods for scientific programing, and I would argue that learning how and when to implement a FFT based algorithim is a lot more difficult than learning the language of the day.

The teaching and learning of abstract concepts such as Fourier analysis, quantum physics, and even graph theorey are on reason institutes of higher learning exist, but there is another equally important role that they serve. The article's author was a liberal arts major. Someone, I don't remember who right now, said that the study of liberal arts is the study of the arts of liberty. It is the classes that we are forced to take in college that can be some of the most useful.

Well, I have a lot more to say on the subject, but I doubt that anyone has read this far, so I'll quit.

college? welll... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2043556)

I guess I wouldn't have got my first engineering position had I not gone to college -- but it was more a matter of meeting the right people there than learning anything particularly useful. I think a couple of classes in OOP wouldn't hurt anybody, but the rest, well...


College CS is for theory, not practice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2043557)

A university education isn't intended to give you knowledge on how to operate the latest version of HTML. It's intended to give you a conceptual basis for solving *any* kind of problem. Focus on theoretical issues and the particular problems will become much easier to handle.

I suppose I could be old-fashioned about this in an age where the hiring monkeys can't tell a good candidate from a bad one by asking intelligent questions rather than relying on a buzzword checklist.

Maybe it's because I'm one of those "older" programmers...

Depends on the goal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2043558)

You want to learn tech skills, programming or sysadminning? Don't bother with a formal education, poke around on the net for a couple of years.

You want to get a job which pays well? Same solution. I have never run into any net-related company which would consider a BS to be worth anywhere near as much as four years of actualy experience; not by at least an order of magnitude.

You want to learn to socialize with people your age, enjoy a period of extended childhood, and test the limits of your liver? College may be for you. Then again, most good tech companies will also address these goals.


More than a technical education (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2043559)

If all anyone could hope to get out of college would be a technical education, then I might agree. However, college teaches a lot of useful skills which geeks generally seem to consider unimportant. (It's clear that many Slashdot readers don't value clear writing and correct grammar worthwhile.) The author of the article made a good point about "learning how to learn;" college does a much better job than overly-rigid high schools of teaching such skills as time management, research skills, etc.

Some of it was useful... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2043560)

I dropped out of full time college after a year, deciding that most of the classes I was subjected to were crap. I went to work and found that the formal training I'd had in structured programming were rather beneficial. My immediate supervisor hadn't had any and he'd written the software our company used to publish our information. The differences between his coding style and mine were dramatic.

I continued to take just the classes that I wanted to take at a local community college and found that the C programming course I had was very useful as were most of the other computer related courses I took. I now have 10 years work experience and no degree, not that anyone ever asks me about that anymore. Many of the things that I picked up in the Real World I would never have learned in an academic environment, but much of the groundwork for my research came from the academic environments I'd been in.

Even if you do plan on blowing off college, I'd strongly suggest taking any courses that interest you. Usually you can just audit and not waste your money.

It all depends (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2043561)

Before you even start to consider the question of whether would-be computer folks should go to college, one must answer to one's own satisfaction the question of what college is for. The debate about whether colleges should exist as job training centers to create better workers in specific fields or as more general institutions to create better citizens has been raging for centuries with no signs of stopping. If you take the "better citizen" view, though, then the answer to the original question becomes pretty clear so we'll assume you're thinking in terms of training for a career as an engineer.

What does being a good engineer involve? There's purely technical knowledge such as a particular language or OS or API. There's semi-technical knowledge such as how systems are put together, what sorts of tradeoffs are generally possible (e.g. latency vs. throughput), some basic knowledge of algorithms and their analysis, basic logic, etc. Lastly, there are - and I know this is a shock to many readers here - people skills, such as how to cope when someone else really does turn out to be smarter than you or when you have to implement the result of a group consensus (or technical-lead fiat) when you would have chosen a different approach.

Most of these things are taught pretty well in college, either directly in classes or indirectly in the more general environment. I often bemoan the lack of relevancy in the typical CS curriculum, and I even dropped out myself because I wanted to "get on with it already". I've done fairly well from that decision, but nonetheless it's not one I can recommend in general and never going to college is quite different from going to college and dropping out. At least when you drop out you know firsthand what you're leaving behind and what its value to you might have been.

If you're just going to go to college for four years of drinking and fucking and getting stoned and listening to loud music at parental/government expense, like about 50-60% of the students out there, do us all a favor and just blow your brains out now. You'll make a crappy engineer anyway, in fact you'll be crappy at anything you do. If you're one of the other 40-50%, though, I recommend going to college at least long enough to get your feet wet and see what it's like. Keep in mind that you'll need to learn all the skills I mentioned above - not just how to grind HTML or copy snippets of other people's Java code - over the next several years one way or the other, before you're really any good to anyone. With that in mind, if you seriously think you can do your learning better outside of college then go ahead and do so. It can happen, but even though college does nowhere as near as good a job as it could of preparing people for the workplace it's still the best choice for 90% of people. The alternative is putting up with all the mistakes and costs of ignorant, arrogant, illiterate, overpaid little pricks who thought wrongly that whatever modicum of natural talent they were born with obviated the need for any education. (still arrogant and overpaid, but rarely accused of the other problems)

Cut the crap and get it down to 3 years. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2043562)

I would say that about 1/3 of the classes I took were irrelevant to my goals.

Outside of programming classes, I could see having maybe ONE writing class.

Otherwise, the Humanities, Management, Statistics, and a few others were just filler.

Course loads for Undergrad degrees should be pared down to the essentials and be completable in 3 years.

College is fun! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2043563)

I've heard from many instructors that employers are looking for more computer people who can work on projects
in a group sense. I think that if you are the average closet-geek you might not have the social skills needed to
work in a team environment. A lot of the classes I've had stress the team project concept. I don't think that
'project management' is a skill that you're going to pick up very easily on your own.

I also think the real financial 'deal' can be had at local 2-year institutions. I don't think that their programming
courses are as stale as some 4-year colleges. I went through a 2-year programmer/analyst program at the
school here, and now I'm working on another one in networking. When I'm done, I'll be able to program both
mainframes and microcomputers. The best of both worlds -- job flexibility wise. There has only been a couple
of classes that I thought were really worthless. The rest have been really usefull.

And if I can do it, anyone can. I've worked full time and taken my classes at night. I've finished my first degree
in 2 years, and the second will be done in 2 years. I also still hold a 4.0 GPA. And I completely "sucked" as
a high school student (lucky if I got D's). I think that the college degree shows a potential employeer that you
can stick to a project, and that you are trainable... Just my thoughts.

my thoughts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2043564)

I think that college is wasteful only if you make it so. Hell if you are a genius at CS, Go into something else. Do aerospace engineering or physics or business or econ. I suggest some business classes so that startup you create won't crash which is usually the case when you just have individuals who have no business sense but are wizards in computers. Having a foot in both worlds is a good thing.

~cranial tyrant

University (and college) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2043565)

If taken seriously, is the start of a life-long
journey and a career. If you just want a job and
make money, then skip it if you will. For those
who want to make something more of themselves and
better the world around them, always seek higher
education - you can never learn too much.

College was great! Getting laid, life experience! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2043566)

I almost didn't go to college because I was a hacker, and thought I didn't need it.

My Dad finally convinced me to go, and I am VERY thankful that he did. My life would probably not be as fulfilling as it is, if I had skipped it.

You meet lots of people, have a wealth of experiences that open up possibilities in your life, and (if you are like me), learn how to work your ass off.

Anyway, I say "go", if you can.

College (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2043567)

Hmmmm.... I'm an 18 year old hacking it out at an HMO doing UNIX administration, generating reports (with Perl, of course) and doing some of their web stuff. The pays alright, I just wish I could get to college. I pretty much had to leave my insane family around my 17th birthday, and I really only have one year of high school and a GED, but I feel like I'm missing out on a lot of education. Though I'd probably major in CS, there's more to the world than hacking C, Perl, HTML, and Unix machines. Sigh.

Go ahead, skip college. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2043568)

Go ahead, skip college. It doesn't matter if all you want to be is a digital monkey.

The Pain of the Drop-out (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2043569)

Being a wealthy drop-out coder isn't all fun and glory. I never even finished high school, and now I make a decent living working in an Internet start-up. And yes, I write real code, not HTML ;)

There are two problems I have come across as a result of never going to school. 1) I encounter 'degreeism' quite frequently. People in the industry (especially in high performance computing) place a lot more emphasis on academic achievement than most of us realize. 2) I occasionally re-invent the wheel because I wasn't exposed to many of the math and computer science theories that my co-workers were.

On the plus side, since I learned everything myself, I have little fear of diving into strange new technologies and coming up with innovative solutions. This type of skill isn't teachable and often makes up for my lack of formal training.

I guess I'm just lucky there are more jobs than coders to fill them. Otherwise, I'm not so sure employers would be willing to take the risk to hire us un-educated flakes :)

Universities are not "behind the times" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2043570)

How can they say that universities are not on the
leading edge of technology?? The internet itself
was brought to maturity in universities!!

When I was getting my Master's (94-95), we had access to all of the latest and most expensive technology. We were doing research that had never been done by *anyone* before. If anyone tries to tell me that Universities are "behind the times" I will laugh in their face.

Obviously I don't know about all the colleges out there, but I have yet to see a CS department that is behind the average corporation with respect to advanced technology.

Now if you want to make some money right out of high school you don't need to college, but don't sell yourself short by ignoring the advantages of continuing education. Hackers who know lots of languages are a dime a dozen, but intelligent people who understand the theory behind computer science are a precious resource. And most people can't learn that theory without some kind of formal education. Otherwise you're just assembly-line programmer.

college and life (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2043571)

Hey, think of it as evolution in action.

People who don't "get" that there is more to being a human being than knowing the latest language, etc., aren't going to value a college education. Even if they do, they won't listen. They won't get up out of the chair, leave the computer lab, and go to the library to read Nietzsche. If they have any existential dillema in life, they will resolve it by trying not to think about it.

So that's up to them. Society needs lots more clever worker drones, and if these guys want to volunteer, that sounds good to me.

I know I learned 10 times as much in college in informal discussion with professors and grad students, working in labs on my own time, and in the wonderful libraries. I live and learn the same way now, ten years later. I see no reason why I won't still be learning and growing as a human being in my eighties, irrespective of whatever happens to the IT industry.


Sun, yahoo, Lycos & Netscape (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2043572)

and like a zillion Co's more were All started by people in college. They might have dropped out once they got going, but I do think there learned something in college that other people didn't outside of college.

It might seem like these first few years of the web explosion, that outside of college is better, but I think that will change. In many jobs now, people are stuck in Dilbert worlds where, guess what? They don't learn a thing!

College is worth it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2043573)

My experience is that college made me better at being a software engineer. Alot of college is learning how to learn, something that never stops in this field. Learning about other subjects (non software specific) has also also very helpful when dealing with end user's and making a system more relevant and useful for them to use. I also make a point of not going into incredible during college so not to be in debt forever when I got out.

One acronym: SICP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2043574)

For those of you who were never forced to take the class, that's: Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programming.

It was a book I was *forced* to read while going through the CSci corriculum at UofMN. I can most definitely say that I would never have read that book on my own initiative. It also provides a perfect case-in-point in that it teaches the programming language Scheme, which is almost entirely unheard of in the Real World (tm). (Guile may be an exception, but I don't know of any employers willing to hire me because I know Guile.) The point being that it wasn't the specific technology (read: language) that is important, it is the concepts. That one book brings across such competency-raising issues as referential transparency, message passing, OO, first class functions, metalinguistic data abstractions (I love that phrase :), streams, and computing with register machines, just to name a few.

Granted, if you spew these terms at your typical employer they just stare at you, glassy-eyed, in complete ignorance. You have to say things such as CORBA, C/C++, SQL, HTML, and Visual Basic in order to really get their attention. But I can guarantee that I would not be able to demand the rate that I get as a C/C++ programmer if I weren't so good at conceptualizing the ideas of OO, coming up with elegant solutions to daunting problems, and abstracting away details by creating modularized code. Yes, much of this comes from natural geek talent, but I have to admit that I owe quite a bit to my formal education.

So much more then just C (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2043575)

I don't believe anyone who has taken a course in computer algorithms will implement bubble sort in their programs. Going to university/college/whatever is so much more then just learning C. Heck, C is something one have to learn by oneself just to be able to get that first lab in before deadline.

I wonder if MIT is proud of Bill Gates being a "MIT-drop-out"? I don't think it's any surprise that one of the greatest OS:es came from an university, and one of the worst came from a "drop-out company"..

No Subject Given (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2043576)

Um, wow, I can't believe there are actually people on /. that think college is a waste of time. Besides the obvious social benefits, I thought geeks like to _learn_. Am I wrong? Besides, where would *we* be without college? There wouldn't be a linux or a freebsd, or a web or much of the software we take for granted. A lot of this stuff was developed @ colleges.

What I'll probably do. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2043577)

Well, I decided to go right into the real world straight out of high school, and it hasn't been that bad for me. I'm making good money, learning a *LOT* of skills (picked up Perl, PHP, SQL, and HTML, and a whole lot of database theory).

However, I have decided to go back to college.

Why? Because I hate the way the industry works. I still can't understand why deadlines are so damn important as to make everything a quick hack instead of an elegant solution. And I hate constantly hearing about "Internet Time" from my managers. I don't care if the Internet moves 7x faster than the rest of the economy, people can't work 7x faster because of that without making major quality sacrifices. My father is a tilesetter, and has been for 25 years. I made this analogy to him when he didn't understand why I was complaining: What if the person who owned the building you were doing work for told you that they needed the floor done in three days, and because of that, not to bother with ripping up the current floor, or laying down grout. Instead, just lay the tiles down so it looks like you did it the right way, because this needs to be done NOW. After that, he understood what I meant.

So, I'm going back to school because of this. Hopefully, open source will have changed the industry by the time that I get out of college so I can be pleasantly surprised, but I'm not holding my breath.

As far as what I'm going to school for, it's not computer science. Why bother? I can pick up new programming languages in less than a week sometimes, and I already read more O'reilly books than I would textbooks on the same subjects. So instead, I'm going for a liberal arts degree, and even applying to a strictly liberal arts and science school like Evergreen.

In short, I'd like to expand my horizons. And as far as computing goes, I don't need college in order to do that.


Michael Chisari

self discipline (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2043578)

Sure, you could get the benefits of the nice bits of my CS degree through self study. All you have to do is carefully read (and digest) a good book about each of the following...

  • how to program your favorite language
  • another book or two about data structures
  • a book about software engineering
  • a book about systems analysis
  • a book about graph theory/discrete
  • structures/combinatorics
  • a book about numerical analysis
  • a book about assembler
  • a book about hardware design (binary, logic gates, VLSI, microcode etc etc.)
  • a book about programming language design
  • a book about compiler design/implementation, a book about OS design/implementation
  • a book about digital communication and networks

Now I certainly didn't have the ambition to do all of those things by myself. But I am very glad that my profs made me do each of those things. I'm a sysadmin these days, and I haven't had to write a linked list of hash tables in Modula-2 for a while, but my background knowledge in Computer Science has been very helpful in many situations.

If you have the willpower and self discipline to acquire all of this stuff on your own, then you are a much better person then I am, and I salute you. Most mere mortals need someone to push them along, which is where the educational institutes come in.

Another benefit of an education setting is the labs, i.e. we had structured OS labs where we had to twiddle the kernel of XINU (our playtoy OS) to provide certain functionality. If we ran into problems, we could always go to the prof and get a hand, which is worth a lot.

I'll be the first to tell you that a lot of my degree sucked. A lot of credit hours were wasted on mandatory fluff courses (Arts, Business, etc) and I can't say that I've used a lot of FORTRAN/COBOL/APL/JCL/Modula-2 lately. (Keep in mind that I was in school from '90-95!) But it didn't hurt (much), and learning all of these things gives some perspective, if only to know what you don't want to work with.

Oh, and a lot of schools offer a co-op program, so that you can get some job experience and $$$ during your degree. I highly recommend co-op programs.

-Clover Kicker-

college not worth it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2043579)

College is only worth it if you wish to work for a large company that may use it as a filtering process. Otherwise you learn about ancient stuff. Hell, 2 years ago, while completing a required EE class, we studied 8088 assembly.

Why was this in Forbes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2043580)

I thought Forbes was a reasonably respectable magazine. This article is terrible. It says that a college education will cost you $120,000 (which a very good one might) and also says that you study things like Fortran (which I don't know of even a technical school that teaches this to CS students, but maybe some of the bad ones do).

You don't learn Fortran in a decent CS program, so don't go to college to learn it. Don't go to college to learn C, C++, Objective C, Perl, Python, SmallTalk, Lisp, Scheme, SIOD, Pascal, or Protel or any other language either. And don't go to college to learn Unix, Windows, DOS, VxWorks, pSOS, ecos, PalmOS, or any other operating system. You go to college to learn about computing. Computing includes things like compiler design, optimization, data structures, coding style, project management, operating system design, and other such things that aren't covered in "The Complete Idiot's Guide to HTML." Despite what this author and his one reference say, these haven't changed all that much in the last few years. And while, sure, you can get a "high paying" jobs as a web "programmer" without a degree, I don't think a systems design firm is going to hire you to help with their embedded OS if you can't show you understand programming and not just some language.

In order to avert the flames that will surely follow this: Sure I know people who couldn't write decent code to save their lives who have college degrees from very highly respected universities. Some people escape with degrees despite not having learned much, but the fact that sometimes parachutes don't open isn't a justification for not taking one when the plane is going down.

Only failures say college isn't necessary... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2043581)

...because they couldn't cut it and got kicked out or because they couldn't even get admitted. A college degree shows that you commit to a goal and stick it and work hard to complete it. If you won't do that, why should an employer think you can? Your resume will go right over his desk and into the bin.

College isn't right for all (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2043582)

Many people require college for one reason or another. However, if you have a strong anti-authoritarian streak, forget it. If you thought your high-school teachers were full of shit, wait until college. It didn't take more than a semester for me to realize that I'd be much better off learning on my own than subjecting myself to the utterly subjective nonsense of college courses.

The basic skills that college can teach you are _absolutely_ skills that you can acquire on your own through skillful observation and practice. You certainly won't learn to be a better person in college. You may learn to be cynical - how else can you withstand the vapid negativity radiated by most American "child-adults" today?

If your field of choice is in the sciences, you're pretty much out of luck, because you'll _have_to go through college to land a job (and good luck even if you do graduate). However, if you want to code, you're better off studying good code.

My best advice to anyone, whether they go to college or not, is to be critical, but know when it's appropriate to voice criticism. A strong critical eye will keep you from doing the same stupid shit over and over again - in work practice and life practice. Knowing when to keep your mouth shut will help you appreciate how careless so many people have become in their speaking. It will also teach you restraint - which will keep you from doing stupid shit to begin with.

College is critical (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2043583)

A good education provides something that's very difficult to pick out of work: theory. If you go to a shitty school, where you have classes like "Learn HTML," "Learn Visual C++," etc. getting a CS degree is a complete waste of time. However, having a strong theoretical background provides a really good background for more interesting work. Not having it sets an upper limit on what you can do/where you can go. Even if you go to a shitty school without a decent comp sci program, getting a decent math background (diff-eq, discrete math, etc.) and possibly a little physics and biology lets you tackle much more interesting problems (I think quantom computing and/or biological computing will be big fields in the not-too-distant future). You'll get the experience anyways; starting four years later won't change much. Whether you have 10 or 14 years experience won't matter a couple of years from now. How much you know will.


The Bottom Line.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2043584)

Fact: IS workers with BS's in Comp Sci make (on average) $16K more per year than IS workers in the same jobs who do NOT have degrees. That figure is even higher for those with doctorates, and masters degrees.

That should be reason enough. Wanna take 4 years off your life so you can be handed $16,000 a year more than the next guy until you retire? Yup.

My Own Perspective (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2043585)

Hey all.. I realize that many have said this sort of thing already, but I thought I would throw my own view into the mix.

My own story, shortened, is Computers since 1979 ,started on an IMSAI 8080, worked in everything BUT the computer field for 6 years.. then went to college for Physics/Mathematics. Eventually found out the lovely wages you get paid in that field on average and struck out into computers professionally, 6 years later I am worth $80 to $120 per hour for Network Engineering, Unix firefighting and hetereogenous systems integration work etc.

My college experience was INVALUABLE to me. The things I learned there helped me in ways that I cannot begin to express. For the most part, I learned how to think, to speak, to write, and a bit of psychology. All of these things have served me in good stead over the years, and I will say this about college:

GO. Even if you run out of money.. even if you can't possibly finish a whole degree.. GO. It's worth the time and effort, and $$, and frustration.

I would not have been able to teach myself as much as I have without the college experience I have had. Do the deed.. bite the bullet. ;>


yeah, this guy is real reputable (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#2043645)

I feel this is a good point. HTML isn't development. Creating web pages is not engineering. It's a job, yes. And I'm sure it pays OK for now.

The difference is sophistication. This person is probably not suitably trained to contribute (let alone lead) a largish software engineering project.

Actually, I will be quite surprised if the money stays strong for HTML people. The authoring tools keep improving, and the entry barriers are low.

Career decisions really do have some gravity. It's not enough to "get a job" - you want to be able to pick and choose from a variety of offers and you will be working over 30 years. Where will you go after ten years of writing CGI?

Skool sucked for sure - I cannot say that college is truly worth it (I have already graduated). But chucking it all to develop web pages doesn't seem very attractive to me either.

Especially when I could be working on the internals of something big and complicated. And a degree seems mandatory at this level.

college is good (1)

pez (54) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043646)

first i've graduated high school i have 3 some odd years of experince fixing computers but i keep getting shit jobs because i have not gone to college , but can you guess where i'm gonna be in the fall

Perhaps. (1)

Shiska (131) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043647)

I skipped it initially, and now I want to go. Why? ...Well, personally, I've always wanted to take philosophy and art courses. It also serves as an all important buffer period before you have the joy of dealing with the harsh reality of working for the rest of your life.

----------------- ------------ ---- --- - - - -

Didn't we have this discussion before? (1)

Telcontar (819) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043660)

Okay, it was a different article, and a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (oops, wrong one ;)
but we had this discussion before. While US colleges may not be good enough to provide a challenge for geeks, there are still alternatives (European ones) :)
Anyway, the comment 'Welcome to the Dark Side' in the last discussion about that summed it up pretty well. Quick money, but the lack of theories, and maybe also versatility to move on to a different work later.

Depends on your priorities (1)

Geek of the Week (845) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043661)

Well, I dropped out of college before I completed my sophomore year. I'm now 26 years old and I make around $100,000 a year (counting bonuses) as a Consultant for a software company. You'd think I'd be pretty happy with myself, but I wish I had finished college.

Allow me to explain. College DOES have it's place. It teaches disciplined thinking, proper researching, structured concepts and most importantly, exposure to things other than 1's and 0's. Do I think they should be able to charge in excess of $100,000 for teaching those things? Well, I dropped out, so that tells you my answer. On the other hand, encouraging people to skip college will eventually create a large pool of code drones, and that's a bad thing.

When I use the term code drone I mean someone who lacks vision or understanding of anything but code. Having some exposure to business concepts will definitely help you write that new Front Office Automation package. Understanding communications concepts will definitely help you write that new network faxing application. Exposure to manufacturing is a must to work in the ERP space. No one will sit down with you and dictate business practices to you so you can write software for real business. No employer will give you the time to start from ground zero so that you will pick that up. Knowing how to write code is only part of the job.

I spent a lot of years working shit jobs for next to nothing before I had enough real world knowledge to be an asset to my employers in the software space. If you want to code, it's about more than knowing languages. Yeah, you can drop out/skip college and ride the help desk. But guess what? You're not gonna make much, and there's no real advancement path.

Taco may think that college was a "time vacuum" for him, but as time goes on he'll come to thnk differently. I can safely say this because I'm backed up by a whole 26 years worth of wisdom. (tongue firmly in cheek) :)

P.S. In the real world you can only have so many 3-day beer blasts and skip work before you lose your job and live in the car they're trying to repossess. College, the four-year kegger!

He's wrong, for the wrong reasons (1)

bluGill (862) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043662)

His reasoning is mostly correct (though colleges aren't nearly as far behind as he makes you think they are behind) as far as it goes.

Problem is he doesn't even know you can reason farther. College didn't teach me much about programing in the real world. College taught me to think. I wouldn't understand the answer to many of the questions I ask now if I had even thought to ask them which I wouldn't have. If you have never taken college level classes in several departments you won't understand and it can't be explained. Calculis seems irrelavent to my daily job, I haven't done a derivative or integral since I graduated. I apply the what I learned in calculis every day. It isn't the math that I apply, it is the reasoning.

So go to college. I don't care what degree you get. Obviously a CS degree is going to make you a better programer while a music degree will make you a better singer. In the process of bettering youself in one area you learn how you can better yourself anyplace you care to. Besides I don't know what I will be doing in ten years, there is no degree that will relate to every job I will ever have.

Note that better yourself will not make you perfect. I'm a much better speller then I was, and my grammer is much better. Both of the above are still horid as you can tell.

Collge/univ - worth it (1)

mackga (990) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043663)

I think it's a worth-while experience for geeks. Even if the coursework isn't immediately relevant, you get a good backgrounder on where things have come from. The history of your profession is impt. Add to that the opportunities for future contacts, exposure to other disciplines, a chance to do some work on-campus, etc. Not to mention the possible lure of grad school. College is or should be an adventure. A real good start. If I could, I'd go back and get another degree.

College Blows (1)

PHroD (1018) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043664)

I went for a year and worked at the same time...I learned jack shit in college and i learned a TON about the computer industry from working, so after i finished my 1st year, i just didn't go back. I mean i taught myself, C, C++ (including about a dozen SDKs), Objective C, Perl, all that good stuff on my own by reading and doing. I know that this kinda thing doesnt work for say law students or pre-med or what have ya, but for something like programming, college just distracts and stalls you from learning how cool the real-world industry is.

Disagreement (at least partially) (1)

Phil Gregory (1042) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043665)

I don't totally agree with this article. Granted, technology seems to change too quickly for many things to keep up, including books and college courses. There's a lot that can be learned that's not going anywhere, however. On the purely practical side, there are college courses in programming languages like C, C++, Java, and Cobol (still!). Those languages will probably be around for a while. Delving more deeply, degrees in computer science involve slightly more than just learning a lot of computer languages. There are similar basic concepts underlying nearly every programming method.

It might also be prudent to remember that straight programming is not everything. Most programs do something, and you need to understand what needs to be done. It's difficult to write an accounting package (or even maintain one) without a good understanding of accounting principles.

I'll grant that I don't think that I've mentioned anything that can't be learned out of the classroom, but I think it's a lot easier to learn in an environment tailored for learning. (As opposed to having your boss tell you, "I need this done--you said you were a fast learner, right?")

Disclaimer: I'm not majoring in computer science. I'm a physics major, and I have a little less choice about getting a degree.

--Phil (Not to mention that I like learning and enjoy college.)

College BAD! (1)

defile (1059) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043666)

I've been thinking about this for the past 3 years now. I'm someone who is arrogant enough to think that I don't need a college to teach me compiler design or operating system level programming. I think the entire system is bullshit. But only recently did I decide that I wanted to go.

It sounds like a total waste of time, I'll never get into MIT or whatever at this point, and I wouldn't want to foot the bill for it either. I'm sure there's plenty one can get from it, and if they came up to me and said "here, you can go to MIT for free, on us" I'd probably go for it. Realistically, it's not a future plan.

On the other hand, I've been going to school for 75% of my life. I'm growing so sick and bored of it. It's really disappointing when I learn more during summer vacation than I do the school years between them.

Everyone looks at me as if I'm a loser if I don't plan on going to college. It's really annoying that society has this hardwired into their brain that you have to pay money to an institution to learn anything. I suppose schools are targeted toward the mass populus who this would be applicable for (obviously). It's too bad that their CS degree will be worth more than my lifetime of experience with this technology.

I plan on putting college off for a few years once I graduate high school. I want to experience the world and live on my own. If I see that I've made a mistake, I'll go to town hall university (you know, that building the peons come out of in warcraft2?) and get some degree.

Even if I do finally go to college, I'm not taking CS. "Here, I'll give you money to teach me something I already know!" What fun that would be. I'll probably double major in Math and Physics. Yea.

You might be saying "Why don't you teach that to yourself too, assmaster?", I would, but it'd be easier on me (motivation/laziness) to just sit back and buy an education. "Town Hall University" is rather cheap. :)

college now, maybe not later (1)

Stu Charlton (1311) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043670)

College, for right now, is still an indespensible resource for learning core disciplines that you wouldn't otherwise learn. College puts you in to a different "frame of mind" than if you were studying only the things that YOU want to study.

Canada's college/university system seems to be a *lot* better in terms of $$$ ... a 4 year degree will cost you with living expenses (out of your home town) around $50,000. About 60-70% of that can be handled through government loans and/or student lines of credit. If you're a computer major, there shouldn't be a problem repaying that debt within 3-4 years after graduating.

A lot of people don't get tangible benefit out of college, but some people do.. I know I am. I guess it depends on your goals & what your program offers... a concentration on _fundamental_ concepts and strengthening students' capabilities really should be what college does.

Down the road... 30 years maybe, there probably will be better alternatives to College to get the same level of education.

The primary problems with college right now are related to its accessibility: you have to be living in a certain area (near a good college) with a certain income bracket in order to get a good college education. This shouldn't have to be the case: education should be available to everyone across the world, AT ANY AGE LEVEL.

The world of tomorrow is going to be less of a world of monetary haves and have-nots; the world of tomorrow will be about who is educated and who is not. A degree probably won't matter: your ability to learn and retain knowledge will.

In the final analysis, the problems with college go far deeper than "keeping up with technology" and cost... the U.S. educational system in general is broken, and is in dire need of some real management vs. bureaucratic administration.

Here's a viewpoint on it: (1)

Frater 219 (1455) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043671)

Quick version: Bill Gates dropped out. Linus Torvalds didn't. Which would you rather be like?

Long version: There's a lot more to an education than learning professional skills. At least part of it is learning how to think; how to distinguish the excellent from the merely adequate; how to understand and appreciate the work that has been done before you, as well as the project you're currently working on; and so forth.

If you, O reader, are a "geek" looking at college in the future, I strongly recommend that you get a good liberal-arts education as well as any CS/EE/etc. you're planning on taking. "Well-rounded" isn't just some idea that your high school guidance counselors invented to mock you. Very few of the great geek heroes are nothing but computer geeks.

Take Larry Wall, for instance. When he began his studies, he and his wife went into theology and linguistics, seeking to become translator-missionaries. And while I can't recommend theology as a responsible discipline, one can't help but notice the positive influence of Wall's linguistic work on Perl.

And don't bother trying to do real programming without at least some theoretical CS. Where else are you going to learn that you really shouldn't sort directory listings with bubble-sort? The early programmers of MS-DOS never learned that...

Sure, you can get a job without a degree. Is it a good idea for your life? No. Consider again Gates and Torvalds. Which do you think is better in the sack? Where do you think you're going to get more practice at that -- in a full-time tech job at age 19, or in college?

College can be valuable, but not always... (1)

Fastolfe (1470) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043672)

If you've found yourself someplace during or immediately after high school that can teach and carry you into a career you're looking for, I would probably stick with that. If you're just the computer geek type who spends most of his/her time in the computer lab and works fast food on the weekends, I would suggest you plant yourself in college.

In my opinion, "real world" experience in the field you want to be in for four years is more valuable than a four-year computer degree ESPECIALLY if you have a tremendous amount of computer background and experience already.

BUT: For those script kiddies and IRC junkies that just have passing knowledge of the various aspects of computers, DO NOT delude yourself into thinking that that is a solid core of computer experience. You are a dime a dozen and will not make it in the real world with only those skills. If you still think that you are pretty smart, be an intern at some real places. Most people will quickly find out that there's a lot more they don't know.

By the time I had finished high school, I was working for an Internet provider (starting off doing tech support but quickly moved into other more intimate areas of networking/programming/writing, etc.). I learned more in the two years I worked there than I would have learned in two, three, or even four years at college.

I do not, however, think that field experience is a perfect replacement for college.

In college, you are taught a way of thinking, of problem solving. While real-world experience can be extremely valuable, most people with degrees have a stronger foundation of problem-solving skills than others. Besides teaching you how to program and how an operating system works, college teaches you how to think. For this reason, I believe a college background can be a valuable thing to have.

Additionally, many corporations (for whatever reasons) MANDATE that their employees have a college degree. You can have all the experience in the world, and could be absolutely perfect for a job, but without that degree, they simply can't hire you. College degrees also tend to be beneficial when it comes to "first impressions". Someone browsing over two resumes without any real knowledge of either applicant will tend to give the one with a college degree more thought. Unless you've accomplished a lot and have a good, strong amount of resume material (none of this "designed web pages for ..." or "technical support for ..." crap), you will tend to be passed over in favor of someone with likely less experience but with a college degree.

If you do decide to go the college route, you don't even necessarily have to finish. Sometimes employers will see that you've got a good core knowledge base from a few university courses, and they will be satisfied with that (assuming you held a good GPR and didn't flunk out). Don't, however, drop out after the first year simply because you don't think you're learning anything. In all likelyhood, you won't actually start learning anything useful until your 2nd or even 3rd year.

If you don't decide to go to college, and think you're making it fine now and can only advance your career, I would still consider taking some college courses. I find that good writing skills are hard to find among computer people that haven't been to college, so some english and/or technical writing courses could be helpful there. Some courses in secure programming or databases might be useful. Most "computer people" out of high school tend to have the same computer background. They might be able to program in C, might have some unix experience, but lack some other, very necessary, skill sets. Try to explore your weaknesses and patch them up. Push yourself out and beyond what your peers are all gravitating towards. And, most importantly, do NOT be arrogant and assume there isn't anything out there for you to learn. Quite a few slashdotters and annoying high school geeks have made that fatal mistake. You do NOT know everything, and in most all cases, everyone with a degree knows more than you, in most areas.

Whether or not you choose to get a degree, ALWAYS KEEP UP WITH THE TECHNOLOGY. I cannot stress this enough. A ten-year-old CS degree is usually worthless if you haven't kept up with the news, the trends, and the new technologies. If you can find a company that is technologically stale and has no desire to innovate or keep up, then you might be okay, but the real successful people are the ones that keep themselves on the edge of the latest technologies. This applies to both people pursuing and not pursuing college degrees. The instant you graduate from college, many of the things you've learned there are already out of date. Keep up!

So if you're leaning towards going to college, do it. If you're not sure, you'd might as well start off in college. You can always quit later. If you're leaning towards skipping college and going straight into a career, think carefully. Unless you've already got a decent amount of background and something besides generic "computer skills", you aren't likely to find anything but PC "grunt work" (tech support, repair, etc.).

Having a college degree (or at least some experience) doesn't hurt, but not having one can.

If only Bill Gates took an OS class. (1)

jd (1658) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043673)

Yep - the bugs would be more structured.

That's American education for you (1)

Malc (1751) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043675)

Some places already have 3 year degrees. But then again, those places also have better education at a younger age and so their students are 2 years ahead of most Americans by the time University arrives. University is a place to specialise... not continue a rounded education because the system has already failed.

maybe, maybe not (1)

adr (1928) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043677)

dunno. I mean, I was a geek before college, but college brought a few veerreee important factors to bear on my geekhood -- access to technlogy (hadn't even *heard* of 'NIX before college) two, relevant employment (first admin job in college) and three, education/well-roundedness. Without college, I'd probably be a dumpy aspiring nerd working at McDonalds. Thank you college!

-- adr

Skipping college is a mistake. (1)

Gus (2568) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043680)

While much of what I learned in the course of obtaining my BS in Computer Sciences was extraneous to my daily work, I think that an exposure to academic CS is a good thing. It's important to know some basic theory, to determine if a given problem can be solved in polynomial time, or how to write a compiler from the ground up.

Universities also tend to be places with a lot of opportunities for geeks, such as really nice hardware. The hacker community has a tradition of being tolerated around academic institutions in a way that isn't possible in business. The sense of community provided is also important; many user groups initially take root at universities.

College may not be for everyone, but currently there is no other venue to learn the fundamentals of computer science, which are the difference between being a computer operator and truly mastering the machine.

What A JOKE! (1)

mwarps (2650) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043682)

Normally, Slashdot doesn't make me laugh (too much, anyway). This article almost made me snarf the Dr Pepper I had drunk.
Anybody with ½ a brain, and even two nanoseconds of a real college education knows this guy is full of crap either because he's completely moronic, or hasn't been to a real school.
His picture looks like he spends his time sitting in front of a sticky keyboard looking at alt.binaries.erotica.* and 'coding' HTML. Another fine candidate for the "Why Couldn't Social Darwinism Take This One" award.

But really... If you seriously think you're going to get anywhere significant in this world, without that piece of paper, you're going to end up nothing but a bench-drone or a tech somewhere useless, fixing a useless piece of hardware, broken by a worthless collegeless geek, just like you.

what rob got out of college. (1)

ehovland (2915) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043686)

I bet the dean of the engineering department would love to see that cmdrtaco got nothing out of his private college education. It is sad to see someone who should be full of knowledge and promise is jaded about their experience.

I think whether college is a 'good thing' or not is a question that has a lot of interesting answers. But it mainly boils down to two significant factors:
1. The quality of your college. Who is to say that Hope is any good or that it's computer science department has anything going for it.
2. The amount of effort and time you put into your college experience. No doubt Rob spent a lot more time working on slashdot then he did studying for his classes. Granted it seems like time well spent. But who is to say that constructive energy couldn't have raised his opinion of his college experience if he had spent that time on his classes.

Remember that most of those people you admire in the open source community all have college degrees and almost all of the internet was spawned from university projects so do not so quickly dismiss the college experience. It is more important then just it's social aspects although that is a big selling point. Next time you decide to discuss this topic think about what you put into your college education because ultimately you are the person who learned something while you were there.

Why is this even a question? (1)

msuzio (3104) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043688)

My god. If people think college exists so you can learn stuff to make a ton of $$$, they are missing the point.

College is (hopefully) a growth experience. A well-rounding of a person. Oh yeah, you learn job skills. But most importantly, you learn *to think*. I got more out of my History / Sociology courses than I did any tech course (BS in Chemistry).

As far as CS experience, I think you do need to learn the theory to be good in the field. You can be a so-so hack who makes OK money with no grounding in the fundamentals, sure. But if you don't ever learn the more abstract concepts (whether in college or on your own initiative), you probably will hit the limits of your knowledge sooner or later...

Anyway... if you can go to college, *do it*! The worst thing you'll get is a lot of hangovers, and a student loan to pay off for 10 years (but you'll probably make an extra $250 a month to cover that, so financially it's not bad). Learn for the sake of learning, spending 4 years to improve the quality of the rest of your life isn't such a bad deal!

My experience... (1)

haaz (3346) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043690)

I went to a technical college for a year. Started out with a full load, in the electronics course. My original plan was to do the 2-year electronics degree thing, and then go to a big state university and get a degree in philosophy. (If your eyes just glazed over and you said "HUH?", that's what everyone else said at the time. ;-)

I dropped out of the e- program after two months, and switched to a "general studies" course, with English and music as my focus. I did OK, when I went, and when I did my homework, which wasn't often. The second semester, I started out with a full load and a theoretically renewed charge to do it, but wound up all but dropping out, and finished the semester with two classes (a music class and a speaking performance class) that I'd not attended through most of the semester.

That was.. 1994. After that, I worked in politics for a while and found myself on the wrong side of the "Republican Revolution" that year, which soured me from politics. My skill had always been with computers, and after the 94 election, I got a job at a local Macintosh store (MacGalaxy... hi Mark! ;-), where I worked for about a year before starting my "consulting career" -- unemployment. :)

While consulting, I managed to both starve and accrue valuable experience -- I set up networks, did troubleshooting, and learned the value of a dollar. All my consulting experience eventually added up, and after working for about six months in 1997 at a big credit union organization doing tech support for an MS-DOS product (pretty good for a Mac guy!), I got a job as a sysadmin at an ad agency, where I was until August of 98. I'd met my future business partner about a year and a half before, and actually started working on in March or April of 98. In August, I quit the ad agency (best move I ever made!) and moved to Savannah, Georgia (second best move I ever made!), and I now work for LinuxPPC Inc., aka :)

And that's been a truly remarkable experience. Pretty good for a guy without a degree! I hung around college people during what would be my normal "college years," and sometimes I feel a little deprived of some experiences, but I really feel that I've taken my own path through life, and I'm now doing what I've always wanted to do: bringing software development to a really cool platform and being my own boss -- which is invaluable. No degree can confer that!

Do what's best for you. Follow your heart. If school's not right for you, work. If work's not right for you, perhaps school is. It's different for everyone. School and I never quite got along, and I'm doing fine independantly. I might go back some day -- most of my family actually started college later in life and then did great -- but for now, I'm happy.

easier to find a good job... (1)

Frederic54 (3788) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043691)

i'm a geek who started hacking on a ZX81 at 12 y/o... i now have a Ph.D in computer science, sure it was a waste of time, i learned quite nothing i didn't know before, some theory or things like that, but never in programming stuff... sure i "discovered" unix at university in 1990 and "man" learns me tons of things before teachers do! as "everyone" i tried to get root privilege in university and have success some times ;-)

anyway, going to school and university lot of years help to find a job, having a master and ph.d in system enginering (especially unix, i never touched a novell or nt box) and networking enginering, i found a good job in less than 2 months, and well paid!

have fun to school!

Don't Skip College! (1)

Skip666Kent (4128) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043693)

ESPECIALLY if you're a geek. Where else can you:

1. Live on your own in an environment especially designed to comfort, support and entertain (and occasionally inform) young, clueless innocents, such as yourself, fresh out of high-school, (on Mom and Dad's dime, in most cases)

2. Drink with your (new) friend's (WAY cooler than the old one's) 'til the wee hours, (on Mom and Dad's dime, in most cases)

3. Smoke pot with your Philosophy teacher, (on Mom and Dad's dime, in most cases)

4. Meet beguiling members of the opposite sex (?) who have NO IDEA how much of a nerd you were in 5th grade and win their love with gifts, (on Mom and Dad's dime, in most cases)

5. Get awards, adoration and ALTERNATIVE CREDIBILITY for flouting opinions/life-styles that got you BEAT UP in high school

6. Get access to computers / equipment you could never afford on your own and learn NEW, EXCITING ways to use/abuse them

7. Come to the Amazing Realization that there's more to life than your Olde Hometowne.

8. Meet OTHER people your age, who also secretly enjoy watching "Ally McBeal", and SHARE YOUR PAIN

9. Become the Linux Nut/Guru/Advocate of YOUR campus, and gain more ALTERNATIVE CREDIBILITY

10. Finally get those damn parents off your back, (on Mom and Dad's dime, in most cases)

You get some intangibles (1)

kaiser (4873) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043695)

I think the college experience can help prepare you in some non-technical aspects of work place. College was my first real taste of working with a group on a project as well as giving a presentation/talk in front of an audience. I'd much rather look like an idiot in college and gain some experience than screw up in front of my bosses at work.

In addition, I know some companies require you to have a college degree (in any major) before they'll hire you (full-time employee - I think it's usually a little more lenient for consultants). Of course, exceptions are always made if your really good at what you do.

In my case, I got a BS in Engineering and a MS in Computer Science. While I don't remember/use 90% of what I was taught, I still feel getting the BS was a worthwhile experience for the reasons stated above. In addition, it was through a friend I met in college that I got my current job.

One thing to note, the college I went to was tuition free, so the monetary factor wasn't as important in my case.

The MS in CS, I'll grant, was a big pile of crap. Part of it was the lack of courses relevant to my interests. Another part, was my choice of schools. I was interested more in network protocols, design and management. The school, it turned out, was geared towards programmers doing research work - mostly database work, distributed processing and user interfaces. (I was working full-time and going to school part-time.) However, by the time I decided it was a waste, I was about two-thirds of the way through, so it would have been silly not to finish and at least be able to put it down on my resume.

Different colleges (1)

Glytch (4881) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043696)

Y'know, University and College aren't the only places where you can get a highly valuable (both knowledge-wise and employability-wise) I personnaly have just graduated from high school and am enroling in a Flight School to become a commercial pilot. University is not the only way to get a good job.

Not if you went to a real school (1)

David Gould (4938) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043697)

Sorry, but if you don't think you learned anything important in college, then either you weren't paying attention or you didn't go to a real school.

"Until an $85-a-copy textbook is written, they can't teach a course, and by the time the book is published, the technology is out of date," Waldo says. "I could go to HotWired and master Dynamic HTML in five days, or I could spend a year in college and would leave knowing Fortran, which is an out-of-date computer language."

Crap. You don't go to school to learn to hack; you go to school to learn Computer Science. As Brian Harvey said at the beginning of CS61a (the first CS class at UCB), CS knowledge is not tied to any particular language and technology. The knowledge you get from these classes is applicable to any language, platform, or technology, with only a quick skim of the reference manual to learn the particular syntax.

"For geeks, colleges have become like those cheesy technical schools offering courses on refrigerator and auto repair that advertise on Dukes of Hazzard reruns," Waldo says.

Sure, if you go to those schools, where the textbooks are probably from the "For Dummies" or "21 Days" series. At a real school, you don't learn the specifics of JavaScript, DHTML, or whatever the latest "hot" technology is supposed to be. Of course those skills have "the shelf-life of a banana", especially if you have to wait for them to percolate into a college curriculum. Instead, you learn theory: NP-completeness, formal language theory, graph theory, data structures and algorithms, operating system concepts, databases, etc., and, perhaps most importantly, problem-solving skills: you learn how to analyze a problem and come up with a good solution. For anything non-trivial, you just can't pick this stuff up on the street.

A lot of the people out there with MCSEs, etc., making big bucks are not even aware of the existence of this stuff. They think that writing efficient code means reusing variable names instead of DIMming a new variable in VB (I actually had this conversation once -- the same guy also once asked my friend "How do you sort an array?" I guess he couldn't find the function in the VB manual, so he was stuck). They also think it's necessary to go to expensive training seminars to learn each new technology. Maybe for them it is, since they don't have the theoretical background to look at a "new" technology and see it in terms of those basic concepts.

It's probably true that if you're reasonably smart you can make more money, at least in the short term, by skipping school, learning a few "hot" technologies, and going to work. In most jobs, all that theoretical knowledge is not used much anyway. However, there are times when you can make big mistakes if you don't have a proper background. Besides, "real nerds" find that stuff interesting and worthwhile in its own right. I don't know that one way is necessarily better for everyone, since not eveyone has the same values, but I for one thought school was extremely worthwhile. I went to work instead of graduate school in order to get some real-world perspective and because of the bucks I could make, but I fully intend to go back in ~5 years.

David Gould

University isn't about programming (1)

Dixie_Flatline (5077) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043698)

I find it odd that so many people have the mentality that university is all about learning to program. I've taught labs in first year computing science classes, and one of the things I always tell my students is "We aren't here to teach you how to program. We're here to teach you how to think. If you want to learn how to program, go to a technical college."
So this Waldo guy can pick up a book every five months when Web standards change and make a good living. Good for him.
Me, I've taken courses in algorithmics, graph theory, programming methedology, assembly, fundamental computer design, non-procedural programming languages, operating system design, etc. Because of this, I can make informed and rational decisions on how to design programming projects, what the advantages and flaws of points in an operating system are, and I can map out network flows in a graph. Eventually, I plan to go to grad school, and do research in parallel and massively parallel operating systems. I'll write a thesis, and try to get a job (or perhaps create my own company). While Waldo tries desperately to keep up with the pace of technology, I'll be doing my best to create technology. I'll be contributing to the world's store of information, rather than merely tagging along, waiting for someone to do the thinking for me. Who knows, maybe one day Waldo will have to read a book that *I* wrote. I'm not in university so much to learn, but to learn enough so that I can *create* later. That's what university gives us.

college is good, but don't get addicted (1)

TheSync (5291) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043699)

I was a programming professionally before I went into college. What I did learn in college is (1) alot of math that I'd never sit down and learn by myself and (2) lots of CS and EE theory, some of which I might have picked up on my own.

However then I went to grad school chasing the elusive spectre of Artificial Intelligence. I remember sitting down with NCSA Mosaic and saying "gee, if it just had cryptographic security, people could do credit card transactions." A few months later, Netscape happened, while I was busy studying for a Ph.D. exam. After that I decided I had to do some part-time Internet work. Eventually I realized that it was time to leave grad school and do Net stuff full-time. Now I'm self-employed and happy!

My perspective (1)

Julian Morrison (5575) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043701)

I dropped out of college, and was unemployed for ages before I was finally able to convert my Linux programming skills into a job as a web developer. I was able to learn all the programming languages I needed just by reading manuals and example code, and then playing around. However I have not been taught much about existing comp.sci. theory, so I have probably "reinvented the wheel" many times. (and it has usually ended up triangular :-)

More to life than computers ??? (1)

doog (5889) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043703)

Some of you won't believe this...but there is more to life than your linux box. Most Universities require you to take classes in English, History, Philosophy, Speach, Languages etc... in order to graduate. This is called general education and in my opinion makes for a more informed, aware individual. You probably don't need a CS degree to be a good programmer, but you will probably be a better overall person (employee) with some sort of college degree.

College provides experience (2)

dmaze (6055) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043705)

I'm still an undergrad, but I'd argue that college so far has been a good experience for me. Classes have given me some experience working on big projects (e.g. writing a compiler); we get to work in teams, learn about testing, etc. with all the pressures of a Real-World (TM) big project but without the threat of, say, losing your job if you fail. In the Real World (TM) they don't make you do things like read the original papers about Unix or Ethernet. Punting college means you'll probably have more real-world experience, but you won't necessarily be clueful about the major successes and failures about the past 20 years.

The Women! (1)

Renaissance Man (6455) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043706)

Since there has been so much publicity that Comp Sci majors make shit loda dough after they get a job, lot of hot women (you know, the cheerleaders from your highschool etc) are joining CS. There are two in my class of 20. But if you're good, you know who sits with them all night helping them finish the project...

(Please don't take this seriously, for the sake of your sanity!)

I quit (1)

jshare (6557) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043707)

I dropped out of college to start working. In looking back, I'm glad I had the college experience that I did (friends, drinking, what-have-you). But if you only look at it financially, it wasn't worth it.

So I'm glad I went, and I'm glad I quit.


Keeping pace? (1)

Optic (6803) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043710)

I've spent three years so far at UWO [] , learning what is bascially CS theory.

The article summary talks about colleges "keeping pace" with technology, but how much is that really necessary? OO hasn't undergone major changes since it appeared... basic OS, networking, and database theory are all still the same.

A focus on techniques instead of tools is important to me; I can learn a tool in hours by digesting a manual, but techniques I learn best from working with experienced programmers and designers.

I haven't decided yet... on hiatus (1)

JerkBoB (7130) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043713)

I'm officially a junior-and-a-half, after finishing my classes last Spring ('98). I started an (unofficial; went banging on doors until I got one) internship in the summer of '97, started getting paid in the fall, and worked there until fall of '98.

I moved from the internship which was really a part time job with a large IT department to a full-time sysadmin job at a medium-sized ISP. I kept telling myself that I'd finish school part-time, but now I'm starting to wonder if it's worth jumping through the hoops.

I now have a fair amount of real-world experience for someone of my age, which gives me a big leg-up on fresh-faced grads with little or no real experience. The only downside I can think of is that there are some employers who rely on the HR department to weed out non-grads. Is it worth spending more money and time that I could use on something else just so that I make it through those filters? Dunno. Depends on where I want to work, I suppose.

I did most of my gen-ed stuff, so I got all of the humanities and other crap that people say makes college worthwhile. I got about half of the CS requirements, so I have lots of basic theory and programming skills, and some advanced theory like DB admin and network engineering. One calc course, so my head was slightly stretched around new concepts.

The way I see it, all that's left is the dead-end knowledge. I'd actually have to take a COBOL course. Yech. a. The COBOL prof at my school hates CS majors (she's a BIS bigot) b. COBOL will be useful for only as long as there's outdated code to be fixed or migrated to a new system. Who wants to do that?

I may take some more classes that interest me, like philosophy or film classes. I'm leaning more and more toward just bagging the rest, though. On one hand, it's a waste of 2.5 years of credits, on the other, it's a gain of 1.5 years of doing something other than writing silly programs in dead computer languages.

Since I'm paying for my education, my parents don't really have any input other than that it's nice to finish what one's started. They have a point. Ack.

Anybody else agonized over a similar decision?

Your opinions are useless too (1)

A nonymous Coward (7548) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043715)

So not having been to college equates to making crackers into heroes, and both equate to being a fool?

Your elitism is showing. Feeling insecure because you're wasting time in college?


Waldo is an idiot (1)

joshjacobs (7745) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043716)

Is this guy kidding? Comparing someone who skipped college and is *completely* self-taught to someone with a computer science degree and background in the theory of computer science is like comparing a car mechanic to the engineer who designed the car.

Sure, this guy may be able to program ActiveX and whatever new buzzword bullshit web "programming" technology there is... But could he even come close to performing some kind of *real* computer science task? I seriously doubt it.

My grandma could learn HTML... He may be able to make a fine living off of making web pages... But it *certainly* isn't people like waldo who are going to lead the information revolution into the 21st century....


I'm Not Going To Skip College (1)

waldoj (8229) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043718)

I (the subject of the article) am not going to skip college entirely. I'm simply planning on delaying it until I've worked to my satisfaction in the computer world.

I still don't know SQL, and there's plenty more that I can learn in perl. My Java is lacking. But at least my C and assembly are up to par. But until I find a college that I actually teach me Lingo or Python, I'll be sticking it out on my own.

What College taught me ... (1)

os10000 (8303) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043720)

I've been changing the font on a TI99-4A at 11.
I had soldered a parallel cable onto the 6501 of
my C64 floppy drive within the first week of
getting it. I've done a 250.000 dollar military
project at 17, and I didn't have a girlfriend
until I was 21. Does that count as geek?

However, I've started a BA in CS in 1992,
graduated in '95 and am close to completing
my PhD in distributed OO databases. I believe
I have both perspectives.

Uni taught me things that I wouldn't have
considered before:

- skyscrapers (built by engineers) typically don't
fall down. Can we say that about software?
- what is the difference between patent/copyright?
- would I be able to sleep after building a
medical system and not doing proper testing?
- why are Mac-Fans so fanatical over their toys?
- can you write programs without using variables
(functional programming)
- what does a secretary think how the windows
desktop works?
- can you name 10 different ways to sort data and
what the tradeoffs are?
- programming using randomness
- why are neural networks NOT like the brain?
- what are the similarities and differences of the
phone and an ethernet? (packet/vc, in-band/
out-of-band signalling, flow control, statistical
multiplexing, etc.)
- what is the fundamental difference between the
mode of communication in phone and fax?
- do you understand the difference between
identity and equality?
- how could one parse natural language?
- how does human vision work and what can we learn
from it?
- programming by specifying the problem (prolog)

Now besides those clear questions, I learned a number of invaluable skills:

- traversing a hierarchy of levels of abstraction
- understanding tradeoffs
- understanding what my goal is or should be
- planning time
- why memorisation is as important as
- talking to non-technical people
- that technology and politics are intermingled

I hope that at least people out there agree with me.

so long,


college is spiffy (1)

fliptout (9217) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043723)

The learning opportunities are plentiful at a university. Plus, attending school allows one to make friends and contacts- very useful.

Most importantly, I doubt many high caliber tech companies would consider hiring somebody with no college education.

Been-there-done-that (1)

Zathras (9441) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043724)

Zathras have over 100 credit hours towards a degree in Software Engineering (SWE). Had to drop out after 4 semesters in a one and ahalf year time span. Zathras, knew going into college, didn't have enough money to finish. Zathras make plan to take all elective requirements (programming, compiler design, operating system design, etc.) first. Plan to return over the years to finsh off core requirments (english, history, etc.).

Zathras been working over 16 years as a SWE. Never finished degree. Zathras make 6 digits now. Looking to retire soon. Zathras has worked double hard to educate himself and work through the years instead of getting all the education done up front. Education is part of life. It continues as one works.

Zathras work with too many degree'd/geeks who think they know all. Only to show them how much they have yet to learn. But Zathras will never discourage one from going or completing college. Must work harder if you do not.

Zathras only say, "Never stop educating yourself. With or without a degree."

Survey of Comments so far (1)

cpeikert (9457) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043725)

I've noticed a general pattern in the Comments made so far. Of the people who advocate college, and have graduated, their comments tend to be:

organized, well thought-out, persuasive, and spelled correctly with good grammar.

Of the people who have skipped college (whether they advocate it or not), their comments are more:

disorganized, full of spelling and grammar errors, and confusing.

There are a handful of exception, but these facts in themselves make a strong statement for college. In a job, you must be able to work with, and communicate with, many other people. Much of this communication is, by necessity, written. If you have a good idea and you want your boss (or venture capitalists) to fund it, you need to write it down and be persuasive. If you design a new system, you need to describe the design and document it so that others can use it, or else they _won't_ use it. If you write code, you need to comment it in a succinct yet understandable way.

You don't need to get a writing degree to do all these things. Any CS degree worth the paper it's written on will have required you to work (and communicate) in groups, write designs, construct organized and understandable mathematical proofs, and mark up code with good comments.

Writing clearly (or in general, communicating) about ideas forces you to clarify and refine those ideas, and clear ideas are enhanced by good writing. All of the above-named tasks build thinking and writing skills, as well as the connections between them. You'll have a hard time replicating those experiences working as a Webmonkey, and your boss (or VCs) probably won't allow you to play catch-up on the four years of experiences you've missed.

If you really want to do something meaningful in your career, go to college.

A college degree does matter. A LOT! (1)

joshy (9772) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043727)

I don't reply to articles too often, but this definately needs a response. College is not for all people, that's true, but it certainly is not worthless. For some people it would be a mistake or a waste of time, but for many it is much more valuable than an equivalent time in the workforce. There are three things someone will get out of college that are not rapidly aging skills:
  • the theory
  • the process
  • the people


I am not a programmer.

I am not a coder.

I am not a sysadmin or a linux geek.

Actually, I am all of those things, but the are side-effects of getting a degree in computer science. (and I mean a real 4 year degree from a real university, not some 2 year piece of crap from Devry).

I am a software engineer, and there's a lot more to that than knowing how to code a web page. I learned theory and methodology that will serve me well for the rest of my life. I know how to write a raytracer, do proofs on automata, and design systems way to complex for a single programmer to complete. No matter how the programming languages change over the years, I'm still going to need that knowlege. I wrote the first raytracer in Java (actually the second, but that's another story). Someone who had just read up on Doom code in their BlackMajik Of 3D Coding book wouldn't be able to do that. What I got out of college wasn't skills. It was meta-knowledge. That I also got a whole lot of applicable skills at the same time is simple a nice side benefit. Because of my degree I'll never be just a coder. I'm a software developer; designing, implementing, and dictating to programmers below me. (sure hope no one from work reads this. :)

The Process

The act of completing a degree, particularly a computer science degree from a good university, is a learning experience in it self. When it comes down to a deadline at work and we have to ship something by the end of the week, I know that people who completed a degree have experience working under pressure. Ship time at a startup company is very similar to the end of quarter pressure of Dead Week and Finals. Someone who can take that stress each quarter for four years (sometimes 5 or 6 :) can be depended upon for real world deadlines.

The People

I met my best friends in college. Some of them will be with me for the rest of my life. I plan to start companies with a few of them in the future, long after my years at Tech are but a distant memory. When you start a company you need people who have proven themselves under the same circumstances that you have. It's a rough world out there and you need people you can trust.

BTW. To whoever it was that said that CS majors are a dime a dozen, you're wrong. There are something on the order of 180,000 jobs openings for IT people and only 25,000 IT people graduating each year. And only a portion of those 25k are actual CS majors. Real CS majors are hot items and the pay reflects it (usually 10k more to start, but sometimes a lot more). Plus there are some jobs that require a degree even better than a CS bachelors. I'd like to work at Be (, one of /.'s generous advertisers and an extremely cool company) but I can't because I don't have a Masters.

To make a long story short (too late), college is a lot more than just learning to program. It's about becoming a college graduate and (depending on your degree) an engineer.

- joshy "a helluva engineer"

Skip college RIGHT NOW... (1)

MAXOMENOS (9802) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043728)

...and code Visual Basic for the rest of your life.
Having done my undergrad work while working a coding job (okay, it was for the government, but it was still coding), I know that experience can teach you a lot. But here's the difference:
  1. Experience will teach you that mergesort is sometimes better than quicksort. College will tell you why mergesort is sometimes better than quicksort.
  2. You don't need to know calculus, differential equasions, and linear algebra to write a compiler. It would help if you're writing a database, though, and it's invaluable if you're writing graphics or a lot of kinds of AI. Advanced mathematics is irreplaceable if you're doing compression, encryption or verification, and it's a lot easier to learn that stuff in college than through experience.
  3. A fuzzier argument: experience tells you how technology is evolving now; but college can teach you history, sociology, and other not-so-technical disciplines that can give you a better feel for why technology is evolving the way it is and where it could go next.
  4. There's just something really cool about reading Shakespere, Kant or Hegel, and talking about it with a guy who did his PhD on the subject. You can't often get that experience working in the computer field.

College CS is for theory, not practice (1)

MAXOMENOS (9802) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043729)

There's a theory that what a lot of college students consider "theory" is actually just what they can't think of applying right now. :)

Its a matter of perspective (1)

banky (9941) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043732)

If you want to go, fine, go. I have missed out on jobs because the managers wanted that CS degree. Now, my resume speaks pretty well, but I hear all the time "why didn't you go to college?". The best thing, I think, is to wait a while then get one of those "adult BS degrees" and treat it like just another item on your resume. Its all what you want out of it, what you need.

What a biased opinion (1)

Jerenk (10262) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043734)

This guy has it sooo wrong.

This kid doesn't have a clue what an education means. While I agree that most colleges can't keep up with the technical aspects, that is NOT true for all colleges. Most computer science programs are easy, but let me say that there are some that are above the others.

Second of all, this kid knows HTML. HTML, pardon my french, is NOT programming (although some would like it to be). It's a language, but it does not require any major leaps in programming. Even Java for the most part is NOT programming (although it can certainly be), because most people do not use it as a true programming language. This 'geek' probably does not even understand what a reentrant linked list is or even an AVL tree (all subjects contained in the first year at U.C. Irvine - my university).
I'll admit I have a bias being in college right now. But, that little piece of paper is worth SOOO much. I can not tell you all the people I've worked with who are in computers without a degree who have told me that the stupidest thing they did was NOT to pursue college. Without a degree (any type), they hit a glass ceiling at most places. With a degree, you will not see as many glass ceilings.

Now, the only rational way you could succeed without a degree (or being lucky) is to start your own business (i.e. consulting, web design, etc.). However, most businesses are flops. But, if you can make it, godspeed. You saved yourself your tuition. (BTW, for most successful 'geeks' $120k is a pittance and that is an absurdly HIGH figure - Carnegie Mellon, Stanford, MIT figures...)

Lastly, who said you had to study computer science at college? Study Shakespeare. College is a great place to broaden your horizons.


The Road Less Travelled.. (1)

Aleksandr (10716) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043737)

The only reason I considered college in the first place was credibility for possible employers. Most HR departments look for either college or job experience in candidates for their I/T departments, even in entry level positions. I took the other road, and joined the US Army Signal Corps for four years, which leveraged me into a comfy desktop support job at a major corporation making $36/hr.
I'm not saying this is the easy way out, I spent a lot of those four years developing my personal skills in the field, and not sitting on my backside waiting for the Army to train me. You have to go out and get your education, but at least you have someone willing to vouch that you have experience in your field.

Hell no, they shouldn't go (1)

HomerJ (11142) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043739)

Well, coding is like sports. As in there isn't much TOO know, but you just have to know how to do it.

Like, you can teach someone to catch a football, that's not hard. But you can't teach them to be a Jerry Rice. Same thing goes with coding. You can teach someone C, but that doesn't mean that they can go out there and code the next killer app either. What you REALLY need to know now, a college just can't teach you.

And as more and more people are learning, college isn't nessecary. It's like the fact that college athletes are learning that they don't need their full 4 years to go to the pros. This is just an idea that is boiling over to other areas like computing now.

That, and it also used to be that if you had a degree in computer science it ment something. Now they are a dime a dozen and employers are looking for people that actually know what they are doing unstead of a piece of paper saying they do. And for the most part, these are people without degrees.

Sharpen the edge! (1)

jabber (13196) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043744)

A formal education, such as that provided by college, is absolutely essencial.
It is the difference between having a handgun, and being a trained sniper. It's the difference between flailing fists and a black belt.

Some people have a talent, a pure inherent ability with all things geeky. Some people simply already have "the edge". A college education focuses and sharpens those talents. It channels them, and imparts onto them a disciplined approach.

It makes the difference between a Mitnik and a Ritchie, a Gates and a Torvalds. It grants the wisdom to tell "do now" from "do right". It teaches patience, commitment and sacrifice. It requires that we set aside instant gratification for the sake of a long term goal.

It can not replace talent, and it is not a substitute for serendipitous learning a'la hacker. It does, however, provide a scaffod upon which the talented can climb higher and reach farther then a quick-study with an O'Reilly under his arm.

18, no college, CIO (1)

espace (13537) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043747)

I'm 18 and I'm CIO of an HMO. I got this job by perseverance, and basically started as a tech, but I outlived the rest of the IT staff, and have not screwed up as of 2pm January 11. I'm not happy though, and isn't that what counts. Cliche? too bad

One thing the article never talks about is the isolation of not attending college. When the youngest person you see before 6pm is in their late twenties and they think you are a punk kid making too much money. When you go out with all of your friends and no longer identify with them. When money just is not enough.

I'm going to start college spring of 2000, but I realize I will never really fit in now that I've took this time off. Living in a fast-paced yuppie real world will inevitably jade an 18-year-old kid.

It's only going to take me three years to get through college, but the first year will be spent acclimatizing myself to the environment. I'm not sure why I'm writing about this, but if you are thinking about taking a year off there are a few things to definitely consider:

You will not fall into a job that pays enough to give you happiness, and probably to really support yourself and live better than if you were going to college for the first year.

If, like me, everyone else you know is going to college, you will no longer truely relate to them like you are used to. If you're friends are not going to college, then you probably can not talk to them on the same level about their careers either.

Perhaps my experience is unique: the general feeling of no longer being a kid, and no longer relating to your friends, but all the money I may earn will probably not make these years off school worth while.


NO (1)

Stardate (13547) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043748)

College is not a waste of time, especially for academia-loving realworld-hating geeks like me. Maybe it's corny, but I think college is an experience where a young student meets people who challenge their ideas about the world, where a kid out of high school who doesn't know much gets a chance to grow up and learn at the same time -- DON'T SKIP IT, even if it's only 2 years at a community college. The impatient part of me can't wait to get my BSEE at Rutgers, but mostly I want to savor my college time and I'm going to make sure my future kids go to college (and dorm and go to parties etc etc).

Go for it, and have fun!

Employers like the BS (1)

Papa (13862) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043750)

Regardless of whether you think college is worthwhile, many employers won't give your resume a second look without a BS. If you have 2+ years of truly relevant experience, it's a different story. But it's hard to break into the industry without a bachelor's.


College? (1)

Stax (13864) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043751)

Ok, well I have my own little bit to post, so here it goes. I am 19 and make $40k+ a year, Unix/NT Sysadmin at a major corp. I did not go to college, but I wish I had. I missed out on some great parties, dorm living, etc. But, i have my own car, pay my own bills, go on vacations, etc. (none of my college friends can afford to order pizza, much less a airplane ticket) Three of my very good friends also skipped college and started working, they are pulling $30k+ @19. Not bad if you ask me. Two of them do helpdesk, but one is a Cold Fusion dev. doing intranet applications. I've taken a few classes at the local community college, but working 50+ hours a week & going to school did not work for me. All in all, I think we are doing fine now, but eventually I will go to school, who wants to be a techie all their life? I know that what I really want to do is project management.

I have to say that I disagree with what this guy has said, he is wrong about the technology @ schools. I would love to have gone to MIT and played in a devl. lab all day, but I chose instead to start my career. Oh well, we'll see how it all goes!

Poll (1)

dclydew (14163) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043753)

A good Slashdot poll, how many real FSF contributers have degrees? How many kernel patches have come fro non-schooled hackers vs. educated hackers...

Colud be interesting!!!

There are n sides to every coin. (1)

Jethro (14165) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043754)

Well, technically I never went to college, but I learned a hell of a lot at various universities. Mainly I used to sneak into the Unix labs and IRC around on the vt100s around when I was 14, because talking to people all over the world facinated me. Of course, I had to learn how to use the VTs, and I had to learn how to use Unix, and I had to learn how to hack (not crack!) it, and work with it, and in it, and around it.

I have this friend with some fancy degree in Computer Science. He took one course which actually had anything to do with computers. The rest were math classes. He's not a geek. He spent 4 years studying CS and he'd be lost if you took the Silicon Coated Rubber Ball out of his mouse.

People have always told me that not having a degree will impact my career, but, to be honest, I don't want to work for a place that cares more about what degree I have than what experience I've got. That kind of place would probably make me cut my hair and frown upon Pink Floyd T-Shirts.

I kind of miss not going through the whole 'college experience', but I don't drink so I don't really know how much of an effect it'd have had on me (:

Benifits of University (1)

Tzoq (14169) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043755)

If nothing else, university gave me several years of access to medium-to-high-end UNIX systems which I could play on and learn stuff. While few of my classes actually gave me the expertise I use at work, the stuff I did between my classes helped a lot!

My SO had to drop out without getting her Master's degree, and has done fine (14 years in the industry), but then she went right into doing IT work *for* a university, which helped a lot.

I'm Not Going To Skip College (1)

pnkfelix (14173) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043756)

You see, that's where you continue to
miss the point of all of these comments;
college *isn't* about learning the
newest computer language that's
hot shit.

Its about learning the ideas behind
the languages, about learning general
problem solving techniques, the
scientific method, etc.

If you're passing up learning about
order-of-growth analysis or
system design techniques just because
the school in question doesn't teach
you Python, you're not getting it.

Do your college, and get it done (1)

PDG (100516) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043765)

Well, if you're spending more than 4 years (even that can be too long) then you are wasting your time. Get your shit done, take your damn classes, learn how to deal with life, how to reseach, etc, and then get a job. Anyone who says that college is a waste of time for geeks isn't going to last very long. Yeah, sure, I'd like to see someone learn complex algebraic algorithm functions without school.

yeah, this guy is real reputable (1)

Harvester (157992) | more than 15 years ago | (#2043766)

Ummm, what's wrong with trying to get Kevin Mitnick a fair trial? I say lets put your ass in jail for a few years without a trial and see how you like it. Even OJ got a speedier trial. I don't think highly of Kevin Mitnick, but I think he needs to be treated fairly and like a human being.
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