Career in programming?



  • Hello,

    I'm a long time tdwtf reader and first time poster.

    I'm 18 and about to enter college this fall.  I plan on going for a CS degree. any advice from someone that is in the field?

    (btw: I'm in Akron OH)



  • Whether or not you'll do good depends on how serious you are about computers. If you just want to go into a career in programming, get yourself a C#, VB, or Java certification from someone and get an entry-level job somewhere. If you insist on college, go into MIS and learn VB; you'll probably make more $$$ than most CS grads.

    However, if you care about the theories behind computation in general, a CS degree is the only way to go. You'll learn about concepts like natural language parsing, database normalization, OO analysis, structured analysis (of your CS dept. is any good it still teaches structured as well as OO -- you need to know both to do well as a software engineer), finite state automata, artificial intelligence, graphics theory, and more.

    If you are frightened by any of these concpets and just want to make software that goes "ping!", go MIS.



  • (of your CS dept. is any good it still teaches structured as well as OO -- you need to know both to do well as a software engineer),

    CURSE YOU, CommunityServer!!! That should be "if your CS Dept....".

    Naturally, my typoes are entirely the fault of CommunityServer, and are not due to my own lack fo diligence or skill.



  • my own lack fo diligence or skill.

    CommunityServer strikes again!!11!1!1!1!1!one1!!!1!!1



  • RUN! RUN WHILE YOU STILL CAN!
    Kidding. Mostly, at least. I've had a really bad day.
    I'm a junior(ish? I'm on the N year plan) in CS, out on an internship, and days like today make me want to change my major.
    CS is great. Its facinating. Its the making a living off it part that makes me want to hide under my desk and cry.
    My plan: get my BS, go to graduate school. Stay there until I die. Let the student loan people get whatever they can find in my pockets.



  • (This post was pretty long. I deleted most of it and it's still this long.)

    I'm really smart in general & I learn stuff I'm interested in fast.  I find interest in much of the subject matter and the advanced topics of CS.  I'd like to go to college, and my parents wouldn't be happy otherwise.  I've got a job now doing asp.net/sql server work.

    I've also got a full tuition scholarship for the first 2 years assuming I get very good grades, and assuming I don't screw up, I should be able to get another at the end of that.

    I've also considered going for a 2-year program, but I (somewhat arrogantly, but mostly correctly) feel like I'm above much of what they have to offer.

    Would there be significantly better opportunities in 4-5 years if I went with CIS/MIS instead or avoided a bachelors degree altogether?  Anything to justify not going into CS?



  • Don't chose your education based on your perceived opportunities in 5 years -- nobody knows what will happen by then. Choose your education based upon what you are interested in and what you want to do.

    If you are *serious* about computers and are interested in the *theories* behind using them, and the practical application of those theories, go CS. If you just wanna hack, go MIS or get a cert. MIS is basically CS-lite. It has the added benefit of business training, but at the expense of theoretical broadness. MIS majors typically start out as programmers and end up in project management positions lording it over the CS majors, who typically start out as programmers and end up as architects or engineers.



  • I would strongly recommend to NOT skip your undergrad degree. Many employers (including myself) will not consider a non-college educated person for a job. This is reflected through many anecdotes of my non-college-educated colleagues.

    I agree with the above advise as far as where CS vs MIS people go. However, I don't believe that's a function of the education, more of the individual preference. People who like CS tend to go one route, MIS folks go another. It really doesn't matter.

    I went with a CS degree myself and took the important MIS courses (e.g. Proj Managmenet; I didn't take accounting). So I suppose, I got the best of both worlds as far as education is concerend. I'd recommend doing the same; some of the MIS courses are fantastic and essential to life in the business world.



  • Thanks for the advice.

    I'm going to stick with CS.

    (oh, my school calls it CIS, not MIS)



  • I am curious -- what school? Univeristy of Akron?



  • nah, Kent State.  I'm going to a (much closer) satellite campus for the first 1 1/2 - 2 years.

    I have a much better scholarship there than what I was offered at Akron.



  • Cool -- in case you were wondering -- Kent is recognized as a pretty strong CS school around the area. I'm a BW alum myself, but one of my profs was attending Kent for a PHD and had great things to say about the school.



  • Becoming a career programmer? Just look at what you can look forward to...

    • You get to drink coffee intravenously.
    • You get to lead a sedentary lifestyle which leads to minimal exercise, shortness of breath, heart palpatations, and beer gut.
    • You get to recite the complete lyrics to UTFO's "Roxanne Roxanne" while you code. (Trust me, this is fun!)
    • You get to claim that you're "certified" in this or that programming technology, when in reality that translates to familiarity with copy/paste, drag/drop, and point/click.
    • You get to master HTML.
    • You finally get the revelation that you don't have to write Javascript code, rather just copy it from some hacker's site on the internet.
    • You get to truly understand the humor of "Will it compile?"
    • You get to impress your non-technical friends by frequently tossing out the names of random programming languages. Your non-technical friends will love it. They'll think you're smart, even though you yourself will probably never know the difference between Java and Javascript.
    • You get to see why pulling up pornographic sites at work is not "funny".
    • You get to mock your boss, only for him to catch you in the act.
    • You get to witness firsthand the pitfalls of sexual harrassment in the workplace.
    • You get to act like a gangsta rapper when no one is looking.



  • @Alex Papadimoulis said:

    Cool -- in case you were wondering -- Kent is recognized as a pretty strong CS school around the area. I'm a BW alum myself, but one of my profs was attending Kent for a PHD and had great things to say about the school.



    Glad to know it.

    The only bad thing about it for me is that the main campus is a 20 mi drive away.



  • Yeah I have taken a very weird path myself.

    I started out in the CS department, but didn't have my head on straight after HS.  Then I got a FT job and am now working as a Web Developer using ColdFusion and .NET.  I graduate in May with my 2 year BIS (Business Information Systems) degree and in the fall I am going for my 4 year Information Technology and Management degree.  The college I'm going to offers it as a cross between MIS and CS.

    I'd love to be a CS major as I love the advanced topics, but I have to take it in the evenings and I can't get CS in the evenings!



  • @iowacoder said:

    I'd love to be a CS major as I love the advanced topics, but I have to take it in the evenings and I can't get CS in the evenings!

    Ahh, another non-traditional student! Let me guess: wife and kids, right?

    Same here. I managed to take my CS classes during the day and still work full time, thanks to a very flexible boss, but I know the feeling about not being able to get the classes you want, or other problems. I even had one teacher tell me that I shouldn't be in college at all if I had a family! You can bet she got a glowing review at the end of that semester....:)



  • n89j and Jordan,

    I doubt it's possible to predict what the future of computer-related work holds with any degree of accuracy. Things change rapidly. I can offer one suggestion - hook up with your peers in person, at conferences, and online. Participate in "the community" (whatever that means) so you'll be aware of what areas seem to be growing at any given time, and help each other get ahead. Good luck!



  • @DaveNicolette said:

    I can offer one suggestion - hook up with your peers in person, at conferences, and online. Participate in "the community" (whatever that means) so you'll be aware of what areas seem to be growing at any given time, and help each other get ahead.

    I'll add a small bit of advice to this ... note that "the community" represents only a small subset of the real world. Worse, this clique is distributed across the world, meaning you will only find a small handful of online people in your local area. Just keep that in mind -- building ties in the local area with business people are very important.

    If you haven't already, sign up for LinkedIn and get as many people on it as you can. Add me (email = alex.papadimoulis@gmail.com) if you'd like.



  • what's LinkedIn?



  • Check it out -- www.LinkedIn.com -- social networking comes to the business world.

    I've found it's an ideal way to keep in cotact with business colleagues and as far as usefulness I found two contacts in the accounting world to help my fiancee look for a job.

    I've received no spam from the address, but I still don't use my primary email.



  • Don't plan on being a games writer, as so many people around me at college seemed to expect to become :)



  • @KeeperOfTheSoul said:

    Don't plan on being a games writer, as so many people around me at college seemed to expect to become :)


    I most definitely don't.  I'm not a big gaming fan anyway...



  • This question is more or less for everybody reading this thread. During the dot-com days a recent CS graduate could expect a minimum starting salary of $50K-75K on upwards, depending upon what particular field they were in. Bonuses and perks were limitless.

    What is it like these days? I imagine you have to adjust for inflation...



  • I'd say about the same -- $50K in smaller markets and $75K in larger. But -- the $50K is assuming around one year of experience (internships count). With no experience and a degree, good luck finding any job -- I certainly wouldn't hire someone like that.

    Fortunately, many small companies with no real IT knowledge (like a multimedia shop) will -- they see the $35K salary they pay, the degree, and can't tell the difference betwen good/bad software.



  • @Alex Papadimoulis said:

    I'd say about the same -- $50K in smaller markets and $75K in larger. But -- the $50K is assuming around one year of experience (internships count). With no experience and a degree, good luck finding any job -- I certainly wouldn't hire someone like that.

    Fortunately, many small companies with no real IT knowledge (like a multimedia shop) will -- they see the $35K salary they pay, the degree, and can't tell the difference betwen good/bad software.

    Well, thank god for those companies, otherwise how would folks fresh out of college get experience so they can be hired by someone like you? [;)]

    I actually worked for a small company for three years while I was going to school at much less than $35k. Gained a ton of good experience that way, too, not the least of which were stumbling on (and occasionally creating) WTFs worthy of this website. Yes, I admit what lots of people try to hide in their closet -- I have gone back to maintain older code written by myself and thought "WTF was I smoking when I wrote this???!?"



  • I actually worked for a small company for three years while I was going to school at much less than $35k. Gained a ton of good experience that way, too, not the least of which were stumbling on (and occasionally creating) WTFs worthy of this website. Yes, I admit what lots of people try to hide in their closet -- I have gone back to maintain older code written by myself and thought "WTF was I smoking when I wrote this???!?"


    sounds a lot like I'm doing now

    (except most WTFs I make are out of laziness or apathy, not out of ignorance)



  • @WhiskeyTangoFoxtrotOver said:

    Well, thank god for those companies, otherwise how would folks fresh out of college get experience so they can be hired by someone like you? [;)]

    Indeed :-). Alas, this seems to be the case in every other industry as well and creates the well-known catch-22: can't get a job without experience and can't get experience without a job. But someone, everyone seems to overcome that at some point.

    @WhiskeyTangoFoxtrotOver said:

    I actually worked for a small company for three years  ... I have gone back to maintain older code written by myself and thought "WTF was I smoking when I wrote this???!?"

    I've run across the same situation. Here's what I think. Back then, I was young and knew everything. The older I get, the more I learn I don't know. The "WTF Was I thnking" is probably in difference between the 100% that I knew than and the 20% that I know now.



  • >most WTFs I make are out of laziness or apathy

    You may not want to emphasize those traits in your resume.

    Just a thought.




  • @Alex Papadimoulis said:

    I've run across the same situation. Here's what I think. Back then, I was young and knew everything. The older I get, the more I learn I don't know. The "WTF Was I thnking" is probably in difference between the 100% that I knew than and the 20% that I know now.

    Just you wait. In ten years, you'll look back at code you're writing now and think the same thing. [:D]



  • @Alex Papadimoulis said:

    've run across the same situation. Here's what I think. Back then, I was young and knew everything. The older I get, the more I learn I don't know. The "WTF Was I thnking" is probably in difference between the 100% that I knew than and the 20% that I know now.



    I think you'll notice soon that this 20% are in reality 100%, if they are enough to solve 100% of your tasks. Nobody can learn all the tools, frameworks, languages etc. out there, and even if you knew them all, it's unlikely you could make much better programs.


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