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Graduated without a computer science degree. What do I do now?

al dubya
Greenhorn

Joined: Feb 08, 2012
Posts: 3
I graduated in May with degrees in both political science and philosophy and then worked as a marketing consultant for 5 months at a job I hated until I was let go. During that time however, I realized that what I really want to do is be a programmer. The similarities between computer science and philosophy appeal a lot to me and the coding I have done I have enjoyed a lot. Since then I have started night classes at a local University in Java Data Structure and Web Application Development, while also looking for a new job. This has become problematic however, given that I currently have no qualifications to get a job that would help me start on the road to programming, aside from high school java and web page design classes. So where do I go from here? What opportunities are there for someone in my position who wants to get into programming? The way I see it I can either go back to school for 4 years and get a CS bachelors degree, get enough background to get into a CS masters program or find one for non-CS undergrads, find a certificate program that will accept a non-cs major and hope that it qualifies me to get a job, find a job that hires non-CS majors and trains/mentors them, or train myself and hope that I eventually can prove that I have enough of the skills an employer happens to be looking for. Getting another bachelors degree doesn't really seem practical or realistic for me so I would have to go a different route. Can anyone with any experience or knowledge about the situation I am in please give me some advice about how to best go from here? Thanks in advance.
Henry Wong
author
Sheriff

Joined: Sep 28, 2004
Posts: 18710
    
  40


I know a lot of people in the IT field, that doesn't have a CS degree. It is possible.

Henry


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Paul Anilprem
Enthuware Software Support
Ranch Hand

Joined: Sep 23, 2000
Posts: 3285
    
    7
I think an associate degree in Programming should be good.
I am not sure where you are located, but in India, there are several private training institutes such as Aptech and NIIT, which offer comprehensive curriculam for a duration ranging from 1 yr to 4 yrs. I know of several people who, while being enrolled in regular college degree in Arts or Commerce, joined such programs and now are working as IT professionals.

al dubya wrote:...The similarities between computer science and philosophy appeal a lot to me ...

While I am sure some similarities can be found any two streams of education, I am really curious to know what similarities do you see between CS and Philosophy?


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fred rosenberger
lowercase baba
Bartender

Joined: Oct 02, 2003
Posts: 11229
    
  16

The only degree i have is a BA in theatre and have been a professional developer for over 10 years now.


There are only two hard things in computer science: cache invalidation, naming things, and off-by-one errors
al dubya
Greenhorn

Joined: Feb 08, 2012
Posts: 3
Paul Anilprem wrote:
While I am sure some similarities can be found any two streams of education, I am really curious to know what similarities do you see between CS and Philosophy?



The clearest similarity is the logic portion of the curriculum. For philosophy I took several logic course including advanced courses in symbolic logic which is the basis of computer programming. These classes were usually taught by computer science professors and were always about half philosophy half cs majors. In a more abstract sense, philosophy is a study of defining things in the universe and programming, at least to me, is the process of defining things that will happen in a program. In phil you analyze things that exists in the universe (happiness, justice, the mind) to determine the axioms or rules that fully encompass that thing and only that thing. In essence you are reverse engineering the universe. In computer science you are taking something that exists in your mind, the program which you wish to create, and determine the axioms or rules that fully encompass that program and only that program. The most obvious connection between the two fields is artificial intelligence. Both phil and cs aim to understand thought and recreate it by determining what it is. The difference is that where phil codes with the english language, computer languages are used in programming. This is what I want to learn.
Paul Anilprem
Enthuware Software Support
Ranch Hand

Joined: Sep 23, 2000
Posts: 3285
    
    7
al dubya wrote:
Paul Anilprem wrote:
While I am sure some similarities can be found any two streams of education, I am really curious to know what similarities do you see between CS and Philosophy?



The clearest similarity is the logic portion of the curriculum. For philosophy I took several logic course including advanced courses in symbolic logic which is the basis of computer programming. These classes were usually taught by computer science professors and were always about half philosophy half cs majors. In a more abstract sense, philosophy is a study of defining things in the universe and programming, at least to me, is the process of defining things that will happen in a program. In phil you analyze things that exists in the universe (happiness, justice, the mind) to determine the axioms or rules that fully encompass that thing and only that thing. In essence you are reverse engineering the universe. In computer science you are taking something that exists in your mind, the program which you wish to create, and determine the axioms or rules that fully encompass that program and only that program. The most obvious connection between the two fields is artificial intelligence. Both phil and cs aim to understand thought and recreate it by determining what it is. The difference is that where phil codes with the english language, computer languages are used in programming. This is what I want to learn.


Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
al dubya
Greenhorn

Joined: Feb 08, 2012
Posts: 3
fred rosenberger wrote:The only degree i have is a BA in theatre and have been a professional developer for over 10 years now.


What steps did you take in making the transition from theatre background to developer. Specifically how did you get your foot in the door and what you recommend for me given what you know about the current industry?
chris webster
Bartender

Joined: Mar 01, 2009
Posts: 1649
    
  14

Well, I've been in the IT industry for 25 years, but my first degree was in languages, so it is perfectly possible to have a career in IT without a computer science degree. But I was lucky to be recruited at a time when employers were interested in people from a range of backgrounds and were prepared to train them up on the job. That is pretty unusual these days, although some of big companies/consultancies still take people on and train them into IT e.g. if they can offer useful skills in non-IT areas such as finance, life sciences etc.

Here in the UK, the universities started offering a lot of 1 year MSc "conversion" courses into IT in the 1990s, aimed at graduates in other fields. Some of these courses produced very good practically oriented graduates, while others were basically just cobbled together from spare parts of computing degrees and produced people with neither a decent theoretical understanding nor any real practically applicable skills. These days those courses are probably less popular as UK IT graduates have the highest rate of unemployment for any degree subject. There are not enough jobs already, even for people with relevant degrees.

So although I would encourage you to follow your ambitions, I would also warn you to be prepared for a tough challenge, especially if you are based in one of the countries that has been shipping jobs offshore in recent years. Despite a lot of publicity about the so-called "IT skills shortage", there is no real shortage of inexperienced software developers as far as I can tell, and there is a lot of competition to find that first job in the field.

You might want to look at ways to identify a more suitable niche for yourself, requiring skills/experience that you can offer and that are not available from every other CS graduate. It might also be worth taking some time to explore different options to see what suits you and what might be marketable e.g. programming not just with Java but with Python or Scala as well, understanding databases as well as OO design, and so on. Look out for indicators of what might be the Next Big Thing e.g. there's a lot of buzz around functional programming these days, which might fit in with your background in logic. And don't forget the lower level bread-and-butter stuff like web development with PHP, which is relatively easy to pick up and could generate some paid work while you're building up your skills/experience. Check out "Seven Languages In Seven Weeks" for a rapid introduction to a variety of programming languages and paradigms.

You could also look at less direct routes, such as aiming for business qualifications or training in business analysis, where your wider experience might be more relevant (most analysis/design meetings are pretty political environments, after all!), which might provide opportunities to move into the IT sector. Also, these less technical roles seem more likely to survive the offshoring tsunami than hands-on technical roles.

Of course, if you're based in India, then things will no doubt be very different, but there are plenty of people here on Javaranch who know all about that market.

Anyway, good luck with it all.


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arulk pillai
Author
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 31, 2007
Posts: 3219
I was mechanical engineer and changed my career to "Java programming" within a year and never regretted it. I don't thing the reverse would be easier. If you have the passion, you could self-study. There are myriad of books and online resources to get started.


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Jayesh A Lalwani
Bartender

Joined: Jan 17, 2008
Posts: 2321
    
  28

It used to be easy to switch from having a degree in an non--computer-science background to programming a decade ago. Now, it's not so easy because there are just so many graduates being produced from so many universities. I think you should at least get an associates degree, and plan to do a bachelor's part time

Having said that, not having an computer science background has some advantages and disadvantages. If you have the aptitude, you can pretty much start coding without a degree. However, when you get to the point when you start getting responsible for design, the degree gives you a good fundamental understanding of systems that helps you make good decisions. On the other hand, not coming from an engineering background, makes you look at things differently that most other people in your office, which can be very valuable. IMO, if you are from a non-computer-science background, you have to work that much harder to get an understanding of how systems work while you are on the job. Not saying it's impossible. You have to work hard at it.

At the end of the day, having the degree on your resume helps you get pass the HR filters. A lot of companies get so many resumes that they automate the initial filtering of resumes, and one of the main criteria they use is your degree. If you don't have the degree, you will have a difficult time landing an interview. When you do land an interview, what really matters is how skilled and knowledgeable you are.
Herb Brenda
Greenhorn

Joined: Apr 20, 2012
Posts: 1
I can understand your situation. Can you enroll for an online degree? That way, you will have the flexibility to work and study at the same time. I know several schools offer online college degree programs that you can explore.

As far as finding a programming job without proper qualifications is concerned, I agree that might be a bit tough unless you are very lucky. My suggestion would be to get a job you are qualified for currently and take up some coding assignments on the side while you work on your online programming degree!
 
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