Is it worth going back to college to get into computer programming?

Is it worth going back to college to get into computer programming?
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#1

Hi, I’m a new member here and looking for advice about how to get into the field of computer programming.

I have a bachelor’s degree in a completely unrelated field. However, I’m not totally new to the programming thing. About 15 years ago, I completed a certificate program where I learned things like HTML, cascading style sheets, Perl, Cold Fusion, and I even got Sun certified in Java. Not only are these skills seriously out of date, I didn’t even get to use them in my “Programmer Analyst” job I held at the time.

I left that job to try a lot of other interesting things, but I’ve circled back to programming because I feel it is the best fit for my natural aptitudes (logic, mathematics, ability to focus on a problem and develop a novel solution).

I’ve started working through the freeCodeCamp challenges and it looks very helpful. But I’m also looking into a more formal training program, specifically an associate’s degree in computer science with an emphasis on programming. It costs money, of course, but I’m wondering whether it might be worth it anyway. I know lots of people are completely self-taught, but I get the impression it takes a really long time to get a job that way.

Going back to school would be worth it if:

  1. It would look better on a resume than a self-taught program, and

  2. It would actually teach me something instead of just giving me a meaningless piece of paper.

If anyone here has any thoughts on this, I’d appreciate the advice. If a degree program is not the way to go, how about a certificate of some kind?

Thanks.


#2

You will never be penalized if you do get a degree and since you already have one bachelor’s degree (even if unrelated) it does show you have discipline to finish something.

That being said, it is entirely possible to get a web development job (probably Junior level) without a degree, but you better be able to show/display a portfolio containing outstanding projects.


#3

If I could go back, I would. No university will take me though because I already have a Comp. Sci. degree! (Universities are weird about giving duplicate degrees, who knew). So take that as my two cents on this. Especially if you can go to a university, that would be best. But so expensive and takes so long! The other option is a boot camp with someone reputable but it would be a very cramped and intensive period if you did that. If you have the energy for it though, it may be a good option.


#4

I’m going to look up some “Boot Camps” because that sounds like something I might be interested in. Can you recommend any starting points? Thanks for your input.


#5

all I can say is do a serious amount of homework before picking the camp. Speaking for myself, I would want to know:

  • who is the teacher (and their qualifications)
  • what exactly is covered in every session (a detailed curriculum so I can compare it against what I am trying to learn and figure out if they’re wasting my money teaching me html and css, or basic stuff which I already know thanks to FCC for eg.)
  • what are the minimum qualifications of the teaching assistants
  • what are the industry partnerships for the camp (some camps say they assign their campers to startups working on real-world problems, but who knows if those startups are worth even collaborating with)
  • what is their refund policy
  • what is their admission policy (some of them interview for eg) and what does it say about them. Is it artificial or real.
  • what are (and how long) the job finding supports being offered to successful campers
  • are the projects group ones or individual ones (I prefer for eg. to work alone or with a max of one other person)

Look for reddits from previous campers or start one to look for feedback but watch out for the camp sales people who may respond and pretend to be satisfied campers.


#6

I’ve actually tried both. After an unsuccessful graduate school stint, I decided that tech industry is where the jobs are and went back to major in computer science, but what I found out is that I’m incurring a lot of debt to learn a lot of theory, but not enough practical. The time and expenses just wasn’t tenable.

I was fortunate enough to find an alternate path in a non -school sponsored recruiting event. Instead of completing my computer science degree, I entered a training bootcamp with Revature. In 3 month, I learned more practical skill and added more to my portfolio than I ever did in 2 years of computer science undergraduate program.

The caveat is bootcamp isn’t always for everyone. You really have to be intensely dedicated to it for a period of time, which is a luxury not everyone can afford. My particular one also contracted us to relocated for employment anywhere in the US upon completion and hire, so they can recoup the cost as soon as possible. From what I’ve heard, the quality of bootcamp can also vary greatly.

If you want to go the bootcamp route, I highly suggest talking to previous attendees on platforms like linkedin, and gauged the experience , practical knowledge, and perhaps most importantly, job prospects.

For my experience, I essentially traded 2 years of my employement freedom for 12 weeks of training on a minor stipend, and an existing infrastructure that help me enter the industry without a technical degree and relevant network, compared to college where I traded 2 years of employment freedom for mostly more debt, this was well worth it.

I do want to point out that it’s not aways the case. I was fortunate that this particular infrastructure worked out for me, and I got to work as a developer primarily. Some of my
very talented camp mates still end up having to take jobs in DevOps, code testing or database administration, which isn’t what they wanted out of the experience. It is still a very competitive industry after all.


#7

I would start here in free code camp, and udemy before spending some serious money on code bootcamps. I have heard mixed reviews from these camps, and honestly the money it usually cost to attend these things is not worth it from those reviews. That said if you did some homework and found one that you really think you can get all you need out of it, then go for it! just make sure its 100% what you want before signing up.

FCC here s actually a very great place to start! I actually have a degree in computer science-computer programming, and I have learned stuff on here that they never taught in school! Granted it was only a associate degree, but I feel like even for an associate they skipped a lot. Other than here I would suggest udemy Colt Steele’s Web Development BootCamp. Udemy has sales very regularly, so I was able to get it for $10. Very well explained material, and easy to follow. This includes HTML, css, javascript/jquery, to the back end on the server if you are more interested in that part. He also has a advanced course which goes further into css, and more back end type stuff.


#8

best advice I read a few years back was form the guy who created Trello and Stack Overflow and glitch

This part is key

“The moral of the story is that computer science is not the same as software development. If you’re really really lucky, your school might have a decent software development curriculum, although, they might not, because elite schools think that teaching practical skills is better left to the technical-vocational institutes and the prison rehabilitation programs. You can learn mere programming anywhere. We are Yale University, and we Mold Future World Leaders. You think your $160,000 tuition entititles you to learn about while loops? What do you think this is, some fly-by-night Java seminar at the Airport Marriott? Pshaw.”

There’s a lot more good advice in there… But it really points to the fact that you will get the most out of anything you really throw yourself into…

So if you want to code… code!!

I say all this knowing full well that I always do better in terms of commitment when I actually pay money to take a course, since I tend to want a return on my investment…

Make an agreement with someone that you will pay them a hundred if you do not finish a section of fCC by X date and if you DO finish it they take the $100 bux and take you both out to dinner to celebrate!

Give them the $100 bux at the start so you are committed… I mean, if this is the kind of thing you like (‘paying’ for courses).

I say this as well being a total sucker for certs and streaks and degrees and diplomas…

anyway, do what works for your learning style and leverage as much free stuff as you can… but be coding… the degree will then be that extra something-something…


#9

If you already have one college degree, no matter what it was in, there’s no need to get another. Well unless you’re a hardcore academic and have the spare cash. :wink:

That said, while most computer science degrees end up partially including software engineering, that’s not really the focus of a CS degree. As said above, the point of a CS degree is learning the “theory” that the majority of coding bootcamps (and other “vocational” programs) skip over, which is data structures, algorithms, operating systems, programming languages, etc. Most CS degrees also include some math that coding bootcamps don’t cover at all, like discrete math, calculus, and statistics & probability.

It’s somewhat of a pro and con—for the employers that prefer college graduates, that knowledge of theory and math is exactly what they’re looking for, as it tends to make people better programmers. And it’s certainly more valuable for those who go into back-end development, for sure (or other types of development, like AI/ML, IoT, embedded systems, etc). However, knowledge of CS theory isn’t essential for a lot of software jobs.

If you’re just looking to gain knowledge of CS theory, there’s a very viable way of getting it for free and at your own pace: https://www.edx.org/course/cs50s-introduction-computer-science-harvardx-cs50x

If you’re just looking for a “paper”/degree/certification: you don’t need one when you already have a degree. Totally doesn’t matter what it was in. And any employer that’s going to be a stickler about that probably isn’t worth working for.


#10

Really! That’s interesting to know 'cause the free stuff Revature offers on their site is extremely lame (like stereotypical classroom lectures) and maybe even harmful (possibly discouraging people with irrelevant goobledygook) – just a bunch of talking heads obviously reading off the teleprompter with none of the lessons actually conducive to learning and retention…I kid you not.

I was wondering about them…they have a lot of venture capital money but their site is incredibly conventional. They seem to take only college students, right?

Honestly glad their in-person program worked for you.


#11

I also use Colt Steele’s videos (got both at $15 each, though)…ultimately, it seems a varied diet of resources is best, with an initial preponderance of free and freemium fare recommended.

It’s how I’d learned German decades ago, all on my own without native speakers helping me except in the form of tapes (yes, tapes – it was truly a while ago!) from the library. By the time I actually signed up for courses at college, all my professors were impressed by my abilities! I was good enough to get the Goethe Haus certificate right away once they told me I should apply.

I would prefer a more traditional structured path, actually, but it seems like the absolute truth is that one is almost certain to scramble mostly on one’s own, anyway, what with most faculty being low-cost temporary adjunct instructors with limited office hours that they rush to and from in-between other jobs – and more often than not they don’t speak English very well, being indentured foreign graduate students trading grunt work for a free degree! – so in the 21st Century, it’s better to “hustle” and craft together one’s own program, ultimately. I’ve even read that many tech people actually prefer DIYers (though interestingly I’ve also read that many look askance at bootcampers as well!).


#12

This is actually fair, and they are probably working on improving their online product. I was skeptical as well, until I talked to some of recruiters and got a better understanding of their model. I can tell you that I didn’t once used their free online stuff when I was in training, so it is a vastly different experience.

More of their efforts and resources are probably invested in the in person training and sales because their "business " is to sell other companies technical workforces, ie us. Therefore it’s much more important than the free content.

It was about 30 people per class and every day it’s basically 7 hour of lecture, demo, code walkthroughs, and code plus lunch. Every week, we get grilled on the subjects we learned the previous week in either a 1 on 1 or group settings. Every 3 week we do a full stack project, fulfilling a set of requirements using technology we learned. At the end of the training, after our last project being a group one that actually impacts one of their production systems, we go through what amounts to a QA interview that basically quiz you thoroughly on everything you learned on the curriculum, and they don’t really pass you to clients until you pass this stage.

From what I can gather the actual curriculum is basically ever evolving because they are training people based on client demands to a certain degree. What’s on the free platform is certainly outdated by now, FCC is probably much superior in comparison, but I definitely wouldn’t have the job I have now without going through the training.


#13

Good to know! Thanks for the info…that sounds like something I’d love for myself, actually. Too bad their business model only targets college students – but it’s an interesting one, quite a niche that’s got millions in funding behind it.

Thanks again for the explanation. I’m always interested in how these businesses make their money!


#14

Not necessarily college student, I was 29 when they recruited me. I’d say they more or less target college graduates with decent programming foundation.


#15

Ah, thanks for the clarification – I’m only going by their site, so I appreciate the “inside baseball” you’ve been able to provide (even if I’m still out of their target demographic!)…and maybe one day someone else can look into it all and gain like you did!


#16

I do also have to say though, having started Free Code Camp, attended coding meet ups, and joined a chingu cohort prior to the actual bootcamp definitely gave me a leg up during the training itself. I was probably the most experienced front-end / JavaScript developer in my batch because I have done most of the FCC front-end curriculum, and the code meet ups and chingu experience really help when you start working as a group and apply agile practices.

Be ambitious and voracious about utilizing every resources available to you. Until I started attending them, I’ve never realized how good of a resource a local code hangout can be. Even as a kind of socially awkward guy, I’ve gotten a lot out of them just for having a time and place where you can talk shop with another person face to face. Every bit of experience counts toward your proverbial 10000 hours.

Ultimately the culmination of your efforts will be rewarded in some way if you just keep working and be productive, I just happened to get the extra structure and help provided by a bootcamp to get over the hump.


#17

Bootcamps for sure. It gives the stucture of a university but waaaaay cheaper. You’re almost guaranteed a job in 3-6 months and you’ll have the foundation to build your skills to eventually be on par with a CS grad of thats what you want. From what I can tell employers don’t dont really care about degrees, they just care if you can do the job or not. I’ve heard employers complain about CS grads still not knowing how to do anything useful when they get hired. I know a guy who got fired after 2 weeks on his first job after graduating because he didn’t know how to do anything. After than he decided he didn’t want to code anymore.


#18

Thanks for all the helpful info! Where was your training location? How was that living situation?


#19

I was in Reston, VA during training. 6 people share 3 bed room apartment. Rent is taken out of your check, but given the living expense of the area, it’s rather fair


#20

Since you already have a bachelors degree, it will put your head above water, as you have something to show regardless of the relevance, that being said you will need to to quite a bit of self learning and build a portfolio of work done along the way. As people and businesses will look more to what you have accomplished than your qualification in the field.