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Programming IT

Ask Slashdot: Is Going To a Technical College Worth It? 309

First time accepted submitter blandcramration writes "I have recently decided to further my education with a technical school associates degree. I am a first quarter student in my third week as an IT student. I have taught myself Python and have been working with computers for over 10 years. We've been learning C++ and though my instructor appears to know how to program, he doesn't really understand the procedure behind the veil, so to speak. In a traditional learning environment, I would rather learn everything about the computer process rather than fiddle around with something until I figure out how it works. I can do that on my own. I think the real issue is I'm not feeling challenged enough and I'm paying through the nose to go to school here. Am I even going to be able to land a decent job, or should I just take a few classes here and move on to a traditional college and get a computer science degree? I'm much more interested in an approach to computer science like From NAND to Tetris but I feel as if I should get a degree in something. What are your thoughts?"
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Ask Slashdot: Is Going To a Technical College Worth It?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @07:40PM (#41759227)

    My two centavos:

    No, no, and hell no. A technical college is likely not certified, so you will end up with a worthless paper in "fiber optics" or "homeland security" as a major... and have absolutely zero chances of job placement... coupled with student loans that are rapidly accruing interest which can't be discharged, EVER, through bankruptcy. Even a guy gambling his wages away and running up credit card debt can dump that stuff off at the bankruptcy court and walk away a free man.

    There used to be a pact: Students would put up with professors and deal with the "game" of getting an education. Once you graduated, then the other part of the deal is that you land a meaningful job, pay your loans back in a couple years, and actually have a meaningful career.

    Not any more. The "good" jobs are either owned by people there for 10+ years, or there is a H-1B having them. Management is usually whom is good at the golf course. The ONLY chance of getting anything meaningful these days is an internship where you have to behave like your job interview best for six months so you have a shot at something when you graduate college.

    I'd do some market research. A coder or developer is like being a meat packer or a textile worker -- was a good job, now is available for pennies on the dollar from offshore outsourcers. You can pay Tata $10,000 and get more coding done for your dollar than you can with five senior devs that run 100 grand apiece... and to boot, you don't have to deal with the payroll taxes. You also get an actual guarantee of code working as well.

    Want to run the school game? Get your B. S. and hit the law schools. Pass the bar, and you have a career for life. You would have to commit a felony or get disbarred. Once you have your bar membership, unemployment is up to you. No, you might not get the Dewey, Cheatham, and Howe senior partner, but you will always have somewhere at some company that is 9-5 and full benefits.

    Avoid trade colleges like the plague. They teach you nothing viable, and just take your money... and you have zero prospects of work afterwards.

  • CompSci? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by enigma32 ( 128601 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @07:42PM (#41759259)

    Sounds to me like you're more interested in _Computer Science_ than programming or "IT".

    Maybe you need to reconsider the program you are in, or attend a more serious education institution?

  • by Mike Buddha ( 10734 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @07:46PM (#41759273)

    For the money, an Associate's Degree at a Community College would impress me more than an ITT degree, and it would cost you a lot less. At a CC you can study CS or IT from people who know their subjects well, and have a passion to teach.

    Don't get me wrong, I think that a lot can be learned from a technical college, and I've met quite a few people who have taught there and know what they're doing, but bang-for-your-buck can 't be beaten at a Community College.

  • by jchawk ( 127686 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @07:47PM (#41759285) Homepage Journal

    It's very likely that it will cost the same or less and will lead to more gainful employeement later.

    The point of all the extra non-computer science classes is to teach you how to learn and process new material.

    Having a 4 year degree from an accredited and respected school will also serve you well.

    Here comes the rub... Most start-ups and even smaller mid-sizes might not care or hold it against you but then if you can impress them now why go to school at all?

    Just my two cents from a guy works in the fortune 200. Right or wrong I see good people held back by lack of a 4 year degree all the time.

  • by houstonbofh ( 602064 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @07:51PM (#41759329)
    I had a chance to go through a lot of resumes recently, and the few with a community college degree did stand out. Better than ITT, and a CC with a University is better to me than University alone. If only because most of them have been working in the field part time while at a University...
  • by sandytaru ( 1158959 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @07:53PM (#41759351) Journal
    - and it's stuff you could do on your own - then it's already not worth it. If you're capable of learning it on your, which it seems you are, then my suggestion would be to put that money toward self-teaching, and then taking certification tests. No one will give a rat's ass that you have an associate's degree in IT from a for-profit technical school, but they'll drool all over your resume if you put just one semester's worth of tuition towards stuff like the CCNA or the MCSA.
  • by Clubbah ( 1796660 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @07:54PM (#41759363)

    The Nand2Tetris is a great resource and I am working through it myself. I wish there was something like this available when I started college 20 years ago. The start of our instruction centered around a variable, then loops, data types, etc. I assume it's because students could related to variables through Algebra. It worked well enough though.

    Don't go to a technical school. Go to a state sponsored 4 year university. They're cheaper, better value, and your professors, if you impress them, have some really good in's into hiring companies.

    Get your foundation there. Understand *why* companies are willing to pay you 6 figures. Understand the value of scalability and maintainability. Understand how to build a proper ERD. Understand your data structures and why coding something one way is inefficient and doing it another way will make it 1000 times faster. Become an engineer, not a mechanic.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @08:02PM (#41759439)

    I'd go along with this.

    1) The CCs are paid for by taxers you have probably already contributed to. So, although people talk about cheap, you and your family has already paid for the CC.

    2) Education is 99% learning and 1% teaching, so I believe you get out of it about what you put into it. IAW, there ain't no where your going to get a better education, as good, but not better.

    3) Most of the Tech school courses I've looked at give about 2/3 of what the CC course have. They all seem to cut some corners compared to the CC.

    4) If the CC instructor is bad, and I've had some horrid ones, it is easier to drop and get any money you put up back.

    5) CCs will sometimes have Internships, where you can get some coordinated practical experience. Granted internships very from good to bad, but all experience is valuable.

    6) In my State, CC units are easily transferable to the State Colleges & University. Tech schools classes, I believe, have to be vetted which can be a PITA.

  • by roc97007 ( 608802 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @08:18PM (#41759565) Journal

    Shrug. I suppose, for certain values of zero... I have a degree from a technical college, and peaked at six figures during the dot com boom. Like most in IT, I took a hit after dot com bust, but still making just a tad under six figures.

    Having a degree from a technical college means you will probably start below your skill set, (With a BSET I started as an engineering assistant, in a company where you couldn't be hired as a "member of the technical staff" without having graduated with honors from a very specific, very short list of colleges) but if you're worth anything, you will make up for it over time.

    The main issue as I see it is that you can't even get an interview in some places without a degree of some kind. Without letters after your name, at some companies HR won't even forward your resume, so the hiring manager never sees it. This doesn't mean you're completely shut out, but it makes the process more difficult, and may require some social engineering to get the manager's attention.

    There are people who make a comfortable living without any college at all. My nephew dropped out of CS because programming was "too hard". Later he managed to pass the MCSE and now manages to keep himself in raman noodles and xbox controllers by pushing brightly colored buttons. Shrug.

    There are almost certainly places of learning you could attend with zero benefit. You should be able to spot those and stay away. But putting all technical institutes in that category is demonstrably not accurate.

    All that said, out of high school I was accepted at two colleges, one conventional and one technical, and I wonder how things would have been different had I gone to a conventional college. For one thing, I believe there would have been more girls.

  • by Jeff- ( 95113 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @08:39PM (#41759711) Homepage

    This AC is mostly nonsense in regards to the state of the industry. I agree about technical colleges though.

    Companies would love to hire locally rather than H1B if there was talent. Blaming H1B is racist scapegoating. There are plenty of programmers out there. There aren't plenty of good programmers. If you learn the same web scripting language as everyone else and expect to make 6 figures right out of school you're in for a surprise. However, there are a LOT of companies who are hiring near 6 figures for talent immediately out of a 4 year program.

    If you spend your 4 years writing only those programs assigned to you I'm sure it is difficult to find a good job. However, if you take an interest in opensource, do a good internship, or show any capability outside of filling in the last 1/10th of the program that your professor left blank for you, you'll have no trouble getting a job in today's market. What you get out of it is proportional to what you get in though. You can't just skate through and expect someone to hand you a pile of money. You're not entitled to anything just because you went through the motions and did what was laid out in front of you. You're competing with all of the other people who did the same, including those in other countries.

    The crack at management is also unfounded. Everyone seems to know examples of mismanagement which lead to the failure of companies and the dissatisfaction and disenfranchisement of employees. Why then is it so hard to conceive that it is a difficult job that few people excel at? There are definitely good managers out there who can extract work from their reports at a higher level of satisfaction. You should learn to spot them and maneuver onto their teams at your earliest opportunity.

  • by cthlptlk ( 210435 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @08:45PM (#41759769)

    1. sex
    2. networking with other people who will be in your profession (try not to mix with #1)
    3. learning something from a genuine authority on a subject (try not to mix with #1)
    4. learning something that is hard to teach to yourself (music performance, foreign languages)

    If you are having trouble finding a job, it is probably where you live or your soft/social skills.

    A little comp sci theory is a good companion to the stuff (you say) you already know, but it can be self-teachable.

  • by cruachan ( 113813 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @09:00PM (#41759875)

    Sure you can pay Tata $10,000 - you just end up with poor bug-ridden code thrown together with the minimal amount of rigor to meet whatever specification you sent. Even if your offshore coders speak the same language they don't understand your culture and what you get isn't what you want.

    I've been a developer for nearly 30 years, 10 years ago I was getting a little worried about the offshore developers - not anymore, I make quite a nice living charging people European rates to redevelop systems properly they've tried to get done for next to nothing offshore.

    Of course there are some success stories, but generally any potential client who thinks off-shoring development is a good idea is not one you want as a client.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @09:19PM (#41760013)

    Have to give the OP that.

  • by leamanc ( 961376 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @09:43PM (#41760193) Homepage Journal

    ...I think you have already answered your question. You are spending a lot of money on something that will bring you very little in return.

    My priorities when choosing a candidate to hire in my company are:

    • 1. Experience
    • 2. Limited experience via internship or part-time job, combined with a four-year degree from a respectable university
    • 3. Limited experience via internship or part-time job, combined with a community college degree
    • 4. Four-year degree from a respectable university
    • 5. A community college degree
    • 6. Demonstration of useful skills outside of traditional workplace experience (that is, experience, but not in a job setting or for a commercial project, i.e., an impressive programming project you did on your own; in short, your portfolio)
    • 7. You are related (e.g., nephew, niece) to someone of authority in the company
    • 8. ITT or similar technical college
    • So, as you can see, you would quickly sink to the bottom of my pre-interview list of candidates. It's highly unlikely you would be called in for an interview. It's not so much that you are getting a bad education at the tech college, but that education is going to be very generic and give you little-to-no idea of what working within an IS/IT group is really like. These schools air commercials during the soap opera and Dr. Phil time of day for a reason: they target unemployed people without any skill sets. These are your peers in a tech college. They cannot be turned into IT wizards in two years. At best, they can get a very simplistic overview of the career field that is about equal to what you can learn on your own, online, for free.

      Sorry to be so harsh, but it's my reality, and I imagine the same for many other hiring managers in the field. We value experience over education (and certifications) because the most important consideration before we spend the time and money to recruit and hire someone is "do they have a career path here, long-term?" And the best way to gauge that is experience, plain and simple. That puts you in the age-old conundrum of "how do I get experience without a degree?"

      And my answer to that is internships. Work for free. Volunteer your time for a community organization. Have mom or dad or Uncle Joe get you something entry-level in their company. Show me that you not only know your stuff, but have a work ethic, know what you want to do with your life, and can work with the wide range of personality types found in any given company. Talent is everywhere; the ones that get hired are the ones I feel will work hard, get along with their colleagues, and have ambition to work their way up to something other than what they are interviewing for.

  • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @10:26PM (#41760461) Homepage

    > Blaming H1B is racist scapegoating.

    Nope. It's not racism. The H1B creates an underclass. That underlcass is in a weak bargaining position. This drives down wages. THAT is why most companies seek out H1B candidates.

    It's purely a matter of dollars an cents.

    There are a few valid H1B's out there in computing. You won't find them working IT jobs though since IT is pretty generic and mundane crap.

    Most H1Bs are hired as scab labor to drive wages down. It has nothing to do wtih "racism".

    An Indian with a green card is not helping create an underclass.

  • by hrvatska ( 790627 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @11:00PM (#41760701)
    Law school prepares you for being a lawyer like medical school prepares you for being a doctor. Just as doctors have to work as a resident in a specialty before they really know how to practice medicine, lawyers learn how to practice law in their first job. Before someone can open their own firm and solicit clients they need to first work for another lawyer to learn more than the theory they teach in law schools.
  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2012 @11:19PM (#41760805) Journal

    It drives me crazy when I don't 'get' a problem. I obsess over it until either I solve it, or something else makes me forget.

    This is key. I've noticed the primary quality of successful programmers is they don't give up. They run into a problem that makes you want to hit your head against the desk, but they keep going. Those who give up become QA.

    Note when I say 'successful' here I mean 'make money,' I've met plenty of people who are horrible programmers but still manage to make triple-digits.

  • by AuMatar ( 183847 ) on Thursday October 25, 2012 @12:01AM (#41761019)

    You realize that a company can't accept that offer, right? They'd see their company sued into oblivion. They have to pay at least minimum wage. Nor would any company ever respect someone willing to make an offer like that.

    His best bet is to get a real degree. Work nights, work weekends. Apply to every scholarship and form of financial aid he can find. You *can* get a job in programming without one, but it will be a shit job at a bad company that's lowballing wages. And you'll be there for most of a decade, because nobody who isn't looking for minimum skill cogs is going to hire someone without a degree or 4-5 years experience. The odds they don't know what he's doing are far too great, and a programmer who doesn't know what he's doing will cost them more (via wasting senior talents time) than they gain.

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