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Computer related degrees

Discussion in 'Off Topic [BG]' started by Tim Cole, Dec 26, 2006.

  1. Tim Cole

    Tim Cole Supporting Member

    Jun 12, 2002
    Findlay, Ohio
    Hey all, thinking about the possibility of picking up an associates degree in a computer related field.

    For those who've done this; what is your degree? What is your current job?

    Additionally, I am also looking for information on the job demand for said degrees, and an idea of starting wages in these fields. I've heard a lot of the IT based jobs aren't in as much of a demand as previous years. True?
  2. MJ5150

    MJ5150 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2001
    Olympia, WA
    Not so in my experience. The jobs are still out there, employers are now being more picky about whom they hire. With IT budgets being carefuly scrutinized within companie now, employers are much more careful who they hire.

    Just a few years ago, you could walk into an interview with a IT degree or even a bunch of certs and walk out with a $70,000 per year job. That was how it was for me when I got my MS job. Walk in, say "hi", flash a couple AD skills, and I got the job. The jobs are still there today, now you have to prove yourself in more areas to get it.

    Check this out........last week, I went on an interview for a network admin position with a national interconnect. In the past, the job would have been mine just by showing my certs and answering a few "techie" questions. I was overqualified for the position and I could tell when I walked in the door. This time, I was interviewed by four people and they wanted to see examples of my work, examples of how I deal with others, demonstrations of my technical skills, and so on.

    I do not work right now, by my choice. I do some consulting work, but that is all.

    As far as starting wages...I'd say somewhere between $12 and $15 an hour for an entry level network admin working under a senior network admin. A Helpdesk position would be $10-$12. I'm just talking averages. That is what the pay is up here where I live.

  3. James Hart

    James Hart

    Feb 1, 2002
    Endorsing Artist: see profile
    I'm a Network and Systems Engineer for a VoIP provider. I work equally in Linux or Solarus and Cisco or Juniper. My "Jack of all trades" background has really helped me out more than I could have wished with this jump. We have 4 main collocation facilities across the the country and minor ones in each state (and one in UK, CA and AU). I work in the command center controlling, monitoring, upgrading a plethora of technologies from servers to proxies to routers to mux to dacs to carrier handoffs, etc. We are a phone company but also software and database driven. It's a dream environment for the geek in me :bassist:

    I've found degrees and certs mostly useless in this field. I have gotten just about every job I wanted because of what I know and how I communicate it... and ahead of the MANY that think "Hey, maybe I'll pick up a computer related degree/cert and make some easy money"... don't get me wrong, many make good livings just because they heard the field can make you some money and they dove in. I know quite a few cats with Microsoft and Cisco certs that never got out of their manual labor positions.

    The starting line is the $20k to $30k mark.... most people are snowed into thinking you can hit the ground running @ $75k and that NEVER happens to start. It takes a few years (and a few revolving technologies mastered) to grow to there.

    This is a fast paced learning environment... Grabbing certs on the way is fine, but understanding and communicating the technologies means a hell of a lot more.

    Good Luck! It's a fun game
  4. I'm working on my comp sci degree right now. I'm sure I'd make more money with engineering as far as 'jobs' go. but meh. As far as all that starting wage, and jobs you can get with an associates down in the states. I have no idea. But it cant be that bad.
  5. Kosko


    Dec 12, 2005
    Comp Sci / Digital Art degree. Currently a programmer.

    It's not exactly easy/breeze through major, but it can be very rewarding. Do you like solving riddles?
  6. Poop-Loops

    Poop-Loops Banned

    Mar 3, 2006
    Auburn, Washington
    You should probably look into something more than an associates degree. I have an associates in physics (now transfered to a uni to get my BS) what I learned is laughable compared to what I am learning now. Might be different with different fields, but those 2 extra years will let you go a LOT further in your career.
  7. MJ5150

    MJ5150 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2001
    Olympia, WA
    More than anything else, try to get a job in the field and then go to school on the side.

    James nailed it right on. Hands on will often go further than a piece of paper saying you went to school, or a piece of paper that says you memorized the answers for seven MS exams. :D

    I have found that my certs are nice to have for my own satisfaction, and they do reflect a certain amount of dedication and knowledge when done correctly. Some employers will put more weight into them too. About the only cert that I can think of that will get you that $100K+ a year job is a CCIE. When you have that one, you pick your wage and employer pretty much.

  8. Chris M

    Chris M

    Oct 23, 2005
    Littleton, CO
    Bachelor of Science in Information Technology.

    For me it was a huge piece of the puzzle in getting a job. I had a lot of the hands on skills and experience, but was stuck at the low end of the pay scale since I didn't have a degree. It's not a necessity, but it sure helps.

    Echoing James' sentiments, get as much hands on experience as you can. That often means taking a low end job as a grunt and begging the Sys Admins to let you get your hands dirty, but if you prove that you know what you're doing, you can learn a lot.

    The only thing I'd add (James hit on this too) is that being a "jack of all trades" is a good thing. I've worked with guys who were great at Active Directory and other MS stuff, but couldn't do anything once they were put in front of a UNIX terminal. Learn some Linux and how the Internet and networking works (i.e. mail servers, web servers, firewalls, etc..) and you'll have a good base. From there you can get a little more specialized if you want, but getting your foot in the door requires doing, pretty much, whatever they ask you to.
  9. seanm

    seanm I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize!

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    I have a Computer Programmer/Analyst Diploma (3 year program). I am not sure what that would be in the States.

    It was a co-op program and my first job came from the co-op job so they already knew what I could do. I started at about $25,000 CDN twenty years ago.

    I wish now I had gone with the two year program. I needed the piece of paper to get the job but anything less than a bachelors is treated as equivalent. There are places that would not hire without a university degree or will not promote you to management without it.

    I now make a comfortable living writing device drivers and being the companies Linux guru ;)
  10. Bryan_G


    Apr 28, 2000
    Austin, Texas
    I have one semester left to get my BS in computer science. I already have a job working at HP waiting for me. The demand is there. I had several interviews and a couple of offers. I didn't and still don't want to work in IT doing networking type stuff. I'm a programmer and engineer. That limited my options some, but I still had a choice in where I wanted to go. I have a descent GPA and did try to make the most of college. I would try and go all the way for a BS and make sure to get in a program that is acredited by the ACM or IEEE.

    The starting salary will be different depending on where you get the job. I would say somewhere between 50k and 75k. That is based on what I saw, but if you wanted to do more IT based work it might be different.

    Feel free to PM if you like more details on my experience with either the degree or the job hunt.

    Bryan Gilcrease
  11. Minger


    Mar 15, 2004
    Rochester, NY
    Mmh. I just got accepted for RIT and I'm going in for their Network admins program - I'm not the type for programming. Basically will have A+ by the end of the school year, and I'm half way done with Cisco's CCNA's prep course, but i'm not sure if I want to finish that.

    Man, this is going to be an interesting next few years...
  12. Headroom


    Apr 5, 2002
    In Washington there a significant difference between a degree in computer science and those that are not. As I understand it, the former is more like an ABET-accredited engineering degree while the latter are closer to vocational or technical programs (even those that are 4-year programs through a university). As such, they are much less rigorous in the study of mathematics, science and theory. This does not lessen their value, and their focus on applied knowledge may make them a more practical choice for those seeking immediate employability. Market demand for people trained in these programs is growing in the US. It just appears that computer science studies seem to be aimed at fulfilling different market needs than other types of IT programs.
  13. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    When I first got out of high school, I went and did a 9 month IT course at a crappy unacredited technical school (not saying that technical schools are instrinically crappy, it was just that this one was). My family didn't know anything about post-secondary education, so I thought that a certificate would carry about as much weight as an actual degree. Well, I think that's one of those life mistakes that one makes, and when you have children, you try to watch out for them so they don't make that same mistake. I did eventually end up in a tech job. It was high stress, and I found that I really didn't care for it. I was eventually laid off, because the company really wasn't making enough money to pay me. I made the decision that if I were going to go any further with my career, I'd have to get a real education. I really wasn't that into IT, so now I'm in college for something completely different. I'm still glad I can do IT stuff, because I actually work for my university now, doing what I'd call "light" IT work (i.e. fixing broken down computers, swapping out hardware, etc.).

    A lot of what people have already said rings true. Experience carries a lot of weight in the IT business. On the other hand, if you're going to work for a large and reputable company, a degree, along with your experience, is going to help open doors. Even if you don't get a position straight out of school, be sure to keep on top of the business until you get a job. Chances are that technology will change six months after you're out of school. I also echo the sentiments that you should pursue a BS. Now if you are going into programming, you can demand a very high starting wage straight out of school. If I were to go back to school for computers, I'd probably get a BS in computer science, which entails a lot of programming, and then teach myself IT on the side. Of course, programming requires a lot of math, more math than a lot of people realize. If you're good at math, programming may be right up your alley.
  14. msquared


    Sep 19, 2004
    Kansas City
    I don't think that a college degree is worth it. If you have the passion to do it, you're already buying whatever hardware and software you need to train yourself because you flat out love doing it. I'm not talking about PCs here, I'm talking about building a serious AD/Windows environment (if that's your thing, god help you) or a serious Cisco environment, or a serious Unix environment.

    Think about bass playing as a comparison. You have invested a lot of money in bass gear because you love to play, it's in your blood. You have professional level gear and you are willing to make financial sacrifices just to be able to do it.

    It's true that IT isn't in demand like it used to be. The bubble burst, and the people who have maintained their jobs are people who are genuinely into computers. The bubble bursting sucked for a lot of people but for those of us in the industry who were fighting for jobs, it was great. A lot of idiots who were only interested in getting paid were forced to take jobs in bookstores and fish markets. Those of us who only cared about being able to do it are still here, and some of us are getting paid very well.

    Side note: If you are just "good with computers" because you are a hardcore gamer and know how to fix your mom's PC, you have a brilliant career in helpdesk waiting for you.

    My wife did the college thing. She has a double major in CompSci and Spanish with a Physics minor, with a fairly high GPA. When she graduated, she did sysadmin for a long time. She never used anything related to anything she did in college. What she did on the job had everything to do with the things she did when not studying.

    I have a high school diploma and three years of meandering in college (double majored in music and EE) which resulted in me finding a wife, but no degree. I've been doing sysadmin for over a decade. I've worked some pretty high profile positions and have a long list of former employers who were so happy with the work that I did that they still recommend me if they see someone looking for contractor work.

    Anyway, don't worry about the degree. Make what sacrifices you have to to get the experience. The rest will follow.
  15. bburk


    Jul 24, 2006
    Seattle, WA
    I hear what you are saying M^2 and I know a lot of guys like you. But I think you have to understand that when you got in, you didn't need a diploma but you also didn't really need any experience.

    Nowadays, experience still trumps a diploma, but you at least need one or the other. If you don't, it doesn't matter how much you have learned on your own, you won't even get invited to an interview. For most companies, interviewing prospects takes quite a few man hours (at least 7 where I work), and they don't want to be bothered on someone who doesn't have something to show up front to prove they can do what is expected. Back in the day if you could name a half dozen HTML tags and code a while loop; you had a job.

    Also, having a degree (Bachelors) is probably going to pay for itself in the long run. Just having that diploma puts you into another pay bracket. I know several really smart guys that have no diploma and have been working the the field longer than me, but do not make more than me.
  16. Poop-Loops

    Poop-Loops Banned

    Mar 3, 2006
    Auburn, Washington
    msquared, you are an exception. A degree is always a good thing. Not because you learn something you'll need, but because you'll have a piece of paper saying you were willing to sacrifice 4 years of your life for something.
  17. James Hart

    James Hart

    Feb 1, 2002
    Endorsing Artist: see profile
    not the exception from where I'm standing in the IT field... not at all.
  18. James Hart

    James Hart

    Feb 1, 2002
    Endorsing Artist: see profile
    again, not as I've seen it. Lots of places suppress raises for the employed yet pay higher and higher rates for new talent. I know I got hired higher than a couple guys already in my dept with similar skill sets and I know the average start rate has raised in the time I've been here.
  19. Poop-Loops

    Poop-Loops Banned

    Mar 3, 2006
    Auburn, Washington
    So how do you suppose he gets his first job?

    What did you do and where did you apply?
  20. James Hart

    James Hart

    Feb 1, 2002
    Endorsing Artist: see profile
    Not my concern, I tried to give the warning of all the people I know that thought IT would be a good way to make money that never left their previous trade.

    I started 'playing' with computers the same year I started 'playing' with basses... 1980. I had done about everything over the years while trying to make it playing and teaching.

    Specifically to get into the field, I was a geek that had figured out a lot about computers and found out that www.apple.com/store was a town away. I bugged the phone help and HR until they hired me. I quickly moved beyond sales to be the onsite geek to train the regular sales folks the new tech being released... because I love technology and spend a lot of free time following it like some folks follow sports or sitcoms. When the operation got moved west, I started admin'ing some of the local Mac networks I had sold / assisted (I also did pre sales tech support... teaching IT folks what to buy). I then moved to Internet Help desk in the Dawn of the Net age and grew to where I am now as a Network and Systems Engineer.... because I still eat up new tech stuff.

    My last 2 tech jobs came to me, I wasn't looking. I have no 'formal' schooling or certs.

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