Back to School

 

shutterstock_28662005How many people here have been to college more than once? By that, I mean that years passed between a first and second degree, perhaps even in unrelated fields. When did you go back? Why did you go back? How was it different the second time?

I didn’t make the most of my first college experience. Since I decided to focus my career on my writing skills, an English major seemed appropriate. One doesn’t need a degree to learn to write. But employers expect a degree. So there I was, grudgingly. That grudging attitude wasn’t helpful. Nor were the frivolous elective courses. And if any degree would do, I was stupid to pursue a degree in the Liberal Arts.

So now, a decade later, I’m looking into programming degree plans. Any advice? Is an Associate’s degree sufficient for many decent jobs? I’m considering an AAS (Associate of Applied Science) with advanced certificates in C++ and Visual Basic. Programming experience would be useful in many fields, both for corporate and entrepreneurial efforts. But I’m particularly interested in game design, of which I’m fairly familiar and have connections.

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  1. Ricochet Thatcher
    Ricochet
    @VicrylContessa

    I went back for a second bachelors four years after graduating with my first degree. School was much more meaningful the second time around, since I appreciated what I was learning and the decision to go back was internally motivated (not just something I felt I had to do because that’s what you do after high school).

    Get your butt back in school!

    But I think if you’re going to go back, you need to have researched the degree program to make sure it’s worth the time and expense.

    • #1
  2. user_86050 Member
    user_86050
    @KCMulville

    Just to note: I currently make my living as military contractor doing database development.

    I was trained, however, to be a Jesuit priest.

    So, don’t give up hope. By my experience, contractor firms will take anybody (obviously) … if you can do the work and you’re willing to learn. I have noticed that some companies pay more attention to certificates and Microsoft credentials than where you went to college or even what you studied.

    • #2
  3. user_158368 Member
    user_158368
    @PaulErickson

    Aaron, I trust and hope that my experience is not relevant for you.

    I have a degree in Music Education, but have been working in Financial Services for 28 years.  I had never had a business or accounting or finance course, so in 2003 I thought it would be a good idea to work on an MBA.  After 5 or 6 classes, I realized it would take me 12 years  at that pace.  I asked myself why I was doing it, and couldn’t think of any compelling reason.

    So I guess I’m a dropout.

    • #3
  4. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    I went to N.C. State for 4 1/2 years (third semester senior, graduated in December).  While I was still a senior in my third semester, I joined the Navy and became a nuclear-trained officer on a fast attack submarine.  I stayed one year past my minimum service obligation, but finally decided to get out for the shallowest of reasons – I missed having weekends off.  That, and I decided I wanted a Masters degree.  I went back to State and got my M.S. degree.  I was looking at getting the PhD, but decided I’d had enough.

    I assume by your post that you want to know why people go back to school, either to finish a degree or get another one.  Well, it’s easy in my case.  I wasn’t ready to go to graduate school right after the B.S.  Instead, I got a job, worked, built up job experience, then went back.

    Advice?  If you know what you want to major in, then go for it!  We can talk more in Nashville . . .

    • #4
  5. user_646010 Member
    user_646010
    @Kephalithos

    Aaron Miller: I didn’t make the most of my first college experience. Since I decided to focus my career on my writing skills, an English major seemed appropriate. One doesn’t need a degree to learn to write. But employers expect a degree. So there I was, grudgingly. That grudging attitude wasn’t helpful. Nor were the frivolous elective courses. And if any degree would do, I was stupid to pursue a degree in the Liberal Arts.

    I find myself in the inverse predicament.

    Before entering college, I vowed to graduate with a “useful” degree, sating my intellectual appetite with elective courses (and my school’s sizable core curriculum).  A degree in the sciences, I thought, would provide a stable career and income.  Subordinating gratification to utility seemed wise at the time.

    I didn’t consider that scientists are well-payed for good reason.  The work is difficult and, at times, quite tedious.  For most, passion alleviates this tedium; but an economic calculation is not passion.

    By all accounts, computer science is a lucrative field.  If you can handle (and enjoy) the work, you’ll be amply compensated.

    • #5
  6. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @GrannyDude

    Back to Seminary…it was so much fun!

    Then got an honorary PhD. Kind of recommend that, too.

    • #6
  7. 1967mustangman Member
    1967mustangman
    @1967mustangman

    Aaron I am not sure you need a CS degree to get into computing.  The thing about computer programming is you can prove your chops easily without actually having the degree.  That being said I would steer you away from C++ and Visual Basic (particularly VB).  I would stick to the newer languages at least to start.  Learn Ruby or Python both are fairly easy and immensely useful.  Join the communities, learn, contribute.

    Now if you are interesting in old school app development I would look more to C (gasp) or one of the object-oriented languages like Java or C# (Java is the more popular of the two).

    • #7
  8. user_1938 Member
    user_1938
    @AaronMiller

    Which programming languages help to learn others? Is there a division similar to Romance languages vs Slavic languages? Or do all coding languages share similar roots?

    When you say it’s easy to prove your chops, you mean developing your own program? Start as an entrepreneur and earn a salary/contract position that way?

    • #8
  9. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @GrannyDude

    Kate Braestrup:Back to Seminary…it was so much fun!

    Then got an honorary PhD. Kind of recommend that, too.

    Going back to school as an adult is wonderful. You’re a lot smarter, you know what you’re doing, you’re less distracted by partying and “finding yourself” and if you’re in a program with other returning adults, you’re surrounded by smart, focused people.

    It’s the best. Or at least, that’s how it was with seminary. I’m not nearly as well-rounded as you are, though, so I don’t know whether an education in programming would be so much fun to acquire that you wouldn’t actually mind that much if your future employment doesn’t depend on having it?

    • #9
  10. Retail Lawyer Member
    Retail Lawyer
    @RetailLawyer

    I was educated as a chemist, but had to learn to program computers for the chemistry job, and moved over to programming when my “division” moved to Germany and I was not invited. I had become too specialized in plastics and rubbers, which is not really done on the West Coast, where I wanted to stay.  Early into my first programming job, my boss, who had a PhD from Berkeley in physical anthropology told me, “you know, a man only has ten years of this work in him”.  And that seemed to be about right for me.  It was so etherial.  I would come home and work on a machine (motorcycle or car) with real tools and lubricants for therapy!  I cannot advise about languages – other than that demand for one of them can just go away.  If you specialize in the wrong ones, the cool kids will shun you at Wired Magazine staff parties.  I live next to Google employees.  I could ask them if you want, and then figure out how to email or message you.  This is the professional area where a degree is not required.  See if you can get into Harvard and then drop out – that is best.  I might look into some coding boot camp sort of thing.  You do have to be smart, and I remember it could take an hour or more just to remember exactly where you were, what variables, plan, etc just the day before.

    Then I went to law school, full-time, 20 years older than some of the students. The teachers appreciated someone with some life experience, and it was difficult at first dealing with all the guys wearing shorts in December and baseball hats backwards, and seldom shaving.  I loved most of law school, and the fellow students, except I would absorb the immaturity of my classmates during finals.  Not a recommended career path these days, though.

    • #10
  11. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Following up on Mustangman’s recommendations, MITx offers a very good CS intro w/Python course that I took last year and that they’re now offering verification on (what precisely that counts for is anyone’s guess). The whole thing is nine weeks long, so it might be a good way to see if you’d actually enjoy it.

    I took it last year; it was much more work than I’d anticipated but I learned a tremendous amount, both in terms of theory and practice. Just be warned that this is not a learn-at-your-own pace thing: the assignments have very strict deadlines and the workload is heavy. And yes, I passed.

    Unfortunately, the current offering is just wrapping up, but they offer at least twice a year.

    • #11
  12. user_86050 Member
    user_86050
    @KCMulville

    Aaron Miller:Which programming languages help to learn others?

    I’d say that Visual Basic is a perfect introduction. When you get the basics, the rest will follow in time. Visual C# will make sense soon after.

    Not to contradict mustangman, but if you know C# you can get a job for the foreseeable future. (Stay away from Perl, please. I’m currently working on a project that was originally written in Perl, and it haunts us like a walking dead character.)

    • #12
  13. user_357321 Member
    user_357321
    @Jordan

    Aaron, you might consider one of the coding bootcamps.  I was in a somewhat similar situation to yours and it worked for me.  They are variable in quality though, so buyer beware.

    You don’t necessarily need a degree to get started in programming.  I did a 3 month bootcamp and had 2 job offers before I was even done with the thing, and I’ve been working for a year now at the same place and loving it.

    To answer your other question about what languages help you learn others.

    C/C++ is the parent for the C-like languages, such as Java, PHP, C#, and Objective-C.  Knowing one C-like language will give you a passing understanding of all of them.  They share a similar syntax (except objective-c, that stuff is nuts), and most of them have interchangeable concepts and control structures.  This isn’t the only family of languages, however.

    Having strong language skills, in general, will help you.  My Latin and Greek education actually help me be a better programmer, because sometimes you need to parse things.  Strong written communication skills help you write clear and concise code that other people can understand years later.

    Definitely stay away from VB, there’s no future there.  I’d go with something high level, at least to get you started programming a few things to see if you like it, so Python, or PHP, something like that.

    You can check out codeacademy too.  It won’t teach you computer science, but it will help you get a toe in the water of very basic programming.  If you want more CS-theory stuff you can do MOOCs; they work and will teach you the concepts.

    I would say that degrees aren’t as important as you might think now.  If you can do the work people won’t care so much about your credentials.

    • #13
  14. Von Snrub Member
    Von Snrub
    @VonSnrub

    Did you think about doing a coding bootcamp? The top schools such as Hack Reactor and Fullstack academy boast 97% employment rate post graduation.

    I am also in the situation you are in and am currently attending Fullstack academy. I find the course work very rigorous.

    I’ve also spoken to a number of graduates who did not have a CS degree pre-attendance. They all appear to have jobs that they report to be rewarding and lucrative.

    However, as Jordon stated, not all bootcamps are the same. The best will not allow you to attend without some degree of coding background. The test I took for entrance was fairly difficult and required knowledge of some intermediate coding concepts such as recursion.

    • #14
  15. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    KC Mulville:Just to note: I currently make my living as military contractor doing database development.

    I was trained, however, to be a Jesuit priest.

    So, don’t give up hope. By my experience, contractor firms will take anybody (obviously) … if you can do the work and you’re willing to learn. I have noticed that some companies pay more attention to certificates and Microsoft credentials than where you went to college or even what you studied.

    KC, it is common to pursue a career path that doesn’t necessarily match one’s degree.  I have a degree in aviation and you may notice I am not known as “airplanevol”.  You may take the cake in landing furthest from your original training however!  :)

    • #15
  16. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    Forget school Aaron!  If you would like to be an estimator for a construction company we will train you and pay you at the same time!  (It’s very glamorous too!)

    • #16
  17. user_86050 Member
    user_86050
    @KCMulville

    Concretevol:

    You may take the cake in landing furthest from your original training however! :)

    Ha – don’t I know it!

    It’s funny … when we have discussions about education, and the current educational system, I can’t help but draw lessons from my own experience. Related to that, one of my first jobs after leaving the Jesuits was to work as a tech guy in an insurance brokerage firm. There were about 40 people in that office, and not a single one had majored in insurance – and it was a successful group. I’ve had a couple other jobs since then, and they were always staffed by people who worked in jobs that didn’t reflect their chosen major.

    That, combined with my own unique circumstances, pushes me to be skeptical of treating higher education as a straight path to a specific job. The education itself has great value, but trying to tie it into a specific career doesn’t seem to work out.

    • #17
  18. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    KC Mulville:

    Concretevol:

    You may take the cake in landing furthest from your original training however! :)

    Ha – don’t I know it!

    It’s funny … when we have discussions about education, and the current educational system, I can’t help but draw lessons from my own experience. Related to that, one of my first jobs after leaving the Jesuits was to work as a tech guy in an insurance brokerage firm. There were about 40 people in that office, and not a single one had majored in insurance – and it was a successful group. I’ve had a couple other jobs since then, and they were always staffed by people who worked in jobs that didn’t reflect their chosen major.

    That, combined with my own unique circumstances, pushes me to be skeptical of treating higher education as a straight path to a specific job. The education itself has great value, but trying to tie it into a specific career doesn’t seem to work out.

    I could not agree more.  Work ethic, ability to learn and to reason…..far more important that an actual degree in most cases.  Of course I would prefer my doctor did go to med school so there are exceptions.  lol

    • #18
  19. Von Snrub Member
    Von Snrub
    @VonSnrub

    Not if you want government work. Then its all credentialization. Also, why do barbers need licenses?

    • #19
  20. user_1938 Member
    user_1938
    @AaronMiller

    Von Snrub:Not if you want government work. Then its all credentialization. Also, why do barbers need licenses?

    By the Founders’ understanding, a “right” is not a gift from government but rather a gift from God; a natural freedom, as opposed to a civic benefit. Thus, it “shall not be infringed.”

    In reference to handgun licenses, someone recently commented that a right should not require a license. At least, that license should not represent permission to exercise the right. If anything, it should only qualify the expression of that right in an effort to balance its use with other freedoms and in the context of the inevitable conflicts of urban interaction; or to “regulate” the right (in the original sense of “to make regular”; to define it in a basically common way across state lines).

    If the God-given right to defend oneself with force should not be infringed by prerequisite licensing, then certainly the right to perform labor for compensation (work) should not be so infringed.

    Internet, telephones, and other communications technologies have enabled verification of service providers and product quality to an extent unimaginable by early Americans. Licensing should be a non-legal method of verification for buyer protection and for professional training. There is no good excuse for modern America being more restrictive of professional freedom despite our infinitely more abundant access to information.

    Incidentally, most of my work has been informal. Life without paperwork doesn’t pay much, but it’s rewarding in other ways.

    • #20
  21. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @Manny

    I got my Bachelor’s in 1985 and my Masters in 2000.  My degrees didn’t follow.  My undergrad is in mechanical engineering and my masters in English Literature.  The purpose was personal on the lit degree and had no impact on my career other than to list a Masters.  However I do write and communicate and formulate positions better than most engineers, and I attribute that to my literature degree, and it’s helped me in ways I can’t measure but I know has given me an edge.

    I have no idea if an Associates is enough in programming.  I couldn’t help you there.

    • #21
  22. Howellis Member
    Howellis
    @ManWiththeAxe

    Aaron Miller:

    Licensing should be a non-legal method of verification for buyer protection and for professional training. There is no good excuse for modern America being more restrictive of professional freedom despite our infinitely more abundant access to information.

    I would hit the “couldn’t agree more” button if there were one.

    • #22
  23. Fredösphere Member
    Fredösphere
    @Fredosphere

    I got a BA in music, went straight to a Masters program also in music (as the only way to postpone making a plan for my life), worked odd jobs for a few years, then got another masters degree in programming, which launched my professional career.

    I think it’s a small tragedy that many of us go the route of liberal arts first, then practical training. So many interesting classes I took–world lit, sociology, American frontier history, German, French & Italian, etc. etc.–were completely, utterly, comprehensively wasted on my young, ignorant, inattentive self. How much better if I (and everyone) focused on vocational training first, then later, when old enough to think and appreciate and correlate and friggin’ pay attention and do the assigned reading, pursue a cultured education and learn about the world, the classics, and find one’s place in the mighty river. Ah well; I’m playing catch-up now as an autodidact.

    • #23
  24. Fredösphere Member
    Fredösphere
    @Fredosphere

    Manny:I got my Bachelor’s in 1985 and my Masters in 2000. My degrees didn’t follow. My undergrad is in mechanical engineering and my masters in English Literature. The purpose was personal on the lit degree and had no impact on my career other than to list a Masters.

    Ah! See? Here’s a guy who figured out the right way to do it.

    • #24
  25. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Only one BS, but a MA and a MBA.

    • #25
  26. skipsul Member
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    I might be facing a similar situation myself soon.  Contemplating a major career change with useless degrees (History and Secondary Ed), but with lots of other experiences.  Frankly the thought of going back to school leaves me cold – I’ve taken a couple of courses here and there to flesh out job skills but remembered just why I did not want to go back to school whole hog – general impatience with the pace and annoyance at the assignments (I hate busywork).

    • #26
  27. Asquared Coolidge
    Asquared
    @ASquared

    I dropped out of college the first time, joined the Army for a few years and came back and finished my engineering degree once I got out of the Army.  As I usually say, I figured out that a) I did not want to dig ditches (foxholes) for a living and 2) attending 7:30 classes seemed less burdensome than jumping out of airplanes at 2 AM.  I was a much better student the second time around, and I had a much more level head about life in general.

    After taking that break, I wasn’t really interested in another one, so I went straight into an MBA program after my undergraduate degree.  I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t taken that break, so I’m very grateful that it worked out very well for me.

    I was apolitical when I went into the Army, but I read a lot and became fairly conservative during my time in the Army.  So I was also very fortunate that engineering school is not a hotbed of left-wing crockery (at least at my university).  I don’t think I could survive in most degree programs today.  I would not be able to keep my mouth shut.

    • #27
  28. user_1030767 Member
    user_1030767
    @TheQuestion

    I worked very hard trying to finish a PhD in zoology.  I completed all the requirements for the PhD except my dissertation.  I was under the impression that if you flunked out of grad school, you wouldn’t be accepted to grad school again.  I taught at community colleges for about 10 years.  When I started teaching, completing your doctoral comprehensive exams was considered equivalent to a master’s degree.  Later I became aware that an ABD is not sufficient for teaching community college, at least not in Texas.  I had managed to slip through the cracks and continue teaching without a completed degree.  Eventually, I found I needed to get a master’s degree.  Curiously, it didn’t matter what the master’s degree was in, since I already had the credit hours in biology.  I could have earned a master’s degree in liberal arts or history and it would have given me the credentials I needed to teach the biology I had already been teaching for years.  I determined the best route was to get a master of education in instructional technology, since I like technology and it’s the wave of the future.  I was able finish it in a year and half.  I did learn things working on the masters, although probably not $15K worth of learning.  But of course that wasn’t the point.

    • #28
  29. user_1938 Member
    user_1938
    @AaronMiller

    skipsul:[….] Frankly the thought of going back to school leaves me cold – I’ve taken a couple of courses here and there to flesh out job skills but remembered just why I did not want to go back to school whole hog – general impatience with the pace and annoyance at the assignments (I hate busywork).

    Don’t I know it. Credits expire after so many years. So going back for a BA would require retaking two courses each in writing, history, math, and… government. An AAS, on the other hand, would allow me to take only fresh classes.

    The lesser the degree, the less encumbered by central planning.

    • #29
  30. Guruforhire Member
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    Went to RIT in 1999 – decided to drop out and transfer to the school of hard knocks US Army campus

    Went to Strayer in 2003 while working full time. got a degree in computer networking.

    Presently finishing up MBA at UNC. (Go heels!)

    I found that I have a lot less patience for professorial shenanigans and tone.  I cussed one out, and cussed out the dean of students when she called me too.  Only once have I had a problem, and its generally been fine.  But I am good natured and affable right up until I am not.

    • #30

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