Advice for going back to college?
July 21, 2010 4:15 AM   Subscribe

Advice for a diploma mill IT guy going back to college for computer science?

In my early twenties I made some decisions that resulted in me going to a tech school and getting an associates in applied computer science, with an institution that I consider to be less than reputable. I spent the last six years working in IT, successfully. I have always considered the decision to go through tech school instead of a proper academic institution a mistake, though. My career has been mostly physical and software support, though in truth I find theory much more interesting.
I had a brief stint at a community college before going to the tech school; however, my grades were lousy.

Any advice from anyone who has been through something similar?
posted by pemdasi to Education (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
what do you want to do in the IT field? I am an it guy (network tech). I started in computer science and switched majors.

Most comp sci majors are all programming. So if you do comp sci its really only good for being a programmer.

My bachelors was called management of information technology. it was in the business section of the college. It was a mix of management classes and computer classes

I also have an associates of Network administration.

MY advice is if you want to stay in It as like a network tech dont do a comp sci major. find a network admin associates or a network or hardware related major.
posted by majortom1981 at 4:36 AM on July 21, 2010

ps the business ones like what i did are great because it gives yo ua fall back. I can also use my degree to get a business related job if the IT field doesnt work out (i dont see that happening though since i have a great job now).
posted by majortom1981 at 4:37 AM on July 21, 2010

Good on you.

Advice as above depends on what you want to do, with default path out of a CS degree being "codemonkey", not much better pay-wise than network guy. However if you're good you can get into more senior design stuff and then move (by osmosis and on the job training) into tech management, which is kind of as far as you can go from that starting point.

If you can hack the mathematics, a BE will take you further but it's a lot harder and a bit longer.

(I have a BE and CS PhD)
posted by polyglot at 5:17 AM on July 21, 2010

I have a degree in Computer Science. It's a shit ton of mathematics. At some schools this may not be the case, but I suspect any good Computer Science program will be a bit heavy on the math. In my program a lot of people failed out after first or second year because the math was too hard. I suspect this is a problem with a lot of CS programs. People who are interested in computers may not be good at linear algebra or statistics.

You haven't said what you actually want to do after you've got your degree. I think it's admirable to go back to school to learn more. That may be reason enough. If you have a particular career goal though, going back to school after you already have work experience may not be the best use of your time.
posted by chunking express at 7:17 AM on July 21, 2010

I worked in IT for about 7 years before I went back to college. I didn't have a previous degree, though, just some luck, talent, and good timing when it came getting IT experience.

I went for an engineering degree (electrical and computer engineering). CS is mostly applied math - it's not application development, it's far lower than that. To give an example - I call the CS guy to write the engine that does the data analysis and I call the IS guy to give it a pretty interface.

So - you'll be best served if you take some time to figure out what you want to do. College is expensive - not just tuiton, you'll be losing a salary while you're doing it. It'll be much easier if you have an interest in the subject. In almost any case, you will do a metric ton of math.

To sum up - if you're really interested in doing what you are doing at some deeper level, then go for it. If you're just looking to pad out your resume, it'll be much cheaper and easier to go for some of the bigger certs (CCIE, etc.) and experience.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:21 AM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

You will want to cast a cold, hard eye on the costs versus benefits. I went through the research for myself a couple of years ago--up to and including charting out what courses I would need, talking to a financial person at the school, etc. The costs right now are hyperinflated and astounding, for me it would have been more money than I've ever spent on anything else besides an actual house, and I couldn't foresee any way in my situation that it could ever make financial sense for me to take that route.

Your situation may be different (you might not be in the U.S., you may have different resources available, you may be younger than me, etc.). It is perfectly okay to walk away if the costs are simply too high.
posted by gimonca at 10:14 AM on July 21, 2010

As mentioned above, you have some figuring out to do about long-term goals and the big picture, which will take time, etc., but to get started, there are some concrete steps to consider:

1) Chances are your previous degree came from an institution that lacked regional accreditation (although it probably had national accreditation, like most tech schools). The point is, it's unlikely any of your previous courses/credits will therefore transfer to any mainstream BA/BS-granting institution. So, you'll need to take a range of required general education courses as part of whatever specialized degree you choose. You can start those at a local community college, with the help of an advisor, who can figure out which of these gen ed courses will most easily transfer to a 4-year campus later.

2) Same goes for the intro and intermediate math courses that most CS programs require: you can probably knock out some of these requirements at the local CC, with an advisor helping you choose the foundational courses that computer sciences typically require.

3) Once you're back in school, you'll get a sense of how much you like/how well you do, at which point you can better gauge the options available to you at the next level.

4) As far as selecting a specific 4-year program, the couple of semesters/couple of years you spend taking gen ed and intro courses will give you time to do the sort of inquiry you've started here: asking around, networking, etc. Faculty and students at a CC often have insight about specializations with growth potential as well as the 4-year degree programs that offer the best preparation. It's just going to take some time; that's all.
posted by 5Q7 at 10:32 AM on July 21, 2010

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