Well these are my options. What do you think?
August 8, 2011 3:43 PM   Subscribe

Do I juggle work and school or just go to school and live off my savings and loans

I'm currently attending Georgia Tech with an intended degree in Computer Engineering and I have been doing over the phone support for Thinkpads and ThinkCentres for about 3 years now. I took classes last semester and got acceptable if not stellar grades while working full time and taking classes part time. I'm now looking to ramp up to full-time for school and was previously under the impression that I could drop to 20 hours at work in order to facilitate that. I was informed today that dropping to 20 hours is not feasible. I'm not sure what I should do. I have close to 4000 which will cover living expenses for the semester but in after that I will need additional loans to the tune of 5000 per year during the semester to cover my living expenses. My parents aren't really in a positionto help. Work would not cover the cost of going to school part time and the Financial Aid has already stated that I need to complete more hours to retain good standing

I already have a degree in Physics most of which was done on Full Scholarship but as I like to joke HR depts don't have any imagination so I'm not sure if making the transition to Computer Programming Full time is possible with my credentials as they are now. I also don't qualify for any grants due to the degree I have.

My Options
1. Go back to school and get even more loans than I was planning.

2. Manage work and school and try and improve my GPA

3. Just go to work and get fired when the whole place closes in 18 months

4. Get to work on my resume and try and use my network to get jobs in the 40-60k range which I would be satisfied with. (I actually do have a friend who said he would try and reccomend me for a job with a top 5 consulting firm.

5. Apply for Grad school ( I do well on tests)

6. Chuck it all
posted by Rubbstone to Work & Money (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'd take the loans. $5,000 a year is not a lot when compared to your expected income and stock options down the road, It seems like a lot now, but it won't when you have a real job.

Student loans often aren't advisable especially if your expected income isn't that high or your school isn't that great or the loans are so much that even with a good income you'd never pay it off. But none of that applies to you.

$20, 000 or so for a computer engineering degree from a good school? totally worth it.
posted by bananafish at 3:54 PM on August 8, 2011

I'm a professional software developer, age 26. My similarly-aged colleagues include people with degrees in Computer Engineering (ie, an almost entirely hardware-focused degree) and Math. And, sure, a bunch of CS majors too. But my point is that a CS degree per se is by no means mandatory if you want to do software, particularly if you're going entry-level. Now, getting the skills to back that up is another matter - the Math major and Comp Eng major were both razor-sharp developers with some solid student projects to show off at their interviews. But if your concern is solely about credentials, well, I don't think you really need an entire additional degree if programming's your intent.
posted by Tomorrowful at 3:55 PM on August 8, 2011

Getting a different part-time job isn't an option?
posted by muddgirl at 3:56 PM on August 8, 2011

I would totally take the loans. I was very averse to getting loans as an undergrad, and I worked my ass off to cover all my expenses and tuition (parents didn't help). That meant 25-30 hours of work during the semester and full time every holiday. I kept my grades up but I was always exhausted and miserable, while my friends seemed to have the real student experience. It bugs me now that I could easily earn the entirety of what those three years cost me in a couple of months, now that I have a real job instead of fast food work. If I could do it again I would absolutely take out loans.

In your case, with a computer science degree, you have much more assured income in the future than I did (BA), so it makes even more sense.
posted by lollusc at 4:16 PM on August 8, 2011

Do you seriously think the whole place is gonna close in 18 months?

Might I suggest #7: work for a year, save money, then go back to school and live off savings? I knew someone in college who did this when he was in your situation, except he was godawful at doing school and work at the same time. I mostly say this because from what I've heard, computers are one of those areas where experience counts a lot and the guy I knew said it didn't matter how shitty his GPA was compared to his whopping work experience.

Another factor is how much time do you have left to put into the degree. One year left? 3 more years? More than that?

Though what Tomorrowful said as well: a degree in CS isn't quite as required as other degrees would be.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:25 PM on August 8, 2011

Oh, and for what it's worth, I definitely vote in favor of the loans. $20 grand compared to even an entry-level engineering/programming job is nothing; if you want to make it a priority, you can easily get a roommate and stay frugal for a year or two and retire the entire debt in that time. Loans are bad when you don't have the means to pay them off, but the tech sector offers some of the highest entry-level salaries possible with just an undergraduate degree. Possibly the highest; I haven't seen the numbers lately.
posted by Tomorrowful at 4:39 PM on August 8, 2011

Is it really that easy to get a new part time job in this economy? I worry that I might just get so lost in school that I will forget to get another job. Which may or may not be a bad thing depending on my loan tolerance.

As for closing. Well...

Its about 60 more hours. So about 2 more years full time.
posted by Rubbstone at 4:44 PM on August 8, 2011

Rubbstone: "Is it really that easy to get a new part time job in this economy? I worry that I might just get so lost in school that I will forget to get another job."

Depends on college. It's not impossible to get a job here at say the helpdesk or tech support for one of the departments.

But this is a college town with a large transient population who mostly uses skills gained to get the hell out of town. I'm not sure this will apply to GA Tech. I do see a few part time jobs advertised currently, but this might not be quite peak hiring season.
posted by pwnguin at 9:46 PM on August 8, 2011

I would get loans and go to school. With time away from the labor market your resume will not show a gap (b/c you're in school). Then the job market "should" be somewhat better in a few years when you're done. Good luck!
posted by gibbsjd77 at 9:51 PM on August 8, 2011

I've worked in IT (not programming--technical writing, proposals, QA, configuration management) for almost 30 years. No way would I encourage someone to take out loans to get a nice-to-have degree in this economy when you can get where you want to go without it (since you've got the physics degree).

Go to your option #4 and get your foot in the door now with a decent company (it may take a little while); build on your existing skills; do software testing or configuration management as a way to move out of tech support into programming over the long term. Let your employer foot the costs for completing the education you need for this (another degree is probably not needed but specific technical skills are).

And get out of the phone support situation as soon as you can; it's been good experience for 3 years, certainly, but you will want to move into other IT areas that will serve you better in the long run.
posted by apartment dweller at 9:59 PM on August 8, 2011

I am confused - you already have a degree in Physics, but are going to school again for a degree in Computer Engineering? What do you hope to accomplish with these two degrees? On top of that you are considering a graduate degree? - Why?

Though it appears going to school for additional degrees is responsible and helpful to your career it is not. You are gathering more debt and will become over qualified with little experience. Likewise the additional degrees makes you more specialized creating a situation where it is more difficult to find work.

I recently finished my MS part time while working full time. I had seven years experience after my undergrad before I went back to school for the grad degree. Trust me, I understand the desire to go back to "the womb". I enjoyed having people tell me how smart I am. It is in school where hard work = good grades. This is unlike the "real world" where office politics reign. Ideas are stolen and credit is taken by others. I loved going back to school - I really get it. When I went back to school it was investments I made seven years prior that paid for school. I am debt free from student loans.

I would focus on your goals and what you hope to do with these degrees and adjust accordingly. Graduate school in Engineering is for research. If you desire a management type position in the future you should be working towards and MBA and not continuing with your Computer Engineering degree.

Regarding the work in Computer Engineering I would encourage you to read Dr. Matloff's (a computer science professor at UC Davis) writings on employment in this subject area.
posted by BuffaloChickenWing at 6:41 AM on August 9, 2011

Let me be clear the only reason I am considering schooling is to get technical skills that I don't have. I have no desire whatsoever to go to grad school but its what everyone I know keeps telling me to do.

What jobs would be a good fit to get the skills I'm looking for. Should I consider changing markets? Maybe moving out to the West Coast?
posted by Rubbstone at 7:46 AM on August 9, 2011

I ultimately did quit my job and found another one in two weeks. It turned out alright.
posted by Rubbstone at 12:08 PM on September 20, 2011

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