Credentialism is the worst.
February 21, 2014 1:55 PM   Subscribe

My academic background is not in computer science. I work as a developer. For professional development and logistical reasons, I would like to supplement my credentials with something computer-science-y. What are my options?

(Currently located in Toronto, Canada)

I'm about three years out of university. I have two bachelor's degrees (a business degree and a BA in sociology) and a graduate certificate in accounting from Queen's. Except for a few summer internships and a brief period of time right after graduation in auditing at a Big Four, I've been working in front-end web development, and freelancing for longer than that.

(Why I chose to do my dual-degree in sociology and not in computer science is anyone's guess. Actually, why I went into business school and not computer science...)

I like being a web developer a lot, and I would like to continue being one for the foreseeable future. Ideally I'd like to move more into doing back-end stuff as I go along - application architecture and design, not just UI. And while there are a lot of opportunities for advancement and development in Toronto, there are exponentially more south of the border.

Having business/accounting degrees but working in web development means that I'm not eligible for the TN visa for engineers. I can hope that someone is willing to take a chance on an H1-B with me, but that's a pretty big ask. Plus, more I learn, the more I wish for a more traditional understanding of algorithms and application design.

My question: what are my options for continuing education that would result in legitimate credentials that would:
  1. Make me look good to prospective employers as I move away from entry-level work
  2. Legitimize my knowledge of CS to work visa application processes
  3. Actually teach me things about CS
I'm ideally looking for things that can be done part time, or online, or full-time but for two years or less. If there are MOOC courses that result in actual credentials that I've somehow overlooked, that would be amazing. If there's graduate degrees for CS designed for non-CS undergrads, that would be amazing. I've looked into getting credits for my undergrad work and using them towards a BSc at Athabasca or something, but even that looks to be about two and a half year of full-time coursework.

For brick-and-mortar schools, specific recommendations in Ontario are best, though I could probably handle Montreal as well. Really hoping the hivemind has thought of something that I haven't!
posted by Phire to Education (8 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
You can get a 2nd bachelor's in CS from UBC. That is the only Canadian university I know that specifically advertises a program for people in your position. However, I do believe you can pick up a second bachelor's at many universities. Waterloo is one of the best undergrad CS programs in Canada. All the major tech companies do on campus recruitment there. If possible, Waterloo would be the best choice.

I used to help hire people in Silicon Valley, and the startups I worked for were at least 50% people from Canada on TN status. Most of our employees were from U Vic, UBC and Waterloo. If the tuition is reasonable, it is probably worth it in the long run to do what is necessary to achieve TN status, as software engineers make so much more money in the USA.
posted by BabeTheBlueOX at 2:35 PM on February 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


Oh man. I was not aware that "two-year second degrees" was a Thing now. It looks like a fair number of schools have a second degree program for CS...that is really promising. Now if I can find one that's part-time and/or online that would be perfect.
posted by Phire at 3:00 PM on February 21, 2014

Ryerson has a part-time CS program. According to this page you can apply for advanced standing and get up to 50% of your credits from previous degrees. They seem to want an existing engineering degree but it never hurts to head over and ask in person I guess.

Ryerson isn't Waterloo in terms of US name recognition, but it checks the box required by US immigration.
posted by GuyZero at 3:16 PM on February 21, 2014

Ahaha, for future seekers, the University of Windsor has a 12-month second degree general BCS program. I think the BCS Honours second degree program is 2 years - kind of hard to tell. Not the greatest school or location, but it's hard to beat a year less tuition and opportunity costs.

GuyZero, I will definitely give the Ryerson admissions folks a shout. That's the only one I've seen so far that allows an accelerated degree and part-time studying. Thanks for uncovering that!

I haven't been able to find anything in Ottawa (which is where my family lives and where I could get free housing) that's a university program and not a college diploma.
posted by Phire at 3:30 PM on February 21, 2014

U of Ottawa and Carleton both have CS programs, but their sites don't give much info on advanced standing or part-time studies. You could inquire about the non-thesis Master's at U of O, but I don't know if the requirements will rule you out. Some mater's programs are flexible and will take people with undergrad degrees in a different area. Some won't. Do you have any undergrad CS credits at all?
posted by GuyZero at 5:12 PM on February 21, 2014

have you investigated masters degrees in cs? My college had courses for grad students, while not intro pace, covered many undergrad essentials far more rapidly to get grad students up to speed. And then into the regular grad cs courses.
posted by TheAdamist at 8:05 PM on February 21, 2014

Yes, I would certainly look for Masters level courses. Many people with an undergraduate degree which involved some CS want to move over.
posted by Idcoytco at 1:07 PM on February 22, 2014

I have zero undergrad CS credits, unfortunately. I was trying to get my BA and my BComm in four years so any non-business course slots went towards Sociology classes. I will have to call around and see what my options are for a grad degree. Idcoytco, are you familiar with any specific programs?
posted by Phire at 1:31 PM on February 22, 2014

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