7 answers

Is getting a college degree worth it?

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I am considering my career options in a computer hardware field and a lot of them that I am interested in usually require at least a bachelors degree. How often/Will the cost of college be worth the opportunities opened? #college #computer-science

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7 answers

Bryon’s Answer

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In the field of computer science, a college degree is not strictly necessary, but can make it significantly easier to land a job in industry or academia. I know software engineers without a college degree, but they are in the minority. That being said, a college degree does not need to be in computer science. I have worked with engineers with degrees in mathematics, statistics, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, chemistry, and physics.

In terms of hiring, recruiters definitely prefer candidates with degrees from top-tier engineering schools. However, I've never met a recruiter who cared if a candidate did his or her first few years at a community college and then transferred to a 4-year university. I suggest avoiding for-profit colleges.

Bryon recommends the following next steps:

  • Apply to a not-for-profit college or university
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Josh’s Answer

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These days, I am not convinced that getting a degree is worth it, at least not via a traditional path. It probably is? But it's also really worth looking at the alternatives.

If you can get a degree without financial hardship, especially if you're able to get into a well respected engineering school, then it seems like a really reasonable choice.

There is a big balance to strike between the general skills that are useful for engineering -- especially hardware, where advanced math and physics knowledge tends to be more practically required -- and the skills that actually make you 'hireable'.

These days there are many other ways to build and demonstrate the key skills of engineering without a degree. You can self-teach (often using free materials and lecture videos from top tier schools, learning platforms like udemy or code academy, or even youtube.) The hardest parts about that are staying motivated, how to get help when something's not making sense, and how to demonstrate your skills without the degree to show for it. Or, you can start off at a code school or bootcamp, an entry level job and start building up experience (and getting paid instead of student loan debt!)

One possible risk with getting a college degree is that, depending on the school you pick, you may be developing skills that are years (or even decades) behind where the industry is.

As a technical manager, one of the best employees I ever had was fully self taught. He joined the company in a non-technical role, and after speaking to some developers, realized it was what he wanted to do. He worked a full day, then hung out at the office for several more hours working on building his skills. Within 6 months he applied for, and got, an entry level developer role. 2 years later, he'd become one of the most productive developers in the company, and moved on to an exciting new job. Within a few years after that he was giving talks at worldwide technology conferences. While working and then his additional studying was a lot of hours, when I compare it to my own college experience, he was still getting more sleep than I was, and he was getting paid to do it!

However, if the roles you're seeing have a bachelor's degree as a hard requirement, that's hard to work around, and might be worth the effort. Hopefully companies will become more and more aware over time that there are many other ways for people to learn the skills they need to be excellent contributors!

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Heath’s Answer

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In one word: absolutely.

In more words: as you point out, many roles require some sort of college degree (either explicitly or implicitly), so getting a degree (notably: _some_ degree, in a technical field) will definitely expand your scope of options.

I know lots of people that got degrees in a field not directly related to what they're currently employed in, so don't worry too much about over-specializing as an undergrad. A typical computer science degree or one in the sciences (physics, biology, chemistry, etc.) will expose you to a lot of ideas and fields of work that you may not even be aware of now, while also setting you up well to continue your path toward hardware if you choose to go that route. (For my part, I majored in physics, then got an MS in Systems Science, but now spend most of my time writing code to deploy cloud compute systems, which is only indirectly related to the things I spent most of my time in school studying.)

Simply getting the degree isn't a sure-fire ticket to a great job, of course, so during your time in college it's equally important to think ahead and consider the different ways you could apply what you're learning to some interesting problem or opportunity you've seen. In my experience, that's _really_ what companies want to see—someone that can think critically and identify opportunities before others can. College is simply the single best place to pick up those kinds of critical thinking skills.

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Nqabutho’s Answer

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If you can get one, get it. College degrees do not just help with your career, but also assist in molding you into a certain type of thinker. The experience makes you see life in a different light, and you will gain some important skills that you will use in both your career and life.

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David (Kyung Jun)’s Answer

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Hi Kameron,

It really depends on your current status and country that you living in. But I believe definitely the bachelor degree might feel like waste of money and time however in some instances certain role in later in your life requires bachelor degree to get in. Thus this may become the blocking stone to move on to that job if that was what you really want to do. I've seen my colleagues started Network engineer with out there job experiences however, after 5 years he started studying online university Bachelor degree so that he can Sales Engineer role...

wish you all the best.


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September’s Answer

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If your career path requires education, you will have to get a degree. However, you do not need to go to an Ivy League or most expensive or rated the highest. In my experience, the less you can pay for college the better. Of course, you still want to review your specific college program and the feedback it's gotten from other students currently enrolled or in the past.
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Sara’s Answer

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absolutely!

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