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How many years of college do you suggest for a computer scientist?


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Mike’s Answer

It depends on what sort of field you want to work in, but I will say this, we've had interns we've made offers years before graduation because of their strength, with the option to continue their studies locally.

For front-end/UI development, I've hired skilled team members without degrees, but most have gone through a 4 year program and have good, visible, public experience (think GitHub).

For back-end/Java/similar development, most have solid 4-year degrees and some with masters.

For data engineers, more often than not, they have masters degrees but some great ones do not.

For data scientists, masters are required and many have PhDs.

I hope this helps.

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John’s Answer

I have worked with and hired people with a broad range of formal education (high school, two year, four year, graduate degrees). All of them did well, but all had fundamental dedication to continuously learning and being curious every day on how to grow their skills and understanding. This is a field that is constantly changing, so formal education is mainly for foundational understanding. The rest is up to you, since skills age quickly in the industry. For how you handle education, it depends on how best you gain the fundamentals of knowledge, and what type of career you want and area of interest you have. Most people would do best with a four year degree that has broad applicability, and use internships to gain insight into how different types of software jobs work day to day. The four year also puts you in a good position for further education if you end up interested in something like data science where an M.S. or PhD are required. If you know some types of jobs you are interested in, take a look at job listings and see if things like a 4 year are table stakes for getting a look. Good luck!

John, great advice! I like your comments because it could also transcend across any career. Sheila Jordan

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Alec’s Answer

Software is still one of those fields you can get into without a degree, but you usually need about 4 years of experience to make up for not having the degree. In general, Computer Science, Computer Engineering, or Software Engineering can all get you into the field with a normal 4 year degree. You do not need a Masters for most jobs, they only really come into play in Data Science and other machine learning areas.

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Meg’s Answer

If you're looking for an academic or theoretical role in computer science, additional schooling may be useful. However, if you're referring more broadly to the study of computer science and how that can translate to a career, many large tech companies recruit software engineers directly from 4 year computer science programs.

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Kevin’s Answer

Typically, start with an undergraduate degree and move your way into a Masters program. That would be about 6-7 years depending on whether you go full or part time in these programs. Work experience is crucial in between these programs.

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Mark Eagle’s Answer

It really depends on your definition of computer scientist. I would say a small percentage of computer professionals are computer scientists.
A computer scientist needs at least a BS, and likely a MS degree. However, if you want to be a software developer, a tech support engineer, or work in computer operations, in fact you don't need any college. You can go to a bootcamp and learn some skills and get a high paying job. At a much lower price then college, you can get the skills you need to get a job.
Find a company that values high performing teams and remember that once you have a job, the learning just begins.

I personally am a fan of a 4 year degree as it builds a foundation and teaches fundamentals. However, these days there are lots of different paths you can take to get where you want to be.

Mark Eagle recommends the following next steps:

Research the different jobs that are available in the computer field
Determine which ones you might like
Shadow (or at leat interview a few people) with that job.
Determine your budget and longer term objective
Identify the educational paths to get where you want to be

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Mark’s Answer

I would recommend you start with a four year degree and then go find a job. First of all, you want to discover if writing software is really what you enjoy doing. Second, you may find an employer that will pay for ongoing schooling. You might also discover an area of focus that would change what your continuing education is targeted at. For example adding an MBA to a computer science degree might help you gain a leadership position if that's what your strength is. Or you might find yourself at a company building software for telescopes, and you find you love astronomy and so a masters in astronomy would pair well with your 4 year CS degree.

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🤖 Pete’s Answer

Without knowing exactly what you'd like to do, I'd encourage you to discover what excites you about CS. One of the questions I ask folks is about that 'ah-ha' moment where they realized programming was their dream job.

If your answer is anything besides "the money", then pursue that. Do you like working on things at tremendous scale? Do you like shaving milliseconds off of responses used by millions? Or do you like the messy middle, where you know a little bit of everything and provide the glue to a team?

Now, all of that said, 2-4 years will get you exposed to questions, theory, skills, and (people) networks you would have to seriously compensate for outside of school. I at least look for knowledge of basic data structures, and for folks to demonstrate that they are curious learners. For the rest, you'll have to follow your heart.

🤖 Pete recommends the following next steps:

Work through a few entry-level problems on leetcode (https://leetcode.com/problems/merge-two-sorted-lists/). Was that fun? If so, CS may be great.
Look at a few job postings for a variety of software engineering positions (software engineer, devops, sre, front end, back end, full stack, etc.). See anything you like?

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Kimberly’s Answer

As a leader in the technology space, I have worked with and hired teammates with a variety of different educational backgrounds; everything from High School diploma's to doctorate degrees. Years of schooling is definitely not feasible for everyone, from either a "how I learn" perspective or from a monetary perspective. In all cases, my goal, when hiring and interviewing candidates, is to find someone who is passionate about technology, who is passionate about continuously improving themselves, the company, and their teammates, and who is always willing to learn something new. I don't think the amount of schooling or the number of degrees on your resume directly correlates to your ability to successfully contribute to the team; your passion does.

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