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degree vs. no degree
Previous | Next by erato 11 June, 2003 - 7:27 AM

I'd like to get other people's opinions on this - so give me feedback damn it!

Does going to college really make you more valueable in the workforce?

Please, Think about these other questions before you answer:

Will you get paid more simply because you have a degree? Does it depend on if the job you're applying for relates to your degree? For example a computer major wants to be a chef. Does that mean they'll get paid more than someone without a degree?

Also, does going to school for a degree in something that doesn't allow many job opportunities a waste of time and money? -- I mean, if you can't find a job in the degree, would you be left with student loans and a piece of paper?

6/11/2003 >> ben

no degree, 3 years of experience, i don't know if i'm getting paid what people with a degree are, but i certainly get the "well rounded" vote... hehe

6/11/2003 >> erato

ben, you know how i feel about what emag was paying you.

do you think you would have been offered the job if you didn't have a degree at all?

6/11/2003 >> muhgcee

I am still in school, but here is the experience I have had so far. I snagged an internship at e.magination during the summer after graduating highschool. After that, I had trouble finding another tech job. Everywhere I looked in the private industry wouldn't hire me. Then, I got a job at the helpdesk at UMBC just by submitting an online application. After about 6 months of working there, working hard, my boss suggested me to the Computer Science systems crew upstairs. Knowing nothing about Unix, I was able to get this job based on a recommendation. After about 10 months there, I almost got a job (not looking, just offered an interview) with a security clearance. Instead, it was given to a graduate student from UMBC. So, my experience has been that just being in school already opens up opportunities. And, looking at the security clearance job I went up for, and undergraduate degree definitely helps when going up for a job.

6/11/2003 >> erato

muhgcee - have you had any experience with computers before emag?

6/11/2003 >> muhgcee

Experience only as a hobby.

6/11/2003 >> ben

there is the caveat with this, are we talking specifically technology careers or all careers in general, since tech dirt just had a guy post about ageism, which also changes when you think tech sector vs. the rest of the world

6/11/2003 >> erato

i'm talking all careers - preferably non tech but anything goes.

i'm interested to hear what liberal arts degree people think?

6/11/2003 >> erato

dren- what's ur major?

6/11/2003 >> Render

"In the old days", it was exceedingly difficult to get any white-collar job without a degree. The typical alternatives were to start on "the ground floor" (with an internship or the mental equivalent of the mail room) or to know someone high up in the company. Frequently both.

The Internet boom legitimized the idea of hiring someone without a degree, at least in the tech industry. This happened for three reasons:
- home computers (and UNIXish systems, to the extent that Microsoft/SCO Xenix was affordable) had their origins in "geek hobbyist" culture. Therefore, a large number of managers were accepting of the idea of home-taught expertise, particularly since we ran into that thing coined "Internet time".
- Because of "Internet time", academia almost always lagged behind the market.
- The demand for employees FAR exceeded the degreed supply of people young enough and flexible enough to learn a completely new technology every few months (not to mention silly enough to accept 100 hour work weeks).

While the first two items may still exist (although to a significantly diminished degree), the number of employees, in most locations, now exceeds the number of available jobs.

Suit-n-tie managers have this thing they do called "mitigating risk". Given the choice between two ostensibly equally skilled candidates, only one of whom has a degree, guess which one will get selected? Part of this is simply CYA. If he guesses wrong and his boss is also old school, he's going to get slapped harder if he hires the non-degreed candidate.

But part of it isn't so arbitrary. People who have a degree have (hopefully) demonstrated that they can show up to a regular place every workday, and perform according to a schedule (and to this extent the degree and job don't actually have to match up). They also tend to have an intentional grounding (as opposed to the foundation gradually acquired by astute hobbyists) in various principles that are important for career longevity and flexibility (e.g., writing your own shell gives you more insight into the underlying bits of operating systems in general than just learning how to use a number of OSs.

So ... there are many industries in which hiring without a degree just isn't going to happen. Also, there are industries in which there is a limit to position and salary advancement without a degree (for instance, if you work for some military contractors). However, there are still jobs to be found for non-degreed employees. You'll probably start lower, get less pay, have to jump through more hoops to prove yourself, and probably be one of the first to be laid off, but they're out there. If you decide to skip school to go for one, I strongly suggest limiting yourself to companies that provide some form of program for continuing education, and _use_it_.

6/11/2003 >> ben

what's funny is that i never worked harder than i worked at emag, the entire time i was at college after freshman year, i never had a class before noon and usually didn't reread my books after reading them the first week (no, really, you didn't believe i'm a dork? ask brian...)

from experience of friends vs. what i've seen in the workplace however, people don't seem to be using the skills they learned in computer science class at work... one of the reasons for this, is, i agree, internet time, because methods and practices that are "tried and true" (meaning a few months or even a year old) haven't had a chance to make it to the textbook yet. this is why i think there has to be a distinction, because while i will still get a job in a month, were i looking for something in law, health, construction, horticulture, i'd be laughed out of the interview.

11/8/2003 >> rich

I have been in the Information Technology field now for 24 years. When I started, I had just gone through a technical training school which was enough to get me into the field. When applying for a job, there was rarely even a mention of a degree unless going for some type of executive position.

Over the course of the last eight years specifically, this has done a 180. Now it has gone almost to the idiotic stage! Someone having years of practical, hands-on business experience is bypassed for someone coming out of school with a 4-year degree and little to no experience.

I worked for a company where people who worked their way up to management positions, over a 10 year period, were asked to go back to get their degree or they COULD NOT hold the position. This is what I mean by idiotic. Most people I know working in I.T. have degrees in other areas (i.e. Horticulture, Teaching, Ministry, Music, etc.). So I have to ask myself where has common sense gone. Corporations are looking for I.T. staff and they choose someone with a 4-year degree over someone who has years of experience???? There is definitely something wrong here.

With all that said, I would suggest getting your degree regardless of what it's in, based on today's "somewhat questionalbe" standards of selection.

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