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Old 12th January 2006, 05:39 PM   #1
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Default Why is a college degree important?

I've learned everything I know about computing and web development and management from the streets. That is to say that I have no formal training (to speak of) in the computing sciences.

I have been on the Internet since 1969 when it had only 15 servers (IMPs) connected to it, and have gobbled up every piece of learning I could find along the way. I'm pretty good at what I do, by now, and rarely run into any concept, design or technical roadblocks that I can't get through. Sometimes I use forums to get quick answers that I should already know, and I sometimes discuss extremely complicated issues (like building a click fraud detection program) with my peers.

So, what would be the value of a guy like me getting a college degree, at this point? I ask because I have this nagging feeling that I'm missing some fundamental piece of training or something.

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Old 13th January 2006, 01:18 PM   #2
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From what I can tell, the only help a college computing education gives you is that you get a heavy dose of the "accepted conventions" for doing things.

When I was at PayPal.com, a number of our programmers were college drop-outs (so was one product manager, me), and one of our best guys was a high school dropout. As a whole, I'd say those guys wrote more bugs than the other guys, and the high school dropout often wrote code in ways that hardly anyone else could understand. But they were also, as a group, some of PayPal's best programmers. Which is to say, they were some of Silicon Valley's best programmers.

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Old 26th January 2006, 09:51 AM   #3
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I think a lot of it depends on your age...

For example, I tend to feel that my college degree was pretty worthless as far as what I've done for the past few years...I work from home for someone that doesn't care if I have a degree and the job offers that I've had in the last few years have come through without anyone seeing my resume.

My work experience has been a gradual build on high school...I worked in our journalism department as an editor and happened to be in a school that had a full bank of computers. We used PageMaker and Photoshop to create our school paper and yearbook...so I came out of high school with desktop publishing skills. Went to work for a newspaper as an ad designer then off to Ohio State's marketing department. When they wouldn't let me move to the web design department, I taught myself and landed a gig with my first dot com. Seven dot coms later, I headed back to the "real" world as an e-com manager for a good size company. From there, I headed out on my own, and eventually landed her.

Granted, two of those dot-coms wouldn't have hired me without a degree and I learned much of what I know from those experiences...but I do still wonder if I might have ended up where I am now even without the degree. I left college debt free (worked my way through via those dot coms) so that's not an issue...but I do wonder if it's worth it for those who land themselves in so much debt to graduate.

I think if you're established in your career, especially if you work for yourself, the degree is overrated. If you want to make it in the corporate world though...it's almost like you have to have that piece of paper to talk your way into the club.

Tis a shame...I shudder to think what college will cost me when Nora's old enough to go...

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Old 26th January 2006, 11:21 AM   #4

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In the traditional sense of a higher education, a college degree (in any discipline) identified your ability to learn and it identified your ability to remain on task for an average of four years. In other words a college degree told a potential employer that you can be trained in something and it told the employer there is a pretty good chance you have the ability to pick up on what you needed to know.

That philosophy is long gone in today’s global society. There are many more people on the planet vying for the many more jobs created via technological advances across all industries, where separating yourself via working experience and a college education certainly gives you an edge. A college degree in today’s global economy must be augmented by working experience and vice versa. The proliferation of adult education universities has mushroomed into more and more people having college degrees. So what separates those working adults going back to college from those younger people going to college first and entering the workforce after college? The difference is working experience. It used to be that you could just go to college and get a job after. Not today. You must have working knowledge of a particular discipline in order to compete with all the other working adults that are going to college.

Is there value in a college degree today? I say, absolutely yes. I also teach graduate level business course at the University of Phoenix.

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Old 26th January 2006, 09:57 PM   #5
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It's a pretty subjective thought. I have a buddy who has worked 10 years for a really good company. He dropped out of college after his Junior year and now decided to finish by taking weekend classes for a year and a half. It doesn't help him with his current job, but he described it as a "monkey off his back".

I wound up graduating w/ a music degree. Over a decade later, I'm still paying off student loans and I don't do anything with music (except for my outdated but cool iPod), yet I'm still glad I got a college degree. It basically made me learn how to grow up.

SS, I've seen your posts and can tell you're very good at what you've done whether you have a degree or not. If it's a "monkey off your back" thing, why not? If not, I don't think you're missing anything.


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Old 27th January 2006, 12:12 PM   #6
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A college degree is useful in that it teaches you how to sit down and learn (if you let it!). But when it comes to doing well on a job, hard work matters a lot more to me than how much a person apparently "knows".

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Old 27th January 2006, 02:04 PM   #7

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Default Why a degree?

Yes, it’s worthwhile. It can do many things. Is it any guarantee for success.., no. If you look at what has been said in this thread, it is all true. When you are young, it does show trainability and a degree of stick-to-itiveness. Experience helps, that is why many degree programs have internships attached to them. This thread has looked at the degree as more of an apprenticeship for work in a given field. The education is more than that, just as you are more then your work.

Most degree programs have the first year or two devoted to “core” courses that everyone takes. This exposes one to history, literature, the sciences, etc. For youth it can also be a maturing experience. All this can be an expanding experience for the individual.

In your situation, many schools allow one to monitor a class. If you are looking for something in your field, the value may be how heavy the school is in your area of expertise. You may be the know-all-do-all in your area. A class in your area of expertise than would be boring. If you have other interests, it is an excellent way to explore your true interest in those areas.

Go for it. Make contact at your local school. I would contact the department head in your area of interest and tell him/her your interest. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

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Old 28th January 2006, 02:06 AM   #8
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Default Working since 1969

Let me tell you something. A lot of people I know who are managers aren't interested in computer degrees if youv'e been working that long.
Most of them only want to know if you are willing to learn on new things

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Old 10th February 2006, 08:23 AM   #9
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The problem when you're young is that you just don't know what you're going to need to know, so you better know all of it.

I agree with an earlier poster in that a degree can teach you how to learn. I also believe it imparts a certain polish, a "finished-ness". You speak easier on a broader range of topics. You relate more easily with a broader range of people.

Most importantly, college can teach you how to write (though I've met a lot of college graduates who still can't string together a cohesive or even a complete sentence). You can be the best at anything, but if you can't impart the expertise people are paying you for - either verbally or in writing - no one is going to buy.

Companies are just people, and people do business with other people, not with other companies.

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Old 13th February 2006, 07:55 AM   #10

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College degree is important especially in the marketplace. Going to college can gain you information and skills that you can use for the rest of your life. It is the best investment of your life. It can never be erased, broken or laid off. It is the only investment that can never be bought from you. It is also a way toward opportunity, enrichment and success. But a college degree need not mean a four-year college. If you are not sure about it, you can always go to a community college that provide two-year courses. They also provide excellent education.

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