Too Late to Switch Degrees?

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baultista
Posts: 99
Joined: Tue Jun 30, 2009 8:14 pm UTC

Too Late to Switch Degrees?

Postby baultista » Thu Jul 09, 2009 6:19 pm UTC

Prepare yourselves... this is a long read. I'm 20, turning 21 this year.

Alright, so a bit of a background:

All my life I've been into computers. I've always dug anything involving programming, from batch scripts on our Windows 3.1 machine, to HTML/Javascript in elementary school, to Actionscript/VB/Java/C++ in highschool. Until I started playing sports, I would basically come home, burn through my homework, play some videogames, and then get to some hobbyist coding! For the longest while I had wanted to do game design, but later in highschool I started to find myself interested in UI design.

However, I made this ridiculously stupid move in my senior year of highschool and decided that I wanted to be an accountant. That didn't last long, but I still decided not to go into computer science/engineering. Instead, I went into a program called Information Technology Management (basically an IS degree) with a chosen specialization in Applications Development (other choices were Enterprise Planning, Networking, Digital Media, and Databases). It's a co-operative education program, so I was able to get some experience as a developer working with two companies... one was a small company that does video production hardware (did C, Perl, Linux Scripting) and one was a software giant (Java, Batch scripting, Linux scripting).

It's a 5 year degree b/c of co-op (traditionally four). I'm about to enter my fourth year in September. Unfortunately they've "restructured" the program, having eliminated all of the upper (and most of the lower) level programming classes. The former specializations are now gone...everybody graduates with a degree in ITM. The only thing left is a mandatory introductory Java course for 1st years, and an optional web applications development course for 2nd year students. Courses in C, Unix, Human/Comp Interaction, Operating Systems, and advanced Java/web design courses have all been axed, as they consolidate the program and gear it more towards business analysts. Courses in advanced networking have been axed too, though there are a lot more networking courses left as compared to DB or programming courses. This has happened because the vast majority of students in this program were business types, and decided to go into Enterprise Planning (basically learning SAP).

When I started three years ago this degree looked pretty good. There were a lot of programming classes available in addition to a lot of courses in systems analysis and design + gathering user requirements. It's a B.Comm (Bachelor's of Commerce), but the actual material learned was of great benefit to somebody who wanted to get into development. The degree also said "Applications Development" on it, which would probably help. Now, as I was finally eligible to take the courses that I actually wanted, the university has decided to axe them. This program no longer feels like the right fit for me, as it's pushing students to expand on the business background and take advanced classes in fields like accounting, finance, management, or communications, as opposed to advanced technology classes.

I have two years left to finish. If I were to switch to computer science (I've checked) I'd be starting at year 0.5 of comp sci, since I'd need to take some math and physics courses. A lot of my transfer credits apply to year 2. I could learn most of this stuff on my own (I'm already pretty proficient with Java) but it seems pointless for me to be paying $6000 per year for an education that I really don't want. A B.Comm may not look very appealing to an employer looking for a software developer, but my current job experience says that I'd be the man for an entry level job. I've never had problems in interviews for development roles... but I've often had problems getting them. Before I got my first developer job as a co-op, the interviewer (my manager, but I had no clue at the time) said that he didn't even bother looking at my skill set once he spotted that I was a business student. With my second development job, I was admittedly the backrunner, but I got the job based on a very good interview.

So the real question is this:

Do I continue along this path, hope to get some development experience through co-ops, and try to tough it out as a software developer without a degree in computer science or engineering but a decent amount of relevant experience... or do I switch into computer science, dig myself into more debt by basically restarting a new bachelor's degree at age 21, and graduate at age 25 with the next 10 years of my life dedicated to paying off loans?
Could God write a program so long that not even he himself would have the memory to compile it in a single pass? -- Hamish Campbell

Lycur
Posts: 470
Joined: Thu Jan 03, 2008 11:06 pm UTC
Location: Nutopia

Re: Too Late to Switch Degrees?

Postby Lycur » Thu Jul 09, 2009 8:29 pm UTC

In your shoes, I'd restart. You know you want to be a developer, get a degree that will let you pick up jobs as a developer and expand your skill set. 4 years is probably an overstatement for how long it'll take you to get out the other end again. Also, the stuff you've done so far isn't a waste: the business acumen you've picked up will no doubt come in handy during the inevitable career drift.


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