# Tuesday, March 02, 2004

There's been a lot of ruminating around here lately on the subject of CS degrees.  Who has one, who doesn't, and does it really matter.  I've done a fair amount of thinking on the subject, and thought I'd just go ahead and let it out.

I don't have a CS degree.  I had a very nice time earning my (basically useless) BA in East Asian Studies.  Seemed like a good idea at the time.  But then the bottom dropped out of the Japanese economy, and nobody really cared about doing business with them any more.  There went that consulting job I was hoping for.  The bottom line remains, however, that knowing what I know now I wouldn't have done things any differently. 

At the time I wasn't in touch with my inner geek.  Liked working with computers and all, but who wants to do that for a living?  Some random circumstances and the needs of my bank account landed me in a QA monkey job at Central Point Software (remember PC Tools?), and the rest is history.  I've taken a lot of professional development courses, and a few at local community colleges, but not much "formal" education in computer science.  And yet, I've managed to (I like to think) have a pretty successful career as a software developer / architect (so far). 

I think the reality is that getting a CS degree doesn't make you a good problem solver.  I've known and interviewed plenty of people with CS degrees who I wouldn't hire to write code.  I've known plenty of very talented coders who don't have CS degrees.  So on the whole, my personal experience has led me to believe that for the vast majority of jobs, it really doesn't matter.

I'm not saying there aren't jobs in which it does matter.  I'd be hard pressed to write an operating system, or embedded software, or graphics internals.  But how many people have those jobs?  Not that many, in the greater scope of things. 

I've thought about going back to school in pursuit of an MSCS or some such, but over the last 6-7 years, multiple people have told me that it really wouldn't make much difference at this point.  And I have to hold down a full time job and raise two kids, etc, so taking the time and money to go to grad school hasn't been a big priority. 

And yet, I still run into people who are hung up on the idea that you can't possibly be good at your job unless you have that piece of paper hanging somewhere.

All right, enough of my obviously biased opinion.  But if any of you out there happen to be in high school wondering what to do with yourselves, pursue a liberal arts degree.  If you learn how to think about things, what you choose to think about is just a detail of syntax.