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Would a recruiter prefer a B.A in Comp Science from a more prestigious university or a B.S in Inf Tech from just an average university? Would it matter for someone already established in the field with plenty of experience?

The only difference in the B.A and B.S is essentially the mathematics. The B.S is geared for those going on to master's programs, although one isn't excluded from going on to a masters program with a BA, many do require more mathematics.

Just for those curious, the information tech degree is typically geared more to real-world problems then the computer science and the quality of it will vary widely. Some inf tech programs are as in-depth as an ABET C.S degree, the information tech from Drexel looks extremely strong. The Management Information Systems is generally provided via the business school and is more of a traditional business degree.

I'm not sure really how well versed the recruiters/g.p are in the actual differences in all of these programs. Some non ABET BS Comp Science may only require 1 or 2 Calculus versus the ABET certified programs.

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closed as off-topic by MichaelT, GlenH7, gnat, Bart van Ingen Schenau, Glenn Nelson Dec 16 '13 at 16:52

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What about someone with a B. Math degree? The title on my degree states, "Double Honor Bachelor of Mathematics with majors in Computer Science and Combinatorics & Optimization," so beware of labels as there can be various interpretations on them. Don't forget that what one may think of as prestigious may not be considered that by others,e.g. Bob thinks Harvard is awesome but Tom disagrees. – JB King Nov 1 '10 at 20:52
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I graduated with what was considered a Computer Information Systems B.A. with an emphasis on Web Development, had a two-year Associates in Computer Engineering as an A.S.. What did Web Development entail? Two Java courses, two C++ courses, a SQL class, database diagramming and design, two COBOL courses, and a bunch of redundant coursework that I've never actually used in the real world.

The real work I did was during my senior year when internships were hard to find. I was able to land a job creating a website for an employment agency and use that as a credit toward an independent study course. What did I learn out of that? The .NET framework and C#/ along with a few other server side technologies.

The point... degrees aren't everything. Sure, they do show a commitment to your education, and they do certainly set a precedence for some sort of work ethic that an employer can use to gauge how you MAY or MAY NOT do in a real world job.

If you can actually prove to an employer that you have the skills, and you, yourself, are confident in the skills that you currently have to do a good job, you should have no problems finding work... regardless of the degree.

Just for those curious, the information tech degree is typically geared more to real-world problems then the computer science and the quality of it will vary widely. Some inf tech programs are as in-depth as an ABET C.S degree, the information tech from Drexel looks extremely strong. The Management Information Systems is generally provided via the business school and is more of a traditional business degree.

Honestly, I'm not sure there is a huge difference here. If the information tech degree is more geared to real world applications than the C.S. degree, it probably isn't by much. My entire collegiate programming load was based on real world examples from e-Commerce sites to eBay clones, and I was basically in a degree that was within Information Technology, but on the Web Development path. It was the best of both worlds.

I'd get more details on some of the specifics of these degrees. Management Information Systems degree could be more of a project planning type of degree versus actually developing the guts of a system. If that's what you'd want to do, okay, but if not... specifics would be nice to get laid out so you don't enter something that you find out later isn't something you want.

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Personally, I expect candidates to know C.S. fundamentals, but I don't pay much attention to their degree. I've hired lots of people with degrees in E.E. and other fields; I assess these skills myself.

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~ I concur. I've seen folks that attended MIT that didn't know their head from their arse, and I've seen people in state-university that were way more competent. @Curtis White ~ Worrying about the label on the degree is exactly that, worrying about a label. Are you worried about the label or are you worried about knowing your stuff at the end of the program? Most of us just want to do what we love, we don't need the labels. ~ Aside from that, CS tends to be math oriented, and so long as you're getting Calc2 from the degree, that's close enough for splitting hairs – jcolebrand Nov 1 '10 at 20:33

The best programmer I hired does not have a degree. I have seen degree qualified candidates, supposedly experienced in embedded programming, that could not test a bit in a register or understand an interrupt function.

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When I look at an applicants education history on their resume I look at these things (in order of importance). Keep in mind that all of these considerations essentially are out the window if the applicant has significant work experience, generally they only come into play for applicants coming out of college whose only work experience is one or two internships. The place I work happens to do most of their recruiting through universities so the "education background" section of the resume isn't generally something I can just skip.

  1. Is the degree relevant?

    Degrees that require a lot of coding are most relevant, but beyond that I would never consider one coding-intensive degree more relevant than another. Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Computer Information Systems, and whatever other coding-intensive degrees are out there are all equally relevant IMO. Slightly less relevant, but still good degrees are anything technical, ie engineering, math, physics. If their degree is something non-technical that's a different story. I haven't seen many applicants without degrees just because my company does most of their recruiting through universities.

  2. Was it a good school?

    This measurement is even less precise, but there are three general categories. Great, good, and not good. If the school has an awesome reputation for engineering they get lumped in the great category (I'm in California so UC Berkeley, Cal-Tech, UCLA, Cal Poly SLO, etc are the "great" schools I've come in contact with). And not to sound political, but generally for-profit schools get lumped into the "not good category" along with the associate degrees from community colleges, although being in the "not good" category definitely isn't a deal breaker. Everyone else is in the good category.

  3. What was their GPA?

    The least important of the education considerations but still something to keep in mind. I'd definitely rather see a great school than a great GPA.

Bachelors vs Master's degree doesn't mean a whole lot to me, although for bureaucratic reasons I'm supposed to favor the masters degree. The Bachelors degree is plenty of education for our field in my opinion. The further education to get a masters degree just tells me the applicant is the academic type, which in my experience doesn't say much about how successful they will be as an employee.

If you can't tell by now, considering a BA vs BS isn't even on the radar screen, and for good reason. Not only is the difference generally minor, the difference between the BA and BS is completely dependent on the college. Some colleges call their Computer Science degrees BAs for some reason, and others choose to call it a BS. Even among the schools that offer both options, the difference between the BA and the BS isn't always the same. It's simply not worth my time and effort to research every degree program from every university to just find out if the applicant was required to take vector calculus or not.

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Wow this answer got a lot longer than I intended. Sorry for being long-winded but I hope it's helpful. – Graphics Noob Nov 1 '10 at 22:23
I've even heard of some schools that offer a BA and a BS in CS. – Jason Baker Nov 2 '10 at 8:50

Here is my take as a non-professional programmer as I wonder how it would apply in this situation. I've had this question asked to me hundreds of times for my current career. FullDisclosure: I'm a full-time firefighter for a large metropolitan fire department. Skip to the bottom for the bottom line. :)

As you may or may not know, competition to get hired as a FF is super fierce. My testing location was the main convention center of our city and we had three days of testing with over 4000 applicants. A cutoff score determines that approx. 1000 people are subject to a formal interview. If you make it through that, you have a physical ability test where approx. 400 ppl are run through a testing course. Then you have the final interview where 150 - 300 ppl are formally interviewed a second time. After that you are either selected or not for another 6 to 10 months of Fire Academy training.

As you can imagine, this is a very stressful situation if you really want the job. Most advice to ppl that want to be a FF, is you need to "go above and beyond" to prove you want to be there. You must also speak to these things during the interview without sounding like a butthead. I hesitate to use the word passionate, but you need to do way more than the other person interviewing if you really want the job. Your attitude and ability to be a team player is judged from this. I.e. Volunteer, take a bunch of fire service related courses, better your community without prompting, etc.

I wonder if this is the same with interviewing for a programming job. Lets assume we all have the same basic skills and/or experience. In order to make yourself stand out do you need to go above and beyond? I.e. Volunteer to teach kids how to program. Be a member of this or that club/association and participate/Volunteer at said events. Take up a few languages and have a few pet projects for the interviewer to look at. Network like crazy and engage the community you want to be part of?

To me its always been pretty simple; Don't worry about stuff you can't control. For items you can control do everything in your power to better those items with integrity, honor, drive and a great attitude. Good things will eventually come your way.

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If you have to explain what your degree does and how it is valid, perhaps it is a sign that you should steer away from it, purely for marketing reasons.

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I would disagree with that. A lot of good programmers come from backgrounds that don't directly correlate with programming (physics and music come to mind). – Jason Baker Nov 2 '10 at 8:47
@Jason: I'm not commenting on the quality of the education. I'm talking about the ability to market one's skills to someone who doesn't have an awareness of what your degree is. – Paul Nathan Nov 2 '10 at 14:15

Personally, I'd just choose the degree that interests you the most. I don't have a degree and I consider myself to be a good programmer. That's not to say that you shouldn't. I'm a bit of an edge case: school just isn't my thing.

My point is that I wouldn't worry about it too much. In the grand scheme of things, your degree might make a difference when you get your first job. Beyond that, most people simply don't care. The ultimate question they have to answer is "Can this person get the job done?" not "Did this person get a good enough degree?". Remember, you're going to be spending at least 4 years of your life on this. Your first priority should be to make sure that you can make it through those 4 years.

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