Take the 2-minute tour ×
Programmers Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professional programmers interested in conceptual questions about software development. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I am debating on a career in programming. The problem for me is that I don't think college is right for me. I am planning on joining the Air Force as a Computer Systems Programmer will they will train me and I will gain some college credits.

From what I can understand there is a large amount of people taking a major in Computer Science because they hear computers make money. Most drop out but some do graduate but find they don't really know anything about programming. Ive always heard the issue being that these students often get good grades but don't push themselves to learn beyond the course.

I'm a very self motivated learner and I am having a blast learning C++ as well as I love computers and have since before I could even read or write. So learning the actual trade isn't the issue.

I could go to college for free or nearly free. I will most likely enlist for 6 years. But when (or if I decide to make a career out of it) I get out of the military will I be able to find a job with 6 years of experience in lieu of a degree. I would assume i would because said employer would know if I could do the work rather then having to deal with some college kid who there not even sure if he knows how to program.

share|improve this question

closed as off topic by Blrfl, Glenn Nelson, Ryathal, Martijn Pieters, Yusubov Feb 1 '13 at 14:05

Questions on Programmers Stack Exchange are expected to relate to software development within the scope defined by the community. Consider editing the question or leaving comments for improvement if you believe the question can be reworded to fit within the scope. Read more about reopening questions here. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Is your question "Can I get a degree in CS with only experience and without the hassle of long courses?", or is it "Can I be hired as a programmer with only field experience and no degree ?" –  Silver Quettier Feb 1 '13 at 12:05
Doing a CS degree at a good university is a wonderful way to learn things that you might never have decided to self-learn. If you are simply looking at it as a career move, then it's neither here nor there - there are plenty of successful developers with and without degrees. –  Daniel B Feb 1 '13 at 12:08
When you're young and making important decisions like this about your future, you can really benefit from the advice of people who know you. Look to your high school guidance counsellor, career counsellor, parents (yes, really), or other adults in your life who've been successful. They can help you much more than a group of anonymous people on the internet. –  Caleb Feb 1 '13 at 13:18
possible duplicate of Is a university education worth it for a good programmer? –  Ryathal Feb 1 '13 at 13:21
The military has programs where they will pay for your degree provided when you finish you finish out your term with the military once you finish your program. This means you exist the military with both real life experience and a college degree. –  Ramhound Feb 1 '13 at 14:09

4 Answers 4

You're assuming that actually being employed shows potential employers that you can do the job. This is incorrect. Those college students with good grades and no skills still get hired. Now they have a degree and experience so they get hired again. Plenty of people with experience still are woefully incompetent.

Sadly, having a degree correlates much better with getting hired than being good at your job. and once hired, the degree holders (generally, in my experience) demand hirer wages. Get the degree if you can.

share|improve this answer

I thought that myself and just worked as developer for 5 years but after trying to move to a new position I found it hard to find suitable work because they did not want to pay me what they would pay someone with a degree. Unless your extremely talented and have amazing work experience your odds of having a decent career are long. I also recommend you get a cs degree.

share|improve this answer
Can you give an example of pay discrimination towards those that have a degree and those without or any other non-traditional form of education (Certificates, Tech School, ect) ? –  Timothy Rebidue Feb 1 '13 at 20:31

Let me first say that a degree in the modern workplace is indispensable. Not because it teaches you anything really, but because it's the first key through the HR department. You'll learn things in college. Some will have meaning, some won't. You'll learn things in the military. Some will have meaning, some won't. To an employer (your future boss, no HR), the degree and your military experience will tell him one thing: You can complete something that has a long term commitment. I would say your best bet if you can hack the workload is to accomplish both goals.

Join the military and focus on the computer trades. Make that first year sacrifice to enroll in the Montgomery GI Bill program. Use every ounce of tuition assistance the military provides. At the end of your enlistment, you'll have your degree, 6 years of experience (military experience which is very positive) and you'll have access to the GI Bill should you choose to pursue a master's degree or phd program afterwards.

Joining the military doesn't preclude or supersede the importance or usefulness of a degree. Experience doesn't mean what it used to because so many people already have a degree. Having both is just icing on the cake. Oh, and one other thing I'm not sure your recruiter may have told you: The military technical school training courses to earn your apprentice and journeyman skillsets (which will be required) apply as transferred college credit towards most major universities.

share|improve this answer

Everything you know about computers is almost certainly wrong. That's why you go to college: to get your mind blown. Drop off before completing, (or falling into irreversible debt) maybe, but you'd better take a ride.

Also: the large amounts of people you talk about are total assholes. They will also probably drop off before completion, unless they're dissociated borderline psychopaths. (and yes, there is a non trace amount of dissociated borderline psychopaths in CS, but that's another story)

share|improve this answer

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.