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For someone that is relatively new to web development, would you recommend pursing an academic curriculum that is more diverse (introducing several languages and frameworks with other classes on analysis, networks, databases, etc.) or a curriculum that is very focused and rigorous (i.e. mostly classes on Java-related technologies)?


I am trying to transition into the web development field. I currently have a Bachelor's in Biology and have almost two years of "webmaster" experience for my current employer along with a little bit of freelance web design work on the side. I've applied to several jobs over the past year and the resounding feedback that I get is that I need a degree in Computer Science or related field. I have decided to pursue a Master's degree and have been accepted into two programs.

Boston University - Master's in Computer Information Science with Concentration in Web Application Development

Brandeis University - Master's Degree in Software Engineering

BU's program is very eclectic and provides classes on a variety of different topics like HTML5, CSS3, Javascript, JQuery, JavaSE, Oracle database, networks, etc. Brandeis' program goes really deep into Java technologies (basic Java SE, J2EE, Struts, Hibernate, Spring, JDBC, etc.). I currently have a pretty good understanding of HTML, CSS, Javascript, and Java SE through about 2 years of self-study.

I'm just not certain if it's a good idea to try and broaden my general understanding of website design or if it's better to try and develop a niche (i.e. Java) before I try and get my first developer position.

Thanks and have a great day.

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closed as off-topic by MichaelT, Kilian Foth, GlenH7, Dan Pichelman, Bart van Ingen Schenau Oct 8 '14 at 10:10

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Dr. Dobbs Journal discusses how, over the last two years, there has been a paradigm shift in professional software development, in this article: The Quiet Revolution in Programming –  Robert Harvey Apr 5 '13 at 17:42
@ Robert - Thank you for the interesting article. It seems that maybe trying to specialize in Java this early on might be a limitation. BU's coursework would allow me to be introduced to both Java and .NET web development technologies, which might be a good thing at this point for me. –  Mr. Busy Apr 5 '13 at 18:46
I wouldn't associate Java with (modern) web development; it is a language more suitable for back-end, not web tier; usually large enterprise servers. –  m3th0dman Apr 5 '13 at 22:23
"BU's program" is ambiguous here. Getting an MS in CS to be a web developer is hilarious. –  Sean McSomething Apr 5 '13 at 23:15
@SeanMcSomething - Sorry for the ambiguity. BU's program consists of 10 classes (40 credits). There are 6 Core CIS Classes in networking, systems analysis, data structures with Java, IT management, discrete mathematics and database design. The 4 web development classes are web application development (HTML5, CSS3, Javascript), project management, rich internet application development (JQuery, Mootools, ActionScript, HTML5, etc.) and distributed software development. Here's a link: bu.edu/online/programs/graduate-degree/… –  Mr. Busy Apr 6 '13 at 6:46

2 Answers 2

The CIS degree covers more technologies but is applicable to fewer industries. The SE degree is applicable to more industries but covers fewer technologies. In other words, the CIS degree will give you slightly better odds of landing a web developer position, and the SE degree will give you better odds of landing other kinds of programming positions.

Which one you choose depends on how interested and confident you are about staying in web development. It's a good career with a lot of growth potential, but a lot of people who first got interested in programming by doing self-taught web development end up going into other fields after finishing a degree.

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the simple answer is: do you want to learn how to do anything, or do you just want to learn how to do some things in Java?

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Ideally, I'd like to be talented in many different aspects of programming, which I'm sure will take time and hard work. I'm just uncertain as to whether a specific program would be more beneficial in helping me get my first web developer position. Do most hiring managers find it more impressive that you can program in one language well or that you can do lots of "junior-level" tasks in several languages? –  Mr. Busy Apr 5 '13 at 21:31
programming experience is more important to me than a specific language; I care about what you can do and how quickly you learn far more than any particular programming language. That being said, I would be leery of someone who only has exposure to one language/framework. But I'm not an HR hiring manager. ;) –  Steven A. Lowe Apr 5 '13 at 21:33
thinking only about the next job strikes me as a fairly short-term horizon for the first step in a major career change... where do you see yourself in 10 or 20 years, and what foundation will you need to get there? –  Steven A. Lowe Apr 5 '13 at 21:34
@JavaJeff If I was in a position to be hiring, I would wand to hire someone who could select the proper collection rather than always using a HashMap and sorting the keys each time they wanted to iterate over all the elements in the map in an ordered way. If they are capable of understanding the data structures and algorithms, I would be reasonably confident they could learn any other language or framework without too much difficulty. This is quite different than the basic understanding of a wide set of commonly (today!) used frameworks. –  MichaelT Apr 5 '13 at 21:39
@StevenA.Lowe - That's a very good point. I'm trying not to be short-sighted in my decision, which is difficult. I think my biggest problem with that is I've been turned down by so many job applications that I look at the idea of getting my first development job as the pinnacle of my short-term success. I guess my thinking is that my degree will help land my first job (or two) and then my continued learning will help take me to greater heights from there. I currently enjoy doing web development and would love to have my own successful web design company someday. This may change in time. –  Mr. Busy Apr 6 '13 at 6:59

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