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My goal is to be as employable as possible and to have enough knowledge not to look foolish when interviewed. However, that's probably everyone's goal and it's not achieved simply by taking classes in the University -- you have to put in some of your own time as well (which I do).

I'm in process of obtaining my Associates degree in Computer Programming through a local community college. There are several options for me to choose from in the area, such as Cal Poly Pomona, CSU San Bernardino, UC Riverside, and a few other schools in that general area (one of them is CalTech Pasadena, but I hear it's very hard to get in...even with my 4.0 GPA).

Of course, there is plenty of information ranking schools, but nothing really explains on what to look for in a school when choosing a particular area of study. I'm interested in Software Engineering. I might branch of into AI, but that's up in the air as of right now. I think for Bachelor's I'd just go with general Software Engineering, unless I find a specific area I want to commit to. I'm definitely aware that student-to-teacher ratio is a huge point to consider when choosing a school. But what other things should I take into account? Should I choose a school that's more focused on theory, such as UCR, or a school that takes a hands-on approach such as CalPoly Pomona? What have you seen in the industry that would point as one being superior over the other? What is your own experience?

Education is not cheap and I have a family to support (I work full time and go to school), so, I want to make sure that my investment is justified. That being said, I make a decent salary, so I can afford to invest into education, as long as it's not wasteful. I'm reaching out to those of you who have first-hand experience in these matters to assist me with some tips and answers to the above questions.

I hope I am being clear with my goals and what I'm trying to find out; if clarification is needed, please let me know (I just got done with a 12-hour shift, so I'm a bit drowsy, heh).

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joelonsoftware.com/items/2007/12/03.html and joelonsoftware.com/articles/CollegeAdvice.html are two very nice articles on studying to become a software engineer by one of the guys that created Stackexchange. I think it highlights quite well what is important. –  Rafael Cichocki Jun 3 '13 at 10:06
    
@Rafael Cichocki Thank you so very much. That is definitely a great article. –  B.K. Jun 4 '13 at 0:14

3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

My degree is in Software Engineering. Increasingly I find myself wishing I had studied Computer Science instead. The skills you learn in Software Engineering can largely be picked up on-the-job, while the skills you learn in Computer Science are difficult to obtain outside of academia.

Given that experience, I'd recommend taking a course with a strong focus on theory, especially if you have your eyes on eventually moving into AI. Use your self-directed study time to learn about the tools/processes/best-practices that will make you a good engineer.

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Would it not be harder for someone who's majoring in Computer Science rather than Software Engineering to get into programming-related field? Do employers view both degrees as great candidates? I'm in a position right now, with my current job, where I have time on my side; so, if needed, I can take a longer path -- as long as it pays off in the end. –  B.K. Jun 4 '13 at 0:18
    
I'm not sure that employers care much about the difference when employing graduates. Great candidates are those who can demonstrate practical experience (through internships or hobby projects) and enthusiasm. –  ajlane Jun 4 '13 at 1:18

I also suggest to read Spolsky's recruitment-related articles. Good workplaces look for the smart+get things done type, not any particular knowledge. I definitely not expect greenies to know anything, let alone anything correctly -- I'm interested in enthusiasm and curiosity.

It helps a lot if you do activity -- join forums, open source projects, hobby stuff, it indicates interest.

But if you plan for big weasel farm companies that need completely different strategy.

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I'd be foolish to think that I would get hired by Google as soon as I get my Bachelor's, but then... you never know. I did join stackoverflow and this forum to get involved in Computer Science community. In my spare time I built my own 4'x8' CNC wood router table (that was over 4 years ago when I was finishing up my military service). Once I get a little bit more programming knowledge, I'm hoping to get into some projects on websites like SourceForge. –  B.K. Jun 4 '13 at 0:25
    
Cool, keep it up. :) –  Balog Pal Jun 4 '13 at 0:37

I suggest you to have a perfect command in a particular programming language and a database programming language. Create and generate applications, so that you have a perfect command over a language. That would be the best idea for you to give a start in your career.

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Gaining "perfect command in a particular programming language and a database programming language" can only come at the expense of other languages/APIs, and it's only going to reduce the pool of available jobs for which he/she is qualified. –  Mike Partridge Jun 3 '13 at 19:31
    
Ajay, every instructor that I've had so far suggested otherwise. They say that to appear attractive to employers even on entry level positions a lot of them look for knowledge of languages such as Java, C++, C#, PHP.... Assembly is a huge plus. I'm currently at an intermediate level with Java, C++, Python, C#. Still need to learn PHP and Assembly (hoping that my college will have those courses this coming Fall). But that's not even the concern at this point, what I want to know is which school to go next to, and to determine that, I need to know what to look for. –  B.K. Jun 4 '13 at 0:27

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