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So I read a post on here asking about college vs. university and the consensus seemed to be that University was worth it.

My question is, does that by extension make college worthless?

---the details--

I'm at a point in my life where I want a change of careers, I've always done web-dev on the side and now I want to program as a career.

My 2 options are a computer programming diploma at humber, seneca (or similar) or computer science at UofT. I can get into both courses (as I was formerly a student at UofT) but the University route is far more costly and will take 4 years instead of 2.

I realize that in a perfect world the university option would be better (the general concensus in the other threads I read), but the extra money and time would be very difficult to reconcile since during this time we will need to rely solely on my wife's income. If university is the only possible option there is a chance I might need to scrap this dream all together since it might not be doable.

If taking the 4 years in university isn't possible for me, is there any point in getting the college diploma? The college diploma has some Java and even Android specific courses so I could see the potential career path, but the previous threads have me discouraged on that option. I don't want to spend two years to end up with nothing.


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University for sure. –  Rafe Kettler Mar 11 '11 at 1:24
What is college? In Quebec we only have CEGEP (which we sometimes call college) and university –  Cameron Mar 11 '11 at 1:27
The question isn't really University or College, I probably wasn't clear enough. The question is more like, "If university is impossible, is there any point in even going to college or should I forget about computer programming all together?". –  geoken Mar 11 '11 at 1:29
I think by "college" you mean "community college" -- in the U.S., "college" can refer to either community college or university. –  Mehrdad Mar 11 '11 at 1:35
Are you talking about a technical school or some 2-year program? –  JeffO Mar 11 '11 at 1:38

3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

For the non-Canadians (and the Quebecois) here, attending university in Canada is pretty much the same as attending university in the US or Europe. They offer 3 or 4 (and sometimes 5) year programs and award bachelor's degrees at the end of an undergraduate program. Colleges are more akin to trade schools or community colleges in the US. Some offer degrees now, but most still award diplomas at the end of a shorter, typically 2-year, program. They also tend to be more practical whereas universities place more emphasis on the academics.

I went to University of Waterloo, but I've worked with enough people who opted for college instead (Fanshawe in London, ON seems to be popular around here) to know that in the end it doesn't matter that much.

I don't know if they had harder time finding employment, but they certainly were capable developers. In an industry where formal education isn't strictly necessary at all, I'd say college is certainly a viable option. A university degree in computer science is more about theory than software development practice, anyway. (Although some schools are coming out with software engineering degrees now, which I understand are closer to practical jobs in development.)

I'd say if you go for college, then a) don't be ashamed of it; b) try to pick a program that offers co-op or internship options; c) study your butt off and learn as much as you can; and last but not least d) try to do some projects on the side to gain more experience that can go on your resume.

Thanks, this is kind of what I was looking for. Personally, I would love to go to university as I'm genuinely interested in learning as much as I can (both practical and theoretical) but it may not be feasible in my situation. –  George Kendros Mar 11 '11 at 3:30
I also know some Java and C# and intend to have a couple of Android apps under my belt prior to graduating. –  George Kendros Mar 11 '11 at 3:37
@geoken Have you gotten started? You might not even need to go to school at all, if you have a portfolio. –  bobobobo Sep 14 '12 at 21:05

hmmm... difficult choices indeed...

If it can help you here is my experience :

I went to Mohawk College in Hamilton (Fennel Campus). It was a good experience but it was also a long and hard program : 3.5 years. fortunately it was coop and with a few alternative income sources and the fact I was still living with parents made it possible for me to pay for the full time course all of it myself without borrowing money. This was a good thing but many things converged very fast when I had to choose and ended up making the wrong choice, I never ended up working in that field at all. All is not lost, the things I learned still carry with me this day and it remains a good learning experience nonetheless.

I wandered for a few years gathering different life experiences. Though it was fun and very shaping for my character it did little to pay the rent so I eventually faced a choice similar to yours today.

I choose University, but a short program at first, just to try, then later moving to full blown engineering degree. Again the learning experiences were extraordinary and to a much higher degree in both quality and quantity than the similar length college course I earlier took. It is in University I truly discovered programming and decided I would make a career of it. Only from this point I realized I was pretty much waiting my time with the rest before that.

Although the university program I was taking (École de technologie Supérieur in Montréal) was also coop the previous years of wandering and the growing family I was now head of meant I had to find financial resources to keep going. This was a very bad thing...

In conclusion to this story, The advantages of being an engineer vs a technician are undeniable on all levels. However the debt I cumulated as I was the sole provider for he family all this time, made life very difficult. It took a solid 10 years and incredible opportunism and luck to finally enjoy the higher salary.

I do not sure about your situation but the choice pretty much depends on what you want to do with it later. University will make you into a much more versatile and will enable a much easier path to higher positions and challenges. But the road there is equally much harder.

College on the other hand can give you quick access to a body of knowledge and will allow you to capitalize our investment much more faster. But you risk hitting your limits (personal or corporate) faster. A good option for College is to go for highly specialized training. A good Systems interfacing technician (SAP, JDEdwards, HL7, DICOM etc) can fetch salaries equivalent to that of a software engineer. You will not be as flexible but you can make a very honest living and the possibilities for the future are bright as our world is moving ever faster towards interconnection of systems.

An alternative middle ground could be to graduate university with the cumulative of smaller certificates. Some universities allow this sort of things, it may take a tad bit longer but should you choose to leave early before the end for whatever reasons you still have the certificates finished to date. Another advantage is that you could be able to get certificates from different universities. The GTA is rich with good programs and you can capitalize from the speciality of each university. The end result may not be as glamorous because you may not get the title of engineer but as a recruiter I would be very interested in the profile of someone who knew exactly what they wanted and went out and got it.

I hope this helps, Having been there I know how you feel now.

I wish you the best of luck

Thanks. I'll look into smaller universoty courses. If possible, this might be a good path to take. I was thinking earlier that the 2 years I putinto college would be an easier choice if they could shorten the time I spent in university. For example, I finish college then decide I still needed university, I still need to go to university for 4 years, meaning the 2 years I spent in college were completely wasted. If the time spent in college could at least knock something off the time I'd need to spend in university the decision would be a bit easier. –  George Kendros Mar 11 '11 at 11:37

Hi Just a little bit of advice from my side. I do not think it true if you finish college(2 or 3 years) and you wanted to do University you have to do the same for 4 years. You get some credit for the college years. My son is doing his Electro-Mechanical Eng.Technology at Humber which is an Advanced co-op diploma (3 years) versus just an Diploma for 2 years. At the end he gets to be a Technologist.(after 2 years you get to be a technician). He is keen on getting a Bachelor degree and so has looked into Universities and for this particular program he has the option of different Universities, for one which he would just have to do (if I am right) 1 year and get his Bachelor of Technology. Others he has to write some cross-over exams (depending on marks, what he is going to get etc) and then he has to do 2 years and get his Degree. So in short you do not have to do 2 + 4 is what I am trying to say


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