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Is there any benefit in getting a CS degree in ones mid 40's career wise? Would the increased likelihood of getting past the HR filter be worth it?

It's something I might actually enjoy doing, and I wouldn't mind solidifying my fundamentals, but I would be reducing my earning capacity during the years it would take to complete the degree, and by the time I'm done, I'll have maybe 15 years left in my career.

(I currently have no college degree)

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Whatever you do, don't take on debt to do it. –  jmq Apr 15 '11 at 3:53
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Disregarding the career, there might even be some new stuff you would find fun to learn about. –  user1249 Apr 15 '11 at 5:50
    
I'm also interested in this topic. I'm pretty active in my community, so I don't have a whole lot of extra time. I don't want to waste my time getting a degree no-one cares about, and I have a lot of real world experience working on varied projects. I've had to go back and teach myself some basics to fill in my gaps. I wouldn't mind some core curricula to help focus those efforts--but I also don't want a degree that teaches me the same stuff I do for a living. That's the problem I've seen with most degrees aimed at working professionals. –  Berin Loritsch Apr 15 '11 at 12:38
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Is part-time study an option, so you can get a degree and work at the same time? If so, I'd look in to that, you can often do it in stages so even if you don't bother to finish the degree you gets some recognition. –  Steve Haigh Apr 15 '11 at 13:49
    
Just think of this question like this... "What is the benefit of getting an accounting degree in ones mid 40's career wise?". It's the same exact thing. I don't know why people think that CS is anything special. I can hack at accounting just as much as I can hack at CS. –  Paul Feb 21 '12 at 13:57
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8 Answers

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Strictly financially speaking, I'd be suprised if its the best investment for you. You've already missed out on over half of the supposed increased income potential from having a BS degree. And even if you got one, there's no guarantee of a better salary, or even a job, period. Yes, there are companies that require degrees, but there are just as many (more, I imagine) that couldnt care less when it comes to hiring someone with an existing track record.

I'd say if you have $50-100k you want to invest (which is basically what a degree is), look at other options. Perhaps start a side business, or buy a few rental properties. Basically, find additional revenue streams rather than putting all your eggs into the employment basket.

That being said, if you want to take classes because you just want to, there's nothing wrong with that.

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The day that my boss said I wasn't getting any more raises because I didn't have a degree was the day I decided to go back to school. I took classes in the evening, so it didn't affect my income at all.

Although I how have big school bills to show for it, I make about $40K per year more than I did when I was working for him.

I'm 48 years old.

Note: I got an IT degree, not a CS one.

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can you elaborate please.Was this full time from a reputed university? How long was the program? When was this?. –  Aditya P Apr 15 '11 at 4:46
    
I went to Phoenix University. I chose it because it is accredited, and you can go to school at night. My Bachelor's degree took about two years, and my Masters degree about a year and a half. I went to school one night a week for four hours, and did homework the rest of the week. I wrote papers, worked on team projects, and gave presentations. There is no registration process; instead, you sit in the same chair in the same room, and they rotate the teachers around instead of the students, when the classes change. –  Robert Harvey Apr 15 '11 at 5:42
    
Sounds good.I didn't know there were bachelor's degree of two years duration.I was under the impression the term bachelor's itself implies a 4 year program. –  Aditya P Apr 15 '11 at 6:16
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For the record, according to Phoenix University's site, they do not have a CS program. It's an information systems (IS) degree. I can teach that course. –  Berin Loritsch Apr 15 '11 at 17:26
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@Ramhound: Phoenix is a private university, accredited by the same accrediting body as many of the state schools. That makes it a real degree. Now it's fair to say that a degree from MIT is going to be worth more than a degree from Phoenix. But that's also true of a degree from a state school. And I'm quite sure that the Phoenix degree is worth more than a degree from a non-accredited school like ITT (what you would euphemistically call a "technical college"). –  Robert Harvey Apr 15 '11 at 17:41
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As far as real-world skills go, college degrees are worth considerably less than the ink it took to print them.

However, if you are looking to advance in a corporate career, the degree will get you past the first set of HR walls. Bear in mind that if you move into management, many companies now require that their managers have their MS before they can be promoted past a certain level so you are right back into school again.

If you work as a consultant that degree is right back to worthless again.

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I hear the comment in your first sentence a lot. The problem with that statement is that it implies that a degree has no value at all, which is simply not true. –  Robert Harvey Apr 15 '11 at 16:09
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Considering the speed at which both the world and this industry changes, the degree loses value by the day. –  Dave Wise Apr 15 '11 at 16:23
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Schools are meant to teach eternal principles, not ephemeral ones. A linked list will still be a linked list 50 years from now. At any rate, degrees are not really about skills training; you do get some of that, but mostly it's about developing a person's thinking, problem solving and leadership abilities. –  Robert Harvey Apr 15 '11 at 16:46
    
I would agree with your theory as that should be the goals of higher learning. However the reality is that American colleges gave up trying to do that 30 years ago. –  Dave Wise Apr 15 '11 at 17:11
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If all of the fresh graduates I had to deal with were from MIT, we would not be having this conversation :) –  Dave Wise Apr 15 '11 at 18:17
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Since the other answers have covered the financial aspect of a computer science degree, I'll just mention that you might be exposed to new programming concepts and gain some experience in aspects of software development that you might not otherwise.

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Find a job that values you and education. This job should provide you with a tuition reimbursement benefit. It should also be near a university that offers some sort of flexible degree. Many state schools will. Your job should offer flexible hours so that you can leave for 3 hours in the middle of the day and it's not a problem as long as you make your minimum weekly hours, attend meetings, and get your work done. Work your class schedule and job around each other. Get good enough grades to get your tuition reimbursed each semester. Do this at a rate of 2 (or 3 if you really want to work your tail off) classes a semester until you have a degree, free.

It's worth it to have your mind stretched, I think, especially if you can do it free.

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A college degree from an accredited college always proves beneficial when looking for jobs. The truth is employers give preference to people with college degrees and more so if the job you're applying for requires specialized technical skills. While I understand the thought of going back to college when you're in your forties might be a little unnerving, but it doesn't have to be. Luckily, colleges today offer varied online degree programs which provide the with flexibility and the added advantage of being able to study while working. So I'd suggest you look into a program best suited for you and make a well informed decision which is likely to help further your career in the long run.

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There are a lot of variables at play as you need to take the following into account:

Are you going to go back to school full-time?
Odds are that going back to school full time is not going to be to your advantage both due to the financial loss as well as the fact that college culture is no necessarily something that is best enjoyed once you are older.

Do you have the time to invest in night school programs?
If you don't go back to school full time then the next best thing is night school, or an online degree from a reputable school. The catch is that it generally does take you longer to finish a night school program (figure six years unless you are taking classes during the summer) which means that you are going to be giving up the time in the evenings and on the weekends. This can be tough for a number of reasons and might actually prove to be a greater investment than just monetary concerns.

Who is going to pay for the program?
This needs to be mentioned for obvious reasons because the chances are pretty good that while you might make back money you invest in the degree over the remainder of your career, it is questionable if you will come out significantly ahead by by the time you retire. That said though, if you work for a larger company with education benefits then they might pay for the degree in which case your only investment is the time as opposed the money.

Do you really need a Bachelors degree?
If you are just looking to get past the HR filters, then an Associates degree might be enough in and of itself. No guarantees here though and most Associates degree programs tend to focus more on the applied programming skills as opposed to theory which is what you might be a bit lacking unless you studied on your own.

Do you really want to get a degree in general?
If you don't want to get a degree, then don't get one. Odds are that you have enough experience at this point that not having a degree isn't as big of a hindrance as you might think and while some some large companies might not be interested in you, at this point getting the degree might not even help. There is something to think about though, most companies don't really care as much as they let on in regards to what you have the degree in and if you are thinking about taking courses for personal development then you might want to just think about doing that instead.

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It is hard to answer whether or not there would be value to each and every person to get their degree. I spent the first major part of my career thinking I did not need to go to school. But now I have started back a year and a half ago. I am a huge advocate in getting the degree. I have been doing hardware/infrastructure support for nearly 13 years, and chose to get my Bachelor's in CS.

There are two points that I wanted to touch upon about value behind a degree (outside the angle of HR interviews)

  1. Intangible Skills: These are the skills that make you a valuable asset to an employer, that are impossible to measure or document. Skills learned through working through problems and projects, and meeting deadlines (whether in class or in the real world). Learning from your own experiences in school can translate to be invaluable when resolving major technological issues in a professional environment. I have found a lot of my perspective on problem solving has been learned 'accidentally' in my Gen Ed classes. I personally find that all of my classes have added value, assisting me in looking at issues and problems from different perspectives. If anything, working with non-IT people in my Gen Ed classes, have helped me gain a different perspective on clients.
  2. Base Technical Skills As stated, technology changes rapidly, so it is very hard to gain a degree with the most recent technologies is impossible. But, the truth is, there is hardly any technology being created that is not an offshoot or spin off of another. If a degree program offers a good base of technological concepts, you may find yourself learning not just how to make stuff work, but how and why it works. I have encountered far too many professionals in my career that just focus on learning to make things work, without understanding why. I have found in my studies (tech school over 8 years ago and current University) that the most important technology I have learned is the base highly technical topics, that have assisted in transitions to new technologies. As an example, a OS class where you tear apart the structure of the software, and understand topics such as how the OS interacts with hardware and 3rd party software would be helpful dealing with work in nearly any OS. Yes, on the surface and the APIs of the OSs are very different, the basics of how they interact with the machine are the same.

Maybe I am less bitter about Education, because I spent 9 years spinning my wheels in what was a dead end job, thinking that that was where I was going to spend the rest of my life. I decided to take a chance on a fairly large corporation, and was instructed during my interview that my skill set was perfect, and that they wanted to hire me. Through positive reinforcement, they kicked me in the butt to get back into school, and are now paying 75% of tuition. As I said, it is hard to put a worth on it, and say if its worth it for you or not. It all depends on what you are looking to gain from it.

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