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Why does a computer science degree matter to a professional programmer?
Do I need a degree in Computer Science to get a junior Programming job?

There are various kinds of professions like : doctors - various degrees are required for this and you become a doctor or a surgeon after you complete it. engineers - electrical engineer, civil engineer, electronics engineer and many more.

now when I see programmers working in companies, they have different degrees like a civil eng. degree, biotechnology degree, Mcom degree, mechanical eng degree.... and many more. It seems rather pointless that those people got those degrees but anyway but does your degree matters when you are a good programming. say somebody is good at C++ and is a civil engineer .... what about stackoverflow or any other companies, would you consider such people for an interview or you would strictly mention that computer science is a must for applying.

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marked as duplicate by Anna Lear Dec 2 '11 at 5:33

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7 Answers

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As a software developer and an employer of software developers, yes I would consider them.


Because they have experience and understanding of a field that can be utilised. Being able to write in C++ (or whatever) is only part of the problem, the telling the computer what to do part ... the harder part of the problem is understanding what you should be telling the computer to do ... the detailed domain knowledge.

If someone has both these skills then they are, for some jobs, better than having somone who is polerised in simply programming for programmings sake ... For other jobs, like very large teams doing complex high volume, high availablity work, then I would want a computer science person over a generalist.

Basically the right tool for the right job.

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thanks, reasonable and more appropriate answer from the standpoint of the recruiters and companies I guess –  munish Aug 5 '11 at 4:47
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A large proportion of professional programmers do not have CS degrees, they have maths, physics, engineering, biotech, chemistry etc degrees.
This proportion goes up when you are in some of the more specialized areas of programming - especially those dealing with more mathematically complex topics or when you are hiring people with graduate degrees. Ironically CS PhDs are almost completely disregarded in industry while Wall St will fight over programmers with maths/physics PhDs.

However there aren't many people with CS degrees working as physicists, chemists, engineers etc - so your degree does matter, but possibly not in the way you think.

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What you said about CS PhDs is mostly true (myself being one of the exceptions). This is because a lot of CS PhDs are not interested in producing deliverable products. They are doing research into new languages, methods and techniques that can then be used by practitioners. How much this is actually successful is another discussion. It is similar to how you won't find lawyers with a JD in a courtroom. –  KeithB Aug 5 '11 at 15:48
I don't think the comment about industry not wanting CS PhD is accurate. Certainly Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Google hire a ton of them. In the last two decades there has been some concern in universities because it was getting so hard to compete with industry to hire young faculty. @KeithB, in the US the JD is the garden variety law degree. Almost everyone you see arguing a case in a courtroom in the US has a JD. –  Charles E. Grant Dec 2 '11 at 6:01
@Charles - I think Martin's point is that besides the major players in the industry Microsoft and Apple on the operating system, Intel working on advancements in compiler enchancements, and other major players in other areas most work is done by experts in the field itself. Many of these experts Bill Gates for example do not even have a Computer Science degree. –  Ramhound Dec 2 '11 at 15:11
@Charles - there is a difference between outfits such as Microsoft Research or parts of Google and regular industry. Nobody in business says 'this is a really important bit of software' we better get a PhD instead of a CS grad - instead they look for years of experience. –  Martin Beckett Dec 2 '11 at 16:00
@Martin Beckett, the only documentation I can come up with on the spot is here: nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=4935&page=158. In 1991 40% of CS PhDs were employed by industry, 1-4 years after graduating. That doesn't sound like completely disregarded to me. I think you'd be surprised at the number of even relatively small businesses that run into problems that no existing algorithm/network stack/cryptography system will solve, and they end up hiring a CS Phd to work on it. (I don't have a Phd, by the way, but I've worked for a few). –  Charles E. Grant Dec 2 '11 at 17:08
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There are many people that are very good at programming/software development that do not have a degree in it. A big reason for this is that programming/software development is a big part of their education even though they didn't go for computer science. For example, almost all science degrees have a couple semesters of programming as a requirement. This is because they will need that ability in order to process the large amounts of data that they are expected to gather in their chosen paths. I would bet that most math majors that don't go to grad school end up as programmers. Basically, programming is the tool they use to apply the knowledge they have of other things. But, that doesn't mean there aren't many jobs that need someone with a broader understanding of software engineering practices.

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Alhough I am not an employer, I have interviewed candidates. I find it a good indication if they have a CS degree, but not more than that. I have met people with CS degrees who were bad programmers, and people without CS degrees who were good programmers. I do, however, note that most good programmers have a degree in one of the exact sciences.

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In the book, The Microsoft Way, it states that Bill Gates liked to hire people with degrees in the hard sciences because they are great at solving problems.

Programming is all about solving problems. It is not about a certain technology.

Sure, it is necessary to be able to program, but if you can't solve a problem--then you're in trouble.

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If being a programmer only involved writing code after being spoon-fed specs, having a well-rounded education would be pointless. Learn how to write formally, consume research, make a speech/presentation, interact with others, prepare for a debate, do research. I would only have the utmost respect for anyone who can learn all of this without getting a college degree, but I don't recommend squandering the opportunity.

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How do I know? I am one of those of people. I have a degree in Aerospace Engineering. I took some classes in Computer Science but am mostly a self taught programmer. I have yet to be interviewed for a programming position which I did not receive an informal offer for within 4 hours of ending the interview.

Why? Programming is more than just coding. Sure coding is a fundamental part but also at the core of programming is being able to juggle large amounts of information, understand problem domains and solve problems. At most companies you simply need to prove you are capable of solving programming problems. Companies want programmers who are more than simply code monkeys. When you hire people with diverse backgrounds who are smart and technically proficient you will get a better workforce and a stronger product.

Disclaimer This is not necessarily applicable to all jobs. Google, Microsoft, Oracle, etc... are looking for CS grads. Primarily because the product domain is computer science. If you want to work for a software giant you're far better of getting a computer science degree. In many other cases, domain knowledge is half the battle.

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+1 from me for the facts/realaity that exist today "This is not necessarily applicable to all jobs...." –  munish Aug 6 '11 at 4:48
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