Take the 2-minute tour ×
Programmers Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professional programmers interested in conceptual questions about software development. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I have a BSc in Geology. Once I was half-way through my bachelors only, I found where my real talents are. Will my basic degree be a problem for me to progress in the Software field (I feel lot of leading companies are considering the basic degree)? Also what would you recommend to put my self in an equally competent position against a person with a strong BSc in computer science.

Thanks in advance.

share|improve this question
1  
It wasn't uncommon to see someone with a science or even a history degree get into programming. It's only more recently that there's been a shift to so-called professionnalisation. –  James Poulson Aug 8 '11 at 8:10
1  
You can always start your own software company if that's what it takes. –  Joe Internet Aug 8 '11 at 10:17
5  
...you have to determine that you're not going to let your future or career satisfaction rest in somebody else's hands. If they won't invite you to their party, throw your own. –  Joe Internet Aug 8 '11 at 11:06
3  
Your Geology degree would be very helpful in scientific seismology programming in the oil and gas industry. I don't know if that's where your interests lie, but there are places where your degree and knowledge would be an asset. –  Gilbert Le Blanc Aug 8 '11 at 12:46
1  
As far as I know, employers tend to value experience (even hobbyist experience, if you happen to have some portfolio etc.) over diploma. Personally I graduated in politics; so did a friend of mine who works as a developer as well. –  Konrad Morawski Aug 8 '11 at 14:30
show 9 more comments

12 Answers

up vote 18 down vote accepted

Any of the hard sciences will be fairly even with CS as far as mathematical requirements go, just in different directions. It might help to seek out jobs in Geographic Information Systems, Embedded Systems in the Oil or Mining industries or Remote Sensing applications before transitioning to something more "pure" as far as software development goes. I saw an old posting for a job in the Cayman Islands yesterday that required ArcGIS knowledge to compete so it becomes a question of scope. In some positions, the Geology degree will be an asset like the ones I mentioned, also things like building a Physics engine or Tectonic Simulation.

In other areas such as perhaps Algorithm Analysis it might hurt but honestly it shouldn't matter that much and it definitely won't after a few years in the field. My dad has been a Systems Administrator and Programmer for 25 years on and off and he has an Applied Physics degree. The only reasons he's ever had issues with jobs were letting his knowledge of current technology slip or personal reasons that are his own. So, having the Geology degree might well give you an edge rather than a deficiency. There's even a field called "Geoinformatics" that combines the two on an even basis.

share|improve this answer
1  
+1 for "hard sciences" <-> geology connection –  Josh Aug 8 '11 at 12:39
add comment

Your degree just gets you your first job. From then on, for decades, employment decisions are based on what you've been doing SINCE you got out of college. So work hard to win the first one; talk to your professors and friends and knock on doors. Once you're in the business, the type of degree won't matter that much. What you can do matters; what you have done matters, what you know matters; paper certificates don't count.

share|improve this answer
add comment

If you don't have a degree in computer science (and even if you do), it's very helpful to be able to point to software projects that you've worked on and preferably completed. If a company is hiring a programmer, and you can provide convincing evidence that you can program, then it doesn't much matter what your degree says.

Edit: Sometimes you see job ads that require a degree in computer science or a related field, and that's one spot where the words on your diploma could matter. More often, though, you see something like "BS in computer science or equivalent experience." In that case, it'll help to refer to your completed projects on your resume and in your cover letter.

share|improve this answer
    
If only it was like this everywhere. There are some places where people still cling on to titles and other forms of "prestige". –  James Poulson Aug 8 '11 at 8:04
    
I don't have a degree, but that never stopped me from applying for (and getting offered) jobs that listed a CS degree requirement. The only time it was ever a problem was when I applied for a position at a research institute where the three other people on the team had Ph.D.s, and I can kind of understand that. –  TMN Aug 8 '11 at 13:37
add comment

Some of the best engineers I know do not even have a degree of any kind. One is an architect at a big company in the Bay Area. My degree is in Anthropology and I've been an engineer at Ask.com, a Y-combinator company and now Rackspace. Two of my best coworkers have non-computer science degrees. Once has one in industrial engineering and the other has a biology degree. We interview CS degree graduates who often do very poorly. I don't know why it is this way. It must be because computer science is still a very young field, because you can learn a lot of it being self taught. Standford and MIT offer free courses in CS, and there are many famous books that get you most of the way.

All you have to do is do well at the interview. Nobody cares about education, maybe recruiters do, I certainly don't and none of my coworkers care. Getting the interview isn't that hard if you've done some open source work or did an internship writing code.

share|improve this answer
    
+1 for "Nobody cares about education", which I've found to be true –  CamelBlues Aug 19 '11 at 1:27
add comment

Maybe I'm in the minority, but the candidates that had CS degrees ended up being some of the worst programmers I've come across. That obviously doesn't mean everyone with a CS degree isn't good at programming, but it definitely isn't the panacea of qualifications.

The best programmers show a passion and understanding of programming in their resumes and can demonstrate it. Having a CS degree does not automatically do that. Join an open source project or write your own software-- have something to show hiring managers you can program.

If a company has a hiring qualification for only CS degrees, well, that company isn't trying to hire the best programmers.

share|improve this answer
add comment

I would like to share my own experience which is somewhat similar to you. I did BSc in Physics and just like you I realized that my real talent lies in Software development. Anyway I started coding for fun while carrying on working to complete my Physics degree. Afterwards I completed a course related to CS alongwith some other fellows who came right from pure CS fields.

My Physics background added a question in my job interview after the course like "Why did you change your career from Physics to CS?" and I simply answered "I figured out CS is where my true talent lies..." Interesting part is that I got a job that was paying double than my fellows' jobs. I know luck plays its role but, thinking rationally, I must say that it was because of fun programming I had been doing earlier on.

What I would suggest is that carry on with your current degree and start doing small programming exercises in your spare time. This is definitely going to pay you in the long run.

share|improve this answer
add comment

I have a degree in Economics, and I work as a C#/.Net programmer. I also do Python in my spare time. It's all worked out pretty good for me, so I don't think you should think that not having a Computer Science degree rules you out of anything.

If you got the skills, and can demonstrate them, someone will want you.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Look for a programming job in a company where your geology degree is relevant. The Oil industry immediately springs to mind, but, mining and some of the larger civil engineering projects would also be possibilities.

In these industries a hard science degree is generally preferred over a CS degree as an understanding of the problem domain is considered more important than the latest CS fad.

After a couple of years programming experience you should be able to apply for any programming job anywhere as long as there is some language/technology/platform in common.

share|improve this answer
add comment

I can tell you from a personal experience: absolutely not!
I attended Computer Science (Bachelor + Master) and I am currently working in a good Software House. To find a job was not so hard and I did not have to wait long before finding a good place.

A friend of mine shared with me the same flat at the university and he was studying philosopy. He got his Master Degree in Philosophy with a reasearch on Artificial Intellingence.
Now he is actually working at MIT in Boston! Therefore it does not matter your background, if you are skilled and good in software area it will not be a problem.

Unfortunately many HR people, receiving daily hundreds of CVs for a single job, tend to adopt strict criteria for selection, since they do not have time to scrutine all the dossiers.
But this is not always the case, if you have a chance to get an interview, then you can good present your motivation and knowledge (that is what companies search at most).

share|improve this answer
add comment

I had a CSCI prof who had a PHD in Chemistry, it wasn't until the end of his schooling that he started to love programming because he was using it during the Chemistry research of his PHD work. Then he worked in the programming field for years and eventually retired early as a professor teaching C++ and such, he is now the director of the engineering department.

In the end your degree matters very little compared with what you want to do and what you prove that you are capable of.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Do like this person and get a cert in programming.
http://stackoverflow.com/questions/698990/what-programming-jobs-would-be-best-for-a-mathematician

I think you've got a great chance if you pursue some programming jobs related to your geology degree.

Good luck.

share|improve this answer
add comment

It's a speed bump on a road you may never travel. There are some jobs you will never get. Now, that doesn't mean you can't land a great job, work on other projects or start your own company.

Are you able to learn how to program without it? Some people may never learn it on their own.

Do you have another degree? Some jobs just prefer a degree.

From a financial perspective, I don't think it is worth leaving a paying job to go back to school in hopes of furthering your career in the long-run. You need a serious salary bump that you can attribute to the CS Degree and not just time, experience and natural ability. Going into management is another story and you may be better of with an MBA.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.