Are (advanced) degrees worth it?
Despite holding a B.S and M.S. in Aero Engineering, I somehow convinced myself about four years ago that I needed some more formal education in C.S. So for the last four years I have been toiling my way through a Masters program in C.S. from University of Colorado Boulder’s CATAE Program. I am just finishing up a class this semester and have one more + a semester project to go. It is worse than pulling teeth to get myself to register each semester and try and knock this thing out, but I have too much time and money invested at this point to not finish it. Besides, on the off chance that I do decide I want a job that requiresa C.S.sheepskin someday, it may come in handy. At this point I doubt it. One M.S. was enough, two is just a waste of time.
While the quality of instruction from CU has mostly been very good from an academic standpoint, I think there is just a significant disconnect between what makes a good formal education for software and what you really need to know to practice software development. Don’t get me wrong, I think having a background in the fundamentals of engineering or science go a long way towards shaping the way youthink and good analytic skills that often result from that kind of education are crucial to being a good designer and coder. But there are lots of people that have those skills naturally without having the “right” educational background, and there are a lot of people with the “right” educational background that don’t have good analytic skills.
Bottom line is that as someone trying to stay on the bleeding edge of development technology and helping customers build competitive systems, I find the ratio of usable/practical information to time spent on academics is just way too low. I know without a shadow of a doubt that I could learn more that would make me better at what I do through self educating – reading trade books, articles, developing pet projects, etc.
I’d hire someone that interviews well with 4 years of development experience over someone with a 4 year degree in C.S. anyday.