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Ask Slashdot: Best Alternative To the Canonical Computer Science Degree?

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the this-is-taking-forever dept.

Businesses 347

connorblack writes "I want to be a web developer, and everyday I ask myself the same question: why am I wasting my time getting a computer science degree? I feel like I'm trapped- most of the courses I spend all my time on are far removed from the skills I need to succeed as a web developer. But on the other hand, I can't imagine another degree that would allow me to stay in a programming mindset. The fact is that web development has taken huge bounds in the last few years, and sadly most universities haven't caught up. Computer science is a field that overlaps with web development, but getting a computer science degree to become a web developer is like getting a zoology degree to become a veterinarian. Close, but no cigar. So here's the deal: I'm in my second year of a computer science degree, and the thought of wasting two more years, getting left in the dust, and becoming irrelevant has me horrified. I want to start my web development career now. Or at least as soon as possible. I can drop out and devote 6 months to teaching myself, but I want something more structured. Something that has the benefits of a classroom and an authority figure, but which teaches me exactly what I need to know to do what I want to do. Any suggestions?"

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Canonical? (5, Funny)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about 2 years ago | (#42860585)

Try the Mint or Arch computer science degree. Much better than the Canonical one.

Work (3, Informative)

schneidafunk (795759) | about 2 years ago | (#42860603)

Make your own website, get a job working for a firm as an intern. I went to school for computer science and learned a hell of a lot more 'in the field'.

Web development will always be far ahead of class (5, Insightful)

wytcld (179112) | about 2 years ago | (#42860861)

The valuable web developers are those who are inventing what's next — or riding that wave as others are inventing it — creating the trend or solidifying it. Then there are all the people a few years behind using standard content management systems and standard design sensibilities.

So you've either got to get yourself to someplace where the trends are alive, and get to the front of that. Or if your aspirations are more modest and you just want to follow a few years behind the vanguard, learn some other business entirely while studing one of the content management systems and taking a few design courses, or at least hanging out in museums to absorb some design sensibility. Anyone can use a CMS to create a good-enough site. It's knowing some other business that will allow you to communicate with people in that business, to build sites for them. It's not web skills that are in shortage. It's people with decent web skills who can understand the needs and vocabularies of particular niches.

Unless you're brilliant enough to invent something better than the current standard CMS platforms, for some particular niche. But it's still knowing the niche that's important. If it's a brand-new niche, all the better. No course can teach you to create that, though. If you need to follow authority, get a degree in something totally remote from computers. Then code up the web advances that particular area needs, using standard tools that, frankly in themselves don't require much in the way of education or intelligence.

Re:Work (4, Insightful)

fermion (181285) | about 2 years ago | (#42861059)

Absolutely. Start making websites. If you can't find a job, then find a non-profit and volunteer. This is what I did. I was other there coding for production sites when I was 17. It was simple stuff, but it got me in the games. My degree is in science, so most of the computer stuff I learned I learned in high school, with just a few college courses. By the way, I wish I had more computer science courses because it would have taught me the jargon of computer development. Such shorthand is used quite a bit in communications for large projects, and my lack of it is an impediment.

Let me add one more thing, which you college professors may have already told you. College is not there to prepare you for your first job, but for your last job. To put it more starkly, a college graduate may be more likely to have a well paying job into retirement than someone without. This is because you are trained to learn and so can a number of different jobs.

Here is an example. In the late 70's if you have an a math degree and a knowledge fo Frotran and the IMSL library, you could get a high paying job immediately. That was because Fortran was really hard to write and debug(error messages had little to do with the actual error). However, 15 years later if you still expected to make money writing Fortran, you were not so lucky. Flash forward to 2000 and much of the code we need to run the world had already been written, and there was not a lot of money to be made just reimplementing old code. If one is not versatile, one did not have a job.

Today with the web and major sharing of code, there is not an opportunity to rewrite a product from scratch as there was 20 years ago. We do not have 10 different word processors. Most of the web browsers run on one of four engines. Very little web development is done hand coding HTML like I did many years ago. Five years ago there was no App market and coding for tiny screens did not exists. Just imagine what they world is going to be like when you are mid carrer?

So apply the skills you have now. Many of us made a pretty penny in college not by waiting tables or working at a shop. but doing what we loved. The advantage was that we learned a skill and got paid to do it. However remember it is easy for a young person to get a job, not so easy for an older person with responsibilities.

If you don't see the purpose of your coursework (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42860621)

You shouldn't be taking them b/c you're probably not getting anything out of them, except for paper credentials. That's why business schools usually insist that their MBA students have a couple years experience in the "real world".

More like... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42860625)

More like going to veterinary school to work at a pet food store...

Re:More like... (5, Insightful)

Dr. Tom (23206) | about 2 years ago | (#42860665)


if you drop out because you think a good education is standing in the way of you making money, then I'd like to tell you, yes, I'd like fries with that

Re:More like... (2, Funny)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 2 years ago | (#42861131)


A million fake mod points to you sir.

Re:More like... (5, Insightful)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 2 years ago | (#42861289)

I think web development has a bit of a bad rap these days in terms of complexity. Things have moved on a lot from the 90s when anyone could hack together a bit of HTML and your biggest worry was making it work in internet exploder.

Nowadays a web dev needs a firm grasp on SQL databases and what you can and can't do on them, ever more complex stylesheets, a scripting language like PHP, Javascript plus interpretations like JQuery or AJAX, HTML, XML, the graphics packages used to produce the look of the websites, plus a whole host of subsidiary technologies including networks and Linux if you want to set up your own server as well as email, flash development and actionscripting, and on and on. And things are only going to get more involved now that we're getting into decentralised networks via WebRTC and mobile integration. And you do need artistic chops.

Yes the depth mightn't be as focused as C or whatever, but the breadth is impressive and growing more so. If a C++ dev was sat down and told to make a fully dynamic website from scratch, aestheticalIy pleasing and with all the bells and whistles, they might be surprised at how much is happening behind the scenes. I agree with the subby that traditional schools aren't going to cut it anymore, you do not need high end maths for web development, maybe something vocational to get a good grounding and understanding of the concepts before just doing it yourself.

Re:More like... (4, Insightful)

bsDaemon (87307) | about 2 years ago | (#42860747)

Or, to bring out a car analogy, it's like studying automotive and mechanical engineering, but then rather than applying to work at BMW or Porsche, you then go and sign up to work at Jiffy Lube. But some day, you might get to be assistant manager!

Pick an Emphasis On or Interdisciplinary Degree (5, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | about 2 years ago | (#42860635)

I think a lot of colleges offer degrees where you do "Computer Science with an Emphasis on X" but looking at one of my alma maters I see that it's moved to a kind of "flavor of the month" thing (game environments?). This usually leaves room for you to pick other courses. Another thing is that sometimes they offer interdisciplinary courses but you really have to be worth your salt to cut it in these areas (I guess they're close to a double major) so for example I can pull up MIT's page and see "Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Molecular Biology".

Honestly if I could go back I would seriously consider dumping the "Emphasis on Artificial Intelligence" and switch from Computer Science to Computer Engineering. However, I also heard that your whole schedule is often picked for you in that degree so I never would have been able to take the two semesters of music theory or extra calc and physics courses ... so you know, there's something to be said about breadth and figuring out what you want to do.

Now to directly address your questions:

I want to be a web developer, and everyday I ask myself the same question: why am I wasting my time getting a computer science degree?

Because someday when your server is hacked and you're doing a post-morten on a Linux machine you'll be glad your professor beat it into your head how that operating system works? Because JavaScript is really easy to write but for some reason it's killing mobile batteries when people visit your site and you need to understand what O(n^3) means on the client side? Because at the end of the day it's just math and logic that you're coding and that's the basis for a computer science degree? Because if you can't communicate clearly, your coding skills won't mean shit in a team environment? Etc.

I want to start my web development career now. Or at least as soon as possible. I can drop out and devote 6 months to teaching myself, but I want something more structured. Something that has the benefits of a classroom and an authority figure, but which teaches me exactly what I need to know to do what I want to do. Any suggestions?

This is kind of like a Catch-22, yeah? You don't want to stagnate yet you want to be taught in a form that naturally stagnates? Dude, the libraries like node.js and backbone.js are moving too fast to solidify into a course. You just got to suck it up and absorb an autodidactic methodology from college and move forward with that, ready for anything that gets thrown at you.

Also, not to be a dick but if you're bursting at the seams with talent, get on github, rip open an account on Heroku or buy a cheap VPS for $50/year and show us what's up. We're waiting to be blinded by your brilliance :-) That can all go on your resume, you know.

Re:Pick an Emphasis On or Interdisciplinary Degree (4, Insightful)

martok (7123) | about 2 years ago | (#42860805)

Agree with parent here. I would add that as you are finished your first two years, you have jumped through the hoops which cause most people to drop. First year maths, stats etc. In years 3 and 4, things get much more interesting. Stick it out and you'll be a better programmer as a result. Yes, web developer == programmer.

Re:Pick an Emphasis On or Interdisciplinary Degree (3, Insightful)

talexb (223672) | about 2 years ago | (#42860931)


Find a college in your area that offers something more practical, if what you're going to be doing is web development.

Then again, if you are interested in dealing with more complex issues such as schema design, business intelligence, user experience, and operational issues like proxying, high availability, replication, then staying in computer science might be a better call.

Re:Pick an Emphasis On or Interdisciplinary Degree (3, Insightful)

Wovel (964431) | about 2 years ago | (#42861079)

You hit the nail on the head. If he wants training to use current tools and concepts he needs a trade school. The university program is design to provide the theoretical framework you need to do more advanced work in the field. If the OP sees himself only being a web programmer than maybe the trade school route is the way to go. However, technology and tools change, a solid base in theory will be more valuable in 10 years than the current FOTM in web development.

Re:Pick an Emphasis On or Interdisciplinary Degree (1)

tylikcat (1578365) | about 2 years ago | (#42861117)

I know people who've gotten good stuff out of informatics. Though I've also seen a lot of really lightweight informatics courses - I'd take a few electives over there, asking around a lot about class and instructor quality first. And that only if your school has a good program.

(I turned down an informatics fellowship because I'd already spent years in industry and I wanted biology that really went squish instead of simulations and a goddamned database to follow me around for the rest of my days. And now I work on sea slugs - be careful what you wish for!)

Re:Pick an Emphasis On or Interdisciplinary Degree (3, Insightful)

AwesomeMcgee (2437070) | about 2 years ago | (#42861169)

I am so torn on this issue. We all know every fresh CS grad that walks into a junior role on our team knows basically nothing and needs significant mentoring to really have any useful skills. Yet there are so many important things they teach in the schools around data structures, computational analysis, and how to generally apply formal math to programming to achieve correctness as well as efficiency.

I just don't understand it I guess, how does one go from studying such important concepts to being completely incapable of applying them in the real world. I think the study of them is ever important so he should complete his CS degree, but he's not wrong in that he will still be useless when he walks out of the door with his diploma in hand and will need to be trained up from scratch all over again in the first 2 years in the real world.

My suggestion though: Finish your degree and create a portfolio of random crap and do everything you can to get recruited by MS/Apple/Google as you will get guaranteed training in proper skills at any of them (yes even MS, I did a 1 year contract stent there and half the people I worked with had CS Phds and were smart as can be, I learned a lot from that gig, there's plenty of notables who worked up through MS as well even if you don't like their products)

Yes, don't go to university to learn a trade (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42860645)

Go to a trade school.

Your analogy should be, it's like getting a degree on the latin naming scheme of deep sea creatures to become a veteranian. It's pointless, not because they haven't caught up, but because you don't understand the purpose of CS.

Re:Yes, don't go to university to learn a trade (2)

I Mean, What (2778851) | about 2 years ago | (#42861185)

Went to a trade school for graphic design, taught myself programming. I have a BA, not a CS, but I spent nearly all my free time working in code and banging my head against the wall over the kinds of problems that are simple to me now, and worked as a programmer while still in school for my BA. I worked for really cheap, but experience got me a better job, where I worked with better programmers and in turn learned to be a better programmer. And that's how everyone I know got into programming. I don't know anyone who knew they wanted to be a programmer before they went to school and decided a CS degree would help them. You have to have a talent and enjoyment for problem solving, and a need that programming can solve. That's about it. Read books, teach yourself, and learn from others. Rinse, repeat. (Oh yeah, almost forgot. A programmer's education is never over. You will constantly teach yourself new tricks or become a manager.)

You want an art education (4, Interesting)

mozumder (178398) | about 2 years ago | (#42860653)

Web development can be found in the art & interactive design programs, not computer science program.

Design or programming? (2)

Alwin Henseler (640539) | about 2 years ago | (#42861121)

"Web development" is a rather vague job description. If it's about graphics design, web page layout, UI look & feel etc, then yes it's more "art". Tacking a CS degree onto that seems waste of time.

If it's about programming PHP, JavaScript (or whatever the popular web programming language is this month), database backends etc, then a CS degree doesn't seem out of place. But perhaps original poster could do better by taking targeted courses in the direction / languages he wants to add to his skill set.

Re:You want an art education (4, Funny)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#42861143)

Web development can be found in the art & interactive design programs, not computer science program.

Not just "web development", but "women" also.

Not trying to make a value judgement or insinuate anything, that's just the facts.

A degree is worth about 30-50% of your paycheck (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42860683)

*Degree == Paper(employers want to know you can stick it out)
*Comp Sci teaches you fundamentals
*The first two years usually don't focus too finely on the specific area of the degree(you'll learn the more pertinent info towards the end)

Stay in school (3, Insightful)

jones_supa (887896) | about 2 years ago | (#42860699)

If you are doing fine in school (passing courses etc.) why not just complete it? Two years will go really fast and a degree is always a nice addition to your experience. At the same time you can prepare your web development career.

Wrong (5, Insightful)

YodasEvilTwin (2014446) | about 2 years ago | (#42860711)

Technologies and tools are easy to pick up. You do not need to be taught them in a formal setting. What you do need is knowledge of core software engineering and computer science basics and principles so that you can create quality shit what whatever tools or technologies you end up using. Algorithms and data structures, software architecture, optimization, concurrency, etc. are generally much easier to learn and learn well in a formal setting and will set you up to be a good developer, not another interchangeable hack that never makes anything worthwhile.

Re:Wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42860837)

This is true. Learning the fundamentals and the core understanding allows you to truly understand what you are doing. I would couple that with good mentoring. Do not expect to go out and "be a developer". Find an entry job with a good group that can impart wisdom from their experience, if you can. In experienced developers or developers out of their league is where sloppy code comes from.

Re:Wrong (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42860979)

I've been a web developer for something like 14 years now. You have to be able to teach yourself new things if you want to stay up to date because there's always something new. You might as well just get used to that right off the bat. This comment is absolutely correct though. The more I learned about core programming concepts, design patterns, architecture, etc. the better and more capable I was for every future project. You definitely don't need to stay in school to learn those things, but at least you're on track to.

Re:Wrong (5, Informative)

dmiller1984 (705720) | about 2 years ago | (#42861019)

I can't agree with this any more. I had some similar thoughts when I was getting my CS degree, but I now consider the things I learned in college invaluable. Most online tutorials don't teach you about reliability and efficiency and it's good to have the theory you learned in college to back up the programming you'll do as a web developer.

Re:Wrong (1)

homb (82455) | about 2 years ago | (#42861033)

I agree that "technologies and tools are easy to pick up". With one caveat: the lack of classes on system architecture (not just CPU architecture) but complete system architecture and design is unacceptable in today's age.
Yes it's good to learn about CPU pipelining (if taught), but then one also needs to learn about macro stuff such as interactions between system components (DBs, servers, memory stacks, NAS, etc...).
After all, even ridiculous economics is taught at micro and macro level (I did major in econ and math)

Re:Wrong (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42861071)

Well said. I normally don't comment but man is this guy in for a life of doing things the wrong way if he thinks Computer Science is a waste of time.

Re:Wrong (1)

14erCleaner (745600) | about 2 years ago | (#42861119)

OTOH, some courses in industrial design might be useful. Personally, I struggle with looking things look nice, even when the internal algorithms are easy enough (for my skill set, anyway).

Get another Engineering Degree (4, Informative)

coastrman (1669092) | about 2 years ago | (#42860729)

As a Professor at a top ranked Engineering University, I thought I could give you a little bit of perspective. If you find CS not challenging enough or not on target enough, you might want to get a degree in another engineering discipline like Electrical Engineering or Mechanical Engineering. Countless superb programmers come from another engineering discipline such as Electrical Engineering, Mechanical, Aerospace, etc. The reasoning for this is that if you find that you don't like programming 60 hours a week, you will have in demand skills in another sub-field to fall back on. Also, typically with majors such as Electrical Engineering, you can take courses that cross over into CS liberally, but also understand how computers work down to the Silicon. So my advice is stick it out and finish a degree as that is something that will never go away.

Re:Get another Engineering Degree (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 2 years ago | (#42861043)

Countless superb programmers come from another engineering discipline such as Electrical Engineering, Mechanical, Aerospace, etc

As do countless shitty ones, because they don't teach programming much or at all.

We once hired an electrical engineer, and it didn't take very long to discover it was a really bad choice. He'd never written any code, and knew nothing about it -- he kind of expected we were going to teach him to write code. I've also known loads of engineers who are self taught coders, and who absolutely rocked.

But a good deal of engineering schools don't produce people who are also good programmers unless it was incidental. (Sadly, I've known people with Master's degrees in CS who couldn't either because what they essentially learned was theoretical mathematics and enough code to write the stuff they needed but not much else -- so I'm not singling out engineers.)

Re:Get another Engineering Degree (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42861191)

Countless superb programmers come from another engineering discipline...

Sure, if you want code written in FORTRAN, hire an engineering programmer. For web design...well... Let's just say that FORTRAN isn't the way to go.

Get the CS degree (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42860731)

Anything less and you're pidgin holing yourself to a limited arena.

Re:Get the CS degree (1)

AwesomeMcgee (2437070) | about 2 years ago | (#42861239)

A CS degree does pigeon hole you, and you spelled pigeon wrong. A mechanical or aerospace engineer can learn to program and get a job programming, a CS degree will however not get you working on designing engines or aeronautical devices.

Don't drop out. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42860741)

You'll really be shooting yourself in the foot if you don't get yourself a BA or BS degree. Try to get a part time job doing web development or look for internships with web developers.

do not waste your time with degree (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42860743)

We don't need noobs like you in the business. If you can't understand the relation between your future work and computer science (and you proved you can't) than don't waste your time with a degree... "teaches me exactly what I need to know "- How old are you? 16?

Re:do not waste your time with degree (1)

swilde23 (874551) | about 2 years ago | (#42860901)

Mod parent up.

I expanded your comment because I read the title and thought you were another one of those "i don't need no skool" morans!

But, that wasn't the case. This is exactly the answer people need.

Simple (5, Insightful)

angryfirelord (1082111) | about 2 years ago | (#42860749)

You don't go to college to learn a trade. You go to college to learn the fundamentals and become a well-rounded individual. There's certainly an argument that college is overpriced, but it will certainly help you in the long run. As someone once said, an employer may not care that you have a degree, but they will care if you don't have one.

Plus, the web development field is rather saturated as everyone else thinks they can make web pages. If you want to be a freelancer, you'd better be a good salesman (or woman) too.

?sadly most universities haven't caught up? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42860751)

Why did you enroll in a program that didn't claim to address your objectives?
Go to a Community College they have exactly what you want.

You're a retarded web monkey (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42860753)

Translation : I'm a retarded web monkey "programmer" (actually just a glorified scripter) and am too dumb to see the benefits of learning CS since it's hard and stuff. Halp me!

Not entirely (1, Insightful)

Murdoch5 (1563847) | about 2 years ago | (#42860761)

Well I don't have a solution but I can tell you that you should stop your computer science degree asap. Computer Science doesn't really teach anything, you get a little bit of a lot of subjects with no structure, use or even good information. All the really bad programmers I know took Computer Science in school and I want to strangle them 3/4 of the time. They don't understand good code structure, they have no concept of a useful comment and they think managed languages run the world. If you want to learn good web programming do it on your own, buy a domain and just start coding a web page, you learn more through actually doing it then you ever will by hearing about it.

Re:Not entirely (1)

jevvim (826181) | about 2 years ago | (#42860947)

I agree with this, but mostly because not all Computer Science programs are the same. I've interviewed a lot of people for development jobs (embedded systems and device drivers), and have been appalled by what passes as a Computer Science education from some schools. If anyone is in a program that makes them question it's value, then you might want to transfer to a school with a better Computer Science program!

Also, take advantage of internship and cooperative education opportunities while you're getting your degree. Putting your skills to use as you learn can help you refine your skills while you finish your degree.

Re:Not entirely (1)

Murdoch5 (1563847) | about 2 years ago | (#42861175)

embedded systems and device drivers

Your right! If you call yourself a "Computer Scientist" then you should have no issue sitting down and programming me a simple RTOS so a micro controller that supports standard ANSI C. After that, my second question would be, write a good multiplatform ( Windows + Linux ) supervisor for it. Then the final stage of the pre-interview test, Make it work dynamically on the web with full database support such as MySQL. If you can perform those tasks then I'll give you a sit down interview for a job, if you can't then either you've been tricked into thinking you have a Computer Science degree or you don't deserve the title of a Computer Scientist.

The number of friends I have in Computer Science who would get defensive against me for saying that is sad, face it you can program or you can't and if you can't put your money where you degree is then face it you don't belong. After all most embedded engineers ( what I'm ) get this kind of interview and have almost no problem completing the work.

CS - not CIS (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42861073)

I think you got confused with the X-IS degrees out there (MIS, CIS etc). Computer Science is a S-C-I-E-N-C-E covering the nuts and bolts of how computing works both in abstract and MULTIPLE-applied environments. It is HARD CORE SCIENCE. You don't learn one language. You learn lots. You don't learn one OS. You learn many. And how all of these are built.

The "I love a managed language" people you are referring to, are the one's taking a "Java class". Some colleges mix and match CS with CIS and don't differentiate.

CS courses are things like: Finite State Automata, Algorithms and Data Structures, Relatational-Database Engine design, Compiler design and optimization, Operating systems design, Discrete Math, Graphics Architecture and Mathematical Transformations, OOD/OOP, Structured Programming, Software Engineering. (Notice there is no "language" course listed).

Anyway. My two cents.

I call troll (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42860767)

Sounds to me like community college is the route for you.

Computer science is truly the understanding (and development) of the underpinnings of computers - algorithms, data structures, etc. Web development is pretty much the USE of what CS has conceived - asynchronous requests, threading, programming languages, etc. If you truly don't care to understand the why and how of what you are using, and only want to know how to use the web language and library de jour, then I agree with you that a CS degree is not for you.

[quote] I'm in my second year of a computer science degree, and the thought of wasting two more years, getting left in the dust, and becoming irrelevant has me horrified. [/quote]

What a horrifyingly broad and offensive statement. A CS degree will not make one irrelevant and left in the dust. Its what allows us to further our trade. Consider what would happen if an engineer didn't want to learn any physics and mathematics but simply wanted to get out there and build stuff .. that's a truly horrifying thought. But that's what you are insinuating .. that the study of some physics and math would cause these engineers to be left behind ...

Re:I call troll (1)

hawguy (1600213) | about 2 years ago | (#42860991)

Sounds to me like community college is the route for you.

Computer science is truly the understanding (and development) of the underpinnings of computers - algorithms, data structures, etc. Web development is pretty much the USE of what CS has conceived - asynchronous requests, threading, programming languages, etc. If you truly don't care to understand the why and how of what you are using, and only want to know how to use the web language and library de jour, then I agree with you that a CS degree is not for you.

Agreed, if all you want to do is be a web developer, a CS degree is not going to get you there any faster than if you did self-study or got an associates degree in programming from a community college. If you see your CS classes as a waste of time and not getting you closer to your goals, then you're in the wrong major.

CS is not meant to prepare you to be a web developer or business application developer any more than mechanical or structural engineering prepares you to be a carpenter. If you want to be a carpenter, don't get an engineering degree. If you just want to be a programmer (and there's nothing wrong with that - it can be a lucrative career), don't get a CS degree.

if you want to be a janitor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42860769)

just quit architecture school and get a job as a janitor

Forget about it (2)

CptPicard (680154) | about 2 years ago | (#42860777)

I've got a very classical kind of algorithmics and math-heavy CS degree and work as a web-based business application developer. My academic education has nothing to do with what I do daily, except perhaps has served as some kind of a demonstration that I am capable of critical thought, which is quite important in my every day job, making sure that customers' systems don't totally screw up their businesses.

Get the degree (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42860779)

I would complete the degree as long as it don't put you into crippling debt. While getting your degree you can dedicate yourself to teaching yourself the skills and technologies that you aren't learning in the class room. Maybe you could also build your own app, side business, or contribute to open source. Two years might seem like a lot at your age, but it's a blink.

Get an internship. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42860785)

A computer science degree is not about teaching you how to do software development. This is just as true for C as it is for the web. If you want real world experience, look into getting an internship. Your college or university should have programs in place to help you get one.

If you want a good job, and you want to keep that job, do whatever minimum amount of work is necessary to get your degree. You are unlikely to regret it down the road when not having a degree could keep you from even be considered for a job opportunity. If that doesn't fit in with your plans, check out vocational schools.

Hang in there (4, Insightful)

jamessnell (857336) | about 2 years ago | (#42860815)

I have CS degree and develop web apps. I've worked on web apps since before starting university too, so it's something I do because I enjoy it. I suggest you stick it out. I was fairly jaded many times in the content of my CS program, as I expected a lot more. Since graduating a few years ago, I'm realizing that there was more value than I thought in those courses. Often it wasn't entirely captured in the technical details of the course, but rather the process of getting stuff done in that field. Web apps are continuing to gain traction and unless you want to work on "brosure" websites, you'll probably end up using fairly extensive CS concepts to make your web apps awesome. That said, if you love something, a formal education isn't always necessary. However, if you want to get WORK in that subject, you may find customers/employers bizarrely more receptive to the degree. It's stupid. It's reality. Take care friend!

Webdevelopment is development (3, Interesting)

SlashDread (38969) | about 2 years ago | (#42860823)

Look, I have seen people who know how to drag and drop in Dreamweaver call themselves "web developer".
But really, if you are on CS level development its just the same as regular development. Sure your choice of core languages will be somewhat more limited, but make no mistake. Webdevelopment for large sites is very complex, CS level complex. Most apps today require a good level of networking, and most websites are more and more just regular apps.
I work for one of the largest websites where you can buy stuff (yeah that one) and most our developers are just that, CS majors, with an occasional math and or fysics major.
You are in the right school, just do some extra curriculum interwebby stuff if you want too.

Typical of 4 year schools (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42860847)

In the late 90's I wanted to get a degree in networking and security. There weren't any 4 year schools that offered this. Several CS department heads told me "that's what 2 year schools are for". So, my choices were to pursue a 4 year CIS degree or a 2 year AAS degree. About 4 years later universities started offering these classes. They apparently had a sudden change of heart when they realized the money they were missing.

I went the 2 year route. No BS classes needed. Just tech classes (already had my AA degree). Got a job immediately and had no college debt.

You shouldn't be in a 4-year university program.. (1)

XaXXon (202882) | about 2 years ago | (#42860849)

if you just want to be a web-monkey. Go start consulting on your own or something.

Later, if you decide you need to do something that requires a 4-year degree, go get one.

Because a career isn't about editing HTML files. (1)

TBone (5692) | about 2 years ago | (#42860859)

I want to be a web developer, and everyday I ask myself the same question: why am I wasting my time getting a computer science degree?

If your goal in life is to edit HTML files, then don't go get a degree at all. Like the (only 2 at the time of my writing this) other posters have said, build and run a website or 3, get a job as an intern at a company that does technology stuff, do things on your own and build a portfolio.

That being said, a career as a web designer is good for about 1 or 2 steps up, and then you are left as...a very experienced web designer, with a resume of short-term contract-type positions, and no educational background to show you know anything about databases, or actual programming, or business, or being able to make it through a degree program, or being able to deal with being around people, or anything much to give me or any other hiring manager a reason to spend more than 30 seconds reading your resume.

Just last week, I tossed a resume, for a new DBA position we're trying to fill, in the trash. Maybe he was a good DBA, but his resume was 10 years of web development and website administration, with 2 6-month stints at a place being an actual DBA in any sense of the word. Yes, I know any web developer that deals with running websites most likely has run the databases that back those websites, especially at a smaller company (I've done it myself at even not-so-small companies), but I can't suggest hiring someone to manage 2 dozen customer databases in a production environment with 12 months of short-lived "DBA" experience on a 10 year career in technology.

If you want to be a "Web Designer" for all of eternity, then teach yourself and build your portfolio of Things You've Done to show off to potential customers.

If you want a career in technology that might eventually lead to managing and hiring other web developers, or moving into Production Operations, or dealing with technology workers that do anything other than develop web pages, get a degree. Get a business or management or sociology degree if you think a CompSci degree will be a "waste", but give future hiring managers a reason to think you have the ability to learn more than how to monkey with HTML.

Human Resources doesn't care what you know. (3, Insightful)

CaptainNerdCave (982411) | about 2 years ago | (#42860863)

Seriously, HR doesn't care that you dropped out of college to get better with your web developing, all they see is "incomplete". The purpose of a degree (for capable people) isn't to teach you anything, it's to get past the incapable HR drones.

Get the degree AND teach yourself; it's the only way to both be on top of the game, and get a job.

General advice (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42860865)

I want to be a web developer

You don't say where on that path you are. Have you made websites already but lack specific knowledge on certain web technologies? Or do you not even know what a <div> tag is yet?

why am I wasting my time getting a computer science degree?

Well, why are you? Have you answered that question? How did you get to where you are today? What made you think that a CS degree was a good idea in the first place? Have those reasons become irrelevant, or wrong? What changed?

getting left in the dust, and becoming irrelevant has me horrified

Here's the thing: web development changes very rapidly. You can learn a bunch of stuff now and still get left in the dust and become irrelevant. Veterinarians learn a skill set for life. Web developers do not - the field requires constant learning and updating of knowledge. Are you prepared for that? Is your desire for a classroom environment realistic, when once you leave that classroom you will need to keep learning on your own? Are you just putting off the inevitable by doing school at all?

I want to start my web development career now.

So there's your answer. What's stopping you from doing this? What blocks are in your way to achieve this end? What's stopping you doing this now, tonight?

And what kind of web development career? Freelance? Employed? If so, by what kind of company? What kind of websites?

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

I want something more structured. Something that has the benefits of a classroom and an authority figure, but which teaches me exactly what I need to know to do what I want to do.

Why do you want something more structured? Will that structure bridge the gap between where you are now and where you want to be? Is this actually relevant, or just a way to try and adapt "what you're doing now" into "what you want to be doing in the future" without a big step change?

Frankly I don't know any web developers who went to a school for web developers to learn web development. If such schools exist I would personally be surprised if they actually offered value for money. The field changes so rapidly that any "authority figure" is no such thing, but just a bozo like you who only has web pages as source material. So, is that worth the money, the debt?

Sorry to answer questions with more questions, but these are the kinds of things you should consider IMHO. You have some big decisions to make. Good luck.

Internship (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42860887)

Most of the knowledge that I use everyday as a web developer was learned through my internship and first job. However, to get your first job (and future jobs) you will need that 4-year degree in Computer Science, Computer Engineering, or a related field.

I recommend that you find a local company who is willing to hire a motivated developer for an internship. Whether the internship is web or app development, it'll serve you well to get some real-life development experience with version control and all that.

It says something about you (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42860907)

First it gives you a good fundamental understanding of computer since and software engineering that will be value. Maybe you don't want to be a Web developer forever, a degree helps you to move on later on if you want to.

The other thing is, a degree also shows you have the guts to complete things. You may drop out and may not miss that much, but you will have that stain in your CV.
In the end you will probably have to explain this in every interview you go.

Now is not that important (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42860911)

You can't really shortcut the benefit you'll gain from a pure CS degree - employers do in fact care about your pedigree. If you make it through two more years of grueling, abstract computer science that is a strong voucher of your ability. Spending the next two years specializing in whatever is the latest-and-greatest in web design instead of two years learning "ancient computer science history" isn't going to help you, and here's why: in two years the tools in vogue will be completely different from those in vogue now, and two years hence they'll be different again, and two years after that they'll be different - on and on and on.

You will constantly have to reconfigure your skills if you want to stay competitive. Your career as a web developer isn't going to hinge on any particular brief skillset you've developed because you are going to have to stay motivated and continuously adapt whether you're in school or in the workforce. Getting the degree just proves to future employers that you know MORE than the latest fad web technology. Many people do not.

Free time (1)

homb (82455) | about 2 years ago | (#42860927)

You have lots of free time in uni. Make use of it. Build your website. Contribute to dozens of open source projects. Learn about them, install them, use them, provide patches and improvements. Go through the whole stack:
- learn to install and manage an OS (say Debian Linux)
- learn to install and manage the web server (e.g. Apache)
- learn to install and manage the DB server (e.g. MySQL)
- learn to install and program the scripting language of your choice (perl, python, php, ruby...)
- learn HTML, CSS, JavaScript
- learn SQL
- learn the concepts behind NoSQL
- learn server-side MVC frameworks
- learn client-side MVC frameworks

That's for year 1. :)

Bail or appreciate the great opportunity. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42860933)

A computer science degree from a good school will give you the grounding in a breadth of topics that will prepare you _indirectly_ to come up with technologies like javascript, http servers or a document database. That's what courses like Algorithms & Datastructures, Distributed Systems, Database, Compilers and Concepts of Programming languages.

It should give you a rounded background on what computing is all about, but it won't make you a hands-on engineer. It's not intended to be an applied degree.
If you aren't getting theory, you're not getting a comp sci degree, you're just doing a hands-on course in, what seems, outdated technology. That's not worth paying degree money for. Buy a couple of good books for that.

If you just want to use Javascript & HTML to crank out web-application, you don't need a degree. Bail, but know you're limiting your options.

I was very pleasantly surprised at the rigour and breadth of my theoretical computer science degree and it's made me a much better engineer. I'd do it all over again.

Signaling (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | about 2 years ago | (#42860937)

In many ways the degr is not about leading but signaling prospective employers or clients that you can learn and stick it out through time. If you wind up competing with people who have degrees you may find yourself at a disadvantage no matter how good you are. In addition, as others have pointed about the degree is about learning theory and concepts that you can broadly apply; not building a specific but perishable skill set.

Hang in there (1)

Marcion (876801) | about 2 years ago | (#42860951)

I also agree that you should just hang in there and get some kind of degree. It is a "MacGuffin" and a stupid system but you really do need a degree to open certain opportunities. You will not be left behind by waiting until the end. Also you will never have so much free time as you have now to pursue side interests, so make the most of it.

BTW, at University, you also you have the greatest selection of potential life partners you will ever be exposed to, dive in while you can. Afterwards you might find slim pickings :)

Immense naivety (1)

ibar98 (2838527) | about 2 years ago | (#42860955)

I'm sorry, but it's incredibly naive to think that you should simply bypass the fundamental and core concepts involved with software engineering/development simply because you wish to be a web developer. If you truly wish to be a proficient developer, you should have a real idea of what's going on "under the hood" and a real grasp of the various programming methodologies, concepts and techniques which will be taught in any competent CS program.

University is about options (1)

DrKludge (239681) | about 2 years ago | (#42860961)

University degrees about giving yourself options, and learning structured problem solving. Most, but not all, of the good to great programmers that I have seen have all had university degrees, but not necessarily Comp Sci, Comp Eng, or Comp informics. One of the best programmers has a philosophy degree. The university degrees are about giving you broad perspective, and not just about giving you the skillz.

Having an university degree is not essential, but it is way easier to get ahead faster. The vast majority of people I know who do not have degrees tend to be very naive about their view of the world and problem solving. Learning calculus may not give you direct programming skills, but it will give you another lens in which to view the problems that you need to solve, as just about any subject that has any rigor. The old adage of "you only get out of something what you put into it" definitely applies. If you are cruising through uni on all the fluff courses, your not doing yourself any favours.

It sounds like you want to get out into industry, but consider your financial implications if you do. Personal circumstances vary hugely, so if you are not giving up a free or heavily subsidized education by parents or scholarships, then my advice is get out to industry, and see what's what, as quick as possible. If you're currently on student loan it will not cost you anything to wait a few years, and you'll probably value the university education more. Who know, you might that you actually want to that Zoology degree.

Its about the experience (1)

jdkc4d (659944) | about 2 years ago | (#42860971)

If your question is do you necessarily need to stay in school to be able to eventually get the job that you want, then the answer is no. You can try to find a better way. But when employers out there post up a job, and they have 5 people apply with no professional experience, and 2 of them have a college degree, the people with the degree are more likely to get an interview. That's my experience anyway. The reality is with computer science, you only learn so much in college; everything else you are going to have to learn on your own. Technology changes very quickly, you might be learning one language in school today, and you might never need it throughout your career. Conversely, you will learn a lot of new languages on your own and after school, that you might use in a job, but won't even be touched in school. My suggestion is to stay in school. While you're there, see about applying for an internship, or search craigslist for a junior web developer position somewhere. Graduate with a degree, and experience and go into your first job with a leg up on your competition. Good Luck!

Stick with it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42860983)

Technologies come and go. Web programming is an important technology TODAY, but will it be in when you are 40? 50? 60? Health care is getting better, 70?
There were a ton of guys who thought the exact same thing about COBAL.
For ten or fifteen years they were fine. Then times changed and they were middle aged with a mortgage, kids and an out of date skill set.

So early over focus is short sighted.
You should get that full CS degree that teaches you 'unnecessary things' for the same reason that Olympic athletes do 'unnecessary' sit ups, push ups and jog every single day, it builds the fundamentals and prepares you for your goal.

Once you are out in the field, never stop learning. Always be trying to push your limits and expand your skill set.

Suggestion: stay in school. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42860985)

Stay in school. You won't learn specific "web development stuff," but you'll learn important concepts that will help you design and write better software.

While you're doing that, you should also go take a bunch of other courses unrelated to computer science - english, philosophy, ethics, languages, economics, psychology, business administration, biology, chemistry, physics, etc. Being familiar with many fields will help you. Being a single-trick pony will not.

Learn to read & write. There are VERY few programmers out there who can write complete, coherent sentences - you'll immediately distinguish yourself if you're one of them. Develop your 'soft skills' too - how to talk to & listen to people, how to create & deliver a presentation, how to argue & persuade without name-calling and shouting - politics is often a dirty word, but politics is what drives most organizations. Learn how to present your arguments in a way that appeals to your specific audience, and gets the results you want.

Conventional wisdom here will tell you that many of these skills are useless to you because they're "not technical skills." As a counter-argument, I submit to you the obvious frustrated desperation evident in many of the IT professionals posting here who are clearly miserable bastards whose sole source of pleasure is shouting at people on the internet who disagree with them. If you don't want to be like them, don't follow their career path - diversify & broaden your skill set early, and do it methodically - even if you don't want to be a manager at all, having leadership skills & people skills will enable you to advance, get better jobs, and have more control over your own workload & choice of projects.

tl;dr - college is not vocational training. You have PLENTY of time to stay current and explore web dev technologies in your spare time & on breaks. Get involved with open source projects, or start one of your own if you can identify a need that's not being filled; Use your time in college to:
1) Get laid. Nobody ever said, "Gee I wish I'd had less sex as a college student," on their death bed.
2) Develop deep fundamental skills across a wide range of topics.

We've all been there (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42860989)

I made the mistake of sticking around way too long shooting for a four-year degree. I've had a couple friends who have done hiring at software companies tell me that a degree is one of the last things they take into account when determining who to interview, and that two years of experience trumps two years of school every time. On the other hand, it's worth mentioning that almost all of my professional contacts (including those friends), as well as the lion's share of the practical coding ability I learned early on came by way of my university's Computer Club.

Have you considered seeking out an internship (at the very least, to supplement your formal education)? My other suggestion would absolutely be to get involved with open source projects like the ones found on Github. Granted the learning curve for many of those projects is monsterous, you do learn a lot about practical coding extremely quickly.

School and Profession doesn't always match. (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about 2 years ago | (#42860995)

The point of Computer Science isn't to teach you how to a particular job.
But how solve these problems yourself.

If college just taught you HTML5 and JavaScipt and PHP. You may be able to get a job, but what will happen after those technologies go out of style.

When I was in College leading edge Web Development was writing CGI application. While Javascript and CSS were available they were recommended not to be used because it was all too common that their browsers wouldn't support it. If we had to save data we would normally save it as a Text File on the server as getting a Relational Database system was often too expensive and required too much computer resources.
My methods and tools in programming for the Web has changed many times over the decades. However I can pick these methods up very quickly in part to my skills I learned in taking Computer Science. C/C++ skills made an easy transfer to JavaScript and PHP and Java. Parallel processing methods made its way to designing Web Services and handling AJAX. LISP/Artificial Intelligence helped me grasp the more advances levels of SQL. Unix inter-process communication and Operating Systems helps me really understand how the Web Server works and how to find was of interacting with it. Even Good old Data structures Loops and Procedures and performance analysis I use daily across many daily work to make my tools run smoothly.
Learning new tools and languages are rather easy, I don't need to go to training classes (If they make me, I am very board) because I have the skills to adjust to changing technology.

Going to college to be a Web Developer isn't a good plan. You can go to college and a goal of being a web developer after is OK, however you should Go to college with the goal of understanding Computer Science, in which you can use these skills in Web Development.

tech school (1)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#42860999)

If you can only learn in a classroom format, you're doomed in a fast moving profession. Switch to something slower moving or you'll be back to school in 5 years or less.

If you merely need knowledge from a classroom format and don't care what corporate HR thinks (aka you're ok with never being hired and being a contract worker, because HR gives zero respect to associates degrees) then my local tech school offers:

Web and media digital design aka online graphics artist.
Web and software developer from the school of business

You can also pay 4 times as much per credit hour and take 1/4 of your credits in liberal arts electives and 1/4 in math and learn about the same thing for a 4-year degree, which HR more or less respects, so you could end up an employee as opposed to lifetime contractor. If you actually looked you'd probably find some manner of graphics artist class in the art department and surely the b-school has something you'd like.

Or just switch schools if what you want isn't offered.. I went to 3 schools. Its really not a big deal this early in your schooling. Note that if they rubber stamp all incoming (for example) calculus transfer credits as denied, that doesn't mean you can't sweet talk a dean into a special exception, or follow the appeals process, or demand the right to test out (assuming you actually learned the topic...) or just F it and get the worlds easiest "A".

Amusingly around dotbomb collapse time I was attending a private college at night for CS, and they theoretically offered all specializations at night but in practice only offered your "web developer" classes. Needless to say the job market stank and I didn't want to do "web developer" anyway, so I simply moved to an online local university (a local university where practically the whole CS curriculum was available almost every semester and online 24x7 so I had no problem working full time).

If you're a noob, unless you've already experienced a "higher calling" to do webdev, you really do owe it to yourself to try electives like business analysis class, database design, maybe a networking, project (mis-)management, and the CS you're already complaining about. Maybe you think you're a future frontpage jockey but you're really unknowingly a DBA or router jockey. Won't know till you try it.

Meet people (1)

liquiddark (719647) | about 2 years ago | (#42861001)

A degree matters only insofar as you try to meet people who are interesting and interested in what you want to do. Research your professors. Join the CS club. Join the math club. Join the Fine Arts faculty for whatever social events they hold, because some of those people can do your site design, or your art, or help you understand how visual thinking works. Meet people. You need to behave as if you are interested in what you are doing. If you are interested, and if you apply yourself to those interests, then you will find that your degree benefits you.

If you're doing a program online, then you need to engage with people a different way - look at the teams behind tools you like, and reach out to them via forums. Participate in communities that cater to your field. Meet people who are launching web startups nearby.

Find people. Meet them. Engage with them. This is the work you will be doing for a long time, so get started on it.


Don't sell your interest short... (1)

pla (258480) | about 2 years ago | (#42861031)

most of the courses I spend all my time on are far removed from the skills I need to succeed as a web developer. But on the other hand, I can't imagine another degree that would allow me to stay in a programming mindset. The fact is that web development has taken huge bounds in the last few years, and sadly most universities haven't caught up. Computer science is a field that overlaps with web development, but getting a computer science degree to become a web developer is like getting a zoology degree to become a veterinarian.

Once upon a time, I (and I think most "real" programmers) looked down on web development as "toy" development, the sort of thing a company's owner's "good with computers" nephew did as an excuse to put him on the payroll.

As you correctly point out, though, web development has very much become a form of "real" programming, in some ways more complex than doing native apps. Between communicating with a backend datastore (generally some form of SQL); controlling nontrivial UI logic and AJAX (or comparable) updates through several layers of code from native on the server to client-side Javascript; and now HTML5 has basically made the browser as close to a "native" environment that speaks Javascript as we could ask for - You very much do need a CS degree (or at least that level of understanding) to do any serious web development in the present world.

Aside from the variety of HTML5 demos Google has put together to show off its graphical capabilities, check out Fabrice Bellard's Javascript PC emulator [bellard.org] booting into an actual 2.6.20 Linux (CLI, at this point) environment. When "web development" now includes potentially needing to write device drivers, don't think you can take a "CS Lite" degree and jump into a job. If anything, consider your specialty an extension of the core requirements for CS, not a stripped-down version.

Wrong degree (3, Insightful)

ClayDowling (629804) | about 2 years ago | (#42861049)

There is nothing about designing a pretty website that requires a computer science degree. For that, you want a design degree.

On the other hand, designing a good user interface is not about making a pretty web site. It's serious science, highly technical, and you'll need to understand not only computer science, to make the guts of it work, but other disciplines to understand how humans and computers interact.

Web design technology has changed a lot in the last decade. The fundamentals of computer science and logic have not. Learning the latest in web technology will help you get an entry level job, and as long as you race to learn the next new technology six months from now, you'll be well stocked on entry level jobs for the rest of your life. Or at least as long as you can keep up with that particular rat race.

If you learn computer science, and the fundamentals of why things work and how to get things done, you'll be in a good position to have a career. That doesn't guarantee you a job. But it does mean you'll have a lot easier time translating an entry level job to a sustainable career. Maybe that doesn't seem important right now, but once you get things like a mortgage and a family, that is way more important than being perfectly equipped for the sort of job posting that is just a list of the tools they're using right now.

CS Degree does not equal marketable job skills (1)

imnes (605429) | about 2 years ago | (#42861053)

the thought of wasting two more years, getting left in the dust, and becoming irrelevant has me horrified.

Get a junior / intern position doing the work you want while you finish school. That way you get some money (hopefully), keep your skills fresh and gain work experience. Then when you graduate in a few years you have a degree and some experience, you can go for more mid-level positions.

Theory vs. Practical (1)

quietwalker (969769) | about 2 years ago | (#42861075)

Most colleges are not vocational colleges - that is, they do not focus specifically on work skills that you'll use in a job. They are not specifically training you for a career, rather, they're providing you with the theoretical foundation and building blocks to understand, appreciate, and contribute to a specific discipline. That some of these provide job skills is at best a secondary concern.

If you want to have a specific job, or follow a specific career, then focus on that job or career. We're starting to move out of the era of college-degree-required (at least for IT-related jobs) so there's no great stigma.

That's not to say a college degree is worthless however. As other posters have no doubt pointed out, there's a big difference between being able to make something work, and make it work well. Without understanding the theory, that information is hard to arrive at. If the technology changes, that theoretical knowledge allows you to evaluate the new offerings on an even footing, rather than having to diverge from your specialized skillset.

Last, and specific to web development in general, I've noted two types of folks that call themselves web developers. One makes pretty pages, and one makes web applications. The two rarely seem to share skillsets. One relies on artistic flair and a knowledge of HTML, CSS, and some common javascript libraries - but nothing fancy. The other usually seems to need a good grounding in HTML, CSS, and javascript, but focuses on back-end development, database management, and so on.

If you're going to be the first type - a computer science degree is probably not very useful. If you're going to be writing web applications, a computer science degree is probably going to be very helpful.

When you really need the degree (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42861077)

I understand and feel your pain, however a question for you is where do you see yourself working ?
Do you plan to strike out on your own -no problem. However maybe do you want join a start-up or a large corporate organization (corporate bureaucracy)

The former are usually more focused on talent and skill. If it's the latter, then the thing is that in all likelihood, that degree will be what determines whether they (Hiring Manager, HR) even look at your resume before discarding it, I've seen cases where they didn't even bother to vet if the individual possessed the skills needed. Checkout ads in monster or some such to get a flavor for what you can expect. On the chance you do get in, then after a few years when it's promotion time, the lack of a degree might still influence whether or not you get your promotion, or whether you get to take home as much pay.

What I would recommend doing is continue on with the degree, however see if you can get a part time gig doing some web development on the side with a small operation after checking out their work. May not be structured but you will learn :-)... all the best and good luck.

Summer Internship (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42861085)

My advice would be to spend your summers (or whenever you have time) doing an internship somewhere (there has to be a company that does what you want to do, and if you are a good student you should have no trouble getting in), so you can do what you want to do (learn in the field) while still getting the benefit of a college education. (Alternately, you could start your own website/business but I image that would be hard to do while in school).

Also, and this is often forgotten nowadays, going to college is not merely about gaining knowledge in a specific field, it is more generally about become a well-socialized, well-rounded, knowledgeable person who can meaningfully contribute to society (that's why there are government grants, you are expected to return the favor).

Head slap! You are using college wrong (1)

Zecheus (1072058) | about 2 years ago | (#42861087)

Go to college to get an intelligence certificate. Its not a place to learn skills. At the end of college, you won't have skills; you will have a sheet of paper that says you are intelligent. That paper, called a diploma, says only that you are intelligent enough to learn new things. You want something else. You want a skill. Diplomas do not say you have any skill (see above). College is the wrong place to get a skill because college won't give you even a piece of paper that says you have said skill. If you don't even want a piece of paper that says you have a skill (these are called certifications), then don't even go to school.

You have an opportunity to get a piece of paper saying you are intelligent enough to learn things about computers, and you don't see that as anything but a waste of time. Incredible. Maybe you should be a business major.

Right there with you... (1)

Mr.Reasons (2838537) | about 2 years ago | (#42861089)

I had to comment on this. I am in the same situation, though a bit further along. While I tend to agree with you that the degree isn't training you for the skill set you will need to succeed, and you really won't have the experience to land a great position, you should still finish. The logic is this.. All the Hiring Managers and HR agents will filter you out based on if you fit a checklist of requirements, and it is never recommended to lie about a degree. So you want the degree to show that you completed a program to present yourself as worth while. But what you should also focus on is building a portfolio of projects, build things, anything. Be passionate about what you are building. I find that in my interviews it was my small personal project and my passion for the project that really peaked the interviewers attention in me. After a while you pick things up, you learn from other developers. Just prove you are willing and able to take on projects you don't like to reach an ultimate goal.

It's not an either/or propisition (3, Interesting)

sirwired (27582) | about 2 years ago | (#42861103)

Just because you are in a CS program, (which has never been a "vocational" degree program), does not prevent you from picking up whatever other skills you desire. As you pointed out, the CS program puts you in the "programmer mindset"; you've keyed on to the actual purpose of a CS program, which is NOT teaching you the "language of the month." They are trying to give you the skills you need to be able to pick up the language of the month on your own far more rapidly than you might be able to otherwise.

Just like a vet would be well served by obtaining a zoology degree prior to entering veterinary school, many people find that a CS degree well-serves their educational goals in addition to the constant "self-education" that is a fundamental part of any computer career.

As a followup... (2)

sirwired (27582) | about 2 years ago | (#42861255)

When I was in school (the latter '90's) my Programming Languages professor deliberately chose a textbook that was issued in 1985. He did this not because it was his book and he wanted the money (it wasn't his book, and only used copies were available), or because he had some particular fondness for the languages presented therein. (Pseudo Machine Language/Assembler, FORTRAN, COBOL, Ada, Smalltalk, and PROLOG, IIRC.) He used an outdated textbook because he wanted us concentrating on the actual point of the course, which was to learn to be able to analyze any computer language, suss out what was important to look for, and thereby learn any computer language with reasonable skill in a very short period of time, along with spotting the strengths and weaknesses of the language.

That would have been considerably more difficult if he had used a language (such as C) with which a reasonable number of the students would already be familiar.

Independent Study? (1)

jythie (914043) | about 2 years ago | (#42861125)

Talk to your advisor. Unless your school has a crummy program with limited options there is probably a lot you can learn in a CS degree. To put it bluntly, if you don't understand how a CS degree applies to web development, then you probably need a CS degree.

If all you are focusing on is which technologies they teach, you are wasting an opportunity and may run in to problems further down your career when ad-hoc design with no fundamentals just isn't good enough.

Digital Design (1)

porsche911 (64841) | about 2 years ago | (#42861133)

You could always look into a digital design or graphics design curriculum. Some of the better art schools are lightyears ahead of the computer sci schools in teaching ways to really use the web and digital media.

Good luck,

Dear Slashdot (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 2 years ago | (#42861137)

Dear Slashdot,

I know exactly what I need, better than my teachers do. They're all old fuddy duddies stuck in the past. I'd drop out and teach myself, but I want someone to rubber stamp my degree. Can you help?

Have you considered DeVry or the University of Phoenix?

As someone who's done a bit of hiring... (1)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | about 2 years ago | (#42861141)

DON'T go through with HR. My biggest problem has been avoiding the trained monkeys in HR who seem to bias towards genial, friendly, sociable expensive fuck-ups. What I like is 5+ years *working* experience, some working code I can look at, and a one-on-one conversation where I can ask difficult questions. This will tell me more of what I need to know than any degree. Write something useful. Make it work. Show me your work. Look presentable and sane. Speak English well enough to communicate with the other English speakers in the office. After that, I don't care if you know the specifics of our application or setups. If you've got all of the aforementioned, you'll figure out the rest.

Apprenticeship (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42861149)

Calculate what the next two years of your tuition would cost. Offer an 8th of that amount to an established web developer to let him/her shadow them on the job for six months.

Other skill set (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42861179)

I'd expand into statistics because there's so much data to analyze and the techniques are still valid in 20 years. Machine learning also overlaps statistics and computer science.

Don't drop out (1)

Alioth (221270) | about 2 years ago | (#42861197)

Don't drop out. The CS degree will (or should) give you a good understanding of the foundations, and these don't change very much over time. This understanding will make it much easier to be a GOOD developer, rather than a one trick pony or somebody whose code appears on The Daily WTF. A sound understanding of the foundations will make you a *much* better developer for *much* longer, and able to progress further. How do you know that in 10 years time you still want to be a web developer?

Drop out. Go back when you're ready. (1)

bregmata (1749266) | about 2 years ago | (#42861213)

Some people are just not cut out for academia, nor is academic persuit a prerequisite for a career as a technician.

An undergraduate degree in a mathematics or science discipline is not job training. It is learning something interesting for the joy of the persuit of knowledge, plain and simple. It is also a valuable way to learn self-discipline and useful information, but not the only way. If you are not earning your undergraduate degree as an end in itself, you may very well be wasting your time and money.

You can also change as you age. You can find joy in learning at any age.

I'm a CS Major and took 1 year off school... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42861215)

I'm also a current CS student and faced a similar dilemma.... pretty sure it was right after sophmore year. So I took a year off from school, excited about devoting all my time and focus on the programming specialty *I* am interested in (and use for work).

That didn't happen.

With the abrupt end of all structure in my studies (that college provided), the structure of my life/routine eroded away bit by bit. I ended up spending almost no time 'honing my skills,' dealt with some depression, and when I finally returned from the year off, the transition back to college life and structure was WAY harder than expected. Much more difficult than starting freshman year.

Of course, this is just my personal story, but I'll wager this is a common scenario. Especially if you aren't the most driven, focused, or organized person (I've got mild ADD, never was a problem at school, but definitely became a factor during my time off.)

So my advice - stick with the school thing. In your free time, start building up a portfolio of web dev work you've done. Get involved with doing webdev work for school clubs, professors, etc (ideally working with a team so you can find a mentor).

Also, and I can't stress this enough - there's SO much extra breadth and depth of knowledge that a general CS program provides an aspiring web developer. Anyone can learn to throw a website together- having a full CS background and deeper understanding of whats going on "under the hood" when programming will give you an extra edge over any one-dimensional website guy.

You should stick to it (1)

benob (1390801) | about 2 years ago | (#42861221)

What you learn at university is not about technology, it's rather
- to be curious and to explore avenues that you don't know: this will help you draw those lines between opposing domains that no body had seen before
- to multitask, meet deadlines, and work under pressure (why would you need that?)
- to communicate with people who don't know what you are talking about (customers, boss?)
- to teach yourself new stuff.

Seriously, stop whining (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42861225)

Comments like this really piss me off. Students today are always finding ways to say "I'm too good for these courses". Yes, you're only interested in web development. Yes, I agree that schools can do more to accomodate people like you. And YES, I think you're missing the point of your education. The computer science courses are there for the same reason calculus courses are there - to expand your mind and get you to think about probelms differently. And the skill of thinking about problems differently is what's needed in all aspects of programming.

If you're worried about being left in the dust, then do some projects and start building a portfolio to show off. I'm sure you're able to do that while attending school.

Just because you're interested in web development now, doesn't mean you're going to be in 10 years. The world is changing and technology is changing. If you're going to succeed in the future, you're going to need to understand the fundamentals, and that's what computer science teaches. If you think you're good enough to test out of a class, then talk with your teacher. Otherwise, if you only have 2 years left then quit crying like a baby and take the courses. 2 years is nothing.

An old quote (1)

Narbo (11006) | about 2 years ago | (#42861235)

Back when I was in second year comp sci (mid/late 90s) we had a course which was roughly titled "Programming in C". The basics of C were covered in a single week; after that it was all about algorithms etc... One of the students asked the professor why we had gone over learning the language so quickly to which he gave an answer which has stuck with me to the current day:

"We are not here to teach you C. C is only a tool. We are here to teach you how to solve problems."

That's what your degree is about. Gaining the knowledge and background to solve problems.

Just get a bachelors degree... (1)

sdguero (1112795) | about 2 years ago | (#42861237)

It really doesn't matter what it is in. A CS degree will help a lot when you are first starting out but once you have 2-3 years experience it doesn't make much difference. This is coming from a software engineer with a history degree... I was an intern at a company that built computers, changed degrees to history after I started working there, later graduated and was hired on fulltime as an associate engineer. After 3 years I left. Now, after 5 more years in tech, it doesn't even come up in interviews. The guy in the cube next to me has a degree in business, on the other side is a former marine with no degree. Once you get your foot in the door, prove yourself as competent, and do a little networking, you are pretty set in this industry.

I want to be a web developer. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42861245)

Will code HTML for food.

Formal Education != Current Skills (1)

brownc4 (2838539) | about 2 years ago | (#42861261)

I went down the same road you're considering, dropped out of school and did self-taught. While I can honestly say I've done well IMO, not having the degree has kept several doors closed for me.

I'm not trying to belittle you but the fact of the matter is there are more and more people popping up all over the place who have a knack for web design/programming/network security/etc. Employers aren't looking at the degree so much to determine what you know, but how you got to where you are currently. Were you part of a more formal structure? Did you learn how to communicate effectively? Are you able to cope with difficult clients/customers? How do you cope with high stress/short deadlines?

In a recent interview, the interviewing manager I was with quite literally said "I don't consider or look at the resumes/applications of people who don't have at least a BS. They typically have the talent but are severely lacking in formal structuring and communication skills." These are skills you get with a degree and with years of experience. It's not something you can spend 6 months studying on your own and learn. If you're doing well in your classes, stick with it. You may consider it a waist now but it will pay off down the road. Consider it an investment in yourself. Investments don't pay off right away (the ones that do tend to be crappy anyways) but always grow with time.

Web Developer? (2)

Fubari (196373) | about 2 years ago | (#42861287)

1) "Web Developer" can cover a rather broad spectrum.
If you want to do architecture for large sites then stay where you are; you will want the theory.
OTOH, the multidisciplinary thing could make sense. Maybe you want to get an Arts major (web design / graphic layout) or a Psych major (Human Factors / Ergonomics / User Interface design) and a computer minor?

Then again, don't overrate college. One of the smartest programmers I ever worked with never went to college. One of the best object oriented developers I worked with was an English Major. I guess I would ask if you want a degree to get you resume past Human Resources or whether you actually want to learn?

I have two questions about what you said here:

The fact is that web development has taken huge bounds in the last few years, and sadly most universities haven't caught up.

1) What giant leaps in state of the art are you talking about here?
2) Is it possible you're new to this and are mistaking the normal fast-paced evolution of computers, tools, and ecosystems as a one-time isolated event? (If so, give it another 5 years; things will be moving just as fast (if not faster) in 2018.)

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