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Old 02-05-2012, 02:29 PM   #26
Go_Blue88
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Re: Masters In Comp Sci With No Prior Experience

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It really depends on what you want to do. If you're worried about people thinking you lack IT skills upon graduation and you want to end up in development...well there's tons of Open Source projects you could contribute to while getting your MA.

If I'm hireing developers and can pick and chose I always value projects they did (aka finished code, good developers "ship") +my estimate of how well they get along with other developers highest.
IT is very much merit based in many places and quite frankly usually that's the places you want to end up in. Some places value formal education very highly but my very subjective view is that working there usually isn't great.

If you want to do non-development work an MBA might not be the worst decision. Make sure that you teach yourself some high level stuff on the side and understand technology and can make educated decisions.
SQL+a high level language like python/ruby+web stuff will put you way ahead of most business people already.

Also...a MA in CS is going to include a bunch of stuff that isn't really "practical" at first glance. You may have operating system design, algorithms and stuff that isn't really "just code stuff". Might want to look into software engineering or similar degrees.

[I work in IT and used to be responsible for hireing people to some degree at my old job]
I am not sold on the MBA path. I have seen many aspects of the business world, and I'm not sure if an MBA will take me in the direction I ultimately want to be. However, Isura's point regarding consulting is a good one, and I am going to look into what types of skills these jobs look for.

Your post reminds me that I need to define exactly where I want to end up once I graduate. That should be obvious, but it's difficult for me to know when I have limited experience in these fields. Who knows what I will excel at and like/dislike?

In searching for Software Engineer Jobs and IT jobs, these are some of the commonalities in skills I have found:

1. SQL Database Knowledge
2. General Database Knowledge: MS SQL, Oracle, Postgre SQL, My SQL
3. General web-related Technology: HTTP, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript
4. Computer Science degree or "related field"
5. Systems Administration skills
6. Unix/Linux

I'll update that list as I continue to research. Maybe it will be helpful for others.
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Old 02-05-2012, 08:58 PM   #27
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Re: Masters In Comp Sci With No Prior Experience

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Aside from the academic element, part of the value of going to a top school is that the best firms recruit there. For instance, if you go to college in Chicago and want to work at JP Morgan as an I-banker, it isn't hard to get an interview if you go to UChicago or Northwestern and study Economics. If you go elsewhere, you have to find a way to not get lost in the abyss of general online applications.

You should see if this is the case with UChicago's or Northwestern's CS programs. Do Microsoft/Google/Apple recruit at UChicago and not at Depaul? Given what you said, it's probably worth it for you to find out the answer to this question.
For business school name is more important since there are often 100's (1000's) of business graduates vs a few dozen Engineering. At the state college I'm attending I know a number of people that have interviewed and/or gotten jobs at Xerox, IBM, Google, Pixar, Microsoft, Boeing and Raytheon.
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Old 02-05-2012, 11:58 PM   #28
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Re: Masters In Comp Sci With No Prior Experience

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For business school name is more important since there are often 100's (1000's) of business graduates vs a few dozen Engineering. At the state college I'm attending I know a number of people that have interviewed and/or gotten jobs at Xerox, IBM, Google, Pixar, Microsoft, Boeing and Raytheon.
Awesome, that is great to hear.
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Old 02-06-2012, 02:16 AM   #29
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Re: Masters In Comp Sci With No Prior Experience

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Your point regarding developing timeless skills is extremely imporant to me. I have been browsing through many of the IT/Programming jobs out there and writing down all of their desired skills in order to find the commonalities. Here is just a small sample of some of the languages they want you to know:

"Experience with WhiteHat Sentinel, HP Webinspect, IBM Appscanner, Cenzic Hailstorm, Acunetix, Tenable Nessus, Core Impact, Rapid7"

"Understand and utilize our tools to encourage efficient development (Ruby on Rails, Git, Cucumber, Rspec, Selenium, Capybara)."

"May have experience with Apache, Squid, HAProxy, or Akamai."

Some of these sound completely made up. Selenium and Capybara sound like diseases, Cenzic Hailstorm sounds like a video game attack move, Akamai sounds like it's from a Japanese porn, and I don't even know what to make of Squid and Cucumber. Overall, it seems unbelievably (not speaking in hyperbole here) important to learn what is required to constantly adapt. Who knows how many languages there will be 5 years from now?
Selenium is a (great) testing tool, Rapid7 is a pentest site, Nessus is a vulnarability scanner etc.
My guess is that was some sort of security related job?
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Old 02-06-2012, 08:26 PM   #30
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Re: Masters In Comp Sci With No Prior Experience

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Originally Posted by Go_Blue88 View Post
I am not sold on the MBA path. I have seen many aspects of the business world, and I'm not sure if an MBA will take me in the direction I ultimately want to be. However, Isura's point regarding consulting is a good one, and I am going to look into what types of skills these jobs look for.

Your post reminds me that I need to define exactly where I want to end up once I graduate. That should be obvious, but it's difficult for me to know when I have limited experience in these fields. Who knows what I will excel at and like/dislike?

In searching for Software Engineer Jobs and IT jobs, these are some of the commonalities in skills I have found:

1. SQL Database Knowledge
2. General Database Knowledge: MS SQL, Oracle, Postgre SQL, My SQL
3. General web-related Technology: HTTP, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript
4. Computer Science degree or "related field"
5. Systems Administration skills
6. Unix/Linux

I'll update that list as I continue to research. Maybe it will be helpful for others.
That's a good list. I will add

7. One OOP language (Java, C#, C++, etc)

In general focus on concepts and choose 1 platform/technology to master. Eg. web learn PHP or Python w/ Django or MS SQL server + .net. It's better to know 1 really well then 3 of them vaguely.

Also technologies that are very hot right now are parallel computing, cloud computing, and mobile development. It's useful to know about networking, concurrency, database systems (their design and implementation, not only SQL), and mobile hardware. That will open up more possibilties.
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Old 02-06-2012, 11:05 PM   #31
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Re: Masters In Comp Sci With No Prior Experience

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That's a good list. I will add

7. One OOP language (Java, C#, C++, etc)

In general focus on concepts and choose 1 platform/technology to master. Eg. web learn PHP or Python w/ Django or MS SQL server + .net. It's better to know 1 really well then 3 of them vaguely.

Also technologies that are very hot right now are parallel computing, cloud computing, and mobile development. It's useful to know about networking, concurrency, database systems (their design and implementation, not only SQL), and mobile hardware. That will open up more possibilties.
Actually, my current job involves designing solutions that integrate mobile hardware and various software. I work for a company that specializes in data capture technology (primarily barcode-related technology). However, we do not design anything outright; it's more "Ok this is what you want to do? Well, what is your budget? Ok, well then you have a few options...". But all of the options involve plugging in other companies' hardware/software (Motorola, Intermec, Unitech, Honeywell, etc).

Interestingly, I work with a lot of IT people to help them design solutions. Often I am surprised by how little they know. There truly is a huge gap in knowledge with IT people: sometimes they ask a bunch of questions I cannot answer (without research), and sometimes they don't know enough to even ask questions. The software engineers I work with vary the most in social skills: some of them are extremely condescending and can kill a deal, while others are a tremendous asset when it comes to closing deals.

Anyway, tomorrow is the Open House for Depaul. I am really rooting for this program to be awesome. We shall see...
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Old 02-08-2012, 09:39 PM   #32
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Re: Masters In Comp Sci With No Prior Experience

Tonight I met with the head of admissions at the U of Chicago, and it has me questioning this decision all over again. She basically made it sound like the math classes will be close to impossible for me. She must have said 4-5 different times, "Let's just say this will be very very very challenging for you. Well if you work hard you can do it, but it is going to be very very very hard for you." It's almost like she was arguing in her head "He will fail. Well maybe he won't. No, he will fail. Maybe he won't fail."

The Depaul session went better, but I found out there are a few undergrad prereqs that I will be required to take. I actually don't mind doing that at all. Currently a concern of mine is that the Depaul program seems too easy to get into. They don't require a GRE, recommendations, or a high GPA. It circles back to previous posts where I wondered if the program being less prestigious leads to a less useful education.

Anyway, this is not my blog so I won't continue to update this unless something more interesting happens. Monday I am meeting with the Northwestern Admissions guy for the IT program. Then it will be time to narrow down my options.
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Old 02-08-2012, 09:48 PM   #33
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Re: Masters In Comp Sci With No Prior Experience

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Tonight I met with the head of admissions at the U of Chicago, and it has me questioning this decision all over again. She basically made it sound like the math classes will be close to impossible for me. She must have said 4-5 different times, "Let's just say this will be very very very challenging for you. Well if you work hard you can do it, but it is going to be very very very hard for you." It's almost like she was arguing in her head "He will fail. Well maybe he won't. No, he will fail. Maybe he won't fail."

The Depaul session went better, but I found out there are a few undergrad prereqs that I will be required to take. I actually don't mind doing that at all. Currently a concern of mine is that the Depaul program seems too easy to get into. They don't require a GRE, recommendations, or a high GPA. It circles back to previous posts where I wondered if the program being less prestigious leads to a less useful education.

Anyway, this is not my blog so I won't continue to update this unless something more interesting happens. Monday I am meeting with the Northwestern Admissions guy for the IT program. Then it will be time to narrow down my options.
i don't think it matters how stringent admission reqs are. as long as you think you'll do well thats what matters. and doing well as a grad student is 4.0... not even 3.9
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Old 02-10-2012, 12:18 PM   #34
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Re: Masters In Comp Sci With No Prior Experience

Math is def going to be hard sounds like it is similar to a standard MA in CS. Like I said, maybe something like "software engineering" would be better for you. They tend to focus a lot more on design and implementation and less on algorithms and optimization.
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Old 02-19-2012, 05:50 PM   #35
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Re: Masters In Comp Sci With No Prior Experience

OP: I know several people working in software in the Chicago area with MS degrees from DePaul, it's a well respected school and degree.
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Old 03-05-2012, 09:55 AM   #36
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Re: Masters In Comp Sci With No Prior Experience

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Math is def going to be hard sounds like it is similar to a standard MA in CS. Like I said, maybe something like "software engineering" would be better for you. They tend to focus a lot more on design and implementation and less on algorithms and optimization.
What are the differences between Software Engineering and Computer Science? Do they lead to entirely different jobs? I met with the faculty at Depaul, and one was a software engineering instructor. I am starting to learn toward that route. The programs are very similar though.
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Old 03-05-2012, 10:45 AM   #37
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Re: Masters In Comp Sci With No Prior Experience

Over here SE is basically "pragmatic programming" i.e. you'll learn how to engineer software. CS has a lot more optimization and algorithm stuff tossed in.
Basically I'd say CS dives in deeper and goes to the lowest level (you'll usually have classes on operating system design, electronics, compilers and language design etc.) and SE stays mostly on the highish level of implementing "current level of abstraction" software (so these days it's mostly Java, sometimes even Python etc and seldomly C++ and pretty much never lower).

In other words in SE you'll use a bucnh of libraries to build stuff and in CS you're more likely to write said libraries.
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Old 03-08-2012, 02:36 PM   #38
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Re: Masters In Comp Sci With No Prior Experience

I'm thinking about a similar career move, though my background is EE, so on paper I have the 'technical' background. However I haven't coded much since 1st/2nd yr of college (like 8 years ago). Recently I picked up Ruby/RoR and have really enjoyed it so far, so I've been tossing around the idea of going back to school.

For you, I think if you find that you can pick up programming relatively easily, I don't think it's going to be as hard as the U of C admissions lady says it is, to learn the math. It'll be hard, but if you have a decent mathematic mind and the drive, it's definitely doable. I think the typical person with an English + Philosophy background may not be able to pick it up as quickly (not due to intelligence, just familiarity).

One other thing is that you should definitely start learning one language now, to see how you like it. It sounds like you are doing that already, but really dive as deep as you can into it, to try and see how you will like coding 40+ hours a week, as a career. For me, when I was younger, I really enjoyed coding in the beginning but then I ran into some hard to grasp concepts, and quickly got frustrated/bored with it. Obviously some of that is due to laziness on my end, but make sure you hit those bumps to confirm you can get both understand the harder concepts and are able to get past the difficult times.

Interested to see how this pans out, so keep posting!
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Old 03-10-2012, 03:42 PM   #39
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Re: Masters In Comp Sci With No Prior Experience

Well I am going to go to Depaul. After a lot of consideration, I think it prepares me the most and offers the most comfortable learning environment. This is largely due to the extensive pre-reqs that are required:

1. Discrete Structures for Computer Science
2. Programming in Java I and II
3. Computer Systems I
4. Computer Systems II
5. Data Structures and Algorithms in Java


I am going the Computer Science route because it seems to be a much more recognized degree than Software Engineering. I am wondering if I should take Discrete Mathematics and Calculus in addition to these Pre-reqs. Any thoughts on whether taking these Math classes will help me with programming?

The only thing that annoys me about Depaul is these pre-reqs will be undergrad courses, but considered part of the overall graduate Masters program. This means that I cannot get a scholarship for the undergrad section. It's sort of frustrating because I could get a full ride as an undergrad there. I need to start figuring out the whole loan thing.
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Old 03-10-2012, 08:10 PM   #40
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Re: Masters In Comp Sci With No Prior Experience

I would recommend auditing (or whatever they call it at Depaul) Discrete Mathematics since you will learn Boolean algebra, Asymptotic analysis and analysis of algorithms. It's a hard class to say the least but you will need it when you take the grad level advance analysis of algorithms.

If cost is an issue tuition at the state college is 1/3 of Depaul's.
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Old 03-10-2012, 09:25 PM   #41
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Re: Masters In Comp Sci With No Prior Experience

I guess Date Structures is going to be "reimplement linked lists and graphs", Java 1+2 is going to cover Java from beginning to somewhat advanced, CS1+2 probably going to cover some OS Dev stuff, computer architectures etc. pp

Not sure what discrete structures is going to be but it's discrete so it shouldn't be too hard (I had discrete simulation in my MA)
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Old 03-10-2012, 10:41 PM   #42
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Re: Masters In Comp Sci With No Prior Experience

"Computer Systems" were some of my favourite classes, a minimal amount of OS stuff and lots of binary / logic gates / differential manchester encoding / NRZi and all that fun stuff all fascinating to me, it almost goves you that matrix-style "I know kung fu" of being able to imagine roughly how the whole internet actually works from keyboard to someone else's screen, it's an incredible stack of inventions!

Universities do seem to love their Java
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Old 03-10-2012, 11:52 PM   #43
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Re: Masters In Comp Sci With No Prior Experience

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Originally Posted by Go_Blue88 View Post
Well I am going to go to Depaul. After a lot of consideration, I think it prepares me the most and offers the most comfortable learning environment. This is largely due to the extensive pre-reqs that are required:

1. Discrete Structures for Computer Science
2. Programming in Java I and II
3. Computer Systems I
4. Computer Systems II
5. Data Structures and Algorithms in Java


I am going the Computer Science route because it seems to be a much more recognized degree than Software Engineering. I am wondering if I should take Discrete Mathematics and Calculus in addition to these Pre-reqs. Any thoughts on whether taking these Math classes will help me with programming?

The only thing that annoys me about Depaul is these pre-reqs will be undergrad courses, but considered part of the overall graduate Masters program. This means that I cannot get a scholarship for the undergrad section. It's sort of frustrating because I could get a full ride as an undergrad there. I need to start figuring out the whole loan thing.
That is the standard courses taken in the first 2 years by undergrads in CS or comp eng. You could probably cover all the material in 1-2 semesters by auditing the courses and attempting to do the assignments. You will need a solid grasp of "discrete" math for this program. A good book on this is Knuth's Concrete Mathematics. That covers pretty much all the math you will ever need for programming.
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Old 03-11-2012, 12:00 AM   #44
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Re: Masters In Comp Sci With No Prior Experience

Is a degree in computer science really necessary to land a job or do people view a self learned programmer with a degree in another field like engineering or economics in a bad way? Of course I assume that you'd have relevant experience on open source projects or similar work to actually prove that you know stuff.

I'm mostly asking because I feel like computer science can really be taught by yourself if you have a solid understanding of math and are determined enough.
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Old 03-11-2012, 08:45 AM   #45
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Re: Masters In Comp Sci With No Prior Experience

GoBlue:

Looks like I'm pretty late to this thread, but you may also want to check this out:

http://codeacademy.org/

It was started by a couple guys from Northwestern and is an intensive 2.5 month programming course. Given your goals, doing something like this could save a TON of time/effort/tuition and produce most of the results you're looking for.

I was also considering doing an MSCS (background in EE) and have decided that while becoming more technical is a good plan (I'm planning to do an MSEE and hopefully PhD as well), it's arguably least necessary in CS to actually do a degree because you can learn and do so much on your own with few resources. Also the extra courses will be annoying - the programs I was looking at were going to require basically a full extra year.
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Old 03-11-2012, 04:18 PM   #46
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Re: Masters In Comp Sci With No Prior Experience

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GoBlue:

Looks like I'm pretty late to this thread, but you may also want to check this out:

http://codeacademy.org/

It was started by a couple guys from Northwestern and is an intensive 2.5 month programming course. Given your goals, doing something like this could save a TON of time/effort/tuition and produce most of the results you're looking for.

I was also considering doing an MSCS (background in EE) and have decided that while becoming more technical is a good plan (I'm planning to do an MSEE and hopefully PhD as well), it's arguably least necessary in CS to actually do a degree because you can learn and do so much on your own with few resources. Also the extra courses will be annoying - the programs I was looking at were going to require basically a full extra year.
I began doing CodeYear last month. It is a cool learning tool, but it's not enough for me to truly get the foundation I need to change careers. You have an advantage with your Math background. People with Math backgrounds can get programming related jobs pretty easily. People with English and Philosophy backgrounds need to prove that they have the ability to excel at programming, and the best way for me to do that is with a degree.

I know many people will say "a degree doesn't mean you can program," but what else are companies supposed to judge me based on?
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Old 03-11-2012, 04:24 PM   #47
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Re: Masters In Comp Sci With No Prior Experience

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One other thing is that you should definitely start learning one language now, to see how you like it. It sounds like you are doing that already, but really dive as deep as you can into it, to try and see how you will like coding 40+ hours a week, as a career. For me, when I was younger, I really enjoyed coding in the beginning but then I ran into some hard to grasp concepts, and quickly got frustrated/bored with it. Obviously some of that is due to laziness on my end, but make sure you hit those bumps to confirm you can get both understand the harder concepts and are able to get past the difficult times.

Interested to see how this pans out, so keep posting!
This is a big reason I am going with the Depaul program. The pre-reqs will give me the perfect opportunity to see how good I am/how much I like programming. Yes, it will cost me 10k to find out, but 10k is nothing in the big scheme of things. I also have the option to transfer if I decide I will benefit from a top 50 program.

Your last sentence is interesting because it presents the difference for me in Undergrad and Grad School. In Undergrad, I worked hard enough to get A's in every class; in Grad School that won't be enough. I'm not doing this for the grades, I'm doing it to build a strong future for myself. So it's not enough to just get by with A's...I need to do everything I can to understand the material as much as possible.
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Old 03-11-2012, 04:28 PM   #48
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Re: Masters In Comp Sci With No Prior Experience

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I would recommend auditing (or whatever they call it at Depaul) Discrete Mathematics since you will learn Boolean algebra, Asymptotic analysis and analysis of algorithms. It's a hard class to say the least but you will need it when you take the grad level advance analysis of algorithms.

If cost is an issue tuition at the state college is 1/3 of Depaul's.
Auditing is a good idea that I didn't think of. I'm going to call the "advisors" about this tomorrow morning.

Tuition is of course an issue, but I believe the return on investment will be there if I work hard. The two state colleges I have to choose from are U of Illinois and Illinois Institute of Technology. U of Illinois is impossible for me to get into unless I get a second undergrad degree. Illinois Institute of Technology just doesn't seem like an environment I'd enjoy.
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Old 03-11-2012, 04:38 PM   #49
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Re: Masters In Comp Sci With No Prior Experience

Like it was mentioned above the pre-reqs look like 1st and 2nd year classes, would depaul let you takes those at community college? Even more so if you just want to take class to see if you like to code.
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Old 03-11-2012, 05:03 PM   #50
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Re: Masters In Comp Sci With No Prior Experience

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Like it was mentioned above the pre-reqs look like 1st and 2nd year classes, would depaul let you takes those at community college? Even more so if you just want to take class to see if you like to code.
Ya they're 1st and 2nd year classes prior to being allowed to start the Master's program. I'm going to be surrounded by 19 year olds...should be awesome. I think I could take them at a community college.

To be clear, I am taking the classes because hopefully they'll provide me with a strong foundation to keep building on. The added bonus is if it turns out it's not for me, I can get out after only investing 10k whereas U of Chicago I'd pretty much be all-in at 50k.

It's hard to tell if it's for me just from doing Code Year and doing online C++ lectures. So that's what I meant when I said it'll give me the opportunity to see if I truly like it/am good at it.
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