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Getting started as a programmer

 
Greenhorn
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Looking for some advice from those who have been in the programming world for a while. Sorry this is a bit long-winded, but I will try to provide as much background information as possible.

I have a BS degree in a field unrelated to programming (Cartography). For the last 15 years I have been working as a graphic designer and became really bored with the job. Decided on a career change and enrolled in the local community college to get a associates degree as an IT Networking Specialist. I have completed 3 of the 4 required semesters. One requirement was to take a generic programming course (java), which I did, and as it turns out I really loved it! Now I'm thinking I should have enrolled and gone for the associates degree in web and software development. The problem is to change now I would probably be looking at 3 more semesters instead of 1. I don't think I can take another year and a half at my current position as a graphic designer.

I'm thinking of switching to get the programming degree anyway. If I could find a job as a programmer and be working that while I finish my schooling, then when I'm done school I would have the degree and 1-1/2 years experience. My question is what is the minimum requirements needed to get a job as an entry-level programmer? I know this will vary greatly depending on the position and my abilities, but in reading through this forum and others I am getting mixed messages. Some say don't both trying to get a programming job without a BS, some say degrees don't matter. So what can I do short term to make myself a beginning programmer that somebody might be willing to hire? I was looking into the Oracle Certified Associate Java SE 7 certificate, which in my research would seem obtainable by the end of the year. Is this something that is worthwhile? Would that certification along with some project examples be enough to at least get me an entry level position? I know there are a lot of variables involved with a question like this, but looking for some direction. Thanks.
 
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Paul LeBlanc wrote: I know this will vary greatly depending on the position and my abilities, but in reading through this forum and others I am getting mixed messages. Some say don't both trying to get a programming job without a BS, some say degrees don't matter.



I don't think that the message is mixed at all. Without any experience, the degree absolutely matters -- as there is a big difference between someone willing to work 4 years towards something (that is reputable and certified) versus someone who studied a few months to get a certification.

On the other hand, if you have 10 years of experience, with lots of cool projects on your resume, the degree matters less. And arguably, doesn't matter at all.

Paul LeBlanc wrote: So what can I do short term to make myself a beginning programmer that somebody might be willing to hire? I was looking into the Oracle Certified Associate Java SE 7 certificate, which in my research would seem obtainable by the end of the year. Is this something that is worthwhile? Would that certification along with some project examples be enough to at least get me an entry level position? I know there are a lot of variables involved with a question like this, but looking for some direction. Thanks.



Many schools work with companies to offer internship programs. And many of these programs actually pay their interns. IMO, while in school, this is a good option to take advantage of.

Henry
 
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Have you looked into opportunities to use your cartography background to help you get into IT work in GIS? Web-mapping has grown massively in recent years, and there are lots of interesting open source tools around, ranging from simple Google Maps add-ons, through server-side spatial data management systems such as Geoserver, to fully functional geographical information systems like QGIS. It's a relatively small niche compared to mainstream Java development, but it combines technical skills, spatial data analysis, cartographic design and software development. Might be an option for somebody with your interesting mix of skills/experience, or at least a fun area to explore as a focus for building your own portfolio of software projects.
 
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… and welcome to the Ranch
 
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My background is very similar to your so I’ll share my thoughts. I did 3D Modeling/Animation/Video/Design for 12years before switching over to software development 2 years ago. Haven’t looked back!

Personally, I wouldn’t bother with a 2yr degree in this field. If you haven’t looked already, I’d highly recommend researching http://www.wgu.edu/online_it_degrees/information_technology_degree_software

Yes, I’m a graduate of WGU. However, that degree wasn’t available when I finished 1.5yrs ago and I had to just get the IT Software degree. I don’t want to get into a long spiel of the school when you can easily read it all yourself, but the biggest thing with any school is accreditation. WGU is fully accredited.

In my experience, having a 4yr degree has been more of a HR checkbox than a talking point in any my interviews. It’s never been mentioned, etc. I suppose if it was a known school maybe it would be different, but who knows.

My suggestion is to get a 4yr degree or no degree. Going to a school like WGU you could transfer your credits and if motivated finish your 4yr degree way before finishing that 2yr degree. Personally, the only programming type degree I think worth taking years to get would be a pure Computer Science degree.

I don’t know how old you are, etc. But, for me, being in my late 30’s and knowing I wanted to switch to software development I could not justify spending the next 4-8yrs it would take going part-time to get a 4yr CS degree. However, while many will say a degree means squat it's all in what you know. When you are first starting out, it's a huge plus. Depending on your area it could have an impact as well. Simply because a lot of big companies (not Google, Facebook, etc) that are old school types weed out the degree-less in the first round.

Just my 2 cents.

-Karl
 
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I think having a degree in something is useful. And then something to show you are now focused on programming, It could be a few classes (some schools have certificate programs where you take 4-8 classes on a topic). Or the OCPJP certification. (The OCAJP is too entry level to just stop there.)

If you do want a BA/BS in Computer Science, it shouldn't take 4 years because you already have a BS in something else. Some schools let you waive a lot of the basic requirements due to that and focus on your major.

 
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I don't want to know your real age. But, do you mind telling me what is the range ? Eg. I am in my 20s, 30s etc. Lets assume you are 33, smarter than average, a quick learner and don't have other responsibilities that take big chunks of your time. By 35, you might know enough to get an internship. By 37, you'll be ready to focus fully on a full time job. I am wondering which company will be willing to hire a 37 year old person as an entry level developer especially if there are younger developers with similar intelligence, skills and maybe more experience ? Probably some GIS company as one of the posters suggested.
 
Karl Barek
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sid smith wrote:...I am wondering which company will be willing to hire a 37 year old person as an entry level developer especially if there are younger developers with similar intelligence, skills and maybe more experience ? Probably some GIS company as one of the posters suggested.



Considering the average retiring age is what... 65-70 nowadays? That's almost another 30yrs of working. We could spend forever going over the pros and cons of hiring an older or younger person.

But, regardless of that when you hire someone if all you care about is what they bring thru the door on day one you will miss out on a lot of talented people. Any company worth working for places some value on a diverse work experience. While it might not be butt in seat coding experience, it's experience of working, solving problems, etc.

 
sid smith
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Karl Barek wrote:

sid smith wrote:...I am wondering which company will be willing to hire a 37 year old person as an entry level developer especially if there are younger developers with similar intelligence, skills and maybe more experience ? Probably some GIS company as one of the posters suggested.



Considering the average retiring age is what... 65-70 nowadays? That's almost another 30yrs of working. We could spend forever going over the pros and cons of hiring an older or younger person.

But, regardless of that when you hire someone if all you care about is what they bring thru the door on day one you will miss out on a lot of talented people. Any company worth working for places some value on a diverse work experience. While it might not be butt in seat coding experience, it's experience of working, solving problems, etc.



Yes, if you are great problem solver, then getting a job becomes easy for you. If I were you, I'd try to size up the competition and see where I stand. If you see that you are a great problem solver and are as good, if not better than the average developer or person, then you have a good chance of being ahead of your competition, even when you are much older than them. However, if there are many guys like you and they are willing to do the job for less compensation (eg. because they don't have their own family), then you could be at a disadvantage. In the end, I 'd
say go for it. Take some courses in a college and/or online coaching. If you like it and excel in it, then dive deep into it.
 
Karl Barek
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sid smith wrote:Yes, if you are great problem solver, then getting a job becomes easy for you. If I were you, I'd try to size up the competition and see where I stand. If you see that you are a great problem solver and are as good, if not better than the average developer or person, then you have a good chance of being ahead of your competition, even when you are much older than them. However, if there are many guys like you and they are willing to do the job for less compensation (eg. because they don't have their own family), then you could be at a disadvantage. In the end, I 'd
say go for it. Take some courses in a college and/or online coaching. If you like it and excel in it, then dive deep into it.



We could argue the benefits of a younger versus older all day. I'll bite though, you say lower compensation. While that might be true (really depends on the income bracket of the person before. Not everyone is making a switch from a high paying job.) The salary of a entry level developer at a decent company is actually pretty darn high in relation to most jobs. So, the other side of the argument is there's a good chance that the older person is a lot more mature and the odds of having to deal with poor performance due to staying out late, etc, etc is a lot lower than that of the person that has a family at home that depends on them. Yep, that's a huge generalization, but that's my point. That's what we are talking about here, generalizations that at the end of the day don't really mean squat.

I agree with you, he should dive into it. I wouldn't let anyone, especially strangers on the internet make me switch my focus.
 
Henry Wong
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As a side note to the discussion between Sid and Karl... I have to say that when I interview someone, there is an advantage to someone with more life experiences. After all, I may have to spend a lot of time with the candidate in the future. And we may be in the trenches together. It isn't just about how much the candidate cost -- it's about building the team.

On the other hand, I only interview candidates for senior positions (since the last few decades), so take my statements with a grain of salt...

Henry
 
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Younger people may bring more originality and ideas, but I think the correct answer is that you need diversity. A team with young and old, introverted and extraverted, men and women, in will be much more productive than a homogeneous team.
 
sid smith
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Henry Wong wrote: I have to say that when I interview someone, there is an advantage to someone with more life experiences.
Henry



Does that mean someone with more experience in projects or just life in general ? Can you please tell us why you consider more life exp an advantage ?
 
Jeanne Boyarsky
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sid smith wrote:

Henry Wong wrote: I have to say that when I interview someone, there is an advantage to someone with more life experiences.
Henry



Does that mean someone with more experience in projects or just life in general ? Can you please tell us why you consider more life exp an advantage ?


I see both as being an advantage. Someone with more experience typically communicates better, knows how to deal with stress, works better in a team, etc.
 
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Personally, I would advise that you get a 4 year degree. There are schools offering 4 year degree programs online for Comp Sci. Good luck!
 
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Paul LeBlanc wrote:Looking for some advice from those who have been in the programming world for a while. Sorry this is a bit long-winded, but I will try to provide as much background information as possible.

I have a BS degree in a field unrelated to programming (Cartography). For the last 15 years I have been working as a graphic designer and became really bored with the job. Decided on a career change and enrolled in the local community college to get a associates degree as an IT Networking Specialist. I have completed 3 of the 4 required semesters. One requirement was to take a generic programming course (java), which I did, and as it turns out I really loved it! Now I'm thinking I should have enrolled and gone for the associates degree in web and software development. The problem is to change now I would probably be looking at 3 more semesters instead of 1. I don't think I can take another year and a half at my current position as a graphic designer.

I'm thinking of switching to get the programming degree anyway. If I could find a job as a programmer and be working that while I finish my schooling, then when I'm done school I would have the degree and 1-1/2 years experience. My question is what is the minimum requirements needed to get a job as an entry-level programmer? I know this will vary greatly depending on the position and my abilities, but in reading through this forum and others I am getting mixed messages. Some say don't both trying to get a programming job without a BS, some say degrees don't matter. So what can I do short term to make myself a beginning programmer that somebody might be willing to hire? I was looking into the Oracle Certified Associate Java SE 7 certificate, which in my research would seem obtainable by the end of the year. Is this something that is worthwhile? Would that certification along with some project examples be enough to at least get me an entry level position? I know there are a lot of variables involved with a question like this, but looking for some direction. Thanks.



Hi Paul. how is everything going? I have some question from you. How can i contact you?
 
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Degree is must if you don't have experience.Companies hire freshers but they hire them based on their degree and skills.So,without degree I don't think it will be possible to get into IT job.Moreover you are from non IT background which is more difficult to get into IT,until and unless the candidate is so talented at programming.I would like to suggest you to take short term courses and get certified so that you can apply for IT jobs.
 
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