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ydenber's avatar

Can I pursue a career with CS minor? Please help!

Asked by ydenber (8points) September 23rd, 2011

Hi I’m currently a history major in UC Riverside that has no idea what career I’m going to be pursuing after graduating this year so I was thinking about minoring in computer science and maybe pursuing a career out of it.

I heard that most jobs in IT dont really REQUIRE a BS degree in CS and is more likely to look for experience and knowledge so I was thinking if I graduate with a minor in CS, it will at least give me enough knowledge to get into entry level jobs and gain experience which then will allow me to be able to apply and work for bigger companies later on down the road.

But now I’m also worried about the pay of these entry level jobs and how long it will take me to reach a decent salary based IT job without a degree in CS.

Anyone that didnt major in CS that has a career in the field, please help

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6 Answers

geeky_mama's avatar

I work for one of the top 3 software companies in the world, have been recruited by Google a few times (but have not accepted their offers) and my degree was essentially Political Science.

Not that I’d suggest that path to you.. but I can tell you NONE of my R&D colleagues have a BS in Computer Science. One was a Russian major.. quite a few were Physics or Math majors.

I went back and took courses (post grad) that would fall under a CS program (about 15 years ago I took some C++ programming courses..but I started out my working career usingCobol and Assembly code..which tells you I come from the era of mainframes..which I know dates me quite a bit).. but what you’ll learn is that all employers figure if you know one major programming language you can figure out another.
It’s really much more important to understand conceptually how to write elegant code and to be sharp of mind (the ability to craft an algorithm…which is why Math and Physics majors are usually among the best)—the degree really need not be CS or IT at all.

The best possible thing you can do is find an internship or mentor or create your own app or product. Showing what you’ve done and what your capable of will differentiate you when you go to seek employment..not your degree.

One other possibility is to pick up at least one other language. Talented consultants are among the best paid folks I know—and having the ability to speak/understand another language greatly improves their marketability.

I have colleagues who have picked up Portuguese and Spanish and have worked steadily because of their combination of language skills and (software) product knowledge.

geeky_mama's avatar

And, by the way..Welcome to Fluther!

ydenber's avatar

First of all, thank you so much for your answer! it made me feel a lot better today. And well, coming from a Korean culture, I know how to speak Korean very fluently (I was actually born in Korea as well) and I took couple Spanish courses so I’m sure I’ll able to brush up some of my Spanish to help me as well.

As for the internships, what kind would I need to look for to help me gain experience and knowledge about writing codes and programming?

dabbler's avatar

My impression is that it’s a lot harder to break into the CS field without a CS degree than it used to be. Some the best programmers I knew in silicon valley a couple decades ago were self-taught.
But these days a lot of positions simply have a B.S C.S as a requirement and that’s that they won’t talk to you. I also think that technology companies are a lot more likely to understand the value of your experience more that maybe a bank. (e.g. IBM or HP)
Some big consulting firms like Accenture and the accounting firms may value your history major experience since you can probably communicate more clearly than a lot of techno-grads.

Document your CS coursework well, and see if there is a way in your last couple terms to amp up your degree to be a double-major, i.e. CS requirements are fulfulfilled, and avoid having it look like a sidecar to your history work. And if you did some analytical work in history using your CS skills, bring that to the forefront in your interviews.

geeky_mama's avatar

@ydenber – your Korean language skills will be a BIG asset. It’s good that you’re adding Spanish, too.

As for intern opportunities:
All the big companies in Silicon Valley have established internship programs for college students and your CS department should have listings of other intern opportunities, too.
A short google search showed me these:

As for how to gain experience and programming languages:
Being self-taught isn’t bad—and there are books out there to help you pick up languages. Try making your own Java applets or an iPhone app. Having something tactile that’s completed that you can SHOW a prospective employer (for an internship or after graduation) will go a long way.

I agree with @dabbler to some’s definitely getting more competitive for all sorts of opportunities. Still, for an undergrad degree…I don’t think History will hold you back. Being bilingual (Korean/English) is enough of a differentiator that if you can prove the ability to craft some code or be an effective QA’ll definitely have a good food in the door.

FWIW, I have another acquaintance who was a History major who became the COO of a Global Health organization—he’s in charge of operations to ship medical supplies to developing nations. He started out working for our Historical Society—working in museums here in our home state…but ended up in this neat non-profit role. So, don’t worry that a History degree means limiting your job options.

ydenber's avatar

Thank you for all your helpful answers! I went to the CS department last week and found out that I actually cant minor in CS neither due to limitations on units.

I am now thinking about just graduating asap with a degree in History and studying further on my own at a community college or through an university extension courses to take as much CS classes needed and add them on my resume along with the CS related internships I will be taking.

But would that be enough for my resume to be able to land an entry level job to work my way up? or would I need something more to better my chances

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