General Question

monsoon's avatar

Should I get a minor is CS, or put my efforts towards certifications?

Asked by monsoon (2510points) November 17th, 2008 from iPhone

I’m majoring in psychology, and am also interested in CS, and want to do work in that area while I work on post secondary education in psychology. I work at a sort of technical support/computer repair job, and was wondering if my efforts would be better spent trying for certifications, since I decided to get into this a little late, and minoring in computer science will add a semester or two onto me getting my bachelors degree.

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5 Answers

cwilbur's avatar

It depends on what certifications you’re planning on getting, and what kind of a job you want to get in the long run.

For software jobs, certifications are worthless; you’ll be asked to show code samples and to talk about them, and you might be given a small coding test. The minor will probably do you a lot more good in this case.

For hardware and networking jobs, certifications are much more important, but the meaningful ones are hard to get.

jasonjackson's avatar

If you just want to dabble in coding (which is what it sounds like), getting some certifications will probably be fine – the certification process will force you to learn enough that you’ll likely be good enough at lightweight programming for dabbling purposes, or to take on smaller freelance jobs.

If you’d like to make a real career of programming, though, then spending at least some time in “real” CS classes is a very good idea, so that you get exposed to the fundamental concepts of programming; that way you’ll learn things that you’ll be able to apply in almost any programming job, in whatever platform/language is needed.

All in all, I guess it depends on how good you want to be at programming. If you just want to be mildly competent in certain languages or with certain frameworks, then pursuing a few certifications is cheaper and faster than taking CS classes. I wouldn’t suggest that if you’re hoping to make a real career out of creating software, though – in that case, I’d recommend making the additional effort and investment to get the CS minor.

(FYI, it’s my opinion that out in the real world, an actual CS degree is of utility mainly in getting you past the HR department so that you can talk to the hiring manager for a programming job; your skills and/or experience will be what then gets you the job (or doesn’t), at most companies – especially smaller ones. But the classes CS themselves, and what they teach you about how to think about coding (if you let them) are invaluable (if you let them be).)

cwilbur's avatar

@jasonjackson: I agree, but the way I’d put it is that there’s a theoretical side of programming (mainly, data structures and algorithms) that it really helps to know, and the easiest way to learn that is to take a class in it. Actually getting a CS degree can be a detriment, because there are so many incompetent people out there with CS degrees; I know that I’d much rather see a programmer with a degree in just about anything else, or at least a double major. That tells me that this is not just a person who thought a CS degree was a ticket to a high-paying job, and that he or she has taken courses that require serious work.

monsoon's avatar

@cwilbur, like psychology? :)
it’s okay if the answer is no.

cwilbur's avatar

Psychology works. The ones I like working with the most, though, tend to be humanities majors.

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