General Question

monsoon's avatar

Will a Minor in Computer Science be enough to get my foot in a door?

Asked by monsoon (2505points) March 28th, 2008

I am a Psychology Major, and I have always been interested in Computer Science. I am about to transfer (next semester is my first as a junior), and I was wondering if a minor in computer science would be worth it to get into an entry level software position, If i also got into personal side projects to sprinkle over my resume (similar to pixie dust), as a “fallback”.

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22 Answers

luminous00's avatar

I honestly find that a college degree does jack. I don’t know why I wasted 22k on an Internet / Networking Design BS degree. Either way, I don’t know much about the coding aspect of IT, but I would assume it’s the same. Experience is what really matters, and entry level positions are pretty common and easy to get. Get your foot in the door, and work your ass off daily, and hopefully within a year you’ll be moving up.

monsoon's avatar

But how do I DO that? I should mention that I have ZIP knowledge on the subject. I’m a female, which may have contributed to my shyness about learning before now. When I search craigslist, jobs all want either experience or a degree.

luminous00's avatar

So wait, what kind of jobs are you interested in? Like what section of IT?

monsoon's avatar

I think I’m interested in design, but I know so little about it, it’s hard for me to say. But, that’s where I’ve started.

luminous00's avatar

As in program design? You would be learning C++, Perl, PHP, Java, Javascript, Visual Basic I’m assuming?

monsoon's avatar

I’m assuming too.

ccatron's avatar

entry level jobs are not as easy to get as one would think. I graduated with a BS in Computer Science concentration in IT and had a hard time finding a decent job. most of the “entry level” jobs required you to have a couple years of experience. So I took a crappy job at Dell in Tech Support to get “experience”, which turned out to help a lot in the long run.

A minor in programming and/or design for someone who is not familiar with the subject would not do much good unless you did a lot of “on the side” learning. I started off in college taking programming courses and decided it wasn’t for me, so I switched to the IT concentration. We still had a few programming courses, but it wasn’t as intense. I don’t remember a lot of what I learned in the programming classes.

I’m not familiar with the programmer job market, but I would think it would be easier if you are double majoring/minoring in a separate field. Some CSCI programs will provide internships or projects to help you get experience, so that would be something to look into.

luminous00's avatar

Haha, ok. Well when I was in Computer Science, I found myself taking a heavy load of programming courses…which I had no intention of using.

luminous00's avatar

@ccatron – Entry level positions are simple to get compared to the requirements of higher up positions in IT, that’s basically what I meant. I find a lot of people searching for jobs in IT look too high up, when they need to start at the bottom.

monsoon's avatar

If a job requires a BS in Computer science or whatever, will a minor meet that req also?

soundedfury's avatar

I work for a web start-up of 36 or so people and, in the entire company, only one person has a CS degree. The VP of Technology has a degree in film (I think), we have about half a dozen literature majors, a couple of business degrees, etc.

I’ve been in the industry in various capacities for 13 years and I’ve never seen a company ignore good candidates because of a degree requirement. Most listings will ask for a degree or equivalent experience, which can be met through entry-level jobs that have no requirements and doing work to teach yourself (and then making it public on a site or blog).

I started in IT with no experience beyond learning on a C64 and building my first Windows box (Win 3.1) from scratch. I moved from desktop support to web development by building websites for non-profit and educational groups in my free time, which gave me enough skills and a portfolio to be able to start looking for full-time web development work. I started focusing on front-end and user interface design because my company needed it.

And no, if they are going to be strict about a comp sci degree, a minor won’t fulfill that requirement. However, big giant red flags get thrown up whenever a company requires a degree.

ccatron's avatar

@monsoon—I can’t imagine that it would…if it asks for a BS, then only a BS will do. Although…Most of the time, employers will post “preferred” qualifications. They would like to have some one with this or that skill, but if the person is qualified in other ways, it might not matter.

paulc's avatar

It can’t hurt in my opinion. I’ve been programming for a living for around 7 years full time now and I’m self-taught. I know for a fact that having a degree would have opened more doors though I can’t complain about what I’ve managed to achieve. I’m going to be doing a degree soon for that very reason (and it makes it very easy to move to different countries).

cwilbur's avatar

If you’re looking at a healthy company, the things they will care about are (1) Can you do the job they want you to do? (2) Will you fit into the workgroup you’re going to be in?

College degrees are often used as employment qualifications because they show a measure of persistence and because they’re objective. You either have a degree or not; and the entry-level HR person making $7 an hour can filter on that. It’s not sensible, but it’s what happens.

Now, what a lot of companies have found is that people who have pure computer science degrees with no other academic credentials do not make the best coworkers and problem solvers. Many companies look for other significant education or work experience that shows that the candidate can work with subjective requirements and incomplete information—the sort of thing that significant coursework in the humanities or soft sciences shows.

So the two things that seem to be involved in your question:

First, a minor in computer science is more than enough technical knowledge to be qualified for most entry-level coding jobs. Most of the information you need to be successful isn’t explicitly taught in classes anyway.

Second, you might have a hard time getting your foot in the door at very corporate and bureaucratic places because you don’t have a degree in computer science. The thing to do there is to do an end run around the HR gatekeeper: participate in technical organizations in your area, or look for internships, or otherwise make contact with the technical people directly.

jasonjackson's avatar

Yes, it will – if you apply to the right places. :)

At a large company, you’ll often need the CS BS degree to even get your resume past HR and into the hands of a hiring manager. Your side projects may help a little, but often not much, I’ve found – it depends on the hiring manager.

But at smaller companies, like the one I’m the lead developer for, you can easily get hired without a degree, if you’re actually good at programming and working in teams. That’s because we tend to look for qualified people, not necessarily people with credentials. I’ve met many very poor programmers (in real-world terms) with advanced degrees, so I no longer look much at applicants’ education level; instead, I check for lots of personal projects (which indicate a love for programming that pretty much can’t be faked) and past work experience, ask lots of questions in interviews, have applicants write code during the interview, etc. So in that case, your side projects would probably be the thing I’d care about most.

At this point, though, it sounds like you might be a step ahead of yourself; I’d recommend taking some classes, just to see if you’re really as interested in development as you think you are, and to figure out your specialty(ies). You really do need to love programming to be much good at it, i.e. to make money at it. Once you’re sure it’s the field for you, then you’ll be ready to look for places that will be willing to give you your first crack at doing it for money.

Finally, I’d note that even if you find that you don’t like programming enough to pursue a career in it, a light understanding of it combined with a psychology degree will give you excellent credentials for related jobs, like project management.

monsoon's avatar

@jasonjackson, absolutely. I’m just brainstorming. I’m going to take either a beginning programming or information systems class this summer before I transfer at a cc for no credit, purely to get my feet wet. It’s just something that has forever interested me, and I had this epiphany that went something like “Why can’t I learn about computer programming?”

luminous00's avatar

was there alcohol involved? I find that epiphanys happen more frequently when under the influence, haha

cwilbur's avatar

@jasonjackson: that distinction, between being qualified and having the credential, is one I’ve been fumbling around for a while. I’m glad you put your finger on what I was trying to say.

@monsoon: if you think you might be interested in software development, get an internship doing just that as early as possible. The actual software development job is very different from computer science classes, and having an actual taste of it, earlier rather than later, will give you the information to know if this is something you want to pursue. Beyond that, you’ll see how project management works, and you’ll know if (as jasonjackson suggests) that’s something you might be interested in exploring.

kayte's avatar

Hi, my name’s kayte. I am 20 years old. Well, I’ve always loved computers since I was exposed to them. I’ve studied programming in 2 languages; V Basic and Q Basic, and I’d like to minor in Computer science.Well, I’ve also had a passionate love for nursing, so I thought of majoring in nursing. My question is, should I mix nursing with computer science or does that spell a disaster for me? lol

cwilbur's avatar

@kayte: What is your dream job in 10 years? If you can honestly answer “nurse,” then the only reason to pursue a computer science minor is because you’re interested in it. That’s a valid reason, to be sure.

I don’t think it’s a disaster to mix computer science and nursing, but at the same time, the jobs where you use both sets of skills are likely to be few and far between unless you take specific steps to make it happen. One thing that could work for you would be to spend several years as a nurse, and then get an MBA or MIS degree and find work as a project manager for a software company designing medical software—smart companies are starting to realize that managers are not interchangeable, and a project manager with domain specific knowledge and experience is worth his or her weight in gold.

iLearn2011's avatar

Hello everyone, my name is Paul and I am currently 21 years old.

I wanted to ask if my current situation is in anyway disastrous or not worth pursuing.

I am currently a junior at an undergraduate level majoring in Biology and Secondary Education. I recently developed a longing to pursue graduate studies in educational technology and innovations. In other words, I want to go to a graduate program where I can study, create projects in order to help students ultimately learn with the new products. Following the graduate studies, I wanted to either work in a major education technology company or pursue doctoral studies in educational teaching with technology to become a professor.

Mindful of all this, would it be wise to try and fit in a computer science minor to help give me foundation on programming skills, knowledge of technology in computer science? I have had no real experience in computer science, but have always been curious. As I am Junior, I felt like I have ample time since I will be graduating a year after my senior year.

Any suggestions will be highly appreciated. Much thanks!

ydenber's avatar

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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