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Can i get a progamming job without a CS degree?

  1. Jan 7, 2012 #1
    ok so heres the thing:
    I really want to be a programmer as a career.
    However, there are some complications:
    At my school, computer science is a closed major, and its fairly competitive to get in.

    In my first 2 years of college, i didnt know what i wanted to do and i did not take school very seriously and i didnt get very good grades. At this point, it would be impossible to get into the computer science department at my school. And another thing is im a senior right now, so there would literally be no time for me to complete the major.

    Now, right now i am majoring in applied math. Now, the applied math program is fairly broad, and there are many different concentrations within the applied math department.
    I am doing an area of applied math that has a large focus on computer programming and discrete math. The official title of my bachelors degree will be this:

    Bachelor's degree in applied mathematics and computational sciences in discrete math and algorithms.

    As for the curriculum, there is a lot of programming involved (java, c/c++, ML, scheme, some theoretical algorithm design), however it does not have any programming capstone courses. I may be able to take one, but its unlikely as those are restricted to official CS majors. I know that the last courses that CS majors take are usually capstone classes, and classes which have a lot of groupwork since i know that that's what the industry is like .

    Now, i do have an option of possibly transfering to a different school that has an open CS department, but i want to know if you guys think i will be able to find a job with an applied math degree.

    I know that i will be disadvantaged when submitting resumes and not having an actual CS degree, but will it be possible?

    Also, im not talking about companies like google or facebook, i would be perfectly happy with landing any programming job at even a smaller company.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 7, 2012 #2


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    I think you should be happy with your own program. I think it is much better than CS degree.

    You could be hired in something which has a programming component. And then you expand your interest from there. Julian Assange has no CS degree.
  4. Jan 7, 2012 #3
    dont get me wrong, i am definitely happy with what i am doing.
    I think from a purely coding perspective, with a little more work, i can be as good at coding as an actual CS major. However, i looked at many different CS programs, and they all culminate in large group projects which span one or multiple quarters/terms. I will be lacking that.

    However, i looked at a lot of programming jobs on craigslist (yea i know not the best source) and many postings say:
    "Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science or related field"

    what would be considered a "related field"?
    My biggest fear, and what is probably going to happen, is that my application/resume will be tossed out purely because i dont hold a BS in CS. I know that sounds pessimistic, but i think thats simply how the world works.
    Any thoughts?
  5. Jan 7, 2012 #4


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    Applied math is definatly a related field. You will have a better background for many progamming jobs then someone who holds a CS degree. Knowing computer structure is not nearly as important as knowning the math behind the problem. Many with a BS in math end up as programmers.
  6. Jan 8, 2012 #5
    well, one of my other big fears is, lets say i line up some interviews, and i get asked:
    "so why didnt you just go for a BS in computer science?"

    and honestly the only answer i have is:
    "well, the CS department was impossible for me to get in since my grades were bad the first two years"

    and at that point im pretty much gone.
    Does anyone have any ideas for this situation ?
  7. Jan 8, 2012 #6


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    Your answer should be centered on the value of understanding the math of the situation rather then computer architecture. Computer languages are easy to learn, real world mathematics on the other hand require a lot more time and effort.
  8. Jan 8, 2012 #7


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    You really need to research the importance of what you are doing! You are just stuck with the CS thing, because the admission criteria was high or different, in your institution.

    It is 'related field' and even better.
  9. Jan 8, 2012 #8
    This may be helpful:

    "A bachelor's degree is typically required for entry-level programming jobs, although those with an associate's degree or certain certificates may qualify as well. About 50 percent of computer programmers hold a bachelor's degree, and another 20 percent have taken some college courses. While most computer programmers have a four-year degree in computer science, others hold degrees in related technical fields such as mathematics, information systems, or engineering...While degrees are important in this field, employers tend to place more emphasis on work experience."

    Short answer: Don't worry about the degree title so much.
  10. Jan 8, 2012 #9
    yea, i guess im not too worried.
    I think the main thing now though, however is getting some experience outside of the class room cause right now i have none. Im trying to look into getting a small research position with a professor, or anything to put on a resume besides classes ive taken
  11. Jan 8, 2012 #10
    OMG i was scrounging the internet for job openings and i found something that was perfect!
    also, in the requirements:
    Bachelor's degree in computer engineering or applied mathematics (or equivalent).

    Now, i need to get this job. What are some things i can do to boost my resume?
  12. Jan 9, 2012 #11


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    It would help if you give a few specifics of the advertisement. What are the specifics that the employer is looking for?
  13. Jan 9, 2012 #12
    For us to give you good advise, you will need to provide complete details. Any other details regarding this job? Also remember though that you may not want to fall in love with a job, at least until you get it. A while back, I did the same thing, thought I had the job and was passed over. I was forced to start an ac company here in katy, TX after I lost my job in 2009. Good luck.
  14. Jan 10, 2012 #13
    well im definitely not getting it, since i still have over a year before i graduate so i cant even aplply lol but i might check with them next year.

    I looked at your website. You were a programmer?
    May i ask, why didnt you try to get another programming job?
  15. Jan 10, 2012 #14
    You actually *won't* be disadvantaged with not having a CS degree. Computer programming is one of those fields in which no one cares what you have your degree in as long as you can program.

    What *may* disadvantage you is like of internship experience and/or career services. The value for most CS programs isn't the curriculum as much as that the program has internship and career services available for you.
  16. Jan 10, 2012 #15
    That part is easy.

    Find the mailing list for some large open source project (linux-kernel, boost, gnome, KDE) and introduce yourself. Log into bugzilla, find a bug, and fix it. If you can point to some submission into the linux kernel that you wrote, that will be 100x as impressive on a resume as a bachelor's degree.

    It's not. There are some fields in which people care a lot about your degree, but CS is not one of them.
  17. Jan 10, 2012 #16


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    You could answer along the lines of "I already knew all the computer science I am going to need due to my programming experience before entering college. Therefore I searched for a more in-depth understanding of related fields in which I had less experience, but which might come in helpful."
    Of course this only works if you can show that you are a good programmer. Note that this is actually true for most expert coders who start coding at an early age.
  18. Jan 10, 2012 #17
    at that point i have absolutely no clue how to do anything like that.
    I am comfortable with working wiht some unix distros such as fedora and ubuntu, and i am comfortable using bash and writing bash scripts. Im also learning the tc shell.

    How should i go about learning how to write kernel code?
    Btw im taking a hardware class next quarter which deals with explicit memory management. Do you know if that's the kind of stuff kernel's deal with?
    cause right now im just barely breaking into the hardware side of CS
  19. Jan 11, 2012 #18


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    With regard to memory management, yes this is an important element of the core of an operating system and it can get very complex depending on what kind of functionality is expected.

    If you are interested in this, you should look at things like the bin-packing problem in 1 dimension (higher dimensions find their way in many applications as well including in places like engineering).

    With regard to something like the kernel, you will need to understand how modern operating systems are designed. There has been changes between DOS and things like Windows 2000/XP/Vista and modern *nix distributions.

    As an example, in the DOS days memory was a public thing. The idea of "protected memory" didn't exist for a long time. Also back then you could install your own interrupts for things like custom device drivers, and the idea of "kernal space" and "application space" didn't exist.

    Apart from conceptual details like this, something like the kernel source code repository is going to have some kind of structure. It's going to full of custom macro's, naming conventions, standard data structures, and all other kinds of standardization measures that accompany large and mature software projects.

    I haven't done any development for the kernel, but I guarantee there is bound to be a few documents lying around that touch on the above issues, and dev forums will hold a wealth of experience and information that you can tap into.

    It will help you also to learn standard x86 assembler if you're doing this kind of thing.
  20. Jan 11, 2012 #19
    The good news is that if they absolutely require that you have a BS in computer science, they won't give you the interview. If there is a question about your credentials, you won't get passed the resume screen.

    You could say that the school restricts entry into the CS department, and you couldn't get in. Also if you have to bring up your grades, you just add "but I've done much better recently."

    Probably not. If your coding skills are good, no one will care about your grades. (Conversely, if your coding skills are bad, no one will care that you got straight 'A's either.)

    If grades are important, you will get filtered out pre-interview.
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