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Majoring in Philosophy to becoming a Software Developer?

  1. Feb 9, 2015 #1
    Hi everyone so I'm at a crucial point in my life right now. Since I was in high school I've had an interest in technology and have worked on installing computer parts, and learning how to write programs. I started my sophomore year learning C++ with the C++ Primer which I got through half of during the time, and have also learned from online tutorials. On top of that I've messed around with python, and java. Lately I've been focusing on HTML5, CSS and JavaScript. I know basics such as loops, types, arrays, etc. I also have some experience with Linux distributions albeit not Ubuntu, or Debian. With my college education I took a weird route however and decided to major in philosophy, and last quarter declared a double major in mathematics. I'm concerned for the future however. I'll end this year with 22,500k worth of student loans because I wasn't smart enough to apply for scholarships however I have worked full time and even two jobs on several occasions throughout my educational career at odd jobs, fast food, and was a parking attendant for some point in time. I graduated high school with my associate degree at the age of 17, and due to the school wanting me to declare my major my second quarter I opted for philosophy. I am currently 20 going on 21 this summer.

    The problem I have however is that I am questioning whether or not math would help me proportionally to the 7,500 dollars more of debt I would need to pay for tuition and to ensure my living conditions, and so far working and going to school full time has been slightly less than bearable, and has taken a toll on my GPA (In major: 3.2).

    I intend to take statistics with an emphasis on using R next quarter along with my first formal introduction to java class. I've completed the calculus series, linear algebra, differential equations, and introduction to proofs but if I graduate next quarter I won't have even a minor in mathematics. I am currently taking my first intro to proof class and I find it quite similar to formal logic in my philosophy major and intended to take real analysis and numerical analysis with MATLAB next year. I just don't have a proper vantage point to do a proper cost benefit analysis with respect to my future career. I just don't want to be constrained by the burden of debt I find myself currently in. I wish to work in software development, but I'm just rather concerned that people would bat their eyes at a philosophy major having heard countless jokes as to its worthlessness. My apologies for the long winded question, I'm just concerned because I don't know what life after college will entail. I intend to work at my fast food job until I gain enough open source, and hackathon experience to become respectable enough for an entry level position after I graduate. I don't care about the pay I just wish to be out of the food service industry once and for all and hopefully on a path to greener meadows down the line. I figure less debt would make it easier for me to move around if need be.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 9, 2015 #2
    So why are you majoring in philosophy and what is your question?

    Also, quit your fast food job and code up a portfolio. One big advantage of software development is that you can show what you can create directly whereas for other jobs you show your degree, which indirectly should indicate what you ought to be capable of.

    I am also confused as to why you have so much debt as you are only 21 and have a (two?) part-time(fulltime? job(s) while studying. Are you paying 60,000 euro (dollar?) a year to get a degree you don't think will get you a job while coding is actually your passion (and much more emplotable)?
  4. Feb 9, 2015 #3
    I'm majoring in philosophy because when I came to this University I had to choose a major and philosophy was the major I had enough credits for. I was also passionate about the field and feel it strengthened my rhetorical skills, and exposed me to a great deal of works I wouldn't have been otherwise. It's a shame but where I come from it's as if everyone blindly follows dogma with little to no evaluation of their beliefs. I also studied to economics up to the 301 level (intermediate macro) so I've garnered a broad range of skills over my time here. I'm not a typical humanities major.
    My tuition is 13k a year. I've used federal loans maximum each year due to my immature financial planning. My mom got cancer last year so I dropped a quarter or I could've finished last spring. I'm currently taking more math courses this year, I'm one class away from my philosophy major which I intend to take next quarter. At my school the cse department was also super competitive. Only about 20% of people get into the program.

    I can't quit my min wage job. I've been supporting myself for the entirety of my stay in this city. Sadly I'm not a fan of the entire college thing in the first place. It's like I have a new Mustang that I will never drive. I never indended on going to university though so philosophy was okay with me as a major my freshman year. I'm wondering if it's worth the extra debt to pursue a math degree or if I should just cut my losses in terms of debt and work on my portfolio after graduating with a philosophy degree? It's not as if I'm intending to move back home so I'll need to continue working still, and in my spare time I do work on a programs and read a few hours a day on programming topics and projects that interest me.
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2015
  5. Feb 9, 2015 #4
    I think a CS degree is better than a math degree, in terms of program development, but the main thing is having a program you've shown you developed? Lots of developers get hired without even going to college because they developed something impressive.

    My brother had an abstract math undergraduate degree and a CS master's, that combo worked for him but only because he was good at what he did and he's been coding since he was like 9 years old. As far as software dev/programming goes it's more about what you produce than your degree.
  6. Feb 11, 2015 #5


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    Figure out what you want to do with your life. I know, easy to say but hard to do.

    But figure out where you want to be in 5, 10, 20 years. Figure out what you can do that you want to do.

    Picking your career on the basis of what will make the most money is problematic. Usually doing that does not make you the most money anyway, and most people who try to do it that way do not wind up very happy. Keep in mind that the nature of human existence is changing pretty rapidly right now. You really don't want to be preparing yourself to make something that will be entirely obsolete next week.

    Pick something that you are good at, that you could at least tolerate doing. Preferably something you would enjoy doing. If you have more than one selection from that category then look at other features. But find the thing you are good at and can at least tolerate the thought of doing it for the next 20 years.

    Then concentrate on preparing for that.
  7. Feb 11, 2015 #6
    Well, I finally did it. I got a job as a software developer with my PhD in math and no CS degree. I haven't started yet. It was pretty hard to get, though. Having the PhD was helpful in this particular case, but it took a long time to find a place for which that was true. Great job search skills can get you an interview. Since I have terrible job search skills, that it very hard without CS qualifications (except a minor). The big thing that worked was just to be ready to answer interview questions. You can get a book about that. I think it would make more sense to spend time on programming stuff than math stuff if that's what you are going to do, but math can be a plus for some places. Finance might be a good area to try with the math and economics background. That's what I'll be doing.
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