Back to Grad School?

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jmuc85
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Back to Grad School?

Post by jmuc85 » Sun Dec 28, 2008 4:41 pm

Hello all,

I graduated from a respectable midwestern college this past May with a degree in Finance. I have not been able to find employment thus far. Many of the jobs I have looked at thus far in Finance are looking for people with some computer programming skills. I am considering enrolling in a university in Chicago to earn a Master of Science in Computer Science.

In my mind, I want to enhance my skill set not only for the job, but because I think the future is going to be all about computers. This is why so many foreign students have engineering/computer jobs--because their education system stresses these skills.

Any comments and pros/cons about doing this? I enjoy working with computers, but have 0 programming skills (they do not require previous programming skills).

Thanks

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DiscoBunny1979
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Re: Back to Grad School?

Post by DiscoBunny1979 » Sun Dec 28, 2008 5:26 pm

jmuc85 wrote:Hello all,

I graduated from a respectable midwestern college this past May with a degree in Finance. I have not been able to find employment thus far. Many of the jobs I have looked at thus far in Finance are looking for people with some computer programming skills. I am considering enrolling in a university in Chicago to earn a Master of Science in Computer Science.

In my mind, I want to enhance my skill set not only for the job, but because I think the future is going to be all about computers. This is why so many foreign students have engineering/computer jobs--because their education system stresses these skills.

Any comments and pros/cons about doing this? I enjoy working with computers, but have 0 programming skills (they do not require previous programming skills).

Thanks
---------------------------------------------------

In my opinion, there's a big difference between having computer programming skills versus getting a Computer Science Degree. My former employer years ago wanted someone with programming experience in C or Sequal. Writing code and understanding programming language - even DOS - does not require a computer science degree. It requires time and effort to learn and be able to apply it to a job that requires it. In my opinion, it's kind of like learning how to use Access or Excel - once you know how, it's a marketable skill.

Getting a computer science degree on the hand not only involves programming language - possibly data base like Oracle - but gets into networking and how a computer actually works. In order just to get my business degree, I had to take at least one class in networking . . . but for me to get involved in the science behind networking for me would be boring. The question is what kind of work do you want to do . . . the actual work involved with programming financial accounting data and being the gatekeeper of who has access within an organization on a netowrk, or the managerial aspect or overseeing those people that do that work?

Bigfoothunter
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Post by Bigfoothunter » Sun Dec 28, 2008 5:45 pm

I finished college 25 years ago, and my friends all obtained degrees in computer science. They have done very well with respectful positions in major corporations. They had programming and hardware capabilities. I sense the profile of these positions have changed. Many service components have been outsourced, and now it is more around security, maintenance and system design. The field has become more focused I sense as the technology has caught up with customer needs. This is a personal view, but you would be well advised in my mind to speak to finance and IT professionals in major corporations and gain thier perspective. Check with the college recruiting office and see if you can gain the names of recruiters looking for graduates in these fields and give them a call for a better prespective. I would also say that you might consider your level of interview skills. How you communicate and describe your passions and your record of achievements namely GPA differentiate you from the competitors - your fellow students. The recruiting office at your college may be able to give some perspective here also. Most of all, keep a great attitude. You will find a job but you have to give it time and stay optimistic. Best of luck to you, bigfoot

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Christine_NM
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Post by Christine_NM » Sun Dec 28, 2008 6:16 pm

How did you manage to graduate without acquiring some programming skills?

A master's in CS is not programming, as was said above. Not to mention that you would need several undergrad CS courses before even starting at the master's level.

If you truly believe you have a programming deficit, take a couple of courses at a community college. You may get better hands-on experience and a more helpful lab environment (I did) there than at the university level.

If you in fact had some programming experience in school, enough to be able to teach yourself a new language or system, then that's not the problem in finding a job.

If you really want to go to grad school, an MBA would be more in line with your degree and you could fit in some IT courses.

expat
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Post by expat » Sun Dec 28, 2008 11:38 pm

Take a computer programming class. Getting a master's degree in computer science would be overkill.

p14175
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Post by p14175 » Mon Dec 29, 2008 12:31 pm

X2! If you to learn how to program go to a community college, don't waste graduate school $$ on this type of training.

It might just be me, but I think graduate studies should be in something you are interested in learning about rather than something that might make you money.

marie17
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Post by marie17 » Mon Dec 29, 2008 2:46 pm

woah - slow down.

If you like working with computers but you feel like you have zero programming skills, get a book about an easy programming language - and start going through some of the exercises. I would pick - Beginning Perl which is an O'Reilly book, or something like that.

Work with it for a few weeks. You'll figure out pretty quickly if you have a knack for it, or you don't. You'll also figure out if you like it, or you don't.

The work can sometimes be wonderful. You get paid well to be challenged, to solve problems, to create things.

The work can also oftentimes be tedious. Annoying, and oh yeah - often times you will work with users who don't know what they want, and some of your collegues will truly suck at their job. And they get paid what you get paid! You also really have to be good with both math and logic - you may not use the math that often at work, but you won't pass a degree granting program without it. You won't use the logic that much in your degree granting program, but your workplace will require it.

See here: http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/archives/001202.html

I would not just pick a career like software engineering because you think it will pay well. You should really try to insure that you will be good at it and that you will also like it.

TheEternalVortex
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Post by TheEternalVortex » Mon Dec 29, 2008 3:21 pm

A masters in CS will be quite challenging if you haven't had any experience in computer science. No graduate class in CS is a "programming" class, although many of them use programming.

marie17
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Post by marie17 » Mon Dec 29, 2008 4:04 pm

A masters in CS will be quite challenging if you haven't had any experience in computer science. No graduate class in CS is a "programming" class, although many of them use programming.
Agreed. I have a masters in CS. Many of the classes were not about programming per-se, but you would be required to demostrate you understood a concept by writing a program which performed it. For example - a producer/consumer relationship, a critical section semaphore, a depth-first-search, etc, etc, the list goes on.

jmuc85
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Post by jmuc85 » Mon Dec 29, 2008 5:45 pm

Thanks for the comments.

A couple things...

How did I graduate without gaining programming skills? I'm not sure about your school, but we don't take any computer science classes besides MIS, and that was more theory and learning its applications rather than code.

I would never go back to school just to earn a degree in order to earn more money. 3 years in school of doing something I do not enjoy would be hell. I've just always had a knack for computers. I just never learned the science behind them (except for a C+ course back in high school). I want to do something that I enjoy, that will help set me apart, and that will make me more "lifetime employable," as Thomas Friedman would say.

Perhaps it would be overkill for the MS degree; perhaps I would love it end up with a great new skill set.

cmarino
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Post by cmarino » Mon Dec 29, 2008 6:38 pm

CS departments generally teach theoretical computer science, which can be interesting but is quite useless if you are looking to develop programming skills or just solve applied problems computationally. In fact the CS department at my institution prides itself on the fact that it does not teaching any programming at all. Perhaps you would be more interested in a program in operations research/ financial engineering or maybe even applied math.

thepommel
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Re: Back to Grad School?

Post by thepommel » Mon Dec 29, 2008 6:43 pm

jmuc85 wrote:Hello all,

I graduated from a respectable midwestern college this past May with a degree in Finance. I have not been able to find employment thus far. Many of the jobs I have looked at thus far in Finance are looking for people with some computer programming skills. I am considering enrolling in a university in Chicago to earn a Master of Science in Computer Science.

In my mind, I want to enhance my skill set not only for the job, but because I think the future is going to be all about computers. This is why so many foreign students have engineering/computer jobs--because their education system stresses these skills.

Any comments and pros/cons about doing this? I enjoy working with computers, but have 0 programming skills (they do not require previous programming skills).

Thanks
Why did you major in finance in the first place? Was it to work in the mutual fund industry? Was it to work in corporate finance? Was it to be a quant?

I recommend a couple of options.
(1) If you wanted to work for a company in corporate finance, I recommend looking for managerial accounting positions. You do not need programming skills. It's difficult to find entry level corporate finance jobs, most finance departments pull from MBA programs or the firms' accounting department (my experience).

(2) If you wanted to be a quant, you definitely need more technical skills. However, a MS in CS is way overkill for what you're trying to do. I think if you were to do a master's program, you should do a masters program that emphasizes the technical skills you need in a finance context. Most of these programs would be labeled as "Financial Engineering", "Mathematical Finance", or "Quantitative Finance". These programs do pull a lot of students with undergraduate engineering / math backgrounds, but also finance people with the right aptitude.

Several leading graduate schools offer such programs, which are a heavy blend of finance with mathematics and programming. You'll get all the math, advanced finance concepts and programming you can handle... focused on finance employment.

http://math.usc.edu/mathematics/graduat ... index.html
http://www.qcf.gatech.edu/
http://www.haas.berkeley.edu/MFE/
http://www.math.nyu.edu/financial_mathematics/
http://www.ieor.columbia.edu/pages/grad ... index.html
http://orfe.princeton.edu/
http://www.finmath.rutgers.edu/index.php?d=home&p=index
http://www.mathfinance.uncc.edu/
(I am sure there are more...)

(3) If you want to work in the mutual fund industry, I think the MBA route is preferable? But, gotta find an entry level role at a fund somewhere...

Regards,

EDITS: Fix typos, add links to schools.
Last edited by thepommel on Mon Dec 29, 2008 7:09 pm, edited 2 times in total.

jhd
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Post by jhd » Mon Dec 29, 2008 6:58 pm

I'm a software developer, and I entered the workforce in 2001, during an economic downturn. Like you, I didn't have a CS degree (Philosophy FTW!), and couldn't find a job at a "traditional" company. So I started freelancing. For about 2-3 years, I made very little; but now that I've figured out what I'm doing, I have marketable skills, good income, and solid small business. If you're entrepreneurially-minded, this could be an option. PM me if you want to talk more about this road.

For what it's worth, a BS in computer science may get you an entry-level job, but someone has programmed for 2 years, then degrees mean nothing, and a MS is meaningless without 5+ years of work experience behind it. I've hired about 10 programmers in my career, and I've never looked at degrees.

jhd
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Re: Back to Grad School?

Post by jhd » Mon Dec 29, 2008 7:01 pm

jmuc85 wrote:Many of the jobs I have looked at thus far in Finance are looking for people with some computer programming skills. I am considering enrolling in a university in Chicago to earn a Master of Science in Computer Science.
I'd also develop some targeted skills that meet exactly what they're looking for. Why do they want finance people who can program? What languages/technologies are they looking for?

tibbitts
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tough times

Post by tibbitts » Mon Dec 29, 2008 7:37 pm

Times are tough - that's probably your major problem. You're competing with lots of unemployed, experienced finance people.

If you learn programming, you'll be competing with lots of unemployed, experienced programmers. One difference is that the flavor of the day changes faster in computers than in finance. Yes, computers will be the future, but with regards to computer skills, people are generally hired for very, very specific skills, and you won't know years ahead of time what those skills will be.

Paul

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Christine_NM
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Post by Christine_NM » Mon Dec 29, 2008 7:50 pm

Agree with jhd and tibbitts. I was a software developer 1982-2005, as a second career.

If you get a CS degree, your interviews will be the same -- do you know the language/system we use? And your answer will probably still be "no" if you focus on degrees rather than acquiring specific skills popular at the moment.

If you do get a finance/IT position, you will constantly be retooled with the latest fads in software. It's fun for quite a while until you realize you are on a treadmill, learning how to answer the same old questions with ever more complex compilers. Then it's time to move on or retire.

One disagreement with jhd -- with a CS degree and an MBA and 3 years experience I unknowingly took a job away from a self-taught programmer cum Yale philosophy major who'd had the job for 7 years but had not expanded beyond one language and one algorithm. I took the job not knowing someone else already had it! They wanted new problems solved that he couldn't handle.

jhd
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Post by jhd » Mon Dec 29, 2008 11:22 pm

Christine_NM wrote:One disagreement with jhd -- with a CS degree and an MBA and 3 years experience I unknowingly took a job away from a self-taught programmer cum Yale philosophy major who'd had the job for 7 years but had not expanded beyond one language and one algorithm. I took the job not knowing someone else already had it! They wanted new problems solved that he couldn't handle.
That makes perfect sense to me. Anyone, whether a CS major or a philosophy major, who isn't constantly learning - at least a new language every 2-3 years - is setting themselves up for obsolescence. Either that Yale philosophy major wasn't mentally cut out for programming, or he/she didn't take the initiative to learn new things. Either way, I don't think that has much to do with degrees.

thepommel
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Post by thepommel » Tue Dec 30, 2008 12:00 am

Christine_NM wrote: One disagreement with jhd -- with a CS degree and an MBA and 3 years experience I unknowingly took a job away from a self-taught programmer cum Yale philosophy major who'd had the job for 7 years but had not expanded beyond one language and one algorithm. I took the job not knowing someone else already had it! They wanted new problems solved that he couldn't handle.
This makes sense to me. I hear a lot of people clamor about being "self-taught", etc regarding technical positions. However, in my experience, there is no substitute for a quality technical education.

Regards,

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binarysemaphore
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Post by binarysemaphore » Tue Dec 30, 2008 12:38 am

I agree that nothing can replace quality education from schools & universities. However, technologies rapidly change in computer industry and one often needs to teach himself of the new things.

Also, one might occasionally want to have a refresher course.

I have a list of online video courses in CS/EE offered by several universities world wide.

Here check this out

All you need is time & devotion. :D

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gunn_show
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Post by gunn_show » Tue Dec 30, 2008 2:36 pm

jhd wrote: For what it's worth, a BS in computer science may get you an entry-level job, but someone has programmed for 2 years, then degrees mean nothing, and a MS is meaningless without 5+ years of work experience behind it. I've hired about 10 programmers in my career, and I've never looked at degrees.
I work for a software company and no one in R&D or programming has an advanced level degree. All or most have bachelors and considerable years experience in the trade and extremely high level skills.

I think you should realize that years experience counts for more than you think, and do whatever you can to get into the workforce as soon as possible. (as if you are not trying this already) Getting an advanced degree doesn't really set you apart, as you have no real-world skills to show off, just book smarts and the like. There are millions of kids out there with those, hence why you are probably jobless. (not to sound harsh)

I also agree that if you go for an advanced degree down the line, an MBA might be more ideal, unless you are trying to get away from finance/business fields.

Good luck with your decisions and job search, it is rough out there
"The best life hack of all is to just put the work in and never give up." Bas Rutten

jmuc85
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Post by jmuc85 » Tue Dec 30, 2008 3:38 pm

Thanks a lot for the link to those videos. I'm going to take a look at a few of them. Computer science/engineering just seems like something that I would be good at. I majored in Finance because I enjoy the act of researching and then investing. I've realized though that I don't want that as a career; I want it as a hobby outside of my career, much like many of the investors on this site.

Although I hope that a technical education would help me land a job, I also want to get the degree because I enjoy the process of being in school and around academia. I like the environment and I want to learn more about computers and software, so my conscious just keeps telling me to go to school. More than anything, I think I would be more happy in a role working with computers, and ultimately, in my mind at least, it comes down to what I'll be happy doing.

Someone asked about the types of jobs that I was looking at that required/preferred programming skills. I had been looking at a lot of trading positions with firms in Chicago. Most of the people I know in these firms come from engineering, math, and computer science degrees.

Fear and Loathing
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Post by Fear and Loathing » Tue Dec 30, 2008 5:18 pm

I would submit that you should learn Hindi or Mandarin as this is where all jobs are going. Especially Hindi for technical jobs. However, I hear you can make the big bucks at a nail salon....

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englishgirl
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Post by englishgirl » Tue Dec 30, 2008 5:31 pm

jmuc85 wrote:Thanks a lot for the link to those videos. I'm going to take a look at a few of them. Computer science/engineering just seems like something that I would be good at. I majored in Finance because I enjoy the act of researching and then investing. I've realized though that I don't want that as a career; I want it as a hobby outside of my career, much like many of the investors on this site.

Although I hope that a technical education would help me land a job, I also want to get the degree because I enjoy the process of being in school and around academia. I like the environment and I want to learn more about computers and software, so my conscious just keeps telling me to go to school. More than anything, I think I would be more happy in a role working with computers, and ultimately, in my mind at least, it comes down to what I'll be happy doing.

Someone asked about the types of jobs that I was looking at that required/preferred programming skills. I had been looking at a lot of trading positions with firms in Chicago. Most of the people I know in these firms come from engineering, math, and computer science degrees.
Have you thought about something like forensic accounting? Seems like a master's in that would involve some form of investigation skills which these days would involve computer-related skills. There's a university near me that often advertises a masters in forensic accounting.
Sarah

Fear and Loathing
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Post by Fear and Loathing » Tue Dec 30, 2008 5:36 pm

englishgirl wrote:
jmuc85 wrote:Thanks a lot for the link to those videos. I'm going to take a look at a few of them. Computer science/engineering just seems like something that I would be good at. I majored in Finance because I enjoy the act of researching and then investing. I've realized though that I don't want that as a career; I want it as a hobby outside of my career, much like many of the investors on this site.

Although I hope that a technical education would help me land a job, I also want to get the degree because I enjoy the process of being in school and around academia. I like the environment and I want to learn more about computers and software, so my conscious just keeps telling me to go to school. More than anything, I think I would be more happy in a role working with computers, and ultimately, in my mind at least, it comes down to what I'll be happy doing.

Someone asked about the types of jobs that I was looking at that required/preferred programming skills. I had been looking at a lot of trading positions with firms in Chicago. Most of the people I know in these firms come from engineering, math, and computer science degrees.
Have you thought about something like forensic accounting? Seems like a master's in that would involve some form of investigation skills which these days would involve computer-related skills. There's a university near me that often advertises a masters in forensic accounting.
With all the ethical people out there it should be a "win/win". You can either work for the persecutor or the defense. While you can always apply your skills toward good, the defense (evil) pays better.

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