College Degree: I realize I have made a mistake...

It may sound like I'm complaining. I think, however, that this is something every college student wanting to get into IT should read.

It was not until my senior year that I realized what I wanted to do. Although I was a Finance major by this time, I had taken some computer science courses. I did not know what was necessary to get into the industry until later that year when I took my networking course. I thought that the courses I have took in computer science would help me secure a position, but I guess I was wrong. Employers seem to want a DEGREE as opposed to certain COURSES. Looking back, I would've been better off with an Information Systems degree or maybe even an associates in Information Technology. Now I'm stuck with an unrelated major which is useless in IT and I will have to find a job in that unrelated major. I can't directly get into IT unless I have a related degree in one. Now I have to focus on getting IT certifications to make up for my mistake. It is the only way to break into the field.

I kept hearing from people that IT professionals have degrees in various fields. What I now realize is that those people managed to break into IT through working in their unrelated job for months or years. These people have not directly gotten a job in IT. By telling others of their unrelated degrees, many will think that IT degrees or any other related degrees are not necessary. Now I will have to get a second bachelors degree or a masters degree in a related field such as MIS or IT or CS. I thought that having a different degree as opposed to other IT professionals would help differentiate me, but it has only made my situation worse.

To anybody trying to get into the IT industry, I would recommend getting a related degree. It doesn't matter at this point if it is Management Information Systems, Information Technology, or Computer Science. Just get any related degree and learn to program on your own as well. Forget about people telling you to do an unrelated degree that you are interested in. If you know you want to get into IT, then don't go for business or liberal arts. Just go for the related degree.


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    stryder144stryder144 Member Posts: 1,684 ■■■■■■■■□□
    This is similar to what I've been telling my son, who is a senior in high school. He wants to get a history degree. I told him that getting that degree is great, just make sure that you have either a certificate/minor/associates in something else. Preferably, get a certificate (through a local CC) in something that interests him, an associates in another subject (also from the local CC), then pursue the history bachelor degree. That way, he has two other jobs that he can pursue, should something in history not materialize quickly enough. I've told him that diversity is helpful in today's market.

    Great cautionary post, DissonantData.
    The easiest thing to be in the world is you. The most difficult thing to be is what other people want you to be. Don't let them put you in that position. ~ Leo Buscaglia

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    ratchokeratchoke Member Posts: 47 ■■□□□□□□□□
    Did you just not like finance? From my understanding (two cousins who majored in finance through SJS) finance is a very good degree to have. I'm guessing you're just not happy w/ the job opportunities related to finance?

    Since you have the businesses base already, it should be REALLY easy to major in MIS.
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    SteveFTSteveFT Users Awaiting Email Confirmation Posts: 149
    I have to somewhat disagree with this post. I will note that I live in Boston, which seems to have considerably more IT jobs than many other areas. A few years ago I graduated with a degree in a health-related field. From there I worked at a hospital and a few fitness centers. The job opportunities were poor unless I wanted to return to graduate school.

    I decided to pursue a career in IT in August. In that time, I've been able to complete my A+, Net+, and I'm nearly done studying for Security+. Through exploring my connections, I've been able to land a contract position that pays quite well for someone with no experience. In my opinion, obtaining a few certifications is a small price to pay for picking the wrong degree.

    If you were to decide to switch to Finance from Physical Therapy, you would be looking at 20-30 credits of prerequisites, incredible competition in most programs, and three years of year-round school that would cost you $50,000-100,000+ depending on where you attend. In my opinion, the barrier to entry in IT is quite low in an area that has a thriving technology sector.

    At the end of the day, I will have spent about $13,000 going back to school for an IT degree and obtaining the certifications that I want. The program I am attending is a second BS program requiring only 30 credits (state school). In 3-4 years, my goal is to be a (Jr.) Sys Admin making similar money to an entry-level PT. On top of that, I'm able to work for the next 3-4 years that I would otherwise be in school. This is worth $100k+ even at entry level wages in my area. So, even if it takes a few extra years to crack $60-70k, I can make up for that with smaller student loans and actually having income over those 3-4 years.

    Not to beat the topic to death, but I have a friend who is doing well with no college at all. He is now a Sys Admin after 4-5 years of experience. I believe he has had success because he is hungry and he was fortunate enough to know some people in the field. If he can manage with no degree, I can't imagine that a BS in Finance will hurt your chances.

    I know it can be frustrating, but obtaining a few certifications will give employers a reason to give you a chance. Look for contract jobs as a way to get your foot in the door. Find out what all of your friends from high school and college are doing. You never know who might help you out. I think your post was created for those of us who made the mistake. If you know you want to go into IT, most people will major in IT. The problem, is that you and I didn't know. If I had to do it all over, I would have taken a year or two off to work and find out what I wanted to do.

    I wish you luck going forward!
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    Jon_CiscoJon_Cisco Member Posts: 1,772 ■■■■■■■■□□
    A finance degree would help you get into the financial and insurance industries in the New York and Boston areas. Several people have told me that companies ask financial questions to ensure the IT personnel understand the systems they are supporting.

    Aside from that I would not recommend getting a different degree with the intention of getting into IT. However if you are looking for a career switch a degree is still better then no degree. Good Luck
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    instant000instant000 Member Posts: 1,745

    It depends on the type of work you're trying to get into. If you're trying to get into some big corp at the ground level, then, yes, graduating with an aligned degree is the way to go.

    I wouldn't discredit the value of the Finance degree. There is a big difference between a minor in CS courses, and majoring CS. Of course there is.

    You just happened to change your mind. All is not lost.

    Also, whether you have the aligned degree or not only matters in the beginning if you're getting snatched up by some big corp that has training programs that get you up to speed. Most companies do not train their employees up to speed, and expect them to show up "work ready." In this case, you can help get yourself up to speed by working on certifications, yes, but also by taking volunteer work opportunities for some charities. Once you get some verifiable work experience behind you, you can use the references to get your foot in the door someplace.

    So, while you may feel that not having the related degree is hurting you, I would rather say that not having a career-focused experience and certification matters a lot more.

    You seem to have identified the certification gap already. Don't forget the experience gap. Also, there are sometimes networking events that professional groups hold on a monthly or quarterly basis. There may be some in your area. You may want to go to those when the opportunity presents itself.

    So, you have a plan of attack so far:
    1. certs.

    I would add to that these:
    2. experience - volunteer experience is valid work experience. charities love free help, and can provide glowing references.
    3. networking - Does your circle of friends and family know that you're looking for something new to do? Are you attending events where you can meet other professionals in your area, and letting them know you're looking? Does everyone you meet know that you're looking? Do they have a means of contacting you if they have an opportunity that you might be interested in?

    Don't believe that all is lost.

    It is more about determination and effort, than it is about "what degree" you have.

    If you feel that you're missing something specific by not having the CS degree, then you can always go back and look at that later. For now, you seem to be wanting to get started doing some work, and I'm providing hints to get you going in IT.

    Hope this helps.
    Currently Working: CCIE R&S
    LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/lewislampkin (Please connect: Just say you're from TechExams.Net!)
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    Khaos1911Khaos1911 Member Posts: 366
    Maybe I'm reading your post wrong....But If I'm interested in IT, why would I go for an unrelated degree in the first place?
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    instant000instant000 Member Posts: 1,745

    OP didn't realize an interest in IT until senior year of school. :)
    Currently Working: CCIE R&S
    LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/lewislampkin (Please connect: Just say you're from TechExams.Net!)
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    redzredz Member Posts: 265 ■■■□□□□□□□
    Now I'm stuck with an unrelated major which is useless in IT

    ... No, it's not, you just need to apply it. IT isn't a bunch of drudgeons in the basement of an office building.

    It is not ideal early in your career, but it is a long ways from useless. Many IT personnel seem to lack even the most basic understanding of business and how their job impacts the organizational mission. This leads to misuse of organizational resources (labor hours, funding, et al, due to poor prioritization). That lack of understanding is, in my opinion, one of the reasons the PMP certification is so sought-after. Many IT personnel need someone to hold their hands through all that.

    Having a business-related education should allow you to explain your position in terms of the organizational goals during interviews, assuming you paid attention and learned, which alone will put you above and beyond equivalently qualified candidates throughout your entire career (again, assuming you keep these talents sharp).

    Heck, Information Security is basically all about increasing the organizational bottom line through risk management. Business backgrounds are huge in this field.
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    SteveFTSteveFT Users Awaiting Email Confirmation Posts: 149
    instant000 wrote: »

    OP didn't realize an interest in IT until senior year of school. :)

    I think Khaos just means that the message of the thread is obvious. I understand the predicament that the OP is in because I'm right there too. However, it doesn't appear that he knew he wanted to be in IT. If he did, it would have obviously been the safer bet to go the CIS, MIS, CS, EE, etc routes. I don't think that anyone sets out to go into the IT field by studying an unrelated field. Some of us just figure it out too late and then enter the field despite having an unrelated degree.

    The only thing I can add to my last post is to look at the certifications as a learning opportunity. If you approach it with a sour attitude, it will be miserable. To be honest the CompTIA certifications have been pretty fun to study for. I know this sounds almost ridiculous, but I just approached them by trying to learn everything I possibly could from them. I'll stop and lab to practice anything that I don't know about or understand. While the A+/N+/S+ don't make me a well paid expert, they are providing me with a pretty good base to build upon.
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    AkaricloudAkaricloud Member Posts: 938
    I'm going to disagree with you OP. While what you're seeing directly is your finance degree won't get you an IT job, even a MIS or IT degree wouldn't get you an IT job. Trying to blame your lack of experience and certifications on the fact that you majored in a different area doesn't fly in my book.

    If you want to be successful in IT then you need to go get the experience and certifications necessary to be marketable, regardless of what degree you have.
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    lsud00dlsud00d Member Posts: 1,571
    I've found rule of thumb to be this:

    Side of IT
    Degree needed

    Yes--computer science related

    Everything else
    No*--have a skillset

    *Having a degree is definitely a leg up, even if unrelated (as is my case)
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    DissonantDataDissonantData Member Posts: 158
    When I was in college, I had the idea that degrees improve your thought process along with reading and writing skills. My intent was to use my Finance degree and CS minor to get a job as an IT business analyst or a QA analyst. I obtained the CS minor as an alternative to getting another degree in Information Systems because I thought the coursework would help me significantly. In roles such as business analysis or QA analysis, I saw that they are looking for Computer Science, Information Systems, or a Business related degree. The courses that I took involved java programming, sql database management, and tcp/ip networking. After getting work experience, I was planning to get a masters in a related field such as CIS or IT and self study programming on my own. It seems that getting into IT business analysis is not as easy as I thought.

    I wasn't interested in programming at the time, so I ended up dropping out of the CS major. My college did offer Information Systems, but it's more business related and involves less of the IT stuff such as system administration and network administration. I guess universities don't give you an understanding of all the paths to take in this field. That being said, CS or IS is not necessarily for everyone. It depends on one's career goals, and much of the time the degrees in CS/IS/IT will land you the same jobs.

    Even if one doesn't know what to study in college, a degree as I said should improve your approach to solving problems. I guess my mistake was putting too much faith into my college degree without realizing that I also need experience and skills. Perhaps this is why the trade school approach that universities like WGU take are very useful. I actually realize after studying for the A+ certification that there is so much knowledge that I lacked from my college degree.

    @lsud00d, a degree in Computer Information Systems or Information Technology can still get your a programming job in most, but not all situations. All you need to do is self study. Since I took courses in programming, discrete math, and data structures, I should be fine as far as programming is concerned. If you want to do Software Engineering for NASA you will probably need to have a Masters in Computer Science instead of a Bachelors. This is one reason why going for an IS/IT degree with a CS minor is useful. You can decide to get a Masters in Computer Science later on if you wanted to.
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    SteveFTSteveFT Users Awaiting Email Confirmation Posts: 149
    Have you landed any interviews? Degrees are somewhat important. That being said, I found my entry-level contract position through a friend. They took me because the hiring manager liked me and because I want to learn. This has nothing to do with a degree. My degree in Exercise Science can hardly be assumed to be relevant to an IT position.

    I'm not sure how plentiful QA/BA jobs are as I have been mostly in the market for help desk/desktop support. I have a friend who is making ~$70k in a senior BA role. He has very little in the way of technical skills and has an MIS degree. He did start off at around $30k approximately 10 years ago, however.

    Have you considered other opportunities to improve your sales pitch to a future employer? As you have mentioned QA/BA, if you are interested in going this route, do you think that the A+ will help you much?

    As you have said, I think the Finance degree would be just fine if you had also done a few certifications and worked in a related field in college. That being said, we all have plenty of time to make mistakes. I will likely be working in some capacity into my late 60s or 70s.
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    JaneDoeJaneDoe Member Posts: 171
    stryder144 wrote: »
    This is similar to what I've been telling my son, who is a senior in high school. He wants to get a history degree. I told him that getting that degree is great, just make sure that you have either a certificate/minor/associates in something else. Preferably, get a certificate (through a local CC) in something that interests him, an associates in another subject (also from the local CC), then pursue the history bachelor degree. That way, he has two other jobs that he can pursue, should something in history not materialize quickly enough. I've told him that diversity is helpful in today's market.
    If you want to do a history undergrad, that's great, just double major in education, and teach school. Teaching (k-12) is secure decent paying work. Either that or get straight As and an Ivy League PhD, then a job as a professor.
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    stryder144stryder144 Member Posts: 1,684 ■■■■■■■■□□
    JaneDoe...a double major would be great, but he is too unfocused at this point. Which also means that an Ivy League education is out of the question at this point. Overall, though, great advice. I will drop that bit on him and see how he takes it. One of his aunts teaches history in a local HS, so she would be a great source of advice on the whole history thing.
    The easiest thing to be in the world is you. The most difficult thing to be is what other people want you to be. Don't let them put you in that position. ~ Leo Buscaglia

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    MacGuffinMacGuffin Member Posts: 241 ■■■□□□□□□□
    A lot of things may have changed since I went to college but I remember there were a lot of people that wanted to do computer science to get a job in computers not knowing what computer science actually meant. Again I'll say a lot may have changed since I went to school but computer science is applied mathematics. In a typical computer science program a student will be required to learn mathematics, computer programming languages, and all the things that a liberal arts program requires, such as a foreign language, literature, composition, history, and so forth.

    I'm not saying computer science is a bad college major, I'm saying it's not always what people expect it to be. I did not major in computer science in college, I majored in computer engineering. Because there is a lot of common material in the two majors I had a lot of classmates that majored in computer science. The difference between the two programs was a topic that came up in conversation from time to time.

    One thing that I noticed in the computer science program was that there was no required course on learning how to write software. There are courses where the students were required to write software as part of their assignments but there is no requirement that a student is required to learn good programming practice to graduate. Such courses were offered as electives so unless the student sought out that as a goal in their studies then they could graduate without knowing how to be a good programmer.

    I say this because I saw too many people fall into this trap. They took computer science thinking that they'd learn how to program. Well, they didn't. They had a hard time finding a job. That's because the people hiring found out the same thing as the students, just because you have a computer science degree does not mean you know how to program a computer.

    I saw that the schools offering the computer science degrees also learned from this. They started to offer degrees in software engineering. The schools also began to add a software engineering "track" or "emphasis" or minor to the computer science programs. The traditional computer science track still existed for people that were interested in the applied mathematics aspect of computer science but those people that wanted to learn how to program had to take different electives than those people. Some times a computer science degree may not be the best major to take.

    I chose computer engineering. A college friend of mine, a very talented programmer, switched out of computer science into physics. It turned out that the heavy lifting computers were not in the computer science department, they were in the physics department where they'd run complex simulations of the motions of stars, planets, and comets.

    If someone had a desire to learn control systems then they'd usually end up in aerospace, chemical, or industrial engineering. These areas of studies involved taking numerous sources of constantly changing information, make the correct calculations, and then generate the appropriate output, and look at how all the input data has changed.

    One of my classmates was in aerospace engineering, decided he liked something else. He dropped out and went to culinary school to become a chef.

    I had a chemical engineering friend show me one of his assignments, because he thought I'd find it interesting. I did, it was an assignment on the chemical processing of silicon into electronic microchips.

    I knew people in my classes that already had degrees, either they had a masters degree or were working on one, but they were in a bachelors program so that they could learn how to program. One was a lawyer that wanted to get into intellectual property law. He felt he needed an engineering degree to show to clients, and in court, that he knew what he was talking about if there was a case over somebody's code. Another guy had a masters degree in mathematics but didn't know how to program, so he went back to school for a BS in computer science.

    I just realized how much I wrote here. I hope it was helpful to someone for ideas. I'm thinking of going back to school. I've found my programming skills a bit out of date. I feel that getting a BS in software engineering or an MS in computer science may be a good idea.

    The school I'm looking at has a software engineering "sub-track" in both the BS software engineer and MS computer science programs. It's the same courses as electives in both programs, the difference lies in the core courses taken and (obviously) the degree earned at the end. I'll be talking to some people this week on if I can get into either program.

    I found out that if you go back to school the time to get your second bachelor degree can be a little as one school year. All the general education courses should have been completed the first time around. If you took some courses as electives in your first major that are required courses for your second major then that can cut down on the time required for completion.

    I found that some schools will allow students to take courses towards a major and have it applied to the degree they already earned. It would then be as if you applied for a single degree with two majors. If you are still in school, and have not yet graduated, it may be possible to add a major to your degree plan. This will almost definitely push out your graduation date but you can graduate wuth the degree you feel would be more marketable.
    MacGuffin - A plot device, an item or person that exists only to produce conflict among the characters within the story.
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