Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Dear CR: Which Education Path Is Right For Me?


I've been researching some options for getting some formal education/certification in computer science (CS) onto my resume and I thought I'd see what you think would be best. Options:

1. Java Professional Development Sequence from Berkeley Extension
* 3 classes
* $2000

2. Certificate in Java Programming from CCSF
* 6 classes
* $500

3. Certificate in PHP 5 from Zend (the company that develops the PHP language)
* $170

4. Certificate in Computer Science Fundamentals from Stanford
* $16,000 (eeek!)
* 1-2 years of study (part time)
* I can't afford this w/o a scholarship...

What do you think would be the best option? I've also been considering going back for a masters, but that is more of a long term goal. For the record, I've got 1.5-ish years of self taught PHP programming experience, and an undergrad degree in business.




All other things being equal I think your strongest
to weakest options are...

* work experience
* education
* picking your nose

The work experience thing may be hard to get at your level. You need
more training and/or experience before you'll get paid to do heavy
duty stuff that you will learn from. So, to answer your question
about education...

* First rule - keep it as cheap as you can while still getting value out of it.
* Second rule - ask yourself what you're trying to accomplish. Do you
want to be a hardcore computer programmer? A business entrepreneur?
A product manager?

So which program might be best for you...

* I strongly believe in quality of education. The Zend thing is
mostly a waste of money. Buy a PHP book (or do Ruby Quizzes!) and
self study like you've been doing. No one of depth will take the
certificate seriously.
* The Master's degree is a really good choice if you want to commit to
programming for a long time, and you're prepared to go into debt to do
it. You really, really want to do your homework on this before
committing. I've been pretty impressed with the students coming out
of USF, and of course Berkeley and Stanford are excellent schools. SF
State would be good on the cheap.
* The Java stuff at CCSF is probably a really good value for you at
this stage. Sit in on a couple of class sessions and see if the
material presented is lightweight or hardcore.
* I wouldn't do the Stanford course if you plan on getting a Master's
degree, too. I'd like to think Stanford would give you a good
education, but I don't know enough about it,.

Getting a formal education and combining it with self study should help you come a long way.


P.S. Paying back student loans sucks!

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