School or Career?

Hello all,

I am fairly new to the field of computers, software, and electronics in general in the grand scheme of things, however I know that I want a career dealing with servers and networks because that’s been my main interest since being introduced to the hobby. I am currently going to college majoring in CS, and doing all I can to get through it so that I can move toward a career. There is a job listing near me, adjacent to the server space, that I am very interested in.

My question to you all is if you would recommend trying to find a job in the field asap to get projects under my belt, or if I should continue and finish my schooling first and then seek out a career?

Any answers or feedback is welcome :slight_smile:

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I personally got a job and skipped higher education. My employer has given me more training and skills needed than I would of learnt and more real world skills needed to get a job in IT.


In some cases, both go together.


Why not both!

Do a local community college for all the boring core requirements like math and writing. Go to a local state school with a good liberal arts program and a decent computer science or math department.

This way you can live off campus which is a huge part of the expense, and you wont be paying for a “name or brand” like a private school.

The reason I suggest a strong liberal arts program is because critical thinking and problem solving in my experience pay far better than any skills driven education.

My java programming has been far less useful than my classes in theory like Operating systems.

At the same time, work! either part time, summers, or summers and internships. I dont recommend working full time because school requires lots of time and effort otherwise it can be a bit of a waste.

You can always make more money, but your peak learning period and the trajectory you put yourself on are really formative from 20-30 years old.

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In finance so a little bit different. Everyone around me or above me has an MBA or CFA. I have bachelors. I think a key separator in the first few years of a career are work ethic more than anything. You can extend yourself beyond the 9 to 5 and go 9 to 9. In practice you’re doing the same if you go to school. Key difference, you already have the job, you’re proving your worth. Anytime there’s a new project -volunteer, anytime your coworker is busy then volunteer, ask your boss if there is anything you can take off their plate everyday. After a few years, the resume looks good if you’re exposed to a ton of stuff.

Just my 2 cents.

Edit: Another good feature, I have no student debt

Honestly avoiding student debt like the plague is the big one. Remember that making a few thousand more a year gets canceled out if you are underwater in debt.

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I dont 100% agree if you can keep it under like $10,000 over 4 years. More than that and it becomes a real problem, but if borrowing 10k lets you focus on school during the school year its a much better value than the interest.

What is not cool is people taking out 50k a year to go to a “name brand” private school for a crap degree.


If you can get a foot in the door, skip school and build the experience. Like me, you can do school later when you can afford too and if you want to.

I had been a coder for 25 years before I started my degree and then my masters. Not having these did not matter once I had a few years experience.

To get my foot in the door was harder without a degree. I did by banging on doors and asking for a job, any job. Got a three month contract designing levels for a flight sim. Once in I wrote my own level design tool as their in house one was rubbish. Once they could see what I could do I secured a full time job as a coder.

A career in IT will take you around the world. It is ace!

I wish you all the best :slight_smile:

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My experience has been breaking every single bone (metaphorically) until I got through and got my degree.
I felt that if I didn’t graduate I would’ve closed lots of doors because, let’s face it, a degree opens up more doors especially if you don’t find right away what you’re looking for or you want to get to it later in life.
I also feel like the ladder you need to climb is slightly shorter, so you get paid better right away so makes the time invested in the degree a bit more worth.
After I graduated I found a job right away, didn’t even need to look much. Done and dusted at the first try. I don’t think my degree did all the work for me, but surely made some difference.

How far away is graduation? Do you think you can manage getting some projects done for the company you’re interested in while you’re studying?
If the first answer is “pretty” close and the second one is “yes” just do that and get the best of both worlds.

But, if you feel like you’re going to graduate too far in your life and getting “too old” for the market, consider dropping it and start working.

Got any personal projects you can use to pad out the resume? Those can help show what you’re capable of doing if you don’t have a lot of years working, and it might give you a chance to do some keyword stuffing in case you’ve got to get past screening bots or HR people who might be otherwise clueless.

Plus, save all your senior level projects you do in school. Those are good also.

If I were to do it all over again - I would have gone the Community College way study for certifications and network with people for those higher paying jobs.

A degree in CS is nothing if you don’t have the experience, alas it did help me understand what my predecessor was trying to accomplish for many systems critical to my infrastructure. Just my experience is all.


a) Degree… or at least get close to getting one.
b) opensource work on the side, in something you find interesting so that you have a chance of actually showing off your work.

Having both will provide excellent anchors for your resume:

a) good theoretical foundations to apply to a variety of problems.
b) motivated

Don’t get into financial debt over the degree, not worth it; don’t fall into “I work for Steve and Steve really believes in this project and we’re sharing an opportunity with you, so can you do this thing for us for free” trap; if you do stuff for cash during school, then aim for short term quick transactions <30d max. Revolving 30d/30d/30d is also fine, but be ready to quit/change any time.

Also, as a CS/software engineer/Developer/sys admin… you never work for others for free - save yourself the hassle and just don’t, not even internships… generally, internships are paid the same as entry level salaries, but without all the other benefits (e.g. maybe you don’t get part of your comp in stock or pension contribution matching and so on).
Starting a thing with friends where you all work for free is cool, that’s ok, you’re working for yourself at that point.

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This, job experience is crucial when landing interviews. Having schooling only helps you negotiate a higher salary, but you need the interview first to do that.

I have only experience. Went to a community college and didn’t finish my AAS. but still managed to reach 6 fig really quick.(the govt clearance helped, but same applies without)

My rule of thumb on a manageable student debt is the total debt when you graduate should be less than the yearly income expected from the expected role you will get after you graduate. That’s not hard and fast as there are many other factors, but if you will be making $50k a year, then graduating with $200k debt, like you mentioned, is going to mean you are starting off career/life in a really hard spot.

Yea tech grad degrees, couldn’t opine. In finance it’s not worth the investment unless you go to a top 15 school.

You can also knock up your wife/girlfriend and study from 2am to 6am when the baby wakes up crying.

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Just got the chance to come back to this thread as I had a long day. Thank you to everyone for all the great advice, this definitely helped educate my decision.

To answer some of the clarifying questions asked throughout the thread:

  1. I’m still a couple years from graduating, currently still at the local community college.
  2. I’m 21 at the moment, so when I graduate I don’t think that I would be considered too old.

Again, I absolutely appreciate everyone who engaged in this thread, and hope to be able to update within the next month or so about anything that my come up :slight_smile:

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In my opinion if you are studying, keep your main eye on you study but along with studies also do projects to get some experience.

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I have no good advice.

My path was quite different. I also PCs and hardware, as a hobby, I went to college to make it a job and HATED IT.

I did not want the thing to do for fun to be job, much less a IT job where people are just used as tools with no emotions.

I am a metal fabricator now, and I still like PC stuff as a hobby.

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