What is the best degree for IT?



  • When I started my IT internship I was told that CS would be a good general IT degree but after really looking into it, it is just coding. Would just the standard IT degree be good? Or is there something else that IT pros recommend?

    A little more info, 4 years into college right now. Started off as a Mechanical Engineering major but changed to CS last semester off of my bosses recommendation. Have learned that I am not good at coding and that is all what CS is. So I am looking into switching to IT degree but I am also trying to transfer schools and the new school does not have an IT degree.

    As for work experience I am currently an intern for an IT department and have been for almost 6 months and I will probably be sticking around for a little while.

    So I will appreciate any advice I can get.


  • Service Provider

    I actually have an article on exactly this that has gone to the publisher but is not out yet. Probably won't be for a month or two as the pipeline for articles is very long.



  • I thought the answer for this was none.

    And if you want one anyway - Business was the way to go?


  • Service Provider

    But my quick overview is:

    Bad: CS. It's not IT and it is a highly focused degree in something else. Worst part is it looks like you never figured out that it was the wrong program or are slumming it looking for IT work. At best you get hired by a bad manager who he himself doesn't know how degrees work. That's not a good best case.

    OK: IT related degree like EE or SE. Clearly not IT, but some decent cross over.

    Good: Actual IT degree like IT or CIS. Go for a BA, all time spent focused on actual IT classes is wasted, the value is the other stuff.

    Better: IT / Other crossover. Like a Business/IT crossover.

    Best: Liberal Arts degrees like a BA in Psychology, Business, Literature, Accounting, Finance, Communications, Marketing, Writing, etc.


  • Service Provider

    @Dashrender said:

    I thought the answer for this was none.

    And if you want one anyway - Business was the way to go?

    True, none is generally the best answer. BA in Business or similar is quite good.


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    @Draco8573 said:

    When I started my IT internship I was told that CS would be a good general IT degree but after really looking into it, it is just coding.

    CS isn't just just coding, it is specifically algorithmic research. It's the "pure science" of the coding world. A degree in software engineering is the just coding degree where you write nothing but code, but it is for useful output like making products that IT people might use. CS doesn't even do that. CS does the research to make the languages, tools and theories that the software engineers will use.

    As physicists are to mechanical engineers. So are computer scientists to software engineers.


  • Service Provider

    @Draco8573 said:

    Started off as a Mechanical Engineering major but changed to CS last semester off of my bosses recommendation.

    This should worry you that your boss is not very knowledgable either about IT and/or university programs. It's very common for non-technical people, high school teachers and people with no concept of university programs or IT to associate CS with IT because they are "terms they have heard." It's like using the term "cloud".... the less people know about the subject, the more likely that they are to say it.


  • Service Provider

    @Draco8573 said:

    As for work experience I am currently an intern for an IT department and have been for almost 6 months and I will probably be sticking around for a little while.

    So here is one of the biggest questions.... how much will college cost you? Not in money, although that is a consideration too, but in how much IT work and learning could you be doing, how much career building, are you giving up while you spend time working on classes and homework? All of that time can be used in different ways. Determining which is best for you and your goals is critical.



  • What is a good alternative? It's hard to find a job with either no degree or no experience, and let's assume the OP has neither - now what?



  • @scottalanmiller Yeah so that proves that I don't want a CS degree, and the only reason that I am adamant about finishing school is because I am 4 years in and I know that they are not going to teach me everything that is relevant but as of right now I don't know that much and it will just give me a boost.
    And TBH it does worry me but it does not surprise me because he has a degree as an environmental engineer.
    like I said I don't know much already so I don't think that it will hurt, plus I will continue to work through school so I am hoping to stay here a while longer then find another IT job when I move closer to campus.


  • Service Provider

    There is no super clear cut answer in any of this (except to always avoid CS degrees, sadly) as there is tons and tons of grey area. You will find hiring managers who will not hire you without a degree, you will find ones that will hold your degree against you, society expects you to have a degree, but the field rewards you best for not having a degree. You have to choose between social acceptance, career success, self motivation, hand holding, etc.


  • Service Provider

    @Dashrender said:

    What is a good alternative? It's hard to find a job with either no degree or no experience, and let's assume the OP has neither - now what?

    It's also hard to find a job with a degree. What no one has shown is if it is harder without one. You also have to consider the alternative - the world is not "college vs. no college." It is "college vs. many other options."

    If you do nothing and spend four years drinking coffee and staring at the grass as it grows instead of college, yup, finding a job is going to suck to no end.

    However, if you spend that same time as college with books and a home lab teaching yourself IT skills, coming on forums like this and asking questions, doing projects, building a portfolio and working whenever possible which might be interning or a full paid IT job.... you not only have more knowledge and experience but can be long past the point of even needing to worry about getting a first job because you took on that challenge years earlier.


  • Banned

    What's the best degree for IT? Business management!



  • @scottalanmiller said:

    There is no super clear cut answer in any of this (except to always avoid CS degrees, sadly) as there is tons and tons of grey area. You will find hiring managers who will not hire you without a degree, you will find ones that will hold your degree against you, society expects you to have a degree, but the field rewards you best for not having a degree. You have to choose between social acceptance, career success, self motivation, hand holding, etc.

    This is not very encouraging.

    My boss asked me to look over the current requirement for my position the other day (the job description and requirements). The first requirement was Degree (can't recall if it specifically said in "IT" or not). We talked about this point after the numerous conversations about it here and SW. She said it was there because as a non IT person, she would not be able to tell if she was being snowed by someone looking for the job. She felt that if they have a degree in IT that it would show that at least know something. Of course to her a degree in Computer Programming or DB development would be the same as degree in IT.


  • Service Provider

    A better way to think about it is.... who has a harder time getting an IT job before they turn 24:

    1. A person who graduated college at 22 and started looking for a job with no experience in teaching themselves new skills?

    2. A person who started teaching themselves IT skills and job hunting at 18?

    Sure, in "weeks until they get hired" the first person will more likely get a job first. Let's say it takes them four weeks to find their first IT job. In "weeks" we feel like they are the winner. The high school grad at 18 easily will take sixteen weeks. That's four times longer! What a loser, right?

    Except the high school grad is still 18 and starting their career while still 18. Even if it is way, way harder to find work, they have a four year jump on the college student. They will face their most challenging years four years earlier and have four years to have either tackled those problems and moved on and/or have been teaching themselves skills, techniques, volunteering, interning, building a portfolio, building an online reputation, etc.

    If the alternative is working hard on your career, college has little ability to compete.


  • Service Provider

    @Dashrender said:

    She said it was there because as a non IT person, she would not be able to tell if she was being snowed by someone looking for the job. She felt that if they have a degree in IT that it would show that at least know something. Of course to her a degree in Computer Programming or DB development would be the same as degree in IT.

    Right. I would say the opposite. Anyone can get a computer degree. My wife once took a class in Java programming that didn't even use computers but instead did the whole class on writing business cases - which is completely unrelated to IT, programming or anything. Getting a degree is how people often approach tricking SMB managers. People without degrees, I would venture, are in the position of generally needing to "prove" themselves more. Nothing is more misleading than using a degree to show IT skill. As nothing is required to get an IT degree or degree that sounds like IT that would mean that you know anything about IT, using a wholly unrelated guide would be the worst possible option.

    That would be similar to only hiring people whose names, when the letters added up, came out to an even number. It's not logical, it is purely a randomizing factor. Or worse, if you assume that the people who care the most go straight to work in the industry and those looking to kick back and relax would almost universally do so through the college system.



  • @scottalanmiller sadly I am 21 and if I change my major again I will probably be another 4 years from graduating. But at least I am gaining work experience.
    and I am going to try to set up a home lab or something. Cause right now I just fix friends and families computers but I heard of a beowulf cluster and it sounds fun to try. Just have to wait to get a couple old pcs
    but the reason i am in college was because I was going to go for mechanical engineering but that didn't work out. and my parents really want me to get a degree so that I don't have the same struggles that they have had because a lot of doors have been shut in their face because they didn't have that piece of paper.


  • Service Provider

    @Jason said:

    What's the best degree for IT? Business management!

    I would clarify: A BA in Business with specific effort put into written and oral communications, statistics, accounting, entrepreneurship and psychology. Some things like economics, finance and more are very good as well.


  • Banned

    @Dashrender said:

    if they have a degree in IT that it would show that at least know something

    That shows nothing, and is an SMB way of thinking. We tend to hire people without degrees or only associates degrees/vocational. Our Director of IT has Masters degrees for business management and business information systems.



  • What I don't know is of the great places to work, how many of them discount you when you don't have a degree.

    Ultimately (and practically) I'm no longer worried about the start of my career, instead for the middle of it. So many job postings I see list a degree as the first requirement.

    Once you have around 10 years of experience, you're now being compared to the guy who is 4 years older than you with the same level of experience (10 years) and they look at you compared to him.. everything is the same except he has a degree. Now what?


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    @Draco8573 said:

    @scottalanmiller sadly I am 21 and if I change my major again I will probably be another 4 years from graduating.

    That's sad, but only so sad. Stop and evaluate your options, all of your options. Look up the sunk cost fallacy and make sure you understand it before proceeding because this discussion will trigger an emotional reaction that you don't want to give into when making a decision of this nature.



  • @Jason said:

    @Dashrender said:

    if they have a degree in IT that it would show that at least know something

    That shows nothing, and is an SMB way of thinking. We tend to hire people without degrees or only associates degrees/vocational. Our Director of IT has Masters degrees for business management and business information systems.

    I completely agree that it proves nothing, but disagree that it's a SMB way of thinking.
    Most HR departments put this requirement on their job postings. The HR filters the incoming resumes by those requirements before sending them onto a hiring manager.

    Now maybe you have a better system, and you get ALL the resumes directly, but if a company has a real legit HR department, that's unlikely. I say this from my own experience, which is small and limited, so it's biased by my own experience.


  • Service Provider

    @Jason said:

    @Dashrender said:

    if they have a degree in IT that it would show that at least know something

    That shows nothing, and is an SMB way of thinking. We tend to hire people without degrees or only associates degrees/vocational. Our Director of IT has Masters degrees for business management and business information systems.

    I have degrees but don't put them on my resume because I don't want to work for anyone who would care that I had one. I want to filter out people who put stock in them, because I don't consider them viable managers for someone at the level I would want my coworkers to be at.

    I've rarely worked with top people who had degrees. And those that did normally got them late in their careers (one of the tricks that the pro-college crowd uses to make college sound more valuable than it is.)

    Given equal candidates, I would always prefer the one with the fewer academic creds because it implies that they had to work harder teaching themselves and overcoming irrational market stigmas to get to the same level as someone with a degree.


  • Banned

    @Dashrender said:

    I completely agree that it proves nothing, but disagree that it's a SMB way of thinking.
    Most HR departments put this requirement on their job postings. The HR filters the incoming resumes by those requirements before sending them onto a hiring manager.

    Now maybe you have a better system, and you get ALL the resumes directly, but if a company has a real legit HR department, that's unlikely. I say this from my own experience, which is small and limited, so it's biased by my own experience.

    That's not true. Only in small companies does HR get involved (in the way of) the hiring process. HR's job is not to select the candidate it's to help the Hiring manager with what they are looking for. Sure they scan for potential legal issues but they don't add degrees. I've seen that in SMBs but, we are a fortune 500 and do not run that way. HR only helps the hiring manager get what they want, the hiring manager has the ultimate say.



  • @scottalanmiller I understand it and I am evaluating my options but i want to finish school so I am not going to just give up.


  • Service Provider

    @Dashrender said:

    What I don't know is of the great places to work, how many of them discount you when you don't have a degree.

    I would say, by definition, none. How could a place be a great place to work (if we consider the quality of people to define a great place to work) if they care about discriminating in order to artificially support their own educational decisions instead of hiring the person best for the job? If you are intentionally hiring someone who isn't the best suited, you are a crappy company in my book. I've never seen a good job that did that.


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    @Draco8573 said:

    @scottalanmiller I understand it and I am evaluating my options but i want to finish school so I am not going to just give up.

    That's the sunk cost fallacy exactly. You want to continue investing because you've started investing, right? Do you want to go to school or do you want to finish what you've started? The latter, the way that you stated it, is the sunk cost fallacy itself. And, one would hope, that sunk cost decision making would be something that any even really bad college would be teaching early on. If they don't teach that stuff, what good are they?


  • Service Provider

    @Dashrender said:

    Once you have around 10 years of experience, you're now being compared to the guy who is 4 years older than you with the same level of experience (10 years) and they look at you compared to him.. everything is the same except he has a degree. Now what?

    I've never seen a serious job that cared about a degree except in lieu of experience.


  • Service Provider

    @Jason said:

    @Dashrender said:

    I completely agree that it proves nothing, but disagree that it's a SMB way of thinking.
    Most HR departments put this requirement on their job postings. The HR filters the incoming resumes by those requirements before sending them onto a hiring manager.

    Now maybe you have a better system, and you get ALL the resumes directly, but if a company has a real legit HR department, that's unlikely. I say this from my own experience, which is small and limited, so it's biased by my own experience.

    That's not true. Only in small companies does HR get involved (in the way of) the hiring process. HR's job is not to select the candidate it's to help the Hiring manager with what they are looking for. Sure they scan for potential legal issues but they don't add degrees. I've seen that in SMBs but, we are a fortune 500 and do not run that way. HR only helps the hiring manager get what they want, the hiring manager has the ultimate say.

    @jason is completely correct. Good companies would never allow HR to be a part of that process. Why would HR be allowed to actively sabotage the company? That's not how great or healthy companies behave or could behave.


  • Service Provider

    @Draco8573 said:

    ...but I heard of a beowulf cluster and it sounds fun to try.

    Wow, the 1990s coming back again? Have not heard of one of those in forever!

    in 2006 I ran a 10,000 host cluster on Wall St. Didn't use Beowulf but a commercial product. Same type of thing, though.

    While this kind of stuff is fun, I would put in on the back burner and focus on building IT career skills that are practical and likely to get you work. HPC clusters are neat, but not something that people actually get hired to do.