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College Major

By gpastorelli ·
Before I start a little background -

I've been working in IT for several years now, currently employed at a small bank as Network/Systems Admin w/ an add'l corporate title of Info. Sec. Officer (pretty much just resume candy).

Following high school I got a job doing tech support and my family couldn't afford college and I got caught up working full time. Well now I'm starting a family (my first child is due march 06) and once things settle down after the baby's born I plan on starting college.

I'm 21 and am at a bit of a crossroads so I figured I'd get some advice here. I love IT and I love my job, I'm a little nervous about long term so here are my choices. They are major in Computer Science or Business Administration. I know a few guys in IT that went the Comp. Science route and others that went the Business Admin route. Can someone offer me the pros/cons of both? I'd like to someday persue my own business or maybe CIO/CTO but then again I'm concerned if I go with the BA as opposed to the CS degree companies may see me as less tech savvy while I work my way up with experience.

Thanks for any and all advice,


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Some insight

by M_a_r_k In reply to College Major

I can offer some insight for you because I have a CS degree and a MBA. What follows may sound like I'm trashing Computer Science, but that is not the case at all. CS is a good engineering degree but your goal is to be CIO or CTO, not an engineering manager. Computer Science is 100% hard-core technical. Algorithm analysis, theory of programming languages, design of operating systems, automata theory, network theory, database design. It is an engineering degree. Interesting stuff but not really useful in the real world. It is not a well-rounded curriculum. It is good training for a R&amp engineering job that is heavy into software or systems design and development. You won't get any exposure to the business side of things and won't learn important soft skills, either at school or at work. (Soft skills include working in teams, subjective out-of-the-box thinking, making presentations, writing). Engineers with no knowledge of business usually make lousy C-level executives. It's a big jump from computer science into a CIO position without some knowledge of business strategy and finance to go along with your technical knowledge. It's a smaller jump to a CTO position but far more companies have a CIO than a CTO. (All companies have a CEO and CFO. I estimate about 75% have a CIO. In some cases, the CFO actually doubles up as a pseudo-CIO. I estimate less than 50% of companies have a CTO). A BBA will give you only very limited exposure to technology. But it is still a smaller jump into a CIO position from a pure BBA than a CS degree. The technology knowledge related to business processes that a CIO would need to know is not extremely difficult to learn. I think there's a lower ceiling with a CS degree. If you want to stay purely technical, a CS degree is great. If you want to move beyond mid-level management, you'll almost certainly need some knowledge of how businesses operate.

I've made the same recommendation every time I answer a question like this on TR. And this type of question gets asked a lot. If I were starting all over, I'd probably go for a BS in MIS/CIS, work for about five years, then do a MBA. The MIS/CIS will give you exposure to a wider variety of practical technical skills and you'll also learn some accounting and finance. With a MIS degree, your first job will more likely be working with business systems and applications and you'll make a lot more connections a lot more quickly with people in business management (as opposed to technical management like you would from a CS job).

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Where to start

by mjd420nova In reply to Some insight

I began as an electronics technician and learned
digital electronics when it started as a single
transistor and rapidly developed along with the technology. I find it really helps to know the GUTS of the beast before launching into programming and administration. Unlike most
IT jobs that are admin oriented or programming
certified, the real work is done by the techs
in the field that determine if it really is software related failure or a chip that won't
flip. Starting in the middle(progaramming)
gives very little real world experience, and
I'm sure we've all run across the person
who talks the talk but can't walk the walk.

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by jdmercha In reply to Where to start

I agree that the technical knowledge is extermely usefull. But if you can handle it, a BS in Computer Engineering can give you both the programming and technical skills.

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I agree

by M_a_r_k In reply to Close

I didn't mention that my first degree is Electrical Engineering. I think knowing about the bits and bytes and what is really going onside the machine has helped me immensely. And I really do think I have been a better software developer because of it. So yeah, if you're going to start out more technical, rather taking the long road of EE and CS, I'd bridge the two and get a Computer Engineering degree. Though not many schools offer a CE degree.

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I can't argue with that advice

by jdmercha In reply to Some insight

But I would add that a CS degree may get you a better starting salary than a BBA. But a BBA may get you more in the long run. A BBA will also provide a wider variety of opportunities.

But as MARK stated a CS degree followed by an MBA gets you the best of both worlds.

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Got the MIS degree...

by evmafau In reply to Some insight

but didn't have a whole lot of success using it to get a job. I wound up taking a job at a small company where I am the IT department, which has it's pros and cons. It's been good in that I have gotten exposure to things I hadn't worked with before, but without any other IT personnel, I'm extremely limited in what I can pick up (think I've pretty muched maxed it out in 3 months).

It might be different if you've got the working background. Work experience before this were normal college jobs, nothing technical. All my tech experience came from dealing with my own systems plus the couple years of engineering classes I had before switching to MIS.

I agree about the different mentallities, though, because I knew a good deal of people that could be fluent in engineering, but could run a business into the ground real easily.

MIS becomes a more valuable degree with some extra certs attached to it (A+, MCSE, etc.) because tech companies see it as not enough knowledge for their uses while businesses aren't sure what the degree means.

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by gpastorelli In reply to Got the MIS degree...

The MIS sounds good, I got quite a few certs. (thanks to my previous job paying for the tests)

Everyone's advice is great and I appreciate it. This will definetly assist me as I research my options.


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I'm in MIS

by MattIT In reply to Some insight

I'm currently an MIS Major, CS Minor graduating from University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh.

I went toward MIS because I was more interested in the managerial aspects and not typing code all day, which is what CS seemed to entail. After reading some of your posts I think i should, and most likely will now, get certified in some of those qualifications. I'm seriously considering, as in, I'm going to, move to california. There doesnt seem to be much work for MIS in Wisconsin, as you can imagine. Any advice on what I should persue? I've really appreciated reading the posts here thus far.


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That depends on what you want.

by jdmercha In reply to I'm in MIS

Personally I think the Novell, MS and A+ certs are worthless if you already have a BS. But they can help with getting you past HR. I'm not that excited about the CISCO certs either, but I haven't explored them very thouroughly.

The one cert that I would consider is the PMI cert.

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Most certifications are worthless unless...

by M_a_r_k In reply to I'm in MIS

unless they require work experience to go along with the book knowledge needed to pass the exam. For example, I read where a 9-year passed the MSCE tests and I guess by doing so she became a fully certified MSCE.

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