IT/Software career thread: Invert binary trees for dollars.

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This is probably the wrong forums but I will give it a shot. The reason I put it here because my questions are for people who code/develop specifically.

Basically I am returning to college this summer to pursue a degree in computer science. I'd like to use it to one to develop games and/or software post graduation. The problem I foresee is job outlook. Most of my friends who majored in comp sci are all IT. None of them actually code. According to some statistics (Occupation Profile - America's Career InfoNet) its a growing job that pays pretty well. Ofc there are other software jobs, I am just using this as a quick example. The website makes it seem like there are tons of these jobs out there but everyone I talk to works IT. Here are a few questions I have for those who do code for a living and/or majored in comp sci.

Does this pay scale seem accurate (average pay $40+ an hour)?

Besides a degree, do i need experience or some kind of portfolio to really get a good coding job?

I am willing to relocate, so location is not a problem but did you guys have a hard time finding a job?

Any suggestions? I am usingO*NET OnLinefor research on the various jobs in programming and development.

Just a quick FYI i have about 90 semester hours already. I was majoring in Physics before I took a break from school to let my wife finish. Money is not a problem. I have a full ride to my degree via Gi Bill. Thanks!
 

Vilgan_sl

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Here are some general thoughts, about 4 years in:

Comp Sci is a solid degree regardless. There are a variety of jobs (IT as you mention) even if programming doesn't work out. For programming specifically, it depends on if you are a more logical person than average. If so, then it can work out and you will definitely be at or above $40 per hour a few years in.

Pros of this route, intending to become a programmer:

1) Good wages once you have some experience. 6 figures around the 4-5 year mark feels average.
2) No stress about job security after you have some experience, especially if you move to a city like Seattle or San Fran. Want to move on from your current job for whatever reason? That's cool, there are hundreds of companies to choose from.
3) The work is usually fairly varied as the problems change as different situations/road blocks occur. You aren't being paid $$ to repeatedly hammer a nail.
4) Usually fairly flexible about working from home, and in some cases working from other parts of the country (for short periods) if you have stuff going on in your life.
5) Satisfies the desire to build things that many have.

Cons of the route you are thinking about:
1) Comp Sci degrees are 10% relevant stuff, 90% bullshit you won't ever use again. You might have some of the pre reqs out of the way, but the relevant classes are typically boolean logic, data structures, algorithms, and like 1 other class. For 4 years of college.
2) Getting a job right out of college without any experience can be tough. There are probably 10,000 job openings available to me as a dev with 4 years experience in Seattle. There are probably like 100 for people right out of college. Still there, still can be found, but I've definitely heard and seen people complain about it. It is doable, it is still probably easier than other fields but it isn't trivial. Try to get a cool internship while in school if you can, preferably at a company you might want to work for 1-2 years after you graduate.
3) Game development is balls for hourly rates and job security compared to enterprise dev or consulting. I have a buddy that went from game dev to software consulting and loves it. He makes more money works way fewer hours, enjoys his work more, and doesn't have to worry about getting let go when game studios go through their firing phases. I have 2 other buddies who went to a "game development" college and when they both graduated they both went enterprise/consulting because they make way more money and work fewer hours.
4) Not everyone is cut out to be a "good" developer. It takes a certain logical mindset that some people just don't seem to have and can't build. This usually results in them moving to more IT/CRM/database/testing type roles or just being a bad developer. Note: still all things that a CS degree is good for, just wanted to get it out there though.

Overall, I think it is a good way to go if you are at a crossroads. After I got out of the military I did the CS degree -> developer thing and I now think it was a great decision but it doesn't work out for everyone.

Hope this helped.
 

Dumar_sl

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Listen to #3 specifically, as I can attest to experience on both sides of that coin. I recommend you do NOT go into the gaming industry as a software engineer.
 

Vinen

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Listen to #3 specifically, as I can attest to experience on both sides of that coin. I recommend you do NOT go into the gaming industry.
Just as correct.

If you go down the path of being a Software Engineer YOU MUST GET AT LEAST ONE INTERNSHIP PRIOR TO GRADUATING. YOU WILL BE WORTHLESS TO ANY COMPANY AND UNWANTED OTHERWISE.

I don't care what school you are from. If you lack an internship you are not worth my time.
 

Tenks

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Your friends who don't code on a daily basis may do it out of choice. Just because you're in comp sci doesn't mean you're a competent coder or enjoy it. There are tons of people in the industry who do non-coding stuff because of all the perks of a developer but not actually having to develop. For people who love developing we wouldn't want to be doing anything else.

The pay varies by location, obviously. I'd say for someone with 0-3 years of experience in the midwest you're looking more around the 50-55k area. But IT wages grow rapidly with experience. I started at 50k and within 5 years I'm now at 76k. With another promotion in line in a couple more years to bump that more into the 85-90k region. Wages in this field are very, very time based.
 

Vinen

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Your friends who don't code on a daily basis may do it out of choice. Just because you're in comp sci doesn't mean you're a competent coder or enjoy it. There are tons of people in the industry who do non-coding stuff because of all the perks of a developer but not actually having to develop. For people who love developing we wouldn't want to be doing anything else.

The pay varies by location, obviously. I'd say for someone with 0-3 years of experience in the midwest you're looking more around the 50-55k area. But IT wages grow rapidly with experience. I started at 50k and within 5 years I'm now at 76k. With another promotion in line in a couple more years to bump that more into the 85-90k region. Wages in this field are very, very time based.
Depends. You can also rapidly advance in wages by jumping jobs. The sad part is we peak pretty quickly unless ... we go into management or are one of the few who can break into Architect roles (of which I have one).


That said, since I shat on the thread earlier with this I will shit on it again. Get an internship every year. Summers arnt' for working at McDonalds. Deal with an unpaid if you have to.
 

Noodleface

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Yep.. internships all the way, mine hired me actually.

I don't code anymore though
solutions architect path
 

Hachima

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It's been mentioned several times but an internship is a MUST and side projects you have done on your own another plus. Even more so if you really want to get into the game industry. Show you are willing and able to learn new things on your own. An ideal internship will also let you explore your interests. IE DBA work, front end/back end coding etc. Bigger name companies are usually going to filter by GPA too for new grads.

Certainly a lot of positions open out there. Starting pay ranging from 45k-75k for undergrad depending on several factors. School name, experience and the location of the job can all factor in. Start networking early on LinkedIn with seniors graduating as they may be good leads to future jobs. Often jobs are never really posted but go off of referrals. There is certainly a need for good talent out there and it can be hard to find sometimes.

Contracting vs full time salary for a company is also something to consider for the path you eventually take. Pros and cons to both. I prefer the stability,vacations/benefits from a salary position though.
 

Ortega

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My buddy is insanely smart, so not sure if he's the exception rather than the rule, but he graduated from University of Washington with a CS degree and started at Microsoft for 80K a year plus bonus. Four years later and he's at Amazon making over six figures.
 
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Wow guys good info. I honestly didn't think anything good was going to come out of this thread. Sorry the OP was a little unorganized. It was was an impulsive post. My MAIN concern with the CS degree was/is the availability of jobs. Basically I want to play it safe. I went into Physics originally because I was interested in it. Despite it being a good degree I realized that the amount of jobs available after graduation were pretty damn small. Almost none without a Masters.

The most important thing for me is job security and availability and so far this thread has given me good feels for my choice.

By chance did any of you double major or maybe have advice on a minor. It seems the most important thing is for me to get an internship or some kind. I will definitely look into it. This time around I am going to have a plan instead of just graduate as soon as possible.

Last question, the last math class I took was Calculas 3 and Diff Eq. Despite barely passing, I do not remember ANYthing really. It has been years since I have to do any kind of calculus. Will this royally screw me? I mean it seems that the math required for comp sci is less calculus and more algrebra and trig. Should I hit the old calc book immediately or wut do?
 

khalid

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You will almost surely not need anything in calculus and certainly not anything from Diff Eq.

The math you will encounter will be mathematical induction and logarithms for a course studying algorithms, and maybe some linear algebra stuff.
 

Kharza-kzad_sl

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I can answer the math stuff for games. I'd say 90% of generalist math stuff in games is standard fare linear algebra. Vector, matrix, dot/cross products etc. The other 10% is calc for doing stuff like smooth stepping or energy transfer in physics or physical lighting.

A few years ago some linear was good enough for graphics work but the math has gotten crazy lately. I look at greek symbols and squiggly lines and my brain turns to goo. However if I see the code I can usually work out what is going on, but often there is none, and squiggly greeky is all you have to look at.

About jobs, fresh out of college is really popular right now in games. Game companies want young and inexperienced and easily exploited or so I hear.
 
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I can answer the math stuff for games. I'd say 90% of generalist math stuff in games is standard fare linear algebra. Vector, matrix, dot/cross products etc. The other 10% is calc for doing stuff like smooth stepping or energy transfer in physics or physical lighting.

A few years ago some linear was good enough for graphics work but the math has gotten crazy lately. I look at greek symbols and squiggly lines and my brain turns to goo. However if I see the code I can usually work out what is going on, but often there is none, and squiggly greeky is all you have to look at.

About jobs, fresh out of college is really popular right now in games. Game companies want young and inexperienced and easily exploited or so I hear.
sounds good. studying physics really burned me out when it comes to math. as for being exploited, im down as long as im gettng paid
 

Vilgan_sl

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By chance did any of you double major or maybe have advice on a minor. It seems the most important thing is for me to get an internship or some kind. I will definitely look into it. This time around I am going to have a plan instead of just graduate as soon as possible.
Minor or double major is useless. No one gives a shit if you have a minor in some other field, all they care about is how smart you are, how motivated you seem to be, and if you did an internship instead of flipping burgers. Far better to work on an open source project.

I have never ever been asked for my grades/GPA let alone what other stuff I did in college. The only question relating to college in any fashion (even right out of college) was: Do you have a bachelor's in computer science? I could see some companies caring about grades if it is your first job out of college, but why would anyone care about a minor or double major?
 
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LennyLenard_sl

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sounds good. studying physics really burned me out when it comes to math. as for being exploited, im down as long as im gettng paid
I wasn't going to reply to the thread as I didn't do the CS degree route (I did a BS in Bio, minor in Information Systems), and am self-taught, but I can say, unless you're 24 or something (since you're on the GI Bill I take it you're mid-late 20s minimum), you might want to reconsider that outlook. Without going too much into the background, I got my first game programming job working on a quake3/idtech3 project and was hired based on my HL1, HL2 and Q3 modding work. Pay was about $50k, but worked regularly 60-80 hrs/wk. No benefits, as I was officially a contractor for the first few years. Did get to do some international travel though on their dime. I've slept under my desk multiple times.

I loved the shit out of it at the time, and it was a small team, so really felt like I was contributing (which I was, as one of two programmers at the start), but after about two years, it got tiresome. Pay slowly increased (never exceeded $60k/yr, but I didn't have a CS degree and it was a start-up and everyone was being paid on similar scales) and hours slowly decreased, but would still hit 50-60 hrs/wk for long stretches. I'm going to be turning 31 in the next week, and I can say I wouldn't take a "do over", but I definitely wouldn't do it again, starting again at this age.

Though, perhaps I'm retarded, as I'm now indie/self employed, and making even less $ and working more hours...

Most of the other programmers I ran into, very few are doing the same thing they were. Either they moved their way up to high level senior programmer/lead positions (much better pay, but even worse hours), a few went into high pay, short term consulting, and many have ditched the field and went into non game areas.

As for general education, I did take calc I and II (failed calc II first time) at college (had algebras, geometry, stats and pre-calc in HS/MS), bio focused stats and number theory type of math (can't recall name) for ISYS. I've never had to do the really heavy math stuff (always used someone else's renderer and/or physics libraries, been able to muddle through those or find specific answers to specific problems online). Do use tons of algebra and geometry, with sprinklings of calc.
 
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First, thanks for sharing. You guys have really given me some good advice. I guess I was somewhat of a bio major as well. I was actually Medical Physics which is kind of like bio and physics degrees combined. I took 2 biology classes, 2 chems, 2 organic chems, a and P and a few others.

It always seems like the people with real talent for coding are self taught. I guess it makes sense because they are self motivated to learn which a lot of college students arent. I really hope the things I learn in school arent just filler. I plan to give 110% of my focus and energy towards this.

I guess I should add that I've done a little coding here and there. Basic HTML and Java. At one time I was making a text based game in Python but ended up moving on when I encountered problems trying to write my own chat room. I had planned on reading up on coding again before school but figured I'd give my head a rest until school. Maybe thats a bad idea I dunno.
 

Cad

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Don't fucking develop games, the pay is shitty and the hours are long and whatever you're picturing as the fun of being a "dev" is retarded bullshit. Play games in your spare time for fun (working on them isn't fun) and follow the $ into enterprise apps, consulting, database programming, etc. CS is fine (I have a CS degree).

1. Don't be a long-term wage slave at some large faceless company. Get some experience and start consulting independently, and try to cut out the middleman in your consulting gigs. Companies are often willing to pay "consulting companies" inflated rates. Get in on those rates.

2. Don't learn useless bullshit. Take every job with an eye to marketable skills. Never pigeonhole yourself on some niche product that you'll never be able to find a job using it again.

3. Don't just learn design patterns and coding standards out of a book and think thats how coding works. Coding is about solving problems; knowing when to use patterns and when to come up with something yourself is why you will eventually get paid a lot. Any indian monkey can talk patterns.

4. Stay away from fucking indians and asians. Especially when they are microwaving their food. You don't want to smell like that all day.
 

Noodleface

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4. Stay away from fucking indians and asians. Especially when they are microwaving their food. You don't want to smell like that all day.
Also be weary of the indian's cubes. They don't like to wear shoes during the day.
 

LennyLenard_sl

shitlord
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Well you've had other real CS types already reply. I did also have some schooling (course on VAX basic and another C++ in HS), plus a year of C++ in college. Plus I've been tinkering with games all the way back to Tie Fighter with hex editor based ship editors. I am definitely not as strong a programmer or computer scientist as those with the degrees and training. I also have significant doubts I could get a job at a "real" place like EA or Ubisoft due to their use of specialists (I can however code, 3d model well enough that some of my pieces have made it into a shipped game and do most other things needed for games), really a jack of all trades. I also doubt I'd even get a second glance at a non gaming tech company. Though I've never tried.

I wouldn't recommend this route to most people. It can be done, and as you said, self-motivation plays a big part of it, since you're outside the "normal tracks". In my case, I just love making games (I only play about 5 hours a week vs working on them 40+ even now). I love the blending and the interdisciplinary type skills that I need to know to do stuff with small (or solo) groups of people.

I think if you want to be a programmer/cs type guy, who can handle any computer science type problems, stick with the CS degree, get an internship and do some kind of open source or shareable project (allow this to be more targeted towards your specific interest), and you'll have plenty of subfields to pick from. Avoid games unless you really love them (and more so, love making them, not just playing) since the industry tends to burn out all but the most dedicated/stupid.