Give Me School Advice -Redux-

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Brace
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Give Me School Advice -Redux-

Postby Brace » Thu Aug 25, 2011 8:50 pm UTC

So I will be finishing a number of degrees and certificates by next summer, and am kind of wondering where to go from here. Originally I had intended to stop at an Associates and try to find work, due to certain priorities and expectations. However, now I am concerned that I might not be able to find work, or that the type of work environment I might be able to hire into wouldn't be good to me (I'm MtF transgender), so I would like to get impressions and general advice from people; people who actually have some sort of experience in IT, Networking, Computer Science or Engineering or related fields, rather than counselors who generally only know what courses go together in a catalog. The degrees and certs I will be finishing are as follows:

Degrees:

Associate of General Studies (I had a bunch of random credits from when I went to this school in 2003-2004 and was only 6 credits away, shush...)
Computer Network Technology AAS
Computer Support Professional AAS

Certificates:

Computer Information Systems
Computer Network Technology
Computer Technician
Foreign Language and Business (again, low hanging fruit from previous random credits)

So considering the pros and cons of going on for a four year degree, I can think of the following:

Pros:

* Consistent, guaranteed source of income for the next 3 years
* BS presumably worth more than just Associates and Certificates, even if I pursue industry certification
* BS would presumably allow advancement, or work opportunities which are closer to a profession than a trade; important because presumably the more prestigious a tech company, the less liable I am to have to put up with bigotry
* Staying in school will allow me to ride out the recession; as well as develop qualifications on par with the other 10,000 people who probably have the same idea, thus letting me potentially better withstand degree inflation
* If I can hire into a quality corporate job out of college, they might have TG specific benefits

Cons:

* The value of the Associates and Certifications will probably diminish over time as tech advances and the curriculum loses relevancy
* Debt. Lots of debt. I will probably be $50k+ in the hole if I go on for a 4 year degree. I will only be $14-15k in the hole when I finish my current programs.
* Potential diminishing returns: Average starting salary for those who would get jobs in the field my current degrees would qualify me for would be ~$30k. Average starting salary with a 4 year degree which directly complements my present degrees might only be $40-50k
* "Overqualification": If all I have done is school, employers might think that all I am qualified for is school
* The companies which are extremely TG friendly are also AAA companies which probably don't make a practice of hiring fresh college graduates, meaning the extra college experience might still have me "paying my dues" working in a bigoted environment full of ascended blue-collar types.

Essentially I would like you to weigh in on this. Do the benefits of continuing my education outweigh the negatives? If so, what 4-year degree would best compliment my existing degrees, or otherwise enable me to work in a quality environment (preferably making as much money as possible)? I do not care how "hard" it is so please don't qualify your statements with any of that. As far as I am concerned, some curriculum may require a greater investment of time, or involve more repetitive work, but that doesn't make the work hard.

I would like to either go to Colorado School of Mines, if they will accept me, or CU (probably Denver). I suppose it would also help to get opinions on whether it would be better to pay the premium to attend School of Mines (the flagship engineering school in the state), or to just attend an inexpensive but still respectable state college.

Link to previous topic I posted, for posterity or humor or something.
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Re: Give Me School Advice -Redux-

Postby LaserGuy » Thu Aug 25, 2011 9:12 pm UTC

My instinct is to say that four years work experience is probably going to do you more good than four years more education. I'm not sure how much additional value that you're going to be getting out of your BS considering how many credentials you already have, especially considering the added debt into the mix.

On the salary issue, it's worth noting that getting a $30k/year job now verses a 4 year degree means a fairly large difference in income. One path will put you at $120k after 4 years, assuming no advancement; the other will put you at -$40k due to loans, but also you will have much more interest to concern yourself with going forward. Making $50k/year doesn't put you that much better off than making $30k/year if you're paying $600/month in on your loans for the next ten years (including interest, very roughly).

Just my two cents...

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Re: Give Me School Advice -Redux-

Postby Brace » Thu Aug 25, 2011 9:20 pm UTC

LaserGuy wrote:My instinct is to say that four years work experience is probably going to do you more good than four years more education. I'm not sure how much additional value that you're going to be getting out of your BS considering how many credentials you already have, especially considering the added debt into the mix.

On the salary issue, it's worth noting that getting a $30k/year job now verses a 4 year degree means a fairly large difference in income. One path will put you at $120k after 4 years, assuming no advancement; the other will put you at -$40k due to loans, but also you will have much more interest to concern yourself with going forward. Making $50k/year doesn't put you that much better off than making $30k/year if you're paying $600/month in on your loans for the next ten years (including interest, very roughly).

Just my two cents...


That's all true, but the following are points that weigh heavily into my consideration:

1. The work environment. As mentioned before, entry level help desk type work (and other associated things I would be qualified for) tends to have a lot of people who followed the same path I did, through a community college, or otherwise ascended from other more salt-of-the-earth types of jobs and atmospheres. This could mean a toxic work environment for me, assuming I am even hired. Hiring managers at this level (as well as management in general) also seem to fancy themselves Randian overmen with alarming frequency, which does not lend itself to me actually getting hired.
2. Would a BS make it easier to retain a job once I attained one? Or would it open more doors for advancement than my current qualifications?

Debt is a price I would be willing to pay gladly if it meant actually having a job and a future.
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Re: Give Me School Advice -Redux-

Postby Brace » Thu Aug 25, 2011 9:24 pm UTC

For context, a felon was hired over me for a workstudy position at my college. I am a 4.0 student.
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Re: Give Me School Advice -Redux-

Postby Bakemaster » Fri Aug 26, 2011 3:12 am UTC

I used to oversee work-study funding for a community college, and believe me, work-study is not very much like the real working world. Some things are universally true about finding a job, but generally, the only thing you need to do to get a work-study job is to qualify for the funding and get there before someone else gets hired.
LaserGuy wrote:On the salary issue, it's worth noting that getting a $30k/year job now verses a 4 year degree means a fairly large difference in income. One path will put you at $120k after 4 years, assuming no advancement; the other will put you at -$40k due to loans, but also you will have much more interest to concern yourself with going forward.

That's an absurd comparison. A $30k salary doesn't allow anyone to save up $30k in a year unless they have someone else paying for literally everything they need in life. Plus giving them money to make up for all the deductions that will come out of that gross pay. Plus consider the time needed to find the job and the possibility that you won't be able to keep it for four years, which means periods of unemployment when you may be hemorrhaging money. Plus the difficulty of getting an entry-level job at that salary level with only an AA/AS. It could be a lot harder, and it's definitely doable in a tech field, but it's far from given. Lots of people with 4-year degrees and all the relevant certs don't start at $30k.
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Re: Give Me School Advice -Redux-

Postby freakish777 » Mon Aug 29, 2011 4:03 pm UTC

So, what type of jobs are we talking about?

Help Desk is what you'd currently be qualified for?

And with a 4 year degree, you'd want to do what (networking? Windows Active Directory? maintain corporate firewalls?)?

If you're a 4.0 Student, and you can get into an "Elite" school (doesn't have to be Ivy League, it just has to be recognizable by hiring managers as "Wow, that's a good school, we need to try and impress this candidate!"), then staying in school for 3 more years is the way to go.

Help Desk (for the most part) is a dead end job. Being stuck at $30k/year isn't a fun thought. I know there's people out there that would kill to be making that much, but if you're smart and making $30k/year in the US it's because you're either unmotivated, or because the things you want out of life don't require money.

$60k of debt is nothing to sneeze at (and it will take years to pay off, and affect your life and the choices you'll be able to make the entire time you have it), but if you're positive you want to make a career out of IT work, then putting yourself into a position that makes 33 to 100% more than you could make now is huge.

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Re: Give Me School Advice -Redux-

Postby Brace » Thu Sep 01, 2011 4:30 pm UTC

Looking into it, apparently the more affordable school is the better school for Comp Sci. Denver School of Mines is apparently only regarded for their engineering and physical sciences programs. I would kill to make $30k a year. Mostly I just want to not die, and I think more qualifications will increase my chances.
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Re: Give Me School Advice -Redux-

Postby ofMars » Mon Oct 17, 2011 4:52 pm UTC

At this point, I would say it has a lot to do with your social capital. If you can manage it now, experience would probably trump education, but depending on the connections the school and it's program has, you might be better off getting a degree because of the connections that you'd make that could get you work.

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Re: Give Me School Advice -Redux-

Postby Brace » Fri Oct 21, 2011 1:53 pm UTC

My plan at the moment is to secure a metric ton of scholarships, go to CU Boulder and live in the dorms, and double major in their Electrical and Computer Engineering program and their Applied Physics BS/MA program.
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Re: Give Me School Advice -Redux-

Postby Jahoclave » Fri Oct 21, 2011 2:17 pm UTC

Well, University of Missouri Rolla is only really known for their Engineering and Sciences, but they still have a damn good comp sci department. Etc.. and so on. So, just because they don't advertise the tangentially related degree program doesn't mean it isn't good. They are a science school afterall.


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