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How to Plan a Career in The Software and Computer Industry

By Edited Aug 19, 2016 4 9

Most likely those days are over when youngsters could drop out of college and pursue their computer interest, and instead of getting an academic degree in computer science they build multinational companies in the software and computer industry.

This was very possible some decades ago when Steve Jobs and Steven Wozniac founded Apple Computer Inc. in a garage in Silicon Valley, California. And Bill Gates created the DOS operating system for IBM (International Business Machines).
In those days IBM was the largest and most valuable company in the world. However, Apple Computer and Microsoft have changed (each in its own way) the software and computer industry completely.

But the changes have not only affected the computer and software companies, the changes have also influenced the need for formal education in computer science. These days the youngsters who want a career in computers must think wise, and adapt to the demands of those who employ either the 'beginners in computing' or the well educated computer specialists with academic degrees.

As a consequence individuals with a technical mindset and a fascination for mathematics and science may discover that it is wise to be attending computer courses, either an independent online computer education program, or to study computer science at a college or university. Both paths can have the final goal: A computer science degree.

The first academic step to a career in the computer and information industry could begin with an associate or a bachelor degree. Many companies demand a formal college degree with relevant computer training prior to hiring a job candidate. It doesn't have to be a masters degree or a doctorate. Given that the technology is constantly changing, many companies will employ those applicant who have a good basic education, and the employer will provide an continuing professional training after employment in order to expand the knowledge within specialized IT or computer science. This training will quite often even lead to some common recognized computer certifications in specialized areas, such as database management and/or networking.

The associate degree for computer science includes the fundamentals of software programs and databases, plus it might incorporate courses like Desktop Publishing, Database Concepts and Applications and Systems Administration. And quite often an degree at this level is sufficient for small business to employ a graduate from the computer associate's program to do basic IT or programming jobs in the company.

Having a computer science bachelors degree can provide far more diverse job opportunities for any graduate. This program incorporates a syllabus which is much more comprehensive. It comprises a number of mathematics based lessons and programming courses, or other areas such as Macroeconomics, Data Structures, and Theory of Operating Systems. These detailed courses are formulated for persons who are majoring in computer science and who eventually might be creating new software applications and programs.

It is also possible to study to a computer science masters degree. The students who follow the masters program must have an understanding about their specific professional goals within the computer science industry, and they will have to select more specialized and theoretical computer courses.

New employees within the computer and software area should realize that even though they hold an academic degree in computer science, then the days of studying are not over. The computers and the software, operating systems and application programs, are constantly developing, therefore those who work with computers and software have to develop too.
This fact can actually be turned into a very advantageous plan. The smart plan for those who are aiming for a masters degree in computer science would be like this:

1) Get a general computer science bachelor degree.

2) Get a job in the computer industry.

3) Get training on the job in whatever computer speciality your employer is engaged in. This training will of course be extremely close related to your employer's business.

4) Get admitted to a part time, distance learning, masters degree program in computer science. You will most likely be able to negotiate with your employer that the company pays for the costs of your study (including student fees, computers, books and other learning material)

Many computer courses can be achieved online and the training is generally available as a combination of learning tools such as books and other study material, DVDs with illustrating videos, and multimedia presentations, and quite often courses even have virtual computer labs and classrooms which provide interactive lessons between the tutors and fellow students. Even the tests and the examinations can frequently be taken via fast internet connections. Study this way can in fact be a global study with participants from all over the world. These day even highly recognized universities have realized that they have to network and offer global education in cooperations with other universities and other organizations.

Of course it doesn't have to be a full masters program, but it could instead be several special online courses. However, make sure that the education you pay for is an accredited distance learning program, and that whatever diploma you get after a successful study is a recognized education in computer science. In any case one of the major benefits is that you will get the possibility to keep your employment while you study and continue to educate yourself in a specialized computer area.

In addition to the fast smart track to a masters degree in computer science while you are employed, then you could also study further within other areas. It is not unusual that degree holders within computer science or computer engineering end their career as managers in other areas than programming and computing. A solid knowledge about information technology (IT) and communication is quite often the key to doors in many different directions. So maybe you choose to study economics and management at the masters degree level, rather than a degree in computer science.

You might be interested in reading some of my other articles about computer science and programming, such as how to learn programming and get a an IT job. Maybe you want to get a tip about which computer programming language should be your first language: Learn C Programming.

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Nov 22, 2010 9:09pm
What you outline here is a good plan. Get the Bachelor's then look for a job to give you good practical training. Then when you work on a Master's degree you will know more what the real world job market is and you can know what types of courses are best to prepare you in your field.

Good article.
Nov 23, 2010 2:26am
Thank you for your comment! (And, dpeach?, as I understand you yourself followed a similar route)
Nov 23, 2010 8:02am
Yup, that is exactly what I am doing. The advanced degree I am working on won't earn me any more money, but it will increase my authority and be a help to those around me.
Nov 23, 2010 6:59am
Its funny how computers have taken over our lives. Your plan sounds great but then again there are also other avenues with computers.
Programming of different software for accounting and cad designing, Writing games, and even game testers for the fun computer lovers. You can make good money out of testing games. Dont know if you would class it as a career though. You have Great ideas for the technical computer minded person.
Nov 24, 2010 2:58am
Thank you for your comment.
Yes, there are many avenues with computers, and of course 'Game Testing' is a possible career. (Games have to be tested, just as books have to be proofread before the final publishing)
Nov 23, 2010 9:36am
Great information. I have been putting together a series of articles to help the special education high school students I work with. We are compiling a notebook of jobs that they could get into with two years of college (an Associate's degree), or less. I'm adding this to the notebook to help the kids who are interested in computers. They may never get their Master's Degree, but there are still some things they could do with computers. Thanks!
Nov 24, 2010 2:54am
The important thing isn't to get a Master's Degree, but to get solid knowledge and experience. After that the door is open ...
Mar 6, 2012 12:53pm
Degrees are losing their value. The internet is wide open. We no longer have to bow to gatekeepers. Learn by doing. Your article brings up some good points!
Mar 7, 2012 3:20am
I agree that passing 'the gate' to a job in the software and computer industry is different today, and the Internet does not ask for diplomas.
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