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The Case for a College / University Education

December 9th, 2008

In the IT world the debate over the value of formal education vs the school of hard knocks (real life experience) has been waging for a long-long time. I’m biased towards the education side of the debate to some degree, and here’s why I think having a formal education is important.

It’s easier to work or migrate to foreign countries
With a University education (regardless of discipline) it’s easier to obtain work and long stay Visas in foreign countries. Candidates with a formal education can move through the Visa process quicker and in some cases those without degrees are bared entirely from obtaining a Visa. While I don’t think these restrictions are fair, unfortunately it seems to be the global statuesque.

Job security, and increased marketability
When an employer chooses between two candidates for a position, experience often trumps education, but an educated candidate with experience can trump both – education and experience is the best of both worlds. In addition, as an junior / intermediate some employers will bill you out at a higher rate based on education, and some clients feel more confident with certificates and education – both factors increase your marketability.

A strong core, a long term personal investment
I attended Community College before University. While attending Community College some of my friends were enrolled in Computer Science at the University level. These friends would talk of fascinating things like: assembly language, processor registers, paging tables, and abstract data types. Sure my Computer Science friends were immersed heavily in theory, but I was immersed in the practical side of programming (without the theory) – I felt that I was missing out and was envious of their University education. After completing University, I found that the process of working through University helped me cultivate my ideas, understand the basics of computation, draw other disciplines into my work, and relate with the larger world. Today, I think of my University education as the center (hub) of a bicycle wheel – all the spokes branch out, but they all start at the center (this center being the core, the theory of the computer / software world). Sure, we can learn the theory on our own, but working through a conventional program with assignments and with instructors that continue to push you, enforces rigor and promotes personal growth (for myself anyways).

There are no recipes for success and formal education is not the end all – although every advantage helps in our increasingly globally competitive world. To this day, I’ve only been asked for proof of my education on two occasions: once while applying for a Japanese Working Visa, and the other while considering a position in the US (I’m a Canadian). To anyone considering a B.Sc in Computer Science or going to University, I recommend it over experience – it is a long term investment.

* photo courtesy of Jessie Johnson
Author: Adam Kahtava Categories: Musings, Personal Tags:
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