Yes, the earth has stopped rotating. I am officially considering graduate school.
People who know me well know that I don’t generally advocate going for a graduate degree. I feel many students are mislead by universities regarding the value of said degrees, and many people would be better served simply getting in some real-world experience.
And yet I’m considering grad school. For software engineering.
So why the change of buy cheap viagra internet heart?
Primarily, I want to learn new things. I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts in metalsmithing. Which is great, and I’m proud of that degree; I worked hard for it. But I also do a lot of professional web development and programming. I’ve learned most of it through the school of hard knocks. I’m self employed, and while one might think that would make it easier to take time to learn new things, in some ways it becomes more difficult. It’s easy to overdue “work time” and spend 12 hours a day on my business, leaving little time for anything else.
In addition to polishing my skills, I decided the degree was worth something to me. If my Bachelors was in CS or math, I’d probably skip the official degree program and just take some continuing ed classes. I’m after the information, not the acronym. But after talking to a few people I think there’s a benefit to having a degree in computer science on my resume. As much as I wish it wasn’t, sexism is still an issue for women working in technology and science. Having an advanced degree can help combat that, although it’s a shame that it even has to.
I’ve more or less decided to go into software engineering, as opposed to “computer engineering” or “computer science.” Admittedly before I started looking into grad school all these terms sounded identical to me. The Association of Computer Machinery put out a curriculum which breaks down various computer sciences into a few different disciplines. The article itself is a bit dry but there are some very useful charts and graphs which help me figure out how my interests lined up with different programs. You can find it here if you’re interested: http://www.acm.org/education/curric_vols/CC2005-March06Final.pdf
Now comes the daunting task of picking a college and getting admitted. I’m going to have to use all of the work I’ve done since college graduation to show my aptitude and interest in software engineering, since my college transcript just shows that I’m damned good at metalsmithing. I was hoping to take a few undergraduate classes as a non-matriculating student at a university I’m interested in to get a feel for it and meet the faculty, but it looks like most CS programs don’t let non-majors take classes. Without a lot of connections to academia, the graduate admissions process is pretty intimidating. When I was in high school, my college counselor seemed superfluous; I already knew where I wanted to go. Now I’d give my left arm to have someone help me navigate the sea of programs and paperwork.
I’m not looking to relocate, so I’m sticking to colleges and universities within a reasonable commuting distance (via public transit) to my home in Jersey City. So far I’ve checked out Rutgers, NYU, and Stevens. I’m still on the fence as to whether I should go for a masters or a PhD. A PhD sounds like it might be more interesting, but I’ve got mixed feelings about setting aside such a huge chunk of time. Would becoming a PhD student mean I’d have to leave my business behind?
One thing I’m oddly looking forward to is the GRE. I’ve always done pretty well on standardized tests. Do you still use a number 2 pencil and fill in the bubbles? I find that to be immensely satisfying.