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I'm taking the plunge....

masters computer science career change engineering programming freelancing web development

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#1 FURRYHOBBITGUY

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Posted 01 May 2014 - 08:13 AM

So, I've decided to start towards a Masters Degree in Computer Science.  My undergrad is in Mechanical Engineering.  I have dabbled in programming in my Engineering career and I have found that I really enjoy it.  I have no idea what I plan to do with the Masters in CS when I get it.  I don't even know if it's a good idea to be honest.  All I know is that I enjoy programming and I want to see where it can take me.

 

I figure, the worst case scenario is that I get the degree, take on some debt, and gain an additional skill set that I can use in my Mechanical Engineering profession.

 

Best case scenario, I find out that programming is a better fit for me than Engineering and somehow I make a complete switch over to a new career without having to take a big drop in salary.

 

Other scenarios could include keeping my Mechanical Engineering job while doing some part time freelance programming on the side.  The freelance work could be a 2nd source on income and a potential safety net against a future layoff.

 

I also wonder about web development.  I have a good eye for design and I feel like I could really do well with making websites that are easy to navigate and attractive.

 

Sometimes I wonder if I'm being realistic with all of this though.  I'm sure the programming world is highly competitive.  Can I compete in the programming field if I'm only involved part time?  Am I hurting my chances of maintaining an Engineering career by spending time on Computer Science efforts?  I see this as putting my eggs in different baskets in order to increase my options and security.  I wonder if I will have trouble competing with people that are "all in", so to speak, in either of the fields.  Can this plan backfire?  Am I wasting my time and money?  Should I just go "all in" with my Engineering career and hope for the best?  Anyone have any advice or real world experience to share?


Edited by FURRYHOBBITGUY, 01 May 2014 - 08:14 AM.

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#2 WingedPanther73

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Posted 01 May 2014 - 08:51 AM

My first question: have you actually been accepted? I have a master's in math, and when I tried to get a master's in CS as well, was told that I needed to take a bunch of undergrad CS courses, first. From a practical standpoint, simply getting a second bachelor's in CS would probably work just as well, and may be a lot simpler to arrange, logistically.


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#3 FURRYHOBBITGUY

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Posted 01 May 2014 - 09:31 AM

My first question: have you actually been accepted? I have a master's in math, and when I tried to get a master's in CS as well, was told that I needed to take a bunch of undergrad CS courses, first. From a practical standpoint, simply getting a second bachelor's in CS would probably work just as well, and may be a lot simpler to arrange, logistically.

 

I have not been officially accepted yet.   I am planning on attending the University of Illinois at Springfield Online masters program.  I have spoken with admissions and the head of the CS department and they said that they would "conditionally accept" me into the program.  This means that I need to take some undergrad CS courses at the university before I am officially in the masters program.  I also looked into the BS option and it would take just as long as the masters and I would have to take a lot of unrelated filler classes.  So I am opting for the Master's.  Currently, I am taking java classes at my local community college because they also require 2 years of that before the conditional acceptance into the masters program.


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#4 WingedPanther73

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Posted 01 May 2014 - 09:40 AM

You got further than I did :) Clemson, for whatever reason, refuses to do night or online classes for the master's CS program. If you're enjoying Java, then it's probably a good move. Additionally, your ME background will give you a lot of subject matter knowledge that will allow you to do various types of niche programming far more easily than most programmers.

 

You'll find that programs are more predictable than mechanical systems, but also less fault-tolerant :)


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#5 FURRYHOBBITGUY

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Posted 01 May 2014 - 09:56 AM

You'll find that programs are more predictable than mechanical systems, but also less fault-tolerant :)

 

An additional improvement over mechanical design seems to be a quicker and more reliable feedback loop.  For example, I used to do a lot of stress analysis on turbine blades.  I never really knew if I got the answer right.  I just had to have confidence in my calculations and my use of the FEA software.  Once the part became reality, which could take nearly a year, no news was good news.  As long as the thing ran and didn't break, I knew I did my job well enough.  I didn't know how close to the stress limits I was.  I just knew that I must have been far enough away from the breaking point that it ran without issue.

 

I like programming because you can write bits of code, test them, and get instant feedback.  If it doesn't do what you intended during a test run, you can tweak the code and run again.  With Mechanical Engineering, you're more in the dark.  Even with new product design, you can come up with conceptual designs but you don't know if it's going to work until you build a prototype and test it.  It could be a looooonnnng time until the prototype is built and you get feedback on how your idea worked.  By that time, the company has spent a lot of time and money on a prototype and testing procedures.  If your idea fails, you look really bad and you can't really fix the failure on the spot.  You have to face the music.  At least that's my slant on it (with my limited knowledge of the real world of programming).  If anyone feels I'm off in left field, let me know.  


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#6 BlackRabbit

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Posted 01 May 2014 - 08:57 PM

You can program far beyond test batches. You can work on programmable logical controllers. The range of complexity of those vary from medical machinery to simple timers and sensors.


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