Value of web systems degree?

A recent post on MeyerWeb got my attention. Essentially, someone asked Eric Meyer whether they should drop out of school (they are pursuing a computer science degree at a 4 year college). They wondered how useful a degree in computer science was for web development. You can read Eric Meyer’s response. I thought I would provide my own thoughts on this as well as solicit feedback from current and former students (I have been teaching web systems for 11 years).

My advice would be for the person to stay in school at this point. An education is valuable and often will allow you to get your first job. Once you have your foot in the door, it will be up to you to keep the job (based on your knowledge, skills, and abilities). By staying in school, you have the ability to hone these aspects. I would add that anyone considering entering this field might consider taking classes at a community college for the first two years. That being said, I have observed that there are vast differences in what is offered at various colleges and universities (some are still teaching materials which were out of date in 2001; others are staying at the cutting edge). Students should shop around and verify that the college is not only accredited, but also vetted by some web specific organization (for example, our program has been reviewed by the World Organization of Webmasters). One should verify that web standards are being taught consistently in the program (sadly, some programs do not teach web standards in any of their classes) and that current best practices are encouraged.

I am also curious as to what current and former students think about this topic. I know a fair number of former students have gone on to significant jobs in various aspects of web design and development. I also know that some students are struggling in the current economic climate. If you are reading this and you are a current or former student, please post a comment regarding your thoughts as to the value of your education (particularly the web systems classes). I do not plan to filter the comments (except to block the obvious SPAM drivel which plagues most content management systems these days).

3 thoughts on “Value of web systems degree?”

  1. I am current student with the goal of obtaining a Web Development degree at ICC. I agree with the assertion that a degree would help you get in the door with a company. I now work for a small company, and obtained the job based on my skills alone, before I had even enrolled at ICC. That being said, I would like to obtain a job with larger operation (and larger salary) at some point in the future. Like Eric Meyer, I have a college degree already, but unrelated to CS or Web Development. I plan to continue at a 4 year institution and obtain a Bachelor’s in Web Development.
    As Professor DuBois pointed out, I am going to have to do some careful research regarding the university’s relevance and quality of their program.
    I feel I have benefited greatly from the courses I have taken at ICC. There are numerous areas of Web Development I had no knowledge or even awareness of, that were introduced to me through the CMWEB program.
    I believe that a strong portfolio, good references, and a degree (many job offerings require a C.S. degree of some kind) will not only improve my chances at landing a good job, but will improve my skill set by orders of magnitude over trying to teach myself everything.

  2. This is an interesting question but comes down to the point of getting a degree or not. In my opinion, a degree is going to help get you that first job no matter what “killer” apps you build. I am in the market for a new job and many of the positions I am looking for want some sort of marketing degree and HTML/CSS knowledge and experience. I was talking with a Project Manager for a nationally known web development company and he said that many of the applicants they talk to understand how to use software to create but do not understand the code; which in his opinion cause problems in the case of redesign as you spend more time recreating what has been created instead of changing what was created.

  3. I received my Web Development degree from ICC in December of 2007. I was currently employed at COUNTRY Financial in their eLearning Department. I was hired into this position while I was enrolled in the last class needed to achieve this degree. The main reason that I was hired was the degree that I was pursuing. The breadth of knowledge that was gained with this degree made me a very marketable candidate. I had a working knowledge/understanding of many programs and programing languages. While most of the programs that I use in my job today were not learned from the degree, it did give me understanding of the basic principles and concepts of development. It allowed me to pick these tools up and learn them very quickly. I am currently enrolled at ISU in the ITK program pursuing my Bachelor’s degree and the knowledge that I gained from the Web Development program at ICC was invaluable.

    I would advise anyone to take the time and get the degree. The knowledge and experience that you will gain from working with such a diverse group of Professors and students is priceless. The program that ICC offers includes such a wide array of classes that it might not make you a master of one area, but it gives to knowledge to adapt to many areas and be successful. I attribute my success to this program and the Professors that took the time to make sure that I understood the information, not just it memorized it.

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