4 years on a degree or a side project, choose one.

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If you were to start over and could only choose one path, which would you consider based on what you know today?

I've been seeing a lot of people complaining about side projects being a point of discussion for new jobs. Some people feel they don't need one because they have a degree while others believe their side project taught them more than a degree.

Really curious to hear some others perspective on how they would approach starting a career in the current landscape of development.

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I'd get a degree again. Maybe not a degree in physics, if I were on the merry-go-round again, but a degree, for sure. Credentialism is real, and there are more fields than just programming that I might want to go into


I got a degree in physics also :D!

The value of going to college I felt was more in the community aspect than the degree. I think I did pretty well in school and in transitioning to software development, but I don't care about the degree.

That said, I'd rather have 4 years to be a student and then be off than not at all, certainly.


I'd personally rather the CS be my side project. I can't imagine devoting my core time to something so theoretical.


If I were to start over I would seriously consider taking a humanities degree and having side projects but that's just me :-)


After I dropped out I used to say that if I went back to finish a degree I'd be switching majors to literature. The only thing that's changed a decade later is that the prospect of going back seems less and less likely.


Yeah, I understand perfectly. What I say to myself from time to time is: I'll go back to university when I retire :-D

I would probably choose anthropology


I think I would do a series of different side projects, each designed to learn a particular skill. I would give myself some simple rules to maximize the learning experience from a number of different aspects.

  1. The project must turn into a profitable business that can be run passively (a.k.a. apps you pay a fixed price for, games, etc.)
  2. I must understand an unfamiliar technology after completing it
  3. It must be time-boxed to one month at a minimum, three months at a maximum (with the exception of a single one-year long shot)

Lol you're basically asking me what I would do if I were financially independent right now. Four FREE years would get me ridiculously excited. Although experience teaches me it'll be a long a difficult slog with many twists and turns


Yes, I learnt a lot form personal projects, from scratch!

However, the reality is, no one is willing to work with somebody without a related degree and old. (I've been working as an optometrist for almost 7years!)

People would say I'm crazy coz I quit a job in healthcare but I really love coding. To gain credentials, I have to keep self-learning, build personal projects and study an IT degree.

Wish by doing so could help me to dive into this field.


For most of my life, I hated school (although I loved learning). It took me 9 years of off-and-on to finally complete my CS degree. Toward the end though, I had some great teachers and fellow students, and I really started to see the value of a well-rounded education. Primarily, it gives you many different lenses through which to view a given problem. These are lenses you may not get from experience alone, and they can contribute to better solutions.

For instance, in a recent question about API versioning, I suggested that maybe the right answer is not to version (don't break backward compatibility). You get stuck with some old cruft sometimes, but you keep your customers. We can see examples of this over and over by studying history. A more recent example is keyboards. QWERTY and the staggered key layout are not efficient or ergonomic means of input, but they exists because of limitations on mechanical typewriters over 100 years ago. You probably couldn't sell enough ergonomic Dvorak keyboards to buy coffee, because they break backward-compatibility with the user.

Anyway, I would definitely choose the degree. Although I worked during most of mine, too.


Side projects for me, even if I have both. But depends on the project. It needs to be something non-trivial and technically challenging, so that you can learn a lot on the job. Not another clone of tictactoe.

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