Going back for masters? (Computer Science) Watch

CilveksHSL
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Hello everyone,

I graduated in Games design and development BSc (hons) with a 2.2 a few years ago.

I've had a couple of jobs since graduating, none were related to development in any way and I've found it hard to find a position in the field. I feel that at this point, if i did get offered a position, I don't think I'd be capable of filling it/performing well enough, due to just not being able to find the time to practice and never really getting to a level where I ever really felt confident at it.

I have, during breaks or lulls at my current employment started reading more about problem solving, Data structures, programming practices and it genuinely interests me. I want to know more and build up the confidence to understand the problems I'm presented with and be able to find the solutions to them without looking at the answer on google or stackoverflow.

So, as a consequence, I've recently started to consider the option of going back to university and getting a masters in Computer Science, due to the fact that Computer Science is more marketable than Games design and development, and because, it would give me the opportunity, which I didn't use before, to apply the things I learn to personal or open-source projects that I may decide to take part in as a way to improve my skills.

However, I'm in a scenario where I'm uncertain if it's the right thing for me to do, so I wanted to see what your opinions on this are.
Should I go back to study or should I try to look for a different path into this career.
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alleycat393
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(Original post by CilveksHSL)
Hello everyone,

I graduated in Games design and development BSc (hons) with a 2.2 a few years ago.

I've had a couple of jobs since graduating, none were related to development in any way and I've found it hard to find a position in the field. I feel that at this point, if i did get offered a position, I don't think I'd be capable of filling it/performing well enough, due to just not being able to find the time to practice and never really getting to a level where I ever really felt confident at it.

I have, during breaks or lulls at my current employment started reading more about problem solving, Data structures, programming practices and it genuinely interests me. I want to know more and build up the confidence to understand the problems I'm presented with and be able to find the solutions to them without looking at the answer on google or stackoverflow.

So, as a consequence, I've recently started to consider the option of going back to university and getting a masters in Computer Science, due to the fact that Computer Science is more marketable than Games design and development, and because, it would give me the opportunity, which I didn't use before, to apply the things I learn to personal or open-source projects that I may decide to take part in as a way to improve my skills.

However, I'm in a scenario where I'm uncertain if it's the right thing for me to do, so I wanted to see what your opinions on this are.
Should I go back to study or should I try to look for a different path into this career.
No one can tell you that. Only you'd know what's best for you. Try and get some work experience to see whether you'd enjoy a job like that first. If when applying you come across people who say you need a masters degree first then you know that that's what you need to do. Otherwise you could be easting time effort and money on something you don't need and isn't going to get you further than you are now.
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winterscoming
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Obviously the combination of having a 2:2, and the fact that you've stagnated for several years would cause employers some concern (They won't care about the title of your degree however) - It sounds like your main issue is having some work to do now in getting your skills up; you don't really need a Masters for that, although it's a viable option - albeit an expensive one..

Even with a 2:2 and the time that's passed, you're really looking at refreshing your skills and filling gaps or building on top of your background; you're not exactly starting out from scratch; I'd expect a lot of it will be revision and revisiting everything with a fresh pair of eyes, so you could start out by looking at other options and using your spare time to work through free online courses/blogs/tutorials/etc to refresh your skills and build your confidence, then see how you get on. .

It would be a great idea to pick up a large, non-trivial personal project as a way to get some solid practice and maybe target some new tools/technologies/frameworks too. For example, you could consider learning some modern popular web/app frameworks in one of the popular high-level languages like C# or Java, then using that as a means to lead into web/ui development skills and database skills.

In terms of brushing up on your computational thinking, algorithms and problem solving skills, you could take a look at sites like Project Euler, Hackerrank and Leetcode to challenge yourself and dust off the cobwebs. If you're completely stuck on a problem, then looking at answers and trying to figure out how they got that answer isn't a bad thing; sometimes you can learn a lot by looking at other peoples' solutions to understand how other people think about problems.

You could look towards sites like EdX, Coursera and Udacity where there are tonnes of free courses from top universities and tech companies on all kinds of technologies and topics related to computer science. That includes some advanced topics like AI, Machine Learning and Discrete Maths, all the way to core topics on programming, databases and software design. (Consider looking at those available from MIT, Harvard, Georgia Tech, UBC and Duke University. Also a lot of decent stuff available from Microsoft and Google too)

In terms of the skills to focus on, it's going to boil down to the kinds of things a lot of employers would want to see evidence of when they're hiring people, and the sorts of skills which are expected in a software engineering role. Here's a list of topics that employers tend to find valuable for a software engineering role:
  • Competence in at least one popular high-level programming language like Java, C#, C++, Python (able to answer technical questions about how the language works; confidently read, write, understand, and debug code in that language, be able to write "idiomatic" code in that language)
  • Confident using important development tools - particularly Git and a popular IDE for your chosen language (Visual Studio, IntelliJ, PyCharm)
  • Able to use a debugger to trace through code in real-time and troubleshoot problems (The single most important skill any programmer will ever learn)
  • Object-oriented programming and OO Design concepts (Encapsulation, Abstraction, Separation of concerns, Loose coupling, High Cohesion)
  • Software Design Principles and best practice such as GRASP and SOLID
  • Understanding of "stateless HTTP" APIs, and "RESTful" API principles for building web services
  • Data representation in-memory (Lists, Dictionaries, Streams) and serialised data formats (XML, JSON)
  • Using common operations for collections of data - Sorting, Searching, Transforming, Merging, Splitting, Selection
  • Concurrency, Asynchrony, Parallelism, Multi-threading and thread safety
  • Database design principles, normalisation and SQL.
  • Automated testing, Mocking and Test-Driven development, (This is extremely important as a developer)
  • Common OO design patterns such as Dependency Injection, Repository Pattern, Proxy Pattern, Model-View-Controller (MVC).
  • Principles around code quality, maintainability, exception handling and defensive programming
  • Some functional programming principles such as higher-order functions, immutability and 'lazy' evaluation.
  • Understanding of some software development lifecycle principles around iterative development, and 'agile principles'.

A lot of this sort of thing comes from spending time working in code and building larger, non-trivial projects with a high-level programming language to solve problems, and by spending time looking online for blogs, examples, tutorials, StackOverflow Q&A, and other information to read around these topics to understand what they are, why they're important, when they'd apply in a project, and what the best-practice is around them..

You wouldn't need to be an expert in all of this stuff by any stretch, but being able to work in projects where you're learning to apply these practices and techniques would go a very long way to giving you a lot more to write on your CV, and a lot more to talk about in an interview, as well as hopefully to demonstrate in a project that you could host on a public Git repository.
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