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In about a month, I'll be graduating from high school. I got accepted into university but not as a science student. The reason why I didn't get accepted as a science student is because I didn't take pre-calculus in high school. There is a loophole at my university though, I could change to a science student after one year, so I'm not that worried about that.

What I am worried is about the money. I'm absolutely terrible with math, I can't do simple foundations, let alone calculus. I'm scared that even if I do go in as a science student, I won't be able to make it.

So here's the question.

I taught myself everything I know about programming. I know how to develop websites full stack (both with node.js and python), I use mongodb as a database & react for the front-end. I put all my projects on GitHub, and I have quite a few repositories. Let alone, they're not big, but at least something is better than nothing to show. I feel pretty comfortable with what I'm doing, and I'm trying to step out of my comfort zone so I could improve on myself.

I'm planning on paying for a few coding bootcamps so I could put them on my resume, and show my employers that I know what I'm doing.

Do you guys think I would be able to get a job without a CS degree, and only have bootcamps on my resume? (as source for education)

I'm not looking for senior developer that pays 120k/year. Just something that pays for what its worth while I still go to university.

Money has always been tight in my family, and I don't want to take the big leap without some sort of safe plan.

Sorry for the long post, if somebody could give me some advice, I would really appreciate it.

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    Does your university have a student employment office? Usually companies interested in hiring students will register with the university. You don't necessarily have to be in a specific degree program if you're a first year, but you should usually want to work in the field the company has jobs for.
    – ColleenV
    May 13 '21 at 17:59
  • @Gabriel Gavrilov, Would you please let us know which country you are in ? The answers about the coding bootcamps may depend on your specific location. May 13 '21 at 19:49
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    Why are you targeting a career where you don't think you will achieve well?
    – Kilisi
    May 14 '21 at 0:14
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Computer science is not software engineering, in the way that metallurgy is not designing bridges.

Software engineering isn't really maths either, and certainly not advanced maths. But if you can't handle the basics of logic and mathematics, you'll be stuck.

A degree will help you get a job in programming. Some employers expect a degree, some won't care so much, but overall the degree will be better than not having one. But it doesn't have to be a computer science degree.

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Software development is way more logic than it is math. Here's the weird thing: schools (both high school and higher education) teach a lot of math but they barely teach logic. Unless you go into philosophy or get more than halfway into university mathematics, your exposure to logic will typically be one "geometric proofs" class in high school and one "discrete math" class in university.

Some employers are looking for a higher educational background (BSc or similar) for their software developers. Yes, this is partly because it means they have had exposure to computer science. (And for "elite" employers they do want people who can analyze algorithms and so forth, but that's not the focus of this question.) But it is also partly simply because it is assumed that if you made it through university, then you've been taught the basics of how to think (that is, how to read, write, make agruments, and do basic research), as part of a so-called "liberal arts" education.

And, frankly, demand is high. Given two candidates, one who has a BSc and one who doesn't, all else being equal, the employer can pick the one with the BSc.

But, at the end of the day, employers are looking for someone who can understand the domain, solve problems, and get stuff done. Having a BSc doesn't actually imply any of those is true.

So, if you have tried software development, and you like it, then you probably have an aptitude for it, and I wouldn't worry about the mathematics too much. (You're probably good at logic, but if you're anything like the developers I've met, you simply don't realize you're doing it, in your head. Software development is really just loads and loads of this: "If I change this part, what else will change and how? What parts will not change, and why?" Incidentally, I'm pretty bad at math too, but studying math became much more tolerable for me when I started looking at it as a branch of logic -- the branch that deals with quantities.)

And, if you can do it, and you can demonstrate that you can do it, then there is certainly an employer somewhere who will want you to do it for them. Will it be easy for you to find them? Well, it will no doubt be easier with a bachelor's degree, and easier still with a BSc, but it's not impossible without. It helps to network, and it helps to be able to demonstrate that you can do what they need to get done.

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Bootcamps aren't really worth the money. Especially doing multiple ones. You just won't pick up the skills you need that way due to overlap, and doing multiple ones won't make the resume look better- if anything it will make it look like you couldn't grow beyond that.

Getting a job programming during college would be difficult, because most programming jobs want you full time every day. I'd look at jobs available inside your school, they'll be the most understanding towards your schedule. Both programming and school IT frequently hire from the CS department for part time roles. Look for professors that need someone to code something for their research, although that may be more math intensive that normal jobs.

What you should really look for is a good co-op program if money is a concern. With a coop, you take 5-6 years to graduate because you intersperse work and school. Doing that you can make enough to pay for school. Also internships are available summers if you don't coop. Do not take an unpaid internship, in this field they pay fairly well.

As for not being good at math- may or may not be a problem. Very few programmers use calculus. Trig is mostly used for graphics, avoid graphics classes and you can avoid that. What is used is discrete mathematics and mathematical logic. If you can do that, you're ok. If you can't, you're not going to make it far.

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  • Yes, bootcamps are not worth the money. You can look at specifics they are teaching, and do the tutorials yourself.
    – user61034
    May 14 '21 at 14:27
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If you want to start a career as a programmer, and find some relevant employment while you are a still a student, you might want to look to see if there are some part-time opportunities offered by your university.

For example, as a student, I worked for the Computer Science department as a "course consultant" / grader for a few semesters - where I provided younger students with some advice and support on their assignments, or helped the instructors with grading. Or maybe your school is hiring for help in a computer lab. You also might be able to find some employment working in a professor's research group. Admittedly, these examples might be dated, as I graduated university more than 20 years ago, but I'm sure there must be some part-time opportunities in a related field, which will give you some relevant experience.

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Do you guys think I would be able to get a job without a CS degree, and only have bootcamps on my resume? (as source for education)

Most state and federal jobs put a hard requirement on at least an Associates Degree to become programmer. They will not look at your resume without a degree. Historically there are exceptions, but few and almost none apply to the current job market. Bootcamps are not a substitute. You may be able to get a job in the public sector someplace but you will certainly be given a low-ball salary offer.

To put this into context, employers choose the best applicants that have:

  • the highest College Degree
  • the most Certifications
  • the most on-the-job experience
  • and the best references

Due to the online nature of job applications, when you apply for an IT position today, you go up against dozens, or even hundreds of other applicants across the country. You need to stand out. Not having a degree is going to limit the jobs you can apply to and hurt your salary offer.

Money has always been tight in my family, and I don't want to take the big leap without some sort of safe plan.

You probably won't like this option, but from personal experience I joined the Army and used the G.I. Bill to go to college. I graduated college debt-free in that regard other than some credit card debt that I managed to clear in my first year of working. There are various jobs and options like Air Force, Navy, National Guard that are support focused and not combat focused to consider that may have an IT related-background; but probably not in programming. Paying for college is a difficult path no matter how you approach it.

I'm absolutely terrible with math, I can't do simple foundations, let alone calculus.

An option is to take a summer course. Take Pre-Calculus one summer. Calculus the next if you have to. You need to give 100% to passing those courses; I've been there and was terrible with Calculus and had to do summer classes. I failed these courses with D's and F's during semesters on 3 different occasions. I eventually passed Calculus with a C by taking a summer course. One thing I will stress: most jobs will ask to see your college transcript/grades. Most will not bring up grades, some are just verifying education level, but some will simply eliminate your application if the competition is high. Since you know you're weak in math, treat that one carefully.

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  • +1 even though I know joining military to get GI bill isn't for everyone... I'd add that taking summer courses can help on difficult or consuming classes because the compressed schedule means you typically only take 1 course, you get it over with quickly, and it means you can focus better. The tradeoff is it's typically more intense and may have longer sessions (like 3 hours twice a week). May 14 '21 at 20:10
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It seems like no one else has suggested this:

How about freelancing a little on the side? There are a multitude of websites where you can offer your services. Sure you wont get a lot (you have to compete with people from poorer countries) but it is a good way to practice and gives you an actual portfolio. You can also start very small and ask small businesses to make their website for a little money or ask friends. You might have to start out for free though. The small shopowner who had his shop for 40 years wont see any benefit from a website and for sure doesnt want to pay 100 bucks for it.

I know many people who did this and after a few years were able to start their own company with the clients they had and actually ask for real money instead for like 20 bucks for a website.

Another thing: why not use free resources for training? Youtube is FILLED with great courses and you can find the teacher that suites you the best. Usually they also offer a udemy course or a bootcamp and you know beforehand if you will get something out of this.

In your age and especially during college I wouldnt try to find a "real" job. It will consume your time and yourself and you will very likely end up at that company without a degree and with a pay that might be good for a college kid but nothing a person can live from in the long run. Almost happened to me and happened to a lot of friends in college. That 2000$ for coding looks great in college, but when you go from 20 hrs a week to 40hrs, 50, 80 then drop out because all you do is work and then you get paid 2000$ as a full time developer. It is sad. Dont be that guy

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  • bootcamps are useless on resume. do them as you wish, but don't expect them - as such - to help getting a programming job

  • github repos are useless on resume. again: do them as you wish, but don't expect them - as such - to help getting a programming job

  • if you're a truly good programmer it doesn't matter much if you don't have a degree. DEGREES ARE GREAT but it's a fact that many software engineers don't have one, have half of one etc.

  • as has been said a million times on this list:

It's very hard (for everyone) to get that first job as a programmer. Once you're in you're in but it's REALLY hard to get that first job. Really, really difficult.

Unfortunately there simply is no lock-in route to getting that first job. Note that there are a zillion questions on here from folks who have degrees in programming that can't get that first job.

  • "I'm not looking for senior developer that pays 120k/year" You can't hire a typist for 120k in silicon valley! :O

  • You seem to be contemplating making money from programming WHILE ATTENDING COLLEGE. Be aware that unfortunately, very likely won't work. Programming is all-consuming. It's very difficult to do "something else" while programming.

  • I note that so far you equate "software development" with basically the web stack. The Web Stack is fantastic and everyone loves the WWW but be aware programming is a very big field and if you are limited to field X, people in field Y and Z will shoo you away unfortunately.

  • You mention you are "no good at math". This is a challenging issue. You know how most musicians can sing pretty good? There are a few famous guitarists etc who can't sing. But the fact is. Most musicians sing pretty good. Similarly most programmers have a feel for math, and some are tops with math. (Indeed be aware that some programming fields are all-math all-day. You can't do games, 3D etc unless math is a cinch for you.

And the final mystery...

Why oh why don't you just go study programming? Take a programming degree.

Hope these thoughts help.

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    I disagree with your first three points. I've been involved in the hiring process at two software-based companies, and a philosophy grad with a bootcamp on the resume is usually passed through to interviews, while a philosophy grad without is usually not. And, a solid GitHub repo can be very strong on a resume.
    – GB1553
    May 13 '21 at 17:33
  • Fair enough GB - that's certainly not my experience of how hirers feel about those things. Why not put in a helpful answer for the OP?
    – Fattie
    May 13 '21 at 18:02
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    A degree is useful in getting a job. As a hirer, a degree (from a good university) is a good indicator that you understand fundamental computing concepts, which you may or may not pick up in the course of practical programming. Not that you can't convince me that you are a great programmer without a degree, but it will be harder. May 13 '21 at 18:37
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    Making money by programming while attending college? That is what I did. It paid for two years of undergraduate school. I got the job from the university student work office and worked for another department. In the US, there are student work programs that connect students with companies. They are not expected to work full time, but are paid for the time they work.
    – David R
    May 13 '21 at 21:14
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    Degrees absolutely matter for the first job, maybe first 2. They get you in the door. While they're not proof you can program, its hard to get a degree while knowing nothing so it correlates strongly with success. Getting that first job or two is easier with one, and then experience is enough to open those doors for the next interview. And github repos are not useless if the code in there is decent quality. You just need to get your resume in front of the technical manager and not the HR guy to get value from one. May 14 '21 at 5:06

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