I graduated college about 3 years ago. I received my Bachelor's degree in Computer Information Systems with a focus on Web Development. I chose this degree as it focused on Web Dev and was available online.

I currently work in OPS, where I deal with putting out fires, but my goal is to move into development.

How do hiring managers view different yet similar degrees? For example how would a hiring manager view a BS in Software engineering versus a BAS in Computer Information Systems? Does one degree carry more weight than other in the eyes of most companies, or is it more about your experience?

What steps can a person take to cross over into a similar, yet different field?

  • 1
    Hi Thom, welcome to The Workplace SE. Our site isn't a forum for discussion. Instead, we're a questions and answers site. Unfortunately, we can't tell you definitively what skills you should learn or what type of education you should get. See help center for details, as well as How to Ask for tips on how to make this more on-topic. Good luck!
    – jmort253
    Commented Feb 22, 2014 at 22:01
  • 3
    I have attempted to update the question, and it appears to fit with others that I have been reading through as I search through topics. I attempted to make it more broad to cover how a hiring manager thinks when looking over resumes as opposed to simply asking for specifics on my situation. Hope that helps.
    – Thom Duran
    Commented Feb 22, 2014 at 22:13
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    Hey Thom, nice edits. I added back in some details for context, but feel free to eliminate any information that you really don't want in the post. Good luck!
    – jmort253
    Commented Feb 22, 2014 at 22:26

4 Answers 4


Some employers view degrees as optional, therefore they may not have much regard for any degree. If you are not working in development, they don't know any more now than they did on your first day.

If your present work involves periodic programming of some sort (even if it's report production or simply SQL Server stored procedures) then they will have some idea of what you can do. Otherwise, you may as well be a new-hire. Under the circumstances, you have to find some reason to code a project that your supervisors will see, even if you have to volunteer for something that's way outside the scope of what you do.

Generally the software projects that get assigned to students would be considered incidental in real world operations. Bosses that have been through courses similar to those may realize you still have a long way to go. They need to see your work - a lot of it.

  • I've actually worked on small tools in the past. Little things like a board that shows what everyone is doing etc. I am now almost finished with a tool that will automate the workflow of about 2 people per year. Basically automating call outs on minor alarms and ticketing. The problem I run into is that even though I've now worked multiple projects I still feel stuck in the same position with no potential moves on the horizon. Made me curious if getting another degree would be worth it. Feels hard to show off my dev skills on a resume from an OPS role.
    – Thom Duran
    Commented Feb 23, 2014 at 6:34

In software, it is usually more about your skill set than about your degree.

There are two common reasons why this might not be true: (a) a hiring manager may feel that the prestige of your degree implies your market wage can be lowered to a level beneath the value that your skill can create, so you are effectively "a good value"; and (b) the prestige of your degree will be important for the job -- such as consulting or client-facing analysis where the reputation associated with a fancy degree or a degree from a certain field might have some signalling effect on clients.

In my experience, in both (a) and (b) you want to avoid taking that job.

In (a) you'll be unhappy because as your skills increase with experience and you add more value to the company, you will probably not be compensated for it. In the limit of a long career, you're leaving a lot of money on the table by not switching to an organization that prices your labor according to your skills directly.

In (b) you'll be unhappy because you are not expected to exercise your skill and therefore the ceiling of earnings you hit is not really in your control. (b) situations might be lucrative for a short time, and (b) situations might be interesting to people who don't really want to work hard or who feel they should (or can) rest on their laurels. But for people who want to build skills, (b)-like jobs make you feel sad and unfulfilled pretty fast.

Focus more on building skills that are relevant for what you want to do. Use networking to get that initial opportunity at an interview, not reliance on the way hiring managers view one degree versus another. And once you have the interview you want, rely on your skills directly to convince a hiring manager. And avoid taking (a)-like or (b)-like jobs unless you absolutely must take them.


How do hiring managers view different yet similar degrees?

In general, I care if you get your degree from a really good school, or a really bad school. Here, good and bad mean "when I interviewed people from this school in the past, did they know what they were doing?".

For example how would a hiring manager view a BS in Software engineering versus a BAS in Computer Information Systems?

A CIS degree to me means that you learned the language of the week, and can do the most basic of programming tasks. You can't solve problems. You don't know algorithms and data structures. You spent a bunch of time and money on skills you could've gotten by toying around with a PC for a year or two. There are certainly exceptions, but you'll have to prove to me that you learned stuff on your own.

A Computer Science degree from a bad university is basically the same. A CS degree from a good university should have given you the theoretical background that is hard to get on your own, and has forced you to learn a variety of programming languages and solve a variety of weird problems. You probably still can't write code, and you probably need to unlearn some bad habits.

What steps can a person take to cross over into a similar, yet different field?

For the majority of competent managers, the degree only goes so far. You still need to prove you can do the work. Software engineering is one of those fields where there is a very, very low barrier to entry. Get a PC, get an internet connection, make some software. Not only can those personal projects go on a resume (important, but not vital), but you can do well at the rest of the interview, which carries more weight than your degree does.


Any impression of a degree is going to be flavored by:

  • current reputation of the school - what kind of training, the performance of recent graduates, the nature of the programs

  • the viability of the program relative to the job - certainly a degree in a computer-related field will get you a computer-related job more easily than a degree in the humanities will.

  • the time and experience the candidate has gotten since the degree - a graduate in psychology should not have a problem getting a programmer job when he's been programming for the last 20 years since he graduated.

  • the competition - why will a manager take a risk on a not-exactly-right degree/school, when 20 more perfect candidates are sitting on his desk?

Much of this is based on the personal experiences of the person making the decisions and the company as a whole. When a company hasn't had any luck recruiting candidates from a given school or degree, it tends to give up on that vector as a viable way of recruiting. Similarly, when a manager has had a great experience with a given degree bearing employee, he will probably think "that was a great program... I'll keep an eye out..."

I find that personally, in my local area, I had a really good sense of what the colleges that were most likely to be good recruiting grounds would offer. After 10 or so candidates from a given school, I had a good sense of the "killer course" and what the different degree programs meant. Give me a different school and a different job profile and it'd be a new learning curve.

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