These are a few questions aimed at employers really and those that sort through CVs.

So I guess first thing is does accreditation matter to you? Would you rather take on someone who has an accredited degree rather than an unaccredited?

Would you take preference over someone with a Computer Science degree rather than a Computer Systems and Software Engineering degree?

And finally, if at interview you discovered the person completed their degree not having done a project, just course modules, would that concern you? Although said applicant has worked in the industry for a year on a student placement, does that make up for no project?

  • Not enough for an answer but in general degrees and courses matter more for specialized fields. E.g. for programming positions not so much, but for electrical engineering R&D yes. – jcm Oct 14 '14 at 12:09

So I guess first thing is does accreditation matter to you?

Yes, sort of.

I care that you are well educated, both broadly educated and skilled in your major. Accreditation at its core is meant to be some, very low standard for that measure. If you went to a place that couldn't even achieve that low bar... I wouldn't hold much hope for you.

I also care that you make good decisions. If presented with all of these different educational institutions to attend, why did you pick the unaccredited one? I can only think of one or two good reasons and a whole lot of bad ones.

Would you rather take on someone who has an accredited degree rather than an unaccredited?

I would rather hire someone without a degree who spent those years learning, as opposed to someone who spent a bunch of money and time not learning. If you're well educated (again, broadly as well as skilled in your major), I don't particularly care where you were educated. If you managed to do that on your own, bonus points since you're more likely to continue that learning trend.

Would you take preference over someone with a Computer Science degree rather than a Computer Systems and Software Engineering degree?

Computer [Information] Systems degrees are worthless. You don't need years of education to learn how to shuttle data around. Programmers solve problems. Depending on the curriculum, Software Engineering degrees may also be mostly worthless.

But again, I don't care what the title of your degree is, I care what you can do.

And finally, if at interview you discovered the person completed their degree not having done a project, just course modules, would that concern you?

For programmers specifically, I would be very concerned if you'd managed to go 3+ years and not actually create a software project. Not only do I not know if you can actually do what I need you to do, but you also don't have the passion to do it yourself.

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  • I suspect he didn't need to do a "Final project" he would have had to do at least small projects in his classes. Some schools you can't graduate until you do a large (usually takes 1/2 a semester) final project demonstrating what you've learned. This practice though is becoming less common for practicality reasons though. (Basically he can demonstrate all the little pieces of work, and probably a small combined example, but not a large one) – RualStorge Oct 13 '14 at 19:04
  • @RualStorge - what's "little" then? I'm actually going back to school to finish my degree now, and never got an assignment more than maybe 100-200 lines of code until senior level courses. Assignments that small do nothing to teach the student how to design programs and otherwise work on non-trivial software. A co-op might teach the latter, but rarely the former. – Telastyn Oct 13 '14 at 19:08
  • if it was anything like my experience (I was a degree that was a mix of compsci and compeng) your early dev classes were just fundamentals like you said. My later classes we had projects, but they were more in architecture than the nitty gritty. So early we made stuff like minesweeper to learn methods, structs, arrays, etc. Later we learned IoC, NTier, Testing, etc. Even then those projects were maybe 500 - 1000 lines of code tops. Just enough to actually do something with what you learned so you could see it in action. – RualStorge Oct 13 '14 at 19:15
  • Thanks for the answer. To expand a little, I am going into my final year next year, and have the option to extend to a masters (so 2 more years), however if I choose this option and then revert to a bachelors (for any reason such as financial/motivational) I lose accreditation, the course title changes and I have no final year project. The core content is identical, as is the institution. It is just the lack of project which turns the accredited CompSci degree into an unaccredited Computer Systems and Software Engineering degree. – mike_j Oct 13 '14 at 19:26
  • @mike_j - that is odd. I would finish your bachelor's and then worry about the master's degree. – Telastyn Oct 13 '14 at 19:36

These are all separate items that fall into "education" let's break down what does and does not matter.

Does a degree matter?

Short answer, yes. Your degree tells me as your employer you have both the drive and the tenacity to survive the many "tests" it requires you to earn your degree. Some of these tests are technical, others are being able to navigate bureaucracy, and work with a range of people over you with at least acceptable success. (Basically that you're well rounded enough to be successful beyond simply knowing certain skills)

Does "Accredited matter?

YES!!! Even worse "Accredited" doesn't necessarily mean the "good" accredited. There is "state accredited", "federally accredited", "regionally accredited", etc. I don't recall which was which, but one means the school is on the up and up. Degrees from properly accredited schools are worth something, degrees from non-accredited schools typically are worthless. (Think of it like this, if a major university says "yes Jim knows his stuff" vs some unknown guy saying it.)

Do final year projects matter?

On a resume... not really... Sometimes if a project (in school or otherwise) is noteworthy it makes a good line item on a resume to support what you're offering, but honestly that's just a little padding to your benefit, nothing that will make or break a resume.

Do course titles matter?

No, seriously... PLEASE don't list on your resume I got an "A" in digital forensics, I only care that you got your degree a break down of your classes is going to make me go "Does he seriously have nothing better to put here?"

Does the type of degree matter?

A little... If I'm hiring a Compsci job like a software developer Computer Science is directly the degree for the job, but honestly that probably only matters for the first job or two, after that it's all about experience, the degree is just the thing I use to demonstrate you don't just quit when things get hard. So long as your degree is at least "loosely related" it's all good.

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I have four questions for you:

  1. What do you know?

  2. What can you do?

  3. What can you do with what you know?

  4. Why are you applying for this position?

If you are applying for a software engineering position but you can't program your way out of a paper bag, that's a problem.

If you say that you know how to program, but then you can't give me and show me examples of code that you wrote that accomplished something, that's a problem - it's like hiring an English major who can't point to a single paper that he wrote.

If you tell me that you are a developer but you have no idea that a developer is first of all a problem solver and you can't give me a single example of a problem that you thought through and solved, that's a problem.

I couldn't tell the difference from a CS major to a Software Engineering major from a Computer Systems major from a hole in the ground and guess what, I don't even care. If you can't tell me what you know that's relevant to the position, what you can do that's relevant to the position and you expect me to care whether you exist, then you have a big disappointment coming. I'll turn to someone who can tell me what I want to know and hire them instead.

I don't care whether you worked on a project but if you can't tell me what you've done and you can't show me anything that you've done, then you and I are done.

There are only two keywords that matter to me: "actions" and "results"

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  • Interesting approach, and one I appreciate to some extent. However, you say you want examples of my work. All the substantial pieces of software I have written have been for the company I work for, due to the nature of the business I am not permitted to share any of the code or even talk about the nature of the software with people outside of the company, and have signed documentation agreeing to this. How would you approach someone with that background? – mike_j Oct 13 '14 at 19:58
  • I am writing an Angular/node.js code base with a senior full stack javascript engineer that we can use and reuse when we do consulting. For example, I created an Angular based template registration form, for example, that includes validation and an AJAX call to a node.js back end, which returns a JSON object as a mockup for a full fledged back end, which would have included an interaction with a database back end, say Mongodb. We can show that form, for example, to Mr. Client to drive home the message that we know what we are doing and that we are serious about what we know and can do. – Vietnhi Phuvan Oct 13 '14 at 20:07

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