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I'm 26 with a bachelors in Economics/Finance. Have a few years work experience at a brokerage firm, have financial modeling certification and am working towards the CFA designation. The plan all along was to get an MBA, but now I feel like I am neglecting what I really want to do and should have done from the beginning which is software development. I aced a C++ class years ago in college, but that is where my credentials end (which is to say I have little to none). I feel I'd have a valuable niche between programming, and extensive finance knowledge and the business/communication skills I already possess. So what do you think is the best path?

1) I could grab some books or take some programming classes at a local university, but I don't feel that would be comprehensive enough. Seems like I need more than just technical programming skills, I need more conceptual/design knowledge.

2) I could get a master's in Comp. Sci, but I would need to take about a year's worth of prerequisite classes first. This feels like the best option, but would this pigeon hole me as a coder for the rest of my life? I'd like to move up to architect/director/management eventually and feel like I have the people skills, but without an MBA would lack the managerial edge. We're talking at least 3 more years worth of school, plus this is assuming I could get into a decent CS masters program without any significant work experience.

3) Other: suggestions?

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Last Post by griswolf
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I have a kind of off the wall question... but there's a point to it later. So: Did you always build things as a kid? Lego? Models? Tree house or fort? Were you the kind of kid that took apart the alarm clock or the washing machine? Did you work on your own bike/skateboard? Build your own PC? And now, in your free time: Do you veg out or do something? And if "do", is it a project, home or car maintenance, or do you do sports or dancing?

If you were the kid who (re/un)built things and if you are a person who still builds or at least fixes things, then you can be happy also building software. If, on the other hand, you are an organizer, or full of so many great ideas that you don't have time to work on most of them; or if you really get off on selling your ideas, you should be in management or sales. Of course, we are all mostly somewhere in the middle, and if you are too, you might find your best calling as a software project manager or something similar.

What you do to get educated depends on your long term goals. If you want to be a technical sales person, you probably want a "good" degree to help you get your first job, and to help you make points with managers while selling. If you want to grow to a management position in IT, you will want a degree, but 'good' isn't so important. If you want to actually spend your day building, testing and fixing software, you may need some degree to get your first job, but thereafter, assuming your skill is sufficient, your skill will be sufficient... Once you get into school, you may find you love academia so much you want to stay for the PhD and teach. For that, a decent school or better is necessary.

Note that for none of these, do I recommend 'certification' coursework. If you end up in a job where advancement or pay depends on certification, that is the time to get it.

With your financial background, and assuming you like the idea of being a technical manager, you should be able to find much interesting work creating and maintaining financial software. (Employers who are worth working for love people with multiple backgrounds)

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hey thanks griswofl! I was the geeky kid who took apart every piece of electronics I could find. Definitely don't want to do sales, but would like project management and feel I would be good at it. But before that I just want to be a coder because I enjoy it.

Also, thanks for the bit about not getting certifications. I think I'm going to take 4-5 intro CS/programming courses at a local or online university to start (and this would also satisfy pre-req's for a Masters in CS) Do you think that a Masters in C.S. would pigeon hole me as a purely technical person? I wonder if that would hinder my plans to eventaully get into project management.

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A CS Masters degree is excellent for project management with your business background added in, particularly if you double up a little bit with a few management type courses or do a "project" type masters thesis. "Joe Coder" jobs tend to go to self-taught or BS degrees.

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