Jul 062012

Is it possible to be considered “a REAL programmer” without a computer science degree?  What exactly defines someone as a programmer?  These are questions I’ve been asking myself for a while now.

As an IT manager, most of my programming is done out of necessity and is usually short and sweet.   I work with, HTML, PHP, Codeigniter, javascript, jquery, AJAX, SQL, and even some XML and XSLT for good measure.  I build things, hack my way though problems, fix errors in other people’s code etc.  While I do get time code I always secretly yearn for more.

My ultimate goal is to be be fluent in multiple web programming languages and bend online data to my will.     I want to create content, databases, and user interfaces that are noteworthy.  I want to mold them with ease like a master sculptor handles a blob of clay on a spinning wheel.

Smooth coding like clay on a potter’s wheel

Is it a matter of education?  

I began to test this theory on sites like Codeacademy and Course Hero.  While the learning experience from both of these sites has been valuable I question the end result.  As a college educated man, I have this nagging roadblock in my mind that keeps telling me, “If you aren’t spending $30k for multiple years of study you are wasting your time”.

While I know not all valuable education comes from a college degree, I find myself in search of a compromise.  

After some soul searching (via Google) and recommendations from my peers, I ended up finding the O’Reilly School of Technology.

O’Reilly School of Technology logo

Their online program offers professional development certificates from the University of Illinois upon completion and the price is far lower than even Community College courses.

The O’Reilly School of Technology offers certificates in:

  • Python
  • Perl
  • Database Administration
  • Java
  • Linux/Unix
  • Client Side Programming
  • Web Programming
  • Open Source Programming

Like a starving man at an all you can eat buffet I just want to try it all.  I’m leaning towards either the Client Side Programming or Web Programming certificates as I’m familiar with the languages involved and they should allow me to deepen (and formalize) my existing knowledge.

Although it may just be a piece of paper, the idea of earning a certificate for completing a program is quickly turning into a personal goal.  This is beyond a resume builder, this has become my mission.  I need to do this.


Have you gone back to school to boost your knowledge and career?  Is it possible for an “IT generalist” to ever become a REAL programmer?  Have you tried O’Reilly school?  Let me know in the comments below.

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  2 Responses to “Heading Back To School – O’Reilly?”

  1. I find myself in a very similar position right now. 15+ years in IT working (networking, storage, servers, etc.) and have picked up some programming experience as needed for various projects or problems. In the last few years I’ve moved into middle management and am currently being moved towards senior management. Not my thing at all, so I’ve been really looking at what direction to go in. I’m leaning heavily towards moving into web development and am researching how to best make that jump. I’d be interested to know how this has worked out for you so far.

  2. Thomas,

    So far I’m loving the course. In the intro course alone I’ve learned a ton of new stuff. I can’t wait to start the next one.

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