Cost Of 4 Year CS Degree: $0

I’m pretty angry after reading this anti self-learning article by a Northwestern School of Engineering professor Mark Werwath, in which Werwath claims that Dev Bootcamp and other similar program graduates will not be able to have long-term careers as software engineers.


Perhaps I’m just taking this way too personally, since part of the anger comes from me being a graduate of Northwestern University (class of 2008). It is really personally upsetting to me to see this type of attitude from a place I trusted 3 years of my life to.

Instead of being happy and excited that more people are getting into his field, this professor claims we won’t be able to succeed. This is exactly the kind of attitude that turned me off from majoring in computer science in the first place.

These type of programs focus more on creating a competitive environment that makes computer science an “elite” sport that only a few can enjoy versus something that is accessible to everyone.

Even the online Stanford course I took was a weeder class, where the assignments were so difficult, they were meant to “weed out” the weak students.

Everyone I met from Dev Bootcamp was learning programming to change their life, and because they absolutely loved it. During some pair programming sessions, me and my partner were laughing the whole time. If you ask me, this is a way better way to be introduced to programming. We are all passionate beginners who will continue learning every single day because we love it. I’m really not sure why Professor Werwath just assumes we’ll stop learning the day we leave Dev Bootcamp.

Professors like this one is also why I’m so excited to see posts like this one, which outline how to get a 4-year Computer Science degree for the nice price-tag of $0.

To nay-sayers like Professor Werwath, I’m happy to prove you wrong. For all of you out there who are taking charge of your life and learning to program because you love it, happy learning!

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  • take that !!

  • Jenna

    You’re awesome!! Love this post.

  • Jenna

    I was actually thinking of switching my major to CS in college, but was turned off by how extremely competitive it was. I get it – the real-world is competitive – but if I’m paying for this college education i should be able to choose which subject to major in. To become a CS major at my college, I had to take the toughest classes and pretty much ace them all for me to get into the CS program. Apparently they turn most people away from the CS program. I was at the point in my life where I felt like I have already competed a lot in other academic areas and no longer felt like putting more effort in competing even more.

    • Thanks for sharing Jenna. I didn’t even consider a CS degree, mostly b/c I don’t enjoy the intense competition involved. I like to compete with myself, but when I have to deal with professors who just want to look smart and fail their students instead of teaching them, that’s just not my thing. It’s really too bad, b/c this stuff can be soooo much fun in real life.

  • Brian Ball

    Natasha, even just bringing awareness about this is important. We’re all among the shifting sands of a great paradigm change. Learning is about actively struggling with new information until we assimilate it. Prior to the internet, the struggle came from having to sit through lecture and try not to fall asleep – then to struggle to extract value from textbooks while amped with the adrenaline caused by the fear of failing the exam.

    Now, we have videos, bootcamps, skype, code schools, and meetups. We can connect with people in person or troll Stack Overflow for answers to our burning questions. The game of learning has changed from theory to startup. You don’t learn to pass tests these days, you learn to keep your project alive; to solve your own problems, to create and release.

    Thanks again.

    • Thanks for this comment Brian. It is truly incredible where education is heading. I couldn’t be more excited!

  • Nathan

    I just read that professors article about Dev Bootcamp and found it quite entertaining. Granted if I hadn’t taken so many philosophy and writing classes right out of high school I probably wouldn’t have found the humor.

    What makes the article so flavorful are the methods that he uses to prop his premise up. They are just flawed from the get go. Taking a narrow view of a particular subject and then attacking it as though it were the full subject is what’s known as a straw man fallacy and comparing apples to oranges is another fallacy.

    I must admit he has a point insofar that Dev Bootcamp is relatively new, and all things new are inherently risky. Just briefly glancing over Dev Bootcamp’s site doesn’t really net much information about what it covers curriculum wise so he really shouldn’t be making any kind of comparison.

    Glancing back over the article again, its really hard to tell what point the author is trying to make. On one hand its obvious the article attacks Dev Bootcamp explicitly, but on the other there is a style of writing where the author might do that to draw attention towards it for exposure.

    I don’t particularly like articles like the latter because it comes across as manipulative.

  • v_to_l

    Getting a degree today is more about establishing connections in the industry, also for people from third-world countries like mine, a degree is almost mandatory for any kind of work visa. A degree in CS may or may not play the role in getting the first-second job, but later on may quite lose its value.

    • You can easily establish connections in the industry by just going to meetups and industry-related conferences / events / participating in the open-source community, blogging, tweeting, etc. Lots of opportunities if you want them!

      I agree though that if you’re from a third-world country and trying to get into the US, it’s going to be a lot more difficult for you without a CS degree.

      • v_to_l

        I believe they’re different kind of connections, people would rarely go for starting a business together with someone they follow on Twitter or chatted up on some conference during a coffee break. It requires having known someone for a while and seeing how they act in various situations.
        Not only US, almost any country relocation description has a BS or MS in Computer Science as a must. Speaking of the US, the requirements are 3 years of experience for each study year that would be 12 years to make up for a BS degree.

        • Yes, I agree that the kind of friendships you make in college are a lot harder to replicate in the real world. It is possible, though, to start a startup with former co-workers – it’s very similar, you’re working together long hours, and get to see them in different work situations.

          True story – I met someone at a random dinner when I first moved to San Francisco, we kept in touch a lot, ended up working together, and she’s asked me to do a startup with her. Unfortunately, it’s not the right timing for me, but it can happen from just meeting someone once! You just have to do the hard work of following up and keeping the friendship going – much harder to do when out of college.

          Again, I understand for relocation the requirements are different. But not sure where you’re getting the 3 years of experience for 1 year of CS study – does that only apply to non-citizens? Also, I’m guessing it’s something that you see on job descriptions for corporations. I got my first job as a Software Engineer with 0 professional experience – only 1.5 years of self study. And I got my second job with only 1 year of professional experience.

          • v_to_l

            I guess I just didn’t put it right regarding the 12 years, these are requirements from the Immigration service not from the companies

            “In general, 3 years of work experience or training in the field is considered as equivalent to 1 year of college.” http://www.uscis.gov/eir/visa-guide/h-1b-specialty-occupation/understanding-h-1b-requirements

            so these are 4 years for BS * 3.

            Another note is that people, who enjoy coding are usually introverts and not as easy-going as marketers, sales reps, etc. a coder can rarely boast with great people skills and you need those to establish and maintain connections.

  • CS degree helps, but desire + intelligence work