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Don't compromise your career for a piece of paper. I have made the mistake of going back to college when I couldn't really afford it. Initially I rationalized that although taking classes would basically preclude working, in a couple of years I'd have a degree and be able to make a lot more money -- it would be worth it in the long run. The stress of being broke turned out to be much worse than I'd anticipated. Even though I'd been broke before, it was different in the context of having made a commitment not to go out and get paying work.

Add to that the "normal" stress of doing course work and... I wound up dropping out after a year and a half. Two weeks later I was back at work as a programmer. It's been almost ten years since then and I've consistently had recruiters after me the entire time -- I've never had to actively look for work. I've met many other people with similar backstories to mine, and all of them were gainfully employed and relentlessly pursued by recruiters.

In the first 3 years of my career, I was asked about my degree in every interview. I'd say: I'm on hiatus from school due to financial concerns, but I have every intention of finishing my degree as soon as possible. This was a) true and b) enough to satisfy every single interviewer, without exception. Because all interviewers care about is your ability to deliver. As my career progressed, people pretty much stopped asking about my degree. Recently one of my managers told me (after 2 successful years of working together) that he'd never even checked whether or not I had a degree. He'd hired me solely based on my past accomplishments in the industry. I think this is a typical attitude for hiring managers, especially given the current, extremely tight market for programming talent.

School was extremely useful and I still intend to go back and complete my degree some day. But when I do, it will be for my own satisfaction, not because of the impact a degree would have on my career.




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