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Interested In Studying Computer Science


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I'm looking for info and opinions on a few topics dealing with different types of education in computer science.  To give some background, I took my first computer science course as a sophomore in high school back in the year 2000 and personally believe it changed me forever.  I feel like I always had some interest/aptitude for computers, but that first course and the 2 that followed while in high school, greatly accelerated my understanding/skills/etc.  Even though I loved computers, I excelled in all maths/science and had other interests, so I ended with a BS and MS in Aerospace Engineering.  
Now a few years down the road, I've gained experience in aerospace and currently have a great job as an experimental Flight Test Engineer, as well as part-time work as an Army National Guard helicopter pilot.  So although, I love my current work, and it pays fairly well, I still have a deep interest in computer science and the fields that surround it.  I still have kept up some basic coding/scripting skills in small personal projects and quite a few projects at work dealing with aircraft data, but as a lifelong learner, I'm beginning to look for something more.  
I'm not convinced that I'll leave the aerospace field to go full-time in computer science, but do see it as a possibility for future part-time or contract work, or as a complimentary skill to my current work in aerospace.  I do believe I have a passion for computer science (and other topics similar to computer science), and I believe in following my passions, regardless of whether or not it leads to a career change.  I also like the idea of freelancing, entrepreneurship, or anything that could give me more flexibility in my work schedule, or that could allow me to work from home in some cases, as I'm beginning to grow a family that I'd like to spend time with.  
So I'm looking to start a discussion and to solicit advice for what options I have in studying computer science, to see where this passion may take me. I have quite a busy schedule as it is (40 hours work, overtime, part-time national guard), so I understand that I may be overly ambitious, but it's in my nature.  It seems quite a few of the big name schools have online master's programs in CS, and I could probably use my GI bill to pay for them, but I'm afraid with my schedule that I won't be able to devote enough time to the program and will not succeed.  Do any of these programs have a "work at your own pace" structure? I've also seen other courses available on Udacity, Coursera, edX, and MIT OpenCourseWare; are any of these a good starting point?  I'm not set on needing a "real" degree, but would like to have something to show for this in the end.  
Overall, I see this as a goal to broaden my current interests and dig deeper into something I'm passionate about.  At this point I'm really just beginning to explore, as I don't know which of computer science, computer engineering, software engineering, network engineering, etc, is really the best for me.  I also think that if I were to go for a masters program, that I would need at least some bachelors level courses to prepare me.  So let me know what you think, and maybe through some discussion I can begin to determine, more accurately, what I'm really looking for.  Thanks!
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If you don't need a 'real degree', all those websites you mentioned are a good start.  Coursera and Edx are great.  I wouldn't spend thousands of dollars on a degree if you don't have the time for it, and if you don't really need it for your career at the moment.  


I would try some free online courses like Coursera and see if you like it first.  If you like it, then you could try to do a degree part time. If you did do a degree, you could try to go part time and do 1 course a semester.  


Just wondering, did you do any CS courses after high school?

Edited by billrach
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The first thing I would do is check with your company on whether or not they'll fund continuing education. If you can get funded for another degree while keeping your job, you might as well get something tangible out of your efforts. 


Regardless, I'd start online with some of the basic building blocks: A couple of intro college CS classes for majors (at least one in a high-level language and one in a low-level language), a programming languages class that covers several different paradigms of languages, algorithms, and maybe a discrete math class (depends on what you want to do with CS and how solid your math background is). Take a look at the basic prereqs at a lot of the universities and you can find out which courses might be relevant. 


Later, maybe look into professional masters programs. Like I know UW has one. It's specifically meant for people who are working and want to continue education at the same time. It's scheduled around that sort of lifestyle. 

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