Dear Mentor:

Should I study computer programming for a new job?

I could really use some advice about finding a job. I just got laid off. My husband works, so it is not a total disaster. I majored in English and my first job was with a radio station that got sold, so I lost that job. I was thinking of studying computer programming, but am not sure it would be worth it.

Megan, Oklahoma, USA

Dear Megan:

We are not quite sure of the scope of computer programming to which you are referring in your question. You can learn some web-related languages, such as HTML, JavaScript, etc. and you can be in good demand quickly. The effort would take you a few months and you can get back into the workforce easily. However, the scope and rewards of your employment may be somewhat limited. Should you choose to, or can afford to, think in broader terms, you can consider much more lucrative alternatives, which of course require more commitment and sacrifice but offer considerably greater rewards over a longer period of time.

Assuming that you are interested in computer programming in particular and computers in general, you can pursue a Masters degree in Computer Science. To enter MS in Computer Science, you simply need a Bachelorís degree in any discipline, which you do have. Since you do not have your undergrad (Bachelors degree) in Computer Science, you would be required to take additional courses. Thus the whole program would take about 3 years of full-time effort. We recognize that it is a significant effort but the rewards are likely to be substantially greater.

You can also pursue an MBA. Here again, the eligibility requirement is an undergrad degree in any discipline. A full-time MBA program would take you 2 years to complete. Again, the rewards are likely to be substantially greater that learning some programming languages. After getting an MBA, you would be involved in the day-to-day running of a business. The focus of your daily activities would be at a higher level than programming; it would involve managerial issues facing your employees, including the programmers.

At the end of the day, your choices depend on your interests, the level of commitment you can afford to make, and resulting rewards you can enjoy. In our view, learning is always worth it but the decision is a very personal one. We hope that this information helps you in making the choice that is right for you. We wish you every success.

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