Help me decide if I should go back to school

I’m trying to make a really difficult decision in my life and I’m hoping I can get some good advice.
I’m a lawyer and I hate it. In the movie “Murder on the Orient Express” one man says, “I’m a lawyer by education but not by disposition.” That’s basically me.

I’ve been doing some beginning programming stuff and I love what I read here on Haiku (although I don’t understand much of it).

I’m thinking of quitting my job and going back to school to get a CS degree. I have a family with 4 kids, so it would probably mean selling the house to pay for the program (or massive student loans, or both).

I was looking at the degree requirements in universities near me and it just seems so daunting. I wouldn’t have to do general ed classes because I’ve already got a bachelor’s, but it still seems like SO MUCH. Like more than 80 credit hours, including linear algebra, physics, calculus 3 along with the CS courses, which are about 20. The community college has an “associates of computer science” with about 40 credit hours but I’m skeptical. Can I get a good job with an associates in CS?

I’m facing staying in a job I dislike for the rest of my life, or uproot the family, take on a lot of student loans and risk not getting a great job at the end of it, especially if I don’t take all of the classes to get a bachelor’s degree. I would love to work on operating systems.


hard to say what you! should decide.
How old are you? How old are your kids? Are you married?

If you are young enough you can still look for another opportunity!
As early as possible! Then more you wait then more time you will loose!
Which country do you live in?

Do you know how to write software apps? What are your hobbies?
Can friends help you getting another job? Have you been trying living outside your country?

If you dont know how to decide you should try an offtime! Doing nothing or going on a trip with or without your family and try to find yourself first…

Programming is not for everyone… If you really love to program you would do so already. Without a school or a course or similar!

Try to find yourself first!

1 Like

From my own experience I can tell that most important thing to success in life is ability to make right decisions in right time. This is possible if you have enough knowledge about the subject. If you not certain about your decision (this mean you lack data about subject) you must investigate situation further to the point of clarity and then make decision. Of course you can make your decision only at your will if you like risky life, than be prepeare to overcam many obstacles. In any situation decision is yours and if you decide to not deside: someone will decide instead of you.

Have you thought about taking some online courses related to computer science? Maybe test your interests over at edX by registering for and taking some CS related courses there and see how you do with those before going all in.

Sorry to hear that you’re not liking your current job situation.

I’d say don’t pay a lot of money for the degree, it’s not that important.

Learn on your own, do projects that showcase your skills, and then apply for jobs. You’ll find something.


KapiX, that seems like what I should do. I’ll have to figure out how to teach myself, and maybe just take a few online classes. I would much rather work on what I’m interested in than learning linear algebra, web design or other things I’m not currently interested in.

And I would like to contribute to Haiku OS at some point.

Thanks for the advice, everyone.

Everybody, what are your education backgrounds?

CS as paid work is not that great. Lots of meetings, arguing with people, dealing with customers changing their minds, and working on boring projects are some of the possibilities.

If you are interested in contributing to Haiku, you don’t need a degree or anything like that. You can just spend a few hours on it every week. I would say stat with the “learning to program with Haiku” tutorial if you didn’t do it already. It should give you a better idea of what it is like to write some code. Then see if you can start making simple contributions to Haiku or some applications (or any other project you feel you would like to work on).

I don’t know the situation where you live, but at least here in France it is possible to take “evening courses”. As the name implies these are only on evenings, so you can take them all while keeping your job. Maybe something similar exists around you? It may be a less risky way.

As for my education background: I took 2 years of computer sciences classes, then switched to an engineering school in electronics and signal processing. And, eventually I decided to work as embedded software developer. So far, my work on Haiku was the most challenging and interesting part, and also a great help in getting me hired for other (more paying) jobs. Having formal courses in computer science helped me clarify some things, but I would say working on actual projects is the only way to really learn computer programming. Some skills you just can’t get from courses.


Wow, such a huge decision!

I know that for me with the effort of career furtherment, and now that I’ve got children and a mortgage, I would never do anything that could potentially cause a lot of upheaval… on the other hand it’s easy to say when I enjoy my work. Another thought as well is whether your other half could take up the mantle of being the main earner while you re-train. Mine is currently considering retraining, but it would not mean any great changes for us, just somewhat lower income for a year or two.

If you want to work at the OS level you will need a decent understanding of CS theory, e.g. algorithms, some knowledge of compilers and programming languages and an understanding of how your code will interact with (some model of) the underlying machine. You can learn all this on your own, it is a massive undertaking but you can work one step at a time. One thing to consider is working with embedded operating systems on microcontrollers (FreeRTOS, Contiki, etc) as they are significantly simpler than a desktop OS and there is a strong market for the skills, especially with all the IoT developments happening now. I agree with Kapix that if you can put some cool projects on your CV that are relevant to your potential employers you will find work regardless of qualifications or (to some extent) experience.

I’m self-employed and work on embedded stuff, mostly for quite small start-ups, and I love it. I don’t have the problems mentioned by PulkoMandy about arguing and difficult customers, maybe because the companies are typically only a few people with a very clear goal in mind, but I have experienced them in the past. My advice is to move around a bit until you find the company/niche you want to work in.

1 Like

You could take a look at the following resource:

1 Like

Thanks for all of the advice. There are some night classes and online classes that I may begin with . I’m doing tutorials that I enjoy. Pulkomandy, I would love to work on embedded systems.

Perhaps I’ll keep working on books and tutorials on c++ and try to contribute to Haiku. Then, if I do a good job, you can all give me your personal recommendations. :slight_smile: