Looking to get out of the defense industry - not sure what skills/technologies I should be focusing on or whether or not I should pursue a second degree in CS

<%= @topic_view.topic.title %>
<%= @topic_view.topic.average_rating %> <%= @topic_view.topic.posts.count { |p| !!p.custom_fields['rating'] } %>

Hi all. I’m at a bit of a crossroads right now. I’m a bootcamp grad (with a history degree) and have been working in the defense industry for a little over two years now doing primarily backend Java - my current company is a pretty well known and reputable defense contractor. I have certain credentials which made it a bit easier for me to get a decent paying job quickly which is primarily why I’m currently in the defense industry.

That being said, for a number of reasons I want to get out of the defense industry and go commercial but I’m struggling to figure out the best way to do so and how to best focus my efforts. Ideally I’d like to get a full-stack position but I haven’t done much front-end coding since my bootcamp minus a couple side projects here at freeCodeCamp. I don’t know whether I should just buckle down on my own and learn (or re-learn) a stack or whether it would be worth it to go back to school and get a CS degree through a post-postbaccalaureate CS program. If I were to learn on my own I don’t really know what stack to focus on, and if I were to go back to school I’d need to get some math pre-reqs done since I haven’t done any math since my freshman year of college 13 years ago, not to mention the cost of going back to school.

A bit lost in the sauce right now and looking for some guidance. If there’s additional pertinent information I left out please let me know and I’ll include it.

I think because you already have dev experience you can just start the process of applying for a new job/role.

Really depends what you want to be doing because you said you wanted full stack but don’t know what stack to learn? I could provide advice but I’d need to know what your exact question is.

I’m assuming your bootcamp would have resources too so check that out.

Really depends what you want to be doing

In what way? Like what technologies/languages I want to learn or what companies/industries I want to work in? If it’s the former I have no idea really and that’s where I’m stuck. If it’s the latter I’d like to get on board with a company that focuses on renewables and/or the environment, but those companies seem few and far between where I live (Denver) from what I’ve seen on LinkedIn.

Really I’m just in decision paralysis on what I should be learning to make myself as employable as possible.

Khan Academy might help you with that …
https://www.khanacademy.org/math

I am currently going through the “World of Math Mission” and like it a lot.

Definitely find out what interests you about web development.

We can’t really decide that for you at FCC. At most we can make some suggestions but you have to just try out some tech and figure out what you like doing!

Just go through the FCC curriculum and pick out some things you want to try

A post-grad CS degree is terrific if you want to write your own functional language, design a new AI paradigm, or just draw lots of arrows on the whiteboard and discuss Homotopy Type Theory or something. It ain’t gonna do much for you on the ground.

Buckle down and write a project that’s fun, using a toolkit that’s fun and relatively modern. Just google for “modern framework <language-name>” and find a rabbit hole to dive down into :slight_smile: Picking one with a large and friendly developer community is always helpful.

Before I start dumping on your idea, you’re in an amazing spot if you’re already coding with Java. From what I can remember about Java, it’s more difficult than most of the topics here. I assume your credentials are security clearances. A security clearance is another huge advantage because there are so many people who can’t pass or afford it. Would it be easier to transfer to a full stack developer position within the defense industry? After a few years of relevant experience, you could transfer outside of the defense industry easily or you might find staying in the defense industry is tolerable in a full stack role.

Now for the dumping…

There are a lot of factors that can make college and graduate school a good or bad decision.

How fast do you want to earn your BS and MS?
How much tuition does your employer pay for?
Do you have a spouse or enough savings that can financially support you if your course load is too high to hold a job?
Are you looking to get married, have kids or have more kids?

With a bachelor’s degree already down, you probably need only 48-60 hours for the second BS degree and 30-36 hours for the MS. Some of those hours have nothing to do with full stack development. You’re going to have 2 or 3 courses of C++ or Java development. There’s another course for assembly language. There are courses for operating systems and databases. There will be a course on data structures, but it will be taught in C++ or Java instead of JSON.

A lot of that effort can be focused into the topics that will get you the job you want instead of a degree few will care about.

Khan Academy might help you with that …
https://www.khanacademy.org/math

Yup, I had been going through that a bit in the past, but I’d rather focus my time elsewhere if going the route of a second bachelor’s in CS isn’t worth my time, effort, and money. That being said, if getting a second bachelor’s in CS is the way to go, then I’ll spend all my time in the near future on Khan Academy in preparation for applying to a postbaccalaureate CS program.

Would it be easier to transfer to a full stack developer position within the defense industry? After a few years of relevant experience, you could transfer outside of the defense industry easily or you might find staying in the defense industry is tolerable in a full stack role.

For a number of reasons I have no desire to remain in the defense industry. My goal is to be out of it at the latest by next summer. If I have to take a backend role in the commercial sector to make that happen I will, but I’d prefer a full-stack position.

How fast do you want to earn your BS and MS?
How much tuition does your employer pay for?
Do you have a spouse or enough savings that can financially support you if your course load is too high to hold a job?
Are you looking to get married, have kids or have more kids?

I believe my employer will cover a good amount of a degree if I go for a second bachelor’s, maybe the whole thing, I’m not sure. But I know there are strings attached in that I’ll have to commit X number of years to them and I have absolutely zero desire to do that. I’d rather take out loans to cover it if getting a second degree is the path to go.

With regards to a spouse or savings, I would have to attend school part time and maintain my full-time job. The postbaccalaureate programs I have looked into have 1, 2, 3, and I think 4 year tracks to get a second bachelor’s degree in CS. Seeing as I have a solid background in programming I could probably handle the 3 year track while still maintaining a job. But again, I have to knock out math pre-reqs before I’d even be considered.

With a bachelor’s degree already down, you probably need only 48-60 hours for the second BS degree and 30-36 hours for the MS. Some of those hours have nothing to do with full stack development. You’re going to have 2 or 3 courses of C++ or Java development. There’s another course for assembly language. There are courses for operating systems and databases. There will be a course on data structures, but it will be taught in C++ or Java instead of JSON.

A big reason I’m considering getting a second bachelor’s in CS is due to the stigma around bootcamp grads (which is both justified and unjustified). Fortunately my current company is very reputable so I’m hoping having that on my resume will help folks look past me being a bootcamp grad.

A lot of that effort can be focused into the topics that will get you the job you want instead of a degree few will care about.

And that’s kind of where my head is at this point. I think I’m going to buckle down with FCC’s curriculum (which I’ve completed a lot of already) and hope I can learn enough from that to get my foot in the door in the commercial sector.

And just wanted to address this:

A security clearance is another huge advantage because there are so many people who can’t pass or afford it.

You can’t purchase a security clearance. Either a defense contractor or the DOD has to sponsor you and they pay for it. But you are right, there are lots of folks who are unable to obtain one for a variety of reasons.