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Old 01-18-2005, 08:02 PM   #1
Gangrell
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I'll be heading off to college in about 5-6 months and I just wanted to get some info or advice on the courses I'm looking into. So any wisdom from resident IWers would be welcome (Vask, Mel, and others).

I'll be studying literature/creative writing, psychology and computer hardware (or programming). Safe to say I won't have much of a life outside a library. I'm taking on these particular three because I enjoy learning about them, plus if one fails, I can always pick up on another.

For psychology, I've heard that it's really not a solid career field to be a psychologist, because your skills aren't demanded as much and you get little pay as compared to a psychiatrist. I considered taking that up, but I really don't have the motivation to spend twelve years for it.

Literature, I'm trying to become an author (which is kind of hard at the moment while fighting depression), love to read so I'm going to take up literature and/or creative writing along with it. Basicly just a class to help me along the writer's path to improve my vocabulary and use of words. I'm not really sure what other occupation I could gain from this, any ideas are welcome though.

Computer hardware or programming, I'll probably end up taking both (if not, then hardware). I am kind of dodgy in this area because a lot of jobs are being sold out to residents in India for a third or fourth of the pay that's offered in the states, could happen in other countries too, not very certain. But as I've heard it is a career in high demand, this is the one area I plan on getting my doctorate in, so was wondering how many years it would take (I've heard it varies).

Thanks

[ 01-18-2005, 08:06 PM: Message edited by: Gangrell ]
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Old 01-18-2005, 08:18 PM   #2
Vaskez
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Woah! How many degrees are you doing?? Maybe I don't understand the american system, but what is your main course? Are you taking the creative writing and psychology as stand-alone courses, with the computer stuff as your main course, or what? Cos for example my degree was called Computer Engineering, but that consisted of (in 4 years) about 50 different single-semester courses such as basic programming, advanced programming, networking, signal processing, engineering maths etc. etc.

Or is your degree a combination of all the subjects you mention?

Once I understand I can prob help more...

Either way, you are right that hardware specialists are in demand - this is because programming is easier to get into so everyone assumes it is an easier thing to do as a job and thus there are loads more programmers than hardware specialists. When talking about hardware, if you mean hardware design, then most hardware these days is digital, and in electronics, a lot of design and development is done in hardware description languages like Verilog and VHDL. Europe uses mainly VHDL (which is what I learnt) but I am told America likes Verilog - they perform the same purpose. So learning a hardware description language (HDL) is a good start - well actually, that should come after you understand what the hardware is doing (logic gates, flip flops, memory elements etc.) The HDL can be used to program chips then you are off to a good start for hardware development.

Doing a doctorate in hardware? Hmmm - I dunno, I don't see much research at universities for hardware in general - you'd have to go into a specific area - optoelectronics for eg. and develop new lasers for eg. for optical communications, or go into communications and develop new modulator chips, source coders etc. whatever - you see the point I'm making, again the hardware is a tool, the research is into the application, communications is hot at the moment, and you develop the hardware for a purpose.

As for programming, the main language in general use is C++. C is still used for embedded hardware programming because of its power at directly manipulating hardware and memory at a low level (low means close to hardware). Java is gaining popularity however, because of a) its platform independancy, and ease of programming -it hides all memory allocation complexities from you, but because of this, you can't choose when to allocate free memory etc. Also, because it runs in a virtual machine, it runs much slower than C++ code - my preference is C++ but it is harder to learn. Your choice, but the concepts in C++ and Java are the same, so perhaps if you've done no programming, start with Java to teach you object oriented concepts then move to C++ (C is a subset of C++).

Programming should not be seen as I career, but rather as a tool - at the moment I'm doing wireless ad hoc networking research but need to program in C++ to create simulations, so it's a tool, general skill you need anyway.

I have no idea about psychology, sorry.

As for creative writing, well it is hard to make a career out of this - you need to be a very good writer and have a good imagination - however the course will do wonders for your writing and trust me writing is very important in any computer/hardware related area as well - most people neglect writing skills but a lot more people will appreciate your work if you can write a good, interesting report. Ok so this would not be CREATIVE writing, but either way it's a useful skill.

As for how long things take, well in england a basic bachelors degree is 3 years plus a very minimum of three years for a PhD. But I'd do a masters before your PhD to get a better grounding. English bachelor degrees are notoriously short however, and a student from almost any other country will do a longer degree and thus learn more. The other extreme is China, where I've heard that a bachelor is 4 or 5 years and the masters is another 2 or 3, can't remember.

The whole area of computers is huge though, if you do a general course on it, you might find yourself getting into anything from networking to AI to graphics programming, to compiler engineering, to programming language design etc. etc.

Anyway, I'll write more once you give me more info on how your degree works etc.

[ 01-18-2005, 08:27 PM: Message edited by: Vaskez ]
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Old 01-18-2005, 09:08 PM   #3
Gangrell
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Computer hardware will be my major and my other two courses will be my minors. I already know I'm going to have an awful amount of classes to learn about each of those subjects, just going to dread the advanced math classes for computer course (I'm horrible with numbers).

I know, I thought getting a doctorate in hardware sounded odd too, though I've heard it can be done. That's why I'm asking, I'm not entirely sure what area of computers I want to get into, but no matter which area, I'm going to get the best education possible in it.

I know that programming is a tool, but I've also heard that three components tie into the main of the computer field: networking, programming, and hardware so it's best to get a general knowledge concerning the three before going for a higher degree.

But to answer your original question, going for three degrees.
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Old 01-18-2005, 09:28 PM   #4
Vaskez
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LOL so was my original post any use to you at all?

Hmmm I don't know how you can go for three degrees at once - certainly mine required full working weeks or a lot more (near coursework deadlines and exams) - how can you do three like that?

Well, I hate to say this, but it's a lot more complicated than you say. The computer field actually consists of at least (but prob more) these topics:
Discrete maths, Data structures and algorithms theory, optimisation techniques, programming, compiler engineering, programming language design (formal methods etc.), computer architecture (not the motherboard layout , but study of how modern processors load and execute instructions ), operating system design, hardware design (at the electronics level) - those are just some of the basics.

Communications is one of the main advanced topics into which networking fits. Then communications is usually split into sub-categories like cable-based (copper wire, coaxial cable etc. application: e.g. Ethernet) optical (lasers, fibers etc. - mostly worked on by physicists actually), radio and others (e.g. infrared). Networking falls under communications, and as you can probably tell it is evolving from cable-based to wireless (generally radio-based). Most new(ish) networking technologies use radio frequency comms - e.g. 802.11, Bluetooth, the GSM mobile phone network, the 3G UMTS (in Europe) network, the future 4th generation mobile phone network, sensor networks based on IEEE 802.15.x standards etc. So a good area to get into is communications inside which radio comms (I am being biased as this is what I'm in , although I don't work on the physical layer, i.e. how the radio waves propagate, rather on the network layer, concerned with routing etc.)


Other advanced topics within computing are artificial intelligence, graphics, computer vision (i.e. the opposite of graphics - how computers can "see"), cyrptography (security), web technologies etc. These are the types of things you do doctorates in, as I said, not "hardware". Although if you wanted just to work on improving generic hardware, the closest you can get to that is to become a physicist and work on the materials (basically the semiconductors) that make up today's digital hardware. If you take a computing degree, and do as I said, and learn a hardware description language, you will be able to design a large variety of digital hardware. Analogue electronics is a different and more difficult kettle of fish, but if you're into computers then you don't need to worry about it (comps being digital as you know )
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Old 01-18-2005, 10:01 PM   #5
Gangrell
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Heh, for better clarification, not three degrees at once [img]tongue.gif[/img]

Yeah, I took a gander at what some of the courses detailed, and like I said, it's a horribly large amount. Going to be studying literature and psychology but I'll be focusing on computers so I won't get a degree in those probably until later on (you know, when I have more breathing room). I am definitely into computers though, I'm tearing through the ones I'm taking right now at my high school and technology school, kind of boring really.

Oh, btw, half of that last post, didn't understand a damn thing you said from communications down to other advanced topics, but thanks anyway
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Old 01-18-2005, 10:13 PM   #6
Vaskez
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Hmm yeah sorry I got a bit carried away. That's what happens when you spend all your working time in a group of 60 people working on the same topic, it becomes second nature to talk in terms of numbers etc. If you are interested...

802.11 - you MUST have heard of this- it's the wireless networking standard specified by the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) which EVERYONE uses for their home wireless networking.

Bluetooth - You know, bluetooth mice, headphone printers, keyboards etc. - for ranges of up to 10m

GSM - The mobile phone network - sorry cellular phone nework for you

UMTS = Universal Mobile Telecommunications Standard (IIRC!) - the faster newer mobile phone standard being introduced in Europe (America has something else can't remember what it's called) - this is 3rd generation stuff, cos 2nd generation is what most people use now (GSM) and 1st generation was the old analogue mobile phones (the big bricks with huge antennas use by a few businessmen).

802.15.x - where x is a number - a set of standards defining other networking technologies.

I think in about ten years at the most 802.15.4 will be well-known in sensor networks - networks of little things monitoring weather, chemical processes in factories, you name it - and all connected to the internet. You'll be able to log onto the net and find out what the temperature is exactly at any place you fancy (real time) or find the water depth of a river etc.

I love being in research - you find out what everyone else will be using years before they use it
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Old 01-18-2005, 10:29 PM   #7
Gangrell
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Nope, not interested, you wasted your time typing all that out for nothing (just kidding)

I have heard of 802.11, although I haven't had the indepth details of it among other things. Thanks for explaining it.

I know it seems like a lot, but here you can study for more than one degree and depending on how many years you want to take and what degree you're aiming for, naturally, that determines the workload. So even with all the computer classes, I may be able to handle psych or lit classes to get at least a bachelor's degree in either or. So I'm not really too worried about it. But I have a plan, I won't procrastinate
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Old 01-18-2005, 10:43 PM   #8
Vaskez
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LOL I haven't explained the details of 802.11! If you want to hear about those I have to talk about the different modulation schemes (how to get the data bits encoded onto radio waves) and the medium access schemes (how to decide which device can transmit when so they don't interfere). So I could go into the Quadrature Aplitude Modulation and the Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum and Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum and OFDM (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing) in 802.11a and g or talk about the distributed coordination function scheme. Ok am actually bluffing as my understanding of all of those is basic, but you talk of detail! Actually, the good thing about most of these is that their basic operation can be explained without any technical background. Let me know if you want to see my brief attempts at explaining them

Anyway typing about this stuff is good practice for bluffing when I get into technical conversations

[ 01-18-2005, 10:45 PM: Message edited by: Vaskez ]
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Old 01-18-2005, 11:11 PM   #9
Gangrell
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Oh God, I have to learn to be clear when I type. I meant thanks for explaining the general basics of what you mentioned, not 802.11 in itself

I get the feeling you're enjoying typing out everything you know to someone totally clueless to it for at least another 6 months to 2 (or more) years [img]graemlins/laugh2.gif[/img]

I'm going to look into it tomorrow, the best college closest to me doesn't provide computer tech classes, just computer sciences (working with Word, Excel, painfully boring even now) but the good thing is the top college in the state will be sending out professors to provide the computer tech courses. So I'll put in the updates tomorrow.
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Old 01-18-2005, 11:57 PM   #10
Aelia Jusa
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If you want to be a psychologist (as opposed to a counsellor or therapist - i.e., actually call yourself a psychologist and be registered or accredited or whatever they call it with the APA), then AFAIK in America you need a PhD in clinical psychology to practice. This is different from other countries; for example in Australia you can do a masters or equivalent supervised practice and you have sufficient qualifications to register and practice. So that is a big undertaking and not something that you could combine with a bunch of other degrees, so I think you should consider it carefully. Having said that, psychology is a very interesting field so if you did a minor (I think that's what they're called in the US?) in it rather than an entire degree then you would gain a lot of useful information and skills (esp the statistical component) that make you employable and will keep you interested as you study other areas.

I can't say what exactly the job prospects for psychologists vs. psychiatrists are. The two jobs and the areas you study are quite different. You will have skills as a clinical psychologist that a psychiatrist does not have, for instance, psychologists are trained in psychological assessments and are capable of using them for diagnosis and to guide treatment, where psychiatrists have much less training in these areas. This makes psychologists important in forensic work; for example, doing psychological assessments of competency in legal situations. Psychiatrists have a medical background, and as such are permitted to prescribe drugs, which psychologists are not.

As for pay, it depends on where you work and what sort of clients you have. Working in hospitals or outpatient facilities aren't going to get as much money as having a private practice. Forensic cases are much more lucrative than clients who present themselves, because in legal cases, the legal firm pays the fees so they can afford more, whereas individual clients may not be able to pay as high fees.
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