From BTech in Electrical Engineering to BSc in Computing

psradebe

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Jun 26, 2013
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439
I finally finished my BTech Degree with UNISA in Electrical Engineering. I have had a decent career from a Technician to being a Production Engineer over the years, but my love for Electrical Engineering has faded. Looking back, I have always loved Computers/Programming and I think I would have done brilliantly in the Computing/Programming Environment.

My left brain is telling me to register for a Computer Science Degree with UNISA and my right brain says I can be self taught. Having looked at the course structure and syllabus from UNISA, I already know a some concepts and I believe I will enjoy the course. The question I am putting to you is:

-Should I get the Degree or use my BTech Degree and self taught experience to jump career paths?
 

vic777

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May 6, 2015
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There is a wealth of knowledge, like discrete mathematics, theory of computing, etc which you will be exposed to during computer science studies - go for it
 

cguy

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Jan 2, 2013
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I’m with the other three. While I am sure you will be able to find development work with what you have, it’s not likely to be particularly stimulating or lucrative.

If you know some of the concepts already, it will just allow you to get through those modules much more easily, so you can spend time on the rest.

I did my CS degree after 10 or so years of hobbiest programming. I didn’t expect to get much out of it, but I really did.
 

InvisibleJim

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Mar 9, 2011
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I don't disagree with the previous responses (and we are in the company of some forum heavyweights here!) regarding the value of the course you are contemplating, however I am going to play Devil's Advocate (from the point of view of having made a substantial career change in my mid 30's.)

My first recommendation to anyone seeking to change career, would be to look in the first instance for some opportunity where your existing experience has value but where you have opportunity to grow in the direction that you wish. In my opinion, it is generally less risky to take this approach than to start by investing substantial time and money right from the off - it's not ideal where you are now to risk that time and money and not know for several years if you have succeeded.

In fact, you are in an ideal position to take a lean/agile approach to your career progression - start with the minimum viable product and iterate rapidly to improve it.

You already have achieved a respected degree (via the scenic route if you have worked your way from tech to engineer.) I imagine in the course of your degree, you have been exposed to some challenging mathematics and programming at some level may have been part of your studies. Engineers and Computer Scientists alike learn to learn for themselves and the internet does have a wealth on information out there to grow the knowledge that you need.

You may also have opportunities in your current environment to solve problems using software - or your knowledge and experience as an engineer combined with a passion for programming may give you a special insight that a computer scientist might not have - perhaps you could write a Python plugin for Fusion 360 that solves a particular engineering problem that might be harder for a CS graduate to grasp.

Yes, a CS degree could be beneficial at some point but it is worth thinking outside of the box as well.

Rambling a bit so going to leave it there. Hope this helps as a counterpoint to consider.
 

psradebe

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Jun 26, 2013
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439
Self taught counts for little unless it's part of your work experience/track record.

Get the piece of paper, it's worth it...

- I have already applied for the course, spoke to my company and they are willing to meet me halfway.

A Computer Science degree is more than just programming in my opinion.
Get the degree.

- Very true... I have considered it.

There is a wealth of knowledge, like discrete mathematics, theory of computing, etc which you will be exposed to during computer science studies - go for it

- :cool:

I’m with the other three. While I am sure you will be able to find development work with what you have, it’s not likely to be particularly stimulating or lucrative.

If you know some of the concepts already, it will just allow you to get through those modules much more easily, so you can spend time on the rest.

I did my CS degree after 10 or so years of hobbiest programming. I didn’t expect to get much out of it, but I really did.

-I think the first year would be a breeze, should be able to do all the modules.
 

LaughingRat

New Member
Joined
May 28, 2019
Messages
8
I am/was in a very similar boat to you, so will share what I've learnt. I have an engineering degree, but slowly found myself falling out of love with it and was always looking for excuses to write programs to get stuff done at work. So I registered at the beginning of 2018 for BSc Computer science and Maths. Because of credits from my previous degree I'm just about half way through the degree now and I absolutely love it. I may not actually finish (I already have a "piece of paper") but I will do all the computer modules until the end. I will try to finish though.

There is a saying that is especially applicable to computer science: "You don't know what you don't know". ie: There will be concepts to do with programming, computer architecture, logic etc that you didn't even know existed, and so its quite hard to teach yourself when this is the case. You wont know what to study next. Studying through a university will give you a much better road map, they know what you need to learn. Having exams is also a good incentive to really study something.

Honestly I thought I was a decent programmer because I had written a bunch of things in Java, but I didn't know the first thing about (for example) the efficiency of different sorting algorithms, or data structures. I didn't know what I didn't know (existed).

That said, my decision was a bit of a no-brainer as my career change has been with the same company. They needed C++ developers, which is the main teaching language at UNISA so I thought "Why not?". But I've since discovered a really stimulating field that I plan to stick with for the rest of my working career.

My suggestion: you may not need to get a whole new degree. If you are an engineer who is also a really capable software developer then you shouldn't battle to find work. All I'm saying is that learning through a more structured environment has really boosted the learning process for me.
 

psradebe

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 26, 2013
Messages
439
I don't disagree with the previous responses (and we are in the company of some forum heavyweights here!) regarding the value of the course you are contemplating, however I am going to play Devil's Advocate (from the point of view of having made a substantial career change in my mid 30's.)

My first recommendation to anyone seeking to change career, would be to look in the first instance for some opportunity where your existing experience has value but where you have opportunity to grow in the direction that you wish. In my opinion, it is generally less risky to take this approach than to start by investing substantial time and money right from the off - it's not ideal where you are now to risk that time and money and not know for several years if you have succeeded.

In fact, you are in an ideal position to take a lean/agile approach to your career progression - start with the minimum viable product and iterate rapidly to improve it.

You already have achieved a respected degree (via the scenic route if you have worked your way from tech to engineer.) I imagine in the course of your degree, you have been exposed to some challenging mathematics and programming at some level may have been part of your studies. Engineers and Computer Scientists alike learn to learn for themselves and the internet does have a wealth on information out there to grow the knowledge that you need.

You may also have opportunities in your current environment to solve problems using software - or your knowledge and experience as an engineer combined with a passion for programming may give you a special insight that a computer scientist might not have - perhaps you could write a Python plugin for Fusion 360 that solves a particular engineering problem that might be harder for a CS graduate to grasp.

Yes, a CS degree could be beneficial at some point but it is worth thinking outside of the box as well.

Rambling a bit so going to leave it there. Hope this helps as a counterpoint to consider.

- I fully support what you are suggesting, I am already ahead of you on that one. I have made a move within the company and currently being exposed to Python/C and Embedded Systems. I will be using this opportunity to deepen my knowledge in Computer Science concepts and I am lucky I am working with people who have done the course.

The real trick was convincing myself to study Computer Science formally or going the self-taught route. From the replies its clear that the piece of paper would go a long way. The support I am also getting from the company to allow me to study and financing it is the other reason I have already gone an applied for it. Should be starting next semester.
 

InvisibleJim

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Joined
Mar 9, 2011
Messages
1,938
- I fully support what you are suggesting, I am already ahead of you on that one. I have made a move within the company and currently being exposed to Python/C and Embedded Systems. I will be using this opportunity to deepen my knowledge in Computer Science concepts and I am lucky I am working with people who have done the course.

The real trick was convincing myself to study Computer Science formally or going the self-taught route. From the replies its clear that the piece of paper would go a long way. The support I am also getting from the company to allow me to study and financing it is the other reason I have already gone an applied for it. Should be starting next semester.

Congratulations. Having that kind of support from your employer puts a different complexion on things. An opportunity worth grabbing with both hands!
 

The_Ogre

Honorary Master
Joined
Apr 30, 2010
Messages
25,507
Was in the same boat and ended up doing a National Diploma in IT. After 15 years in IT, I'm now considering going back to Electrical Engineering :)
 
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