Is it worth it to continue CS Honours?

Einsteinium

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Jan 2, 2016
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I have completed my undergrad degree last year and started working this year. I thought that I would try and do honours part time and only took one module the first semester along with the compulsory research module, just to see if I would be able to manage doing both work and study.

Now the time has come to pick a module for the second semester, but I am at a point where I am not sure if I should continue the honours degree. Working as a software engineer has made me start to wonder about the real benefits of an honours degree.

I initially wanted to do honours so that I have to option to immigrate to countries that look at 4 year degrees, but I am sure enough work experience will open those doors anyway along the line.

The company I work at also don't really pay more for people with an honours degree behind their name. My company also emphasize training a lot, and people who attend training more and improve on their skills more get a better chance of promotion, now currently the honours degree takes away to much time for me to attend training and I am starting to feel like it is holding me back from growing at my workplace.

I am enjoying work more than study at the moment. Is it really worth it to continue if I do not enjoy the honours degree?
 

Chevron

Serial breaker of phones
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In 10years time you'll be happy you did it.

Think beyond just your current company.
 

cguy

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In 10years time you'll be happy you did it.

Think beyond just your current company.

I agree. The fact that you are working at your company without an honours means that your immediate experience creates a form of selection bias. There are other companies that strongly prefer an honours degree, both from the "paper" perspective, and from the skillset that you could have from doing it.

Now the time has come to pick a module for the second semester, but I am at a point where I am not sure if I should continue the honours degree. Working as a software engineer has made me start to wonder about the real benefits of an honours degree.

When starting off in your first job, you learn a ton of practical, real-world process, and initially this seems like the first useful work you've ever done, because, for the first time you are actually doing something that is actually expected to serve a client. Everyone goes through this during their first job, but eventually it becomes clear that this exact type of real-world problem solving, and product building can be done at a range of levels of sophistication, and that the higher levels of this are far more available to you, the more you study.

I initially wanted to do honours so that I have to option to immigrate to countries that look at 4 year degrees, but I am sure enough work experience will open those doors anyway along the line.

Take care with the above assumption - with a 3 year degree, any company in the US would mark you as "no degree", as could several other companies in other countries. For country entrance requirements, a 3 year degree may not be recognized, and experience is a very difficult path to go down. "Experience" for international visas, usually means "documented and relevant" experience. This makes working as a consultant, in somewhat different industries, for companies that close down, or have disorganized administration (will they even sign off on your job duties, if the job that you were doing eventually differed to the job you were doing for them, will they go through the effort of writing this up for an ex-employee), etc.
 

CamiKaze

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May 19, 2010
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I have realized a trend that companies are shifting toward, or rather value certification more than degrees.

@cguy, can you give any insight/advice on this? It seems like they are using it as a tool to rather limit and look for excuses to keep employees underpaid (If they have degrees but no certification).
 

cguy

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Jan 2, 2013
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I have realized a trend that companies are shifting toward, or rather value certification more than degrees.

@cguy, can you give any insight/advice on this? It seems like they are using it as a tool to rather limit and look for excuses to keep employees underpaid (If they have degrees but no certification).

The reasons companies are looking to fill some positions with certification holders is that they want people who already have a very specific skillset, cost less (in some situations) and are easier to retain. As an example, if a company is looking to hire a Cisco Network Engineer to administer a pretty standard network, someone who has done all the relevant certifications is likely the ideal candidate. I don't think a degree would help someone do this job better in most situations. The reason for doing a degree, isn't to be the best Cisco Network Engineer, but rather so one doesn't have to be a network engineer at all, if one doesn't choose to be. If nothing else appeals to someone, I suggest doing the certifications and not a degree, although I do suggest that with caution, since this type of narrow focus often comes from an ignorance of what is out there, or false self-imposed limitations on one's abilities.

The vast majority of companies doing technical innovation out there are filled primarily with people with degrees because they have better tools to create new technology, and to solve hard problems. These jobs are usually more interesting and more highly paid.

The trend that companies are shifting towards certification, is really just part of typical evolution of industry, where some skills are becoming more of a commodity, and certifications are a more efficient way to serve the industry. That said, this is often opposite from serving you best as an individual - the reason you see so many jobs like this is because the ubiquity of technology is creating high demand - the relatively low bar of a certification process is also creating high supply though, so it often isn't in someone's best interest to go in this direction if they have other options available to them.

EDIT(trying to think of a TL;DR):

The TL;DR is that the actual job for a certification vs for a degree are very different, and the proportion of one type vs another type vary by the needs of the company. A degree is better for one type of job and a certification is better for the other. The reason I typically motivate for doing a degree rather than a certification is that the jobs done by degree holders are typically more interesting and lucrative. If you end up with a degree, and doing a job that is also done by those with certifications, you have likely positioned yourself suboptimally.
 
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^^vampire^^

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As a bit of a wrap up on what cguy has mentioned. There are also 2 parts to hiring someone with a cert. First would be, as cguy mentions, a straight forward situation where just someone with relevant knowledge is required such as your run of the mill network management with a cert. Some companies, however, would be looking for someone with a degree, a wealth of experience and certs to prove they are proficient (currently) on what is being used, such as an MS Certified Dev (and hence why the cert expires after a few years). This would most likely be your most expensive option of a hire for a company however.

I still come down to the same thing and that is that a degree is to learn your foundation, and generally these types of people expand and learn upon that foundation and are valuable employees as they take the experience they acquire and apply the good foundational work they have learned from a degree to make solid solutions. Doing straight certs without a degree generally worries me as these people may be able to do the work, but it is generally more sketchy at the later stages as the core of how things should be done are lacking. Not always the case but many times true, especially for self taught devs who are stuck with bad habits.

With regards to using the honours for emigration. You are probably better off doing it now as many migration processes only validate your experience after a few years after the relevant qualification [eg] when you complete your honours they will only count experience that is 2-3 years after completing your honours. A similar thing happened when applying for my Aus visa. I completed my NDip end of 2007 and completed my BTech end of 2012. At the time of applying 2015 they said I only have 2 months of work experience as at that stage it was 3 years and 2 months after my BTech was completed, even though I had been working for about 9 years full time at that stage.

The other thing that I do advise is for someone to get 1-2 years full time experience before continuing their studies. At this stage you have only been working for a little while and probably wouldn't understand the full value of what the honours etc offers. I'm busy doing my BSc honours and the topics are far more interesting and valuable to me now as I understand their place with regards to my work and how they can enable me to do things better.
 
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vic777

Expert Member
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May 6, 2015
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1,364
Just do the honours, believe me its easier to just keep going - you will regret it if you don't do it and it can only help you. Many people do the 3 year degree, less people also do the honours
 

c10n3d_0r6

Senior Member
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Nov 1, 2005
Messages
627
Do it now while you are still in "study mode". You won't regret it, and you will find it more difficult to do later if you decide you should have done it.
 
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