Was my Computer Science degree really worth it?

Career Development

🗓 3/27/2021

Introduction 👋🏽

In May 2021, I finally got to the end of my BSc Computer Science degree that I studied at the Manchester Metropolitan University. I thought it would be a good time to reflect on my experiences as a student, weighing up the pros and cons of undertaking this degree.

Degree Benefits 👍🏽

🔎 Gained an overview of fundamentals in the field

I was exposed to various topics in my studies, ranging from learning programming fundamentals in Java, to writing and understanding algorithms & data structures in C#. I was introduced to web development in HTML, CSS and JavaScript, with some backend work in PHP and Java as well. I was also exposed to the basics of Artificial Intelligence in my final year, along with leading, planning and executing my own project which included developing a web app and writing a dissertation about my research and findings through the development of the project.

The benefit of being exposed to so many areas has given me a chance to find out what I enjoy. I also believe I've been taught from a "fundamentals first" point of view, giving me the skills to pick up any language or design pattern regardless of whether I've worked with them or not. I believe this will be invaluable to my future career in the tech industry.

👨🏽 Built up my interpersonal skills

In my first couple of years of study, we had a group project unit which exposed me to working in a team. It gave me a chance to see how I would fit into a team environment, and what sort of role I'd be taking. I learned that this depended on exactly who I was working with.

In my first year, the roles evenly spread across the team, although I found myself being the person who was always writing up our meeting notes! This led me to take more of a lead role in our weekly meetings to keep everything on track and making sure we covered everything. In my second year, me and my friend mostly led the project, including setting up calls with our client, leading meetings and managing the workload of our team.

Being a part of the university also exposed me to other extra-curricular activities. For example, I was a volunteer for Code First: Girls for a few months, where I helped under-represented groups of students take their first steps to learning how to code. Teaching was a new experience for me, and I am grateful to have been given the chance to help others with coding with the knowledge gained from my degree. I was also a Student Ambassador, giving me the chance to liase with academic staff and students to get an idea of what could be improved about the Computer Science course.

To summarise, my degree has given me multiple opportunities to become a better team member and communicator, skills which I know will be really beneficial for me as I move into the industry.

⏱️ Learned about time management & organisation

Since starting my degree in September 2017, I started working part-time in retail as a Customer Assistant. I then started my role as a Junior Developer in September 2020, alongside the final year of my degree. As a result, I always had to manage my study time around my job, where I would often pick up extra hours. If I ever had a free block of time in my timetable (for example, between classes), I'd utilise it to recap any materials from lessons, or try to get ahead on the curriculum if I could. Taking these extra steps ensured I could attain good results whilst still holding down a job to allow for me to keep earning money as I studied, and gain some skills working in the retail and tech industry.

This juggle was never easy, and lead to some burnout and difficulties with my mental health, so I urge any other students reading this to reach out for help. I was in contact with both the NHS and my university's wellbeing team to help me get through this period of time.

✍🏽 I learned how to learn

As you study for a degree, you need to learn exactly how to learn. This can be different between students as we all learn in various ways, but my degree helped me identify the best ways for me to learn and apply knowledge that was required for my assignments and exams. This will be handy as I enter the industry, because I know that I will be regularly learning new things in the fast-paced industry.

Degree Drawbacks 👎🏽

💸 Expensive

In England, at the time of enrolling onto my course, it cost £9,250 a year to cover tuition. Fortunately, this yearly cost was covered by Student Finance England, meaning that I will now be paying back a small amount per month towards the money borrowed to study. Despite this, I do think the cost to study any degree in England is ridiculously high for what you are gaining. And, not to mention the fact that some of us have studied through COVID-19, a lot of learning was delivered online, so we lost access to in-person benefits such as using our university facilities and getting face-to-face help with our work.

🗓️ Outdated curriculum

At my university (and possibly others), curriculums are reviewed every four years. Whilst this doesn't affect units targeted at teaching fundamental principles such as learning how to program, it does affect more vocational units, for example, a unit on Web Development. I studied JavaScript at a basic level in 2018, and there was no use of ES6, the newer and more widely used standard of the language. This is just a small example of how material can become outdated in university. Technologies advance rapidly within four years, often making some of the taught technologies a little outdated.

However, I do believe that the fundamentals taught in my degree will generally be helpful for me, as it has already allowed for me to teach myself JavaScript & React at a deeper level, which has helped me enter the industry as a Junior Developer.

Conclusion ✅

Generally, I believe that my degree was a worthwhile investment. I am leaving university feeling much more confident in my technical and personal skills, which I can showcase to future employers. My skills allowed for me to start my first role as a Junior Developer in October 2020 (find out more on my blog and/or social media, linked below). I've genuinely grown as a person and early career professional, and I'm grateful to have been able to undertake a degree in Computer Science.