Decisions, decisions …

I am, at long last, within a cooee of actually having an undergraduate degree. The road to this point has been much longer than I expected back when I graduated from high school in 1999. The intervention of depression in 2001 and its aftermath through to about 2006 or so left me well and truly off course in life.

But what’s done is done. I am now in the final weeks of my final semester. And now it’s decision time.

For example, there’s the question of honours. My professors like me, are interested in some of the projects I’ve proposed, and I have the scores to qualify. But if I do it fulltime that’s another whole year of earning approximately nothing. If I do it part-time then I stretch out the stress of being a student, but at least I get to earn something.

Then there’s post-graduate study. I could, in theory, go back and finish my law degree on a post-graduate entry (which would make me, again, a student of Ken Parish). Or I could go for industry certification and training to increase my saleability. Or I could give in to the darkside of corporate advancement and get an MBA.

That last one amuses me. Melbourne Business School reckon that their MBA costs $54,000 and can be done in 16 months. A bargain in international terms, even if you ignore the cost of living.

Meanwhile, over in industry-land, a full set of IBM z-Series mainframe courses could cost as much as $61,353 if you include some database and COBOL classes. Yikes.

In any case, I’d be interested to hear what the fine folk of the internet have to say.

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9 Responses to Decisions, decisions …

  1. Laura says:

    Jacques, my understanding is that honours degrees are on the way out in this country, in the Humanities at least. The replacement will be coursework MAs that can be completed in two years, full time. This is supposedly because while academia understands and values an Honours qualification, industry doesn’t grasp how it’s different from a bachelors degree. Maybe something to take into consideration, or anyway investigate in relation to your field.

  2. Dave Bath says:

    Sounds like you’d be a ring-in for IP law

    If you have the possibility of good supervisors, an interesting topic, then I’d be very tempted to do the Hons… being careful that no-one else on the other side of the planet does the same piece of work and publishes a week before you do.

    (Or you could do a “DBA” by coursework and confuse the hell out of HR types, or just wait until you can get a professorship by coursework – 2015 the way things are going)

    Whichever way you go, it’s good to know you’ve tamed the black dog somewhat, and I hope it goes well for you.

  3. SJ says:

    Hi Jacques.

    The honours is worthwhile, but may not be necessary. You don’t need to make a decision now anyway.

    Apply for some jobs over the next few months that don’t ask for an honours degree, and enrol in the honours degree P/T anyway. By March next year you’ll be at a point where you either have an acceptable job and can withdraw from the honours without having to pay anything, or you won’t have found a job you like and can continue with the P/T honours program.

    You could always enrol in the law program as well, then make the decision later whether to withdraw.

    I can’t really see any value in doing the MBA at this stage. It’s probably more useful after a few years of industry experience. I’ll relate an anecdote. Back in the mid 90s I temporarily had charge of the economics department of a fairly large company, and a guy rang up looking for what was essentially work experience after having just completed his MBA at the AGSM. He’d been knocked back for lots of jobs, essentially (he said) because he had never worked in the real world. I told him that we’d be prepared to take him on, and would even pay him, and I told him how much we normally paid our freshly-graduated staff. He said something like “No, I have an MBA, and I wouldn’t accept anything less than three times that amount”. I guess he had a combination of unreal expectations of what the MBA would do for him, plus no experience, which made him unemployable.

    (Note that I have nothing against MBA degrees per se, and I have one myself, amongst others, one of which is an honours degree.)

  4. meika says:

    Those who can, do, those who can’t, teach, and those who can’t teach go into HR.

  5. Pedro X says:

    Get a job and finish the law degree. That would be much better than an MBA, especially if you’re some way into the law degree and have some credits for it.

    An honours degree in a technical subject is worth something in Australia. If you get an H2A or above it’s qualification for PhD.

  6. Niall says:

    My personal opinion is that pieces of paper – what I call tertiary qualifications – aren’t worth squat if they don’t lead you directly into employment. My suggestion….take what you’ve worked for, cut the stress from your life and get employed earning an income. It’s a lot easier to get a job once you’ve got a job, but bloody hard to get that initial job. Further study, to my mind, is simply prevaricating.

  7. conrad says:

    I pretty much agree with SJ, although you really need to make up your mind as to what you want to do. Things like finishing your law degree are really contingent on you wanting to do something in that area (or possibly combine them, say, software patenting or something like that — I don’t know anything about law, but it’s far away from CS!).
    The other thing you need to think about is if there is something that interests you enough to make honors worthwhile (it won’t do anything to your salary). I have a degree in CS & maths and did honors, but that wasn’t because I was worried about the money — I just didn’t want to end up as a programmer doing database stuff or something else equally as dull (these of course pay really well or at least did so at the time) and had more interesting things to think about (I was also used to living a scummy student lifestyle).

  8. Mike Pepperday says:

    I just posted the following to the Troppo blog then noticed that your original post is 25 Sept (I’m travelling and only on line intermittently).

    With regard to electronic voting, I have wondered for years why we don’t have a simple system where you attend the booth as we do now but you insert your voting slip in a printer, make your selections from a screen which shows a facsimile of the slip (using a mouse on an ordinary computer – leave out the touch-screen complications) and after “Are you sure?” it prints your vote and you take it (look at it, check it) and you place it in the ballot box.

    Seems to me that doesn’t require any particularly special security (because a manual count will occur if scrutineers demand it), informal voting would vanish, and the result of the election would be known two minutes after the polls close.

    Indeed, I wonder that Google hasn’t developed this and offered it to developing countries.

    On executive stability etc. What you say sounds plausible but there is more to it. The stuff about executive decisiveness is not supported. Arendt Lijphart spent his career on this and related questions. He has measures of everything. His 1999 book on democracy in 36 countries about sums it up and is a model of straightforward political science writing.

    Briefly, my opinion is that majoritarian lower houses are superfluous – they are kept in line by the other house except in Queensland which gets by because we can send 4 Corners up there to sort them out.

    On age of voting. If I had my druthers I’d set it at 23 for girls and 25 for boys. This is about when they begin to look like adults.

    Given your evident interest, Jacques, I wonder you don’t consider doing honours in political science and then a PhD. Years of work but you get about $25K a year as a PhD student. You probably will never get rich but you can make a living as an academic, or as a political functionary, or as a journalist, or as all three.

  9. Guy says:

    Agree with Niall pretty much. Found myself in a similar state of prevarication towards the end of my Comp Sci degree, and was completely intending to do an Honours year.

    Instead, did some graduate program interviews just to see how they’d go, got offered a job, took it, and haven’t looked back. You can always go back to uni and study something these days, but in our industry, having runs on the board employment-wise is crucial whichever way you look at it.

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