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Topic Title: Benifits of a degree?
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Created On: 06 January 2011 01:49 PM
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 06 January 2011 01:49 PM
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Martyb447

Posts: 23
Joined: 14 March 2009

First off, I would normally put this in the student forum but I would like the views of people who have studied and worked there careers instead of people just starting..so..

I've been working in engineering for ten years now and originally started in the Army where I did my apprenticeship. I've moved on and in the intervening time i've completed my HNC and HND in mechanical engineering-along with numerous other cross trade courses and qualifications.
Now I've worked my way up to a pretty high post already (now a manager in projects) and have never encountered and problems in the interview stage (i've had quite a few when I was leaving the forces courtesy of a 1 year notice period) and the issue of a Degree has never came up since my experiences and supporting courses have helped fill in the gaps.
But...I would like the option of continuing up the ladder or moving jobs to a similar position in the future. I doubt I will ever aspire to the high realms of director etc as I love the engineering aspect too much (cant help throwing off the suit and digging in when soemone has a problem) but it would be interesting to hear from the older more experinced engineers their views on education. Do you feel that a Degree open doors or that not having one doesnt? Are other courses (e.g. proffesioanl developemt) more beneficial?
Also does anyone have any personal experience of these issues?
Since I am getting to the time where I have to make the choice whether to study for one or divert my attention elsewhere it would be great to know.

Thank you in advance

Marty

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Marty Barr EngTech MIMechE TMIET
 06 January 2011 02:49 PM
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westonpa

Posts: 1771
Joined: 10 October 2007

A degree opens doors but not that many more relatively speaking. For an older person with other qualifications and relevant experience it will open less doors that are not already opened but of course for the younger person and relevant job it will open more doors because their competition is also more likely to have a degree. In essence for the older person I would suggest that it is more of a decision as to whether you want to do a degree just to improve your education or whether you want a particular type of job which, from job adverts, seems to require a degree. I have had numerous C&G, OND, HNC, HND etc., and 25 years experience but decided to do a degree just to improve my education and take on some more study and take some time out from proper work....not really to worried about the job aspects. When I finished I joined a company in a top level job which required a degree to even get an interview so sometimes things work out in your favour. So I think the degree option is good if you know the reasons you want it and the costs are acceptable in relation to your reasons.

Regards.
 06 January 2011 03:01 PM
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amillar

Posts: 1918
Joined: 28 May 2002

I've certainly found myself rejected from many job applications at an early stage due to having a poor degree, despite having an excellent career record. The problem is that HR departments need simple rules for filtering (say) 100 CVs down to a long list of (say) 20, and demanding "2.1 or 1st relevent degree" is a common and easy way to do this.

But, it is a lot of work (and money) to maybe double the number of job opportunities available to you. Personally I think you would need to feel you were getting some useful education out of it as well - and in fact if you go into it purely wanting a piece of paper at the end you probably won't do very well in it anyway.

Not sure how much that helps!

-------------------------
Andy Millar CEng MIET CMgr MCMI

http://www.linkedin.com/in/millarandy

"The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress." Joseph Joubert
 06 January 2011 04:25 PM
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roddalitz

Posts: 125
Joined: 19 April 2002

I see many job specifications which require "degree plus five years experience" - the degree may not be as important as good experience, and "five years" is crazy since one year might cram many learning oportunities (aka near disasters) whereas another decade might hold none.

But that is where we are: the new century, of procedures, documents, and the death of common sense.

I would recommend a degree if you have the chance. It is good to balance practical experience with academic understanding.

-------------------------
regards, Rod Dalitz (CEng MIEE FInstP)
rod.dalitz@blueyonder.co.uk
 06 January 2011 07:30 PM
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Martyb447

Posts: 23
Joined: 14 March 2009

Thanks all.
I've seen alot of jobs etc all demand degree's as a base qualification-even jobs that you wouldn't think require one. The thing is-My company were recruiting an apprentice mechanical engineer early last year which I was part of. Out of the 20 CV's that got passed on to me there were 9 with degree (2 with Masters) and after the practical and technical test only 1 of the guys with Degree's scored high enough to even merit consideration.
As for just studying for a piece of paper-thats pretty much all it would be for.

Just seems that there are so many people out there with degree's now that they less than worthless...

Guess only time will tell

Thanks again

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Marty Barr EngTech MIMechE TMIET
 07 January 2011 09:29 AM
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StewartTaylor

Posts: 100
Joined: 18 January 2003

Marty,

I'd say that how much value a degree would have for you will depend on the stage of your career. In my experience, the older you get and the more senior the jobs, the less people are concerned about educational qualifications. This is especially true if you move toward management roles.

Having said that, many companies, including my own, insist on Chartered status (right or wrong - there's another thread discussing that) for the most senior technical positions so if you want to head that way you might need to consider how you would achieve charter without a degree - it can be done but it's harder.

I also agree with Andy Millar that a course that's only taken for the piece of paper is unlikley to be one that you give your best shot but, on the other hand, you sound like you could quite easily find a technical area that you could really get absorbed into. Several of my best recruits in the past have been apprentices who decided after a few years to go back to university and get degrees - they were committed after making a positive decision of their own (not just carrying on from school) and their work experience really led them to understand the academic stuff they were learning.

Another point you might want to consider. As well as the purely academic aspect, a good OU or other distance learning degree can be seen as a good demonstration of self-discipline, application and time management (and no, I don't have one!).

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Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.
 04 February 2011 01:37 PM
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NGraham

Posts: 18
Joined: 14 March 2009

I have a similar career background to your good self (apprenticeship, off the tools role, management role) and so on...I was lucky enough to sit my degree part-time whilst being employed as a design consultant.

Whilst the "piece of paper" may seem irrelevant based against experience gained on the job, it certainly does open more doors for you in terms of career progression, opportunity for interview, promotion, C.Eng, etc.,

My degree has been of little benefit in carrying out my job roles as it was too broad-brush (B.Eng Hons in Engineering) in terms of the knowledge gained to be applied to my daily duties, but it was the only course available to me part-time all those years ago.

Having said that, it gives employers the comfort that you are capable of seeing something through for 4 to 5 years and are responsible enough to handle the pressure (it nearly ruined my life as well, bloody maths, maths, maths...haha).

It was only later in life did I realise how beneficial it has been for me..

If you have the time and interest to do a degree, I would recommend it (it's a day off work once a week as well....).
 08 February 2011 10:32 AM
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drumbold

Posts: 102
Joined: 08 May 2002

My experience (of being a rapidly approaching mid 30's male having gone and got a degree straight from a-levels) is that having a piece of paper to say you have a degree did open a door to get me my job. Having said that others are doing very similar roles to mine in the company having come up through the company apprentices route.

Interestingly, the company I work for on the graduate scheme specified that you must have an engineering degree for an engienering/manufacturing role, but any degree to go into any of the other areas (marketing/finance/HR etc). The reason they claimed is 'it is because of the specialist knowledge an engineering degree gives' interesting as I haven't used any of what I learnt on my engineering degree course in my job.. If you wanted to go for something like your CEng at a later date, it will only help you. I will not comment on whether being Chartered is actually worth it - that as has been said is a whole other topic.

If you want it, have the time and interest then go for it.. but just a word of warning - you state you
love the engineering aspect too much (cant help throwing off the suit and digging in when soemone has a problem)
in my experience the more qualified you are or the higher up the tree you are the less the company want you doing anything pratical and hands on, and the more they want you to create a spreadsheet to track progress on said problem.
 14 February 2011 12:12 PM
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mbirdi

Posts: 1907
Joined: 13 June 2005

Originally posted by: Martyb447
i've completed my HNC and HND in mechanical engineering-along with numerous other cross trade courses and qualifications.

If the total number of subjects passed or completed (i.e including project) in your HNC and HND amount to 20, then that constitutes a degree level qualification. That's because Universities generally value BTEC higher level subjects on a ratio of 2 to 1.

So your 20 subjects passed are effectively equal to someone passing a degree consisting of 10 subjects. This amounts to 300 university credit level points.

It may not necessarily be appreciated by everyone, but you can remind them that because you completed 20 subjects to a graduate's 10 it means that you sat twice as many exams as a graduate. I.e 20 (or less if you don't count the project) times 3 hour exams equals 60 hours in total.

Compared this with a graduate passing only up to 30 hours of exams in total. Or to put it another way you sat 6 hours of exams to equal a graduate who sat only 3 hours per subject. Assuming of course that your qualifications included passing exams.
 14 February 2011 05:44 PM
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kasese

Posts: 183
Joined: 31 March 2006

I did the older style HND (3 years - rolled into 2 very intensive years equiv of 300 points - pass ordinary degree level) - when I went to try to get on a degree course most universities would only offer a MSc - as a degree was not worth doing - no gain (their words) - only problem it seemed to kill my chance of CEng - I would look for an appropriate Masters in line with your experience / future requirements.
My HND was in General Engineering + a Master of Science in Process Manufacturing and Management (I wanted some process knowledge - this was the best course for my needs at the time not being a Chemical Engineer).
CEng is acheiveable with this set of qualifications + right experience / responsibility levels and you do not waste the time completing a degree

Regards,
Tim Guy
MSc MBA HND (Engineering)
 16 February 2011 11:50 AM
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AMSA

Posts: 10
Joined: 17 September 2010

Hello.

I'm finishing my degree in Electrical Engineering, here in Portugal and I was thinking to get a job in UK. The level of the degree is BSc (3yrs course). At same time I'm working, and I can count right now with 5 yrs of experience in the field of test and measurement, metrology, instrumentation, repairing, equipment mantenaince.

Because in this topic you have been discussing the value of getting a Degree or not, I take this opportunity to ask all this:

Which chance do I have to get a job in UK in the same field, or something like? There are good opportunities? Or even changing the course of the career.

I was thinking to take a MSc too, in Electrical & Electronics Engineering, on a part-time or somethign like that, but it would be a thing to "study".

Can someone give me an advice and guidelines?

Best regards,
Amsa
 16 February 2011 03:26 PM
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mbirdi

Posts: 1907
Joined: 13 June 2005

Originally posted by: kasese
I did the older style HND (3 years - rolled into 2 very intensive years equiv of 300 points - pass ordinary degree level)

Birkbeck College (part of London University) offer evening studies BSc/BSc(Hons) degree courses over 4 years. Students study 2 to 3 evenings per week. That roughly equates to a 4 year day release courses. And that is equivalent to 2 year full-time course.

So if it's possible to gain a London University Hons degree in 2 years, why do full-time students spend 3 years getting theirs? Is it something to do with Universities offering young students a balance of quality education with the experience of University life (fun and games)? So this takes it to 3 years.

Edited: 16 February 2011 at 04:27 PM by mbirdi
 17 February 2011 11:48 AM
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amillar

Posts: 1918
Joined: 28 May 2002

We used to regularly sponsor staff through a four year day release degree course. Very well they did too, but it was very hard work for them, they had to do a huge amount of work in their own time. So yes, it is possible, but tough on the student.

-------------------------
Andy Millar CEng MIET CMgr MCMI

http://www.linkedin.com/in/millarandy

"The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress." Joseph Joubert
 18 February 2011 06:32 PM
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roybowdler

Posts: 276
Joined: 25 July 2008

The 3 initial responses were full of good sense. The value added by the acquisition of any particular knowledge or skill depends on the opportunities available to apply it. This relates to degrees but also to other learning. I have seen people transform their careers through short practical training in communication and leadership techniques.

Personally, I think that a degree in something that interests you and is relevant to your career objectives can be of enormous value. In my case I found opportunities limited in one direction (perhaps by my HNC) and used an MSc followed up with an MBA to propel me in another.

In the sector in which I spent quite a long time, many senior people didn't have degrees and results mattered more than "badges". However it is easy for an employer or recruitment agency to use formal qualifications as a crude first filter. When recruiting I treated qualifications held by an inexperienced candidate as indicative of potential, but looked for career achievements from a more experienced candidate. Although some well structured part-time degree courses are very vocational and certainly add value to an experienced person.

I have recently conducted an evaluation of over 30 experienced candidates applying for Chartered Engineer registration. The candidates were employed at a broadly similar level by a leading technology employer, that has good career development processes in place. The candidates were between 35 and 60 with qualifications ranging from Accredited Masters Degrees to ONC. There appears to be no significant correlation between the academic qualification held and competency levels, when judged by experienced assessors against UK-SPEC requirements.

I would not suggest that this study in any way devalues good academic qualifications. However I would hypothesise that it supports a more balanced approach to the value added by different methods of learning. There are actually some very good examples of UK academic institutions using work-based activities to develop and assess learning rigorously, but in a more holistic way. A number are working closely with the IET.

In some overseas jurisdictions the only bodies who have the authority, wherewithal and integrity to assess reliably are academic institutions and/or the state.

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Roy Bowdler IEng FIET FCIPD
IET Registration & Standards
 21 February 2011 02:10 PM
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mbirdi

Posts: 1907
Joined: 13 June 2005

Originally posted by: roybowdler
The candidates were between 35 and 60 with qualifications ranging from Accredited Masters Degrees to ONC.

I'm trying to imagine 60 year old engineers (or managers) keeping up with the latest in 3G Mobile phones, iPads and 3D TVs, wearing baseball caps (the wrong way round), white trainers and jeans hanging down their backsides. With street wise attitude producing comments such as: Check this out man. Is wicked!
 25 February 2011 04:46 PM
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roybowdler

Posts: 276
Joined: 25 July 2008

You obviously haven't met xxxxx (name removed on legal advice) or seen me on holiday

Much of this technology has only appeared over the last few years so many of the mid-career professionals have had to re-learn to keep up, mostly without the benefit of a degree to assist.

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Roy Bowdler IEng FIET FCIPD
IET Registration & Standards
 25 February 2011 07:04 PM
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dvaidr

Posts: 519
Joined: 08 June 2003

Attitude and approach can be much more useful and of more worth. Many graduates get a degree and can't even make it into work for 8 o'clock, citing reasons not from this earth. I had one graduate who repeatedly late. I realised that he had run out of excuses when he told me that the car had frozen to the wall, because the strategically placed overflow pipe had frozen in the cold weather. I didn't believe him. I found out months later that he didn't even have a car......

He went to work for the Civil Service eventually.
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