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Topic Title: Is a degree enough these days?
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Created On: 05 January 2010 08:16 PM
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 05 January 2010 08:16 PM
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eswnl

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I was just wondering that Electronic Engineering degrees are becoming more common that a Masters degree could become the default qualification.
 05 January 2010 09:15 PM
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westonpa

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I think it depends on how many, and what type, of jobs are available.

Equally Masters and Doctorates are becoming more common.....albeit not quite as common as the 1st degree.

Regards.
 05 January 2010 09:53 PM
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jencam

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I thought that engineering degrees are becoming less common amongst BRITISH graduates, and fewer were awarded in the first 10 years of the 21st century than in the 1990s, and fewer were awarded in the 1990s than in the 1980s.
 06 January 2010 09:48 PM
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eswnl

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Originally posted by: wilson479

I only have a HNC in Electronic Engineering but work as an electronics engineer doing all kinds of interesting and fun stuff (design development).



From looking at online job websites though it seems that a Bachelors Degree is required before the recruitment consultant will pass your CV onto the prospective employer these days, so for this reason I am working on my BEng via the Open University.



In my eyes it is quite pathetic; a piece of paper is needed to be considered for the job, but the fact that I do actually do the job without the piece of paper means that it is not really needed.



My HNC was a grueling ordeal of higher education level subjects with most of the learning done without the help of a lecturer, at home. The head of engineering at the college stated himself that we had studied to a higher level than students on most undergraduate Degree programs. I feel quite saddened that the HNC / HND does not seem to receive the recognition that it deserves.


I get fed up with the "apprenticeship vs university" among people in engineering. In my mind both lead to different roles, with the HNC having more emphasis on practical aspects of engineering. Is it just jealousy towards someone who is more educated?

I've not been on an apprenticeship so I don't know, but I sense apprenticeships were there for people who absolutely refused to be educated in a formal setting ( eg. school), which the rest of us just got on with. Some entries to apprenticeships have pathetically low entry requirements.
Like I said, I might be wrong about this, its just a feeling.

On the other hand why are apprenticeships never talked about among parents and teachers to students(if they are worth more)?
 06 January 2010 10:36 PM
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westonpa

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I think different types and levels of education are required for different types of jobs. Some jobs are more technical and some are more craft and so on. For sure there are those who go through certain schemes who think theirs is the best....whether this be degree, apprenticeship, NVQ, and so on. And all schemes turn out good and bad engineers because no system is perfect. But I think it is better to speak about the positives of one scheme without having to trash the others.

But ultimately what matters is do we have what the employer wants for the job we are going for and do we have more of what they want than our competition......whether that be education or experience or a combination of both. Alternatively we can start our own business.

I respect all types and levels of education and experience for the benefits they offer......we need them all.

Regards.

Edited: 07 January 2010 at 10:57 AM by westonpa
 07 January 2010 02:48 PM
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westonpa

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The idea behind the NC and HNC is that they are part time study. Thus our employer theoretically sends us on day release, block release or evening study and our practical comes from the work we do with the employer. Thus at the end we have a NC or HNC qualification plus work experience. However the student/person who was somehow unlucky enough not to get a job and thus cannot get the practical experience has the opportunity of doing the ND or HND which is full time and thus provides them with a 'bit' more of the practical they could not get from work.

Now the fact that colleges and universities have come up with different ways of delivering these qualifications does not detract from what they were originally intended for. We employees/students/people also have a responsibility to play an active part in ensuring we choose the right education for ourselves based on what we want for our future and of course our work situation. So if someone did not appreciate what the content and purpose of the HNC was then I suggest they go look in the mirror if they want to know who is responsible......and if they were mislead by one college then they should have checked with more sources.

I worked for an employer who put me on a course that was unrelated to my work and so I checked with the college on what alternatives were available and went back to the employer and got my course changed. Unfortunately some people would simply go with what they were offered and then moan and point the finger elsewhere. Before I take up a course I research it, go speak with the tutors, speak with others who have done it, etc., and thus I do not find myself surprised by the study........the sort of approach an IEng or CEng may use! It's about taking responsibility, acting professionally and finding out and understanding what things are for......oh yes and having an opinion and a debate.

The HNC is a good quality qualification and is well respected and understood in industry.....well let's say the parts that are themselves well respected. However if those with whom we compete against for work have more or better qualifications and experience then we either go get the same, or more, or we change/adapt our expectations.....that's life.

Regards.
 07 January 2010 04:33 PM
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westonpa

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Originally posted by: mbirdi

Did I mention I completed a sandwich based TEC Higher Diploma in EE which contained 20 subjects. That's 4 more than the present BTEC HND. It was both theoretical and practical in content. We had no internet, no PC and no laser printers to make our work easier. We practically lived in a cardboard box. I know, westonpa's probably going to say it's because we were rubbish.

It must have been really bad when it rained.

And I failed the 'Engineer in Society' paper 7 times.

Where do you think you would be now had you passed?

With over 25 years of experience I think I'm now ready to apply for registration.......... as a Lavatory Attendant at Savoy Pl. Though I hear competition is fierce.

It's a s*!t job but someone's got to do it.

Regards.
 08 January 2010 03:36 PM
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FATHI

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Link removed
 08 January 2010 04:43 PM
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westonpa

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Originally posted by: mbirdi

Originally posted by: westonpa

Where do you think you would be now had you passed?


That plus 2 years experience moving boxes for a large corporation, I'd say CEng. Then onto MSc at Imperial and maybe PhD followed by winning the Nobel Prize for proving that 42 isn't the answer to life the universe and everything. It is in fact 49. Ask Jonathan Ross. He knows you know. Apart from that nothing special.

The answer to everything is everything.

Or perhaps I failed it 7 times because I didn't really want to pass my last ever exam. Maybe I subconsciously let myself fail it so I could return to college and re-take it. Perhaps I suffered from a sort of C.O.D. A compulsive desire to want to take exams over and over again.

Maybe your answers were to clever and you were trying to get 100% instead of maybe settling for 99%.
Or maybe the EC thought: This chap doesn't really want to pass his last ever exam? He might suffer from adverse effects and loose the will to live (sort of a Michael Schumacher effect). So let's just fail the B'stad indefinitely and give him something to look forward to every year. He'll thank us for it one day. By jolly I think I'm cured!

I don't know now, maybe you actually out thought yourself.
Actually, if I had done some of the things above, I'd probably wish I had done a Physics degree instead. Luckily it's never too late to learn.

Both classical and quantum physics are very interesting and if you believe some of the theories there's a parallel universe in which you actually passed that 7th exam and got that Nobel Prize......so well done to that guy.

Regards.
 08 January 2010 05:19 PM
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mbirdi

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Originally posted by: westonpa
I don't know now, maybe you actually out thought yourself.

It might have happened in a parallel universe.

Originally posted by: westonpa
Both classical and quantum physics are very interesting and if you believe some of the theories there's a parallel universe in which you actually passed that 7th exam and got that Nobel Prize......so well done to that guy.

I'd like to have his salary.
 09 January 2010 02:33 AM
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eswnl

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I am wondering if an Electronic Engineering degree is a bit broad. When one enters employment, they will inevitably focus on a specfic area of electronics, eg. automotive electronics, audio electronics, medical electronics, communication and wireless, embedded electronics.
One has to indicate an interest in one of these areas and a Masters should help indicate this to employers.
 09 January 2010 09:37 AM
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DavidParr

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Originally posted by: eswnl

I am wondering if an Electronic Engineering degree is a bit broad. When one enters employment, they will inevitably focus on a specfic area of electronics, eg. automotive electronics, audio electronics, medical electronics, communication and wireless, embedded electronics.

One has to indicate an interest in one of these areas and a Masters should help indicate this to employers.
I think that a well rounded Bachelor's degree is very important. Although we all tend to specialise, it is very likely that a forced change in specialism will be required at some point in our careers. If you know the basics, a movement of career path is less difficult. Put simply, V=IR wherever you work (This unreasonable inflexibility of natural laws upsets some commercially minded people at times!! )

-------------------------
David Parr BSc.CEng MIET
PRA
 09 January 2010 10:39 AM
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westonpa

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Originally posted by: eswnl

One has to indicate an interest in one of these areas and a Masters should help indicate this to employers.


What do you think applying for the job indicates?

Look at the type of career you want, see what employers require and go get it. The chances are you will arrive at retirement and look back on your career and find that you had some different jobs which required some different skills, and aspects of knowledge, and for the most part their common theme may have been electronics. You have already made the decision to become more specialised, so to speak, by choosing electronics as opposed to say general engineering or electrical and electronic engineering, and thus I think you should go for the 'electronics' degree and then find out which aspects of the study you enjoy the most and then decide if you want to maybe specialise a little more.....and so on.

Regards.

Edited: 09 January 2010 at 11:54 AM by westonpa
 09 January 2010 12:16 PM
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dlane

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I would agree with David above. As a hiring manager it is highly unlikely that people applying for the jobs on offer will have all the required experience and training to do the job. It is likely that we will have to provide either refresher or initial training in subjects and someone with a well rounded career history and education is generally what I would look for.

I am also not convinced that a degree is a requirement for an engineering position per se. I understand the comments from wilson479 and I suppose a lot of company's do select their candidates via a qualification route but that to my mind is the fault of the hiring manager. When I was hiring people I always requested that I saw the CVs of everyone who applied and sometimes I would see things in peoples CVs that were applicable to the job and you could offer them an interview even though they had lower academic achievements.

When I am out to employ someone for my company, I am after, amongst other things, the person who I think will fit in best with the other employees, offer committment to the company and bring new skills and knowledge to the site. Qualifications are only a small part of that.

Kind regards

Donald Lane
 11 June 2010 01:20 PM
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clarkeythesparky

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Afternoon all.

As someone previously mentioned there is a lot difference in opinion when discussing apprenticeship vs university. To be honest, whatever side of the fence you sit on there are good arguments to be made for both.

I didn't do very well at A-level, the blame for which I place solely with myself. As a result I was left with a placement on a HND at Uni or an electrical modern apprenticeship. In the interview for the apprenticeship I was told that I would have to go through day release at college to do BTEC ONC and HNC in electrical and electronic engineering over the four year apprenticeship term. I was also promised that if I did well enough the organisation would be willing to pay for me to continue day release at University to do my degree. This was the route I took and I eventually got my electrical and electronic engineering degree, albeit 8 years later.

In my opinion I've been fortunate enough to share the best of both experiences and I believe that works to my benefit. I currently work as a building services project engineer (for the same organisation) and my combined practical and academic knowledge often compliment one another.

Furthermore the learning doesn't stop there. Apart from continuous professional development, I'm now at the latter stages of a 3 year MSc in Project Management (again paid for by the same organisation). At the beginning of the course one of the lecturers said something that stuck in my mind and which I think is very relevant to this discussion,
"you have to take a professional approach to your academic life but you should also try to think as an academic in your professional life."
I thought it was good advice anyway.

Is a degree enough? The content of the course I was taught has not always been entirely relevant to my career but what the degree proves is that you are mentally capable of dealing with complex information and you are organised and motivated. What 'pure' graduates need to remember when they enter 'the real world' is that guys who have been there and done it can often be a rich source of information that they should be afraid (or too proud) to tap into. Ironically I would also offer a word of caution with regard to this as they are not always correct...be academic...ask why?

For those opting for a more practical route I would say great, but try to remain accepting of new thoughts and ideas that come along and if possible, take any opportunities of further academic development if you can get it. Often you find that people who have not studied at ahigher level can be critical of those who have and have no practical experience. These graduates need guidance but they can also bring refeshing and clever new ideas to what can become a stale environment.

Anyway, very long winded, but I thought that sharing my experience and thoughts might help some people who might be at an important crossroads in their lives/careers.

Regards,

Stu
 11 June 2010 03:57 PM
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eswnl

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Originally posted by: clarkeythesparky

Afternoon all.



As someone previously mentioned there is a lot difference in opinion when discussing apprenticeship vs university. To be honest, whatever side of the fence you sit on there are good arguments to be made for both.



I didn't do very well at A-level, the blame for which I place solely with myself. As a result I was left with a placement on a HND at Uni or an electrical modern apprenticeship. In the interview for the apprenticeship I was told that I would have to go through day release at college to do BTEC ONC and HNC in electrical and electronic engineering over the four year apprenticeship term. I was also promised that if I did well enough the organisation would be willing to pay for me to continue day release at University to do my degree. This was the route I took and I eventually got my electrical and electronic engineering degree, albeit 8 years later.



In my opinion I've been fortunate enough to share the best of both experiences and I believe that works to my benefit. I currently work as a building services project engineer (for the same organisation) and my combined practical and academic knowledge often compliment one another.



Furthermore the learning doesn't stop there. Apart from continuous professional development, I'm now at the latter stages of a 3 year MSc in Project Management (again paid for by the same organisation). At the beginning of the course one of the lecturers said something that stuck in my mind and which I think is very relevant to this discussion,

"you have to take a professional approach to your academic life but you should also try to think as an academic in your professional life."

I thought it was good advice anyway.



Is a degree enough? The content of the course I was taught has not always been entirely relevant to my career but what the degree proves is that you are mentally capable of dealing with complex information and you are organised and motivated. What 'pure' graduates need to remember when they enter 'the real world' is that guys who have been there and done it can often be a rich source of information that they should be afraid (or too proud) to tap into. Ironically I would also offer a word of caution with regard to this as they are not always correct...be academic...ask why?



For those opting for a more practical route I would say great, but try to remain accepting of new thoughts and ideas that come along and if possible, take any opportunities of further academic development if you can get it. Often you find that people who have not studied at ahigher level can be critical of those who have and have no practical experience. These graduates need guidance but they can also bring refeshing and clever new ideas to what can become a stale environment.



Anyway, very long winded, but I thought that sharing my experience and thoughts might help some people who might be at an important crossroads in their lives/careers.



Regards,



Stu


Thank you for this very unbiased viewpoint. How refreshing.

I'm probably a bit sensitive over qualifications because I always took them seriously. So I do not feel sympathy towards anyone who failed them because of lack of effort.

So if you were a graduate/or someone with a degree and you saw a job that said HNC/D required, would you apply? I don't know, wouldn't you be overqualified.
 16 July 2010 06:55 AM
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magarratt

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Browsing discussions this one caught my eye.

Since 90's and the exponential growth in number of universities and degrees offered, once industry respected qualifications such as HNC/HND have become undervalued as today you can get a degree in anything from hairdressing to applied physics.

A degree intended to be learning as opposed to taught experience should give students higher level theory, concepts, evaluation disciplines which they then go off and apply. That said one can see from a technology perspective a micro electronics degree of the 1980's could as a standalone qualification will be outdated, likewise a aerodynamics degree of that time would not have covered current CFD norms.

To share 2010 view of F1 motorsport HR director, when asked what qualifications you look for in an engineer? Replied at pace we move someone who has just completed a motorsport degree is already outdated. We look for brightest engineers from leading universities, who have then gone into large corporations applied their skill in business, also learned relative project management, supplier management, quality and business principles.

While reality corporate HR or recruitment agencies may favour a degree, like any qualification it's is a starting point, in reality documented CPD and applied knowledge is more relative to work also to CEng application.
 16 July 2010 06:30 PM
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jencam

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Originally posted by: magarratt
Since 90's and the exponential growth in number of universities and degrees offered, once industry respected qualifications such as HNC/HND have become undervalued as today you can get a degree in anything from hairdressing to applied physics.


There is also the question whether the exponential rise in the number of graduates (mainly in 'easy' subjects or humanities) has devalued degrees in 'difficult' subjects such as physics or engineering. You hear that graduates are ten a penny nowadays compared with in the past but there were more graduates in certain degree subjects 10 or 20 years ago than this year.

A degree intended to be learning as opposed to taught experience should give students higher level theory, concepts, evaluation disciplines which they then go off and apply.


Are traditional degrees or training courses the better solution for creating engineers of the future? Don't forget that engineering is just as much a creative subject as it is an academic subject meaning that that ideas, innovation, and aesthetics are just as important components as the theory behind the functionality in any finished engineering product.

That said one can see from a technology perspective a micro electronics degree of the 1980's could as a standalone qualification will be outdated, likewise a aerodynamics degree of that time would not have covered current CFD norms.


Do qualifications resulting from once up to date but now outdated subject material have any value other than being a piece of paper?

To share 2010 view of F1 motorsport HR director, when asked what qualifications you look for in an engineer? Replied at pace we move someone who has just completed a motorsport degree is already outdated. We look for brightest engineers from leading universities, who have then gone into large corporations applied their skill in business, also learned relative project management, supplier management, quality and business principles.


Is this a very specific example of some 'high-calibre' engineering with few vacancies or is it representative of much of the engineering industry?
 17 July 2010 07:53 AM
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magarratt

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Dear Jencam

I can see your reasoning.

In a discussion string "comparing qualifications" which for consideration of all respected colleagues here, there are several debates ongoing in forums from Institute of Directors to technical sector groups also on linkedin. Thought of my post was to share information for perspective that once industry sought after qualifications such as HND's have become misrepresented. In balance at same time many technical degree's of today are not recognised or accredited by professional engineering institutions due at lack of rigor in certain areas. Comparison of qualifications is these days is more difficult:

UK market: Comparison of qualifications has been made more complex with introduction of different regional education frameworks for reference: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/...ntries_2008.PDF


International: Today we also operate in international markets, graduates and engineers competing with degrees from countries where study can be more technically demanding or not. A Engineering degree in Italy or Germany is typically 5 years study with no half way house. Likewise in US there are extremely technically demanding degrees, also ones of two years part time study.

Law: Factors such as introduction in UK of corporate manslaughter law has driven employers to manage risk by demonstrating for many jobs that employees are technically competent, which drives them to seek employees with higher foundation qualifications and mutual record of skills update for job in question.

Solution? If in answer to market conditions above professional institutions such as our own have positioning to look more on CPD in assessment of candidates for professional registration, encourage members to stay abreast of technologies and see IET as a professional network and career "home for life" perhaps we should not worry to much about debate of comparing qualifications.

Regards
Mark

Edited: 17 July 2010 at 08:01 AM by magarratt
 17 July 2010 10:26 AM
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westonpa

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I think the value of a degree as with any training is for the individual person to decide, i.e., is it worth something to them. One person may get a lot from a top engineering degree whereas I know some people do not and yet others may get a lot from a media studies degree whereas others do not. The value of something is not just related to getting a good job....work and life balance is becoming more important.

That said of course some people invest their time and money and do not get their just rewards at the end of it and thus for them their degree may not seem to be of value. I think the real problem in all this is that training providers, career advisors and the last government mislead many young people and sold them a story about 'go get yourself and degree and you will do very well', i.e., like it was the be all and end all of everything. Qualifications are just that and in my opinion it was the advice coming from supposed reliable sources which was poor. If we tell young people realistically and honestly about their degree choices and where they may or may not lead then they can make their own decisions and have a better idea of how things may work out....we hope.

Regards.
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