BSc or BA - Education help

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BSc or BA - Education help

Postposted on Sat Jan 03, 2009 5:39 pm

So, a few years into my Poli-sci/Philosophy degree I realized I actually want to be employable, so I'm switching majors to Computer Science.

Now, if I have a major in science and two minors in arts, I'll still be listed as a B.A. in Computer Science as opposed to a B.Sci in CS. I could get a minor in a science course but that adds at least a year to my graduation path and invalidates either my credits in philosophy or political sciencce.

So my question really is, to the guys "in the field", will the BA vs BSci really make a difference*?
[for the reference I'll likely be seeking employment in my native Canada]


[For the referencce my school is University of Toronto, Mississauga campus. I also will have an Ontario College Diploma in programming which is probably near-useless for employability]
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Re: BSc or BA - Education help

Postposted on Wed Jan 07, 2009 12:18 pm

In my opinion, it will not make a difference. My g/f has a BA in Physics, because of a similar story and I don't think theres ever been a situation where an employer or grad school recruiter ever asked "why isn't it a BS?" Your odd credentials (CS with Poli Sci, and Phil) might deter some employers from interviewing you, but I would think it would largely serve to distinguish you (making an interview more likely). I would also generally suggest that spending an extra year on a minor is of dubious benefit, when you could have a second major or be well on the way to a masters in that year (which is something I highly recommend).
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Re: BSc or BA - Education help

Postposted on Wed Jan 07, 2009 12:43 pm

The Bachelors course in Physics at Oxford University is a BA:
http://www.physics.ox.ac.uk/admissions/overview.htm

There is no BSc option. Interviewers will look more at the University and whether it is a Bachelors or Masters than whether it is in Arts or Science as the rules for that will vary according to which university and they can't remember them all.
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Re: BSc or BA - Education help

Postposted on Wed Jan 07, 2009 12:45 pm

I agree. Titles at that level don't matter much. Having a Ph.D. and an M.D. is a big difference though.
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Re: BSc or BA - Education help

Postposted on Fri Jan 09, 2009 12:21 pm

[Note: I'm moving this thread to Developers Den; I think it may have gotten lost in the din of the Back Porch. Since he's considering a career as a software developer, I figured it was an appropriate topic for the denizens of the DD. :D]

As notfred noted, the value of the degree probably depends at least as much on the school as on whether it is a B.S. or B.A. I wouldn't worry about the B.S./B.A. distinction too much.

Try to get some practical experience, even if it is just picking a project that is of personal interest to you and doing it on your own time. In addition to broadening your set of skills, this will demonstrate to potential employers that you're both A) motivated; and B) a self-starter. Depending on the employer, practical knowledge can count for more than what kind of degree you have (or don't have), or where it is from.

Work your network of personal contacts (or start creating one if you don't have one yet). The more people you know who work in your chosen field, the more likely you'll get an inside track on a job opening. In the current economy who you know is more important than it used to be -- anything that helps move you towards the top of that pile of 100 resumes the hiring manager is slogging through is a good thing!

I've also found that striving to be a generalist goes a long way towards ensuring employment security. Don't pigeonhole yourself if you can avoid it. Specializing in a particular niche market (e.g. SAP middleware consultants were all the rage ~10 years ago) can yield huge financial rewards if you get lucky... but it is a gamble. Over the course of my career thus far, I've hopped from telecom, to the financial sector, to a government research lab, back to telecom (as a consultant), then finance again, and I've now landed in the defense sector where I'll probably remain until the economy turns around or Obama takes an axe to the defense budget (whichever occurs first). IMO flexibility is the key... I have not been unemployed for a single day since I graduated from college a quarter century ago. (I suppose a bit of luck has also been involved; on multiple occasions I've bailed out of industries which were about to implode, without actually realizing that a train wreck was coming.)
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Re: BSc or BA - Education help

Postposted on Fri Jan 09, 2009 1:28 pm

I'm working on my MA in Higher Education (college administration). I'd go for the BS. For those "in the know," it won't matter. For those who don't, it will matter. They will respect the BS more. And, if you are looking at any sort of graduate-level work, some programs will require a BS. Its similar with people who have an Ed.D versus a Ph.D. Ph.D opens much more doors than an Ed.D.
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Re: BSc or BA - Education help

Postposted on Fri Jan 09, 2009 1:41 pm

TheEmrys wrote:And, if you are looking at any sort of graduate-level work, some programs will require a BS. Its similar with people who have an Ed.D versus a Ph.D. Ph.D opens much more doors than an Ed.D.

Yeah, I guess it really depends on where he plans to go from here. Academia will probably look at the BS more favorably. In "the real world", it will depend on the company.

I repeat... get some practical experience. Personal projects, internships, whatever. Anything that makes you stand out from the pack.
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Re: BSc or BA - Education help

Postposted on Fri Jan 09, 2009 1:43 pm

Many of the big companies that make you fill out their form rather than ask for a CV will not distingush between the two, you are essentially ticking a box marked undergrad degree. Some of the IT graduate schemes that I applied to did not even require IT experience. You might lose out on work involving lots of maths, like financial or engineering stuff, or building hardware, but otherwise a year spent on a postgrad course, or a months real work experience will probably open many more doors of interest than a BSc.

Any thoughts on what you want to do after graduation?
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Re: BSc or BA - Education help

Postposted on Fri Jan 09, 2009 1:49 pm

I've been looking for legs up for a while. I've got some good resume working right now for writing a bunch of perl scripts to work with a database I helped outlay, but thats not as valuable down the road. Also my 2 year tech college diploma cant hurt me.

I haven't really figured where I want to use my skills other than the old dream of being in the games industry, though I've realized long ago that I like coding pretty much no matter where I go. I prefer working on backends, processing, scripts etc rather than making flashy apps, other than that I'm not far enough along to really put thoughts into where I'd like to end up.


Thanks everyone for the advice. It's really nice to hear from people who actually know the field instead of just proselytizing me with their BBAs and how I'd be "better in business school".
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Re: BSc or BA - Education help

Postposted on Fri Jan 09, 2009 2:09 pm

I suppose I should add a disclaimer that my own experiences may be atypical. I've straddled (or flip-flopped over) the line between what would be considered "engineering" and "IT" a few times... there's that whole "generalist" thing again. At my current job, I sometimes even wear both of those hats in the same day! :lol:
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Re: BSc or BA - Education help

Postposted on Fri Jan 09, 2009 2:15 pm

I flitter between business, IT, and some engineering myself all day.
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Re: BSc or BA - Education help

Postposted on Fri Jan 09, 2009 2:42 pm

The "lots of hats" aspect of the place I work drives some of my co-workers nuts... but I don't mind. I even enjoy it at times, because it keeps things interesting. I might be setting up a new workstation or server (Windows or Linux, we use both!) first thing in the morning, debugging embedded firmware by lunchtime, sitting in on a mechanical or electrical design review after lunch, working on FAA certification compliance issues by mid-afternoon, and working on a web application by the time I leave at the end of the day. Crazy stuff... but never a dull moment! :lol:
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Re: BSc or BA - Education help

Postposted on Fri Jan 09, 2009 3:27 pm

Sounds fun though potentially hectic.

Makes coming home to good beer a bit sweeter?
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Re: BSc or BA - Education help

Postposted on Sun Apr 26, 2009 11:24 am

Sorry to bump this but i have another question - some turns in life have made it so that graduating in my current program is going to take another three years [on top of the three ive already been in it], meanwhile i can transfer to another school, and wrap up a degree in two [via transfer credits] but it would be a normal B.Sci (three yeaer degree) as opposed to a four year honours B.A

Would I be crippling myself if i transfered? [mostly for finding first jobs and such, as then experience should take over]
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Re: BSc or BA - Education help

Postposted on Mon Apr 27, 2009 8:16 am

Sorry I missed this, I have now read the thread in its entirety thanks to the move to DD. ;)

pikaporeon wrote:Sorry to bump this but i have another question - some turns in life have made it so that graduating in my current program is going to take another three years [on top of the three ive already been in it], meanwhile i can transfer to another school, and wrap up a degree in two [via transfer credits] but it would be a normal B.Sci (three yeaer degree) as opposed to a four year honours B.A
Ouch. It certainly sucks that you are forced (or willing? don't answer I don't want that out in the open) to basically repeat your undergrad degree. In terms of the general direction of BA vs B.Sci, if your philosophy program at least includes a course in critical thinking then I think it may even help with the CS training that you may have. There is some credit in finishing what you have started before moving on to something else. Some of the best "developers" I work with don't start straight out with CS training. They may come from biology or even arts. Sometimes a person coming out with hardcore CS training may know nothing else and that can actually hinder the guy. In the real world developing software does not end with just writing code. Communication, stress/time/crisis management, attention to details, being customer-oriented and just applying common sense (there are a lot more) are also very important aspects in a modern software project. The so-called soft-skills can sometimes be even more important than just pure coding. Don't think for a second this is bs business school talk. Just being good at code just makes you a geek, are you aware of the business side of things, or throughout the project you keep in mind what the customer really wants? How do you convey ideas to others because they are going off track, etc. Believe me I am spending a lot less time just coding these days, but a more junior position will certainly contain more coding than the other stuff for a while.

pikaporeon wrote:Would I be crippling myself if i transfered? [mostly for finding first jobs and such, as then experience should take over]
Your greatest challenge may be to explain how you take double the amount of normal time to finish one degree. It may be easier to do the transfer and just claim "it turns out I don't really like the field and I am struggling towards completing my degree, so I switch", but some people may not like it (really subjective, no right or wrong answer there). However for me, there is something to be said about completing one phase of your life and I do appreciate acquiring knowledge/training in a "non-technical" field. What you do need to do regardless, is to not over-emphasize your "non-technical" background and focus on your IT/dev skills/training/background/projects in any case if you are looking for such jobs. That is called targetting your resume and it needs to be done anyway. Don't be afraid that going such route will reduce your resume to one measly page. A one-page resume that effectively communicates your skill set and is easy to read can be as powerful if not more so than a 2- or 3-pager. Being just out of university it is expected your resume to be short.

Now on to the rant part. ;) Are you really sure computer science and development is what you want to do with your life? For the past 3-5 years I have been giving advice to family friends about what their children should get into. The mini tech boom after the dot-com bust means that some still think the computer tech industry as a "good" field. I beg to differ. Jobs are being shipped massively offshore, competition is getting fierce, quality is demanded with little provided resources, etc. Things are not that rosy anymore compared to before. The recent economic problems just induce yet another round of industry shakeup that only the really dedicated and/or the very best survives this. My advice for the past few years have been unless you are really interested in this field, think something else if you just want to be employed and get good money. It is becoming a tougher field and a road less travelled (to be good in this field) that's for sure.

On a lighter note, the CS program at the Mississauga campus is not as highly regarded as the one at the Toronto Campus. It doesn't matter on the resume since you are not going to put which campus, but just a little sidenote. :P
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Re: BSc or BA - Education help

Postposted on Tue Apr 28, 2009 10:49 pm

Most of the profs are teaching at both downtown and mississauga now so thats probably not too relevant any more


Also, as said, im grabbing a diploma from sheridan, I can use that to assuage some of the timeframe issues.


Also: I've gotten really interested in database tech so thats likely a route i'll explore inside CS
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Re: BSc or BA - Education help

Postposted on Wed Apr 29, 2009 8:02 am

pikaporeon wrote:Also, as said, im grabbing a diploma from sheridan, I can use that to assuage some of the timeframe issues.
What diploma would that be? It does not make sense if you are taking a diploma in coding and then still study CS?

pikaporeon wrote:Also: I've gotten really interested in database tech so thats likely a route i'll explore inside CS
Writing database engines or talking to a database? Please clarify.

So what is your current plan?
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Re: BSc or BA - Education help

Postposted on Wed Apr 29, 2009 8:09 am

Flying Fox wrote:
pikaporeon wrote:Also, as said, im grabbing a diploma from sheridan, I can use that to assuage some of the timeframe issues.
What diploma would that be? It does not make sense if you are taking a diploma in coding and then still study CS?

Programming. I got in when i thought I was going to be suspended from uni (didn't happen... but figured it was a good insurance policy if anything came up)

pikaporeon wrote:Also: I've gotten really interested in database tech so thats likely a route i'll explore inside CS
Writing database engines or talking to a database? Please clarify.

So what is your current plan?

Right now, mostly administration and optimization; but most DBA jobs are looking for CS these days just to narrow the field from what ive seen.
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