To Degree or not to Degree – A Final Consideration

It seems an annual ritual for me, usually triggered after reading some blog post detailing successful university graduation as a mature student, to consider going back to university for a Computer Science degree. An evening spent in frustration and indecision, weighing up the pros, the cons, and the considerable time and monetary costs involved.

A quick bit of background (cue violins and sepia toned imagery): Around 2002, after finishing school, I went to university to study Computer Science, but didn’t even make it to the mid-term exams. Looking back now, my biggest issue was fairly crippling social anxiety; I would do anything to avoid crowds, and so found it very difficult to attend classes and socialise. I wasn’t in a good place at the time (Placebo – Teenage Angst would be an appropriate soundtrack…and probably what I was listening to at the time actually!), and before long I found myself skipping lectures, missing assignments, and ultimately just dropping out.

My heart also wasn’t in it. I wanted to be involved with music, and so pursued sound engineering for the next 8 years or so before getting into IT in my late 20’s. The irony is I would relish the opportunity now to study the subjects I see in these university Computer Science curriculums…even the maths, my childhood nemesis!

Fast forward to my mid-30’s, and I feel like I’ve done ok in my IT career so far, especially considering my late start. I’ve gone from Help desk, to System Administrator, to Senior Network and System Administrator in the space of 6 years, and bagged a few decent certs along the way. But it’s always been a niggling bugbear of mine that I don’t have an IT related degree, a smear on my CV that I always feel I need to explain, yet the lack thereof has not been a roadblock so far.

But I’m concerned that one day it will be. One day I’ll apply for a certain position, a certain level of responsibility, or maybe an organisation of a certain size or stature, and find that the lack of a degree disqualifies me from even being considered. I’ll fall at the very first hurdle, and the brakes will be applied to my career. If I do find that “glass ceiling” to be a real thing, it’s a 4 year wait to obtain the hammer to smash through, and by that stage in my life it may be too late to be worth pursuing, or I won’t have the time or enthusiasm.

And so here I am again. 36 and looking at part-time University degree courses. The thought of graduating at 40 is…a little disheartening. And so the same old questions come up: Can I get credits for my industry certifications? Can I get module exemptions considering my work experience? How quickly can I obtain a BSc Honours degree, and at what cost? Is it even worth it now…?

Each year I seem to eventually convince myself that no, it’s not worth it at this stage of my life and career. My argument against going back to university usually stems from what I can achieve with the equivalent time and money; 2-4 years and roughly €15,000. Well that could be down payment on a house and time to do something beefy like a CCIE, something that would almost instantly result in increased salary/position/career opportunities…and yet each year the itch to tick off a degree returns.

So this time around, I’m giving it serious and final consideration! I’ve singled out 6 part-time BSc Honour programmes in my country, and have inquired about what exemptions, if any, I can receive for my industry certifications and experience. If it’s possible to get a degree in 2 years, I’ll seriously consider going through with it. If not, it’s time to finally lay this bugbear to rest, and get it out of my mind for good.

I’ll update with a decision in the next week or two!

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