I am currently studying for an online Masters’s in Computer Science with Data Analytics at the University of York and…I have just passed my first module Algorithms and Data Structures with a distinction… which I am properly shocked about 🎉 I thought I would give an honest semi-review of my thought process before and during enrolment =)
All opinions are my own, are most likely super biased and I am in no way endorsed for this blog or take any responsibility for what you do with this information.
I haven’t blogged in yonks and you guys probably are wondering what I’ve been up to so here goes…
I decided to finally do a Masters in Computer Science as I was wanting to study it for many many years. I ended up starting the cs50 course 2 years ago and really enjoyed the content and basically fell in love with David Maylan 😂. I didn’t get to finish it as it was too time-consuming and my job was getting quite taxing so… I left it to be… for now!! (I promise I will return back to it guys and write more tutorials!)
“But you can just learn how to code online for free!”
All the developers I knew were a bit like “Don’t get a degree? Just learn how to code for free online”… but coding is not what Computer Science is all about!
Studying Computer Science was something I had always wanted to study growing up and because I love my computer. When I mean LOVE I mean I’m on it from 9-5 for work then 6-12 for relaxation. Some people watch TV or Netflix… I chill on my computer.
Furthermore, I want to improve on problem-solving skills and because I didn’t get to study CS it has always remained one of those “I wish…” paths that I never got to experience. Now at the ripe age of 29, during a massive pandemic, I have all the time to explore new horizons 😛
… Then suddenly… this course popped up on one of my daily search missions.
Now, the fact this uni is paying for PPC Google ads was very suspicious indeed. It seems as though Universities these days have upped their Digital Marketing game to bat out the competition and make more $$$.
I decided to read the ‘sales page’ and honestly, everything listed in the module content seemed perfect… it hit all the top keywords like software engineering, artificial intelligence, machine learning and advanced programming…and a whole load of other cool-sounding topics that anyone into computers would have jizzed over.
The entry requirements were also low for a STEM subject. As it was a conversion course, you didn’t need to have studied a STEM Degree beforehand. The grade requirement was also only a 2.2 plus a letter of recommendation from a tutor, employer or boss. I got a 2.1 so it sounds simple right?! I could finally live my dream and study computer science – all I need is a letter from one of my managers.
I was instantly sold there and then.
“Do well in school, get good grades and you’ll get a good job”
Despite experience topping education in importance, which many of us claim to also believe, I also believe there is an unconscious bias regarding higher education. Ergo in some hiring cases, it is the recruitment/HR department, who often are non-technical, that scan through CVS. For entry-level positions, having gone to uni in the field you’re trying to get into really can add validity to your hard skills since you have no work experience.
I’m still not sure what kind of role I want to move into and where my future is heading but I just know that I want to learn more about a subject I am interested in, get it validated and improve my education all at the same time and hopefully, I will discover a career that I will enjoy. Maybe it’s a mindset society has ingrained into me growing up but I vouch for it.
Furthermore, I personally do not agree that education is a means to an end. I believe it’s a journey in discovering what you truly desire and then having space and freedom to experiment with an open mind and using that to guide you.
Unless you uber know what you want to do in life already – then it’s probably a means to an end for you but for me…every day I’m finding new things I want to learn about or explore!
My Career History
I have 7 years of Design/Marketing experience which I’ve had super fun with, working in different sectors such as Fashion eCommerce, Gaming, Advertising and Technology.
I was always into Web Design. I’ve run/owned/built/designed websites and blogged since I was 13. I ran my own eCommerce store, a banner exchange program for bloggers and forums in the noughties. Because of this, I was both into Graphic Design and Website Management. Growing up, I didn’t get good enough grades to study Computer Science. I even failed Computing at AS Levels…so I took that as a sign I was shit at programming, gave it all up and went down the route of becoming a Designer which I am now grateful for.
After starting the cs50 Introduction to Computer Science course it made me realise:
Computer Science != ProgrammingThey are not the same
I don’t think Computer Science Masters Degree gives you the skills to become a developer, programmer, data scientist etc but I think it helps you *think* like one. Computer Science is NOT just about programming. It is more about the different areas computers bring to the world and how you can apply that to science and use the knowledge + technical skills. It’s hard to define because it’s not just one thing it’s like a combination of things: theory, design, development, and application.
Like a Graphic Design degree, it gives you the building blocks, the knowledge and some guidance but then you have to stitch it together and make sense of it yourself. Furthermore, getting educated, getting a degree and even upskilling does not directly get you a job. Some of the best projects I have done were uni ones which fed into the future roles I got. For example, I created an online brand selling jewellery I made during my 2nd year and it became a real thing it also became part of my portfolio and eCommerce became the first two industries I dived into! Going to uni, doing a bachelor’s and doing a master’s alone will not get you anywhere. Just like Computer Science… it’s how you apply it and combine it with your own unique skills – that gets you to where you want to be.
I do want to change careers but mostly to gain more experience and skills to apply to personal projects and have a change of scenery. I do have the goal of changing jobs eventually but my first goal is to learn the different areas and see what field I want to get into. This is why I think a degree will help me discover what area’s I enjoy and can try out.
It’s the decade for #NOREGRETS #YOLO right?
I am also currently unemployed and focusing on this FULL time despite it being a part-time course and I’m still struggling with the workload!
Now the pandemic has been ruining the world for a year and the rise of job insecurity…. I think I made the right choice at the right time.
I really don’t know why I chose the Data Analytics path. It just sounded like a cool thing to learn 😂. I was going to revert back to the generic path but the more I learn about how much power Data can have the more I am enjoying it and thinking my gut knew and decided for me!
Any questions please leave them as a comment here. I may not reply on social media.
The Student Room post
After I discovered the online Masters, I naturally did a deep Google search. Then I came across this Student Forum post:
Low and behold was 50+ juicy pages of hopeful Computer Science students talking about this York course that I was planning to enrol in. I love finding reviews and content about anything I want to buy, go to, want…and that goes for courses too 😂 I wanna know what kinda hanky panky shit I’m getting myself into. I spent days reading through EVERY SINGLE PAGE.
Most of the comments were about how the course was poorly put together, with no support and lacklustre content and to opt for other Universities. It was really disappointing and put me off a bit.
Then it got me researching alternative options.
Masters VS Boot Camps
I found a lot of people had rated the Georgia Tech and Bath Masters over the York one but for some reason, I was still drawn to the syllabus. Furthermore, as Georgia Tech was a US University I don’t think I would have been able to apply for Student Finance! Georgia Tech is run by edX which is an online learning hub with a really good reputation. They’ve also been offering Masters by other top-rated U.S Universities. So, I was a bit gutted about that.
The way I justified opting for a Master’s degree over a Boot Camp was purely due to Student Finance (LOL) but also because I have mega anxiety. I wanted to slowly move from design into a more technical role…not a WHAM BANG DONE thing lol. That would totally overwhelm me. Also, when I looked at many Boot Camps like General Assembly and Flat Iron School, they were super pricy for what they were worth (£10,000+) … like BLIMEY I couldn’t justify paying for just 3 months of fast-paced crammed learning just for a career change. I like my career. I’d rather go slow and figure out what I really want to do in life. I might even want to change! 😅
I wanted the fundamentals…ALL OF IT LOL…I wanted more time and more variety of content to discover what areas I enjoy the most… and just have a bit of structure. The investment and having deadlines have actually kicked my bum into action!
In the UK, you are able to get an £11,222 loan from Student Finance which you can use however you want. For the course, for living, for books… you name it! This course only costs £7,800 which means there are some finances left over. If you opt to pay per month then the course fee may rise. I would recommend paying per module rather than the whole course to see how you enjoy it.
I also checked out other Master programs like the one at UCL but it was double the price tag at around £16,000 which was £5,000 more than the loan which I don’t want to pay myself as I am planning on not working for a while so will need those savings.
I would also recommend checking out the online masters at Coursera which is becoming a top respectable online institution of education, especially for Tech stuff.
Online Means Study From ANYWHERE, ANYTIME
When I applied in December 2019, COVID-19 hadn’t exploded like a bitch yet, so I picked it due to the convenience and the ability to study remotely in between work.
Unfortunately, I had a mini-breakdown during the first 2 months of lockdown and left my cushty, well-payed contracting job and ended up jobless 🙁 The fact I was enrolled on but hadn’t started, the course also kind of guided that decision. I just needed a break really.
This course, which I initially was attracted to the flexibility of, became even more attractive as most things were shut, I was directionless and sad and quarantine was constantly around the corner which meant other degrees, which were not built for online learning, started to struggle to quickly put together online content/delay their start dates.
I knew learning online would be hard considering you’re not in an established learning environment so you would need to be really self-motivated. I am not an extremely motivated person. So, I would recommend: if you struggle to focus or you don’t have any hobbies or you’ve never done self-directed studying or learnt anything from your own motivation then you should try a free intense online learning program from somewhere like edx.org. As most of these are created by leading universities like Harvard, MITT etc. You learn the knowledge at no price tag and you get the experience of online learning. What’s there to lose?
Tips for those starting at York
I thought I would put together some quick tips for anyone who wishes to go ahead and apply for York Uni.
- Pre-learn basic Python and Java it will help with most of the programming modules. These youtube videos helped me:
For python: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfscVS0vtbw and or Java: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIrMbAQSU34
- I personally think these books they recommend Java in Two Semesters and Python for Data Analysis were amazing to have and flick through but if you can’t afford the book you don’t need to *buy* them you can find *free* PDFs online by googling, I like to use PDFdrive and the Uni provides free access to their online library when your course starts.
- Youtube is an amazing learning resource for CS topics! My favourite channels are Jenny’s Lectures, Derek Banas and FreeCodeCamp.org which I watch whilst I’m knitting or painting (you can make use of your time by multi-tasking lol)
- If you struggle with self-directed learning or have a non-technical background then the cs50x Introduction to Computer Science is the best free online course out there. It’s interesting, super fun, hard but manageable for a beginner and gives you the fundamentals to really give you a pre-degree booster for any Computer Science subject.
- I’ve heard those already with CS Bsc or a technical background may find this course ‘easy’ or ‘outdated’. You’re lucky I’m finding it all quite difficult and new!
- Go forward with the knowledge that this course is very fast-paced. You will lose your social/personal life but you don’t need to be perfect. Just try your best ^_^
I don’t want to drag this post out even more so I will just end it at that and talk about my experiences over the first 3 months of studying in a new post with more tips for those who have already enrolled or just started.
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