Life often takes unexpected turns; the education and subsequent career path you envisioned in your youth may not be the one you ultimately follow. Upon graduation with a bachelor’s degree, the traditional options are to either embark on a graduate or professional program or to start working in industry. However, a third option involves the pursuit of a second undergraduate degree. Here, I reflect on my experiences that led me to pursue a second bachelor’s degree, in computer science, at the University of British Columbia. I hope that by shedding light on my journey, I can offer guidance to others who are contemplating a similar decision.
I completed my first degree in neuroscience and physiology with aspirations of becoming a physician. I was laser-focused on this goal – volunteering and working in the healthcare industry throughout my degree and preparing for the MCAT – the Medical College Admission Test. After graduation, I worked for a local credit union in Vancouver, while continuing to strengthen my medical school application. After a year of working, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, my childhood dream was achieved – I was accepted into medical school. However, during this year of working, my perspective changed. For the first time in my life, I found myself outside an environment surrounded by “pre-med” or health science peers. I saw first-hand the importance of back-end work and technology in my job, not to mention that the taste of financial freedom and work-life balance were delightful. During this time, two things became clear to me: the first was the importance of technology as we shifted towards digital solutions (e.g. tap payment). Second, technical solutions could significantly help relieve the strain on the frontlines of healthcare.
During my undergraduate degree, I had taken (and enjoyed) computer science courses to dip my toes into this rapidly expanding field, but I had never seriously considered it as an alternative to medical school. The shift in my perspective helped me take a step back and re-evaluate my goals. I discovered a passion for technology and problem-solving, and I wanted to be at the forefront of innovation, developing new digital tools while driving change in the healthcare field. However, there was a knowledge gap to bridge, and I seriously evaluated whether I was willing to forego medical school for the time being to start from scratch in a daunting new industry.
Computer science is a highly competitive and rapidly expanding field, and I recognized that my transition from life sciences into computer science would come with a steep learning curve. My decision to pursue a second bachelor’s over a postgraduate degree was attributed to the following factors. Firstly, the bachelor’s program that I chose allowed me to dive into a new field while maintaining a time commitment comparable to a traditional master’s program; the initial prerequisites were already fulfilled by my first undergraduate degree, enabling me to complete the second degree in approximately two years. Second, a bachelor’s program typically offers co-op/ internship placement options, which are not as commonly available in master’s degrees. This opportunity to gain industry experience before graduation is undeniably valuable in applying theory to practice. Finally, employers seem to favour applicants with a degree over certificates, bootcamps, or self-learning, which further influenced my choice.
Learners considering a second bachelor’s degree may confront a prevailing stigma – that it is unnecessary or that it indicates indecision. You may be questioned on why you didn’t choose to pursue a graduate degree or enter the workforce directly. You may even feel like you are failing to follow through with your original goals. These notions certainly impacted my own decision to pursue a second bachelor’s; in fact, it took me a full year of contemplation before I finally applied. It is crucial to remember that everyone’s academic journey is unique, and there are valid reasons for pursuing a second bachelor’s. To overcome the stigma, it is important to:
- Clearly define your goals: Be confident in your reasons for pursuing a second bachelor’s degree and communicate your goals clearly to those who question your decision. When others understand your motivations, they are more likely to be supportive.
- Embrace your journey: Every educational path has its unique advantages and challenges. Embrace the knowledge that your previous academic degree will contribute a unique perspective to your second bachelor’s degree studies.
- Focus on personal growth: A second bachelor’s degree is an opportunity for personal growth and skill development. Emphasize the importance of learning and gaining valuable knowledge over societal expectations.
I ultimately applied to the bachelor of computer science (BCS) second-degree program at the University of British Columbia. This 20-month program is tailored for university graduates with a bachelor’s degree outside of computer science who are looking to either transition into a career in technology or bridge the gap between their existing field and computer science. I am now in my first semester of the program and have discovered a diverse demographic of mature learners who are working together to build a supportive community to navigate this transition into the industry. Admittedly, I still have moments of doubt, but the skills I have acquired in the program thus far have only reaffirmed my choice to pursue this degree. I see significant room for personal growth and am now able to explore a different facet of my passions. I am confident that this decision will equip me with the skills necessary to become a force for change in the field.
While worries, doubts, and stigma may surround this choice, remember that your journey is uniquely yours, and the knowledge and experiences gained from this educational path can be invaluable. Assess your individual circumstances, career goals, and personal preferences to determine which route aligns best with your aspirations.
Resources that helped me make my decision (created by UBC-BCS alum)
- The Ultimate Guide to UBC’s Bachelor of Computer Science (BCS) Second Degree Program
- Tech Career Change
Additional computer science second degree options in Canada: