Should I do an Honours degree or just go to find a job?

In some careers, students cannot be professionally registered unless they have at least a four year qualification - obvious examples being dentistry, law, architecture and chartered accountancy. An Honours degree is not a "meal ticket" - our Honours degrees, like our BSc degrees, are broadly formative. Although they are needed for entry into Master's (and later, PhD) programmes, they don't give you a "professional" qualification. After an Honours degree in (say) physics you are not condemned to become a physicist, astronomer or electronic technician. Although, obviously, you will slip into a career in one of those exciting areas more quickly than into a career in politics, music or economics, you should have learned a whole gamut of skills - mathematical, computational, electronic, the ability to present a seminar and produce really good powerpoint shows and posters, the ability to write a good, coherent project report - but above all a desire and ability to follow your curiosity to explore new areas. All of these skills should combine to make you very quickly adaptable to pursuing a career in any of a number of fields, and to do so with far more confidence and experience than you can hope for after the "ordinary degree".

Students occasionally see the time and cost of doing an Honours degree as time spent away from earning money and gaining experience in their first job - and this perception is, alas, sometime heightened by recruitment personnel from firms who may try to persuade you that "Honours is a waste of time", "you don't need it - we will give you all the training you need".

Admittedly, reading for an Honours degree is not something every graduate is suited to, so the decision to study for an Honours degree - like any other - is not something to take lightly. It will cost you time, money and effort to obtain one, but we believe that for those who have the academic ability, it is extremely worthwhile and valuable. Nor do we believe that it is a good idea to find a job for a few years and then come back to do Honours. Do it straight after your first degree, while you are in the academic frame of mind, and before the distractions of salary, owning a fancy car, buying a smart house, starting a family, dealing with income tax, and so on begin to dominate your life.

Last Modified: Tue, 30 Apr 2013 15:03:11 SAST