Some comments from a student who had a BSc in Honours Mathematics and Physics
This advice was kindly provided by a Mathematics student who at the time of writing was in the BCS second degree program.
Doing a second degree, people often ask me what 'went wrong' with my first degree.
Did I not enjoy the material?
Was I not competitive enough to find work?
So what went wrong with my first degree? Absolutely nothing. I always knew that more education would likely be in my future once I was finished. Such a degree is certainly useful, but not explicitly employable.
What I decided to do first, however, was to do some experimentation to see what I liked before diving headlong into grad school or technical training.
There was certainly a part of me that had been interested in teaching. I had always been told by my peers that I was very good at explaining complicated topics, and recognizing if my approach was 'getting through'. To this end, I started doing tutoring work around UFV (the University of the Fraser Valley), located in my hometown of Abbotsford. The work was, for the most part, quite rewarding. I did enjoy explaining topics and genuinely helping people with math.
On a whim I applied to a teaching position at the University, not really expecting to hear back. To my surprise, I ended up with a term of lecturing introductory physics, as well as teaching labs. Again, the work was gratifying, and introducing minds to knowledge was satisfying.
In the end though, I decided that while teaching was enjoyable, it was not something I really wanted as a career. I could imagine myself getting very quickly bored in such a situation. Furthermore, I felt that I could not ever really see myself doing serious research in math or physics, and so graduate studies in either field for me would be a waste.
What had been made apparent from my first degree, however, was that there was a great deal of interesting new work being done in all fields due to the advancement of computer science. I had never really considered myself a programmer, but the more I thought back on my first degree, the more I realized that the small amount of programming I did do was exactly the kind of challenge I was looking for. Mathematical and technical, but with a kind of creativity and immediate concrete product that
What was, in the end, appealing to me in terms of choosing the BCS program at UBC, as opposed to say, more technical training at BCIT, was the opportunity to go back and revisit some of the topics I hadn't gotten quite enough of in my first degree due to the time constraints of having already done a combined program.
Looking back, I think this was the right decision to have made. I have learned so much and what's more, I am full of anticipation for my future.
How is the program going?
Overall, I am pleased with the progress I am making in the BSC program. With a strong background in math, most of my courses do end up feeling a bit easy. Ideas about proofs and analysis techniques make algorithmic analysis seem very natural, and a certain comfortability with symbolic expressions of various types makes reading code less foreign.
I am also glad to have the opportunity to further explore several topics that I lacked the time to pursue during my first degree. The program's 'bridging component' really does help me connect ideas that I learned from math and physics back to computer science in a way that I likely would not have had the experiences been wholly separate.
What can be difficulty is transitioning from the kinds of problems that are asked in math to the kinds that are asked in computer science. While a math problem describing the determinant wouldn't care about details about which form of the definition or order of computation were used, these details are of key importance when working in computer science. Furthermore there is a lesser sense of being 'done' with a problem, since there is almost always some way in which code can be optimized or otherwise improved.
The co-op program is frequently advertized to new BCS students, however I elected against participating. This was primarily because I felt that choosing an extra year of work before completing the program would be antithetical to one of it's most important advantages; namely it's length. I specifically chose this program because it could be completed in two years, so deciding to add another year did not make sense to me.
I have to also admit that the hardest part of the degree thus far has been simply being in classes again. I have been taking university courses for what feels like an eternity at this point, and feel extremely anxious to be finished. While I do enjoy what I am learning, I am very ready to be done.