Alumni Stories - Michael Ashbridge

Background

I have quite a varied backgroud because I basically follow what ever I am genuinely interested in. I did a first degree in American Studies at Manchester University and the University of Massachusetts. I then lived and worked in Chile in South America for two years as an English Teacher (my real motive being to learn Spanish). After returning from Chile I wanted to pursue an interest in science (I am a great believer in not dividing people into science or arts graduates) I also wanted to train in something practical (teaching was only really a way of supporting myself in Chile rather than a vocation). Computer Science seemed to fulfil both these aspirations. I had to consider various MSc's and after about 12 months of looking at different courses and applying to various institutions I decided to come to Birmingham.

As an arts graduate

Although I had no background in Computers the most important thing was that I had a genuine interest in Computer Science and understood the course content in a general way so that I knew what I was letting myself in for. By the time I was offered a funded place I had read a lot and visited various courses and had a very good idea of what this course entailed. I understand that there will be an open day for prospective students and I would definitely advise attending this in order to get a feel for the course. The course is advertised as a course primarily for those of a technical/scientific background but my experience is that if you are genuinely interested in computing and prepared to work very hard then you won't have any problems if you have an arts background. While those with some experience do fly ahead of the rest and are not held back, those with no experience will succeed if they want to. If you are concerned that the course contains a lot of maths then don't be - if you are mathematically minded there are courses that will stretch you; if not you can choose other options.

The course content and prepartion

The course covers many of the basic disciplines involved in Computer Science. It is more accademic than other courses that I saw such as Information Technology MSc's but I think this is no bad thing as you actually learn some of the more fundamental aspects of computers rather than just looking at computers from a commercial point of view. I think the course is pitched at a level that is easier, initially, for those with some grasp of the basics in computing and it is wise to have read up on key terms and perhaps have practised a little with the language being offered by buying one of the many teach your self books (this year it was Java), although don't feel put off if the java text book starts to get too advanced as it is easier to learn once you are in a lab with lots of other novice students. I found that the course was well taught but you must understand that as a postgraduate it is up to you how much you get out of it. Much of Computer Science is about experimenting with the machines and exploring things yourself. While teaching staff are on hand to help, you really get out what you put in.

Other Students

I am 27 and I suppose my age is quite a good average indication of those on the course as while many students are straight from their first degrees and around the 22-24 mark, there are students on the course well into their thirties. There are also many overseas students so it is a nice mix of people. One thing that would be healthier is more woman on the course as Computer related courses arestill sadly male dominated. I suppose the course is something like 85% male but this is typical of all the MSc's I looked at.

Employment Prospects

I have found it relatively easy to find a good job. When the course finishes I start work with IBM! If you do the course you will find that it gives you a real advantage in the job market whether you are a recent graduate or have a previous career.

Conclusion

In short if you:

  • are genuinely interested in Computers (most important)
  • are a hard worker
  • want to learn the fundamentals of computers
  • want to learn a key programming language
  • want a spring board to a lucrative career

then this course is the right one for you.

Find out more about the MSc in Computer Science.