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    Back to School???

    I’ve been thinking about improving my academic qualifications for some time now. Like many, I was easily distracted throughout my school college years and under achieved on my potential in education. I left college in 1998 with a national certificate in the sciences and moved to the UK where I immediately gained employment in a QC role which put some of my knowledge to good use. Over the years I’ve improved my lot via a combination of hard work and experience but working in a technical environment (R&D of FMCG’s) I’ve found that experience will only count for so much and there’s only so far you can go before you bump your head on the glass ceiling. If I’m to improve my position/earning power, further academic qualification are a necessity. I have an industry-specific qualification, a diploma which I studied for through distance learning but ideally I’d like to at least gain a degree. As my educational background is mostly in Biology then a biology degree would be the “easy” option for me (and will give me the all-important BSc on my business card) but my employment history is exclusively in chemistry and this would be the more relevant qualification.

    So my question is: what is the fastest way to upgrade to a degree? I’ve considered OU in the UK but distance learning will put a lot of strain on my private life (wife & two young kids to keep happy!) and will take years, even allowing for the credits I’ve accumulated. I’m beginning to wonder if the only real option is to quit work for a year or two and return home to Ireland to further my certificate. On investigating this as an option it would appear that the goalposts have moved – as far as the academic standard - in Ireland … what used to be a 3yr diploma in an IT is now considered a degree?? (I think??). There are probably some options out there that I’m totally unaware of as I’m far removed from the academic environment. Any suggestions???

    "Just to be clear, Poite is an idiot" The Plastic Paddy 11-04-2012

    Don't get too attached to the notion that any Batchelors degree is a useful step. From the sounds of it, there are quite specific areas in which you work and in which the qualification is relevant.

    It usually follows that there are particular courses and institutions that carry more weight than others. Someone doing a law degree, for instance, through the OU is not suddenly going to find the doors to Slaughter & May thrown open to them.

    Id recommend that you focus less on how you get certain letters and more on distilling a list of which qualifications (and from where) are valued in your field, and what sort of time frame you're looking at to recoup your investment.

    Over time, these qualifications will be worth less and less vs your experience, so you need to be sure that you're investing time and money in a course that will give you an immediate accelerant.
    "We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven into an age of unreason if we dig deep into our history and remember we are not descended from fearful men" Edward R Murrow

    "Little by little, we have been brought into the present condition in which we are able neither to tolerate the evils from which we suffer, nor the remedies we need to cure them." - Livy

    "I think that progress has been made by two flames that have always been burning in the human heart. The flame of anger against injustice and the flame of hope that you can build a better world" - Tony Benn


      Definitely get recommendations from colleagues as to the best colleges for the course you want to do. No point doing a course if the college has no reputation for it. In a similar vein, if you intend to return to the UK, ask if an Irish qualification hold the same weight.

      As regards the qualification, are you not sure you are thinking about Foundation Degrees in the UK? They are generally two year courses and exempt you from one or two years in a full degree course.

      Finally, fees are mental in the UK now. I'd doing a bit of work in FE and the increase in fees from last year is astronomical. A years BTEC in Sports science is 6500 stg .. nuts. So if cost comes into the equation and I'd say it is definitely cheaper to do it in Ireland.
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        Are you back in Ireland or still based in the UK at present? It sounds like you are in the UK still but just wanted to check

        Do you have any options for your employer to fund some/all of a course for you?

        Also, with distance learning, it may not be as bad as you think if you are disciplined about it. I study best at night and did a masters through mainly distance learning - most work/study done from 10pm to 1.30am so minimal impact on the kids etc - and I've a very understanding wife thankfully I did my primary degree the traditional way and the distance learning wasn't a bad option at all by comparison (although you do miss the interaction on a daily basis with other students)
        "There are a lot of points that we’ve left behind and this is with a young group. That probably tells you what they’re capable of and that they’re a very good side.

        Probably next year or the year after next they will take some stopping"

        Anthony Foley, May 2016. Axel RIP


          I can send you on the email address of a careers guidance professional (disclaimer; she's related!) who I'm sure would be more than happy to correspond with you on this, you would be surprised what it would throw up for you. This is a huge committment and you need to get it right from the start. I did a law degree (work specific) by distance through the UK so i know where you are at in trying to figure out the best way forward for yourself.
          "Everything good about Ireland can be found in County Cork"....Lonely Planet Guide 2012


            Here's an alternative. Have you considered doing an MSc rather than a BSc? For example Dublin Institute of Technology run a 2 year MSc in Innovation and Technology Management. Sounds like that would fit in with your work and should trump a batchelors degree.
            "They’re the benchmark that everyone else has to raise their game to meet." Alan Quinlan on Leinster