Graduate Certificate vs second Bachelors

#1
Hi All,

TL;DR: I have arts degrees and want to work in statistics but have very little quant background and find it all rewarding but intimidating - should I do a second undergraduate degree or a short MSc-prep course then an MSc? Both part time, as I work full time.

UK-based poster here. I'm sorry for the long post but I am quite stressed about this decision. It has large implications for my finances, job prospects and work-life balance for the next several years. So, I have put a lot down, so if you take the time to answer you will have a lot of data :)

I already have a bachelor's and a master's degree in Philosophy and would like advice on whether to do a Graduate Certificate in Statistics ('GC') or a second bachelor's in Mathematics and Statistics. My long-term aim is to complete an MSc and do well-paid, meaningful statistical work that does not help screw up the planet or screw people over. Maybe a PhD, too. I am in my mid 30s(!) and not exactly financially secure. And I'm not looking at lucrative work in finance when I'm done, either.

The GCs in the UK are specifically designed as conversion courses for graduates of other disciplines who wish to study an MSc outside their original subject. They exist for various subjects. The course is one year of 20 hours a week(!), comprised of evening classes and self study, which I will do around a full-time job; a good pass leads to a part-time MSc over two years, also at 20 hours a week. I have an unconditional offer for Birkbeck, University of London. The course is here: http://www.bbk.ac.uk/study/2019/postgraduate/programmes/GDCSTATI_C

Given my background it seems ludicrous to consider a second bachelor's. However:

1) I have wiped off my so-called 'General Education' requirements
2) So I am already 150/360 = 42% of credits complete
3) it is distance learning -- so no commute time/cost
4) The thought of living in London does not appeal to me at all
5) the workload is significantly less than 20 hours a week (about 16) and I really do not enjoy studying or learn well if I am rushed
6) I can get a second student loan, meaning I can use my supposed GC/MSc money to save for a house
7) I feel like doing the GC is doing the bare minimum to get onto an MSc and I really want as broad, deep and solid a foundation as possible for my career

The downsides are of course the opportunity costs in terms of good jobs and good salaries, the added years of study (I enjoy it, but one does want some free time for other things!) and the fact that the bachelor's does not teach any programming (and there is little time to self learn R around a full-time job and 16 hours of study a week).

Now, people successfully manage 20 hours a week around a full-time job, and clearly the GC has enabled some people to succeed at the MSc. But I am utterly befuddled how a mere 60/360 = 1/6 of a bachelor's can really prepare you to do well at an MSc, as opposed to merely applying methods to get results without really knowing how they work, why you are doing it or why they are true.

Am I being a total idiot, worrying about nothing and screwing up my life?

Thankyou for taking the time to read this meandering, self-indulgent nonsense.
 
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ondansetron

TS Contributor
#2
This is only my opinion. If you want true understanding not only of what you learn formally but a deeper ability to teach yourself new methodology and theory (which happens a lot once you’re out of a degree program), and if you’re truly passionate about statistics, I would suggest the bachelors route you mentioned. Having a strong mathematical base will help you more quickly understand the how and why and when you go to a MSc (and maybe PhD), you’ll be able to more deeply appreciate the content which will better you as a statistician.
 
#3
This is only my opinion. If you want true understanding not only of what you learn formally but a deeper ability to teach yourself new methodology and theory (which happens a lot once you’re out of a degree program), and if you’re truly passionate about statistics, I would suggest the bachelors route you mentioned. Having a strong mathematical base will help you more quickly understand the how and why and when you go to a MSc (and maybe PhD), you’ll be able to more deeply appreciate the content which will better you as a statistician.
Thanks for taking the time to read and reply. I did read your response at the time but have just realised I never acknowledged it - how very rude! My apologies.

For anyone interested: I opted for the second bachelors route.

As ondansetron suggested, I do have a passion for statistics (in particular, not doing it wrong!); and I do want as deep an understanding as possible - analogous to linguistic fluency that allows one to understand irony and humour, rather than just transactional competence as might be taught in a holiday survival class.

True, an MSc would have lots of in-depth training etc. But I am (very) risk averse and do not feel at all comfortable with the idea of only 9 months of MSc preparation, covering only 1/6 of an honours degree. I'm sure it would be enough, but I also I think it would be just enough; for my (non-quantitative) background and temperament, that is nowhere near good enough.

I have actually managed to secure a job as a data analyst. It pays reasonable graduate money and the people are lovely but the work is dull. It is entirely reporting and I do not use anything I have learned/am learning on my degree. I have no input into question formation, what to measure or how to measure it, how to avoid bias, my interpretation of the results is not wanted or it is ignored, even my opinion on presentation of results is mostly laughed at as so much pedantry.

(Perhaps, given my modest education in statistics at this point, the above are all to the good - a little knowledge is a dangerous thing!)

Still, it feels a lot like being a cook, handed rotten meat, and instructed to make a vegan meal. Of course this is impossible, even if the ingredients were fresh. But I am at least in a very friendly team, learning a lot about Excel (there is no programming in this job), and saving ok for a house. These are all positives.

I am looking forward to the MSc and, to continue my culinary analogy, moving up from cook to chef - where I have input into menu choice, and my training with food is both sought out and listened to by management.
 

hlsmith

Less is more. Stay pure. Stay poor.
#4
I didn't read everything above, but typically the difference between certificate and degree are drastic. Certificates use broad brush strokes and a degree may help with finite details. Also, extremely important is constantly getting your hands on real-world experiences.

Good luck!!!
 

Dason

Ambassador to the humans
#5
learning a lot about Excel (there is no programming in this job)
Depending on what you're doing it's possible to offload some work done 'by hand' in excel to something like R or Python. Or heck even utilizing VBA within excel can help speed up workflows if you aren't allowed or aren't able to to use something like R or Python.
 
#6
I didn't read everything above, but typically the difference between certificate and degree are drastic. Certificates use broad brush strokes and a degree may help with finite details. Also, extremely important is constantly getting your hands on real-world experiences.

Good luck!!!
Thankyou :) Clearly one skill I need to work on for statistics is writing more concisely...

I just finished my first exposure to multivariable calculus, linear algebra and partial differential equations. It has confirmed I made the right choice with the longer, slow, broader route: I am about to go into my final year and can't imagine I'd be able to apply the above to MSc-level stuff having only met them once!
 
#7
Depending on what you're doing it's possible to offload some work done 'by hand' in excel to something like R or Python. Or heck even utilizing VBA within excel can help speed up workflows if you aren't allowed or aren't able to to use something like R or Python.
Thankyou, Dason (I like your profile picture!) :)

I am using DataCamp to learn basic R. It's not real-world, but I like the interactivity of it. I'm definitely looking for opportunities in my job to automate tasks, once I have grown my programming skills beyond beginner level.
 

hlsmith

Less is more. Stay pure. Stay poor.
#8
Sound like you are establishing a great base. Honestly I haven't take those courses before, though since I am very applied it hasn't been a big hinderance. I am a champion of just inundating yourself, watch YouTube lectures and start answering basic questions on this or other forums, etc. If your work is just using Excel - practice visualizing the data and running basic stats on them in the program. You seem like you are on the right path!
 
#9
Sound like you are establishing a great base. Honestly I haven't take those courses before, though since I am very applied it hasn't been a big hinderance. I am a champion of just inundating yourself, watch YouTube lectures and start answering basic questions on this or other forums, etc. If your work is just using Excel - practice visualizing the data and running basic stats on them in the program. You seem like you are on the right path!
Thankyou! :) Quite an encouraging bunch here, really!

You are right about Excel, these are good tips. If I want more out of my job, I have to put more in.

And I will definitely try to help with easier stats questions here. At a minimum, more experienced posters can correct my misunderstandings, which is always welcome.

Cheers!
 
#11
I don't know the reality where you live, by in the US my observation is that they care your skill set more than your degrees (speaking as someone with lots of useless degrees). :)
I'm in the UK, so if you're in the US, I guess that makes us cousins or something!

I'm sure you're right. The degree is probably just my ticket to the dance interview. From there, it's all about proving skills.
 

noetsi

Fortran must die
#12
Doing something that demonstrates you actually have the skill they want is likely helpful. Just taking a course in college does not mean that one can do non-academic statistics (which tends to be a lot simpler than anything you do in academics, but which getting clean data is generally infinitely harder than in college where you are often given the data).

The hardest things I do is not statistics. Its getting useful data that is usable. Admittedly I am a data analyst not a statistician, but I think you will find that to be true in all but a few advanced private firms.