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The Student Insider

The Great Resignation: is now the time to begin your new career in tech?


Written by
Allie Fitzgibbon

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on our working lives and, for many, has triggered an epiphany about what really matters to them. This has led to what employment experts refer to as ‘The Great Resignation’, which peaked in the US in November 2021 with more than four million employees leaving their jobs. But this is not only an American phenomenon – in the UK people are quitting at the highest rate since 2009. A survey by Microsoft found that 41% of the global workforce is considering handing in their notice. So, with the desire for higher salaries and better prospects cited as top reasons to quit, is now the time to consider an exciting new career in tech?

Studying and working from home

The University of London, in partnership with Member Institute Birkbeck, University of London, offers an innovative MSc in Computer Science. Unlike other master’s programmes in the field, this fully online MSc does not require students to have previous computer science experience.

I want to make sure people who may not have a traditional education background…have the opportunity to gain important credentials for their future career.

We spoke to Programme Director, Dr Martyn Harris, who is a post-doc researcher and Institute of Coding manager at Birkbeck, about why he felt it was so important to create a truly accessible programme.

“My own personal journey to university was a strange one,” Dr Harris said. “I come from a single parent, working-class family and expectations were low. University always felt out of my grasp. My dad bought a family computer when I was a child and I taught myself how to programme from the age of about seven, so I’d been coding my whole life but never had the opportunity to be paid for it.

“In my early 20s I was working for a mortgage company and as a games tester for Playstation when I decided to study a short course in Japanese and it was my teacher who suggested I do a degree – which was a real eye-opener.”

Dr Harris completed a BA in Linguistics at Birkbeck. It was when he was deciding what to do next that he spotted a role in the computer science department – working on a project about Aramaic Magic Bowls – which required a linguistic background.

“My maths is awful. I failed my GCSE maths and only passed when I took it again at college, so if I’d applied to university at 18 I’d never have got through the door. It was only as a mature student with a clear interest in programming that the department were happy to take me on.

“I want to make sure other people who may not have a traditional education background but who have a clear passion for the subject are still given the opportunity to gain important credentials for their future career.”

It’s a life-long learning journey and I’m looking for people who can show they’ve got the drive and commitment.

Dr Harris has already noticed a number of applicants to the programme who are looking to make a big career change.

“We’ve had some applicants who’ve clearly decided they want a change. People working in manufacturing, nursing or as carers and have obviously thought they want to study something completely new.

“Many of our other applicants are already working in the sector but perhaps don’t have a degree and realise the value of having a formal qualification, particularly if they want to move to a new company or gain a promotion. You can’t just rely on your experience anymore – recruiters want to see that you’re skilled in a whole library of different programming languages.”

The MSc Computer Science offers two entry routes. Applicants without a bachelor’s degree, but who can demonstrate relevant experience and a clear interest in the field, are very much welcomed. “It’s a life-long learning journey and I’m looking for people who can show they’ve got the drive and commitment,” said Dr Harris. “I want to see they’ve shown a real interest, maybe they’ve done some programming in their spare time and made an attempt to get to know the subject.”

Programming is a language just like any other – it has a grammar, a syntax – and anything students can do to get comfortable with that is going to help.

Research by British recruitment firm Randstat UK found that a strong factor in the so-called ‘Great Resignation’ has been employees’ confidence in finding another role, especially in high-growth sectors such as tech. But even with a strong job market, it’s important to make sure you stand out from the competition, as Dr Harris explained.

“There are lots of short courses available online, but really all that shows is you’ve sat in front of your computer for a set number of hours. It doesn’t demonstrate that you’ve applied that knowledge. That’s where a master’s can really help you stand out from the crowd when you’re applying for jobs.”

And Dr Harris’ advice for anyone new to the subject? Even 20 minutes a day of programming can help.

“Really at the core of computer science and, in my experience, one of the main reasons people might drop out of the course is programming. It’s a language just like any other – it has a grammar, a syntax – and anything students can do to get comfortable with programming languages is going to help. I would recommend they do a bit of programming every day, even just for 20 minutes with a coffee, and that’s a great way to get started and feel confident.”

Find out how you could begin or accelerate your exciting career in tech with the University of London’s MSc Computer Science.