Does Degree Name is What Really Matters?


By Hasan Farooq

This is a question which has been striking my head for so long and, today, I eventually decided to pen it down.

I have done my bachelors in Electrical Engineering from one of the renowned engineering universities of Pakistan. However, for my Masters by Research degree, I chose Computer Science (Information technology) field as I found my profound interest in Computer Networks specifically the “science” behind the computer networks.

I face this situation whenever I am introduced to others. I am always stuck in embarrassing situations whenever I tell about this to others. Listeners’ mouths are always wide open and I hear them saying “Really… Oh my God… You must be joking… This is Suicide… Why Computer science… You should have continued in Electrical… Blah Blah Blah”.

My answer to them usually circles around the fact that these days research is interdisciplinary and the degree name doesn’t matter; what really matters is the research work which you carry out and most importantly your interest but at the end of the day the dialogue ends with the other one commenting ”Dude whatever you say but the fact is you have destroyed your bachelors degree and you will regret it”.

Well, this is a fact that around 90% of the electrical engineering students are those who choose this field just because of merit. Yes, students choose this engineering as its considered top notch field and, at least in Pakistan, its merit is always higher than other fields.

Alas, during admission time, very few can actually differentiate between civil, mechanical, chemical, electrical and other fields and in end of the day choice is made solely on merit. This approach needs to be changed. Students should choose field depending upon their interest and their capabilities. Although some students do this practice but this number is negligible.

In my case, I chose electrical in bachelors because I had interest in electronics right from my childhood. Opening my electronic toys to grasp their working principle remained my favourite pass time throughout my childhood.

I remember buying small electronics kits like light switches, sound switches and timers and connecting them with lamps and other appliances. In fact, seeing my interest, my father gifted me digital multi meter with soldering iron and radio kit on one of my birthdays.

I naturally selected electrical for my bachelors degree. However, I also enjoyed computer programming and started learning basic computer languages like “QBasic” when I was in 6th class.

During my Bachelors, I was studying computer networks course and that is the subject that changed my vision and my life ahead. I remember the topic on routing protocols which clicked me and I went on reading it for endless hours. I was curious to know who really are those people that make these protocols and how to become one of them. I read about them and I came to know that most of the people have background in computer sciences.

Then after bachelors, luckily I got MSc by Research scholarship for higher studies in leading research university of Malaysia and, in my admission forms, I chose Computer Science (Information technology) field instead of Electrical Engineering.

I got selected for it and, eventually, I reached Malaysia where once again I was greeted by Pakistani fellows with same old question about my degree-change-stupid-move. Listening to them, I was so stressed I couldn’t sleep and thought of changing my department back to electrical. I was told by the department that it’s possible as I satisfy background requirements and I would have to do research on signals analysis related to medical applications.

I thought I was comfortable with MATLAB and DSP algorithms but was that the thing which I really wanted to do. That was the moment when I had to choose between my heart and head and ultimately I listened to my heart, and forgot about electrical and started degree in computer science for my favorite networks field.

There, I found my research supervisor as the best teacher and person I have ever met in my life. In my first meeting with him when I started to cry about my background and degree change story, I was expecting same old expressions but to my surprise, I heard him saying “It’s great! You have background in hardware part and now you can master your skills in software part. I too did my bachelors in computer engineering but ended with computer science in PhD” and for very first time in abroad I felt so relieved.

He gave me complete freedom to try out new ideas and guided and supported me whenever I needed him. In fact, he was reason I totally forgot about “degree-switch-crap” and focused solely on research work.

I found research work on networks really very interesting and I literally enjoyed doing it. I was able to produce international indexed publications and I was awarded fully funded fellowship to attend IETF meeting in USA where I got opportunity of lifetime to meet pioneers and gurus of computer networks field.

I met inventors of many renowned routing protocols who shared their valuable knowledge and gave me handful directions for my research work.

There I met face to face with those people about whom I had read in my computer networks book, who had fascinated me and made me choose this field. Now I waiting for my final MSc defense viva and although I can’t say what lies ahead in my future but I know one thing I am happy and satisfied that I chose the field that I loved.

Currently, I am on study leave from a reputed engineering institution of Pakistan where I work as faculty member. In my recent meeting when I told them about my future plans of continuing my PhD degree in computer science (networks) field I was slammed with: “Whatever you do it’s your choice but remember you work in electrical department and after completion of your studies when you will return with low rank PhD degree in computer science instead of reputable electrical engineering degree, I’m afraid the institution will not entertain you” and at that moment I asked myself again: Does Degree “Name” is what really Matters…?

“The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it” (Steve Jobs).

The writer is a communication networks researcher by profession, university faculty member by inclination, gadgets maniac and no-holds-barred technology enthusiast. He loves everything and anything related to Telecommunications.

  • I worked with a Unix system administrator for a few years. His progression: BA in History, then MBA, then several years later, PhD in Natural Resource/Environmental Planning and Policy. By the time he completed the PhD, he’d been a Unix system administrator for at least ten years. His computer skills certainly helped him with his research (GIS, for example — not as common in 1992 as it is today). He’s successfully moved to academic life; as far as I can tell, none of his employers had any problem with his background.

    Other examples I have: the professor I had for my second year algorithms course had a PhD in EE, not CS. One of the instructors in my university switched to CS from Music. He didn’t teach any of the advanced courses, but he was very very good at pushing his students to excel at C and data structures. He had some of the most challenging assignments I’ve ever had to do.

    If your university’s administration cannot handle the concept of a multidisciplinary professor, maybe it’s time you found a better university.

  • The same happened to my teacher as well. He did his MBA and afterwards he joined the field of Economics and completed his Ph. D in Micro Economics. Now as he came back he can neither join the Management Sciences department nor the Economics department is ready to accept him at a permanent post.

  • Dude I’m a ccnp certified with almost 6yrs of experience. I topped my Uni in Bcs Hons. I can accomplish any task related to IT. Still, I have troubles finding a job related to my network field here in Pakistan and have decided to move abroad for further studies. Here I’m hardly earning 22k and being a network and system engineer I yet have to face lower technical issues (driver and window installation) which isn’t suited for my level.
    I don’t have problem with Pakistan, its the Pakistani’s I’m fed up with. Their thinking, logic, immaturity and selection merit in jobs and educational departments has forced me to go abroad. I have seen most of the cream and good talented Pakistani leaving this country for last 2 years. Who to blame? Whats the solution?
    May Allah guide us all, Ameen.

    • “I can accomplish any …. etc” & “This work is not upto my level” – Change this attitude and you’ll definitely achieve much higher status in life, cuz the stated attitude is the first step downward. I hope Allah provides you much better opportunities. Ameen.

  • I have done B.Com n then got certified with CCNP & CCDP n then to cover my B.Com did M.IT. I can’t say whole world but atleast in Pakistan degree does matter infact degree is the only thing that matters…and after all this I’m unemployed just because I don’t have bachelor’s degree in computers…

    • Bro, its “reference” that matters here in Pakistan. Degree, Certs and experience doesn’t count here.
      U got a relative or friend in an firm, 80%+ chance of getting hired.
      u got certs, exp and good gpa but no contacts, 15% chance. I’m summarizing my overall career exp.

      • Sorry Shuja, don’t agree with you. This concept may be applicable in Govt. organizations. But this one can not be applied to everywhere in Pakistan especially in autonomous bodies and private organizations. They need skill. I personally know many persons having cisco certifications and bla bla, but don’t have the basic concepts of networks.

        • Then it will be my luck that’s pushing me to limits for last 5 years. I can name all firms I went to in last 2 years whose merit criteria was on reference. I don’t know about other cities as I mostly apply in Islamabad.
          Just saying, I’m in network and system field for last 6 years. I’m not like others who got zero knowledge other then dumps.

          • Don’t forget one problem with Pakistan: we have more engineers and other workers than we have jobs. It’s always possible that your situation is because of that fact: there are enough qualitified people better than you.

          • I don’t mean that, Shuja. You may be having good knowledge in the field.
            Usually, what interviewer consider during the interview, what specialty do you have as compared to the others?

            After all, the luck is there. Everything is dependent on Taqdeer.

            Hazrat Abu Darda (radiallahu anhu) narrates that Rasool-ul-allah siad, Allah Ta’ala has already predestined five things for all people, viz., age, sustenance (rizq), deeds, place of burial and final salvation or condemnation.
            (Ahmad, Bazzaaz, Kabeer, Ausat).

            But at another place ALLAH (SWT) said in Quran:
            “(After you have consulted) and when you have firmly decided, then have trust on Allah (and proceed to do what you have decided to do). Verily, Allah Ta’ala loves those who place reliance ( on Him).”
            (Surah Aale Imraan).

            So, Taqdeer can change.
            May ALLAH (SWT) shower his countless blessings on you, Aameen.

  • Dear Hasan, I read your story. Interesting. But at the thing is that, at the end of the day what knowledge do you have? It matters alot.

    It does not matter….. either EE or CS. You are a professional engineer. Any university in Pakistan cannot deny this fact and they have to consider you.
    Every electrical engineer is working on DSP and DIP. You selected something else, it means you are not a blind follower. You can think at your own.
    You are lucky that you are in this filed and right from the start of your research career you got opportunity to meet the persons who are actually making the Internet working. I mean IETF. I know people who are working for the last decade in networks research area but they are unable to attend the IETF.

  • After all the rampant hiring and firing in telecom/electrical oriented segments, our nation is going to embrace mechanical engineering as the favourite discipline. What else can we expect in a nation devoid of vision? I am glad that you followed your passion and rightly so. Those who downplay the importance of computer sciences are clueless and mere electricians.
    A rubbish university (I will not name it) is not going to recognize your potential. They are just an upgraded version of academy mafia of Pakistan.
    Please work a bit on your English language proficiency. You can certainly do better. It is not an advice but a request.

  • Dear dear,

    These things matter to those who are extrinsically motivated, and I know that you are not amongst them.

    And by the way, you don’t need to clarify your position to anyone; as they “need” your PEC number with the prefix of ELECT/.


  • Yes sir i completly agree with every statement you gave, i did my engineering in material science and opted for mba In marketing. But heard the same thing alrund that u destroyed your degree. I want to learn from your experience. Can we connect ?

  • @aamir7:disqus Aamir Atta bhai, check your mail aamir at propakistani dot com, I sent my first blog post for Propakistani, I hope you would publish on Propakistani. Thanks!

    I would delete this comment as you respond, or the article is published

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