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BCS exam gives IT professionals a stepping stone to a degree, without full-time study

John Kavanagh
IT specialists are using the BCS professional examination as a stepping stone to gaining a degree. The new scheme from Southampton Institute combines both professional and academic qualifications.

The first three students - all senior IT specialists - have gained honours degrees in one year after previously achieving the BCS professional graduate diploma, which is marked at degree level.

They used distance learning and part-time study while continuing to work.

Jensen Nixon started working for the BCS professional examination after seven years in IT.

"I seemed to lack knowledge in certain areas and a lot of staff seemed to have qualifications, typically Microsoft certifications," he said.

"I decided it was time to gain some professional qualifications and be a step above the rest. I wanted a qualification that would give me greater understanding of IT and one that I would not have to renew every year.

"Margaret Ross, professor of software quality at Southampton Institute, advised me about the BCS exams. I gained the BCS professional graduate diploma in two years.

"I studied for about 15 hours a week. The result was worth it. I got the qualification and a fantastic understanding of all areas of IT."

The BCS qualification also helped Nixon's career, as he moved from business analyst to IT manager.

Ross then told Nixon that his experience and his new BCS professional qualification would enable him to get an honours degree after a one-year course.

"I gained a 2:1 BSc honours degree in three years through the BCS route - the same time it takes a student working full-time. I am very proud of my result."

Another student at Southampton Institute, Christine Anderson, also took the BCS route.

"I felt the value of my 25-year industry experience in systems development was diminished because I had no formal qualification," she said.

"I decided to broaden my skills and knowledge. This started with certificates in various specific topics offered by the BCS Information Systems Examinations Board, followed by election as a member of the BCS in September 2002.

"In August 2003, I achieved the BCS professional graduate diploma through Southampton Institute. I then joined the final year of a degree course. It was very hard, mainly because I stayed in full-time employment. It dominated 80% of my leisure time.

"The qualification means a lot for my future. It broadens my professional world and it brings other employment opportunities, such as consultancy. It is an insurance policy in case anything happens with my present employment.

"I am now as good if not better than most recently qualified graduates in terms of marketability and knowledge."

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