Author Topic: Raising Income - University a good plan? (Australia)  (Read 2633 times)

stylesjl

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Raising Income - University a good plan? (Australia)
« on: February 12, 2016, 09:12:29 PM »
Hello Mustachians, I am really enjoying the insights of this community into the ideal of financial independence (in addition to the option, but not the obligation to retire early too!) and I have decided that this is something worth striving for, from my overall reading around I have found that the best way to get to FI is to follow three rules, the first and most important rule and one that MMM emphasises as the most important is to cut the expenses and frivolous spending down, get off the consumerist hamster wheel, something I have been generally good at even before discovering this blog but even then I found out that there were still more ways to reduce my spending further. At the moment, of my 30K annual income (after taxes and superannuation) I saving about half of that (a rate I'm going to be boosting soon as a result of MMM's advice and ideas), though a great deal of that is aided by the fact that at this stage of my life I still live with both of my parents who charge me below market value rent, so it is not just a matter of being "Very good at saving".

The other two rules to FI that I picked up on were also that of gaining a better income and making sure that the accumulated savings from investments were invested in something that provides a decent return (something that I also have done poorly at, but I am now going to improve). So what I wish to ask my fellow Mustachians about today are about the possibilities of raising my income to something better than just 30K a year, to accelerate the journey to FI and also maybe actually be in a better position to move out on my own if need be, so here is the situation:

Currently employed to a full time 9-5 IT Job in the Sydney CBD, Australia, to get this job I had to have a Diploma in Software Development from TAFE College and at the time I took the job I was just anxious to get any sort of job, that was almost four years ago and while I don't think I am necessarily underpaid, at least for my skill/experience level I do want to improve myself and I think to some extent I am getting bored of my job, so I thought about it and I had an idea about going to university, specifically the course I am looking at is that of Computer Science, a course that will take me about 3 years (maybe 2 if I can some credit for my Diploma, but no promises).

Now from my research on this it appears as though a computer science graduate could start making a salary of roughly 70-80K (before taxes and superannuation, I think it is roughly 55-60K after those are taken into account), but I am not sure as that is just looking at existing job postings that require computer science grads. This would certainly provide a very nice boost to the FI goal, only thing is though is that the university fees as well as the opportunity cost of forgoing a full salary at my workplace (my boss is however okay with me switching to part time, though I don't know if I will be able to handle the dual workload). My math on the subject is that I pay about 40K for my university fees (whole 3 years), go on government benefits (AUSTUDY from Centrelink) which are about 10K a year by my calculations. Forgoing a 30K a year salary sets me back about maybe 100K from FI (that is 40K uni fees - 30K AUSTUDY (over 3 years) + 90K in lost job salary), though those calculations may also need to account for possible P/T work, reduced spending from not needing as much transport, etc so I'm just going for the pessimistic scenario. Meanwhile the extra money from a CS Job could make up the lost ground in maybe 3-5 years assuming that job is worth 55-60K.

So Mustachians, I would like to ask your opinion on the subject and what sort of insights any of you might have on this situation (any CS Grads out there? How did it work out for you?), especially if maybe I'm looking at this the wrong way (are there maybe ways to get additional money through seeking better jobs on my existing diploma and experience or perhaps alternative education opportunities that I missed?) to summarise:

- I save about half of a 30K salary every year but I would like to improve this by boosting my income.
- I CAN afford to go to university but I don't know if I SHOULD go to university.
- I am currently single, living in the same house as my parents and have no dependants so my options are wide open.
- My boss at work is flexible enough to work with me about going part time on this job.
- Are there better opportunities outside uni?

Edit: To clarify a few things:

- Superannuation is a mandatory retirement savings program in Australia where 9.5% of your earnings must be set aside until you're 60 years old, I don't count this as part of the savings for FI largely because I plan on FI being long before 60, but it can still provide a nice margin of safety at that age if I can start withdrawing it in a tax advantaged way.

- AUSTUDY from Centrelink is a government benefit program for full time students, which pays about 400 per fortnight by my calculations (may be reduced by earnings from part time work).

- TAFE is a college, Technical and further education where I got the diploma, my parents paid for this education for me but I must fund my own uni education (they will support me though in the sense that I will still live with them).
« Last Edit: February 12, 2016, 10:01:03 PM by stylesjl »

deborah

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Re: Raising Income - University a good plan? (Australia)
« Reply #1 on: February 13, 2016, 02:15:38 AM »
Many IT professionals do not have a degree, and I can't imagine that you would get a better salary by doing a degree when you already have a diploma. I would talk with your boss and find out how you can get a better job where you are, what courses he would suggest for you, and where he would see your career developing. As he is happy for you to be part time, he must think you are good value, and would probably be prepared to have this discussion. A TAFE course in an appropriate computer language might be necessary, if your diploma is a bit old and didn't include the normal computer languages. You might also look at what jobs are being advertised, and work out what you really want to do, and work towards getting a job in that part of IT.

It appears to me that after a university degree, you may find yourself in the same situation you are currently - grabbing the first job you find, and something that may not take advantage of your new skills. You may need to think more about how to promote you and your skills, and develop personal skills rather than technical ones.

Before I retired I was an IT manager, but I have been retired for six years now.

kaetana

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Re: Raising Income - University a good plan? (Australia)
« Reply #2 on: February 13, 2016, 05:09:00 AM »
I work in IT. What exactly is your job? There's a wide range of roles in the industry, and narrowing it down a bit might help us advise you. For example, if you're working as a developer, you have four years of experience, you live in Sydney, and you earn $30k/year, you are getting SERIOUSLY shortchanged. I know you said that's after taxes and super, but that means your gross income is about $37k.

As Deborah said, lots of people in IT don't have degrees. I work with a few. While I do have one, it's not in anything remotely related to IT. I would personally invest the time in upskilling without the expense of formal lessons.

stylesjl

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Re: Raising Income - University a good plan? (Australia)
« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2016, 02:09:21 AM »
I work in IT. What exactly is your job? There's a wide range of roles in the industry, and narrowing it down a bit might help us advise you. For example, if you're working as a developer, you have four years of experience, you live in Sydney, and you earn $30k/year, you are getting SERIOUSLY shortchanged. I know you said that's after taxes and super, but that means your gross income is about $37k.

As Deborah said, lots of people in IT don't have degrees. I work with a few. While I do have one, it's not in anything remotely related to IT. I would personally invest the time in upskilling without the expense of formal lessons.
My job, more specifically is that I am a Programmer/Tester for a company that makes CRM software for various organisations, so I'm often doing things like writing scripts for SQL Server, some VB.NET programming, making changes to certain MS Access files and some C# Web Programming. My role involves doing a lot of different little jobs as well like installing the software on the client server and some troubleshooting and so on which means that significant amounts of my time don't actually involve programming, I don't know if that is normal or not in the IT Industry (I guess this is part of the problem of this being the only IT job in my life). Perhaps it might be better for me to move to a role that involves much more pure development.

Regarding upskilling without formal lessons, not sure what sort of upskilling this would involve, maybe learning new programming languages/people skills?

alsoknownasDean

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Re: Raising Income - University a good plan? (Australia)
« Reply #4 on: February 14, 2016, 02:59:17 AM »
Are you open to studying part time whilst working full time?

Also, most universities (especially the smaller, non Group of Eight ones) will have decent RPL programs. I completed a TAFE Advanced Diploma and got 10 units credit from uni for my degree (not in IT though).

Also yeah $30K after tax isn't much. That's barely above minimum wage. Maybe you need to look at other roles for career development in addition (or even instead) of further study.

Also, fresh grads won't get anything like $70-80K, although of course with a few years experience that'll be different for you.

kaetana

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Re: Raising Income - University a good plan? (Australia)
« Reply #5 on: February 14, 2016, 03:43:13 AM »
My job, more specifically is that I am a Programmer/Tester for a company that makes CRM software for various organisations, so I'm often doing things like writing scripts for SQL Server, some VB.NET programming, making changes to certain MS Access files and some C# Web Programming. My role involves doing a lot of different little jobs as well like installing the software on the client server and some troubleshooting and so on which means that significant amounts of my time don't actually involve programming, I don't know if that is normal or not in the IT Industry (I guess this is part of the problem of this being the only IT job in my life). Perhaps it might be better for me to move to a role that involves much more pure development.

Regarding upskilling without formal lessons, not sure what sort of upskilling this would involve, maybe learning new programming languages/people skills?

Okay, great. So the bad news is that you are definitely being underpaid. You should be on $60k minimum in my opinion. The good news is that you already have very marketable skills, and I don't think that you need a computer science degree to progress your career.

If you're happy with what you're doing, start looking for another job doing the same thing (unless you think your employer would consider giving you a raise). Otherwise, think about what you DO want to do. You can earn really good money with both testing and programming, so choose the path you're interested in. Start using your current job to develop skills in that area. I apologise in advance if the advice here is too basic as I'm just guessing at what you might already know.

It sounds like you might have some Microsoft tools at your disposal. Do you have access to Visual Studio? If you want to be a developer, learn the IDE inside and out. You say you have some experience in C#. Choose either that or Java (or any other object-oriented programming language) and do courses on it online. If you're interested in mobile app development, learn Java for Android or Objective-C for iOS. Google just released their own (free!) series of videos and exercise to teach people how to program for Android, but there are plenty of free ones out there. Download Android Studio and have a go. Alternatively, you could go the web development route.

If you want to get into testing, think about what kind of testing you want to do. There's manual functional testing, which is making sure that the app works as per the business requirements. I don't know how formal the processes are where you work, but I know that when I first got into testing a few years ago, there was no structure behind it. Learn best practices for testing and implement them. For example, write a test plan. Work to formalise requirements-- what are the key processes that should be tested? Create test cases with step-by-step instructions and expected results. During execution, raise defects and track them separately. If your company uses TFS (Visual Studio Team Foundation Server), use that. Otherwise use free tools like Bugzilla. Study for your ISTQB Foundations certification in the meantime.

There's also technical testing, which is what I happen to do now. You could brush up on automation or performance testing. Learn to write an automated test suite to regression test your company's software so that you're not manually repeating the same tests after every release. You're not going to be able to write tests for everything, but you can do it for the basics, like logging in, doing a search for a customer, browsing through his history, etc. (I'm guessing here, since you said CRM.) If you have Visual Studio, you can use that - otherwise, Selenium is a good open source alternative. Selenium IDE is a good intro to automation, and you can jump from there to WebDriver using Eclipse.

You can also learn about performance testing, which is about simulating volumes of users hitting the site to determine how well it performs under load. After all, your company's software is client-facing. Visual Studio Ultimate or Enterprise both support performance tests using the Web Performance/Load Testing protocol. If you don't have Visual Studio, learn it in JMeter - again a great open source alternative.

No, not all IT jobs require 100% programming. Even devs spend significant amounts of time working with the business to clarify requirements, troubleshooting defects with testers, and documenting new code. Technical testing is part programming and part talking to people. Business analysts usually don't need to do any coding at all.

I think with very little (non-uni) learning and some work, you could easily command $70-80k in a few months. Good luck! :)

deborah

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Re: Raising Income - University a good plan? (Australia)
« Reply #6 on: February 14, 2016, 03:52:03 AM »
I work in IT. What exactly is your job? There's a wide range of roles in the industry, and narrowing it down a bit might help us advise you. For example, if you're working as a developer, you have four years of experience, you live in Sydney, and you earn $30k/year, you are getting SERIOUSLY shortchanged. I know you said that's after taxes and super, but that means your gross income is about $37k.

As Deborah said, lots of people in IT don't have degrees. I work with a few. While I do have one, it's not in anything remotely related to IT. I would personally invest the time in upskilling without the expense of formal lessons.
My job, more specifically is that I am a Programmer/Tester for a company that makes CRM software for various organisations, so I'm often doing things like writing scripts for SQL Server, some VB.NET programming, making changes to certain MS Access files and some C# Web Programming. My role involves doing a lot of different little jobs as well like installing the software on the client server and some troubleshooting and so on which means that significant amounts of my time don't actually involve programming, I don't know if that is normal or not in the IT Industry (I guess this is part of the problem of this being the only IT job in my life). Perhaps it might be better for me to move to a role that involves much more pure development.

Regarding upskilling without formal lessons, not sure what sort of upskilling this would involve, maybe learning new programming languages/people skills?
We paid our testers a lot more than that when I was their manager - not in Sydney either! It sounds to me like you have the skills to earn more, and that a degree would not really change things for you. The job you describe is pretty standard for a tester, and, when I was doing things, they were in fairly high demand. The more well paid testers tend to be creating test plans, and doing a fair amount of writing, so if you are less skilled in that area, I think you may want to concentrate on that, if you want to learn any more skills.

stylesjl

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Re: Raising Income - University a good plan? (Australia)
« Reply #7 on: February 28, 2016, 03:38:57 AM »
To give you all an update on the subject, I have begun searching for a new job, looking to see what I can get, it is still too early to tell how much I will get as I have only had a few phone calls but no job interviews lined up yet. At the moment I'm looking for jobs in the 45K or higher range (before taxes and super, after that I estimate that would give me around 36K). I figure that anything less then 45K is probably not worth the hassle of changing. Maybe I can go higher than this, but I don't really know for sure so I'll shop around without jumping on the first opportunity.

In any case, its a whole lot easier to look for different work when you've already got a job, I just feel a lot less anxious then I was when I searching for my first job.

kaetana

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Re: Raising Income - University a good plan? (Australia)
« Reply #8 on: February 28, 2016, 03:42:43 AM »
Great, good luck! I think looking for a job in your case is exciting! You might find something that pays well that you love doing!

stylesjl

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Re: Raising Income - University a good plan? (Australia)
« Reply #9 on: November 28, 2016, 01:58:37 AM »
So another delayed update, I did enrol in University in July earlier this year and went part time on my current job. The arrangement worked out pretty well, I had worked about 14 hours a week at my job, mostly from home and I was able to enjoy the change of pace in doing my classes at university. I'm now back to full time work until February in which case I will be continuing my classes, hopefully I will be able to keep on working on a part time basis again.