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- By Wits University

“Find a job you love and you will never work for the rest of your life."

That borrowed quote, from Confucius, was the message Professor Brenda Wingfield had for the graduates at the graduation ceremony for the Faculty of Science on Friday, 27 March 2015.

Speaking as the guest speaker at the ceremony, Wingfield, Deputy Dean for Research and Postgraduate Studies in the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Science at the University of Pretoria, encouraged the 328 graduates who received their first bachelors degree to seriously consider continue their studies, and push on to get their masters and even doctoral degrees.

"In science, the professional degree is a PhD," said Wingfield, who went on to dispel some of the misconceptions surrounding postgraduate studies.

"I hear quite often youngsters saying they are not going to do a masters degree or their PhD, because that will mean they are overqualified. That is nonsense. There is no such thing as being overqualified," she said.

"On average, people who have a bachelors degree earn more than people who do not have a degree. And, people who have an honours degree, on average, earn more than people who have a bachelors degree. And, people who have a masters degree, on average, earn more than people who have an honours degree."

While it is true that their peers in the workforce start to earn a living quicker than students who choose to continue their postgraduate studies, graduates who enter the workforce with a masters degree or PhD have a much greater trajectory on the corporate ladder.

"If you have a PhD, the world is your oyster," she said.

Wingfield drew from her own experience as an International RF researcher, who studies fungal diseases in trees.

"If you have just completed your bachelors degree (going on and getting your PhD) sounds like a huge stretch," she said, “But, if you have fun at work, it is not that difficult to work all the time.”

"I am paid to have fun. I get to study fungi that cause disease, and that means that I am now surfing the tsunami of DNA data that DNA technologies have given us," she said.

"It is like trying to unravel a very complex puzzle, and I love puzzles, so I get to do that, and they pay me for it. And the excitement of doing research is to discover something that no-one has ever seen before."

Wingfield said earning a degree does not give students a specific skills set to enter a specific job, but the ability to think independently.

"Those of you, who are graduating today, with your bachelors degree, are likely to have to 'retool' at least three times in your lives, and this is what your bachelors degree will give you. And it is this, the ability to retool, that hopefully when you are CEOs and heads of large corporations that you will remember and thank the University of the Witwatersrand for."