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Education

Go For a Masters, Or Not? 834

Posted by kdawson
from the short-term-long-term dept.
mx12 writes "I'm currently an undergrad in computer engineering and have been thinking about getting my masters. I have a year left in school. Most of my professors seem to think that getting a masters is a great idea, but I wanted to hear from people out in the working world. Is a masters in computer engineering better than two years of experience at a company?"
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Go For a Masters, Or Not?

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  • Work Experience (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DiSKiLLeR (17651) on Monday May 11, 2009 @05:01AM (#27903621) Homepage Journal

    Work Experience for sure.

    And you should be getting some NOW.

    But if you want to hang around uni, maybe become an academic, then sure, do your Masters.

    • Re:Work Experience (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 11, 2009 @05:08AM (#27903659)

      This is bad advice.

      Here's the deal:

      Masters is the highest route for payment in a professional environment. Just think of this as a 1-2 year pay increase for the investment.

      If you want to go into academics, it's PhD or bust. Terminal Degrees = Academia. Masters != Terminal degree in CS/EE/CE fields.

      Good luck.

      • Re:Work Experience (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Chrisq (894406) on Monday May 11, 2009 @05:24AM (#27903729)

        >

        If you want to go into academics, it's PhD or bust. Terminal Degrees = Academia. Masters != Terminal degree in CS/EE/CE fields.

        Good luck.

        Unless you are one of the odd public-spirited people who have highly marketable qualifications but want to teach in high schools. I have a lot of admiration for the few really knowledgeable and intelligent school teachers in technology and science fields - they really do make a difference - but I would not like to be on a teacher's pay scale myself.

        • Re:Work Experience (Score:5, Insightful)

          by vlm (69642) on Monday May 11, 2009 @07:24AM (#27904393)

          Unless you are one of the odd public-spirited people who have highly marketable qualifications but want to teach in high schools. I have a lot of admiration for the few really knowledgeable and intelligent school teachers in technology and science fields - they really do make a difference - but I would not like to be on a teacher's pay scale myself.

          I have relatives in the field. Multiple relatives in multiple districts. Generally, to teach HS and below, the only degree allowable is an education degree. A PHD in math will not be allowed to teach algebra, and a Nobel prive winning physicist will not be allowed to teach physics, unless of course they additionally have a BA in education. The HR drones would simply toss out any ex-college professor resume, unless they of course had the all important education degree. There are exceptions in areas of teacher shortage, like if you know Spanish or are willing to wear a bullet proof vest and teach in the worst inner city schools, preferably both, but even those exceptions require evidence of night school progress on an education degree. I cannot stress how much of a requirement an ed degree is... its not like programming where a degree gets you an interview but you can do just fine without one if you're good (err, good and lucky, I mean). No ed degree (or at least serious progress toward it) means no teaching job, period.

          The teachers pay scale is actually pretty good in most areas, if you correct for legendarily good retirement and medical benefits, and historically high job security. Most "technical" teachers I knew, contracted during the summer for big bucks. Finally the odds of being outsourced as just a coding drone are somewhat higher than the odds of being outsourced as a kindergarten teacher. Also they get a lot of respect from most people below 18 and virtually all people above 18...

          The main problems I hear, is the friction between getting retirement vs starting over in a good district, management so bad it would make a dilbert pointy haired boss blush, and the average IQ level of the "problem parents" must be single digits at best. I don't have relatives working with older kids... I guess they have a different set of problems to deal with, like drug use, pregnancies, drug dealing in school, gang problems, fights/shootouts, basically becoming the father/parents for the kids, basically they are social workers first, teachers second, and their skill area (computer guy, chemist, etc) third.

          • Re:Work Experience (Score:5, Informative)

            by AvitarX (172628) <meNO@SPAMbrandywinehundred.org> on Monday May 11, 2009 @08:21AM (#27904773) Journal

            Your area needs to modernise it's teaching requirements.

            Where I am, in a effort to get "highly qualified"* teachers the state allows them to get an MA in education while teaching simply by taking 5 classes, 2-3 of which are free, and the the rest very affordable in-state. The program is not too widely publicised, as the idea is that qualified individuals thinking about teaching will find it, but the people who simply "can't do" are not constantly having it advertised to them.

            If someone values time off teaching is a job with fantastic pay (try getting anything reasonable at a traditional job with a 190 day work year. With 4 weeks of vacation mine is still over 230).

            As a competent person

            * term used by the state, it is defined as 30+ credits in a subject area.

          • Re:Work Experience (Score:5, Insightful)

            by apoc.famine (621563) <apoc.famine@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Monday May 11, 2009 @08:35AM (#27904897) Homepage Journal

            As an addendum, I have a Masters in Education. The "Education" coursework which you correctly point out as being the most important thing is garbage.
             
            Most college "Education" courses are taught by people with a PhD in Education. How do you get a PhD in Education? By taking college classes in Education. And what do you do, after you take hundreds of hours of college Education coursework? You teach Education to people taking your college classes.
             
            Notice anything striking there? Of all my "Education" professors, none had taught in a non-college classroom in the last two decades. Some never had. What made them *qualified* to teach me? A PhD in Education. Did they have anything useful to teach? No. How could they, when their entire background was full-time immersion in college-level educational philosophy? My "Education" professors were philosophers,(PhD) not teachers.
             
            A good teacher will get nothing out of "Education" coursework, and bad teachers won't get anything either. Yet our entire system revolves around non-teaching-experts teaching teachers about Educational Philosophy in a college setting. It's truly mind-boggling that the nuts and bolts of teaching at a non-college level are never touched.

            • Re:Work Experience (Score:5, Interesting)

              by JPLemme (106723) on Monday May 11, 2009 @09:19AM (#27905327)

              That doesn't sound terribly different from my business school experience. But there were also good professors who consulted so that they could stay active in the field.

              My (teacher) wife has continued her education well past her Master's degree and there is a surprising amount of interaction between the colleges and the schools. Most of the education at her level has been focused around a bunch of teachers exchanging ideas about what works while guided by a professor who helps them synthesize all the different ideas into new ideas and techniques. A lot of the classes have actually been taught by college professors in the students' own classrooms. (They would rotate each week.)

              So while I agree with you, I also think you might be painting with too broad a brush.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by stewbacca (1033764)

              Or, you could be like me and get your Master's from a giant-turd of an online University that spends their profit on naming football stadiums. They make the claim that their classes are better, because they are facilitated (not taught, because they aren't PhDs) by working professionals in the field of education. Every course I took facilitated by a public school teacher was an absolute waste of time, as they don't know how to teach education--they know how to push the buttons of adolescents.

              I for one

            • Counter Example (Score:4, Insightful)

              by Ruzty (46204) <rusty@noSpAm.mraz.org> on Monday May 11, 2009 @10:53AM (#27906843) Journal

              My mother has a doctorate in education. She has 15 years of classroom experience in K-8 and another 10 in administration (principal and curriculum development). She spent over 6 years teaching for Vanderbilt University's graduate school of education after retiring from her real world experience.

              How things are at the school you attended does not extend to the world at large. There are universities out there who hire professors with real classroom experience. Perhaps you should find a better school?

          • Re:Work Experience (Score:5, Insightful)

            by JPLemme (106723) on Monday May 11, 2009 @09:06AM (#27905215)

            I'm married to a teacher, and I wanted to expand on your excellent points.

            The pay scale also needs to be corrected for the 16 weeks of vacation most teachers get. If they teach during the summer it's for a stipend on top of their salary. They earn their money, but the money is certainly good. (At least in the Northeast).

            As far as the main problems, it's an interesting issue. In RI, at least, teachers can switch school districts without losing retirement benefits or seniority-based pay (the pension system is run by the state for at least some school districts). But because a teacher with 10 years of experience is more expensive to hire than one right out of college, it's not all that common for teachers to move around. So good ideas don't spread as rapidly as we're used to in the computer field.

            As far as management, I wouldn't disagree that it can be bad. But the bigger issue seems to be that everybody's priorities are for themselves; in a company everybody benefits (to different degrees) when the company prospers, and everybody is hurt (again, to different degrees*) when the company does poorly. But in the school system everybody's rewards are based on how well they help themselves rather than the students. The school committee needs to hold the budget (and thus taxes) down or they don't get re-elected. The administration needs to hold costs down and test scores up or they get fired. The union leaders (teachers, janitors, bus drivers, cafeteria workers) all need to get as much for their union members as possible or they get booted out of office. The legislative politicians need to look like they're doing *something* or they get accused of not supporting education. For the most part, everybody really wants the children to get the best education possible, but their immediate rewards are rarely in alignment with that, so EVERYBODY is frustrated and feels that the system prevents them from doing what needs to be done. And unlike a corporation, there really isn't any one person in charge who can set a vision and coerce everybody to move towards it.

            As for the parents, the problem parents are just as likely to be the ones with the high IQs. There are certainly low-end parents who do nothing at home to help their child succeed in school. But the difficult ones are often the highly-educated types with lawyers and advocates who know how to make the school system bend over backwards for their kid. They constitute another interested party in a giant zero-sum game.

            As for the problems faced by junior high and high school teachers, I have no first-hand knowledge. I just know that I wouldn't want to spend every day working with kids who don't want to be there. :-)

            *CEOs excepted, of course

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by timeOday (582209)
              Interesting stuff! But I think applicable in most jobs, not just teaching. For instance:

              the bigger issue seems to be that everybody's priorities are for themselves; in a company everybody benefits (to different degrees) when the company prospers, and everybody is hurt (again, to different degrees*) when the company does poorly. But in the school system everybody's rewards are based on how well they help themselves rather than the students... unlike a corporation, there really isn't any one person in charg

              • Re:Work Experience (Score:5, Insightful)

                by JPLemme (106723) on Monday May 11, 2009 @11:41AM (#27907749)

                You're right, but in the corporate world there are two differences:

                1. The company can fail, and if it does it takes everybody with it. The various parties in the GM fiasco all had competing interests, but GM's collapse is ultimately bad for the UAW workers, bad for GM's management, and bad for the shareholders. So they all had a strong incentive to cooperate in order to insure GM remained healthy. (Not that they did...)

                There is hardly a similar incentive for public school systems. Virtually every person involved is protected by a union contract, state law, or both. And there's no equivalent to profits to measure the success of the whole enterprise. (Standardized test scores are a lot less objective than dollars.)

                2. In the corporate world, there's a boss. I may not want to cooperate with the Finance department on a project, but there is a boss of both them and me who can force us to cooperate under penalty of termination.

                But just about the only way to force teachers to do things (in most schools) is through the union contract. The only way to force the school committee to do anything is through bi-annual elections. Even the janitors and school principals are in unions. And parents can't be forced to do anything but make sure their kid shows up. There are some people in the administration who can actually be relieved of their duties for not cooperating, but they are in charge of a whole lot of people who barely have to obey them.

                It's not a recipe for effectiveness.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by PachmanP (881352)

            Also they get a lot of respect from most people below 18 and virtually all people above 18...

            You're joking right? Students give teachers ~0 respect, and as for the adults the saying goes "If you can, do; if you can't, teach"

      • Re:Work Experience (Score:5, Insightful)

        by AuMatar (183847) on Monday May 11, 2009 @05:25AM (#27903733)

        In some fields, but not in CS. A masters doesn't get you more money. What gets you more money is experience, especially experience in the field you're looking for work in, and the ability to negotiate. There's just no point to extra years of school in CS, you learn on the job or through self study everything you'd learn in the masters courses.

        • Re:Work Experience (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 11, 2009 @05:58AM (#27903891)

          It does.

          When HR people who have at least a hint of what cs is about see 2 candidates for a job, first one with 2 year experience (which frankly isn't much) and another one with master's degree the choice is pretty much obvious. And it's the second one.

          • Re:Work Experience (Score:5, Insightful)

            by javaxjb (931766) on Monday May 11, 2009 @06:25AM (#27904063)
            Really? In how many companies does HR choose the IT staff? In our company, the IT department managers review the resumes and (in addition to management) at least one person actively coding projects interviews the candidates. I'd bet nearly 75% don't have a CS degree, let alone a master's (and those that do are usually managers with an MBA, and an undergraduate degree in math or science). Business experience is way more important than the degree. So much so, that I really need to make a strong case to recommend anyone just out of school (even after one person we interviewed [a month before graduation] became one of our best team leads).
            • Re:Work Experience (Score:5, Informative)

              by billsnow (1334685) on Monday May 11, 2009 @07:25AM (#27904397)

              He's not an IT grad. He's a Comp.E.

              for the love of god, slashdot, stop confusing engineers with sysadmins.

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by PsiCTO (442262)

                He's not an IT grad. He's a Comp.E.

                for the love of god, slashdot, stop confusing engineers with sysadmins.

                Thank goodness, finally a thread that starts with the core issue. I believe the question encompasses the trade-off between further education and earnings. I can only relate that to my own experience.

                As a Computer Engineering grad I chose to stay around for a Masters (though in a field of applied engineering) out of interest in further courses and to see if I could succeed at it. It was partly a question of figuring out what I was best suited to. However, my plan was to definitely get real-world experience t

            • Re:Work Experience (Score:5, Informative)

              by Golddess (1361003) on Monday May 11, 2009 @08:01AM (#27904581)

              In how many companies does HR choose the IT staff?

              Not choose, but as I understand it, in the company I work with the resumes would be filtered through HR first and then be passed on to the IT department.

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by DrLang21 (900992)
                This is the HR barrier. The ultimate challenge in formating a resume is to get through the HR barrier. Sometimes I swear if the job description says "electrical engineer" if you dont have "Electrical Engineering" in your education section, you're screwed, even if you have 10 years experience as an electrical engineer.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by cervo (626632)
              In most companies, who filters the resumes first? HR has a bigger say on the staff than you give them credit for. They are generally negligent on many technologies. They often filter resumes for key words.

              Is someone a superstar programmer without a college degree? They will probably filter him/her out.

              Did someone get a 4.0 GPA in CS and program in SQL Server/C# on their jobs? Well sorry you asked for a mid level candidate which they put as 5+ years Java experience.

              Sure you choose among the candid
          • Re:Work Experience (Score:5, Informative)

            by Nursie (632944) on Monday May 11, 2009 @06:26AM (#27904073)

            Nope, it's really not.

            I'm afraid that the GP is right. Whilst a degree is a foot in the door, you should only do a masters if you want to. It's not going to get you more money or the ability to skip past others.

            Being intelligent, personable and demonstrating knowledge will win out every time, and in general the employment reflects that much better.

            • Re:Work Experience (Score:4, Interesting)

              by wrook (134116) on Monday May 11, 2009 @07:10AM (#27904313) Homepage

              This is right on, for programming jobs, anyway. I can tell you that while a masters might get your resume through HR (along with 150 others), it isn't going to mean squat to the people *actually* hiring you. I've hired many, many people and not once did I even think about a masters degree. The only hiring managers I knew who favored people with masters degrees were absolute twits (and there weren't even very many of them).

              Another thing to keep in mind -- 2 years of academics is 2 years of not getting paid. It takes a pretty big salary differential to overcome that loss.

            • Re:Work Experience (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Lumpy (12016) on Monday May 11, 2009 @08:10AM (#27904669) Homepage

              Actually a couple of places I worked at they had a "no masters" rule in HR. They figured that masters holders will not stick around long and will ask to top pay. Many masters holders will tell their bosses to go have intimate intercourse with themselves themselves without hesitation than the guy with a GED.

              Many companies put the ability to abuse you daily far higher on the requirements list than education.

          • Re:Work Experience (Score:4, Interesting)

            by commodore64_love (1445365) on Monday May 11, 2009 @08:19AM (#27904759) Journal

            I cannot speak to CS, but in electrical engineering having a Masters doesn't mean anything. My boss all-but-laughed when I asked for a raise and then told me, "Having that masters degree doesn't mean anything here." The only thing a M.S. gains you is an extra bullet point on your resume, such that they will hire you instead of the B.S. candidate, but don't expect to earn any more money.

            Employers are interested in skills, not extra college sheepskin. They want to know what you can DO and how fast it can get done.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Sandbags (964742)

            If you plan is to do true systems engineering (chip design, manufacturing design, etc) or work in high tech aspects of IT, then a masters in both CS and math should be persued, with minors in physics or drafting/engineering design as appropriate. Get an internship as soon as one is available. You should internt not less than 2 years with a fortune 500 company if possible.

            If your intent is to work in IT, forget the masters... Start taking every certification test you can as fast as you can pass them NOW,

        • Re:Work Experience (Score:5, Informative)

          by rve (4436) on Monday May 11, 2009 @06:21AM (#27904049)

          The OP should be getting relevant work experience while working on a masters.

          A 25 yr old colleague will be expected to have about 4 years of work experience in the field. Whether they will be expected also to have a masters depends on the position. A programmer probably doesn't need a masters, but for a more responsible job, you'll need a lot of work experience to compensate for the lack of one.

          • Re:Work Experience (Score:5, Interesting)

            by SparkleMotion88 (1013083) on Monday May 11, 2009 @09:19AM (#27905329)
            You can earn a master's degree part time while you work. If you work for the right company, they will even pay your tuition. This is what I did when I graduated from undergrad. I got a job with a large defense contractor, then got a master's degree in 2 years of part time work (2 courses per semester, one course over the summer). The time commitment was tough (I had to give up most of my hobbies), but it was worth it. The master's degree cost me nothing (my company payed the school about 15k per year, though). On top of that, the top-tier school that I attended to get my master's had a "simplified" admission program for employees of my company -- I basically didn't have to apply at all. I'm not sure I would have even been accepted at this school if I had to apply and compete with other folks (my grades in undergrad were not stellar).

            If I stayed at the same company after my degree, I wouldn't have gotten a raise due to my additional academic credentials. However, I started applying for a new job after I finished my degree and I got several offers at the next higher pay grade due to my degree. I ended up taking a job at a R&D center -- a place where I wouldn't even have gotten a job offer if I didn't have a graduate degree. So, yes, you can get higher pay or a better job due to having an advanced degree, but you may have to leave your current job to get it.

            BTW, I am a programmer/software engineer and both of my degrees are in computer science. There are tons of companies/organizations out there that value programmers with advanced degrees.
        • Re:Work Experience (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Bakkster (1529253) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (nam.retskkaB)> on Monday May 11, 2009 @08:06AM (#27904619)

          In some fields, but not in CS. A masters doesn't get you more money. What gets you more money is experience, especially experience in the field you're looking for work in, and the ability to negotiate. There's just no point to extra years of school in CS, you learn on the job or through self study everything you'd learn in the masters courses.

          Note that the OP has a Computer Engineering degree, rather than CS. As a Computer Engineer myself, I will say that there really is a lot you are able to do with a Masters that you can not do with a Bachelors + experience. Mostly because you can't get the experience without the Masters. One example is microcontroller and chip design. The big chip design firms won't hire a BS, no matter what.

          So it's really about what you want to do, and when you want to get your degree. I have a educational reimbursement program at my company, which will allow me to get my Masters 100% paid for and a raise when I complete it. This is a good option if you want to take a short break from the classes, and make some money first. Really, it all depends on if you want to go into a field requiring a Master immediately, or find a company willing to train you. From personal experience, though, most EEs and CpEs I know end up with a Masters at some point.

        • Re:Work Experience (Score:5, Insightful)

          by flithm (756019) on Monday May 11, 2009 @08:15AM (#27904715) Homepage

          In some fields, but not in CS. A masters doesn't get you more money. What gets you more money is experience, especially experience in the field you're looking for work in, and the ability to negotiate. There's just no point to extra years of school in CS, you learn on the job or through self study everything you'd learn in the masters courses.

          Untrue. As someone who has (in the past 3 years) both tried to find a job with a Bachelor's degree and then with a Master's degree, I have personal first hand experience on this.

          First of all a job will never teach you what you learn in a Master's program and vice versa. The experience of focusing on one problem and becoming a world expert on it is hugely different that working in a commercial setting. Unless your job is working in R&D and doing academic research, the two things are pretty polar.

          Which brings me to my next point. In computer science _especially_ not only will a Master's degree open up doors that would have never been there if you simply had a Bachelor's but the pay will be higher.

          This is a world where every one has an undergrad degree, and it's also a world in an economic recession. The best way to differentiate yourself from your peers is to spend the two years, and prove you that you can focus on one thing and become super knowledgeable. You'll have your undergrad degree to show you can learn a breadth of topics, and the Master's will be something that sets you apart from the other applicants.

          I do agree that spending the time on a PhD is a complete waste, unless you want to go the pure academics route (and become a professor, etc). The pay over a Master's degree is negligible, and it may actually close some doors since the perception is there that you'll want a lot more money.

          That being said I also agree that experience matters more than anything. Spend every summer working in your field. Take advantage of co-op and internship programs. Work part time doing anything related to the job you eventually want to get.

          And absolutely yes, if you want a Master's degree, get one. It will help significantly, and it will also get you more money.

          • Re:Work Experience (Score:4, Interesting)

            by cervo (626632) on Monday May 11, 2009 @09:19AM (#27905331) Journal
            I'm a little confused. "The experience of focusing on one problem and becoming a world expert on" would seem to apply to a PhD program and not a Masters program. The Masters is basically just a bunch of classes generally not that different from undergrad classes except that they tend to have bigger projects in each class.

            Then the end game of the program seems to be a project (bigger in scope than undergrad), a thesis (less common but still around), or you just take extra classes (not all places have this).

            With no experience a masters may hurt you in a recession though, because who would you rather hire? The undergrad with no experience, or the masters with no experience who will be expecting more money than the undergrad?
        • Re:Work Experience (Score:5, Interesting)

          by deander2 (26173) * <public@@@kered...org> on Monday May 11, 2009 @08:49AM (#27905049) Homepage

          you learn on the job or through self study everything you'd learn in the masters courses.

          3 years ago i would have agreed with you, but then i paused my decade-long programming career to start my masters/phd. and i have to tell you, it's a misconception that couldn't be more wrong. the theory-side of CS i have learned (just from my master's classes no less) puts to shame the programmer i was at the end of my last full-time gig.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by internerdj (1319281)
            I have to agree with this. The CS field is still relatively young. We have bunches and bunches of self-taught people, so there is a huge community of people who think that experience is the end all be all. Some of those folks are mind-blowingly incredible and some we had to rewrite all their stuff after they left, but the thing is they all thought they were mind-blowingly incredible.

            A BS in CS will get you what you need to know to do your job and learn the technical skills to do about anything in the C
      • Re:Work Experience (Score:5, Informative)

        by DreamsAreOkToo (1414963) on Monday May 11, 2009 @06:26AM (#27904071)

        Masters isn't going to increase your starting pay grade or get you a job easier, work experience is going to do that. You need work experience now.

        BUT here's the thing. When you're 10+ years into your job, suddenly that masters means *everything*. Expect to start hitting some barriers, like maximum pay-grade. You really need to do both, and you need to make sure you get work experience before you graduate AND make sure you get your Masters while you still can manage it.

        My father is a really talented guy. But he's 50 now with a Bachelor's and is passed up on every promotion and pay raise. He's already at the top of the metrics for pay and title, he literally can't go any higher because of corporate policy.

        • Re:Work Experience (Score:5, Insightful)

          by jez9999 (618189) on Monday May 11, 2009 @07:30AM (#27904421) Homepage Journal

          My father is a really talented guy. But he's 50 now with a Bachelor's and is passed up on every promotion and pay raise. He's already at the top of the metrics for pay and title, he literally can't go any higher because of corporate policy.

          Your father should find a better comapany to work for.

          • Re:Work Experience (Score:5, Insightful)

            by foniksonik (573572) on Monday May 11, 2009 @10:26AM (#27906285) Homepage Journal

            If his father has a house, a wife and a gaggle of teen age kids to provide for he better live in a major city... cause otherwise there may not be another company close by worth working for.

            Relocating a mature family is not an easy decision to make. It is possible but it becomes a pros/cons thing and it may be that the cons out weigh the pros even when there's a substantial pay increase involved.

        • Re:Work Experience (Score:5, Informative)

          by microTodd (240390) on Monday May 11, 2009 @07:45AM (#27904495) Homepage Journal

          And the way to do this is look for co-op or internship work while doing your undergrad and Master's. Then you end up with work experience and academic credentials on your resume.

          Alternatively, after you get your bachelor's and get a job see if your company will pay for your master's. Many companies will do "tuition reimbursement" as long as its a relevant degree field and you make good grades. Its a lot of work but trust me, its worth it, and you should get it done now before you get married and have kids.

          • Re:Work Experience (Score:5, Interesting)

            by BrotherBeal (1100283) on Monday May 11, 2009 @09:39AM (#27905579)

            Alternatively, after you get your bachelor's and get a job see if your company will pay for your master's. Many companies will do "tuition reimbursement" as long as its a relevant degree field and you make good grades. Its a lot of work but trust me, its worth it, and you should get it done now before you get married and have kids.

            I'm torn on this. I just completed an M.S. in CS while working full-time as a developer, and now that it's all over, I'm not sure how I feel about the decision I made to do the two concurrently. On one hand, the expensive parts of school were free (before my in-state residency kicked in and I paid my own much cheaper way). I've been getting a pretty good paycheck which has funded an engagement ring, much of a wedding, and a couple of years of my fiancee's college education. Now that I'm done, I have a graduate degree with 3 years experience instead of a graduate degree with 1 year. In theory this will help with my current job hunt. Even though the economy is down, I've got a couple of promising leads that I strongly doubt I would have without both the work experience and the graduate degree. While those leads are pretty much hot air until they turn into interviews / offers, I got them with only a couple of weeks looking around and so I believe I'm in a better spot than I was after college.

            HOWEVER, I feel like I didn't get as much out of my degree as I wanted. I didn't have the time to spend really digging into courses that challenged me (namely a theory of computation course). I had to pass on a number of courses that would have been interesting, but couldn't be made to work with my professional schedule. I wasn't able to go to department colloquia or talks because they were during work hours. I had a funded summer research project that I wasn't able to take as far as I wanted because research is not something you can do "after hours". For the same reason, I had to abandon my thesis after a literature review because there wasn't any way I was going to be able to put out good work, and I thought it better to just graduate with a comprehensive exam to get the damned thing over with. I don't regret that decision, but I regret not changing the circumstances that led to it. As I look back, I realize that the time in school was far more rewarding to me.

            On mornings when I just didn't want to get out of bed (sucky weather, didn't sleep well), it wasn't my job that made me get up. What got me out of bed was the thought of learning something new, of figuring out how some small part of the computer science world worked. Now, in one hand I've got an M.S. that I'm only superficially proud of because it does not represent the full extent of my abilities. In the other hand, I've got excellent performance reviews for a job I have no pride in and a bunch of clueless co-workers and managers who are congratulating me for "finally finishing college".

            I guess the point of this Slashdot-confession post is that working full-time and doing an M.S. concurrently is not a decision to be undertaken lightly. I'm not talking about a lack of social life, as that's a relatively easy problem to solve. The problem is prioritization. Something will have to play second fiddle, and YOU are the ultimate arbiter of what needs to give if you do this. Otherwise, you'll wind up half-assing one or the other, and you may not like where that leaves you. Good luck, though - I wish you well!

        • Re:Work Experience (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Lumpy (12016) on Monday May 11, 2009 @08:17AM (#27904727) Homepage

          Here's a fact.

          you want to get promoted? then go find another job. Honestly today in "corporate life" you NEVER promote from within unless the person was set up for it... I.E. I'll hire you at this, and then promote you in 6 months to the job I want you for. At least that is how it was at Comcast, Time Warner, and AT&T.. It's not what you know or what you can do, but WHO you know and who you are buddies with.

          also if your DAD is really good at his job, he will never get promoted because he screwed up and became "indispensable" and will NEVER be promoted. His only way up is to start looking for other jobs. Mine was to do that loudly at work, I got 3 promotions by letting everyone I knew at work that I was looking for a new job. Showing up to work in a suit and when asked you say " I have an interview this afternoon" works wonders when you are the guy that get's verbal kudos all the time but never get's a raise or promotion.

          Problem is that that tactic takes balls and confidence. You gotta be ready to follow through.

          • Absolutely true (Score:3, Insightful)

            by wonkavader (605434)

            It is an unfortunately reality that changing employers at a reasonable pace is the only way to get yourself on a good raise schedule.

        • Re:Work Experience (Score:4, Informative)

          by Sandbags (964742) on Monday May 11, 2009 @08:59AM (#27905149) Journal

          I'm 34. I've been in IT for 14 years. I have not yet hit my pay grade ceiling, though I'm getting close.

          I'm not worried. At my current pay grade in 4 more years my wife and I will have no more debt except our house. I'll have pleanty of cash to go back to school and get that masters at that point. Based on my collection of certifications, many of the courses i'll need I can automatically exempt out of, many more I can take 1 test and pass the class, and several others my nearly 20 years of business expereince will expempt me out of. This assumes I'll actually take some classes...

          Universities are typically more interested in simply getting your tuition, and if you qualify, and are above 30 years old, they'll typically be more than willing to take your money and still sell your seat in the class to another applicant. Universities generally don;t like putting highly expereinced business people in classrooms where their woried the student actually trumps the professor in knowledge. Many professors who recognize this where the university doesn't will simply give you the 4.0 for the promise you don't show up to class... Some universities will simply give you a masters in BA simply for having worked in management that long (and for a generous donation to the university of $30-50K).

          Get your masters later, get the money now. Keep in mind, it;s not just the pay level now, it;s also that much more interest you won't be paying down later...

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by stewbacca (1033764)

          Well you got one thing right and one thing very wrong. First, most companies do pay more for a masters over a bachelors, even if both candidates have zero experience. That's the magic of HR metrics. When you get into contracting-land, companies have to have a specific percentage of PhDs, masters, and 4-year college grads to be competitive. If you can't win a contract, there's no point in having a bunch of highly experienced (but uneducated) techs.

          You are VERY right about getting a masters while you st

    • Re:Work Experience (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 11, 2009 @05:27AM (#27903743)

      You're going to work the rest of your life.
      Have some fun now.

    • Re:Work Experience (Score:5, Insightful)

      by martyros (588782) on Monday May 11, 2009 @05:47AM (#27903843)

      Don't forget who is giving you the advice. It's just a fact that people tend to view the choices they've made as good, and the activities they do as important.

      What do you expect to gain from a Master's degree? Do you want to have a deeper understanding of computer science, so that you can more effectively solve complex problems? Or are you hoping that it will impress people and increase your chances of getting a job / getting a higher paying job?

      The problem with any degree is that it doesn't actually imply the ability to code effectively, or lead a team. A lot of people with degrees can't code worth anything. The first thing any real computer company will do in interviews is try to ascertain whether you can actually solve problems, write code, debug things, think independently, and so on.

      I have a PhD in Computer Science, in the field of Operating Systems (which is a very practical, implement-it-and-test-it-on-real-hardware sort of field). Building my research prototype involved a ton of OS-level coding, and some pretty damn hard debugging. It also included a lot of deep thinking about fundamental issues, and exposure to a lot of really smart people whose job it was to have a deep understanding of what's going on. As a result, I feel well prepared to tackle complex real-world problems and implement a good solution.

      But no one would hire me just based on my PhD. Everywhere I interviewed after graduation, I had to prove that I *can* code; and everyone I have subsequently interviewed, the degrees were only a mild interest; interviews were key to sort the wheat from the chaff.

      So if you really find the class work interesting, if you're an abstract thinker, good at understanding and applying principles, and want to hone that capability with some extra classes, go for it. A focused time to study the theoretical basis of things can be useful. There's nothing more practical than good theory, in the hands of someone who enjoys both theory and practice. But if you're just looking to improve your resume with a couple of more years of slog-work, then I'd say go for work experience.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Farmer Pete (1350093)
        Go to dice.com. Do a search in a location you are interested in. Look at the job requirements. What percentage list Masters degrees as a requirement? If not many, I would not get my Masters. My understanding is that a Masters is a great way to get promoted, but it can actually hurt you to get hired. If I had to choose two people for a job, everything identical except for masters vs B.S., I would pick the B.S. most of the time. Why? Because I can pay him less and he wont feel (as) insulted. There is
    • Re:Work Experience (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tvdbulck (777251) on Monday May 11, 2009 @05:55AM (#27903881)
      I strongly disagree, if you would like to obtain a high level function in a company at a later stage, your Masters will be an invaluable asset. And if you switch jobs in 5 or 10 years it will also make a difference on you CV. If you do start working immediately, make sure you end up in a job where you continuously learn (and not continuously do the same tasks for your company). That will increase YOUR value, which is the most important in the long run.
    • Re:Work Experience (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Ash Vince (602485) on Monday May 11, 2009 @06:14AM (#27904005) Journal

      Experience is certainly more valuable than a masters when it comes to getting most techie jobs. However with the current state of the job market I would certainly recommend putting off joining it for a year. It is also worth studying your masters in order to keep the door open to being an academic even if you do not know that is what you want to do.

      I would also recommend doing a masters with a business and management studies component as techies with business skills generally earn more than those without and will be considered first for management positions all other things being equal. Remember, IT is one of the most ageist careers to chose from so you need to think about an exit strategy into IT management from as early as possible. You might not need it but planning for the worst is always a good idea in all walks of life.

    • by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Monday May 11, 2009 @07:01AM (#27904261)

      Get real work experience first, then get your masters. Not intern/co-op stuff, but some real world work experience.

      I'm have a BSME, concentration in controls. If I went to masters program straight out of by BS, I wouldn't have known what I didn't know nor what I wanted to learn.

      I've worked for 2.5 years so far at a company and love all the work that I do. But there's definitely a 'glass ceiling' of knowledge that I want to get past. I'm looking at going back in 2010 for my masters.

      At the same time, 95% of the people I work with are perfectly content with their position and the work they do. You maybe too. Get out in the real world, see what you know and what you don't and then make the decision after a year or two in the real world. After 2 years you may come to the conclusion that 2 years in the work force taught you everything you wanted to know about CO and you'll have saved yourself 2 years of your life.

  • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Monday May 11, 2009 @05:02AM (#27903635) Homepage Journal
    I know a lot of people who don't work in the area which they studied for their masters. Thats a waste of time IMO. I think you should decide now what type of work you are going to do after university and make sure you can directly benefit from the extra time you spend on your education.
    • by backwardMechanic (959818) on Monday May 11, 2009 @06:56AM (#27904237) Homepage
      If you learn nothing in your Masters that you can transfer to any other field, then yeah, true. But then it was a pretty poor Masters, wasn't it?
    • by MrMr (219533) on Monday May 11, 2009 @08:11AM (#27904673)
      I know a lot of people who don't work in the area which they studied for their masters. These time wasters are invariably more interesting and more capable than the people who already knew at 18 what they'd be doing the rest of their lives.
      Why do you presume your chosen profession even exists in 30 years?
  • by wjh31 (1372867) on Monday May 11, 2009 @05:04AM (#27903639) Homepage
    when you are considering taking on a masters/Ph.D/etc, its not really about money. Its about you, how much you are enjoying academic life, and how far you want to pursue it. if the only reason you are considering postgraduate courses is that it might increase your employability, then you shouldnt be considering them.
    • by Anonymusing (1450747) on Monday May 11, 2009 @06:40AM (#27904151)

      Actually, I was going to say that the best part about my master's degree is not really the degree itself, or the income, but the people I came to know: incredibly smart professionals in the field, both as my instructors and my fellow students. It has given me a lot of good connections, which in turn gave me a much bigger job field and led me my current job (which I love). So while greater income potential is a good thing, there are many other benefits to a grad degree. I studied things and met people that I would not have had time to do if I was just kept working at my prior job.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ivan256 (17499)

      The "learn what you enjoy" theory has always seemed like a giant load of bull to me.

      Education is hugely expensive. Going to school for what you want instead of for something practical is a massive, massive luxury. Unless you're wealthy, or on scholarship, you should go to school for something that pays the bills. By the time you get to college, you're an adult. It's time to start acting like one.

      What does that mean for getting a masters? If somebody is going to pay for it for you, you'd be a fool not to do

  • Normally... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Half-pint HAL (718102) on Monday May 11, 2009 @05:05AM (#27903641)

    Normally I'd say "get a job", but there's not as many of those going around as there used to be. (Damn banks and their irresponsible lending.) What are the employment prospects where you are? Doing a masters is more productive than being unemployed, and much better on the CV....

    HAL.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by RevWaldo (1186281) *
      Agreed. In a down economy education is an excellent investment. Sometime after you graduate the economy will turn around, another bubble-enhanced can-you-start-yesterday hiring frenzy will start, and you'll be awfully glad you have the MA when it does.

      Just remember to watch your debts and put some money in the bank. Nothing lasts forever.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 11, 2009 @05:06AM (#27903651)

    Yea, we haven't heard this question verbatim before, but the:

    I want to go to college and get my BS in IS - what should I do?

    or

    I want to get out of IS and pursue basket weaving - what should I do?

    or

    Do I need a degree to be a Tape Monkey?

    type questions are pretty much the same.

    Though the questions aren't the same the answers will be.

  • by berenixium (920883) on Monday May 11, 2009 @05:06AM (#27903653) Journal
    The IT industry isn't so great at the moment, and as soon as job cuts come about in a company, the IT people are always the first ones to have their heads put on the block, then get chopped.

    Companies seem to think that the IT dept is the most expendable for some reason. Now things are so bad that when a vacancy does crop up, there are more jobless candidates applying now than ever before. It's ridiculous until the economy gets better and God knows when that is going to happen.

    My advice is to spend another year in study and sharpen your skills and knowledge. You really haven't got anything to lose until things get better. Except money. But there are always ways of making money, eh? Websites, your own ventures, freelancing while studying, part-time work in other industries like retail. The pre-bubble era of plenty in the early 2000's is long gone, but it happened once and I can easily predict it will happen again as more turn to online purchasing to save some cash in these troubled times. So such plentiful times will come again. Enjoy your studies if you decide to carry them on.
    • by Xoron101 (860506) on Monday May 11, 2009 @07:42AM (#27904483)
      My previous boss told me this once, and so true it is:
      It'll never be cheaper to get more education, so if you're going to do it, do it now.

      In a few years, you'll likely have a spouse, kids, mortgage, car payment. Those things will be a huge factor if you ever wanted to go back and do your Masters.

      And if the economy is in the tank for the next year or two, then it's probably the best time to be doing more education.
    • by Ibag (101144) on Monday May 11, 2009 @08:14AM (#27904709)

      Companies seem to think that the IT dept is the most expendable for some reason.

      You say this as if it is a mystery why a company would feel this way. But regardless of whether IT is as expendable as some companies may treat it, I think it is important to understand why things are the way they are.

      To any large company, there are essentially two parts. First, there is the part of the company devoted to whatever the company sells. This will include engineering and design, product, sales and marketing, and perhaps some portion of management.

      On there other side, there is the part of the company that is there so that the company runs smoothly. This is the part of the company that is there to facilitate and support the first part of the company. IT is in this group (in a non-IT company), as are janitorial staff, a certain other amount of management, and other random departments which might vary from company to company.

      There is, of course, some overlap between the two sides. For example, while you might consider the running of the website an IT role, it is also essential to sales. Still, viewing a company as having the two sides is helpful for understanding why companies see IT the way they do.

      When money is tight, and a person needs to decide where to cut money, they cut the things they deem less important to their survival. They can refuse to buy a new stereo or new underwear, but they can't refuse to buy any more food.

      Similarly, when money is tight and a company needs to decide what to cut, they get rid of what they deem to be the least important to their survival. From upper management's point of view, they see what the impact of laying off staff in their core business will be, and will be less likely to view management as just support. However, it is harder for them to see why they can't just halve their IT staff or janitorial staff. Maybe the floors will get vacuumed less often or it will take slightly longer to deploy Windows 7, but the company will still do what it does roughly as well as it currently does, right? (That is not to say that IT isn't crucial to a company's success, just that it is much harder for upper management to appreciate the relative worth of IT staff).

      It's much harder to appreciate exactly how expendable support staff is, but it isn't that hard to see why management would view support staff as more expendable than others.

      • by Cro Magnon (467622) on Monday May 11, 2009 @09:13AM (#27905277) Homepage Journal

        Similarly, when money is tight and a company needs to decide what to cut, they get rid of what they deem to be the least important to their survival. From upper management's point of view, they see what the impact of laying off staff in their core business will be, and will be less likely to view management as just support. However, it is harder for them to see why they can't just halve their IT staff or janitorial staff. Maybe the floors will get vacuumed less often or it will take slightly longer to deploy Windows 7, but the company will still do what it does roughly as well as it currently does, right? (That is not to say that IT isn't crucial to a company's success, just that it is much harder for upper management to appreciate the relative worth of IT staff).

        I understand that POV, but companies still need to be careful what they cut. They can get along without floor sweepers, but if they fire too many plumbers, they could be in deep shit.

      • This is why I - an engineer costing my employer $250/hour - am doing IT work. Someone in corporate thinks the company will save money by laying off IT workers. Instead, it usually works out like this:

        1. We're an engineering company, and yes, our engineers do know networking. Problem is, they aren't as familiar with the network as someone employed specifically for that task. So it takes them longer to diagnose the problem, and often don't have the authority necessary to fix it.
        2. What typically happens is
  • Do Both (Score:5, Informative)

    by iron-kurton (891451) on Monday May 11, 2009 @05:08AM (#27903661)

    I ended up getting employed full time right out of college. I accumulated 4 years of good experience, at which point I decided to go back to school part time.

    The great thing about this is that if you can find an employer to help you pay for your higher education, that sweetens the deal. The downside is that your work obligations always come first, no matter what, especially if the company is paying. This is especially true if the job requires travel.

    I can tell you working full-time and going to school part-time is not easy, especially if you have a family like I do. But it's definitely doable if you are dedicated and have a wife who is willing to put up with it for the next 2-3 years. Just don't count on much of a social life.

  • by jools33 (252092) on Monday May 11, 2009 @05:09AM (#27903665)

    I took a Masters in Software Engineering - back in the 90s. My masters was specially setup so that an industrial placement with a company was an integral part of the course. By all means take a job now - if you can get a good one - on the other hand - combining your masters course with an industrial placement at a well known company will get you the best of both worlds - and usually there are several bigname companies interested in taking on a motivated masters student as an industrial placement.

  • by Kokuyo (549451) on Monday May 11, 2009 @05:09AM (#27903669) Journal

    I am pretty torn on this question...

    On the one hand, it will never again be as easy to learn as it is now. The older you get and the more time passes between having been in school and then doing it again, the harder it will be. Not only to find the motivation (unless you really do like school), but also to get your brain into learning mode again. Not to think about actually fitting school into your budget, especially if you already have family.

    On the other hand, I'd expect you lack experience on what kind of jobs are out there for you and which of them suits you best. If what you like to do best falls into your current degree, then getting a higher degree will make it harder for you to find employment in this field. Wacky companies aside, it is usually not a good idea to hire people with too high degrees for a certain job. Bored people are just as detrimental to your overall success as people who are overworked.

    Frankly, without having any idea what you actually LIKE to do with your life, this question is a pretty tough one. As unhelpful as it may be, you should try to match your education with the profession and amount of responsibility you target. The closer you get, the easier things shall be for you.

    • by NewbieProgrammerMan (558327) on Monday May 11, 2009 @05:34AM (#27903775)

      On the one hand, it will never again be as easy to learn as it is now. The older you get and the more time passes between having been in school and then doing it again, the harder it will be. Not only to find the motivation (unless you really do like school), but also to get your brain into learning mode again.

      Well there's your problem--you're not supposed to stop learning just because you stopped going to school. ;)

      I worked for about 15 years before starting on my 4-year degree full-time. So far (at the end of my second year of grad school) I've found academic life easier than having a job. Maybe it's because I developed some time and priority management skills while I was working. Maybe it's because I was frequently in "learning mode" when I was working.

      Whatever the reason, I haven't found it significantly harder to learn at age 40 than it was at age 20.

  • Experience paper (Score:3, Informative)

    by GordonCopestake (941689) on Monday May 11, 2009 @05:10AM (#27903671) Journal

    If you can get a job do so, if you can't (because of the "current economic climate") get a masters. But whilst you are doing your masters, keep looking for a job.

    Given the choice between two candidates for a job: candidate A has 2 years experience doing the job they are going for, candidate B has zero experience of the job they are going for but has a piece of paper that says they have a masters, which would you choose? The guy that can do the job from day 1 and has a proven track record, or the guy that will need hand holding for 6 months to get him up to speed?

  • It depends. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by onion2k (203094) on Monday May 11, 2009 @05:13AM (#27903685) Homepage

    A taught Masters (eg two more years of lectures) is a waste of time compared to two years experience, but a research Masters (two years of independent research under a mentor) is a good opportunity to make a name for yourself in a computing niche. The research one is more difficult, more expensive because you'll need to get to the right conferences and 'market' yourself, and only worthwhile if there's an aspect of computing that fascinates you more than it interests other people.

    But...

    The economy is shot. There's a chance that you won't be able to get a solid two years of work experience. If ever there was a time to not be in work for a while and take some time to improve your skills and get some "me time" where you're doing what you want to do this is it. If you do a Masters when you finish you'll be entering a work environment where there are lots of people who've graduated with you and then been unemployed for a large proportion of the past 2 years. You'll have an advantage over them.

  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday May 11, 2009 @05:15AM (#27903693)

    I'm not a professor, I do computer support for an engineering department so I see an academic environment, but I'm not an academic. That said:

    Don't get a masters just for the sake of getting one. You will not get yourself any sort of real leg up. The reason to get a masters is because you want to do research. If there is something that interests you, something you want to study, particularly a research professor you'd like to work under, then it is a good idea. Education for its own sake is never a bad thing. However to just get a masters just to try and get a better job, nah not a good idea.

    We have all kinds of students like that in the department where I work. They are hoop jumpers. They see a masters as just another hoop to jump through. However they don't really learn anything from it. They don't do any research, just take a comprehensive exam, and still go out in to the world with a ton of theoretical knowledge and no ability to actually apply it.

    What you see is the opposite of what you'd think: The bad students go on, the good ones don't. The top students go and get a job. The bottom students go on to get a masters since they can't find a good job. However the problem isn't education.

    Also, if your company wants you to get a masters, they'll send you back. My cousin did this. Got his bachelors and went to work for Boeing. After a few years they said "Hey, you are doing well on this, how about go get your masters?" So he did.

    Now the one confounding factor right now might be the crappy job market. If you can't get a job, then maybe staying in school makes more sense. That's a question of finances, and I can't answer it for you since I don't know your situation. However if the option is no job living in poverty or full scholarship living as a student, well then it isn't hard to figure out which you should do.

    So, reasons to get your masters:

    1) You have something you are really interested in researching, or you know a professor who you are really interested in working with. You are getting it because you want to learn more and enrich yourself.

    2) You have a good financial incentive to get it, like a scholarship, and poor financial incentive to go work.

    3) You are working in a field that requires a masters. Computer engineering isn't generally one of those, but there are some exceptions. There are some subfields that a masters or PhD is necessary. If you wanted to be a professor that would be an example.

    Now these are NOT reasons to get a masters:

    1) You want a better job. Probably not really going to help you. It might, and I emphasize might, get you a better entry level position, but work experience counts way more than education after that. So you might find that in 5 years, you were better off getting more work experience than education.

    2) You want to put off working because you aren't sure what you want to do. Bad idea. Only way you will know what you like is to try it. So get the job, and if it doesn't work out get another. Don't use school to avoid work, because that doesn't solve anything since work is coming at some point.

    3) You "need it to compete." No, you don't. Most CE people don't go on to get a masters. It really isn't needed. If you find yourself unable to compete, the problem is likely not a lack of education, but something else. I mean if you are the sort of person with no problem solving skills (something engineering requires) no amount of school will teach that.

    So I can't say if it is the right decision for you since I don't know you or your situation. All I can say is that it is the right decision, so long as it is made for the right reason(s).

  • by el_flynn (1279) on Monday May 11, 2009 @05:16AM (#27903705) Homepage

    Two years of work experience will do more for you in the long run. Plus, you could always take the masters at some later point in time.

    Also, if you're up to it, there's plenty of colleges that'd let you do your MBA on a part-time basis, or at least schedule your classes around your work requirements.

    Back when I was doing my Bachelor's degree (full-time course), I also had a regular 40-hour-per-week day job, and was also raising a baby daughter at the same time.

    Two words: time management.

  • by AuMatar (183847) on Monday May 11, 2009 @05:23AM (#27903723)

    There's no real point to a masters in CS. If you want to do research, you need a PHD to get a good spot at a uni. If you want to teach collegiately, you need the PHD if you don't want to be treated like shit by the administration. If you want to do heavy duty research while hired by industry, a phd is respected, anything else has a huge burden of proof, usually in the form of similar experience in the real world. If you want to go into the real world and work, a masters won't make you extra money and won't get you more respect than a BS- a masters with no experience is treated just like a bs with no experience.

    So what do you want to do? If it's research or teach, get a PHD. If it's go out and program for a living, stick with the BS.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by negative3 (836451)

      Computer Engineering != CS. Computer engineering is a part of EE. Here's a single example of the price difference you can see on your first job: A friend of mine and I interviewed at the same company for similar positions. He was finishing his BS in EE and I was finishing my MS in EE. My offer was 18k more than his and was for a higher-level engineering classification. Given that the company average for raises was 3.5%, he would have been making around 4.5k more than when he started in 2 years with th

  • by herwin (169154) <herwin&theworld,com> on Monday May 11, 2009 @05:27AM (#27903739) Homepage Journal

    Most young professionals work on a masters part-time. A good employer will pay the fees.

  • Do both (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Coeurderoy (717228) on Monday May 11, 2009 @05:41AM (#27903803)

    Try for a research masters degree on some topic you find interesting, and try to find a way to monetize it.
    Create a small company that you own if necessary (take care of not being carried away bankrupcy is no fun :-))
    And either do some consulting,or try to monetize whatever you have developped.
    So on your CV you'll have the Master AND the Experience...

    At any rate, having the master's degree will make your life much easier, particularly when you'll be a "senior"...
    (it might seem counter intuitive that a diploma that you've done or not 25 or 30 years ago has any impact on your career, but in reality not having it means needing twice the "support" from insiders...)
    unless you're absolutely sure that you'll be running your own company when you're 45..50..
    (and actually no you cannot be sure....)

  • by Shag (3737) on Monday May 11, 2009 @05:41AM (#27903809) Homepage

    Right now, you've presumably got non-zero earning potential. Earning some money might feel good. Getting rid of some student loans might feel good.

    Sooner or later, maybe you'll start spotting jobs that you could get if, on top of your natural talent, you had more education. When you start thinking that, go get more education.

    I spent about 15 years in IT (went from $18K to $100K+) and never needed more education than I had. If I had more education, I suppose I might have been pushed into management... but I don't really like managing, I like doing.

    5 years ago, took my IT skills and went into scientific and policy fields where I got to apply my IT skills, but got to learn a bunch of entirely new stuff, and do completely different work that made my old cubicle-dwelling buddies extremely jealous. Of course, it did put my pay back down to $18K... and I realized that everyone around me had a PhD or JD or something similar! So after racking up some experience, I'm now taking grad classes... and in these fields, just being in grad school makes people take my job applications a lot more seriously.

  • by Kr3m3Puff (413047) * <me.kitsonkelly@com> on Monday May 11, 2009 @06:19AM (#27904033) Homepage Journal

    While it might not be a consideration now, your formal education can have a big bearing on your future immigration opportunities. For example the UK now requires anyone applying for a High Skilled Visa to have an equivilant of a UK Master's degree, irrespective of your field.

  • Yes, do it. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by damburger (981828) on Monday May 11, 2009 @06:21AM (#27904047)

    For a start, education is worth more than your final salary. Your time at university should be more about expanding your horizons and using the spare time that you will not have in the working world to pursue your own projects. Savour it whilst you can.

    Secondly, if you hadn't noticed, it isn't a great time for anybody to be graduating with anything right now. Staying in university longer will, hopefully, save you from having to look for a job in the middle of a crisis where companies are having to cut costs.

    Thirdly, the idea that you must find work as soon as you graduate often leads people into jobs they dislike, jobs they feel trapped in, and jobs that are considerably below what they are capable of. This will, I speak from personal experience, make you very unhappy.

    Forget the work ethic bullshit you've had thrust upon you. The purpose of life is to enjoy yourself and to fulfill your potential in the way you choose. Work should not be a means to this, but a part of it. Poverty is preferable to drudgery.

    Don't look for money. Look for a vocation that really appeals to you, rather than just a job, and let the money sort itself out later. Don't think about getting a mortgage and a pile of expensive crap as soon as you graduate it because you'll end up making yourself little more than an indentured servant.

  • by CaptainOfSpray (1229754) on Monday May 11, 2009 @06:50AM (#27904203)
    Read the Daily What-the-Frel http://thedailywtf.com/ [thedailywtf.com] This will teach you more in a day's reading about the real world of computing than you will learn in a year on a Master's. And you will enjoy it or be horrified, either way you'll have more fun thn writing a Master's thesis.
  • Lots of bad advice (Score:5, Insightful)

    by salesgeek (263995) on Monday May 11, 2009 @07:30AM (#27904423) Homepage

    One thing I regret is listening to the advice of so many people. If you feel like you will learn more, and be able to do more of value for others with a Masters Degree, then get one. Even more important, make sure that you will enjoy earning the degree.

    Money is not the most important thing in life.

  • Who's paying? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Monday May 11, 2009 @07:31AM (#27904441)
    The most valuable M degrees are those somebody else is paying for.

    If you have to fund it yourself, how do you know anybody wants the result?

    If someone will fund you to do it, a third party outside the University thinks it is a good idea and worth something to them.

    It's like MBAs: if you have to pay for it yourself, you're probably not MBA material. If your company wants you to do it, somebody thinks you are.

  • In my experience (Score:3, Informative)

    by gondarlinux (740575) on Monday May 11, 2009 @08:24AM (#27904801)
    I am pondering the same question lately. I have a B.S. and I have 10+ years experience. My salary is ~10-15% above the norm for a senior level Linux engineer in the area where I work. What I have found is that many companies use a table to calculate what your salary/hourly rate should be. In my case, because I don't have a Master's, I have maybe 10-15% more room for salary increases before I reach a proverbial "cap" on how much I "should" make, according to the table. My options are simple: 1 - get a Master's and "qualify" for higher salary 2 - branch out on my own and go into full-time consulting 3 - accept my fate and wallow in mediocrity I am leaning towards option 2 above, but I have done some casual inquiries with regards to number one recently. Number 3 is out of the question. In conclusion, if I were you, I would get 3-5 years experience and make a plan NOW for going back in that time. Stick to the plan and by the time you have the Master's, you will have some experience to back up what your resume says you know. Hope this helps.

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