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Best Grad Program For a Computer Science Major?

Soulskill posted about 5 years ago | from the doctor-of-underwater-basketweaving dept.

Education 372

ryanleary writes "I am currently a junior computer science major at a relatively competitive university. I intend to remain here for some graduate work, and I would like to get a master's degree. What would be a good field to study? An MS in computer science appears to be highly theoretical, while an MS in IT seems more practical due to its breadth (covering some management, HCI, and design). What looks best on a resume, and where might I expect to make more money in the not-too-distant future? Computer Science, Information Technology, or something different altogether — perhaps an MBA?"

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Business or Accounting (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27379621)

Seriously. Depending on where you are looking to get a job at, it will be extremely helpful in the long run.

If you are asking this question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27379779)

or seriously considering an MBA, then you're not really interested in technology. You're bound to be a manager, who is clueless about technology, so don't be one of those people I had to take classes with who needed to cheat on their programming projects.

Re:If you are asking this question (1)

ryanleary (805532) | about 5 years ago | (#27379861)

I assure you, people come to me if they need to cheat. Programming is not a problem.

Re:If you are asking this question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27379931)

So you're happy to help the cheaters? In any case, whatever your ability, I think the grandparent poster's point was that you're not committed to loving the technological work, and so you will eventually leave it anyway to do something else. A bit over-zealous of a position, but it has a grain of truth to it.

Re:If you are asking this question (1)

andy666 (666062) | about 5 years ago | (#27379971)

Cheaters come to you?! Oh good I am stuck on a programming project. I have to solve this thing called the Towers of Hanoi, in Python. Have you done this before? If so please post the code. If you don't have it in Python I'll try to make do with another language. Never did understand recursion!!

Re:If you are asking this question (1)

Niris (1443675) | about 5 years ago | (#27380133)

You're stuck on the tower? You're so screwed when you get to the 8 queens problem. :p

Re:If you are asking this question (1)

2.7182 (819680) | about 5 years ago | (#27380161)

Here it is in C++:


void Tower(int n, int a, int b, int c){

    if(n" c endl;
            Tower(n-1, b, a, c);


Re:If you are asking this question (2, Funny)

azav (469988) | about 5 years ago | (#27380169)

Hanoi? Didn't we evacuate Hanoi not too long ago? I'd grab the next helicopter out if I were you. Don't trust those tower construction methods out there.

Re:If you are asking this question (5, Insightful)

no1home (1271260) | about 5 years ago | (#27380339)

Actually, your attitude is part of the problem. We need more tech people moving into management. How else do we get the businesses, the community, and the world to understand and properly utilize technology without providing good technology leadership?

I've been working in this business for 20+ years and I'm considering an MBA focussed on managing tech. Better income? Probably (I hope). A chance to clean up the mistakes of the Neanderthals you speak of? Damn right!

Re:Business or Accounting (5, Informative)

linhares (1241614) | about 5 years ago | (#27379921)

Business or accounting? Hell no!

Listen, kid. I'm a professor of business and management science. My masters and PhD are in Computer Science. There is a hidden rule in academic life: you cannot swim upstream. It is easy for a mathematician or a physicist to become an engineer. It is easy for an engineer to become an economist or work in any business field. But it is close to impossible for a marketing type to become a physicist. After your mid-twenties, you can still have some room for maneuver if you don't have kids. After 35 (like I am), people have a very, very low probability of change. Doesn't happen. When it happens it's a miracle, like a disney movie.

You can always be a business type if you know math and logic and programming. Remember, information is power. Study, for example, data mining. Checkout project weka in your IDE and study the code, submit modifications, get an interesting thing done or two.

My advice to you? First, read freakonomics. The guy's an economist that works with data mining. He may very likely get the Nobel some day. Then you'll see how easy it is for a computer scientist to play business roles.

Finally, go to the most hardcore, most academically rigorous career first. Learn assembly language. Find a professor that's good and say these words to him/her: "I'm here because I want to do top-notch research during my undergraduate degree. Now go on and tell me what to do. I'm up for anything." At first, the professor will look you with some giant eyes. Months later, you will be on your way to writing REAL papers and understanding how real science is made. Fuck grades. Even if you graduate with loads of C's, one or two papers in academic journals will really set you apart. Tell your employers later on that you couldn't care less about grades because "they are made to be fair in a world that's not fair, and you wanted to do REAL work while on university, not the little clean academic assignments". That is hardcore maturity and courage. And if things go wrong and you want a change later on, all disciplines nowadays are needing data mining, from accounting to marketing to finance to operations management, etc. Weka is the new Excel.

I wish you good luck, brother.

Re:Business or Accounting (4, Insightful)

hal9000(jr) (316943) | about 5 years ago | (#27379965)

Bullshit on people not being able to change after 30. Utter bullshit.

To the poster, figure out what career you want and use that to plan out graduate work. You can always go back and get an MBA, even if you have a family and have kids. Harder? Maybe. But with work experience, you will get far more out of it.

Almost nobody does. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27380165)

Whether it's can't or won't is immaterial.

Re:Business or Accounting (4, Insightful)

wagadog (545179) | about 5 years ago | (#27380255)

That's just a small sample of the outright age, class, gender and race bigotry you get to experience in academic environments. Remember, the responder is a professor. Consider the source.

He was right about how much easier it is to drop down into easy areas like business after doing a degree in something rigorous -- that actually trains you to think logically -- like engineering.

Remember, the responder is a business professor after having trained in CS. Case in point.

To the poster: remember that your academic advisors got where they are by being white, male, privileged-class blowhards -- and smarter than average, and specializing in "generating new knowledge" in some field.

Figure out who you have the most to learn from in the direction you want to go, and get what little you can out of them: some exposure to a new field, some experience doing original research, a recommendation and a piece of paper.

Good people are scattered across programs, and they are few and far between. It's your job to find someone you can work with, and who will further YOUR goals.

Your advisor will have a far greater influence on the outcome of your graduate studies than the choice of program. There are plenty of paint-by-numbers physicists who are basically doing the same work over and over, and will turn you into a lab rat who spends most of his time dickering with equipment suppliers, and there are psychology professors in cognitive who design truly inspired studies with a great deal of rigor to them. You can't even go by field as to where the really interesting and innovative work is being done.

Some things to watch out for: someone who doesn't have tenure yet will work you like an animal on their own projects and not care one bit about your goals or interests. The recently tenured will be focused on academic empire-building and may or may not care about your goals or interests. People in extremely prestigious programs may spend all of their time preening and winning awards and only needs students to supply them with narcissistic supply: if you can't stand kissing A, stay away from the most lauded people at the most prestigious programs.

Re:Business or Accounting (1)

mtapman (1259686) | about 5 years ago | (#27380283)

/agree. Don't be afraid of change. People who say change is hard are just speaking from fear not experience. If you're willing to give up your cushy, stable, and known career to restart somewhere else than it'll be exactly like starting out from college.

Re:Business or Accounting (1)

linhares (1241614) | about 5 years ago | (#27380293)

Bullshit on people not being able to change after 30. Utter bullshit.

Call me up when some middle-age sociologist with a wife and kids type turns into a quantum physicist, with absolutely no previous background.

Re:Business or Accounting (1)

oldhack (1037484) | about 5 years ago | (#27380059)

In other words, go to nursing school.

Re:Business or Accounting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27380139)

I agree - go for nursing, because HE SOUNDS LIKE A BIG BABY

Re:Business or Accounting (2, Interesting)

azav (469988) | about 5 years ago | (#27380189)

Good to hear some advice counter to mine. As a computer geek and a former marine bio major, I regretted not getting a business minor in a big way. As any tech kid goes into college, what do you think about getting a minor in business or as mentioned prior, in accounting?

If you want to start your own business and can't do our own books, you're screwed.

Re:Business or Accounting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27380219)

This is truly excellent advice. Thanks for sharing.

Re:Business or Accounting (4, Interesting)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about 5 years ago | (#27380267)

Listen, kid. I'm a professor of business and management science. My masters and PhD are in Computer Science. There is a hidden rule in academic life: you cannot swim upstream. It is easy for a mathematician or a physicist to become an engineer. It is easy for an engineer to become an economist or work in any business field. But it is close to impossible for a marketing type to become a physicist.

Sure, for some values of upstream. I've yet to see a mathemetician become a good experimental pyhsicist. They can/often do become excellent theoretical physicists. Likewise with engineers. Mathematicians and physicists can become excellent engineers in some areas, not so much in others. But your main point stands that the flow is mostly one-way, though there is a bit of overlap between physics and engineering especially on the semiconductors and nano stuff.

Re:Business or Accounting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27380013)

Y'all postin' in a troll thread

Re:Business or Accounting (1)

azav (469988) | about 5 years ago | (#27380155)

YES YES YES. Get a business minor. If you start out on your own and you don't know the rules to business, you will be subject to them.

BMA is the BMW of diplomas (1)

unlametheweak (1102159) | about 5 years ago | (#27379623)

What looks best on a resume...Computer Science, Information Technology, or something different altogether -- perhaps an MBA?

If you want something that looks good on a resume then get an BMA. You can do just about anything with an BMA without having to have any specific abilities, and it's got the prestige along with the title.

Re:BMA is the BMW of diplomas (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27379665)

Yeah, because all those MBAs that supposedly were growing the economy prior to the current economic downturn are really giving the MBA a good name right now. They're a dime a dozen and I'm not sure there's much value to them anymore... I'd go with something else.

Re:BMA is the BMW of diplomas (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27379669)

MBA is rubbish - there are a lot of fools out there with one.

Go for econometrics/finance if you want something computery with economic grounding.

Re:BMA is the BMW of diplomas (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 5 years ago | (#27380077)

MBA is great if you already have a decent amount of business experience. If you're returning to university in your 30s or 40s, consider getting an MBA to give you the theory that goes along with your practical experience. Don't get one if you've just come from university; it is a waste of your time, and employers know it is worthless.

Re:BMA is the BMW of diplomas (2, Informative)

MicktheMech (697533) | about 5 years ago | (#27380065)

I have an MBA, so as an engineer who's done this let me shed a bit of light on it. An MBA is a very different creature from a regular Academic master's degree. In the top tier schools (the only ones worth the tuition) it's basically a stepping stone to a few specific careers: Investment Banking, Fund Management, Consulting and to some degree entrepreneurship. If you're looking to either jump into consulting or finance then go for the MBA. If you want to climb the ladder in an IT organization get something else.

Re:BMA is the BMW of diplomas (1)

unlametheweak (1102159) | about 5 years ago | (#27380115)

In the top tier schools (the only ones worth the tuition) it's basically a stepping stone

What is a "top tier school"?

Re:BMA is the BMW of diplomas (2, Informative)

MicktheMech (697533) | about 5 years ago | (#27380137)

I'd say top 50 in the Financial Times rankings, but the closer you are to the top the better. The tier 1 schools (top 10) are very expensive, but are a golden ticket to a few key companies that don't recruit much anywhere else.

Re:BMA is the BMW of diplomas (0, Troll)

unlametheweak (1102159) | about 5 years ago | (#27380185)

I'd say top 50 in the Financial Times rankings, but the closer you are to the top the better.

You never answered my question. I didn't ask you to point me to the locations where I can find the top tier schools, I asked you to tell me what a top tier school is.

Re:BMA is the BMW of diplomas (1)

unlametheweak (1102159) | about 5 years ago | (#27380245)

You said:

The tier 1 schools (top 10) are very expensive, but are a golden ticket to a few key companies that don't recruit much anywhere else.

According to this Website, most businesses don't look at the school you went to, except for some notables:

A friend of mine had the pleasure of having a lot of high profile visitors come to his campus. One of them was the CEO of Enron and another one was the CFO of Tyco. These two specific individuals were in fact Harvard Business School graduates.

I suppose I will have to tell the causal leader that none of these companies exist anymore because of financial scandals. Ref: http://nofieiman.com/2006/10/top-tier-school-or-not/ [nofieiman.com]

depends (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27379625)

What do you want to do?

Resume (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27379627)

I think choosing the type of degree based on what looks best on your resume isn't the best way to go. Graduate school is a lot of work. If you pick something just because it looks good on a resume and not because you actually like it, I can't imagine you'd enjoy getting your masters.

What Do You Want to Do with the Rest of Your Life? (5, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | about 5 years ago | (#27379631)

Disclaimer: I got a Bachelors of Science in Computer Science and a Masters of Science in Computer Science from two different schools.

I am currently a junior computer science major at a relatively competitive university. I intend to remain here for some graduate work ...

Ok, I'm not going to be able to tell you which degree to pursue but I am going to tell you that remaining at the same university you got your undergrad in is a mistake. I was once like you and my professor told me that it was a bad idea for me to remain at the same university for my masters. I didn't care, I wanted to be closer to my family and there wasn't another decent university around. I never got a good explanation why but due to some circumstances, I ended up moving and the result was my masters at a different university.

I am thankful this happened.

I now understand why it's better that you go to another university for your next degree and it has a little bit to do with what some people consider the most important aspect of college. I've oft heard that it's not what you learn at college, it's who you meet. And while I agreed with this about the bullshit degrees in college (like business, architecture, law, etc.) I had never considered it a matter of importance at all in computer science. But it is! Not because of this connection is hooking you up with this position here but more so because of the ideas that sometimes arise between two particular individuals or the new perspectives other people can put on how you see things--yes, even technical things like algorithms.

And so, by staying at the same university, you are wastefully throwing away a chance to work with, learn with and be with 100s of new talented people. If you stay, you most likely know the staff at your current university and will have everything settled but I urge you to consider throwing away that comfort zone and take a gamble at meeting new people with different ideas and concentrations. I think this helps both universities from becoming too stagnant and focusing on the same damn thing year after year. I don't know, I'm no longer in academia but think about it.

An MS in computer science appears to be highly theoretical ...

It doesn't have to be that way. I was given a set of courses to choose from (as long as I satisfied breadth and depth requirements) and I think there were quite a few practically useful classes I could take--even software business classes. At least at my university it wasn't highly theoretical but an individual could certainly go that way. I knew what I wanted to do with my life: code. And it seems like everything I took in my grad classes was in some way useful. I'm given a large set of requirements and one of the first things I do is theorize with others about practical ways to implement it. Thankfully, you can usually spot the choke points and problem areas with designs and although patterns like proxy, caching, model-view-controller and polymorphism are theoretical concepts, they are often considered and analyzed without being implemented.

The point is, everything will look good on your resume as long as it's a masters. And I'm certain you could go down any of the paths you listed and still land a job doing something one of the others is geared towards.

The real question you should be asking is to yourself and it should be "What do I want to do with the rest of my life?" Once you answer that, you'll get a better idea of what masters program to take. The other degrees, probably also useful. I'm pretty biased though and wanted to be working in computer science for the rest of my life so it was an easy answer. Had I done IT I could probably still be where I am right now but I had no desire for that part of the field. Call your own shots.

Re:What Do You Want to Do with the Rest of Your Li (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27379939)

If the OP's university has a highly theoretical MS program, and he wants an MS program that involves a lot more coding, then that seems an even stronger argument for not doing the MS at his alma mater.

Re:What Do You Want to Do with the Rest of Your Li (1)

jefu (53450) | about 5 years ago | (#27380069)

Absolutely! If you have any way to move to another university, do so. You'll meet a whole new group of people, both students and faculty. With some luck the students will be from a variety of universities and the faculty will have different interests and different approaches to things. You might find that they'll expect you to learn some stuff that they do at the undergraduate level, but your old school did not, but that's a good thing.

Staying in one place, unless the program is huge and you get to deal with a whole new set of people, tends to lead to stagnation and to graduate students whose advanced degrees are only a tiny bit different from their undergraduate degrees.

Re:What Do You Want to Do with the Rest of Your Li (1, Interesting)

LordNimon (85072) | about 5 years ago | (#27380197)

I've oft heard that it's not what you learn at college, it's who you meet.

The only people I met in grad school are my ex-girlfriends. I guess it depends on which university you go to, but , the engineering graduate school was no haven for social activities. Every week night, I went to class at 6pm and left 2-3 hours later. I didn't talk to anyone in my classes, and there were no group projects. [gwu.edu]

I went to the same school for my undergraduate degree, and it was a completely different experience, much like any typical college. Not only that, but no one I knew in undergrad was also in my grad classes. I also had mostly different instructors, even though it was the same major.

Ahem... (4, Insightful)

drolli (522659) | about 5 years ago | (#27379649)

My advice is: do what you really want to do. If you really like it, you will be above average. That is the average which asked: what looks best?

When i started to study (physics) the future for physicists looked very grim, according to everybody. Now i can't complain.

Re:Ahem... (1)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | about 5 years ago | (#27379805)

I completely agree with drolli. Follow what you enjoy doing more than anything, really. The post also asks:

What looks best on a resume, and where might I expect to make more money in the not-too-distant future?

That's a completely different question from pondering CS vs IT. If it was 1995 and you asked this, I would have said "fuck it all and get into flipping real estate until the house of cards crumbles, then take your money and move to Belize..." I didn't do that because I don't care much about money or real estate.

The future of *everyone's* life is going to be energy generation and energy conservation. You want to make a pile in the long term doing something worthwhile? Start a company that works in renewable energy systems or *URBAN* geothermal HVAC. You'll make a great living in the future and you'll be doing something worthwhile.

good luck.


Well that depends.... (1)

quantumghost (1052586) | about 5 years ago | (#27379675)

What do you _want_to_do_? Do you want to work as a programmer? I'd say stay away from a PhD. Do you want to do research? Then is it theoretic (language constructs...) or practical (AI, computer vision...)? If so a strict PhD in CS is probably better. Do you want to work in management? Then experience (ok, questionable here) and an MBA are probably the way to go. Do you want to create a startup? Quit now and move back in with your parents until you create the next Facebook or Google. Think you get the drift here...you have not rigorously defined your objective.

It depends on what you want. (1)

hlimethe3rd (879459) | about 5 years ago | (#27379683)

An MBA is the most versatile, especially if you want to go into an industry other than computers (consulting, managing, etc). An MBA from a good school opens more doors than anything else. But an MBA looks a lot better with some work experience beforehand, and you might get into an even better school with good work experience and letters of recommendation. Even if you want to stick with computer work, it *still* depends. You hit it on the head: computer science is theoretical. Computer science done right is *science*. An IT degree is practically a vocational degree sometimes. What do you want to do? Do you want to design circuits or program for Apple? Go for science. Do you want to run some company's servers and workstations? Then go IT. Etc. What looks best on a resume depends on where you are submitting. This is something you have to figure out yourself.

It often doesn't matter (1)

vrmlguy (120854) | about 5 years ago | (#27379687)

With the financial sector meltdown, MBAs seem to be worth less than even a year ago. Universities are responding by offering more courses in ethics, but it's an open question how quickly the field will recover. My degree is in Comp. Sci., but I've been in IT my whole career and it doesn't seem to have made much difference; I make as much as my peers with the same amount of post-grad work. Arguably, I could have moved to "Californie" and made a killing at some startup, but that always seemed a bit of a lottery: some win big, but lots disappear without a trace. And there's a good chance I'd have lost it all in the last year anyway. As you get older, the real value of any advanced degree is to show that you know how to learn on your own.

Depends on Your Interest (5, Interesting)

moehoward (668736) | about 5 years ago | (#27379699)

I found that an MBA with a CS degree was the best for my own career. In general, I found that there are two career paths, and which one you choose depends on your personality/goals/ambitions... You can go either the technical management route or the business management route. I chose the latter for myself and found that it allowed for great flexibility. I've been through 3 recessions now and the combo business/CS made me more nimble when things changed. I have never been laid off or out of work. I ran my own company for several years, and I am now self-employed. But, those friends of mine who went the technical route have had different types of success. Generally, they have grown to be technical managers at companies of various sizes. So, overall, the major difference between folks that took the MBA route and those that took the Masters/PhD in CS/IT is that the latter work 9-5 corporate jobs. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but it seems to just be that way. You easily could get an MBA and end up working in a corporate environment as well. To be honest, the two people I know with the greatest success did technical BS, then MBA, then (gag) a law degree.

Sorry for the long rant. My bottom line is... Stay in school, kids!

Re:Depends on Your Interest (1)

PDG (100516) | about 5 years ago | (#27379829)

Agreed, I see the trio of tech, business, and law creating a juggernaut of a CIO/CTO executive.

BA - check
MBA - check
Law Degree - currently in progress


Re:Depends on Your Interest (1)

ThatFunkyMunki (908716) | about 5 years ago | (#27380143)

Being a C-level exec would be so terrible... being accountable to all of those stupid fucks who care only about this quarter's profits and making a quick buck on your company would be hell.

Re:Depends on Your Interest (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27380003)

So the two choices you have both lead to management? Good management is important, but I think this field is sorely lacking in highly skilled PROFESSIONAL developers. Seems like the accepted path is to perform the skilled technical work through your 20s then move "up" the chain to management.

My BS is in mechanical engineering and although some engineers move into management, the best engineers are in their late 40s and beyond. Though some managers are good enegineers, most of them I've known aren't, but have good social skills and other non-technical skills that are helpful in managing people and projects.

So if you truly enjoy what you do, please continue to improve and apply your skills and don't just aspire to "climb the ladder".

Re:Depends on Your Interest (1)

Lexta (1093975) | about 5 years ago | (#27380159)

Couldn't agree more on the fact that your interests decide where you should end up. However, how are you supposed to know what you like until you've gone out and done it???

My advice, get as many internships as humanly possible. I really mean humanly possible; apply for them all! Try and get yourself into a department that does something that you really enjoy, get involved in their work and really take your successes & failures to heart.

Once you have established this use your masters degree to move yourself forward in that organization/role. The number of people I have heard of who have done highly specialized masters in CS before working and now cannot find work is quite frightening.

An even bigger plus is if your employer knows that you are passionate about your work you might end up at an EXTEMELY competitive university for masters rather than just a relatively competitive one.

Good Luck

Re:Depends on Your Interest (1)

plopez (54068) | about 5 years ago | (#27380225)

Exactly. Before even asking us you should have defined your goals. I would recommend going to your school's career counseling center and taking a skills and interest survey first.

Then define your goals.

Then and only then look for a school. When looking for a school, and an adviser, use word of mouth and interview potential advisers carefully. Look at their research and see how you fit in with their research and their personality. I was offered a free ride, but the potential adviser struck a wrong note with me so I turned him down. I elected to scrape up support on my own and live on savings for the first year. I'm glad I did, he is a jerk and the grad students who took him up on the offer are not only suffering but I think he is giving them a poor education (IMO, his research isn't that good, his statistical techniques smell funny to me. Parametric tests on skew data?).

And yes, don't get your grad degree at the same place you got your undergrad. You need to broaden you horizons. Too many undergrads admitted into the same department makes it inbred and is a sign of a bad department. Visit several schools and get a feel for then environment. Your entire career is on the line. take your time.

Don't go to grad school for your resume (1)

macosxaddict (559557) | about 5 years ago | (#27379709)

You'll end up in a job you don't like, and have a miserable time in grad school, too. Think about the classes you've taken so far. Which were the most interesting/fun? Spend your time in grad school focusing on those areas. If there aren't any that you think are worth another year of your life, maybe it'd be better to defer grad school for a year or two until you figure it out.

Goal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27379715)

If you have no soul and no interests and care only for the money, you may want to consider the MBA. There is a backlash against MBAs at the moment (they are being blamed for tanking the economy -- but who isn't these days?) but I'm sure that'll clear up by the time you're done.

If you've got talent, you could take something more practical and build things for a living. I guess it just depends on how much of an asshole you want to be.

What do you want to do? (2, Insightful)

TerranFury (726743) | about 5 years ago | (#27379719)

"What looks best on a resume" depends entirely on who is reading the resume. If you want to work I.T., and simply have a lot of I.T. experience, then you have a good resume. But if you want to work for Microsoft research, then that same resume is worthless.

So, your first priority should be figuring out what you want to do. The best way to do this is to try different things. Get internships. Try everything. Then make a decision; this will tell you what degree to get.

The question is what do you want? (1)

prefec2 (875483) | about 5 years ago | (#27379729)

CS is a wide field and normally you will specialize in one or two areas in your master studies. Depending on the country and university you got you Bachelor, it is advisable to get some knowledge in theory (e.g. logic, semantics, formal languages) because these tings are very useful in many advanced areas of CS. Right now (and also in the several years) software engineers, system analytics, and network/security personnel is in high demand.

However, if you only want to make money, you should become one of those business monkeys. They need a totally different set of skills.

You should definitely not try to study something which is too close to products of a special vendor, because then everything you learned will become obsolete in the near future. A good broad basis is better then a focus on certain products.

How about doing what you enjoy? (5, Insightful)

sirket (60694) | about 5 years ago | (#27379733)

Stop worrying about what's going to make you the most money and figure out what you enjoy. An MBA that hates his job is worthless. A computer scientist that isn't passionate about math and theory is worthless. An IT guy that isn't obsessed with all things tech will never be as good as the guy that is.

Figure out what you love doing and do that. If you really love it you'll be better at it. The best people in any field always make plenty of money.

As an aside- the last thing this world needs is more lawyers. The second to last thing this world needs is more MBA's.

Re:How about doing what you enjoy? (2, Insightful)

chdig (1050302) | about 5 years ago | (#27379983)

The problem is that most kids in university don't actually know what they enjoy. They may have an idea, but I have a feeling that choosing a grad program is oftentimes taking a stab in the dark that it'll be something the student will want to continue with.

So my suggestion: Don't Go Back To School! (well, not yet) Go get a job in a field you 'think' you may enjoy, and gain some perspective on the industry, and how your talents fit in. After a year or two of that, then make an informed choice of grad schools.

The knowledge and experience of a practical, real-world environment is invaluable to students entering grad schools, and far too many take the easy road of just staying in school.

If you want to differentiate yourself from others, make a better choice about an expensive and time-consuming postgrad education, and be more employable afterwards, do yourself a favor and get a job.

Are you deaf? (4, Funny)

oldhack (1037484) | about 5 years ago | (#27379745)

I told you last week, nursing school!

Next question.

Re:Are you deaf? (4, Insightful)

intrico (100334) | about 5 years ago | (#27380119)

Despite being an attempt at humor and being modded funny, this is actually really solid advice.

The field of health informatics is going to skyrocket in the next few years. It has become glaringly obvious, as of late, that the health care field overall is lagging behind other industries in leveraging IT to increase efficiency. Anyone who happens to be educated in both nursing and computer science will have skills that are at no less than a "critical" level of demand during the next several years at least.

MBA is for people with work experience (2, Insightful)

portscan (140282) | about 5 years ago | (#27379747)

I would say don't bother with an MBA until you've worked for a few years. Personally, I thing the degree is joke in general, but if you haven't even had any work experience, it means nothing to have an MBA.

if you are just going for a masters, you probably want to be a programmer/engineer, so theoretical is likely not the best way to go. that's the best i can do without some more information about your ultimate career goals.

Depends what you like doing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27379769)

If you like to be part of the cutting edge and have more theory and higher level design as your background then an MS in CS would work. I just completed an M.S. CS degree at a top 10 school, and afterwards I thought that an MBA would suit me better down the road since I am not uber into the theory and more on using it practically as you would in IS/IT and more into business.

An MBA will give you an easier chance to break out of Engineering/IT if your long term goal is to be management or higher. As I see it, basically go for the M.S. in C.S. if you really want to be a hardcore engineer. Start now with an internship/work in the field and that will help strengthen your resume so you have practical experience when you graduate. That's one of the mistakes I did which would have made things easier now.

Theory is not a Bad Thing (1)

JimMcCusker (27543) | about 5 years ago | (#27379789)

If you look at industry 20 years ago it looks nothing like it does today. However, what was "theory" then (functional languages, AI, data mining, natural language processing, test driven design, parallel distributed computing) is practice today. In 20 years, the "practical" IT aspects will be completely different, but the theoretical foundations will still matter. You're going to need to learn how to keep up with practice yourself on your own as a matter of a) career maintenance and b) personal interest. From personal experience, I found it was much better for me to get started with that early. Take classes in the aspects that won't change, and teach yourself the latest and greatest. You only get a degree once, don't waste it on the flavor of the month.

Only if it's free (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27379811)

Seriously. I am almost finished with my masters now, and thank god I had a fellowship. An MBA typically costs much more due to fees at some schools. I would say apply to all of them, and decide after they start offering you deals. It would be stupid to make a choice you aren't sure about, then find out you could have gone a different way for free, or even been paid while you are in school. (hint, apply for phd to get the fellowship, then quit with a masters. nobody will be crying about you changing your mind)

Re:Only if it's free (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27380053)

I have to agree. If nobody is interested enough in you to pay you to be in their program, what makes you think similar people will be interested in you for a job? After graduate school, nobody talks about crap being "good on a resume" anymore. Grow up, and decide for yourself. Also, as a MSCS graduate with my own company, I won't hire anybody that thinks they're a business person because of an MBA. If you really want to impress somebody, demonstrate some entrepreneurship.

Consider an MSEE (4, Insightful)

SwedishChef (69313) | about 5 years ago | (#27379817)

I've found that, as an engineer myself (originally) the greatest lack of understanding among computer science majors are the details of the hardware itself. I've had guys with CS degrees try to control 120VAC equipment using the parallel port!! And then not understand at all why this is not a good idea. Control systems are a burgeoning field all by themselves and because they're all computerized now it's a great area.

Re:Consider an MSEE (1)

vrmlguy (120854) | about 5 years ago | (#27380153)

I've found that, as an engineer myself (originally) the greatest lack of understanding among computer science majors are the details of the hardware itself.

Ditto. I started out working on a BS in EE, but my school didn't have a good digital program at that time, so my advisor suggested I switch to CompSci. Later in grad school, I took as many EE courses as my electives allowed. I now work in professional services for a major manufacturer of computer equipment, and while I don't use my EE background every day, I don't think I would be where I am today without it.

Don't waste your time (5, Insightful)

philipgar (595691) | about 5 years ago | (#27379831)

Seriously, if your concern for going to grad school is solely to have something on your resume that looks better and gets you paid more, don't go. As a grad student in computer engineering, I can't stand the people who want to get a masters just because it makes them look better. And, if you do get a masters, don't bother getting it at a big name university, because that likely won't mean anything once you get it. The big name universities have the name because of the research they do. The research determines the ranking of their graduate program. If you plan on going just to get a degree, and not do any research, you'll end up shorting yourself of a better education elsewhere, and you'll waste the time of professors and other students who are actually interested in doing research. After graduating from one of these schools it won't really make you look much better either. You'll talk to companies and get in the door for having a big research school's name on your degree, and they'll ask you about what research you did, or ask for recommendations from faculty etc. You likely either won't know any faculty very well (as they're concerned with doing research, and not some masters student who only cares about making more money), or they'll have a low opinion of you for wasting space in their program (that space could have instead been used by someone interested in pursuing research).

Sorry if I sound really negative about this, but this is the truth of academia. The big name schools are concerned with research. That is why they have a big name, and that is what they will focus on to maintain their reputation. They often do not offer a better education, and in fact they are often less concerned with teaching than smaller lesser known schools. The professors just can't afford spending too much time teaching, because in the end (for getting tenure at least), research is what matters. In fact, at many of these schools, it is looked down upon if a junior faculty members wins a teaching award. The rest of the university assumes they're spending too much time on their teaching, and not enough on their research.

My recommendation is to talk to the faculty at your current university. See what they recommend, and be truthful about why you want to go to grad school. Slashdot is not the place to find out about this stuff, most people here have no clue. Also remember that as far as graduate programs at top schools go, it's not really that one school is better than another. In reality its that one school is better in one particular specialty area. The choice of which school is best for you depends much more heavily on what you plan on specializing in rather than the US News ranking. Employers know what schools specialize in, and base decisions on that. If you don't plan on specializing (as you don't seem to be concerned with research), the rankings immediately become relatively worthless. Talk to faculty that you know and trust. They can help you, but you have to show that you're worth spending time on. They likely have more important things to do, and don't want someone wasting their time.


Re:Don't waste your time (1)

edcheevy (1160545) | about 5 years ago | (#27380093)

Agreed. And you should be looking not just at the topic area, but specific faculty. If you're interested in specialty XYZ, you want to be taking classes from the leading instructor of XYZ. Not only do you get the obvious benefit of learning about your favorite specialty, but when somebody in industry who knows nothing about XYZ needs to hire somebody, they'll often get in touch with the top names (or somebody who knows them). Guess what? If you're a strong grad student working with that expert, you should be able to get hooked up with the overflow and be working on your favorite topic before you're done with classes.

A "good school" is a general resume boost for your first job. Training under a subject matter expert can boost you throughout your career. Follow the key expert, not the school/program.

Re:Don't waste your time (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | about 5 years ago | (#27380101)

All that being said, a good MS program should involve some research -- not as much as a PhD obviously, but a decent amount, say 1/3 to 1/4 of the total program -- and being at a school known for research in an area you're interested in can be a big plus. I have two MS's, one in CS and one in biostatistics, and for both degrees I was lucky enough to have advisors who specialized in areas very close to my own interests. What I learned in the course of my RA and thesis research with them was enormously useful both for my work in industry and for my eventual return to grad school for my PhD. The academic usefulness is obvious. The industrial usefulness is maybe not so obvious, but I'd argue that a good programmer working at a good company is pretty much always engaged in research of some sort: you're always trying to figure out not only how to solve problems, but solve them well, and to do that you need the skills you learn in a rigorous, research-oriented academic environment.

This assumes you get a job at a good company, of course. I was lucky in that aspect too. :)

Re:Don't waste your time (1)

kudokatz (1110689) | about 5 years ago | (#27380163)

I am currently finishing up an undergrad in CS at a "major research university", and take classes with the masters students. I have also done "research" at the "graduate" level, and it was an easier A than almost any other 3-credit endeavor, even though I ended up putting more time into it because I did enjoy it a bit.

The claim that professors at research universities don't focus on education is, in my case, completely wrong even if correct in general. I have lunch with my professors, they go out of their way to make sure people understand issues, and they are generally amiable people (although occasionally distracted by research deadlines of course). During employment this past summer I was appreciated for leveraging information I had gathered from various classes--some say that school is just for the degree, but if you try hard enough you can get the practical experience from people who care.

Re:Don't waste your time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27380177)

You may do well at smaller universities, but there may be a hidden problem with that too.

At my school, for instance, as a grad student I'm teaching what the department likes (misleadingly) to call "computer literacy" (ie Microsoft Office) and will do so until I leave and it is clear that the only reason they even have a grad program is to keep the computer literacy program staffed. I think there are only about three people in the grad program who are not teaching this nonsense (and a couple of them are doing systems admin work - which is nice as they only work about four hours a week - rather like their boss). I've talked to other students in grad programs in larger schools and in some cases they're teaching real programming classes and they tell me that the process of learning how to help stuck students solve problems as been almost as valuable as some of their classes.

Re:Don't waste your time (1)

ThrowAwaySociety (1351793) | about 5 years ago | (#27380279)

There are at least some "big name" universities that offer separate "academic" and "professional" graduate tracks.

Perhaps you do attend an ivory-tower institution with a disdain for the practical side of things. (Or perhaps that's just your perception of things.) But there are certainly institutions that are more than willing to take on Masters students who aren't just checking off a box on their way to a PhD.

What you find interesting (1)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | about 5 years ago | (#27379837)

Do what you find interesting.
Only that will ensure you'll do it right and get good+experienced in your area of work. Which will result in good income and enjoying your everyday work.

MBAs are useless... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27379841)

I know so many MBAs who don't have jobs it is scary. They are also handed out like TP given all the "extension" universities, etc.

Go get a masters in economics from lse.ac.uk or a masters in security from SANS.

Get some real-world experience first, then get your masters. They work better together.

Get a job first (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27379851)

No one in a technical field should ever pay for Graduate school. That's absolutely absurd. Apply for a job now and most companies will pay for your MBA/CS/IT graduate school. As to which one to pick, that's been covered pretty thoroughly. But if you enjoy the company you're working for, you can ask management which degree you need to move down your career path of choice and know for certain which to obtain. Also...it's FREE. I can't stress enough the difference between paying $30k-$60k for two years and getting paid $50-$70k. This nets more money in your pocket and two years of work experience. And two years of experience plus a masters will earn you more than just the masters.

Work for a couple years (2, Insightful)

mpapet (761907) | about 5 years ago | (#27379853)

There's nothing like a few years in-the-field perspective before going back for an advanced degree.

This will give you a chance to see "which way the professional winds blow" for you.

Take those few years to work and have lots of safe, happy sex and generally have a great time. you know, live.

Clarification (5, Informative)

ryanleary (805532) | about 5 years ago | (#27379857)

Thanks for all the replies so far, the reason I ask what will look best on a resume is with the economy the way it is, I've begun to wonder what combination of education and experience will give me the most opportunities down the road.

I am an excellent programmer, but working 9-5 in a cubicle writing code scares me and does not seem like a good way to spend the next 30+ years of my life.

That being said, I have done some freelance web design and web database application development and really enjoyed it. I have also worked in various environments doing IT work and found it alright.

So further complicating the issue, (and no offense to people who have a BS or MS in IT) but I often hear that IT degrees are for people who couldn't make it in Computer Science. So does going from a competitive CS program to an IT program look like this?

I don't know how graduate school works. I'm not worried about being miserable at school. I can do anything for one year. It's after school that I'm most concerned with.

And finally, regarding staying here at the same Uni for graduate work, I had never really thought of leaving. A big part of that, however, is I have worked really hard while here and will be completing my B.S. in a total of 3 years. I will still have quite a bit of scholarship money that may be applied to my graduate work if I stay here.

Again, thank you all so much.

Re:Clarification (1, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | about 5 years ago | (#27379953)

So further complicating the issue, (and no offense to people who have a BS or MS in IT) but I often hear that IT degrees are for people who couldn't make it in Computer Science.

Couldn't make it, or never even tried because they were scared off by the math curriculum. In other words, lousy programmers. If you're doing well in a competitive CS undergrad program, you're already better than this.

So does going from a competitive CS program to an IT program look like this?

Yes. Yes, it does.

Here's a question you might want to ask yourself: do you like your fellow students? That is, do you find CS people generally enjoyably to work with? If so, stay in CS. The theory you will learn in grad school will make you better at pretty much anything you want to do with computers, ever, and will last a hell of a lot longer than the currently-hot buzzwords you'll learn in IT (which may or may not be still hot when you graduate, of course.) Your fellow techies will recognize this and respect it. You'll have more options, and you'll work with a better class of people.

OTOH, if you can't stand your fellow techies and yearn to be a suit, by all means go for an MBA. You won't learn anything of any real value to anyone, of course, and it does seem that after the latest crash people may be waking up to this fact, but odds are the economy will recover and the con men will go back to doing what they do best. If you have no soul and can cheerfully face the idea of a career as a parasite subsisting on people who do actual work, go for it. Do be aware that every once in a while your hosts will turn on you, but if you can synergize your black-belt mission statement to leverage core black-belt stakeholder assets -- or whatever the buzzword bingo of the day is when you get out of school -- you'll get by.

Re:Clarification (1)

mtapman (1259686) | about 5 years ago | (#27380351)

The discussion about colleagues is a critical point and one that most people overlook when they choose a field. I'd put peers as one of the top reasons to choose or avoid a particular career. If you like the people in a field than it's a great area to work in, if you don't like them than it's going to be really tough to go to work (for the next 30 years).

I'd also agree that a generic CS degree is more valuable than a technically specific degree. Concepts matter.

And as for coding 9-5, of wearing a suit as an MBA, those aren't hard coded into the different careers. You can setup a work environment that fits your style if you figure out what that style is and work towards it over time. I know plenty of programmers that have figured out how to balance coding with design and architecture work, and plenty of MBAs that never wear a suit (such as me.)

Look at your work environment just like any other task/goal, layout objectives, figure out what moves you toward those objectives, and execute those actions. It may take time but you'll almost certainly get there because no one is really working against you, it's just inertia that keeps most people from finding a good working environment, imo.

Lastly, keep coming back to focusing on your relationship with your peers. You should use that as a metric to determine the quality of your professional life. If you respect and enjoy working with your peers (even if you don't agree with them) than you're in a good spot. If not, starting moving elsewhere. We are defined in part by the people we choose to associate with, in addition to our actions.

Re:Clarification (1)

langelgjm (860756) | about 5 years ago | (#27379973)

I don't know how graduate school works. I'm not worried about being miserable at school. I can do anything for one year.

Most master's programs, at least in the U.S., are two years. Maybe you can do it in one year at your school because they offer some kind of smooth track into it, but if you went somewhere else, it's almost guaranteed to be two years.

Re:Clarification (4, Insightful)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 5 years ago | (#27380089)

Thanks for all the replies so far, the reason I ask what will look best on a resume is with the economy the way it is, I've begun to wonder what combination of education and experience will give me the most opportunities down the road.

Apples and oranges, fuzzy thinking at best. By the time you get your degree, economic conditions will have changed.
The first thing you need to decide is what *you* want to do and learn - and resorting to Ask Slashdot indicates to me that you haven't done the basic groundwork in that respect that you should have done years ago.

Re:Clarification (1)

phizix (1143711) | about 5 years ago | (#27380103)

I am an excellent programmer, but working 9-5 in a cubicle writing code scares me and does not seem like a good way to spend the next 30+ years of my life.

Have you considered science, as others here have mentioned? Atmospheric science, in particular, is computationally intensive and can often be started in grad school without any undergrad exposure. With a CS degree and programming experience, you could very quickly get involved in atmospheric science research.

Re:Clarification (2, Insightful)

memorylatency (1441741) | about 5 years ago | (#27380201)

One year of experience in the industry will do more for your career then an additional year of schooling. Every programmer I've hired from college took at least two years to start understanding what they're doing no matter how advanced of a degree they have. Programming is like everything else, you need a lot of intense practice to become really good at it and school generally doesn't give people enough time to really hone those skills.

See if you can get a job writing code for a couple of years so you can really learn the practical side of all of the theory you've accumulated. Learn how to take the designs in your head and make them work. Learn the product development cycle, how to ship software and the different people involved in the process. You will then have a better understanding of what you like or don't like and either can go back for more schooling or even jump right into the area that interests you most.

You also seem to be equating "software development" with "sitting in a cubical writing code". There are a lot of different kinds of people involved in building and shipping software besides the engineers writing code and most people I know who do them have CS degrees. Software testers, for example, spend their time figuring out how to validate that the software works correctly and under which conditions it will break. It's closely related to engineering (and most testers I know have to write tools) but has a different focus and takes a different mindset. There are also project managers who help define, plan and coordinate the software development process. They need to understand how the development process works, the needs of the customers, what the engineers are doing and how it will help solve the problem. Again, a position that's closely related to engineering but with a different focus and requires a different mindset.

Re:Clarification (1)

smith6174 (986645) | about 5 years ago | (#27380269)

Working in a cubicle should scare you. That's why you in particular need to go to graduate school. Since you are looking for advice, I have some for you. Go to graduate school somewhere else. Not only will it be more impressive, it makes practical sense. It shows that people who didn't know you want you to work with them, which is more than any line on a resume could say. Second, you can get a lot more work done when you aren't distracted by familiar things. Watch the movie Real Genius, and remember that people need you, but don't get taken advantage of.

Life is more important (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27379883)

Staying put is a less good idea.
Learning something useful - hands on - is the most important.
I've met a number of advanced degree people who couldn't code their way out of an infinite loop. One guy with a PhD in CS insisted that sin() was broken on his Mac for about a week since the answers weren't what he expected. He was sending degrees, not radians. Idiot.

The things I've never seen universities teach are the most important - team programming, large team projects, bulletproof coding techniques, and the importance of version control systems. I've worked on teams of 500+ developers and every week, someone would break the build by checking in some crap code. They should have been fired for that.

The most fun I ever had was working with a team of 6 where we didn't need QA - we were all responsible and talented enough to design and code nearly bug free systems.

I've worked 5 years in CMM/SEI Level 5 jobs too. Those are more oppressive since the code was controlling multi-billion dollar spacecraft. Any code change took over a year to get to a flight system.

Right now, I wish I had an MBA so I'd know whether I could trust my business partners or not.

Math or Physics (1)

MpVpRb (1423381) | about 5 years ago | (#27379949)

Study something intellectually demanding.

Like a football player lifting weights to build his muscles, training your mind with a difficult subject is always good, even if you don't become a mathematician or physicist.

There is a growing backlash against the MBA degree. Many people believe it is the cause of the current economic crisis.

Among the groups I have worked with, the CS degree gets little respect. It may be a rigorous, demanding field of study at some colleges, but at many it is way too easy.

Grad school != job training (3, Insightful)

spaceyhackerlady (462530) | about 5 years ago | (#27379969)

University was never intended to be job training. Grad school even more so.

Do it because you are interested. This is the only reason to do so. Do it because you want to, because you want to learn new things and find things out.

Do it whether they are going to pay you afterwards or not. Though it must be admitted a Masters degree is highly saleable. I paid for mine in 3 months after I graduated.

...laura, B.Sc., M.A.Sc.

depends (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27379975)

i went to an absolutely horrible undergraduate program in computer science, despite being very prepared for it going in. i got good grades and all in my cs classes but felt like i was 'still hungry'. i went to grad school fulltime and got my MS in computer science from a real school.

the credentials go unnoticed, but i'm doing well for myself in my field (i.e. i make a lot of money and work on some cool stuff). i'm not sure what would have happened if i didn't go to grad school. it all depends how lucky i would have gotten in the job market and more importantly what geographic area i ended up in. it's impossible to say.

Ultimately, find out what you want to do and why. if you are not enthusiastic about a computer science curriculum, maybe you're best off finding a job and seeing what parts of the work world interest you. then if you choose to, get your employer to pay for your mba.

Human interaction (3, Insightful)

Max Romantschuk (132276) | about 5 years ago | (#27379977)

Whatever you pursue, add some psychology to the mix. Coding can be outsourced, but human interaction can't. There will always be a need for people who can understand both the human mind as well as computers, at least until the two merge... ;)

I was planning to study cognitive science myself, but faith had different plans for me it seems. But never underestimate the power in understanding other people. The hardest part of many software projects is figuring out the real needs, and that nearly always starts with human beings.

Professional Degree (3, Interesting)

UserChrisCanter4 (464072) | about 5 years ago | (#27379993)

Your motivation appears to be purely focused toward employment and earnings (not that there's anything wrong with that). As such, I'd have to advise against graduate studies in CS or similar. While they don't have to be theoretical - Master's degrees offer a lot more flexibility in this department than PhDs - they are still focused at their core on contributing to the common knowledge. You're probably better off with a masters or doctorate that falls into the category often described as professional degrees: things such as MDs, Law degrees, MBAs, etc.

You've mentioned an MBA. It's too early for that; while it's certainly not a hard and fast rule, the general consensus is that an MBA works much better after you've been in industry for a few years. You'll be better equipped to discuss and apply the relevant ideas when you know how things work "in the real world." On top of that recommendation, it's important to realize that MBAs have literally become the new "dime a dozen" degree. As the popularity of the degree exploded, every commuter school and online university has begun offering them. Without stooping to elitism (I'm sure the education is sufficient), you risk entering a glutted field with a less than stellar name on your diploma. That's a bad way to make a stack of money and a 2-ish year time sink worthwhile. If you decide on an MBA, you should work for 3 or 4 years, then aim to obtain your MBA from one of the top 40 or so schools. Again, I'm not saying that you'll get a sub-par education or won't succeed with an MBA from tier-3 State U, but it will be more difficult to stand out from a crowd waving MBAs from the big names.

With all that said, may I recommend pursuing graduate studies related to health informatics? At it's simplest level, it's a practical and always-necessary application of CS to the medical field. With the current push from the Obama administration for Electronic Medical Records and the enormous flow of government money sure to follow, it's likely to be an enormous growth industry in the coming years. The basic ideas about DB structure and interface are translatable to other industries if you ever need to leave. Health Informatics-focused graduate programs are available through some Business schools as a hybrid of MIS studies and through the bigger Health Science schools as their own degrees or as specialized variations of Health Administration degrees.

get a job (3, Insightful)

gonar (78767) | about 5 years ago | (#27380011)

get a job. work 5 years. figure out what you want to do in life.

if you work for anything approaching a decent company, they will pay for your grad school when you figure out what you want to study.

My .02 (1)

warGod3 (198094) | about 5 years ago | (#27380015)

My personal advice, from a life-long student... seriously, finish your BS. Get the MS in Computer Science. Get it at another institution as was stated. This will give you a greater depth of what is actually going on out there and a better perspective on things. I don't recommend the MBA or the MSIT at this time only because those degrees are more likely offered to a greater selection of students. Many of the non-traditional schools (re: online, etc.) offer MBAs and MSIT degrees. Get the MSCS and that will give you a greater edge. Now, if you want, after you graduate, during that first two or three years in a good job, what you do is find a decent university that offers an evening MBA program. That may cut into your social time some, but, knock the MBA out if you want, just get the MSCS first.

Wrong Criteria (1)

D.A. Zollinger (549301) | about 5 years ago | (#27380039)

You are considering the wrong criteria in getting a degree. You should instead be asking yourself, "What would I enjoy doing more?" The passion in doing what you enjoy is the best way to maximize your earning potential. You will enjoy going to work everyday, you will be excited to take on and complete diverse projects, and your passion and drive will be obvious to anyone who is around you. People will interpret this as a hardworking ethic at the company , and/or love of the company you work at which will in turn translate in to a higher income.

So if you are interested in setting policy, go for your MBA. If you are interested in applying computer technology to the business setting, go for the MS in IT degree. If you are interested in programming, and the creation of computer tools, go for the MS in computer science. However, there are many fields of study that you did not mention that may be of interest as well, everything from software engineering (specialization in writing software), to computer engineering (designing specialized computing devices), to HCI (how people interact with computers), to the numerous sub specialties of informatics (I'm personally studying health informatics, and the creation of unique tools to better health care and help clinicians be safer and more effective).

Sounds like you need to do more research into what you want to do for the rest of your life, and change the criteria basis for which you are basing this decision.

Programming Language Research (2, Interesting)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | about 5 years ago | (#27380193)

While on the topic, I would like to ask a similar question. What places can people recommend for doing programming language research? I have a MSc in computer science, and I am thinking about getting back into academics after a few years of working. I have been studying and inventing programming languages as a hobby for a number of years now, and I am thinking that, perhaps, I could combine the two and do a PhD project related to programming languages. However, next time I go to university, I want the environment to be a bit more intellectually stimulating than what I have experienced so far. Since I am not tied to any specific location or even country, I have a vast number of universities I could potentially turn to. But which ones would be a good choice? Can anybody recommend some? Or perhaps I should turn to specific people, instead of universities.

You're underestimating the value of theory (1)

intrico (100334) | about 5 years ago | (#27380217)

The key to really setting yourself apart in the real world is the ability to take the theoretical knowledge and being able to creatively apply it in real world, "practical" situations.

Work and school... (1)

(H)elix1 (231155) | about 5 years ago | (#27380237)

Do both.

My thoughts, coming from the interviewer side, is if you come to us with *zero* work experience and an advanced degree - it won't go well for you. There is probably an expectation that you might be able to 'jump' to a higher pay grade because of the advanced training, thinking it might be equivalent to field time. Unlikely.... When we were looking at some candidates a couple weeks back, we ranked folks with experience greater than those to spent more time in academia. One fear was the person coming out with the advanced degree would not be willing to do the work (thinking something is below them, etc).

That said, folks working and going to school for that advanced degree do stand out. Having both real world experience and the advanced degree will be helpful. It is common (knock on wood) for companies to pay for your masters. Usually just enough to go part time - you still have that full time job after all.

Lastly, you may find that the work that typically maps to an educational track may not be your cup of tea. Not to say University is vocational training, but it is worth doing something you actually care about. Stick your toe in the water first.

from a professor at a top CS school (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#27380307)

first things first: you had better worry about getting into a top CS department. this is a huge challenge, with top departments getting 1000s of applications these days for very few spots.

How to improve your chances? Grades of course (think 3.8 or better), GRE scores (think 90+ percentile scores), and letters of recommendation from professors who actually know you and have even done some research with you.

A masters in CS is not "theoretical" (unless you are in theory). Most top programs have many researchers in practical areas like networking, systems, architecture, databases, etc. With coursework in these areas + a little research experience, you get some great prep for getting a job at MS, Google, and many other
similar places.

Good luck!

-CS Prof at a top school

What do you want to do? (1)

cervo (626632) | about 5 years ago | (#27380315)

Why did you study CS? For a job? Did you study to learn about Computer Science because you are interested?

What are your future plans? Do you want to run your own company, work at google, be a mid level technical manager at some company?

Without knowing your goals and motivations it is impossible to answer this question. It sounds like maybe you are in CS for a job in which case a Bachelors will get you a job programming (and in fact there are many many programmers who didn't even get a college degree). The MBA will let you play with the company executives and speak their language. In fact there's a good chance that if you get an MBA mostly you will be doing managing, accounting, marketing, etc. with just a side role of IT. With an MBA you are probably going to be first and foremost a business guy leveraging your IT background to communicate between the IT people and the business people. It also opens up roles like CIO/CTO, etc. (although many people without MBAs get those jobs). And it is probably more recession proof (until everyone gets an MBA). Based on the little you've said and how concerned you are about a job, I think this is probably the path for you but I'm not sure. Also with an MBA you will learn a lot about businesses which will be a great help if one day you decide to run your own company.

I am getting an MS in CS and am thinking if I want a PhD. I learned CS because computers seemed interesting and programming seemed fun. For that, I don't want a watered down program (and in fact am complaining that the CS department is not offering some of the harder classes due to lack of interest [ie AI/Compilers/etc.]). I don't think I would enjoy to be CIO or some VP who spends most of his day overseeing budgets and speaking with upper management about the direction of the company and then communicating the goals to the IT grunt workers. The difference between the MS in CS and IT seems to be that IT/IS requires more business courses and is concerned with how to manage technology while CS teaches you more about what it is. There is some overlap between both sets of degrees. In both you are expected to know discrete math, algorithms, how to program, something about computer hardware, and something about networks. Beyond that CS will have more advanced mathematical and theoretical courses while IS will have some business courses. And the PhD seems to be an MS with a few more classes (in my case 3 more) and a thesis (which is the big thing).

I would say if you want to learn about the technology then get the MS in CS like me. If you want a career in research or to extend the body of knowledge and maybe discover something cool, go with a PhD. If management is what you want, then forget about the MS in IS/IT and just go get your MBA. That will make you much more valuable to the business people, and give you a thorough grounding in a lot of the basic operations of companies (accounting, marketing, management, etc.) and it will be very useful if you ever decide to start your own. Also an MBA opens more doors for you in management. With IS/IT you may always be tied to the IT department while with an MBA you are valuable in any area of the business. Also I think an MBA will help you come up with more ideas on what to build and how to add value to the business. I think an IS/IT degree is good for people interested in business without the technical background, but you have the Bachelors already so you have the technical backround. It is more the business background that you need. Also a Masters in CS isn't that much more than a bachelors, even in pure CS it consists of Networking, Databases, Architecture, Algorithms, Operating Systems, and then a bunch of electives. Generally those 5 areas are the core areas with at least a few required and the rest is all optional. In IS generally they require more management and have more an emphasis on databases (since most business applications are using/managing databases). CS is basically how do you data mine, how do you implement a database system (although IS must take that course too), how do you improve performance in a database. IS is more, okay you have a bunch of data how to organize it, how do you find it, how do you report on it to add maximum value to the business. How do you use data mining to draw conclusions?

Not directly computer-related (2, Insightful)

PhotoGuy (189467) | about 5 years ago | (#27380349)

I'd definitely recommend getting a more industry-specific graduate degree. Advanced degrees in computer science are common. Someone with a strong degree in C.S., with a post-graduate in a specific field, will be golden (assuming the field of choice isn't dying itself).

It's so incredibly hard to find computing/programming/design talent for specific industries; typically, you get a CS-only person, with no knowledge of the domain, trying to implement a solution for a domain-only person, with no knowledge of C.S. It's a painful process. There's incrdible value for being a strong computer programmer/designer in a specialized field. Again, assuming the field is lucrative to start with.

I'd look at the best-paying fields in general, and find one that piques your interest. Learn more about it, and see if it's something you'd be passionate about, and that would reward you well. Then go for it.

I had a lot of programming experience prior to reaching university; so I took a B.Comm. to start, then finished with an M.Sc. Best choices I've ever made. Having business case insight, and a strong programming/design ability, has really helped me achieve things I wouldn't have been able to, otherwise.

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