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Go For a Masters, Or Not?

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the short-term-long-term dept.

Education 834

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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first post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27903615)

damn dog had to pee. first post!

Work Experience (3, Insightful)

DiSKiLLeR (17651) | more than 5 years ago | (#27903621)

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 (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#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 (5, Insightful)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 5 years ago | (#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 (4, Insightful)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 5 years ago | (#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 (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#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 (5, Insightful)

javaxjb (931766) | more than 5 years ago | (#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 (4, Informative)

Nursie (632944) | more than 5 years ago | (#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 (1)

Nursie (632944) | more than 5 years ago | (#27904113)

I should qualify that with "if you're going for a career in software engineering". If you're an EE or somesuch then that makes life different.

Re:Work Experience (5, Informative)

rve (4436) | more than 5 years ago | (#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 (5, Informative)

DreamsAreOkToo (1414963) | more than 5 years ago | (#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 (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 5 years ago | (#27904081)

Actually, you have to be careful because there are some terminal masters degrees in CS/EE etc, and even some good schools sometimes offer them. The terminology is a big confusing, and can differ from institution to institution, but generally a Masters of Science in Computer Science is not terminal, whereas a Masters of Computer Science is terminal. The difference seems to lie mostly with your thesis, Masters of Science courses tend to require a deep, academically rigorous thesis whereas Masters of Computer Science either has a test or project as the final requirement. As always, make sure you consult the school about your program before jumping in.

Re:Work Experience (1)

ray-solomon (835248) | more than 5 years ago | (#27904105)

I suggest he does both. Get a part time job and keep going to school. He needs real world experience at this time. It will also help put his knowledge in perspective so he can concentrate on learning more efficiently.

Re:Work Experience (1)

Bensam123 (1340765) | more than 5 years ago | (#27903717)

Is going to a two year community college and getting two years of experience better then going to a four year university?

After spending time in the real world, I'd say the experience is a crock of shit. There are somethings the daily grind can't make up for.

You'll get those two years of experience after you graduate anyway, ontop of your education.

Re:Work Experience (2, Insightful)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 5 years ago | (#27904127)

Except you'll be two years behind on the promotion ladder and have to make that up... and exams don't mean shit once you've got 6 months experience - employers won't even *look* at what you studied once you have relevant experience under your belt.

Re:Work Experience (1)

nietpiet (836036) | more than 5 years ago | (#27903721)

I recommend the masters, a higher degree will make it easier to switch jobs later in your career

Re:Work Experience (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27903743)

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

Re:Work Experience (5, Insightful)

martyros (588782) | more than 5 years ago | (#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:Work Experience (5, Insightful)

tvdbulck (777251) | more than 5 years ago | (#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 (4, Insightful)

Ash Vince (602485) | more than 5 years ago | (#27904005)

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.

Re:Work Experience (1)

LEMONedIScream (1111839) | more than 5 years ago | (#27904077)

I agree that experience will trump all, but it has to be relevant, useful and challenging. Doing the same thing over and over for a few years won't put you in the same position if you're constantly challenged.

Other than that, the advice I was given was: if you want to do a PhD, don't do a masters; otherwise do a masters.

I figured that I'd rather do a PhD as it is at a higher level and would be something I'd rather achieve and can start in a few years.

don't do it.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27903625)

spend the money on partying and living like a gypsy for 2 years instead.

Only do your masters on a topic you will use (3, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#27903635)

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.

its not about money (5, Insightful)

wjh31 (1372867) | more than 5 years ago | (#27903639)

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.

Re:its not about money (1)

stonewallred (1465497) | more than 5 years ago | (#27903701)

Lol, the difference between a BA and a MA in the field I am chasing is about 30K a year at a minimum. You might not think it is about the money, for most folks everything is about the money.

Re:its not about money (1)

SalaSSin (1414849) | more than 5 years ago | (#27903719)


If you're pretty sure you can start a high pay in a company where you're sure of your job (eg. no trial period), then, and only then, i'd say get that job.

Otherwise you would be foolish not to go for your masters. It's giving you a nice headstart on your paycheck, compared to a Bachelor's degree.

Re:its not about money (3, Interesting)

Another, completely (812244) | more than 5 years ago | (#27903835)

In computer science jobs, a masters might get you a couple of thousand per year higher pay, but you've lived at a lower salary for a year (or two) and could have been up to that higher starting salary with normal pay rises by the time you start there with your masters. For total lifetime earnings in computer science, I doubt it will help.

On the other hand, I don't think it hurts that much either, and it's a chance to do a more in-depth study of your chosen field. It's also an opportunity to see the different views on the subject at a different university, meet interesting new people (including future professional contacts), and enjoy learning for its own sake. Once you're on a non-academic payroll, you will start needing a reason to study interesting subjects during daylight hours.

In short, I agree with wjh31: if you like to study, it's a good way to spend some time. If you just want to earn more money, get a job with prospects, work hard, and get promoted.

Re:its not about money (0, Flamebait)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 5 years ago | (#27903791)

So, hedonism is the only reason to get a higher education? Because it makes you feel good? There is something horribly wrong with that idea.

Re:its not about money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27903849)

What's wrong with feeling good?

Re:its not about money (1)

martyros (588782) | more than 5 years ago | (#27903937)

What reason would you propose for getting a "higher education"? We're not talking about graduating high school here, we're talking about advanced degrees like a Master's or PhD.

Having a PhD myself, I can say that it's a hard enough process if you actually *do* enjoy research. If you don't enjoy it, it's just torture.

And in the end, everything anyone does is aimed at enjoyment of some kind. The difference between "good" people and "bad" people isn't whether they try to do things that make them happy, but what they choose to pursue to make them happy.

Normally... (2, Interesting)

Half-pint HAL (718102) | more than 5 years ago | (#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....


go! (1)

Fackamato (913248) | more than 5 years ago | (#27903643)

As someone without any education at all, I'd say go for the Masters, then get your experience after that. No?

Re:go! (1)

Ren Hoak (1217024) | more than 5 years ago | (#27904023)

I've interviewed many a candidate with a strong academic background (masters, perhaps some PhD work), little to zero experience, and what showed up in the interview: little to zero comprehension of the issues that would be important on the job. I've also interviewed candidates with weak academic backgrounds (uncompleted undergrads) but a few years of experience, and what showed up in the interview: they had the ability to listen and learn, and were interested in the job because of their own passion (versus feeling that their degree made it the only option).

I'm not saying a degree makes one unqualified, of course... I'm just saying that an unqualified statement such as As someone without any education at all, I'd say go for the Masters, then get your experience after that. No? really doesn't look at any relevant issues.

How many times are we going to hear this question? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#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?


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


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.

This is a dead parrot. It's dead. (5, Insightful)

berenixium (920883) | more than 5 years ago | (#27903653)

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.

Silicon Valley versus Institutional Education (1)

billhuey (183070) | more than 5 years ago | (#27903657)

Depends on the situation. If you can get a good coding job in a good situation where you can learn a lot, then the master's degree isn't worth it.

I'd continue with education if I couldn't find a decent gig. There's something to be said about doing and open source project as well to get experiences that you can't get in either college or a job situation.

These days, if you have the raw skill, say for kernel development, going through a master's degree program at a University of California minimally would be a waste of time even for Berkeley or something like that.

You can even cut that off sooner than that in that a wide variety of folks drop out of college to do the same thing and just do not suffer from not having either degrees.

It's situation sensitive however.

Do Both (4, Informative)

iron-kurton (891451) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Do both Masters + work experience (4, Insightful)

jools33 (252092) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Do both Masters + work experience (1)

aslate (675607) | more than 5 years ago | (#27903859)

Indeed, i'm currently posting from my Industrial Placement and it's a great way to get a foot in the door. The University is able to open doors to places you wouldn't normally look at and you can often get an offer after the placement.

I'm currently working for a large investment bank, wouldn't have thought about this level of work before. The placement takes a bit of time out of my term and erases my Summer holiday, but i do get 6 months of paid work experience.

(I am currently fixing last year's intern's project, i'm thinking of scrapping it and starting from scratch!)

Actually, not sure about the answer (4, Interesting)

Kokuyo (549451) | more than 5 years ago | (#27903669)

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.

Re:Actually, not sure about the answer (4, Insightful)

NewbieProgrammerMan (558327) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Re:Actually, not sure about the answer (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 5 years ago | (#27903813)

The main problem is, while you're young, you've only ever been a student. After you get out for a while, you get to see the real world. Going back to school, you see exactly how much BS you have to put up with, and how meaningless your studies are. On the other hand, academic life is indeed easy, heck I'd go back if I could.

Re:Actually, not sure about the answer (1)

NewbieProgrammerMan (558327) | more than 5 years ago | (#27903875)

Going back to school, you see exactly how much BS you have to put up with, and how meaningless your studies are.

Yeah, that actually makes it a tiny bit more difficult going back to school: it's a lot easier to spot assignments that are make-work and/or almost worthless as a means of learning. Sometimes I find it hard to motivate myself through pointless exercises.

On the other hand, if you don't care too much about your GPA, having a BS detector honed by years of "ZOMG THIS MUST BE DONE ASAP" fake business emergencies makes it easier to tell which assignments and classes don't deserve your full attention. ;)

Experience paper (3, Informative)

GordonCopestake (941689) | more than 5 years ago | (#27903671)

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?

In the end, it depends on your skills (1)

Davemania (580154) | more than 5 years ago | (#27903673)

I have friends that have gotten very good jobs after their masters and others that haven't. If you're going to play probability than masters will offer you better chance for better paid jobs. But in the end, it'll be up to you on how you present yourself and the experience and knowledge that you have. If you think the master degree for whatever field will present you with more options, than definiately go for it. Else, get a job, get some proper experience. You can always get your degree at a later date when you know what you're doing.

Go for the masters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27903675)

Get it out of the way now. I believe there is a trend for upper-level jobs requiring a masters or MBA, so if you get this out of the way now, it'll be worth it down the road. My mother pressed me to do the MS after I finished my BS and it was good advice because it would be difficult to do it now -- I simply have too much going on. Of course, you need to be practical about this. I'm assuming you have the time, interest, and money. If you don't have the money, one way to get the university to pay for the MS is to apply for a [funded] PhD and then quit once you get the masters. And you never know...maybe you'll finish the PhD? Or start a company? I think there's so much opportunity to be creative in academia. It's almost altogether absent in the corporate world though, which is one reason I tend to work at startup companies. Hope this helps, Thomas

Re:Go for the masters (1)

NewbieProgrammerMan (558327) | more than 5 years ago | (#27903819)

If you don't have the money, one way to get the university to pay for the MS is to apply for a [funded] PhD and then quit once you get the masters.

That's a really shitty way to get somebody to pay for your MS.

All depends on the job your applying for (1)

kaptink (699820) | more than 5 years ago | (#27903677)

All depends on the job your applying for but generally as long as you have a basic qualification, real life work experience is what is valued the most. Best to decide which area of IT you like most and try to find a position that will give you some nice projects, etc to put on your resume. Employer love to see potential employees who have broken new ground in the area that they want to employ them. Qualifications are more valuable if your applying to a large corporation that's more interested in what's on paper and usually suck to work for anyway.

Universities are a business (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27903681)

"Most of my professors seem to think that getting a masters is a great idea"

Of course they do, that's how they get paid.

Re:Universities are a business (1)

noundi (1044080) | more than 5 years ago | (#27903893)

Haha exactly my thought. But my initial thought was, "which ones don't and why?".

It depends. (5, Interesting)

onion2k (203094) | more than 5 years ago | (#27903685)

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.


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.

Figure It Out Yourself (1)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 5 years ago | (#27903691)

Look at the kinds of jobs people have gotten with a bachelors. If some of them have the kind of job you want, look at what it took them to get it. Do you have that? If not, look at the kinds of jobs people have gotten with a bachelors that you don't want. Are you willing to settle for that?

If you have a masters you can have the kind of job you wanted in the first group whether you have what they had or not. You can also repeat the process above for jobs people have gotten with a masters.

My take as someone who works at a university (5, Interesting)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 5 years ago | (#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).

Re:My take as someone who works at a university (1)

vonj (1433501) | more than 5 years ago | (#27903975)

One of the best posts I have seen in a long while.

There's no experience like work experience (2, Informative)

el_flynn (1279) | more than 5 years ago | (#27903705)

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.

Depeds on what your goals are. I'd overall say yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27903707)

I would be careful of the Masters. (coming from someone with one and going for a Ph.D.) I would say yes get one, because later in life it's a check mark for higher positions in engineering.

Now here's the choice, you can get a professional masters (online and/or course work only). This pretty much shuts the door to going on academically. Or do an in residence thesis under an adviser. Yes it will be harder, but it gives you flexibility if you so choose later on.

Please don't do online.. yes it satisfies the checkmark for management positions, but not for engineering. You miss so much of the learning not being around other people going through the process and having alternative ideas proposed (read lab mates calling you out on retarded ideas)

Re:Depeds on what your goals are. I'd overall say (1)

NewbieProgrammerMan (558327) | more than 5 years ago | (#27903953)

Now here's the choice, you can get a professional masters (online and/or course work only). This pretty much shuts the door to going on academically.

I can only speak for my personal experience, but working on my online professional masters helped me get into the PhD program at the same school. I came from a 4-year school that ranked waaay down there near the bottom, and I'm not sure that I would have been accepted without the higher-ranked graduate school having a year of decent graduate classwork at their institution to include in the evaluation.

I will however agree that a "real" (i.e., you wrote a thesis) masters is probably going to be viewed by technical recruiters as a lot more solid qualification than a professional masters.

Phd or don't bother (4, Insightful)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 5 years ago | (#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:Phd or don't bother (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27903811)

I agree. With a PhD he could do research at Intel or any other large shop. With a BS, he would be just as well off with a Master's. But either way, he has to make his choice now because later statistically won't be an option.

Re:Phd or don't bother (2, Informative)

negative3 (836451) | more than 5 years ago | (#27903915)

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 the company and wouldn't have been bumped up to engineer 2. Or he could have spent two years to get his MS, made 18k more, and started at the "engineer 2" level. He chose to get his MS.

Most places I looked treated a MS like a BS + 3 years experience. They stated this on the job postings. But my market/industry may be different than others.

Here are some reasons to do your MS now instead of later:
1.) I would have a hard time going back to school after a long break. When you get a job, sure you're at your office for 40 hours a week but you don't have homework, class projects, or finals. Your free time is your time. Some days I like coming home, shutting down my EE side, and playing with my son. And you don't know what will happen during your break - will you get married, buy a house, or have a kid? Each one of those things is a major drain on time, energy, and money.
2.) You like your field and want to learn. There's nothing wrong with expanding your skills.
3.) You don't want to completely enter adulthood yet. Grad school is a nice way to postpone real responsibilities.

But, DO NOT DO A CLASSWORK ONLY MS. If you don't have a research project that ends in a thesis, I will put your resume on the same stack as those who only have a BS. That's the biggest thing. If you can't handle the research, just get a job. Non-thesis MS degrees are for people who are working while getting their degree. If you're young and just going to school, there's no excuse for not doing research. Getting on a funded project can be hard, though.

Look at a part-time masters (3, Informative)

herwin (169154) | more than 5 years ago | (#27903739)

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

Re:Look at a part-time masters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27903999)

Really? Maybe it works that way where you are, but here in Indiana, developers at every skill level are typically treated as a commodity. In my 15 years of professional experience, only a couple of my colleagues have been working on their education part-time -- most had a life, and/or a family.

I'm a practitioner, not an academic. For me, 2 years of specialized research would take away from becoming the flexible generalist the market demands, and hone your skills in a direction less likely to help you succeed in the business world.

If you want a masters, and you're planning to enter the business world, go for an MBA.

master gives you (1)

Elisanre (1108341) | more than 5 years ago | (#27903767)

more money..

Grad school plus internships (1)

cbhacking (979169) | more than 5 years ago | (#27903785)

I'm actually in a similar position (about to graduate in CSE, deciding where to go next). I probably have a job lined up, thanks to an internship program that I've been in, but in this economy you shouldn't count your chickens before they hatch. On the other hand, universities are also raising tuition and cutting back on incoming class sizes, so a good grad school isn't guaranteed either. Consider the pros and cons of each, though:

The advantages of working are substantial - you get an income, real work experience (different from classroom experience to be sure), networking for future jobs, and corporate seniority (useful for promotions, or for resume building for later jobs).

However, most people don't get to really experiment and push themselves the way they want to in the workplace - to do that, you either need to be in research (meaning you already have a graduate degree), highly placed within a successful company (you're not, I take it), or an entrepreneur with cash to burn (see above comment). Work is mostly doing stuff that other people want you to do. You may (hopefully do) enjoy the work, and you will probably learn from it, but you have fairly limited control over your own path within any given company.

Grad school allows you to explore the topics that interest you most. Take a few advanced courses, then do some research. Become an authority in a specific topic, or know enough to tackle anything in a given subfield. As for money, you won't earn much while in school that doesn't go into student expenses, but you can probably support living and tuition by working as a TA and/or getting a research stipend. After you graduate you can get a substantially better salary.

Don't forget internships, either. They carry many of the benefits of starting a career (CSE internships pay better than many full-time jobs, if you haven't learned that already), while still letting you carry on your studies and/or research the rest of the year. They can be hard to get in a down economy, but if you can, grad school plus internships give the best of both worlds. You'll have knowledge, experience, money, career options, high employability, and the chance to do whatever you really want.

Go for masters (1, Insightful)

saigon_from_europe (741782) | more than 5 years ago | (#27903789)

If you can afford it, go for masters.

Let's compare yourself to someone of your age and education but without a masters degree.

In two years, he is in great advantage (you have 0 experience, he has 2yrs). Two years later, he is still in the advantage (masters + 2yrs against 4 years). At this moment he is, unlike you, a candidate for getting a promotion etc.

But in a moment when you get ~4 yrs of experience, i.e. where you have to compare his 6yrs against your 4yrs of experience, his advantage is not that big. Four years later, 8yrs vs. 10yrs of experience does not make any difference. But your degree will remain an advantage.

Assuming that you'll work in IT for more than 2 years, I would say that your master will be an advantage for longer period that his 2yrs of more experience will be the advantage for him.

And as something possible in CS/IT, you can get some real-life experience during your masters course, which means that in practice you will have 2yrs spent on masters with some experience, and he will get only the experience.

Also, on a plus side for you, the larger company becomes, it takes more into account formal training. So if one day you want to work in some large system, it's better to have higher qualifications. In this moment you may not want that, but do you know where would you like to work in, say, 15-20 years?

Do both (4, Interesting)

Coeurderoy (717228) | more than 5 years ago | (#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....)

Re:Do both (1)

cfriedt (1189527) | more than 5 years ago | (#27904119)

I can't agree more. I was lucky enough to be able to work 100% from home for my company, right out of my bachelor's degree. I told them I wanted to do a master's degree in a relevant field, and they saw a benefit from that. Now I'm doing my master's degree abroad in Germany, where there is no tuition. This allows me to continuously improve my professional experience, taking a slight reduction in salary, while getting a master's in a highly relevant field. The time-zone difference means that I can work evenings from Germany and be online as if I were back in North America, so there really is no difference from my employer's perspective. The lecture schedule is fairly relaxed, and I even have a couple of days off every week.

Worth it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27903805)

Yes, it's worth it.

Two years of work experience may sound great now, but in reality, they won't ultimately make much of a difference - once you've worked for five or ten years, it'll be entirely irrelevant already. A degree, on the other hand, will stay with you forever.

Also, consider that work experience is something you can always get (and in fact *will* without even having to do anything for it, other than being employed); a degree is something you won't be able to get as easily in the end once you're not at your university anymore.

That being said, I also agree with what others have said and suggest not stopping at your Master's and getting a Ph.D. instead (well, in addition).

Both - in whatever order and whatever pace works. (2, Insightful)

Shag (3737) | more than 5 years ago | (#27903809)

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.

MSc got me a lot of interviews and maximum cash (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27903815)

I did an MSc directly after my BSc. I believe it was time well spent. When it came to looking for a job I found that the MSc got me several interviews, it also meant being offered the maximum salary for a new graduate.

Get your master's degree now! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27903817)


I was in the same situation in 2001. I could have gone straight to work (many and some fun possibilities) but instead I chose to do two more years. It was the best choice I've ever made. Do not hesitate. If you have energy: do it. You'll cover a wider spectrum. Besides, you can ALWAYS make up for the "lost" working experience. Overall, there are more advantages than drawbacks. In addition, you get to put many "I-know-everything" people back on track by just pulling rank. :-)

Captain America

Communication Classes and an MBA (1)

DeadlyEmbrace (740321) | more than 5 years ago | (#27903825)

The job market is tough right now. This makes it attractive to stay in school. Rather than getting a MS in Computer Science you should consider getting an MBA and focusing on your communication skills (writing and presentation). I have a BS and an MS in Computer Science but have observed those with a BS in Computer Science and an MBA. I believe increased communication skills and general business knowledge will open more business areas to you and once there will help you to excel.

Do what you want yourself (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27903847)

Academics live in their own little world, where GPAs and degrees and such rule the pecking order. They are very focused upon the idea that success equals education. That is not true. Education can be part of success, but there are far more factors than that, and almost all of them are about you. Being eager to learn new stuff and being easy to be around triumphs a double Ph.D. and being an obnoxious arse.

Also, I've never been asked about my grades nor my education (B.S. in Software Engineering btw) but very often about experience and getting hired seems more about buzzwords than you ever wish it was.

So some of your more obvious options are:

1. Get a masters because you think that it is fun and rewarding. That you are asking the questions you are makes me feel like you might not think that it is the most funnest evah.

2. Jump into the work market. Could be tough, prepare for it well.

3. Start your own business. This honestly seems easier than getting a job these days. The internet and stuff like the Apple app store has made it easier than ever to sell software to others, and there is always consulting. Will give good experience, might give good money, will have a degree of freedom to it.

4. Do the masters and start your own company, combine the to if possible. More work, but might be a better combo.

5. Bum out, quit school, go on welfare, play computer and video games like crazy and get all the loot. Play the lottery, hope for epic failure to avoid you. Code perl once a month for a few minutes to give yourself the illusion that you still go it.

6. Surprise me!

Go for it! (1)

tvieira79 (1296031) | more than 5 years ago | (#27903883)

I've started my Masters this month. I'm doing Masters in Software Engineer at University of Oxford, UK. I have 3.5 years experience and this Masters is a part-time, so, I can do both. If you have this option, better. You can add years to your experience and at the same time update your educational background. But, the industry, in my point of view, needs more computer scientists and software engineers. The bigger educational background you have, better. Just one thing: go for the subject you most like, otherwise you are going to face a very tough post-graduation course.

It's about flexibility (1)

kubajz (964091) | more than 5 years ago | (#27903887)

I think it depends on how flexible you want your carreer prospects to be.

If you want to go deep and become an expert in your chosen area, I would (perhaps surprisingly) recommend getting a job now. Best learning is learning by doing.

If you want to keep your options open, being able to switch not only jobs but perhaps even specializations or industries, I would say go for your Master's. It will train your thinking rather than your skills.

This from someone who has done a BC in electrical engineering, Master's in IT (signal processing) Ph.D. in IT (object databases), then worked as a security and financial auditor, now teaches financial management, and is certified in all these fields :o)

Work experience is important (1)

smorar (520638) | more than 5 years ago | (#27903903)

The question you should have asked, is not "Is a masters in computer engineering better than two years of experience at a company?"
Indeed, at that point in time, the two years of experience will put you in a better place than your masters.

What you should have asked was: "Is a masters in computer engineering + 2 years experience better than 4 years of experience?"
After masters + work experience will be more valuable, however, the masters cannot be a replacement for work experience.

Then again, I am doing my PhD in chemical engineering, so what do i know about a masters in computer engineering and your employability in the IT world...

fallback mode (1)

reemax (1251516) | more than 5 years ago | (#27903905)

It might be a good idea to take masters if u are final year student right now. Why? In order to sit out the economical crisis. But it mostly goes for those doing Economics or Finance. However, it might be good idea not to take it right now if u want to start or already have your own business. If you are in the UK. Try to change/choose your course so that you would have joint Masters degree with BSc this way you will spend only one year doing Masters and you will be applicable for the government student loan which you are not if you do Masters separately. Then try getting a year internship between last bachelors year and first masters. Internship say at IBM will look so much better on your cv then plain masters degree. Finally, if you have a research field you are interested in go for the masters and then maybe phd. If you invent smth new that might serve a good head start for your own successful business. But if not that into research find a job for now. Seek that your employer would pay for your masters and if he does: well it couldn't be better to be a freshman once again =] ps. masters do not have to be in your field (you could argue), try to broaden your perspective. Study economics or a language. In Computer Science there are so few girls, not in arts tho,no.....

Thomas (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27903927)

It also depends of the college you're going to. If the school is good and reputable, then a Masters might be a good idea as it will increase your salary. If you can't get into a good college to do it, it's probably better to get a year or two work experience, and then apply in a good college.

Go for it (1)

jonathanroscoe (1509925) | more than 5 years ago | (#27903941)

I'm on my third year of a Masters course. The third year is a year out in industry. So I've spent the last 11 months as programmer for an ISP. It's been great experience and good to take a break from university. You should see if you can do a masters with a year in industry. Personally, 5 years is a long time to stay in one place. What I've found is that a few of the students on the same course have now dropped out of the masters to a shorter course as they have been offered permanent jobs by their industrial year employers. I like studying but don't want to end up an academic, so I chose the masters to give me a couple of extra years. Now, my reason for sticking with the masters is the economic climate, many of my friends in computer science and other fields are finding it difficult to get work at present. Good luck to you, whatever you choose.

None of the Above (1)

LaskoVortex (1153471) | more than 5 years ago | (#27903945)

How old are you? Think about this: you are going to die. You can go to grad school when you are in your 30's (apostrophe nazis can fuck themselves). If you are still in your 20's, make a dream list if you don't get into grad school. Here was mine at 23:

  • Jet Fighter Pilot
  • Struggling Pro Soccer Player in Europe
  • Struggling Folk Singer in Europe

Now pick one and do it. In a few years when you can't take the painful vagabond existence or high pressure of your dream career, go to grad school. After I made my list, you know what happened? I got into grad school. Worst thing that could have happened to me.

And what then? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27903947)

Finished my masters a few moths ago. Then I had to sit down and ask myself why, why was it worth all that effort and what would it enable me to do. And all I got was emptiness. Then I realized I had been sold the useless widget that you see on tv and that once bought you don't touch it again but occasionally look back at it and wonder why, why did you waste your time and money with it.

The higher education marketing got me too :(

Current Job Market is not that Bad. (1)

Brownstar (139242) | more than 5 years ago | (#27903955)

There's already some great advice about why or why not to get your Master degree now.

However, the people that are suggesting that this is a poor market to get your first job are wrong.

First off, hiring is not down that much (and in many instances it is up) []

And I speak from experience, I finished school in early 2002, during the previous IT downturn.

You might not get the same starting wage as someone did 1 or 2 years ago, and you might need to relocate, but when the market takes off again, you will be much better positioned to get a better job (either in an area you care about more, or something just for more money), if you have 2 or 3 years of experience, vs. having a Masters Degree.

My suggestion is, regardless of whether you decide to get a Master's degree, get an internship or a Co-op over the summer. Especially if you decide not to get your Masters. Even that 1 summer of experience will help to differentiate yourself from any other graduates that have no experience.

As one about to sumbit a masters: Do a PhD instead (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27903967)

As someone who is a few weeks off submitting a Masters thesis, my advice is: do a PhD.

The writing up process for a Masters is as arduous as a PhD, though the actual research is easier because it doesn't have the "original contribution" requirement. For a little extra grief though, the PhD will open more doors into the world of research.

From a career perspective it's probably a bad move. It's the worst of both worlds. It labels you as a "theoretical" person or a "student", whom people with limited vision will not want to employ. As the same time, doors to serious research positions stay closed as PhDs specify more PhDs when writing job descriptions for research.

Do it because you love it, not because of what it will do to your career.

I started with a "change the world" view, but it eventually became a "get the #%^$ thing submitted" view. A minority of higher degrees are about changing the world. Most are about jumping through the necessary hoops to say "I'm a researcher".

This is written from an Australian perspective.

Re:As one about to sumbit a masters: Do a PhD inst (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27904019)

And I will add: if you aren't interested in research, you are wasting your time doing a PhD. Unless they actually specify "PhD" in the job ad, employers will actively discriminate against a PhD on the basis of "over qualification" or "being in an ivory tower".

If starting a business, PhD can impress some people you talk to. The time spent on a PhD would probably be better invested in building the business though.

Internship (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 5 years ago | (#27903973)

First question - are you just in it for the money or in it because you like the technology and money is secondary?

If the former, get your masters, without a love for the tech you will not be an over-achiever, at least not long-term. So a masters degree will help bolster average performance and keep your earning power up better than a regular clock-puncher without a masters.

However, if you are the later, skip the extra degree and gets your hands dirty. If you haven't done so already you need to be interning as part of your bachelors program. The most learning you will ever do is in the real world, so the more real-world experience you get under your belt the more you will be able to excel.

Incidentally, excelling at the job (and keeping your eyes open for opportunities) is the best way to make good money. It is, however, not usually an option for most clock-punchers.

Credit crunch means go for the masters (1)

Madman (84403) | more than 5 years ago | (#27903983)

I think at this moment in time you should go for the masters unless you have a good position waiting for you after graduation. The job market is not looking great right now but should be looking good in a year or two when you'd be getting out, and a masters degree will set you apart from the crowd who didn't get one and spent 2 years doing their level best trying to get people to super-size their meals while desperately hoping for their first real job.

When I graduated with my masters the tech boom was in full swing and if I'd gotten my masters I would have missed it, so back then I would have said get straight into the job market. Now in a market contraction it makes sense to go for more qualifications.

I personally think that for the majority of tech jobs a masters degree is irrelevant as the vast majority of what you will do you will learn on the job. You can't learn realistic project management in school, or how to deal with management. These things you only learn in the trenches.

Job hunting (1)

Gible (526142) | more than 5 years ago | (#27903989)

would you rather try and find a job now? or in two years when the market may have bounced back a bit and you're better qualified (and could have some part-time experience on the side).

MSC for research, work for money (1)

mindcorrosive (1524455) | more than 5 years ago | (#27903993)

As someone who was in your shoes two years ago, let me tell you this:

You need MSc basically only if you're going to continue in the academia, or if you're serious about research (more or less the same thing). I went that road, and am at the beginning of a research gig that will last for some time right after I finish the thesis this month.

If you think that MSc will somehow magically open the doors for you, don't. This is more valid for CompSci than Engineering, for example. The knowledge required in the field changes so much through the years, that one or two more will probably leave you with a stale skill set. Not so for research, especially if you're working in a specialized cutting-edge area (I'm at AI).

But if you're a generic Java/C#/C++ guy, with no specialized knowledge or interests, you're the same as a million other people looking for a job that (probably) have more experience than you in the field. You need something to differentiate in this case, and that is either a more specialized skillset, or a more diverse skillset (e.g. MBA).

Good luck, on any occasion.

Depends, but probably Not (1)

kschendel (644489) | more than 5 years ago | (#27904001)

I'd say it depends on what you see yourself doing. If you want to be a deep thought thinker in an R&D department, or if you want to stay at least semi academic, get the Masters.

If you want to be a programmer, engineer, or whatever you want to call it, I'd say get the experience. I've been directly involved in any number of hiring decisions over the last 20 years, and I can't recall a single instance where the existence of a masters degree made the slightest difference in our decision.

Immigration Benefits... (3, Informative)

Kr3m3Puff (413047) | more than 5 years ago | (#27904033)

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.

For some it can be a cons (1)

harduser (1451499) | more than 5 years ago | (#27904037)

I lost a great opportunity to work in a huge data centre because of my Master course. Even though I'm just part-time student they said the course could affect my availability for shift work and on-call duties, so they didn't accept my application. Anyway my experience with hunting for jobs shows that what matters for employers is the employment history rather than education. But I'm still saying it's always good to have both.

Go for a Ph.D. (1)

planetmcd (966372) | more than 5 years ago | (#27904041)

Go for a Ph.D. In most US programs, Ph.D. programs are subsidized and Masters programs are not. If you go for a Ph.D., you get a masters for free along the way. At that point you have a free masters and can then move on.

Food for Thought (1)

Gregory Arenius (1105327) | more than 5 years ago | (#27904045) []

This article in the Wall Street Journal talks about the long term salary affects of graduating in a recession. If you're sure you can find work in your field then you should be okay. If not you might want to consider getting that degree, at least according to the article.


Yes, do it. (2, Insightful)

damburger (981828) | more than 5 years ago | (#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.

Time space bending error! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27904051)

I have a year left in school. ... Is a masters in computer engineering better than two years of experience at a company?

Marty! Accelerate to exactly 88 mph!

It's the blue or red pill, so decide (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27904055)

Academia, then go for PHd.

Workin' for the man (even if you plan to be the man) then...

C E R T I F I C A T I O N S !

.02 (1)

KeX3 (963046) | more than 5 years ago | (#27904061)

As a close-to-30 completely uneducated (effective high-school dropout) developer, stick in there and get your masters, easily.
Like people have pointed out, when HR compares a masters with 2 years of work experience, the masters will win.

And if I were in your position, I'd wager that the economic funk we're in is a little less depressing in 2 years. If you're right, two years well spent. If it goes downhill, well, then you'd be pretty much fucked anyway (last in, first out).

Masters and whatnot stop being relevant after a couple of years (it's not like anyone even bothers to ask for my grades anymore, having worked for over 10 years whereof 8 "in the business"), but it'll give you a good head start when you're compared to people like me ;)

Bad economy == masters, but not in the US (1)

cfriedt (1189527) | more than 5 years ago | (#27904065)

Given the current state of the economy, any job you apply for will likely also see applications from professionals who have had 5 years of experience or more. In other words, you have slim chances.

In light of that, my suggestion is to do a master's degree but not in the US. Tuition in the US (and Canada for that matter) is far beyond what its actually worth. Go go a European country where tuition is subsidized. The "worst" part is that you have to learn a new language (unless it's an international program in english), and that's actually a very marketable skill.

On the other hand, if the economy were better, I would say that you should get a job; good work experience is exponentially more valuable than academic "training".

However, when you do begin your career and start looking for employment, and I can't stress this point more - do not apply to a lower-level position in hopes that you will one-day get a promotion. Internal promotions require at least twice the time and money of retraining and rehiring that an external hire requires. In short, don't take the first job that comes your way. Hold out for one that seems challenging and dually rewarding.

If you really want to gain some experience, port Linux / Android to a new device while you're doing your master's degree. You don't necessarily need to be employed to gain some practical, modern, and highly valuable experience. There's a whole world of open-design out there waiting for you - take OpenMoko for example. Why not redesign their next handset and make some major improvements?

Get it (1)

ciryon (218518) | more than 5 years ago | (#27904097)

" Is a masters in computer engineering better than two years of experience at a company?"

No, but you should get a masters degree anyway since it'll make it much easier to get your first job and it's actually "proof" of knowledge much more so than work experience. That said, you'll probably learn a whole lot more during your first two years working than the entire time studying.

You will still be faced with the chicken and egg p (1)

jforman (172134) | more than 5 years ago | (#27904107)

Speaking from experience here as a recent grad (BS in Math/CS in 2000, MS in Telecom in 2004), I was faced with that decision for a while, and seeing it in hindsight there is one thing you need to realize. The Masters is only going to get you into the door a little bit easier. It might get you to the top of the pile for interviews, but it by no means makes you a shoe in.

After that, you must deal with the fact that it's hard finding an IT company who wants to hire someone as 'green' as a new grad. Use your masters to get contacts in the industry, work your tail off to get a great summer internship if your program is two years long. I was lucky enough to go full time for two years, and wrote freelance for a well-known computer security magazine. Bolster your resume.

Use the masters to bolster your chances of convincing future employers that you are more than just a naive college grad.

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