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So I'm thinking about doing a masters, or some other form of degree to add to my Bsc in Computer Science - and am looking for ideas on some of the more unusual options out there. It seems to be fairly easy to understand "typical" career paths for programmers (and indeed, I may take one of those) - but I also want to explore what other possibilities exist.

So - What is this question:

I am looking for people who have taken their programming careers into more unusual directions, specifically with a focus on the education to get there:

  • Politics
  • Law
  • Psychology
  • Business (ok, not that unsual, but I'll include it)
  • Other sciences (biology, etc)
  • Anything else you can think of

I suspect the science option will not be the one for me - but for completness on the question I will include it. Likewise if there are some really interesting offshoots that I have not thought of lets add them in.

What this question is not:

There are quite a few other questions on this and other stackexchange sites dealing with similar questions - and there are quite a few answers from people detailing why they advocate staying in computers forever. I love programming. And I may continue looking for ways to grow in this industry (team lead, architect, etc). But those answers have been well and truly covered. So for this question I would really like to hear from people who have gone through different routes, the career paths they ended up on, and their thoughts on it.


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closed as off-topic by gnat, Bart van Ingen Schenau, Kilian Foth, GlenH7, MichaelT Oct 29 '14 at 20:01

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Don't most of your suggested masters degrees require a bachelors in the same subject or do you mean additional courses while obtaining your masters in CS? – webbiedave Oct 14 '10 at 17:49
Some do, some don't - I guess I am using the term masters when I really mean "more education, preferably towards a masters". To all below, thanks for the great input. Not sure which to accept as an answer! – Chris Oct 15 '10 at 8:11
Dude, what do you like to do? Are you equally gifted at writing papers, singing, swimming, rhyming, memorizing, music, biology, or are there some things that you truly like? NOW is the time to try to figure out what your passion is and follow it. If you screw up, life will not be over. Cool question. – Job Jan 18 '12 at 3:49

I'm in a similar situation to you and I've looked at lots of courses. Some of the ones I was interested in are:

  • Cognitive Science
  • Neuroinformatics / Computational Neuroscience
  • Masters by research degrees

Its mostly down to what interests you since there's such a huge range to choose from.

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+1 for Cognitive Science – David in Dakota Oct 14 '10 at 14:10
These kind of topics unlock career avenues such as work with AI, machine vision, etc. Did you read about the Google Car this week? – JBRWilkinson Oct 14 '10 at 14:39
Yes, I read the article. Intriguing and unexpected new direction for Google... – rmx Oct 14 '10 at 14:57
The cognitive science one does sound interesting - thanks, +1 :) – Chris Oct 15 '10 at 8:08

Biomechanics - it will expose you to anatomy, physiology, physics, statistics, high speed photography, digital imaging.

This is where putting all the reflective dots on people and digitizing their movements all started. The program I was in focused on sports/athletics, but it has many other applications.

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Geography / Cartography

I worked as a techie in the Geography Dept for UW Madison for 2 years and saw a lot of programming going on with the Masters Candidates (Python in ArcGIS, ActionScript for interactive maps, etc...).

I have to say, it looked like a lot of fun and there certainly are jobs out there in the field as GPS's get plunked into nearly everything nowadays - and a GPS without a good map is just a fancy sextant.

Above all, if you want to apply what you learned in undergrad in a fun and useful way for a few years before entering the "real world". Geography is a pretty good place to start.

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Of things not yet mentioned above, you should consider Statistics.

  • more and more software products come with analytical components. Statistical analysis of huge volumes of data is becoming more and more important.
  • a fascinating application of statistics could be the analysis of random behavior of software under test. Adoption of practices like continuous delivery in the following decade is likely to bring it into the spotlight.
  • statistics background is a bonus if you plan to or end up working in the financial industry
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I have always thought a Law degree would be a potential interesting direction to go. With all the IP suits now adays, I would think a lawyer with a Computer Science degree would be well equipped for such a duty.

I have not done this path myself as I graduated last year but it seems like a potential career direction down the road if I decide I am looking for an out from programming but want to remain in the IT world.

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It's a lot cheaper to hire a lawyer if you get sued, which you will likely need to do anyway if you aren't a practicing attorney, than to pay for law school. – JohnFx Oct 14 '10 at 16:43
@JohnFx: I never said anything about becoming a lawyer to protect myself from suit. I am talking about an alternative career path. – Chris Oct 14 '10 at 16:48
In general, law is a horrific career choice. There are literally thousands of graduates every year; jobs are scarce, boring, and lack opportunities for creativity. Nevertheless, if you have rock solid experience in electrical engineering or anything that equips you to practice patent law involving hard science, you may be able to walk onto a job with starting pay in the neighborhood of $150k per year. It's a gamble. – twneale Jan 15 '11 at 3:14
@twneale: References? Additionally, "law is a horrific carrer", if we replace law with x, where x is any job I would bet at least one person would say x is a horrific job too. It is a matter of opinion and perspective. – Chris Jan 15 '11 at 16:09
This can give you great career ($) options, engineer-lawyers make excellent expert witnesses, and are paid quite highly when retained by a firm, particularly at large firms where case research is involved. – anon Oct 12 '11 at 23:36

One area you didn't mention is education. A Masters in Education (MSEd) combined with a BSCS degree could prepare one for doing research and development in the area of distance learning, which is a growing field.

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It depends what you like to do. I got an MS in CS and probably would not do that again since it turns out I like the business side of things. A MBA would have been a much better choice for me. But that's me. Where to you want your career to go?

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I am currently a software developer as well as a graduate student. While in undergrad, I studied for a BA in Computer Science with a emphasis in Graphic Design. Currently, I'm taking an extreme approach in my studies. I'm working on my masters in Professional Counseling. This degree is an interesting mixture of Psychology and Education. I've always been fascinated by what makes people tick. For me, this is a stepping stone towards a PhD, which I would like to be able to integrate my technical skills of data crunching with my inquisitiveness about the human condition and desire to help others.

Here are few points that I have found that are highly transferable:

  1. Problem solving abilities. This takes strong combination of 'technical' knowledge and creative - out of the box thinking - in approaching a problem. People are messy, computers are predictable, both have issues that need to be solved. Counseling has its roots in Human Development and Growth compared to the traditional Biological/Philosophical roots of Psychology.The idea of developing and design a system can be related to developing and designing intervention plans for helping people heal and move on from their trouble.
  2. Both are highly collaborative processes. Training/Teaching/Mentoring is an invaluable tool in working with others. Strong abilities in expressing ideas are critical in both professions because there is a need to be able to work with others to implement change.

As a follow-up having taken this path - I have found myself gravitating more towards the Human Resource / Leadership side of the equation because of the change more towards more a people centered world view.

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  • Meteorology
  • Criminology, Forensics, etc..
  • Media - With so many branches that need software, some get quite exotic
  • Agriculture, it's out there.
  • Linguistics

  • @mmx I'll echo you on neuroscience. There are some very interesting monkey-mind controlled robotic arms :)

  • @Peter, cartography is an interesting thought

On top of these physics, engineering and other more commonly associated degrees can also take you down a number of unusual and interesting paths.

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