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I dont know if its the right place to ask such questions:

I have a bachelors degree from an Indian university. I want to pursue a masters in one of the universities in USA. My profile is good enough to get me admitted to the school that I prefer. I also have an offer letter from one of the top software companies in India. I don't know which path to take, I know a masters degree will be of great help in future both in terms of money and career but I do not know whether I want to do it at this moment.

I have signed up for both edx and coursera for some of the courses and I really liked learning them online. I am not sure if taking these courses can be a substitute for a masters degree. Also how will I be able to differentiate myself in the real world if I do not have a masters degree, since there are many in India who don't have it. And is it advisable for me to take some work experience say 1-2 years and then apply for a masters degree. Although universities do not explicitly mention work experience as a criteria, will any kind of work experience help me in deciding whether I want to do masters? Finally I want to know what are the cons of not doing a masters.

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closed as off topic by GrandmasterB, gnat, Blrfl, jmo21, Dynamic Sep 29 '12 at 2:59

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How can you accept the below answer on such a subjective question after less than half an hour? –  Kirk Broadhurst Sep 27 '12 at 3:36
Thats because i couldnt vote up to the answer because i dint have enuf credits and the answerer demanded some credits, only option was to accept..funny but true. –  RJadhav Sep 27 '12 at 3:40
Rather than choosing one of the limited options you list, I'm going to throw out a third point. Have you considered whether you want to go for a doctoral degree? The Computer Science Department at The University of Texas at Austin (full disclosure: my alma mater) suggests that prospective Ph.D. students should go that way from the beginning. I know one guy who started as a doctoral candidate, and wound up taking a Masters when he realized that Ph.D. research wasn't his cup of tea. –  John R. Strohm Sep 27 '12 at 15:04

6 Answers 6

You are facing a high class problem here.

You have two great options that are hard to pick between.

Congratulations on your degree, good marks, job offer, and eligibility for grad school.

You point out some good factors.

  • Working a couple years may better prepare you for a Master's program. Yes.
  • A Master's can differentiate you in the real world. It depends.
  • If you are not in grad school, is it a good idea to take other training. Yes!
  • Is alternative training a substitute for a Masters? No.
  • Work experience is not a requirement for admission to Master's programs.

WRT whether work experience is an important prerequisite to the Masters, I think it depends on how well you know your goals and what your focus will be. You may need to try a few things before you know what you really like. If you do a thesis, you may need that industry experience to know the difference between a paper tiger (a topic that academics love but can't be used by a future employer) or a key to open doors in your career. If you take software engineering coursework that discusses managing software projects, it may seem very abstract and you may get far less from the training if you have no experience to relate to the material.

Your choice may also depend on many factors that are unique to you.

  • Are you tired of school and anxious to get started with the first job?
  • If you were working, would your company help pay for your Masters part time?
  • Can you afford to go to school another year or two?
  • Would you be eligible for some kind of internship that could help pay for the degree?
  • Are there highly personal issues like marriage, having kids, or caring for elderly parents or other family members in the mix?

For me, I was fairly tired of school, and being a full time Master's student was not what I wanted to do after graduation. However, within about two years, I started taking Master's classes part time. This may or may not be an option for you, but the company I worked for helped to pay the tuition, so its was more attractive than just going back to school full time.

One major trade off worth considering is that as you get further into your life, you get more responsibilities. If you can be organized and good with time management, you may be able to work, go to school part time, and meet family commitments. However, if you can finish school before you load up on those commitments, it can be a big help.

When you ask about the cons of not doing a Master's degree, I would say that it depends on how competitive the market becomes. At least in the US, when the market is good, a lot of computer scientists go straight to great jobs. They may often work full time and earn their Master's one class per semester (this takes about five years instead of one to two years as with full time Master's study).

With many Indian friends, I try to be aware of the issues they face. I think the US is a more expensive place to live and study. Tuition is rising faster than inflation, so that may also be a consideration. Potentially, the sooner you go, the less it will cost. I think many Indian students are eligible for internships with top US companies.

I am not sure whether internships require work visas, but I expect they leads to sponsorship after grad school. I think there are limits on the number of work visas allocated for those with Bachelors degrees, with an additional pool available to those with Masters degrees.

I think advanced degrees lead to better accessibility to working in the US if that were your preference for the short term or long term. If work is to be part of your experience in the US, it might not hurt to keep an eye on employment rates and where they are trending. I have many Indian friends with great jobs, but sometimes they move around from state to state to get the best opportunities.

However, one of my Indian friends was with a company that cut way back, and he is having a hard time finding another job. To me, his resume looks great, but some skills he has are specific to embedded systems. Where we live, a big part of the demand for embedded is Department of Defense work that requires security clearances, and consequently US citizenship. Demand seems much higher for web, IT, cloud, and mobile programming that are pretty much equally available to everyone, although you may needed an high demand skill or location at a larger company to be sponsored.

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Can you refer me to websites of companies which are hiring international interns?? –  RJadhav Sep 27 '12 at 6:28
Perhaps with the Fortune 500 after taking out the defense contractors money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune500/2012/full_list I believe large companies are your best target because smaller companies have fewer resources to spend on interns and sponsorship. Large companies often apply early for large numbers of H1Bs, so by the time small companies think about it, the quota is expired. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H-1B_visa includes a lot of information, including a list of the top ten H1B companies starting with Microsoft. –  DeveloperDon Sep 27 '12 at 12:22
As with any system, a few people can damage it for others. I know one small company that stopped sponsoring H1Bs. They hired a student worker for around $60K/year his last semester of grad school as he took three classes. He defended his thesis Wednesday, walked out Friday. US students do this too, but fair or not, he was the last H1B. Application and attorney fees of $5000 or more, plus cost of split focus, plus cost of training add up. Always give two weeks notice, work part-time, if full-time take one class a semester, and take vacation days if your thesis takes focus from your job. –  DeveloperDon Sep 27 '12 at 13:00

Look at the requirements at places where you might want to work. I looked into applying to Bell Labs a few years ago and their web site was very clear that they would accept interns who were currently working on their Ph.D. thesis. Meaning those without a Ph.D. need not apply. Google really wants a CS degree, I'm sure a masters would be better.

I can tell you that if all you want to do is go out and earn money doing business programming for a US company, you really don't need a degree. If you can get things done and work well with a team, and have social skills, that's what counts. I have 20 years of professional programming experience, 10+ without even a bachelors to prove that statement.

Now, without a bachelor's I was always a grunt worker, never a leader. I worked very hard to find a company that would even consider my application. I was consistently paid less than the people I worked with, even though they had to hire two people to replace me in my last non-bachelor's job. The week I got my bachelors (in music composition no less) I received a 50% raise. Within 6 months I had a leadership position in another company.

I am struggling with a similar question. After 20 years, I find I am feeling the lure of developing tool kits and pushing the edges of technology in more theoretical ways. I want to be part of a team of innovators. Also, I think I'd like to teach at a university some day. Some form of schooling leading up to a masters, may be in my immediate future.

A masters at this point in my career may improve my income, but I don't expect it to pay for itself. I hope it might open doors to working in a different kind of job - more of a think tank than a business that happens to need some software. Having gone back to school for a bachelors, which generally requires durring-the-day classes, I can tell you that it's very hard, but it is doable. If you are married, the support of your spouse is critical. I can't imagine doing it with children, but I have friends who did just that, about half of them Indians working in the US.

Thank God you have your Bachelors in CS. That is the biggest part. You just need to decide whether you are doing it for money, or for a specific kind of job. If you are a motivated student and aren't tied down and can get more degrees without taking on debt, then you might as well continue your education. Keep in mind that you may wake up one day with the question, "Why am I doing this?" in your head and if you don't have a good answer for yourself, you will probably drop out. Not the end of the world, but you don't get a return on the investment unless you achieve the degree. If you aren't sure, working in the field for a few years may be the best way to make that decision.

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Give me some more reputation..i want to vote up this answer!! –  RJadhav Sep 27 '12 at 12:11
@Glen Good luck with the decision about going back for a masters. Three of my managers gave me their perspectives. Two without masters degrees were hostile to the idea and me. The other, a VP of Engineering was working on a PhD, told me I would never regret it. WRT advice, consider the source. For many people a Masters is easier than a Bachelor's degree (30 credit hours vs. 126 credit hours). If your undergrad is not CS, you many need to first take around 18 credits from their undergrad program. An alternative approach might be a second Bachelor's degree, followed by a Masters. –  DeveloperDon Sep 27 '12 at 13:28
@DeveloperDon thanks for your encouragement! "Hostile to the idea and me" - wow! With friends like those... Great points! Masters programs list undergrad prereq courses and I was thinking of taking those online from University of Atlanta, then applying to a masters program. If that's not enough, I'll be well on my way toward a relevant 2nd bachelor's. Thoughts? –  GlenPeterson Sep 27 '12 at 16:19
My first thought is about accreditation, see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Higher_education_accreditation . There is also accreditation specific to engineering through ABET - see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ABET. Is your plan for all the coursework to be online, or just the undergrad prerequisites? Sometimes public institutions like state colleges and universities are more expensive that private colleges with big trust funds. Research and apply for many scholarships and grants. Another option is to move to a company that generously supports continuing education. –  DeveloperDon Sep 28 '12 at 0:36
Hmm... U. of Atlanta is listed as accredited on HETA, but nothing comes up for "online" at ABET. I'm geographically isolated so time and distance are even more limiting factors than money. My immediate goal is to fulfill undergrad prerequisites. I guess I'd like to go to school full time for the actual masters, but my wife and I would have to move for that and I've probably got several years before I have to make that decision. –  GlenPeterson Sep 28 '12 at 18:09

I think it depends on wether you have real motivation for a specific field or if you need some time to figure out where your real passions lie. I've been working full time and taking online courses like you and I feel like this is the optimal path for me at the moment.

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I don't think that there's an obvious straight answer to your question, it depends on various conditions.

Pros of doing Masters degree straight after Bachelors
1)You get to learn some advanced topics which might help you in future.
2)You get more time say about 2 years (i.e. the duration of Masters degree) to sharpen and polish your present skills more and even learn new technologies. I know this is even possible while doing a job, but doing 8-10 hours of job a day and again opening books is a bit difficult, but its possible so i don't want a debate on this.
3) You even said that your profile is selected in a college so its better to take admission because who knows after 2 years the cut-off of the same college might rise since the competition is rising, i have no idea how it goes in US.

Cons of doing a Masters degree straight after Bachelors
1)You don't have any real world experience of how programming is done. I have always heard that we use only around 10 % of what we learn in colleges in Real world. That is why companies here give training to freshers.

I really don't know whats the best option. i myself doing a MSc in IT and i don't have any real world experience since i am doing my MSc straight after my Bachelors. So think twice before you take any decision.

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@Kirk Brodhurst----- Yes i think SO should allow poster with even a single reputation to vote. I myself had asked a question on stats.stackexchange and then i got around 2-4 answers to it but i was not able to vote-up anyone, so those people had to vote-up my question (even though my question didn't deserved up-votes) so that i reach 15 reputation and finally vote the answers i received –  Rameshwar.S.Soni Sep 27 '12 at 4:31
take it up with meta.stackoverflow.com –  Kirk Broadhurst Sep 27 '12 at 5:40

Short Answer: You may get your precise answer from university that you want to apply.

As mentioned, yes master's degree might help you in many ways. Thus, getting an interesting re-search or internship may land you a well paid job. However, you should have a clear target on what you want to achieve.

For example, some Indian colleges that i worked with, wanted to be a PM. Thus, they went for MIS and then took a PMP certification to put a step toward their goal.

Again, your choice is really depends on what is your ultimate goal.

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Yes, I want to do an MIS too. So will work experience help to get a broader picture as in whether i really need the masters in real world?? –  RJadhav Sep 27 '12 at 3:05
For sure work experience will give you a better picture, on what u should look for. –  Yusubov Sep 27 '12 at 3:11

The question is, "Is your long-term plan to stay in India or to take the steps toward working in the US?"

If you plan on staying in India, then having the masters will probably help you with getting jobs. From what I understand, the Indian job market places a higher level of prestige on advanced degrees than the US market. While I don't think anything you learn in grad school will directly be used in most jobs, it can help get you hired.

If you want to come the US as a student, I wouldn't recommend it unless you're able to attend one of the top 10-20 post-graduate programs (MIT, Stanford, etc.). US universities are very overpriced right now and the bubble is about to pop due to excessive debt. Even worse, an advanced degree, especially one from a less prestigious institution, won't help you land a better job here outside of a few niche markets and may not represent a good return on investment right now.

So, if you plan to come to the US to work, start working on the visa and such and take jobs that will give you needed experience and work on your English speaking with American slang skills. That will land you more jobs than a masters will in the US.

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Granted, costs, quality and school reputation are extremely important. In addition, a good student is a good student where ever they study. American slang may matter. Ease of communication may depend more on whether your region has an accent familiar to Americans. Sometimes consonants sounds are pronounced differently in the US vs. India. Most Americans will cope well if at first you simply speak more slowly. We Americans often don't know our own idioms and culture. Help for us and you can come from a book like amazon.com/The-New-Dictionary-Cultural-Literacy/dp/0618226478 –  DeveloperDon Sep 28 '12 at 2:26

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