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Generally speaking, if a recent Computer Science / Software Engineering grad (bachelors) wants to be project manager in 5 years, what should he or she go for?

A. An MBA part-time straight out of graduation (at the same time, working as a programmer) B. Wait three years and go for a masters in Computer Information Systems (which has the 3 year gap requirement)

Thank you for the advice. I wanted to make this as applicable to as many gonna-graduate-soon students in our field.

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closed as off topic by Yannis Rizos Mar 7 '12 at 5:56

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So you don't want to be a programmer in 5 years? –  JeffO May 1 '11 at 20:13
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4 Answers

There's quite a bit of difference between what you'd learn in an MBA program and what you'd actually be doing as a software project manager.

The core courses in the MBA program are designed to introduce students to the various areas of business such as accounting, finance, marketing, human resources, operations management, etc.

If that sounds like what you want to be doing, then go for an MBA. If you'd rather be managing software projects then I'd recommend you work as a programmer for a few years before going on for a CIS degree. I'm in a similar program now (Master of Information Systems Management), and in addition to courses in project management I'm taking courses in database concepts, systems analysis, security, etc.

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In my experience, if you want to be good, is to have a gap and actually work on a software team under another project manager before pursuing an MBA, or MIS. My experience with MBA grads in the past is that MBA prepares you for a life of managing factory line workers, and the project managers I've seen that haven't worked as a developer on a software project have been awful.

If you don't care about being good, and thus don't care if you make the lives of your reports miserable, then go straight to the MBA so you can make more money sooner.

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+1 for pointing out the factory line worker syndrome ...I'm a human being damn it! –  nomaderWhat May 2 '11 at 22:48
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Project manager is a very broad term. The project managers I have worked with in teams of 20-100 people didn't really need specialized skills, IT background helps but you needed to be organised and a good communicator that is about it.

Team Leaders or project managers are a bit different than PM. I'd say 10 years experience is more important.

If you want to do an MBA (I did one), its worth doing the best one you can afford or not bother. Look at those entry requirements and you will benefit from 5+ years experience before doing one.

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If your career plan is to move from programming to project management then I'd suggest the MBA is not the right fit. The CIS degree is probably worthwhile, but the most important thing assuming you want to move into project management of programming teams is to first learn to become a good programmer ...others might question if that's really necessary, but I continue to to live in hope. After all if you have worked out what you want to do, surely your next decision would be whether or not you want to be good at it?

Once you've earned your stripes, and most importantly observed first hand what the PMs you'll be working with do well & don't do well, then my recommendation (if a qualification of some kind is what you're after) is a certified scrum master is going to be more valuable to you and the people you work with. The official PMI qualifications (PMBOK, etc) are not a bad thing to have ...though IMHO they are less useful in a software development environment.

Also any MBA program that doesn't make you get a few years professional experience before entering ...frankly won't be a good one. Most important thing to realize about MBAs it does matter which one you do. If it doesn't matter to you and all you want is the knowledge, buy the texts in the syllabus and save a bundle of money. If you want to go to a decent MBA school, in addition to what I already said, they will require a healthy GMAT score and at least some of the big name management consultancies would recruit from them (you don't have to want to join McKinsey but their tastes are a good guide to where it's worth doing an MBA).

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