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The following two examples are hypothetical, but have a possibility of both becoming real (I'm a recent graduate with no CS work experience).

In both situations I would be going for my Masters in computer science.

A: I work for a pretty well-known insurance company writing software. They pay for me to go to school, and the school I would be going to does research in fields I'm interested in (though, with a full time job, I'm not sure how much research I'd be able to participate in), but they are not ranked highly (in fact, I can't find their ranking at all).

B: A decently ranked school (top 75) offers a research or TA position that covers tuition and a stipend. The school does research in areas that I am interested in.

In both situations tuition isn't a problem. The benefit of A is that I get work experience, but the school isn't highly ranked in CS (although it is quite well-known for other majors) and I'm not sure how much research I'd be able to participate in while working full time. With B I would get to do research, and the school is more well-known, but I would forfeit work experience.

If my ultimate goal is to end up working for a high-end software developer (Microsoft, Google, Apple, etc.), would option A or B be better?

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closed as not constructive by Yannis Rizos Mar 7 '12 at 7:20

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How about option c, work for two years then go full time for your Masters at the highly ranked school. –  HLGEM May 10 '11 at 21:46
Because I wouldn't be sure that a research or TA position would be offered again, and graduate classes are not cheap. –  Ryan May 10 '11 at 22:47

3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

It doesn't matter. What matters is that you do what you love, because that will push you to become better at what you do. If you get into the habit of getting better regularly, eventually employers will be lining up to hire you. By that time you'll probably turn them down unless they have a position that will allow you to keep doing what you love.

My point is that to become happy and successful, you need to do what you love. Only by doing that can you achieve anything significant. If you become great at what you do, it will matter nothing whether you have a degree from a prestigious university or not or whether you have one or ten years of professional experience on your resume. But what does matter is this: you will not become great at something you only do because you think it will look good on your CV.

(Sorry for the philosophical answer, but these types of questions are asked quite often on this site and it really isn't a matter of A or B.)

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Not nearly as much as the calibre of the student. Some employers use a degree as a barrier to entry because their HR departments are not otherwise capable of screening potential applicants. Once you get past that barrier to entry, though, the real test is of the mettle of the applicant, not the paper of their diploma.

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Your choice of graduate programs will make a difference. Not because one school is more highly ranked, but because the stronger program will give you opportunities to do more interesting work. This will show up on your resume, and in your interviews.

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