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I study software engineering and have every intention to become one and stay one. However, I also love logic, computability theory, automata theory, and similar computer sciency math topics, and would love to do at least a Masters degree at some point after I graduate to study these topics more in depth. This is really something I want to do for myself, and not because it will contribute something to my career as a software engineer (and let's face it- it won't either), but I'm worried that a few years of absence from the field will be frowned upon, and will make it harder for me to get back on the horse, so to speak. Is that true? How do employers react to such absence?

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Possibly related: Is it worth it for programmers to go to grad school?. –  Dori Sep 5 '10 at 1:09
    
+1 Sorry for the the mistag... Only scanned through post. :-( –  Tom Wijsman Sep 14 '10 at 12:49
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@TomWij It's OK. It allowed me to get the Cleanup badge :) –  EpsilonVector Sep 14 '10 at 13:00
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6 Answers

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Many schools have graduate programs that are flexibile enough to be taken while still working full time. In fact, a lot of companies will help cover the costs of going back to school (at least they did, not sure about it now) as long as you maintain a certain grade point average in your classes. Even if you do end up not being able to work while attending school, I would be surprised if an employer looked down on that fact when you started looking for work again.

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A lot of companies have programs to reimburse some of the cost. However the price of grad school is so expensive that many of these programs are a drop in the bucket. My employer does not even cover 1/2 the price. –  Cervo Sep 28 '10 at 2:31
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Grad school after a few years of working, good idea - immediately after your Bachelors degree, not so good. Remember if I'm hiring at entry level for a typical entry level job, I neither need nor want someone with a Masters who willcost more than the same person with a BS. But when I'm hiring senior people,the Master's is helpful. But I don't hire senior people with no professional work experience.

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I would think the grad school would be one of the few absences that employers really wouldn't mind. It shows a desire to better yourself and to continue learning. Don't let your skills get stale and you'll probably be fine.

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No, there are employers who say on their job descriptions that having a MS or PhD is a plus. I have seen this many times.

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I study software engineering and have every intention to become one and stay one. However, I also love logic, computability theory, automata theory, and similar computer sciency math topics, and would love to do at least a Masters degree at some point after I graduate to study these topics more in depth.

You should go for it, then. Don't fear education.

This is really something I want to do for myself, and not because it will contribute something to my career as a software engineer (and let's face it- it won't either), but I'm worried that a few years of absence from the field will be frowned upon, and will make it harder for me to get back on the horse, so to speak. Is that true?

No, it is not. I went back to grad school and left the "real world" for a couple of years, and it didn't hurt me a bit. In fact, I used grad schools to build connections on the professional world. The type of jobs you can get with your masters tend to be better than those with only an undergrad degree... if you play your cards well.

How do employers react to such absence?

Good employers don't pay attention to that type of minutia. Bad employers (or incompetent people that might feel threatened by your education) will react badly.

Which type of employers would you like to care about? :)

In the end, remember that your job is not your career. Cultivate your career and fight for the type of jobs that require your education rather than shrinking your education to satisfy less-than-competent employers.

Education and career, it's all about what you make out of them.

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Masters is pretty much a terminal degree in this field, unless you're going to teach. Putting effort into obtaining that degree is something that should be encouraged by all employers. If you find yourself working for someone who is pressuring you not to do it, start looking for a new employer.

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