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Does having Master's degree in Computer Science help your career?
Is a Master's worth it?

I don't know if this question fits here.

But, what would you, as a software developer (programmer) do? Would you find more valuable the "on field" experience that you are already experiencing or would you stop it and take a master degree and study for more 2 years?

Considering that:

  1. Either option will make you happy
  2. Both are really good opportunities
  3. You're willing to study abroad later in your life, like in 5 years from now
  4. You're earning money now (with your job)
  5. You're not going to earn a lot of money during the master (papa will have to help you again)
  6. You've just majored
  7. It's either one or the other. The master you are going to take doesn't allow you to work, but, the project is in a field and this field is sponsored by a big company, which means that you're going to work in something that the industry needs.

EDITED I'm enjoying the answers, thank you very much! But I had to add information number 7. Thanks again! I'm going to mull it over.

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marked as duplicate by Anna Lear Dec 10 '11 at 6:42

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

    
why've you voted to close? –  wleao Aug 4 '11 at 23:18
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Downvoted or voted to close? I think it's a very relevant question with some good answers. –  Mike H Aug 4 '11 at 23:38
    
Do you have any other life ambitions that you want to work on in the next few years? I chose a career because I married near the end of college and wanted an income that could support my family. A friend choose his MS because he loved backpacking, and could do grad research while out in the mountains. –  Ethel Evans Aug 4 '11 at 23:55
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Do you have a strong focus for your masters? Maybe something more theoretical or scientific? Getting a masters to get a better .net job is a lot different than getting a masters for something like bioinformatics. –  Tom Kerr Aug 5 '11 at 0:09
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8 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Done right, a Master's degree exposes you to much more interesting areas of computer science than undergrads commonly see. Often, software engineers don't get to do any more than read about those areas.

A software engineering job gets you experience and the depth of understanding that only industry can give you. You will be able to get stuff done much better than spending those 2-3 years as a MS student.

If you don't go into debt, IMO, the MS is absolutely the way to go.

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I'm going with the MS. I will start studying this fall. I will work in the recommendation systems field. –  wleao Sep 12 '11 at 13:19
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Why not do both if you are really interested? Many universities have night classes and many of them base the fact that people enrolled in the degree program already have a job. Personally, I think the best option would be to do both at the same time. You will have work experience (if your current job is software related) by the time your done with your MS, and that will put you ahead of people who went straight to their MS. If you decide to do the MS degree I would do it immediately since you forget things and learning becomes a little bit more difficult as you get older.

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Definitely do both - take the degree part time and work full time. +1 as I agree with this, though not that learning gets more difficult the older you get. Learning only gets more difficult if you're willing to let it. –  Mike H Aug 4 '11 at 23:40
    
I'm doing that right now, and it is one of the worst decisions I've ever made. You do NOT get the best part of graduate school doing this. A MS is not about the classes. Work during the day and school at night is an agony. –  Paul Nathan Aug 5 '11 at 0:38
    
There are some studies out there and some medical professionals that state as you get older you lose brain cells and you can have more trouble learning and memorizing things. Medical professionals tend to agree that you can help prevent this by doing exercises and other activities.mayoclinic.com/health/aging/HA00040 drweil.com/drw/u/ART02007/fight-memory-loss.html –  dboss Aug 5 '11 at 0:44
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I believe that if you go out and work for a few years and then go back to do your MS you will appreciate it more and get greater benefit from it both enjoyment and knowledge wise.

Also by only working (or MS), it means you will be able to concentrate on one or the other and enjoy the full benefits either provide.

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Recent college grad (1 year professional software development experience) here.

tl;dr Take the job, you'll learn more and you'll make money.

Knowing the most recent buzzwords is not that important. Someone might be impressed that you know about XY technology, but most interviewers will not expect a recent college graduate in cmsc to have on-the-job skills. You haven't been on the job yet! Showing that you're intelligent and match the organization's values will be just fine. Psr's reply is bollocks because many interviewers don't even have experience in the position you're interviewing for. They're there to weed out obviously morons. The interviewers that are technologically capable will pick the better and more personable developer 9/10 times, not the guy who happens to know a particular language or technology.

If you're one of those "I learn more from the projects" people: If you're one of those people that gets the most out of your classes by doing the assigned projects, then by all means, take the job! You'll be doing nonstop projects and you'll get paid. Although if you were one (like I am) then I don't know why you posted this question...

@Mike H makes a great point: "Taking my masters degree has helped me understand the context in which I build software": I would counter this by saying that I do not have a master's degree and I feel that my cmsc degree has prepared me well for real world work. When I do feel as though I don't understand something, which is a lot, I already know enough to research on my own or to reach out to a teammate/mentor to get help. Good communication with more experienced colleagues can go a long way.

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+1 for projects all the time as a new a developer if your a hands on learner. –  dboss Aug 5 '11 at 7:19
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I would suggest leaving the Masters as a get out of jail free card in case your chosen technology dies a horrible death and your resume doesn't match any current buzzwords. I don't know of any other generally accepted, reliable way to get yourself out of that situation.

Of course there is a good chance you will never need it anyway.

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Do Both

A colleague of mine studied his masters degree part time whilst he was working.

Choose your masters subjects wisely

The issue my colleague has from his masters degree is that the subjects that was taught were not applicable to his current position, and what he can apply he has admitted that he has gained more benefit from his on the job experience. This is very subjective, so it would be better for you to actually speak with those who have their masters and can say for certain that they gained a specific ability from their masters they didn't have before.

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I'm finally in my last semester of a part time masters degree in information systems. I've been in the industry for 8 years, 4 of those I've spent pursuing my degree. The last 3 also spent programming full time. I'm also now 36.

Taking my masters degree has helped me understand the context in which I build software, exposing me to thing s that I never would have considered before commencing. I do things now out of knowing or at least having some opinions that I can support, rather than doing things because that's jsut how it's done. The temptation to do my degree full time was certainly there - getting finished quickly was a big motivator. However, I had to eat...

I find that both are mutually supporting - I have practical experiences to draw upon in my studies and my studies inform my work practices. Completing a masters degree part time also shows that you can handle the pressure. It becomes your "spare time". While the sun is shining on the weekends, you're busy studying. I found I take leave during semester just to relieve the pressure.

It's a long, dark tunnel but it's worth it.

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I agree with others here, DO BOTH! Most employers will pickup up some, if not all, of the tab. This way you can get real world training as well as additional schooling that will help you advance your career without going further into debt.

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