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nonnus29

Hypothetcial value of a Masters Degree?

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I didn't know which forum this would fit into best so I decided this one would do. Also... This question is geared toward people who are familiar with the US education system.... Lets suppose there is a person who, through a series of poor life decisions, obtained a bachelors degree in a field as mundane and ordinary as say, basket weaving. Now a few years later this person hasn't gained any real work experience in anything other than menial jobs since the basic entry level basket weaving job requires at least a ph.D. But this person has been given the oppurtunity to return to University and pursue a second degree. He decides at this time to go for the BS in Comp Sci like he should have done the first time. He starts taking classes and things are going swimmingly until one day he finds out from his advisor that by taking a few comp sci and math classes he can use his previous bachelors to get into a pretty decent comp sci masters program and complete a master in only one more semester than the second bachelors would take. So why on earth would this person, who has no experience doing anything relevant to anything want to burden themselves with a Master degree? I imagine the hypothetical person showing up for the first day of work, the bosses expectations are high, because, hey this guy has a MASTERs in comp sci!!!! He must really know his sh*t! Only to discover the person doesn't know much of anything; he can't even use the vis c++ ide because all his course work was in a unix environment! (of course this is an exageration, mostly....) Anyone have any thoughts on this/advice? I know alot of people debate getting a bs in comp sci at all, let alone a ms. Does an MS even mean anything in this field? Thanks in advance for any insight/comments. [edited by - nonnus29 on July 23, 2002 11:27:14 PM]

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As someone without a degree, this is what I see: A degree is seen as proof that you can follow through on something large. If it''s in computer science, it means you probably have a pretty solid knowledge of the theory behind computing etc... (of course if I were interviewing, I''d still want to test that for myself). Beyond that, you''re not going to be expected to be a wiz because quite honetly, you''ll be lucky to start out at anything more than entry-level work in whatever field you choose.

As a developer, you''re going to start as a junior to mid level programmer. They don''t give senior or lead developer positions to people fresh out of school. These positions require experience and a confidence that you can do the job.

So if you want to get the masters, get the masters. If you want to get the bachelors, get the bachelors. Either of them will mean about the same thing, though you might be able to command a slightly higher salary with the masters. Degrees still add 5-10k a year to base salaries in most places. Maybe not with the job market being as bad as it is, but most of the time.

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The expectations for a Masters are higher. The pay is higher too. I would go for the masters--no question at all. The game industry is a little different by what I surmise by the posts here, but if it ever becomes like other programming-related industries, you''ll want that masters.

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...and it is funny to know that some Com. Sc. bachelors (or even masters) didn't even know how to partition a harddisk... or even installing single-boot Windows.... not to say differentiating RDRAM and DDR-SDRAM.

[edit] But employing masters, they would 'crank-up' their image by saying "hey! I got xxx masters here"... and masters means you generally have wider/deeper 'experience/knowledge' of the subject. Stoffel is right! That's the market.

[edited by - DerekSaw on July 24, 2002 1:01:46 AM]

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I worked as a pc tech, then a QA engineer, then a SW engineer prior to getting my degree. It was a long progression with low pay. I went back to school for a CS degree with 8 years of experience. I finished my degree, and learned a lot that being "self taught" I never would have bothered with.

DerekSaw commented about how some people with degrees can''t even partition a hard drive. Well, there are people who cheat their way through school in every field. And there are some crappy schools too. I''d say that most people with degrees will have a leg up on those who don''t. In both knowledge, and job opportunities.

A master''s degree is nearly useless for a programmer. If you want to do management, get an MBA instead. Leave the master''s for those that want to do teaching. If you wanted to be an independent contractor, then maybe a masters would lend more credibility. Experience works as well if not better in most cases. Bachelors is definitely beneficial, masters is limited.

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Thanks for the replies everyone. To clarify, I''m not looking to go into the games industry necessarily. I would like to get into an area where I can finally start making some real money. Don''t get me wrong, I''d take a gamedev job in a heart beat. And maybe I can do something for a masters project that would look good in a portfolio. One good thing about grad school is that I would be able to take all the upper level AI and graphics courses!

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I would go the Masters route. You will be done sooner and take far more interesting classes than working towards a BS. There’s no doubt that a degree in CS will give your resume a little more weight, but you also need industry experience in order to land a good job. (So don’t think a degree is all you need.)

There are some dangers ahead if you go for the Masters. Most grad classes require that you know the basics (like mathematics, discrete structures, OOP, etc) and will not slow down for you. If these topics are unfamiliar then you might consider taking some undergraduate classes to catch up.

I think Masters degrees are important in CS because the subject is just too broad to cover everything in detail during a 4 year BS program. Graduate classes let you really dig deeper into certain subjects that would not be possible in more survey oriented BS classes.

I don’t think you generally get a Masters in CS to earn more money. The extra year of working is often more valuable. I think you get it to learn more. (But that might make you more valuable to a company which could get you a better salary, but that’s hard to say.)


[edited by - sblanch on July 24, 2002 12:29:04 PM]

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Masters degrees or Ph.Ds in Comp Sci are usually in demand for R&D oriented work. You won't find these guys (usually) writing business apps to spec, you'll find them writing and designing the OSes, libraries, and database backends that everyone else makes use of. Much more so for the PH.D's then for the master's guys.

The pay is generally higher, but that's because the work is usually more demanding.

Also, the higher level your degree, the less practical experience you're really expected to have! When a Ph.D doesn't know how to set up the MSVC IDE, it's actually almost expected.

Remember how some of your math professors could integrate a complex equation in their heads but tended to do long division really slowly on the blackboard? Same effect. The more you are specialized, the less you're expected to know about the practical details.

A LOT of people use a master's degree just to change in focus, though. Having a BS is something like biology (for example) and a master's in Comp Sci is generally looked at about equivalently to a dual BS in Comp Sci and Biology.

[edited by - cheesegrater on July 24, 2002 12:57:59 PM]

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quote:
Original post by sblanch
I don’t think you generally get a Masters in CS to earn more money. The extra year of working is often more valuable. I think you get it to learn more. (But that might make you more valuable to a company which could get you a better salary, but that’s hard to say.)



Statistics show that lifetime earnings go up for just about any field when you acquire a Master''s degree. The degree is worth more than the extra two years of work experience.

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Keep in mind the differences between computer science and software engineering as well - it will matter in the work force. If you get your MS in computer science, you''re looking at theory and the indepth study of a particular area of computer science. Typically, you get a job in the area you chose for your master''s. Now consider a master''s in software engineering. In this you study processes, techniques, design methodologies, and so on. In my opinion, it''s overall better preparation for the work force. Of course, I am a little biased.. I have 12 credits left for my master''s of software engineering.


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