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Is a Master's in CS worth it?

Matt Kidd
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Joined: Jul 17, 2002
Posts: 259
My situation is one of a college grad with 9 months experience. Thats it. I'll save you from the sob story of being laid off. Anyway, during my tenure at my old job the topic of a Master's degree came up often. Some said it was useful (especially if they recently graduated). Others said it was a complete and utter waste of time (experience overules all argument).
Currently I'm studying for the SCJP, working full time at a university library, and interning at a health clinic that wanted a web site built (stroke of luck really...guy below me is there IT directore).
Since I work at a University I get course at a MUCH MUCH cheaper rate. My thought is that I desparately want to get back into the industry but lack of experience and no network of people in this city is holding me back. I know its up to me but is there merit to spending close to two years on a MS degree (albiet on outdated technologies rehashing techniques I learned in undergrad seeing that my undergrad school would also be my grad school) when I could easily get 5 certs (SCJP, SCWCD, SCJD, UML, XML...following jcert path) and work on open source projects during the next 12 months?

Just looking for opinions. Still young and dumb so to speak.
Thomas Paul
mister krabs
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Joined: May 05, 2000
Posts: 13974
Get a Masters... in education.


Associate Instructor - Hofstra University
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Rufus BugleWeed
Ranch Hand

Joined: Feb 22, 2002
Posts: 1551
I think a master's degree has a longer shelf life and more snob appeal. Diamonds and an MS are forever. In five years, SCJP, will have marginal value on your resume.
When they say "I'm pleased to announce the promotion of Mr. Kidd to VP of Offbeat Things. Mr. Kidd holds a MSCS from BFU.", they never mention that you got it twenty five years ago and forgot 95% of it.
At least that's the way it is today.
Somebody has suggested Universities can't keep up with technology either. Certificates, IMHO, should be faster in time to market.
It's a tough question.
Michael Finney
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 25, 1999
Posts: 508
A very though question.
I heard it matters where you get your Masters from. However, I do not know about that.


Michael Finney - "Always Striving To Serve You Better Every Day"
http://www.smilingsoftwaresolutions.com/
Roseanne Zhang
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 14, 2000
Posts: 1953
Originally posted by Rufus Bugleweed:
I think a master's degree has a longer shelf life and more snob appeal. Diamonds and an MS are forever. In five years, SCJP, will have marginal value on your resume.

I agree but modify a little that In five years, SCJP, will have NO value on your resume. I'm serious.
Thomas Paul
mister krabs
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 05, 2000
Posts: 13974
Originally posted by Roseanne Zhang:

I agree but modify a little that In five years, SCJP, will have NO value on your resume. I'm serious.

It doesn't have much value now so I don't see it having much in the future.
And I was serious... get a Masters in education. When you are a tenured college professor you will thank me as you vacation on the beach for three months every year.
John Coxey
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 24, 2000
Posts: 503
If you got the time and the money --- get the Master's.
I would get either an MBA or MS-Computer Science.
----
Make sure you get some project experience under your belt while at college - else you'll be crying again when you get out.
Johnny


John Coxey
Evansville, Indiana, USA
steve d'souza
Greenhorn

Joined: Jun 13, 2002
Posts: 5
Hi,
I am also in the same dilemma whether to go for masters or continue with my job.
I am a full time Java developer with 1.5 years of experience under my belt. Now i got admission into a german university for Masters degree in Information and Communication Systems(its not MSCS, very few german univs offer courses like MSCS). But the courses are very good.
I have applied for visa. Now I am still deciding what to do. SHould i go for masters(long term benefits) therby quitting my job. Its a 2 yr course. Or should I continue with my job and gain experience. So its a Masters degree vs 2 yr experience. ???
Steve
Matt Kidd
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 17, 2002
Posts: 259
See time and money aren't really an issue (sort of...loans I could defer while I'm in school and cc I could take care of before I start). As it stands I have no oppurtunities for jobs. I'm in a dead end job that only benefit is discount on classes. Total cost for the MS excluding fees: $500($60 bucks per class essentially). But like someone said...it may matter WHERE you get your Master's and I don't think the university I work at is a Carnegie Mellon, Texas-Austin, or a Maryland.
But the thing is....I REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY...REALLY want the MBA but I heard for that many "decent" programs require 3-5 years real world experience and as it stands now it is totally ruled out. That and the school won't pay for that degree.
So confused....
Matt Kidd
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 17, 2002
Posts: 259
Exactly Steve....Experience(including certs and opensource work) vs 2 years for the MS. (mind you I'd be repeating the exact same courses I took in undergrad since I work at my undergrad University. On a sidenote I've been told that getting your MS at the same school you got your BS looks bad.
Again...confused
Kevin Thompson
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 04, 2001
Posts: 237
Roseanne: You made a comment about SCJP certification not having any value in 5 years. Why do you say that?
And now the most important question of all time => What certification WILL have value in 5 years?
I was thinking that the IBM XML Certification would be a good thing to work on now. For these reasons:
1. If the "java religion" looses out to the "microsoft religion", having a certification in XML would be a good thing, because both religions use XML.
2. XML is predicted to be more widely used (I keep seeing this in articles in various places)
What do you think?
thanks!
Kevin Thompson
lanling wong
Greenhorn

Joined: Mar 23, 2002
Posts: 15
Hi all, I was accepted by a university for the master and there are two options there: one is to take enought courses then you get graduated and the other is to find a supervisor. The former choice will require less time but I don't feel like to take another 10 courses again after finishing my bachelor a couple of months before. However I was advised to take this option for i was told that supervised by a professor could be very tough and could make your graduation time forever long..., any suggestions?


lanling<p>SCJP2<br />SCWCD<br />SCJD
Roseanne Zhang
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 14, 2000
Posts: 1953
Whe I said that
In five years, SCJP, will have NO value on your resume. I'm serious.

I have many points:
1) In five years, Java might lose its market, some new language such as ChineseTea might take over.
2) In five years, if you still code in Java, you have a lot of Java experiences. Who cares you are certified or not?
3) In five years, if you do not gain any experiences in Java, then it will be the proof that you are a paper-cert. Who wants a 5-year-old-paper-cert Java programmer?
No matter what, the value of SCJP in five years will be 0(Math/Fortran/VB), zero(English), NULL(C++/C), null(Java), nil(Pascal), ???(ChineseTea)...
Got my points?
[ August 02, 2002: Message edited by: Roseanne Zhang ]
Dan Chisholm
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 02, 2002
Posts: 1865
Matt,
I spent twelve years in a semiconductor equipment company and watched a lot of engineers come and go. Those with a master's degree or a Ph.D seldom were more productive than those with a B.S. or no degree at all. Even so, the guys with the graduate level degrees get promoted a lot faster.
A company sells more than just products and services. Most importantly, a company also sells stock and when a lot of stock is sold the CEO brings home a lot more money. That same CEO will frequently meet with investors and he will do his best to convince them that they should buy a lot more stock because his engineering team is working on a hot new project. Next, he will try to convince them that he has an engineering team that is capable of delivering the product on time. Since investors are not very good at evaluating the quality of an engineering team, they usually just look at superficial characteristics like graduate level degrees held by members of the engineering staff and management team. That's why even the most useless engineer can be a VP if he has a Ph.D.
Get the Master's degree. If you have some extra time available, get the certifications also.


Dan Chisholm<br />SCJP 1.4<br /> <br /><a href="http://www.danchisholm.net/" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">Try my mock exam.</a>
Jim Baiter
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 05, 2001
Posts: 532
That's why even the most useless engineer can be a VP if he has a Ph.D.


I disagree. Rarely are Phds put in executive positions. Check the F500 rosters and see how few are Phds. I would agree with some statement to the effect the "Phds are getting more money" or they get to do the more interesting things but in general they aren't executive material - too specialized.
Carlisia Campos
sanitation engineer
Ranch Hand

Joined: Aug 22, 2001
Posts: 135
Originally posted by Roseanne Zhang:
Whe I said that

No matter what, the value of SCJP in five years will be 0(Math/Fortran/VB), zero(English), NULL(C++/C), null(Java), nil(Pascal), ???(ChineseTea)...

[ August 02, 2002: Message edited by: Roseanne Zhang ]


How about the value of a MsCS in five years? Say, two people with five years of work experience, pretty similar backgroung, going for the same position, one with a MsCS... will anyone care about that? How about in 10 years?


Carlisia Campos<br />--------------------------------<br />i blog here: carlisia.com
Gregg Bolinger
GenRocket Founder
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Joined: Jul 11, 2001
Posts: 15299
    
    6

I would recommend getting a Masters Degree, but not in CS. A friend of mine has his BS in CS and now he is getting his masters in Physics/Engineering (I don't remember exactly which one). This will open the door 10 times wider for him. As it would for anyone. Of course, that's if you like that kind of study.


GenRocket - Experts at Building Test Data
Dan Chisholm
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 02, 2002
Posts: 1865
Originally posted by Jim Baiter:

I disagree. Rarely are Phds put in executive positions. Check the F500 rosters and see how few are Phds. I would agree with some statement to the effect the "Phds are getting more money" or they get to do the more interesting things but in general they aren't executive material - too specialized.

Jim,
I agree that a Ph.D. is not necessarily a good fit for a management position. Furthermore, I agree that a Ph.D. is seldom a good fit for a software position. However, technology companies such as those in the semiconductor industry have a preference for project leaders and top-level managers with graduate level degrees. The motivation has little to do with the skill set attributed to the advanced degree. Instead, the motivation has more to do with showmanship. Investors tend to feel more comfortable with technology companies when they see a lot of graduate level degrees among the technical staff and technical management team.
If you want to argue that it is not a good approach, I will agree. Unfortunately, I don't think that you and I will be able to change anything.
Dan Chisholm
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 02, 2002
Posts: 1865
Originally posted by Gregg Bolinger:
I would recommend getting a Masters Degree, but not in CS. A friend of mine has his BS in CS and now he is getting his masters in Physics/Engineering (I don't remember exactly which one). This will open the door 10 times wider for him. As it would for anyone. Of course, that's if you like that kind of study.

The interdisciplinary Master of Science in Engineering (MSE) program at SJSU is interesting. Those that are interested in Java, J2ee, XML, and Web Services may be interested in the client/server concentration.
Master of Science in Engineering (MSE) program
[ August 05, 2002: Message edited by: Dan Chisholm ]
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Is a Master's in CS worth it?

Short answer:
Yes. A master's degree will stand out on resume and give you an edge on people with only a BS.
No. A master's degree will not make you a better software engineer.

Longer answer:
Long, long, ago, i.e. decades ago, a masters degree was extensive study and reaearch into a particular area of the field. Whereas a PhD would pioneer new areas, masters work would explore in known area, pushing the limits of existing knowledge.
Over the last decade or so, the research portion of the masters degree has faded away. The final nail was put in the coffin when MIT announced their 5 year joing BS/masters program (which, for the record I opposed and held up for a year). Now lots of schools are following suit.
basically, people just spend an extra 1-2 years taking some extra classes and get a masters degree. Since most of the classes aren't practical, anyway, I don't see it as too useful. (The exception is when there is still extensive research, and/or an in-depth thesis project.) Unfortunately, whereas 10 years ago, the BS was the standard minimum for most jobs, I fear that in 20 years, the masters degree will be come the standard.
Given an opportunity to do a part time masters degree cheaply, I'd say go for it. A MS or MEng is good from any top or even middle school. Most state schools will be fine. This is different for MBAs. MBAs are only valuable from about the top 20 or so schools. MBAs from a no-name college are not viewed to highly these days.
WRT an MBA....
I think MBAs are mostly BS. Effectively it's an old boys network, and an MBA is the key to the door. (The CEO thinks, "I suffered through it, so you should, too".) However, given that it is valued, even if not intrinsically valuable, I think someone with a technical background aqnd an MBA will do well in the future.

--Mark
Jamie Robertson
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Joined: Jul 09, 2001
Posts: 1879

with regards to a Master's including thesis, research and in depth studies:
I think this achievement shows that the person is motivated, dedicated, has advanced problem soving skills and a greater learning capacity. It shows a greater interest in the subject/profession. A person writing a thesis usually has superior written communication skills as their paper will probably be published in some way or form. A masters student usually helps in lecturing labs or courses at the university level, showing that they have excellent oral communication skills as well.
With the move to a Masters Degree from taking additional courses, I see a lot of the above skills not being developed. I don't think learning more stuff (extra courses) will make you as valuable as the whole researching process has done in the past, rendering the Masters degree almost the equivalent as a BSc student that takes 6 years to get his/her degree!
I can see how taking the Masters courses could be extremely beneficial to person that has taken his BSc early in the technical revolution and wants to show that he/she is still on top of the latest programming/analysis techniques
Jamie
flying jordan
Greenhorn

Joined: Aug 02, 2002
Posts: 22
it seems the majority of the people support the idea of getting a MS degree because education will show more value in the long run. Then how about going further to get a PhD degree ? Do you think that will help more ?
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
"flying jordan",
Welcome to JavaRanch.
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--Mark
Roseanne Zhang
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 14, 2000
Posts: 1953
When I said that, and list 3 reasons.
In five years, SCJP, will have NO value on your resume. I'm serious.

Now I need to add another one:
4) The money hungary $un recently decided to make your certification expire in two years.
Manish Hatwalne
Ranch Hand

Joined: Sep 22, 2001
Posts: 2578

I also believe that MS in CS is definitely a better option. If you can, make sure that you get some exposure to real life projects as well. Considering the current situation of the industry and your experience, it is very difficult to predict what sort of experience you'll be getting in next 2 years. For almost last 1 year, I am looking for work on J2EE, weblogic, ejb n all, but can't get it. I have been told that I should be happy that at least I still have a job and working on Java. Some of my friends are stuck with work that they don't want to do but have to so it coz their company wants them to do it.
Also, I wholeheartedly agree with Rufus and Dan Chisholm , and want to thank Dan for the link he provided. Thanks
- Manish
Sean Webster
Greenhorn

Joined: Aug 24, 2002
Posts: 21
Short answer = try to maximize the time with the priority on building a track record of accomplishments. If the opportunities are not within your reach, get the degree to avoid floundering for the next 2 years.
In my experience, it is the folks who can execute and make things happen that end up rising throughout any organization.
Yes, a MS is CS will last longer than any certification. Plus, a MS in CS will show up on any descriptor about you.
Yes, companies will enjoy having the pedigree on their staff.
However, they will enjoy having someone who can deliver outstanding solutions on time. In the organizations that I have worked for, these folks often get labels like �Rock Star� or �Post Man� � because they can deliver.
Ideally, you would want the credential + the skills, + the �can do� attitude. I would prioritize these attributes in the following order:
Priority #1 = �can do� attitude
Priority #2 = Skills
Priority #3 = Credentials
In making your decision to go to school for another 2 years, think as if you were the CEO of your own business. What is the best way to invest your time? If your alternatives are to flounder around looking for �not so great jobs� or to build your pedigree and credentials, I would say, get the degree. If you can see ways to really build your skills and experience, I would say go for the experience. Any future descriptor about you will have 90% of it describing your accomplishments, and 5% describing your degrees.
If you want to build up your credentials and pedigree later, you can always publish articles, teach classes, and contribute to philanthropic activities.
From your post, it sounds like you don�t think you will learn all that much from an MS in CS. If this is the case, don�t waste your time; get an MS in something that will build your skills. At the end of the day, you are going to need world class skills to compete and excel in the workplace.
Again, remember to maximize your time & make the best decision under your specific circumstances that you can.
Just a few thoughts�I hope they are helpful
 
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