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MS or MBA worthwhile? Advice appreciated

Linda Pan
Ranch Hand

Joined: Sep 24, 2001
Posts: 96
I'm considering getting a Master's and really the major reason is because financially I could get one at an online school for much less than conventional school and I'd like to improve myself career-wise. I am in the tech field and not really sure where I would like to end up. I am a Notes developer doing self study on new technology, right now it is Java.

A Master's couldn't guarantee anything, I'm sure, but anyone who has a Master's degree in the field comment on whether it is worthwhile getting one? It is possible one day I could open my own business not necessarily in the same field, which makes getting a general MBA appealing.

The online school has the following options:
MBA
MBA Project Management
MBA Information Management
Master of Science in Information Technology
Master of Science in Information Management


What's the difference between MBA Information Management and Master of Science in Information Management?
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
I have a masters in EE/CS. From looking at my own degree program and those my friends are in, I find them fairly useless--content wise. You basically take some classes in advanced topics, and maybe do a project/thesis. You're better off learning targeted knowledge by taking specific classes or training programs to further your own educational goals.

However, a masters degree does look good on your resume. I believe there is a definate financial benefit to it. (Years ago, people used to say it was worth about an extra $5k annually.)

As for an MBA, I believe only MBA's from top schools are worth while. You should check out the article Helen recently posted. I think an online MBA has a little or no value. Of course, most employers don't seem to read resumes too carefully and might not realize the school is online.

--Mark
Vijayendra V Rao
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 04, 2004
Posts: 195
I have a Masters degree in Computer Science and like Mark said, you will definitely not find the contents to be very useful. But trust me it definitely will help you if you wish to make a difference to your career since many employers will be willing to talk to you if you have a Masters degree on your resume.

Also, like Mark has said, its definitely going to help you to get a higher pay (atleast you will have a strong chance to negotiate well) with your Masters degree on your resume. How much you will actually "learn"...well, this will totally depend on how much effort you are willing to put in to get into the subject.

I am not in favor of an MBA degree, especially not the ones that you can get online. If I were in your position, I would go with a Masters degree. You already are in a technical field. Getting a Masters degree will help you get a much better technical job. But do a lot of research before you take it up


Vijayendra <br /> <br />"The harder you train in peace, the lesser you bleed in war"
Linda Pan
Ranch Hand

Joined: Sep 24, 2001
Posts: 96
I am favoring this online school - it is a real school which also has online classes for:

- Master of Science in Information Technology
- Master of Science in Information Management

What about online Master's? Does anyone think this is a totally bad idea?


They don't have a MS in Computer Science program. Anyone think one of the possible three:

- Master of Science in Information Technology
- Master of Science in Information Management
- MS in Computer Science

is better to take over the others?
Paul Bourdeaux
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 24, 2004
Posts: 783
Interesting that others have said that an MBA is not the way to go... If you are seriously considering going into business for yourself, an MBA will give you important knowledge about business and the business world that will likely be very useful. It also really doesn't matter where the MBA is from if you are gong into business for yourself... what does matter is the quality of information you can learn from the program you are interested in. Compare their classes to the classes offered from other top business schools, and see if they offer similar content. Look at online syllabi if possible.

However, if you are more interested in simply improving your resume, I agree that an MBA may not be the answer. While it will improve your marketability as a manager, the benefit may not outweigh the cost.

Personally, while I received one of my undergraduate degrees in Computer Science, most CS Master Programs are unappealing to me because they focus more on theory than practice. This is great if you plan on continuing a career in academia, but not if you want to work in the professional IT world.


“Programming today is a race between software engineers striving to build bigger and better idiot-proof programs, and the Universe trying to produce bigger and better idiots. So far, the Universe is winning.” - Rich Cook
Linda Pan
Ranch Hand

Joined: Sep 24, 2001
Posts: 96
This particular online school is offerring their masters program for $4200 (I received an email from them recently with the offer to reduce the tuition due to my past inquiries to their school). It is true I have no idea whether it is good or not. What is keeping me from getting it is really my time and the possible lack of use in the real world. I'm not interested in taking classes for theory.

Thank you for replying to my questions. I think the overall answer is that it really isn't worth getting unless there is real world application. There was also another online MBA certificate program - at a well known school though I don't believe it was the top 10 school, who were offerring their program for about I think it was $4 - 7k. Kind of steep for a pre-MBA program. Though they say there was real world application.

I agree that getting a master's and having it on your resume has better longevity than getting certified in technologies that may or may not be around. I am still in "limbo" as to whether I should or not. How does one even go about finding out if the program is practical?

I may just go for it just to have it on my resume. Though I'm sure I will be asked if the school is in Aspen, CO, and I work in NYC, how did I manage to go to school? I guess that would tip them off that it was an online masters. So online master's aren't really good to some people's eyes? Doesn't it show motivation, determination, self-improvement? I've been in the tech field for a little more than 4 years and I don't want to be stale.
[ August 04, 2004: Message edited by: Linda Pan ]
SJ Adnams
Ranch Hand

Joined: Sep 28, 2001
Posts: 925
Doesn't it show motivation, determination, self-improvement? I've been in the tech field for a little more than 4 years and I don't want to be stale.

No. It shows that you think it is only worth investing $4k into your career, It (may) also show you are incapable/reluctant to get a good GMAT score.

If you were serious, you would be saving hard, then taking out a BIG loan, and going to a top 10 school. That clearly states you are SERIOUS about your career.
Linda Pan
Ranch Hand

Joined: Sep 24, 2001
Posts: 96
And are you speaking as someone who took a BIG loan and got yourself a master's at a top ten school and considered that it was worth the time and money, as well as practical knowledge?

A friend of mine went to law school got layed off. He is now going back to get an MBA at the same time paying his law school loans. Another friend who has a bachelors got layed off and decided to go to law school. He has since decided to stop since he will be returning to his old job. Pardon me for asking for advice.
[ August 04, 2004: Message edited by: Linda Pan ]
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Originally posted by Linda Pan:

Anyone think one of the possible three:

- Master of Science in Information Technology
- Master of Science in Information Management
- MS in Computer Science

is better to take over the others?


As I noted, a MS in CS is fairly useless content-wise for most people, but does help your career.

I don't know about a masters in IT. Those usually focus on running IT departments, e.g. a large insurance firm needs to keep hundreds of computers up, which run everything from the website to workstations to proprietary accuarial anaylsis, what's the most efficent way to do so.




Originally posted by Linda Pan:

How does one even go about finding out if the program is practical?


Look at the syllabi, the work of the faculty, and talk to alumni.


Originally posted by Linda Pan:

I may just go for it just to have it on my resume. Though I'm sure I will be asked if the school is in Aspen, CO, and I work in NYC, how did I manage to go to school? I guess that would tip them off that it was an online masters. So online master's aren't really good to some people's eyes? Doesn't it show motivation, determination, self-improvement? I've been in the tech field for a little more than 4 years and I don't want to be stale.
/QB]


The purpose of an MBA is to interact with other people and understand their viewpoints. (Note: an eMBA is different.) Doing it all remotely detracts from that, IMHO. However, some programs, like Syracuse, will have you work in a small team, and fly out to the program for a long weekend every few weeks or so. So it's neither totally online, nor is it residential/local.




Originally posted by Linda Pan:
[QB]
There was also another online MBA certificate program - at a well known school though I don't believe it was the top 10 school, who were offerring their program for about I think it was $4 - 7k. Kind of steep for a pre-MBA program. Though they say there was real world application.


What is a pre-MBA program? What value is there to it?



--Mark
Linda Pan
Ranch Hand

Joined: Sep 24, 2001
Posts: 96
Thank you. This thread has been an eye opener. There is some many terminologies for a master's. What is masters of information science? The pre-MBA was for people who weren't sure whether they wanted to get an MBA or not but it allowed them to take MBA classes online and get a certificate.

I know someone who has gotten a MS in CS probably 15 years ago at a CUNY school (local college in NYC) and he is still working at a major financial institution doing mostly C++.

For me another lure for online classes is the convenience of it. Commute time can be better spent studying.
Paul Bourdeaux
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 24, 2004
Posts: 783
If you were serious, you would be saving hard, then taking out a BIG loan, and going to a top 10 school. That clearly states you are SERIOUS about your career.

Sure, but that is not the only way to state that you are serious about your career. Advancement in your current company, certification in new technologies, membership and participation in professional affiliations, etc. are all ways to show your level of commitment to your career. That's not to say that a degree from a top 10 school isn't impressive, it is. But most employers know that alma mater alone does not guarantee excellence.
Billy Tsai
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 23, 2003
Posts: 1297
I can't afford to do a master degree


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Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Originally posted by Paul Bourdeaux:

But most employers know that alma mater alone does not guarantee excellence.


Well,, while the might agree that it does not *guarantee* excellence most would say a degree from a ivy+ school strongly correlates to success. I've seen a number of companies recruit only at this level for certain positions.

I'm not saying that it's right. Studies have shown that successful people will be successful no matter where they go to school, it's just that we seem to find a greater percentage of successful people at the top schools.

(Disclaimer: I'm biased based on my school.)

--Mark
SJ Adnams
Ranch Hand

Joined: Sep 28, 2001
Posts: 925
My argument was that this was a very much half hearted attempt to develop her career & if she were serious she might think about spending a little more money. Sure if funds are tight then $4000 might get you SCEA, OCP, CSDP (IEEE membership) and a shelf full of good computer textbooks. That is a better investment than any 'online' degree.

But most employers know that alma mater alone does not guarantee excellence.
It does, and employers know it.
[ August 06, 2004: Message edited by: SJ Adnams ]
Helen Thomas
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 13, 2004
Posts: 1759
Originally posted by Billy Tsai:
I can't afford to do a master degree


You probably could afford it if you considered a part-time course. The biggest benefit of this is you get to learn with older people with real-world experience - a skill useful in the workplace.

Teachers at Universities often remark to me that they prefer teaching the part-time students where there is an interesting mix of backgrounds and skills.
In full-time courses it's often a case of leading the horse to the water.
[ August 06, 2004: Message edited by: Helen Thomas ]

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Paul Bourdeaux
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 24, 2004
Posts: 783
Sure if funds are tight then $4000 might get you SCEA, OCP, CSDP (IEEE membership) and a shelf full of good computer textbooks. That is a better investment than any 'online' degree.

Agreed. In fact, I personally think that would be a better investment than any MBA, regardless of where it came from. But then again, my passion lies in architecture and development, not necessarily in management... If I was interested in starting my own business I might think otherwise.
But most employers know that alma mater alone does not guarantee excellence.
It does, and employers know it.

Sorry, but I can't agree. I think Mark was more correct in saying that a degree from an ivy+ school strongly correlates with success. This is naturally true because you need to be somewhat successful in the first place just to be accepted. However that does not mean that everybody who graduates from a top school will automatically be an instant success, nor does it mean that anyone without a top degree will be a failure. While there are some companies that play it safe by recruiting only from top schools, there are also many, many employers that understand that excellence lies in the student as much as in the school.

(Disclaimer: I'm also biased based on my non-top-ten school.)
Josh Stanley
Greenhorn

Joined: Aug 05, 2004
Posts: 6
I would also recommend that you look into the school's credentials to ensure that they are a reputable institution. If the school isn't respected, then the degree is virtually worthless, imo. Try to find students who attended the school and ask for their opinions on it. To me, $4000 for a master's degree seems suspicious.


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