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Is a masters degree worth it in computer science?

Established Contributor

Is a masters degree worth it in computer science?

My school offers a 4+1 program where I will get both a bachelors and a masters in 5 years. Initially I was thinking about it but I began to realize that an extra year working right after college might be more beneficial than 1 more year in school for my masters in terms of job growth and income. Does anyone know if it's worth it for me to get a masters?




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Message 1 of 22
21 REPLIES
Frequent Contributor

Re: Is a masters degree worth it in computer science?

Yes.  The flimsy piece of paper that says you've earned your Masters provides immediate salary / position benefits.   You will probably be paid considerably more, and likely qualify for a higher level position, your first year on the job than someone with a Bachelors (even though they may know more, and have more experience, than you).    It's only a year -- make it worthwhile by doing an internship (hopefully paid) during that 5th year so you get the valuable hands-on experience and possible permanent job offer immediately after graduation. 

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Message 2 of 22
Senior Contributor

Re: Is a masters degree worth it in computer science?

There's no possible way to calculate this without a lot of data points.

 

I regularly work with young guys (typically guys) when their parents contact me through word of mouth, specifically to do university analysis.  I'd say maybe 60% of those contacting me come to the "positive opportunity cost" of going to college, but 40% don't.

 

You really need to sit down and forecast many factors, with ranges of those forecasts, and then take the plunge.

 

For some young guns with actual skills (yes, you can have skills at age 13), college may be entirely a waste.  4-5 years plus up to $100,000 in debt means a sunk cost of close to $350,000 in 5 years if that young person has actual skills or talents that can be maximized in trade school or internship.

 

If the 4 years of college is a for sure thing and mathematically valid, then the additional 1 year also needs to be compared with assumed incomes and all expenses (including the sunk year of no income, etc).

 

IT is a field that is ever changing.  I had money in an IT company for 20 years and it's still around but the current owners are ready to roll out of it because the specific field they are in is 100% moving to the cloud so in 5-10 years their market will drop into the toilet.  On the other hand I am still an investor in a company that works on autonomous hardware (factories, cars, toys, robot vacuums, etc) and they're desperate for engineers (offering up to $350,000/year plus bonus or 5x the engineering salary, and finding 0 candidates).

 

So IT in general may be super awesome in 5 years in some niches, or it coul be horrifying in 5 years if it's all outsourced to the cloud in other niches.

Message 3 of 22
Established Contributor

Re: Is a masters degree worth it in computer science?

My dad worked for several major IT companies. Before he passed he was making well into the 6 figure range.  Didn't get his bachelors until the late 90s.  He told me that people with his same experience/job title were making 100k more a year than him because they had gotten a degree in the 70s or 80s.

 

With a bachelors being the new high school diploma, and IT having strong international pull (many countries have moved to the 4+1 model as standard)  I would say there is a strong chance that the extra year of schooling would be a financial benefit in the long term.

 

My own field is education, and a masters confers 10% more pay starting, and up to 30% more after 20 years.

 

Here is the posted salary scale for a district I used to work in. https://www.fcps.edu/sites/default/files/media/pdf/FY18-teacher-203-day.pdf

 

Many companies also count a masters as 2-4 years work experience. So even disregarding entry level job salaries, you could be eligible for promotions and pay raises sooner.

Message 4 of 22
Valued Contributor

Re: Is a masters degree worth it in computer science?

I have interviewed many people for IT positions.  Your masters degree won't help you for an entry level job at most companies.  Interships with relevant experience are a lot more important.  If you are going for a senior level position it might be helpful.  Better to get a job in the field and then get them to pay for your master degree down the road. 

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Message 5 of 22
Valued Contributor

Re: Is a masters degree worth it in computer science?

OP we’re in the same boat but unlike you science isn’t my forte. Been pondering lately about taking the Masters route but I’m not sure if it’s worth the debt and time spent

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Message 6 of 22
Super Contributor

Re: Is a masters degree worth it in computer science?

I have worked in the IT field since 1979.  There really is no way to know for sure that going to school an extra year will help you job wise.  I would say your first goal is to make the connections to find your first job.  You could always persue your masters after you start to work.  I have learned over the years that who you know and who knows you are more important than your degree or in some cases even your work experience.

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Message 7 of 22
Valued Contributor

Re: Is a masters degree worth it in computer science?

I would try to get my MS from a tier 1 school.  I would also try to get it from the MBA program.  Don't go the brand X route.  I would try to find a speciality in high demand that looks to have a long terms growth/demand.  Network security?

 

I have a BBA in Industrial Marketing and Finance  double major and an MBA in Finance from a well known tier one school.    DW has used on the biz marketing pamplet our staff includes MBA from xxx.  Also because I have an MBA from well known school I have been able to snarf several short term jobs.  The people simply  liked hiring an MBA from xxx. They never thought I got my degrees back 40 years ago.    In trueth some of the much younger candidates could have done a better job but the Hiring Manager liked having an MBA from xxx.   I know this is slghtly off topic  but may give you some ideas. 

Message 8 of 22
Established Contributor

Re: Is a masters degree worth it in computer science?

How is UMD masters program?



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Message 9 of 22
Established Contributor

Re: Is a masters degree worth it in computer science?


Subexistence wrote:

My school offers a 4+1 program where I will get both a bachelors and a masters in 5 years. Initially I was thinking about it but I began to realize that an extra year working right after college might be more beneficial than 1 more year in school for my masters in terms of job growth and income. Does anyone know if it's worth it for me to get a masters?


For computer science, no. BSCS holders get good paying jobs in the field. MSCS helps in a few Silicon Valley companies that prioritize the degree for whatever reason, but the vast majority simply don’t care. PhDs in CS usually become professors and make less than their BSCS brethren.

 

Experience is worth volumes more than a degree when we hire (full disclosure: I work for a SV tech company that I imagine everyone on this forum has heard of). Experience from an internship will likely get one further in the field than a MS.

Message 10 of 22