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Is a masters degree worth it in computer science?

Valued Contributor

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


iced wrote:

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.


Though I'm still in school for my BSCS, this is what I've heard as well, that an MS doesn't help much. I have seen listings at some big companies that require PhD in CS, but not many. To give one data point as I already secured my job for this summer, the interviewer was more interested in my work last summer than the majority of schooling on my resume.


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Message 11 of 22
Established Contributor

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

I think people are underestimating the value of a 4+1 program.  Generally masters take 2-4 years to earn (depending on full vs part time). These programs allow a 1 year masters by making senior year classes undergrad/graduate hybrids that count for both the BS and MS. Often they will also include an 6 month internship as credit for courses.

 

Going for a 4+1 can save 20-40k in school costs alone, and if they offer an internship you get a masters for losing 6 months of job experience, as many companies count a masters as 2-3 years experience this is a net of 1.5-2.5 years. Additionally once you enter the workforce it could take up to 4 years to gain a masters in the future.

Message 12 of 22
Super Contributor

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


Kree wrote:

I think people are underestimating the value of a 4+1 program.  Generally masters take 2-4 years to earn (depending on full vs part time). These programs allow a 1 year masters by making senior year classes undergrad/graduate hybrids that count for both the BS and MS. Often they will also include an 6 month internship as credit for courses.

 

Going for a 4+1 can save 20-40k in school costs alone, and if they offer an internship you get a masters for losing 6 months of job experience, as many companies count a masters as 2-3 years experience this is a net of 1.5-2.5 years. Additionally once you enter the workforce it could take up to 4 years to gain a masters in the future.


Wondered about this and how it worked. Good background on the topic. Add to it you already have an established life style that would flow into your finishing the possible program. Once you leave and spread yourself around it is harder to go back and refocus your life style (family, house, availability of college granting the degree you desire, expenses, travel time, income required now that you have added responsibilities you did not have while in college). Another words, your head is into being a college student. You hear about I graduated high school and will take a year off before going to college. Sounds sensible but you loose the student mentality and may affect your future earnings by not pushing ahead and getting it done. Why did I write this? Walked this walk and stayed in school. Once you start a family and children your income and expenses along with how much mind you have available to study and relate to a home life is totally different. Anyway, food for thought!

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Message 13 of 22
Established Contributor

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


Kree wrote:

I think people are underestimating the value of a 4+1 program.  Generally masters take 2-4 years to earn (depending on full vs part time). These programs allow a 1 year masters by making senior year classes undergrad/graduate hybrids that count for both the BS and MS. Often they will also include an 6 month internship as credit for courses.

 

Going for a 4+1 can save 20-40k in school costs alone, and if they offer an internship you get a masters for losing 6 months of job experience, as many companies count a masters as 2-3 years experience this is a net of 1.5-2.5 years. Additionally once you enter the workforce it could take up to 4 years to gain a masters in the future.


The point I'm trying to make is that there are many employers in tech (since that's what we're caring about in this thread) that view a MS as an extra 0 years of experience, not 2-3. Having a degree checks a requirement box for employment, but the content of what's taught at universities is, unfortunately, largely irrelevant to the real world. People who have only college for experience have written code in lab environments tested against pre-set conditions, they know how to write sorting algorithms, and they can calculate the algorithmic complexity of a function or program. They get the theory and logic of computing and networking.

 

Most tech companies aren't looking for those things - they solved those problems decades ago. They want people who can easily read code written by other people and can do characteristic troubleshooting/debugging of problems found in the field for that code. They want people who understand the agile/waterfall/etc development processes, user stories, and can write code extensible and flexible enough to sustain constant feedback and scope creep. They want people who can think like a user rather than an engineer and design their interface and usability to be user-intuitive. They want people who can automate disparate tasks and streamline operations. Maybe it's different these days, but not so long ago, none of this was taught at universities, or was a glossed-over afterthought as part of a software engineering project. Instead, it came from real-world experience in the trenches doing this type of work.

 

I'm not trying to discourage anyone from getting a MSCS, though it should be attained because the person wants it, not because they think it's going to open a bunch of doors or put them ahead of their peers, because it very likely won't. 

 

The experience from the internship helps, yes. It's also worth noting many BS graduates take masters level courses as part of their BS. I certainly did. As an interesting aside, many BS-level CS courses are actually more difficult than the MS-level ones.

Message 14 of 22
Established Contributor

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

Only you can make this decision. I know in my short experience of 10-12 years in the workforce, experience + undergrad has always been king. I've known a few guys that got MBA's and it hasn't really advanced there career. For me personally I'm in finance and a Master's wouldn't do anything more for me. My partners wanted 8-10 years experience before they would go into business with someone and they also wanted an undergrad but couldn't care less about a Masters. 

 

Each potential employer is different. I know people in IT who have no degree and make a million a year. I also know people in IT that are looking for work every 2-3 years.

 

I got my undergrad just to say I have it. No one has every asked to see it or to see my transcripts. I did it because I knew it was important to have the paper even though I don't feel like I learned much and I worked while I was finishing and the experience working has done more for my career than the degree. That being said the extra year to have it isn't bad if you get it all done in the 5 years and it certainly won't hurt.

 

You gotta do you and good luck!

 

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Message 15 of 22
Established Contributor

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

Try and get into one of the big tech companies after your undergrad. If you get in, you don't need the Masters. One year in a FANG level tech company is worth more than a PhD. If you don't get in, take the Masters and try again.

Getting really good at leetcode problems will help you far more than a masters.

The exception is if you want to go into machine learning. The scientist roles need you to not only have the advanced degree but also published research.

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Message 16 of 22
Senior Contributor

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

I guess it all depends on the position you're going for.

 

12 years ago, I started working (as a contractor) to TSA/DHS as an Audio/Visual engineer.  I have ZERO degree, just a Diploma from Lincoln Tech in '98 & about 8 years experience in AV rack building, installation & on-site support.

In a few years, they integrated my position with the IT folks, with on the job training.

 

I have gone from 55k per year to $87k per year & yearly bonuses of $3k.

 

I DO realize this isn't the norm, but it's been an amazing journey with extremely little student loan debt.  All paid off about a year after graduation.



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Message 17 of 22
Super Contributor

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

Some companies and the fedearl government will contribute to your tuition to get an advanced degree.  They usually require a service payback if they do but it is a great way to do both.

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Message 18 of 22
Frequent Contributor

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

My now Ex was going for hers in either CS or Math.  While she only made it about 2/3 of the way, she did earn a promotion or two and larger salary increases and down the road a bigger/better job. Plus, it looks really nice to have initials after your name. Signed CorpCrMgr, MBA


Message 19 of 22
Established Contributor

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


@corpcrmgrwrote:

My now Ex was going for hers in either CS or Math.  While she only made it about 2/3 of the way, she did earn a promotion or two and larger salary increases and down the road a bigger/better job. Plus, it looks really nice to have initials after your name. Signed CorpCrMgr, MBA


It sounds more like you're making the case that a MS wasn't required as she got the promotion and salary increases without the degree, not because of it.

 

Also, letters after a name can also viewed as pretentious, particularly in tech.

 
Message 20 of 22