Masters Degree or not?



  • I am a 17-year veteran of the US Air Force who is looking to get into the computer industry when I retire in 3 years. I have a BS in Computer Science, and I'm considering getting a MS in Computer Science (the Air Force would pay the tuition).

    My question for you in the industry: Is a Masters degree worth the effort?  Keeping in mind that I'm married with kids, is it really worth the sacrifice of not seeing them much for a few years?  Please note that I'm not looking to get a management position - coding is what I enjoy and thats what I want to do.  So, how much will a Masters help me as far as getting a higher-paying job?  Or will it help at all?

    BTW, I have a Top Secret clearance, so I'm not worried about getting hired - there are lots of companies that will hire me on that alone.  But I'm just wondering if the Masters would help me get paid more, and how much?



  • That's a really good question.  A few years ago when I learned that a coworker had a masters in CS, I asked him if he felt it helped his career.  He said no.  (I have a BS in CS like you, so I was wondering at the time if getting a masters would bump up my career.) 

    Of course, that's a survey sample of one.  I'm interested in more opinions/experiences.



  • I just started on my MS this past January. I am also curious whether or not it will give me earning power.

    I am also a veteran and part of the reason I decided to pursue my Master's (similar to you) was because I had a limited amount of time to use my GI Bill and wanted to make sure I used it all. I spent FOUR god-awful years in the Army for that money and I want to make sure I get every $ I earned.



  • If you're going to be working in the govt contracting world, it's likely worth it.  It can often bump you into a higher labor category (usually calculated as a combination of experience and education), which means that your company can charge more for your time, which of course means that they can afford to pay you more.




  • so how can i joined the army or register  because im in the 9th grade

     



  • I would say it depends on the type of work your looking to do.  I've got a BS in Electrical Engineering and have been a software engineer for 8 years now. I haven't been turned down for a job because of the lack of masters. If you're looking to develop windows apps, or even write lower level applications that can interface with the hardware, it probably wouldn't help much.  If you're looking to write OSs and compilers etc, it would probably be useful. 

    My initial feeling would be that for you it might not help that much. Because I would think the ability to start day 1 with top secret clearance would be a bigger help in a higher salary than a masters.

      I will say this, if you get a master it usually only helps your starting salary at your first company.  What I mean is, there were a group of 12 of us that started within a month of each other.  11 had BS, 1 had a masters.  The guy with the masters got slightly more pay (on the order of < 5k a year more).  But in the same division of the same company, if you completed a masters while employed there, they did not give you a raise.  So if you're going to go for it, get it done before starting somewhere 🙂

     Lastly, companies like Raytheon like masters degrees.  But apparently, they don't really care what it's in.  I was looking at working at Raytheon and they were supposedly happy that I was working on a masters, but it was a Masters of Divinity in Theology.  When I pointed this out, they said that working on a masters showed my focus on continued learning, and that was more important to them than if it was technical or not.

     

     



  •  I just graduated with my Masters two weeks ago. More to show myself that I still could (in my 40s) than to hope to gain better employment chances.

    My wife was supportive and stayed so - barely. Much longer and I'd have been looking at divorce papers now. And a nervous breakdown due to double workloads.

    In other words: think twice if you really want it. Maybe you want to move more into research? Teaching/lecturing at uni (which I may do a bit down the road, once I've recovered), that generally requires a Masters, at least.

    Mike



  • Hard to say, but I've been a developer for about 10 years and don't even have my bachelors. Personally it's a bit of a disapointment, but professionally it never hindered me. 



  • If you plan on working in R&D, an MS or a PhD will help a lot.  If you want to develop software, an MS might not be worth your trouble.



  • @HaunchesMcGee said:

    If you plan on working in R&D, an MS or a PhD will help a lot.  If you want to develop software, an MS might not be worth your trouble.

    I agree with this statement. In addition, I don't think it is very helpful right off the bat if you don't have experience. I think you would be much more effective in utilizing your time in yoru masters after you've been out in the field a few years.  This will allow you to learn more of the ins and outs of the business that you probably didn't pick up in school. Give yourself a chance to tackle some real world projects, not the short term stuff that school throws at you. Those type of projects usually require a lot more discipline and patience. If you go for your masters right out of school, you basically made yourself overvalued, you have all this education, but haven't really had some experience to apply it. I think you should judge by your ambition whether or not to go get your masters. Do it for the experience, not just for the money, etc, but to challenge yourself and your skills.



  • Thanks everyone for your replies. It seems that the general concensus is that, unless I want to work in R&D, the Masters probably isn't necessary.

    So, next question: what about certifications?  The Air Force provides me with free online training towards such things as Microsoft certification, Sun Java certification, A++, etc.  Are these worth the effort?  If so, which ones?



  •  In my experience the ones that aren't just of the "memorise where to put your little tickmark" type are far more valuable.

     CISSP and similar are still highly regarded, GIAC used to be and still may be. I think Sun java certs aren't just memorising, others may know more. Higher level Cisco certs are often listed in job ads that I see.

     MCSE? Meh!

     Mike 



  • @roachmeister said:

    Thanks everyone for your replies. It seems that the general concensus is that, unless I want to work in R&D, the Masters probably isn't necessary.

    So, next question: what about certifications?  The Air Force provides me with free online training towards such things as Microsoft certification, Sun Java certification, A++, etc.  Are these worth the effort?  If so, which ones?

     

    Probably couldn't hurt you but don't know that you need them.  Or rather, I know from experience that you don't need them 🙂



  • @roachmeister said:

    Thanks everyone for your replies. It seems that the general concensus is that, unless I want to work in R&D, the Masters probably isn't necessary.

    So, next question: what about certifications?  The Air Force provides me with free online training towards such things as Microsoft certification, Sun Java certification, A++, etc.  Are these worth the effort?  If so, which ones?

    If the Air Force is paying for it I'd go ahead and get your masters - one thing I've realized over the past 15 years is that you can't code forever. The Carpel Tunnel and Tendonitis set in and your eyesight goes to crap. I'm not there yet - but I've done it long enough to have started to think about those things. With a masters degree and 18 masters level credits you can always be a college professor - it's a good field to fall back on (the pay is ok and the hours are awesome). In Virginia the requirement is 5 Courses a semester and 10 office hours per week (That's only a 25 - 35 hour work week - oh and summers are optional)... 

    After being in the private sector awhile - the common consensus nowadays is that the certifications show initiative but are very overrated. I've interviewed guys with more certs than Billy Gates, but they couldn't even tell me what a string variable was. Once again however - if the Air Force is payin I'd probably do it if I had the time...

     

     



  • @roachmeister said:

    My question for you in the industry: Is a Masters degree worth the effort?  ... So, how much will a Masters help me as far as getting a higher-paying job?  Or will it help at all?

     Yes, and no.  It really depends on what you want to do.  If, like you said, all you want to do is code then the only way a MS is going to help you is if you work at a research facility like Sandia National Labs (or one of the many others, I mention that one because of Kirkland AFB).  The only people generally concerned with somebody having an MS or PHD to do programming are research facilities that I have personally seen.  They wouldn't hire me because I only had a BS ... (elitists!!! :O)

    @roachmeister said:


    BTW, I have a Top Secret clearance, so I'm not worried about getting hired - there are lots of companies that will hire me on that alone. 

     

     Remember, your clearance goes away after one year of non-use.  If you do not get a job that requires you to use it, and pays for it to be maintained, you will lose it after one year of inactivity.  So, if you are planning on using that aspect to your advantage you had better hurry.  Once you lose it, it is as if you never had one before and the whole process has to begin again.  True, it will be easy to get it, and I am sure you will pass, but the whole process has to be started from scratch again.

     

    BTW, 4 years of hell in the army (aimed at another poster)?  Is that all!!!!  Try <== 7 and a stoploss 😞 lol



  • I have to echo what most others have said, if you're looking into R&D, OSes, or AI and such a masters or doctorate in engineering is the way to go.  If you're looking for more business related development, then a master's in business might be applicable.  Just because you get a master's in business doesn't mean you want to go into management.  I'm sure you'll get exposure to economics, accounting, etc which could help tremendously when writing software.  After all, we write code to model other disciplines.

     



  • I have considered doing a Master's for years but in the end opted not to do it.  At the end of the day, almost all my co-workers are BSc/MSc and with professional qualifications to boot.  So sacrificing something that does not  really make you stand out is it worth it.  I myself have a PHD and have been working in industry for 12 years and so have seen many graduations - and to this day, I can say it is better to spend time learning what to do then getting a qualification...



  • Sir, - Thank You for Your Service

    For what it is worth to you - I submit that you need to get the Masters in your position.

    I missed that you have your TS ticket the first time - that changes almost everything.

    You speak of getting hired on you tickets alone - this shows that you are thinking DOD (or DOE ?) Contracting - or Govie Civilian work.

    The DOD Contracting Schedules pay more when the body in the seat has a Masters, more than enough to make the sacrifice worthwhile. Under the 'new' DOD 'pay for performance' system, the Masters will also pay off well. It currently translates to somewhere between 5 steps and a level. It does not make a difference what you want to do, the Masters will pay off.

    I do not know where you are, or what you want to do, so it is difficult to make other recommendations.

    I am not sure where you are in your 5 year review cycle, but if you have another poly before you seperate, it is also worth the effort to get your next poly done as a full-scope. I know that the Services typically only poly to the CI level, and this presents itself as a problem, or at least a nasty surprise, when you leave the Service.

    Ideally you want a: TS/SCI SI/TK with full scope - but anyone will pick you up if you have a TS w/ full scope

    You want to get things in place about 6 monty before you leave the USAF

    If you are looking at going with a large contractor - I can get a finders fee of at least $4K, for the TS / full scope. - get in touch. My wife (Masters in EE), got a $10K signing bonus on her last shift in employers.

    My 'Business Unit' has a couple of Hundred open billets - you will find yourself very popular - and even more so with the Masters.

    An example of some of the things out there, can be found here: https://cp-its-rmprd.saic.com/main/careerportal/default.cfm

    Best of luck

    Some Random Guy


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