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Thread: Masters Degree

  1. #1
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    Masters Degree

    I'm in my final year of undergrad and i'm trying to decide what steps to take after graduation. I'm really interested in working in web development. I really enjoy server side programming and application development, but i'm also comfortable with developing websites from beginning to end. I will be graduating with a bachelors in Information Technology.

    From here I see two potential steps I could take:
    1) Start looking for a job in the industry
    or
    2) Continue my education and work towards a masters degree

    I don't see a lot of great masters programs that specifically build skills for web development so i figure if i were to pursue a masters degree it would be in computer science. Correct me if there are other degree options.

    A couple of questions:
    Will having a masters lead me to better jobs than if I just had my IT degree? Or is the web development industry less concerned with degrees above a bachelors and more concerned with experience. I would love to spend more time learning, but not if it ultimately won't matter.
    Or is it typically a better idea to get some field experience before jumping into higher education? I understand that a lot of college curriculum often falls far short of applying to the real world.

    The main reasons i'm considering pursuing a masters degree are:
    1) Increase Job Opportunity
    2) To build a better programming foundation. I feel that what i've learned in college so far (in programming) is very basic despite taking quite a few programming classes. Looking at class catalogs for masters programs I see lots of very interesting classes/subjects that I would love to take. I think that if i were to immediately join the work force today I would be unprepared. However, talking with local web firms they seem to be aware that graduating students are not fully prepared. So it seems as if they hire more on potential and ability to learn then on technical skills.

    Anyways, I hope this makes sense and i don't trail off to much. I'd love to hear some opinions on the subject.

  2. #2
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    Hi bar338,

    I'd go for the Masters, if it's what you want to do (and it sounds like it is). With the job market quite bad at the moment it makes more sense than joining the dole queue - hopefully by the time you graduate the economy will have improved, and it WILL definitely set you apart from your Bachelor peers in the future. It will be easier to keep up the momentum of learning now, and it will be a harder decision to give up a steady income later on if you decide you wish you'd done it. (Sad to say but you do get used to the money coming in, once you have it.)

    You say you feel that your bachelor programming courses were too basic. Or is it that you're pretty bright and they just didn't stretch you enough? If you could cope with the higher degree without too much trouble it'd be a shame not to exploit your talents. If the courses you've seen on masters programmes look "very interesting" rather than "scary" then that says to me that at some point you're going to feel unfulfilled with just having the bachelor degree.

    Whatever the subject, doing a Masters is pretty intense and employers recognise that you can cope with having more ideas thrown at you, more information, more complexity. It does give you cred with the big companies, and that is not to be sniffed at: I met a girl recently with a degree in Media Studies (whatever that is) who'd got the technology bug and done a Masters in IT. She didn't think it went into enough depth in any subject but it was enough for Yahoo to hire her in a technical role. Sweet, or what?

    Personally I'd be wary of a Masters that had web dev in the title as it could become old fast, and narrows your options. On the other hand, a Masters in CS would give you the conceptual grasp of programming that you can apply to whatever language you take up, and keeps your options open for other kinds of development should you wish to depart from web stuff.

    You're probably going to be exploited a bit anyway in your first web dev job, with or without a Masters, due to a lack of experience. However, it's the quality of your programming that will ultimately set you apart and give you choices rather than whether you learnt jQuery at Uni or not (for instance). You can read the jQuery book on the bus to work - you'll "get it" in no time, and can have fun watching the homespun junior dev people going green when anybody mentions closures or whatever.

    Case in point (actually this is CS degree v non degree but you'll see what I mean): The last place I worked at hired a recent CS grad who, by his own admission, wasn't all that familiar with PHP or JS. You'd never have guessed it though: an hour after looking through the jQuery docs he had a working concertina-style navigation thing. He built a nice CMS in OO PHP in a couple of days. No bugs. Unit tested and properly documented etc. By contrast, the previous guy had a basic 20-hour ASP cert and no degree, never rose above awful, duplicated procedural code and non-normalised databases. That was his third web job and he probably hasn't evolved. The CS guy though has moved on to a properly paid job with a hardcore dev company that has Amazon as a client and can work from home all week.

    You should probably find out which are the best schools to do the Masters at, and where the good software houses recruit from, so you don't waste your time and money. It can't hurt to get some experience at a web company in the holidays either, to get a bit of a portfolio and some good refs, so you can skip the "total exploitation" stage

    Good luck with whatever you decide!

    best,
    tootle.

  3. #3
    I'm a college yuppie now! sbdi's Avatar
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    I completed a MSc as part of my PhD (Which I am now doing)

    Web development isnt really computer sciency. It's generally not something very difficult (I SAID GENERALLY!!! )

    A good masters will focus more on cutting edge technology, covering very strange areas that you wont usually do or go into much detail at undergrad. If you are doing a MSc just for building up programming ability maybe you are wasting your money. While there is a programming aspect to your masters you are focusing on research not good clean code.

    Now of course this depends on your area of research. I did it on peer to peer search with trust based algorithms, therefore I had to implement a p2p system (Distributed hash tables) and creat a trust algorithm (Bunch of statistical models).

    Maybe donate a year to an open source project. This would improve your abilities.

    As for web dev you wont need a MSc to get into that field at all.
    Back Again

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    Thanks for the replies:

    Quote Originally Posted by tootle View Post
    Masters in CS would give you the conceptual grasp of programming that you can apply to whatever language you take up
    I completely agree and this is really what motivates me to consider a masters. I know that any work that I would do would be on a more theoretical scale then in my undergrad. Yes I would learn some practical skills in the process, but it is all about gaining that deeper understanding of programming, algorithms, etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by tootle View Post
    You should probably find out which are the best schools to do the Masters at, and where the good software houses recruit from, so you don't waste your time and money
    That is a whole question in its own. I've searched for schools with good cs masters programs and usually come up with the same elite schools. However, I honestly don't think that I would get excepted to those schools. My GPA is lower than I would like it to be. I had some problems at the beginning of my college career which lowered my gpa significantly. I have since picked up the pace considerably to try to bring my gpa back from no mans land. Its hard to tell exactly but if i keep up my current pace I should be graduating with a cululative gpa of 3.15. However, i notice quite a few schools only want your gpa for the last 60 credit hours of undergrad. If this is the case then I would have a little over a 3.5 for the last 60 credits. Anyways, long story short, i need to find several schools that are good and that i meet the entrance requirements for.

    Quote Originally Posted by tootle View Post
    It can't hurt to get some experience at a web company in the holidays either, to get a bit of a portfolio and some good refs, so you can skip the "total exploitation" stage
    Hopefully the things i'm doing now will help me with this. I've already got two websites under my belt and working on a third. I also am working in a web development internship.

    Quote Originally Posted by sbdi View Post
    Web development isnt really computer sciency. It's generally not something very difficult (I SAID GENERALLY!!! )
    I agree that general web design isn't always the most complex procedure. However, let me explain what I see myself doing. As I'm sure everyone has I've noticed the trend of what in the past would have been desktop applications moving to the web. I'm interested in eventually getting involved in larger applications like this where I can stretch my programming skills and apply my knowledge of the web. So really it ends up being a combination of traditional programming and web development.

    Quote Originally Posted by sbdi View Post
    Maybe donate a year to an open source project. This would improve your abilities
    This is an interesting idea. If i ever run out of projects i'm working on it might be fun to get involved with some of the open-source cms or another open-source project.

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    Why not work and attend masters? That's what I did. Didn't pay a penny for the tuition since my company paid for it. But, if I had the money to go for Masters in full time then I do it in a heart beat!

    There's a huge skill difference between bechelor and masters, at least from my experience. In masters program, I was able to take 100% courses that applies directly to real world work environment. So, master is always a great choice!

    As for... job opportunity. I have to tell ya.. it's hard and it may hinder u to get a job if you have masters. The reason is that, they rather hire someone w/ becholor w/ cheaper salary. I recently got Masters and I'm feeling the heat. I've applied to many "big" companies and only got 1 interview~ jeez!!

    Seriously though, at these times if you can goto Masters full time then do it... economy sux but I'm sure next year will be better.

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    Actually, if you live in San Jose, CA... there's a lot of opportunities there.... East Coast IT jobs are dry.

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    Anyone have anything to say on this:

    Originally Posted by tootle View Post
    You should probably find out which are the best schools to do the Masters at, and where the good software houses recruit from, so you don't waste your time and money
    That is a whole question in its own. I've searched for schools with good cs masters programs and usually come up with the same elite schools. However, I honestly don't think that I would get excepted to those schools. My GPA is lower than I would like it to be. I had some problems at the beginning of my college career which lowered my gpa significantly. I have since picked up the pace considerably to try to bring my gpa back from no mans land. Its hard to tell exactly but if i keep up my current pace I should be graduating with a cululative gpa of 3.15. However, i notice quite a few schools only want your gpa for the last 60 credit hours of undergrad. If this is the case then I would have a little over a 3.5 for the last 60 credits. Anyways, long story short, i need to find several schools that are good and that i meet the entrance requirements for.
    I found this list:
    http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsa...ools/rankings/

    But there are so many schools there its hard to sort through them. In the above listing I think its pretty safe to say that it would be very unlikely for me to gain admission to the schools on the first page.

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    There are a lot of great masters programs that specifically build skills for web development so i figure if i were to pursue a masters degree it would be in computer science.


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