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Ask HN: Is Georgia Tech's Online Master in CS Worth It?
489 points by soneca on Aug 15, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 210 comments
I would like to know if HN thinks it is worth to go through Georgia Tech's Online Master of Science in Computer Science.

https://www.omscs.gatech.edu/

It is basically an online program of academic education in CS planned to be taken while working, costing around USD7,000 to complete.

My context: I am brazilian, living in Brazil, 37 yo, graduated in Economics and just recently made the career transition to become a developer. I basically studied more practical things about software development (web, mostly javascript) through free content available online. I am already working as a frontend web developer.

I believe this program is a good complementary source of knowledge to become a better software developer. I assume the more theoretical academic approach would benefit me as a complement to my more hands-on learning I had so far. And I also assume the Georgia Tech credentials will benefit my career.

So, what you think?




Current working professional and an OMSCS student here. It highly depends on the context. Biggest pros are: 1. This is perhaps the cheapest Computer Science masters in the United States from a premier school. The degree is exactly the same as offered to the residential program and the credits acquired are all legit and transferable to other universities. I had friends who transferred from OMSCS to a regular school and skipped one full semester due to the credits earned. 2. An OMSCS qualification holds way more water than if you do random MOOC qualifications on Coursera and others. 3. The coursework is the same as the residential program. So if you dont believe in studying an MS at all, then this program is nothing special. Its a Masters in Computer Science. So It's pros and cons are the same as a regular MS. 4. If you are international, then having an OMSCS degree is equivalent to having a Gatech MS degree. It is a superb add-on to your profile and also qualifies you as a graduate level tech specialist for future Visa processing. 5. If you are international and looking to stay and work in your own country, then your mileage may vary depending on your circumstances. OMSCS provides no visa support and no career counselling. It does have an online portal for jobs but its more geared towards residents. 6. Other than that, it forces you to think and study new areas of research while you work so its extremely enriching. 7. The program is more or less extremely well run with regular assignments, proctored exams, 1-1 sessions with professors and what not. 8. Some companies reimburse your tuition, so its virtually free (at least for me)

Cmon guys, a US Masters for 7000 USD? Are you kidding me? Its totally worth it. In fact I feel blessed that such a thing even exists. GaTech has been a trailblazer in this regards.


> The degree is exactly the same as offered to the residential program and the credits acquired are all legit and transferable to other universities.

This is not entirely true. The online masters does not have all courses available. The on-campus masters has a much larger breadth of courses one can choose from.

All things considered, for $7000, the value is phenomenal.


Isn't the availability of classes an orthogonal question?

When OP says it's "exactly the same degree" I read that to mean that the school gives you exactly the same piece of paper at the end, as opposed to giving you a piece of paper that has the word "online" on it. In other words, I read it as meaning that there's no way for an employer to know whether you completed the degree in person or online short of asking you directly.


I'd love to be corrected but my impression was that you earn a different degree with this - the paper says OMCS vs MSCS.


How will this degree appear on my diploma and/or transcript? The name "Online Master of Science" is an informal designation to help both Georgia Tech and prospective students distinguish the delivery method of the OMS program from our on-campus degree. The degree name in both cases is Master of Science in Computer Science.

http://www.omscs.gatech.edu/prospective-students/faq


That's tremendous, thank you. Perhaps I was thinking of UIUC which makes a distinction between an MCS and an MSCS (of which only the former is available online).


I am 7/10 through the program right now. I joined the program to get a specialization in Robotics. There is only currently one robotics course(AI for Robotics by Prof Thrun) and supposedly the various robotics professors have been resistant to putting their classes online. I was able to do a Special Projects class this summer with a Professor from GT Lorraine in France. He helped me design and build a outdoor robot, it was pretty awesome. But it is only 3 credit toward the degree.

I think GT is just understanding all the potential they have in this program. There are a lot entrepreneurial resources that are only catering to on campus students and they realizing that the OMSCS students want to take these electives and be apart of these programs.


Correct, the availability of courses is limited and there are four specializations available but its still early days in online education space and as I understand, maintaining, editing and publishing a course is a huge effort for a public university such as GaTech. They are adding courses every semester as of now and there are enough general purpose courses in core computer science like Operating systems, compiler theory, algorithms etc and current ones such as Machine Learning and various AI related topics.


Course availability is different, just as course availability varies from semester to semester in the residential program. Not every class is taught every semester. However, the coursework has the same rigor and the degree awarded is the exact same one as the residential one.


>"This is perhaps the cheapest Computer Science masters in the United States from a premier school."

Actually, there are funded ones! Princeton and Cornell both have 2 year thesis-based M.S.E CS programs which are fully funded + stipend. I'm starting Princeton's in the fall. These are small programs though, I believe there's 12 of us incoming.


First of all, congrats. That sounds like an amazing opportunity and I am legitimately jealous.

I imagine the competitiveness is quite different between an online program from Georgia Tech for ~4,500 students[0] and an onsite program at Princeton for a few dozen. :)

[0] https://www.omscs.gatech.edu/prospective-students/numbers


The funding implies a requirement that you will work on research, which for most people would preclude working a full-time software engineering job. Assuming a full-time job would bring in more income than the tuition plus stipend, when we take opportunity cost into account, pursuing the OMSCS while working full time still is financially less expensive.


I don't know why one would even consider a non-funded research based graduate program. Even with my tuition waived and stipend I still almost feel ripped off despite being at a good school (UIUC MS).


Can you expand on this? Is it because of the opportunity cost of working during that time, or because you have to work so hard that the small positive amount of money you come away with is not worth your labor?


For context, I'm pretty sure all of Princeton's grad students are funded (including masters of public administration).

Still cool, just wanted to put it out there in case anyone was wondering what their CS dept is up to.


That's very cool if true. Usually it's very difficult to get funding as a Master's student because prof's want the full PhD commitment.


I did reasearch during my MS as well. Tuition + Healthcare + Stipend. Still lost out on 1.5 years of $100k+ a year to slowly lose money (whatever the stipend didn't cover in my living expenses) and get a MS, but I'm happy in the end.


I haven't looked into the details for a very long time. But whether there's research/thesis at least used to be a big variant among MS/ME programs and there wasn't an obvious pattern based on the "prestige" of the school. One will be one year of mostly classroom learning. Another will be a couple years about half of which is primarily focused on research and writing a thesis.


I only see references to the Princeton program being self-funded. Do you have any details?


You're welcome to contact me, rteixeira@princeton.edu


My OMSCS experience was rewarding, but I think I echo most other commenters when I say it is entirely dependent on how much effort you can put in. Personally, I graduated in May 2017 after 2 years of study (worked full-time during those years), with a decently high GPA and a good understanding of the basics. As my undergraduate degree was in Mechanical Engineering/Math, it was interesting to get more involved with machine learning/robotics from the software side. If you already have CS experience, I don't know how much this would be beneficial over more traditional on-the-job training, but for someone who is diversifying/changing specialities, it was very useful. Though in my current role, its mostly used as a filter, so all the hard problems that encompass both departments seem to end up at my desk... Additionally, one of things about OMSCS vs a MOOC or self study is that because you have invested financially, you are more motivated to succeed. This can be especially useful if you are maintaining a full-time job while attending, as getting home from work to do nightly programming can be a challenge some days.


Do you think it would be possible for an Information Systems major that isn't phenomenal at math to succeed in this program?

I took a couple of incredibly basic programming classes, a decent class on web development, and discrete math. However, I didn't do any higher-level programming, calculus, or an algorithms class. I'm not sure if I would be able to jump right in or not.


Graduate level algorithms is a required course. Many of the courses in the Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence tracks are very math intensive.

"Isn't phenomenal" is hard to qualify. It's kind of relative to what you consider phenomemal.

I've always done well academically relative to my peers. Most of the courses are on some kind of curve. So I've done fine in OMSCS.

I guess what I'm getting at is...if you've done good enough academically in the past and you're willing to apply your full effort, you'll likely do well at OMCS.


> Cmon guys, a US Masters for 7000 USD?

For US costal software engineers, $7k is relatively inexpensive.

The average monthly income in Brazil is ~$620 a month. The average top end worker is $3500 a month. So $7k would likely be a significant investment for many Brazilians.

https://www.worldcrunch.com/business-finance/in-booming-braz...


I think he means that it's a deal compared to other good CS masters degrees. Obviously, things are expensive for people in different places. Hell, 7k is pretty damn expensive for a lot of Americans too.


Agree, that's why I said its "for a US Masters". There have been other traditional offerings from CMU, Stanford and JHU etc which are all in the 40k USD range. Most of the international students would normally get more out of a residential MS in the US but 100k+ investment is sometimes out of the question. The other view is that the coursework lets say in a country like India will leave a lot to be desired and even an online MS such as from GaTech is a window to the outside world where they can interact with a wide variety of students and immerse themselves in a nearly international study experience. So the cost factor is just right. Also admissions to the Gatech cohorts are very competitive now, so its not also a cake walk to get in these days :)


I did a masters an Johns Hopkins and completed it all online. It's a similar style program where you can do it all online, on campus, or as a combination.

Still cost me slightly over 40k even though Innever stepped foot on campus.

It's a total rip-off, but only in the sense that I couldn't get a decent paying job without a masters (work in biotech).


> It's a total rip-off

I've always been under the impression that most masters degrees are money mills for the university. They expect your employer to foot the bill.


MS in CS from UW-Madison here. Also taught CS240B to masters students at Stanford.

Stanford masters seemed almost entirely like a money mill.

Wisconsin masters was a much better education in my opinion. Worked you harder, it was actually worth the time I put in.


Mine did for most of it, still a rip-off. But at the same time I got a much better job out of it, just didn't actually need the degree to do the job.


I work full time as a systems engineer and have been a software engineer professionally for the last 3 years. I have a Bachelor's but it's not in anything remotely related to CS. Is it possible to be working full time and doing the OMSCS and succeed?


I'm half way through OMSCS while working a full time software job with an hour commute and a family with kids. It is doable but difficult. Large portions of my weekends are spent on homework and assignments. I find I spend about 20 hours a week on school. I haven't had to miss soccer matches or piano recitals but I've frequently skipped mowing the lawn or working out to finish assignments.


Yes but it's a significant commitment. I work full time and take one course a semester. It's definitely doable but occasionally very stressful.


Yes, it is doable. I worked full time, and managed to take two classes my first semester, and a couple of other semesters I took one class and TAed another. Plan on having it take up all of our evenings and weekends. It won't always, but often will. For a couple of classes I even had to take some vacation days to finish up a project.


So it's totally okay to just maybe take 1 class a semester?


Yes, but it all depends on your ability and capability to strain yourself beyond normal, just for the short duration compare to the benefits in the long run.


Hopefully, because I'm in a similar situation and starting the program in a week!


Get on the omscs-study slack. It's really helpful (and fun). Good luck!


Good luck. I'm planning on enrolling and working full time once my kids a little bit older.


Good luck.. I start my first class next week as well


How much of a time investment is it?

Most graduate CS programs in the US have a lot of programming assignments and projects, and with a full-time tech job, it might be a bit hard to do it while maintaining a work-life balance.

I'd prefer a testing-heavy approach, with written exams, one- or two-hour programming/coding exams (similar to an interview), and in general other low-time-investment ways of verifying you've learned the material.


Hey, can you tell me the name of the awesome company you work for that is reimbursing your tuition fees, please? I'm not aware of many companies that reimburse you for an MS.

Side note: You've got "its" and "it's" the other way around.


I've had the opposite experience. Except for very small companies or startups almost every company of size I've worked for or interviewed reimburses for continuing education.


Is it a straight MS in Computer Science, accredited and all, from GA Tech? Or some other thing?


It is.


Worth it -- based on what metric?

My wife did an online master's degree (at a legit university that also had an online program). You have to be very good at self-pacing, diligence, and learning autonomously. You have to be so good at it, in fact, that the type of person who would succeed in an online master's program is the same type of person who would succeed in self-learning without the master's program.

So if your only goal is to learn, then I say no, it's not worth it.

However, you're in Brazil and not a lifelong programmer. Credentials may work against you if seeking a job in the US. Many US companies look at South America as the "nearshore" talent, much better in quality than devfarms in India, but also still cheaper and -- because of that -- slightly lower in quality than US talent.

In that case, spending $7k and completing the program and getting the degree may help you get a $7k higher salary in your first (or next) job. It may give US companies more confidence in your abilities, as you received a US graduate school education.

So from a financial perspective and the perspective of job opportunities inside the US as a foreigner, then I think it may be worth it. If you don't care about getting US jobs then still probably not worth it.

Best of luck!


There's a lot to be said for the pacing of classes. I embarked on getting a Masters in EE through my alma mater's online program. If I had tried to get through the same content at my own pace,then it would have taken significantly longer than a semester to cover the same content.


I would say that I am an engineer than need motivation to do course work outside of school/work. These classes are not your average MOOC that you can just forget about. I think there is enough structure and incentive to encourage you on. CV was pretty brutal because it has been so long from any decent math for me and AI was insane as well.


Agreed, it's easy to let things go when there's no disincentive to do so.

Plus, I tend to be more project-oriented, so I quit learning stuff once I've built up the toolkit I need to solve my particular problem. I'm sure a lot of other people are the same way


At 5K, the price is right (my in-person master's was 22K, although my employers covered most of it) but be aware it's not the missing piece to catapult you into superstar developer earning 170K/year.

Honestly I think your time is better spent working on real projects. In my CS master's program I met many students with no real-world experience. One was a paralegal before school, and after he graduated he became...a paralegal with a CS master's. Experience > degrees, every time.

There's value in the program (algorithms and data structures being the most applicable), but just go in with your eyes open knowing that the degree is not a glass slipper that'll turn you into Cinderella overnight. Too many IMHO falsely believed my program was a jobs program and really struggled to find work in the field.

If you can do it at night while working FT, great but don't take 1-2 years off work. It sounds appealing to be done ASAP but you're unlikely to make up that 60-120K/year in lost wages. Unless you're fabulously wealthy.

Good luck.


> algorithms and data structures being the most applicable

There's really not much off that to be had -- one introductory theory + algorithms course, one course on algorithms and complexity for parallel and distributed programs, and after that just a few domain-specific things -- image processing and machine-learning algorithms.

I thought the program was worthwhile because it was cheap and flexible. I could watch lectures on the train on my commute. Quality is mixed, though, and other degrees or (as you say) real-world experience could prove more valuable, depending on their own quality -- I wouldn't assume that any programming experience is better than this program.


If you want to learn about Algorithms, you need to buy the entire series on Algorithms from Robert Sedgewick:

https://www.amazon.com/Algorithms-Parts-1-4-Fundamentals-Str...

https://www.cs.princeton.edu/~rs/

I don't think there is a single better source on algorithms than everything from Robert Sedgewick.


Some would say this is a pretty good source too:

https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/introduction-algorithms


I recommend anything other than Sedgwick for algorithms and data structures.

I damned near didn't touch a computer for two years after being forced to trudge through his books in college.


> I wouldn't assume that any programming experience is better than this program.

I don't. Just want the OP to not get degree fever, assuming they'll be flooded with job offers b/c they have a CS masters.

In developer interviews I've never had anyone even bring up my education once, mostly I think it helps get me past the HR filter at big cos.

But I loved my master's program, I'd recommend school to anyone if they can do it without spending a ton of money, like this program.


This is the crux imo, higher degrees somehow justifying higher salary and positions to normal business types. I often tell people I can tell when someone can do this job by talking to them for a few minutes and asking a few questions, formal education or not. This career is very unique in that regard. But typical large company HR will use the lack of degree or lower degree like an AS as justification to pay less or deny promotion.

I've found advanced degrees are not an indicator of programming ability, and maybe even negative correlation.


IMO, being able to show the degree off to immigration bureaucrats is more valuable. Being able to code doesn't let you get better citizenship options, being able to prove to bureaucrats that you have valuable skills does. A Master's in Computer Science from an accredited American school is a great option for doing that. And the OP is from Brazil.


I used to think Google was nuts in the early days, they really wanted people to have a PhD. Here's how my opinion has evolved based on hiring people for my own company.

It's a workshop analogy. A self taught person (the real projects suggestion above) is sort of like a messy shop where nothing is in its place. A messy shop isn't inherently worse, it is absolutely capable of producing fantastic work.

An educated person is sort of like a neat shop, there is a place for everything and everything is in its place. A neat shop doesn't guarantee that you'll produce fantastic work.

In my experience, while the self taught person can do great work, it frequently takes longer than the person with a formal education. As an example, I had a guy working on a compiler for me (because we really needed another programming language :) One of my other guys said "I think you're gonna need an AST for that" and the compiler guy, self taught, was like "Uh, no, I'm pretty sure I can do it without". That went on for a few months and then he did an AST. I think if he had taken a formal compiler class he would have gone straight to the AST (and one might wonder why I didn't have the guy who had formal education do the compiler; good question, I needed his talents elsewhere).

Anyhoo, not sure I made a compelling argument but I slowly came to value formally trained people like Google does (or did, not sure who they hire these days).


at my university there actually isn't much of a difference between a master's salaries and bachelors. There's a 10k difference, however, the average undergrad would not get into the master's program. Undergrad gpa is 2.9/4 while the master's program required at least 3.4/4 minimum. I'm sure if you compare the best 25% of undergrad's salaries out of college, then it would be comparable to the average master's student salary.


$170k/yr in what city?


Logging in as a throwaway. The program only costs $5k but it was one of the most expensive things I've done in my life.

Got a job at Google directly because of this program (a few classes like CCA helped a lot with interviews). I'm aware of at least a couple dozen of us from OMS here.

The program cost me dearly. It cost me my relationship with the SO and it cost me my health (staying up late nights, lots of coffee).

* $5k cheap, it's nothing, the real way you pay for it is via your time.

* The teachers like the flexibility as much as we do. Many are top notch. I took two classes from professors that work at Google (Dr. Starner and Dr. Essa), one at Netflix (Dr. Lebanon), and a few others have their own startups.

* One of the classes was taught by Sebastian Thrun, with a TA at Google, but I think that's changed now.

* The lectures are good, but you have infinite ability to subsidize them with Udacity, Coursera etc.

* You learn squat by watching videos. The true learning happens at 2am when you are trying to implement something, and end up tinkering, debugging, etc. That's when things click.

* The hidden gem is Piazza and some of the amazing classmates that help you out. Lots of classmates that work in industry and can explain things a lot better. I.e: Actual data scientists and CTOs of Data Science companies taking the data science class. They were amazing and I owe my degree to them in part.

* Working full time and taking classes is not easy. Consider quitting and doing it peacefully.

* From within Google, I've heard from people that did the Stanford SCPD (I'm considering it) and also OMSCS. Lots of people that say the SCPD program wasn't worth the time and effort. No one yet that's said the same about the GT program.

I've heard from people that have done the program in-person, and they say the online lectures and materials are significantly better.


As a Yellow Jacket myself I am somewhat amused that they managed to translate the stress and fatigue of the Georgia Tech experience into the online course. In a perverse way I think that means the program is as valuable as it purports to be.


We worked very hard to make that happen.

For my third course, I may create online drown proofing.


Thank you sir, that response made my day.

For context, drownproofing was a course once upon a time at Georgia Tech which is now more famously taught in the Navy SEALS. It teaches you not so much how to swim but how to bob just below the surface without drowning or expending too much energy. The "final exam" was having your ankles and wrists bound and being dropped in the pool.

There's a startup metaphor in there somewhere.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drownproofing


Is this really Charles Isbell or someone pretending to be him? Account created within the last hour.


GT is aware of this thread, and emailed all the students in the program about it about an hour ago.

I would assume it is him. He's very active on the unofficial Google Plus group for the program.


'Tis I.

It gave me an excuse to create an account.


Welcome! It's Roger from '10 (of GTACM and Yahoo HackU and Inventure Prize fun times)


I look forward to it.


> " the real way you pay for it is via your time"

Very true of my on-campus degree from Gatech as well. There wasn't any flexibility in spreading out courses due to my visa status. Tech tends to expect grads to leave in 1.5 years, which is slightly tighter.

> "It cost me my relationship with the SO and it cost me my health (staying up late nights, lots of coffee)."

Could've been true for me as well. Tech was also the first time my SO and I were long-distance, so that was an added challenge. I also put on 20 pounds the first year due to late nights and large pizzas. When I came to my senses, there were amazing options available in the fitness center.

> " The hidden gem is Piazza ..."

Opinions varied among my peers but I loved Piazza (the idea) too. Only one of my courses (advanced OS, Kishore) actually used it extensively, sadly.

Apart from the campus culture, etc, one thing I would miss in the OMSCS is talking to professors after class. A couple of the professors spent almost an hour after class answering questions in the hallway (in addition to scheduled office hours). I wonder if that experience can be replicated.


I'm in OMSCS and have to disagree with this statement: "hidden gem is Piazza". Piazza is my least favorite part of the program.


I think he might just mean "the ability to work with other students in a specific place" rather than the app itself. I agree, Piazza is kinda. . .over-engineered.


Can you elaborate a bit on what was said for the SCPD program "not being worth the time and effort"?

(Googler here) I took ~4 classes, and they all seemed to be of high quality (applied for the full MSCS, but didn't get in, unfortunately). What are some of the opinions you've heard here?


(Googler also). I've taken 4 classes and it was very worth it, and that generally seems to be the sentiment on a per-class basis.

I believe the typical complaint is about the additional classes required to just round out the degree that are not as useful to one's chosen sub-field in CS. Can't give you my personal opinion because I'm not there yet.


Here's one Googler who says he regrets doing it:

https://garymm.blogspot.com/2016/07/i-regret-getting-masters...

Look for discussions from the author, I can't link it here.


I'm curious, do you know why you weren't admitted? I've gotten the impression that GT was wanting to make the course relatively available to the public. Is it still selective?


I think he's saying he applied for the Stanford MSCS and didn't get in, not OMSCS.


> Working full time and taking classes is not easy. Consider quitting and doing it peacefully.

Nope, it's definitely not easy. I take two classes full terms, one in the summers while working a full-time day job. I easily spend 20-30 hrs/week on coursework + readings + lectures during full terms, only ~10 hrs/week during the summers. Anything more than that would definitely require a rethink and time off. But it is entirely doable if giving up two years' pay isn't an option.


The health issues are a serious problem. I ended up in the hospital with stress induced gastritis one semester. I was lucky I dropped the course, for a W, before the deadline.

This program is no joke, especially if you don't avoid certain courses. If I had one piece of advice for anyone in the program, you should trust the crowd source student reviews of the courses.


Very informative and thank you for commenting your experience.

Can you say which classes you took and/or your favorites or the ones you thought you got the most out of? Any you wish you had taken instead or the classes you did not enjoy or get much out of?

I've only heard of this program, but have not researched any details.


> * $5k cheap, it's nothing, the real way you pay for it is via your time.

Is there a way to stretch this to 3-4 years so that things aren't as compressed?


You must complete the degree in 6 years. You'll have to take at least 10 courses to get the required units. If you take one course at a time and take summers off ~ 5 years. You can also skip a semester if necessary.


while the degree has led to you getting a job at Google, you're saying it's a throwaway because it costed you your mental health/relationship? not trying to question your assessment- just wondering whether or not you think you could have gotten a job at Google otherwise and that's why the program was a throwaway?


Fair question. Throwaway because I don't want my personal comment history to be tagged as "the opinion of a Google Engineer". It's a card that I don't like to pull out in discussions, but it's relevant here.

Also the personal stuff to some extent. Point is, I gained a lot from the program, but it hurt me in other ways and money is the least of these worries.


A "throwaway" account means that he/she created a temporary hacker news username for this one-time post for anonymity. "Throwaway" does not refer to the degree or program.


I'm halfway through the OMSCS in the machine learning specialization. It has been a great experience so far and definitely worth it for me.

A couple of things to consider: As you mentioned, it is more focused on Computer Science than Software Engineering/Development. There are a couple of Software Engineering/Architecture/Testing courses but I haven't taken them so I can't comment on how relevant I think they are to my day job.

It's an incredible bargain... 7-8K for an MS (not an online MS) from a top 10 school in CS. That on it's own makes it worth it for me.

It's not easy and it's not like a typical Coursera/Udacity course. Depending on which courses you take it can be quite challenging (which is a good thing). You typically don't have much interaction with the Professors but there are a lot of TAs and other students to help you along the way.

Here's a reddit in case you haven't come across it that answers many questions:

https://www.reddit.com/r/OMSCS/

And here's an awesome course review site that a student built:

https://omscentral.com/reviews


Can you think of any comparable programs that are more focused on Software Engineering? I am about to apply for this program actually, but if there was an SE focused alternative I would lean that way.


There is a specialization for Computing Systems:

https://www.omscs.gatech.edu/specialization-computing-system...

I think most Computer Science education is focused on fundamentals. So there isn't anything that's CS that will focus on the latest thing. That said, I think any of the specializations will make you a better software engineer. Also, the price... you just can't beat 7K. I don't think there's anything out there that competes on price and quality.


I am starting the machine learning masters this month...what order would you recommend taking the machine learning classes?


I'm taking ML in the fall and I've already taken ML4T and RL. So the order I went in was ML4T -> RL -> ML. My understanding is that's roughly in order of increasing difficulty (although I do suspect RL has gotten a little harder over the last year).

Both ML4T and ML have some RL component. So there's overlap. If you're new to python, then I'd definitely recommend ML4T first because it spends a bunch of time on Pandas/Numpy. ML4T is also easier to get into than ML if it's your first semester.

Take a look at the course review site also. It's really helpful in estimating difficulty:

https://omscentral.com/reviews


ML flows nicely into RL, although I've heard ML4T is a gentler intro if you have no experience in machine learning at all (I haven't taken it yet)


The answer is highly context dependent. If you think the degree will magically open up a lot of job opportunities for you, you might be kidding yourself. However, if you love to learn and don't mind putting in the long hours, it can be rewarding for its own sake.

(Source: current OMSCS student, hopefully graduating in December)

I made an "informed decision tree" awhile back that goes into much more detail about my thought process when signing up for this degree:

https://forrestbrazeal.com/2017/01/03/should-you-get-a-maste...

I also reviewed the OMSCS program in detail here: https://forrestbrazeal.com/2017/05/08/omscs-a-working-profes...

Hope that helps!


I'm a sucker for visualizations so that informed decision tree got me. What did you use to make it?


Honestly, I can't even remember now. Probably LucidChart.


> However, if you love to learn and don't mind putting in the long hours, it can be rewarding for its own sake.

I love learning. I took one MSCS class when I worked at a university and completed a Udacity Nanodegree. That said the one MSCS class I took was intense (Applied Cryptography) and I had to spend time in study groups on the weekend.

What kind of time commitment am I looking at for the OMSCS?


It really depends on the class, and on how many you take at once.

If you take two classes per semester, the time commitment can be easily 20 hours a week.


I have finished the OMSCS program and in some ways I have mixed feelings about it. My background has been primarily in mathematics/statistics and I didn't come from a "tradition CS" educational background.

Did I learn a lot?

I learnt a ridiculous amount. For the time+dollar investment it is amazing. The program is definitely not easy either.

It has been amazing to learn the concepts in ML (Dr. Isbell) and AI (Dr Starner) courses and then a few weeks later think "I think I can actually use these concepts in my workplace".

Why the mixed feelings?

Not all courses had the same quality to it. From the top of my head, AI, ML were probably the best 2 courses. Other well ran courses I would add was computational photography, edutech, introduction to infosec (besides the rote learning...), however some of the other courses I had a relatively negative experience.

The degree does suck up a lot of time and I would say it is the real deal.

Knowing what I know now I can't say 100% that I will "re-do" OMSCS - to be fair on GaTech I'm not sure whether the challenges that I feel above are due to an online program and I personally would be more suited to an in-person program but the experience has definitely been better than Udacity's nanodegree and any MOOC which I have sat.

Overall I would say if you do it for the sake of learning and that alone - OMSCS is worth it. For any other reason please don't do it.


Richard Schneeman (an engineer at Heroku) wrote a great blog post on this very topic; worth the read: https://schneems.com/2017/07/26/omscs-omg-is-an-online-maste...


Thanks for linking! I just saw this thread and posted too.


Thanks! I will look at it later, but seems a great resource


As someone currently in the program and graduating this Spring, I have found this program to be incredibly rewarding. GT has done a fantastic job turning their on-campus courses into an online format. At first I was skeptical, but I have found this program extremely challenging and have learned a great deal. It has been fantastic in my career development as well, allowing me to land a job in ML before I have graduated.

The program does have its hiccups here and there. Some courses have been reported as being poorly organized, but this is certainly the minority. Also, you may not receive as much individual attention as you would in a on-campus program. This is aided by the fantastic community of students in the OMSCS program which provide a support system for each other through online forums/chat. If you are not much of a self-starter and need specific guidance, this program may not be for you.


I graduated from the program in December and I found it incredibly rewarding. There are a lot of great classes, and I learned a ton - in particular, the machine learning and reinforcement learning courses were top notch, as we're the systems programming ones.

One thing I'd warn though is that you'll get out of the program what you put into it - so it's really up to you to choose classes that will set up your career the way that you want it.


Have you been working while studying? Could you share how much hours/week have you been committing?


I'm about to start my 5th semester (one more to go after this!) in the OMSCS program while working full time. From my perspective, this totally depends on several factors:

1. Your background. This will seriously affect your time spent in many classes. For example, if you don't know C and take a class that uses it, you're going to spend way more time than someone already comfortable.

2. Level of effort. Most projects have a rubric where you know what to complete for what kind of grade. If you do the least to pass, that's obviously going to take a lot less work than going for the A + extra credit.

3. Interest level. I find myself spending more time (sometimes more than I should) on the classes I really get into than ones I have to take to complete some MSCS specialization requirement.

4. Instructional team. As in traditional programs, some course teams are better organized than others which can impact how much time you have to spend staying on top of material or actually getting ahead.

In the end, it would be good to check out the OMSCS Course Surveys (https://gt-course-surveys.herokuapp.com/#/) to see what people report for weekly hours spent vs the factors above.


I worked full time while studying.

With one course, it was challenging but I could fit it into my schedule without too many changes. My schedule was to watch lectures during the week in the mornings before work (45 minutes or so a day), and then do homework in the mornings on Saturday and Sunday. Usually I still had enough time to hang out with family and friends.

With two courses, I had to be really strict about my schedule - basically, I'd go to work, come home, study, sleep, repeat, and usually use an entire day of the weekend to get things done. I got really good at saying no to people.


Is there Teacher student interaction in the course ? How is it different from any regular MOOC ? Assignment/Projects ?


Yeah, most of the interaction takes place on forum software called Piazza. Some classes also do weekly Google Hangouts as office hours.

There are assignments, projects and exams - they've put a lot of effort into making it have the same quality and standards as the on campus programs, even going so far as to do blind grading in some courses (i.e. grade the on-campus and OMSCS courses as one).


If you haven't been working as a software developer long and you don't have a background in CS, it's going to be difficult.

I'm about halfway through and many of the classes assume that you have the equivalent of an undergrad CS degree. It's not intended to replace an undergrad degree.

That doesn't mean you can't do it, but your going to spend a lot of time catching up. From what I've seen, the students without a CS degree, even those with significant industry experience, have had a much harder time with the more theoretical classes.

It's also a graduate program, and the classes are pretty rigorous compared to what I did in my undergrad CS degree.

Also keep in mind that admission is fairly competitive. And admission is only probationary. You have to complete 2 foundational classes with a B to be fully accepted.


I would be curious to know what alternative folks recommend for people in this situation.

That is, people working full-time as mid- to senior-level professional software developers, who have no formal CS training at all and would like to rectify that with a formal course of some sort.

I recognize that going straight to graduate school probably isn't the best plan, and I'm not particularly interested in endless months of self-study (or more accurately, I admit it probably won't happen without more structure).


Honestly this is what gives me the most pause. I have a BA in Political Science from a liberal arts school nobody's ever heard of. Even if I could get in (which is doubtful given my academic transcript and how competitive it is), I don't think my decade of programming experience has given me nearly the theoretical foundation I'd need to do well. And I'm not going to invest the time and effort required just to graduate by the skin of my teeth.

Plus, I have a very good job already and it's not like an MSCS would help me get to the next step at all. Most of why I want one is to prove to myself I could get one. Probably the wrong reasons.


I'm kind of in a similar position. I have a PhD in a field kind of far away from CS (although that's debatable) and am thinking of transitioning more into CS.

The problem is that a second bachelors, while something I'm willing to do, seems kind of problematic for various reasons. Some of the curriculum in a typical CS bachelors seems like something I could benefit from tremendously, but some of it is very remedial. It's very uneven.

What I'd like is something like the Georgia Tech online master's, but with some kind of program for persons such as myself. I know some schools have these kind of postbaccalaureate degree programs, but they're not online.


Oregon State has an online CS post-bacc program, but it's not cheap: http://eecs.oregonstate.edu/online-cs-students


Thanks--that's very useful to know. It is not cheap, but might not actually be that much more expensive than some of the in-person programs I was looking into, with in-state tuition, etc.


>I'm about halfway through and many of the classes assume that you have the equivalent of an undergrad CS degree. It's not intended to replace an undergrad degree.

I'm curious what you expect. I will soon have a BS in computer science. I would be awfully disappointed if I went on to get an MS in comp. sci. that didn't teach me anything new.


That's exactly what I expected. I have a BS in computer science, and the OMSCS is exactly what I was looking for.


I've completed the majority of the OMCS program. My specialization is 'Computing Systems'. I have a 4.0 GPA so far. I did not do CS as an undergraduate, but I've been programming since I was very young.

Here are my thoughts on what people need to succeed as an OMCS student:

  * Be able to program in C, C++, Python and Java at an intermediate level. And, know one of these very well.
  * Be able to use a debugger (GDB) and valgrind.
  * Be able to administer and configure Linux systems.
  * Understand data structures and examples (std::set in C++ is RB Tree backed, std::unordered_set is hash table backed)
  * Understand basic networking concepts and key technologies (TCP, UDP, IP, switching, routing, etc.).
  * Understand the x86 computer in general.
Finally, I think some of the classes are meant to weed students out. People may think that 'Intro to Graduate Operating Systems' would be an easy first course for CS beginners. It's not (unless they've changed it). It was primarily about writing multi-threaded clients, servers, caches and proxies in C, using shared memory (IPC, POSIX Shared Memory) and various other C/thread projects until you become a half-way decent C programmer. They deduct points for working code that has any errors (memory leaks, etc.) too. So don't be surprised if a seemingly easy OMCS course turns into... I had no idea. I'm going to have to drop this course. I saw that happen to several students.

I've done well so far, but I have the programming/logic background to do the work. If you don't, brush up on the skills listed above before enrolling.

Edit: The class projects are a lot of work. Be prepared to give-up your weekends and evenings. Even if you know the material and the language, it's a job to get through some of the projects.


What are some of the prereq's to be prepared to be successful with completing this degree? Asking as someone who graduated with a CS degree from almost ten years ago (wow, time flies). I've been programming/development pretty much that entire time but I think I have forgot most of the core math and core CS concepts that might be necessary in a CS masters degree.

It's hard for me to estimate how much prep I would need to do to come in to this program and feel comfortable with the tasks at hand.


I had been out of school for 12 years when I started the OMSCS program (and my last degree wasn't in CS), but have also been working in the field for a while. I'd strongly suggest brushing up on:

* Linear algebra, matrix arithmetic, some calculus (you run into differentials occasionally, esp in ML coursework).

* Be comfortable with basic algorithm analysis, namely "Big O" assessment. (There's a course for more in-depth analysis of algorithms should you choose that path...)

* Bone up on Python, Java and C if you're not already proficient. Some classes occasionally use R as well (mostly data science).

* Be comfortable with Git. It's used by almost every class for group work and distribution for codebases. I always see a lot of folks battle with this every semester.


I have been doing this for 2 years now. I enjoy this program. There are many students who are taking Gatech OMSCS and also taken MOOCs from Coursera, Udacity, and EDX. The defining characteristic of good students taking this course is, they are all self-learners, independent, and they want to learn Computer Science without giving up on the current full-time job. I have been keeping notes for the all the subjects that I have taken: http://www.coursedocs.org/gatech/index.html - Have a look at it to get a glimpse of the course work involved.

Cons: I've noticed some students who come to get their MS degree from a reputed institution because it is cheap. Due to coursework pressure, they take short-cuts, like doing group-work, discussing solutions when you are prohibited, plagiarizing in assignments, etc.


As someone who hires machine learning / data science oriented engineers, I've looked at this curriculum pretty closely and think it looks like a great program.


Only a few data points as an outside observer, but...

1 - The people I've seen doing it are learning A LOT - more than another online program I've seen.

2 - They're also working A LOT - it intrudes on all aspects of their personal life. It's as much or more work than doing an in person CS degree.

3 - The folks I know don't have CS undergrads, which also makes it more difficult.

Net - it can be worth it if you missed CS as an undergrad, but you'll have to work. You need to ask if there are enough people in Brazil who value the credential (or implied skills) to make it worth the time. The time investment is more expensive than the $s. (It will be thousands of hours)


They're getting a Master's degree without having "CS undergrads"? What does that mean?


I was in an informal study group for Knowledge Based AI and one of the brightest students was a journalist. She had no undergrad CS background. She obviously had a hard time on the programming assignments but she started early, asked TA's for help, developed a clear plan. Her agents performed very well. Another student I know is a medical doctor at Kaiser.


I did not have an undergraduate degree in CS when I did my masters (not this program), I used her approach as well. I did numerous online classes, did community college courses etc. and shoulder watched classmates programming and asked lots of questions. It was not easy, but glad I did it !!!!.


They don't possess undergraduate (bachelor's) degrees in Computer Science.


I'm self-taught and have a job as a SWE. My BA is in an unrelated field. I'm considering the OMSCS because it would be the cheapest way to add credentials to my resume and because I'd rather not go back for a second bachelor's. (I don't mean to sound cynical--I'm interested in the subject matter, of course, but you can get all of that without going through a degree program.) Exchanging $7k for more legitimacy in the eyes of prospective employers is the main appeal of a formalized program. Does anyone have any experience with or thoughts on the signaling potential of the degree?


I've been entertaining the idea of going through this course as well. I graduated 2 years ago, BS in CS, and part of me misses being in school. Plus my employer has a decent tuition reimbursement program.

Would anyone who works full time and gone through this program care to share their thoughts?

Edit: Just found this great article from another comment

https://schneems.com/2017/07/26/omscs-omg-is-an-online-maste...


Working pro with 12 years experience. Absolutely not worth it. Most of your classmates will have not coded before.

The classes are cheap. The hours are long. In the end your grade depends on teammates who haven't been vetted. Three teammates who can't code? You get a C and don't pass.

Course content is extremely dated. UML and SDLC paradigms from the 70's with xerox pdfs distributed to "learn" from.

This is a money grab.


Of the seven classes I have had, only one (software engineering with Professor Orso) has been a team class. All the other classes were individual work only. I got an A in the team-based class.

Don't get discouraged and do talk to the professor if you have bad teammates. All of them have been readily accessible and outstanding (as have the TAs).


I wrote about my experiences a few weeks ago: https://schneems.com/2017/07/26/omscs-omg-is-an-online-maste...

I'm through my second OMSCS semester, and it you want to know if I think it's worth it...you'll have to read the post ;)


I have a regular old masters in CS from GT. It's probably worth it from a career standpoint (if nothing else it signals that you care about self-improvement and take active steps to doing it). I would expect you'd miss some of the 'grad school experience' (for better or worse) and networking opportunities. The actual content itself can probably be gotten for free from other courses on the web if you take a syllabus from a CS dept to get an overall program. That path wouldn't have the benefit of access to teachers and would require a lot of discipline.

I don't know how it would be looked at in Brazil or what the economic cost/benefit are in terms of your own income. I did know a few folks from the University of Sao Paulo that did grad and postdoc work while I was at GT though, so clearly some people are aware of GT in Brazil. That might be another avenue to get opinions from. I would be interested to hear how the costs compare to an institution that was local to you.


Not to be harsh, but you probably won't get accepted. You'll need to do some CS nanodegrees first, or something equivalent (a full undergrad CS/maths degree is obviously ideal). I know people in similar positions, even one with a physics degree, who could not get in due to lack of academic experience.

Otherwise, I think OMSCS is totally worth it. It is hard though. Really hard. I have a family, significant engineering experience, and I find the workload intense. It puts pressure on my family at the same time because I'm not available as much. So I'm taking it very slow, no more than 2-3 courses a year.

It feels great to be 'back at school' after so many years. I love learning new stuff and the challenges of hacking away at low level things. The kind of thing you rarely get to do professionally unless you're very lucky (or not getting paid much). Almost makes me wish I had done a Ph.D.

I don't know if it will help me get a better job or whatever, but it definitely fulfills my own internal itch.


I joined the program in Fall 2016, and I am half way now. So far, i can say that the program is very useful for workers who are looking for a part-time degree, or for people who can't afford the on-campus program. However, the knowledge you gain and experience you get can't be compared to the on-campus program.


> the knowledge you gain and experience you get can't be compared to the on-campus program.

Can you expand on this? Are you referring to fellowships, internships, networking, etc?


As a secondary question, for those who did complete the program, what was the general time commitment per (semester or class) vs. how long you were in the program? I see that you must take 2 classes in the first year, but didn't see any other further requirements on speed of completion.

edit: Answered my own question - You can't have two consecutive semesters "off"[1]. I.e. the slowest possible pace would be 2 classes in the first year, then 1 class every other semester. So I suppose it would be: spring/summer 'xx: 6 credits, 24 remaining, spring 'xx + 1: 9 credits, fall 'xx +1 : 12 credits etc.

[1] - per https://www.reddit.com/r/OMSCS/wiki/index


As I recall, you have to complete (2) "foundational" courses (there is a list on the main OMSCS website) within the first 12 months with a grade of B or better. After that, you need to graduate within 36 months after you started.


You definitley don't need to graduate within 36 months after you started.

You have up to 6 years to complete it.


"How long does it take to complete and receive a degree?

We anticipate the typical time for students to complete the OMS CS will be about three years, though we will allow for longer enrollments—up to six years—for those students who need greater flexibility."

http://www.omscs.gatech.edu/prospective-students/faq

I had read somewhere (can't find it at the moment, maybe the limit has been removed?) that you had to wrap it up within three years or apply for an extension - which is "we will allow" sounds like above.


No, no extension needed. It's always been 6 years.


It really depends on where you are in your career. The GT MSCS is very well regarded, so it's an excellent credential - but frankly the education is quite haphazard and I don't see that improving any time in the future. Teaching quality varies highly, from great to excretable - for many classes, the model is "a little lecture, then lots of poorly-curated assignments". This consumes a lot of time, in a very inefficient manner. Yes, you will learn, but mostly by through your own effort. The very high workload is really not suitable for a professional MS program, where it has to be managed with a job. I find class workload expands without bound every semester and even one class will significantly impact career and relationships. There is no force causing workload to be decline, so I expect that the program is rapidly going to become dominated by early-career full-time MS students, in the U.S. and outside, who live with their parents and knock out an inexpensive, high-quality MS CS. For those students, it's a great choice. If you don't fit that profile, it's a poor professional choice. If you have the discipline to teach yourself via MOOC classes, you will get a better education delivered much more efficiently - but that doesn't carry the credential. So in short - if you need the credential and can devote full time, it's an excellent choice. If not, I do not suggest it.


My background: B.A. In Math and Economics. Been working as a software engineer for 6 years now. I have been in the program for about 1.5 years. I've really enjoyed it and learned a ton. I've also been able to pay the full cost of tuition out of pocket. I agree with others in the thread that it depends on context.

I don't think it will have an immediate impact on my earnings or place in my company, but I think the long term value of having it far exceeds what I'm paying for it.


I have a question about the requirement to enter the program. It says is require to have 3 people to write a recommendation letters. I have finish my bachelor +10 years ago and I am not touch with any professors. Does providing managers are enough? On the website they put emphasis of not adding friends which I can understand, but I am curious about the serious about getting these letters.


I was on the same boat. My references were my previous three managers.Two of them were PhDs leading R&D teams and one was a very senior Director. So it depends on the quality of your recommendors. Anyway the recommendations are just one part of the application package. Since it is an online MS, there is an understanding that the applicant profile would lean more towards working professionals and I am sure they factor that in.


I think I only had one recommendation from my work manager. Perhaps the number of recs has changed (I applied in 2014) but as the acceptance criteria say, current supervisors should be perfectly acceptable.


I only provided people in my professional life.


Anyone have experience with their OMS analytics program? Safe to assume the quality will be similar to the OMS-CS? It's run through edx instead of udacity.

https://pe.gatech.edu/online-masters-degrees/online-master-s...


It came up on yesterday's launch of Lambda School (YC S17), but not sure anyone there can provide any additional info.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15015813


Don't you need an undergrad degree in computer science to be admitted?

http://www.omscs.gatech.edu/program-info/admission-criteria


For reference, I had an undergrad in mechanical engineering with some self taught CS, and I was admitted a few years ago.


No, they admit people without a BS in CS but I think they want to make sure you'll be able to succeed in the program. So it helps to have professional software engineering experience or some other coursework.


From: http://www.omscs.gatech.edu/program-info/admission-criteria

> however, work experience will not take the place of an undergraduate degree.


I take that to mean that you need to have a bachelors in something. Econ is a relatively quantitative field, so that with work experience is likely acceptable.


That really depends on the school. There are many schools where you can get an BA in econ without even taking calculus.

I haven't met anyone in the program with an econ degree. Mostly CS, and engineering. And a few with physics or math degrees.


I'm currently in the program with a BS in Industrial Engineering. I highlighted the CS side of my job in my application, and had done a lot of learning on my own time between my BS and application. So it's definitely possible if you're interested.


You need some undergraduate degree, preferentially CS.

You can get it with a non-CS degree + work experience (see sibling threads).

Some schools accept master's students without an undergrad degree at all but AFAIK most don't. This program doesn't.


Like others have noted, you need some Bachelor's degree minimally. But you don't need to take the GRE.


From my understanding an undergrad degree is required, the degree being in CS is "only" preferred.


It says other degrees will be looked at on a case by case basis.


Personally, I'd go for an undergrad CS degree first. uopeople.edu might be a good place to start. I'm currently working through that program, and I intend to continue to the GA Tech masters program when I'm done.


Current OMSCS student here. It's been a challenging, eye-opening experience, and I'm grateful to be a part of the program.

However, computer science and software development are not the same thing. If your primary goal is to up your game as a software developer, you might get more out of well-regarded software development books like "The Pragmatic Programmer," "Working Effectively with Legacy Code", or "Design Patterns."

Hope this helps.


Excellent course. Value for money. I am doing this from India. I don't have words how much thankful I am to the University. CS education made it so affordable by making it cheaper and online MooC. People like me can benefit a lot. I feel proud to be part of Georgia Tech. Course is not an easy one. We need to put full effort. Very practical oriented. I got exposed to many technologies which is very helpful in today's world. Good luck!


Hi I am from India as well. Considering whether to apply or not. Please share your mail ID.


I am from India too and would like to know more about your experience with the program.Can you share your email id?


I am a BA(Business Analyst) with mostly traditional Project Management duties. My bachelors was in CS, and I still love to delve into technical details of a solution. I do some data analytics for my product. But have been interested in more analytics driven roles and eventually find a Product Owner/Manager role.

Does anyone have insight if doing Georgia Tech's - Master of Science in Analytics will help me land such role?


I've always known Product Owners and Product Managers to basically be people who got the role because they wanted to be in tech but couldn't/wouldn't write code. IMHO, those are really non-technical roles for which you are probably already overqualified. But in the end, it depends on how the company defines those roles.


Using a temp account. I don't think I would have gotten any interviews at the best of the best tech companies without it (I had an engineering BS in another field). I was only 8 classes in. So career wise, it's definitely worth it.

The classes take a lot of time (see https://omscentral.com), but the learning has been a lot of fun. I loved it.


It's a joint venture between Udacity and GT. Has received significant awards since inception - even Obama and Clinton have praised the program as beacons of where higher education can go...

https://pe.gatech.edu/blog/oms-cs-wins-top-award-program-eff...


I'm a working engineer in Ohio, and I hope to start this fall. My work covers it, and the content is highly relevant.

Folks say institution-X is the same. I haven't seen one. Princeton or Stanford are, AFAICT, stunningly more expensive, and not purely remote.

This is a "sine qua non" - without this particular option, there is nothing else on the menu for me at this point in my life and career.


Lots of people neglect to mention that because of the entire program is 7000. If you break that down to 2.5 years, it's approx $2800 per year.

If you work for a reputable company, like I do, they do tuition reimbursement. My company just so happens to cover $5200 per year.

So inother words, I am getting the degree completely for free.

I have completed 7 classes so far, and have 3 left, which again, were all paid for.


So far I have completed 2 courses. It was really rewarding. I am learning plethora of technologies and subjects. I am really enjoying .Right now I am going at 1 course per semester. I started Spring 2017. I will gear up from next year and go for 2 per semester. Yes , there are limited courses online. But these would be good enough to start with. Good luck .


Anyone know of similar programs for undergrad? i.e. an online accredited CS bachelors from a real university.


Oregon State University has an online 2nd bachelor's program if you already got another undergrad degree. Not sure how 'good' the program is or anything though, and it doesn't look nearly as inexpensive as the GA tech program if I'm not mistaken: http://ecampus.oregonstate.edu/online-degrees/undergraduate/...


There is an active and well moderated subreddit for anybody interested in this degree, /r/osuonlinecs. Several current and former students have been talking about the GaTech program so I linked this discussion in our slack channel.

The degree is good in the sense that every alumnus I've talked to has found employment as a full time dev. It also does a good job of quickly washing out those who are trying it on and aren't ready and/or interested.


The problem you'll run in to is that you'll be charged full tuition despite not using nearly the amount of services. I looked at one (I believe in Illinois but I don't recall) that was over $60k for the degree, all online, with minimal access to your professors, and no rights to the physical campus.


Current OMSCS and working professional here. The program is ok and it is what you make of it. The biggest problem actually is that they let in practically anyone now. I know people who have no business being in the program and have honestly ruined the experience for me.


Very true. Acceptance rate is well over 50%. Most students in this program are duds. But best ones are as good as in any top program.


Glad this was posted. I was admitted to Penn's MSE in CIS as well as OMSCS for the Fall. No funding for either. Penn is roughly $60k. I currently live in Philly. I'm curious to see what HN thinks would be the better option.



That one appears to cost at least $30k (and about $20k if you do the Data Science track): http://engineering.illinois.edu/online/tuition-and-fees/


I applied and got rejected due to not having my BS from a regionally accredited school, though it's nationally accredited. Very confused because their page implies students from all over the world attend. Bummer.


You may want to look at a previous recent discussion here on HN: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13382263


It looks like they require a 4-year bachelor's degree. This seems to exclude european-educated students, as bachelor's are usually only 3-year degrees here. Has anyone had any experience with this?



I am also interested to course but 7k USD is still high to be paid as lumpsum upfront. Is someone aware if that would be a staggered payment schedule so that I can pay from my savings as I accrue them.

Thanks


It is not up-front, it is per-semester. I think there is a relatively small application fee ( $50? ). Once in, it is ~$500 per course plus ~$300 per semester. So if you take one course a semester it is ~$800 for the semester, if you take two courses per semester it is ~$1300. The program requires 10 courses to graduate. For some classes you will need to buy a book or two, but many do not have any required textbook, or use a book available online.


You pay at the beginning of each semester for the classes you'll take during that semester. It's not a lump sum.


So as a rough estimate if there would be 4 semesters , I would be spending roghly 1750 USD per semester . I know there would be some deviation. But is that a fair guess and financial planning ?


Here's the cost breakdown per course and semester: https://www.omscs.gatech.edu/program-info/cost-payment-sched...


After a bachelor degree, university isn't that useful for CS unless you want to get into serious AI research. I don't think it has much effect on salary or opportunities.


The knowledge I've learned in my brief time there has already resulted in some direct monetary benefits for me. So maybe you're right for newbies, but as an experienced engineer that can find many opportunities, knowledge is power :).


Their SSL is currently broken and displaying warnings... https://www.omscs.gatech.edu/


Working fine here on Android Chrome 59.0.3071.125.


Just to let here my thanks for all thoughtful answers! (as I can't edit my question anymore). Lots of good insights and useful links in this thread.


How is the difficulty of courses when comparing to edX's MIT's Underactuated Robotics or Stanford's Roughgarden's Algorithms?


just wondering, is the admission process similar to other graduate programs? do you need GRE scores? letters of recommendation? what has been people's experiences around these requirements?



I didn't need GRE scores but letters of recommendation are required.


It better be, my first class for the fall semester starts in a week!


Are there any equivalent online PhD programs that are any good?


Does the research and collaboration intensive nature of a doctorate really lend itself to online/distance education?


Unclear, but you might find it interesting to look up the actual residency requirements of various PhD programs you respect.


I'm speaking from my past experience as a hiring manager at a start up with outlier standards for performance and trajectory in software engineering and machine learning. I estimate I've screened tens of thousands of resumes and interviewed at least a thousand people in my career.

First and most important: your internships and work experience, and what you accomplished during those jobs. They should tell a story of increasing and accelerating personal growth, learning, challenge and passion. If you can share personal or class projects, even better.

After your experiences, your degrees will be considered based on the number of years each typically requires, with early graduation and multiple majors being notable.

      1. PhD, if you have one. A STEM PhD was particularly helpful for ML/Data 
      science positions, but not required.
    
      2. BS/BA (3-4 year degree)
    
      3. MS/MEng (1-2 year degree)

Put another way, if you don't have a PhD, the MS/MEng program is a tiebreaker compared to your experience and undergrad credentials.

International students get a raw deal. The online masters will barely help you get a job or launch a career in the US. US universities appear to offer the chance to work for major US companies with a notable university (such as Georgia Tech) on your resume, only to feed their graduates into our broken immigration and work authorization system, H1-B indentured servitude and no replies from the countless companies that have an unspoken higher bar for those needing sponsorship.

To round out a few other contexts HN readers might experience:

If you are an international considering an on-campus MS/MEng, US universities are charging full price while giving you a credential of limited value and utility. Apply the same comments above but at a much higher price than GA Tech’s OMSCS.

If you are completing/just completed a less notable undergrad degree, paying for a masters program at an elite CS school (like GA Tech) is usually a bad deal. If it not a requirement for the positions you seek, it won't help your career chances much.

If you have an undergrad degree and your employer will pay/cover your MS/MEng at night/personal time (and that is your passion), awesome and go for it! It will be a lot of work and lost sleep to get everything out of the experience, but a lifelong investment in your growth and experience.

If you are completing/just completed a notable undergrad degree (tier-1, internationally recognized program), you don't need the masters. Feel free to get one for your learning, sense of self and building research connections while you ponder getting a PhD. The hiring and salary benefit will be very small--you are already the candidate every company wants to meet. If you decide to get a PhD, that will open some new doors but take 5+ years to get there.

At my previous company, we made it our forte and team passion to get authorization for employees--given a global pool of candidates and a hiring bar to match. I'm really proud of our effort here given the broken and unfair system. Sadly, many companies do not share this value or cannot justify the time, effort and expense, or cannot scale such a program to a larger number of employees across a less selective bar.


> I believe this program is a good complementary source of knowledge to become a better software developer.

That's something you could learn on your own. But your knowledge of "technologies" are more valuable to employers than CS degree - especially if you have work experience.

The tech industry isn't like academia ( economics ) where you have to build up credentials. Work on projects that deal with web technologies or even better learn the back end ( databases ) or even the middle tier/server code if you are a front-end developer.

Becoming a full-stack ( front-end, middle-tier and especially back-end ) is going to be far more important to employers than if you know what undecidability is or computational theory.

Degrees are very important if you want to break into the industry ( especially top tier corporations ). But if you are already work in the industry, employers want to see the technologies you are competent in.

If your employer is willing to pay for it and you have free time, then go for it. Learning is always a good thing. But if you want to further your career, go learn SQL ( any flavor ) and RDBMs technologies - SQL Server, Postgres, etc ( any you want but I recommend SQL Server Developer Edition if you are beginner on Windows OS as it is very beginner friendly from installation to client tools ).

A full-stack web developer is rare and you could even sell yourself as an architect/management. That's a difference from being a $60K web developer and a $200K full stack developer/architect.


Thanks! After reading all comments I more inclined to follow your advice and invest my time in first becoming a full stack developer/architect.

The consensus is that it is very time-consuming. As a junior web developer I would have a lot of catch-up to do in Programming (some comments mention the need of intermediate level at C, Java, and Python, I have none of neither). As an Economics graduate, I have a fairly shallow knowledge of Math, some catch-up would be needed in Calculus and Linear Algebra also. This would make the program even more time-consuming for me (and I need to stay my full-time job).

I will focus this ernergy on becoming a better software developer and think again about this program in a couple of years.


I've a quite similar background. Brazil, mid 30s, major in Business (FGV), transitioned into dev in 2015, though I had earlier experience. Two failed companies as well :)

I agree becoming a decent full stack developer is better than doing an MS were the focus is fundamentals. However, those matter. Things like concurrency, data modeling, relational algebra, strong OOP fundamentals are used daily in any non-trivial backend work. OTOH, engineering stuff like auth, version control, testing, data cleaning and migration seems not part of the course and are quite relevant.

My personal recommendation is to learn multiple languages. You'll learn the concepts and abstract away the implementation. C++, Java, Python and R are different enough and very useful when looking for jobs.

I also recommend doing puzzles to learn algorithms and data structures. Not because you'll see a lot of them in your day to day, but a lot of places use them to weed out job applicants.

Which brings us to the most important advice of all: focus on remote work for US customers. Really. You can easily make $30/h, that translates to around 16k BRL as a "PJ". After a few years, $50/h, $70/h and even more is not unusual. That's upper mgmt level money down here with a fraction of the burden.

You can ping me at cjalmeida at gmail.com if you want to talk more.


True, but it should not have been mutually exclusive. Getting both the theoretical knowledge and practical knowledge would boost a person's career many folds.


"Many folds" is very unlikely unless you're already grossly underpaid. A small percentage? Maybe. Enough to justify the cost of attendance? Again, maybe if you're going the OMSCS route and you're only out $7k. If you drop $30k on a master's you'll be lucky you make that up even before considering inflation, opportunity cost, etc.

I have a BA in Political Science and about a decade as a software developer. The next step in my career would be better served by an MBA than an MSCS. I'm not even sure I could break even if I did GT's OMSCS out of pocket as I'm about as high up as I can get and still use data structure and algorithm knowledge on a daily (let's be honest - weekly at best) basis.


I'm not talking about pay or salary, just career in general. There are a lot more than money matter here.


Online courses are worth nothing.

Employers will ignore you the second they find out your master is not legit.


My undergrad degree is from a top 5 CS school. I'm 90% through OMSCS. I guarantee you it is legit.

I can't promise that all employers will see it that way. The ones that don't will lose out.




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