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Ask HN: Should I do a Master's Degree?
4 points by X4 915 days ago | 16 comments
Hi HN,

I'm from Germany and in my mid+ twenties. Should I study another 2 years to get my Master's degree in CompSci? - You know life() is short, won't be young for ever.

What is a German Bsc. degree worth in the states and which difference does a Msc. degree make on income?

I'm already a Jack of all trades and thought all I know myself. What benefits do I have with a Msc.

Pro: - Theoretically earning more money in the long term

Con: - Probably wasting 2 years - Probably not learning anything new (except howto pass another exam) - Spending a lot of money and risking to fall into debt

Thanks for your help!




I did a 4+1 program and got my Master's in 1 year which helped on the cost front. It ended up allowing me to go for jobs which were only available to Master's and PhD graduates which got me the money break even paying for the the extra year in 2 years of work.

For me things worked out b/c I went to work for a Big Corp which paid Master's holders more. If you want to go work for most of the companies you see on HN, then it probably isn't worth it.

I can't help with value of a German degree in the US. I would imagine it would be similar to a US degree but I don't know.

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I didn't hear about a 4+1 program, but I've heard that there is a combined Master's program where you work at a company full-time and study 2 days in the week. I don't know more about that though except that it also takes 2 years.

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The starting salary is higher for someone with a bachelors degree in Computer Science then a Masters degree in Computer Science in the US (I'm trying to find the book). In fact it holds true for several degrees. The reasoning is that most employers prefer for someone to have real world experience over studying to receive a Master's degree.

I'm not really sure how how German Bsc. degrees are viewed by employers in the US. I have a strong belief that you would probably be better off getting a job now, in comparison to paying for school and delaying getting a job.

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> The starting salary is higher for someone with a bachelors degree in Computer Science then a Masters degree in Computer Science in the US (I'm trying to find the book). In fact it holds true for several degrees. The reasoning is that most employers prefer for someone to have real world experience over studying to receive a Master's degree.

I think this is incorrect (at least in Computer Science). Are you trying to tell me that given two people with no industry experience, the person who has taken graduate level courses which involve building significant pieces of projects, will get paid lesser than the person with just a B.S.? I have rough samples as to what people in my school got paid for B.S. vs. M.S. and I think the M.S. at least gave people a 10% pay rise.

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That's very interesting, because I've read that the "starting salary" is similar, but with a Master's degree you can profit by entering into 'higher paid' jobs like "Project Management".

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I wrote far more interesting code in grad school as compared to over 12 years working in the industry. Masters in comp sci reinforces everything you learnt in undergrad and I guarantee will make you stronger. Align yourself to programming courses if you want to be a software dev. I had to write ls from scratch in C with all the flags. You learn. You become more proficient. You've got lots of time. I did it when I was much older at night while working a full time day job on Wall St. I had a wife and a 3 yr old. Knock it out now. You won't regret it.

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A master's degree can help you get more interesting work.

If you ever want to migrate to a country with a 'points' based immigration scheme (Australia, NZ, Canada) you get more points for having a master's.

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Good list of countries ;) I didn't know that a Degree affects the immigration status.

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You could simultaneously apply for jobs and also to an MS program at good universities. Go through the job interviews, visit with your potential professors, and then go with your gut feeling.

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It sounds like your primary motivation is making more money. If that's the case, I wouldn't bother--there are lots of other, faster ways to become more expensive if you aren't discriminating.

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My motivational imperative is to create useful technology. But I'm curious what faster ways you know. Could you elaborate?

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Working in finance comes to mind. A job on Wall St. will easily pay 3-4x what other parts of industry will, and there will be yearly performance bonuses too, which are getting rare elsewhere.

There are a number of certifications you can get from the insurance industry. A programmer with actuarial certifications can easily command 150K/year.

Having certain unpleasant skills will also put you in high demand. Cobol, for instance, or Oracle. Oracle has a lot of certifications they offer, but in practice you'll probably be expected to have 5-10 years of experience too, so it's a hard market to break into. Once you're there, it would be surprising if you were offered less than 90K, and that would be pretty far on the low end.

This industry is like every other: there are "fun jobs" everybody wants, like being a front-end developer at a startup in San Francisco, or being a game programmer. Because the supply of jobs is low compared to the demand for them, you can expect to be paid less and treated badly. If you want to make a lot of money, you should run in the opposite direction, towards boring unpleasant jobs that nobody seems to want: boring, high pressure jobs in big cities that are not technology hubs.

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I totally understand you. Thank you for your substancial comment.

Bonus: My nerd friends doing their Msc. atm. tell me "get a life" when they see what I do in my "free time".

Many people enjoy boring stuff when they know that the boring stuff they learn can produce more boring stuff. Prime example: "Computers"

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Oh, I agree--I got very into databases, which most of my coworkers regard as "boring." But I found that there is considerable beauty in SQL, normalization is an art form, and performance tuning is tinkering that can go on forever. So I enjoy them quite a bit while most developers consider them nothing more than a dull "persistent store."

All of the things I mentioned conceal gems like these within them. But before you can appreciate a concealed gem, you have to learn what gems look like and how to mine them, and except for gaming and web front-ends it does not happen automatically.

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Your coworkers were wrong, you were right (in the decision to explore it). Databases produce lots of more "boring" problems that need to be solved with even more boring techniques. The conclusion is that Databases are in fact a really interesting and endless field of research.

hmm, dunno. I'm good at sysadmin stuff, software-development, webdev and graphic-design.

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The following salary report for Germany is quite accurate. (Click [YES] when asked, otherwise you'll get forward to the homepage.)

http://translate.google.de/translate?hl=de&sl=de&tl=...

Where do I find accurate salary reports for the States?

A friend of mine just finished his Bsc. degree and now earns about 48k €/year. That's roughly 4k €/month. This may sound like a lot of money, but after paying taxes and insurances he's left with a little less than half of it.

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