A Master's in Computer Science? Is it worth it?

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One of my friends is applying to US grad school for Fall 2019 for an MS degree in CS. He has an industry experience of 3 years in startups here in India as an SDET and is keen on pursuing MS. He believes this is going to be his ticket to silicon valley and a world full of opportunities.

I'm not really sure of ROI of doing an MS and whether the money and the time invested in it will be worth.

I would love to know from people already in the states and if coming to the US for an MS will be a good idea?

Thoughts?...

DISCUSSION (5)
 

In a typical scenario, I'd almost always say no. Largely for the same reasons as listed in other comments.

That said, an angle that a lot of folks might not see here is the transition from software dev in the Indian market to the US market. The ease with which someone can transition from a student visa to an employment based visa can't really be overstated. Studying in the US gives you a great deal of credibility with large, US based companies. Whether you complete your degree or not. Almost all of the expats I know in the US originally arrived as students.

To put it bluntly: For a good number of people the opportunity of studying in the US is a vehicle to seek employment there. The degree itself may just be a means to an end.

As a recent immigrant to the US I can say, very confidently, that the pay to cost-of-living ratio for software developers in the US is significantly more favorable than anywhere else I've lived and worked.

So, to answer your question: No, it'd wouldn't be a good idea, for me.

It may very well be a good idea for you (or your friend) if the ultimate goal is establishing employment and a life in the US. Though there are no guarantees that studying will equal a job, nor is it strictly "allowed" for you to arrive in the US to study, with broader plans to stay long term.

If the goal is to learn, grow and better your career prospects in India, studying in the US is most likely a waste of time and money.

 

I am curious to see other answers too.

I started to go back for my master's at some point, but decided not to continue. My assessment is that a master's in CS would open two kinds of opportunities. Academia and government. And research-focused positions at other businesses would probably look more favorably vs bachelor's. In particular, I would like the option to teach college, which would require at least a master's. The US government can't think of a better metric than degree-level to determine if you are you qualified to lead people, so they often have minimum degree levels including master's and doctorate's required for certain positions. This can spill into government contract requirements as well.

Businesses don't tend to care as much, except perhaps if your area of study aligned with a specialized business need. So if this is the destination your friend is looking at, they probably want to make sure to steer their course of study to their preferred area. Otherwise, a company might pay more for a master's degree, but probably not a lot different from an extra few years experience. It might make you a more or less attractive candidate depending on what they need.

Whether or not the higher level degrees are worth it ultimately depends on the person's goals. If part of your goal is to build yourself up as an expert in some area (and to get jobs as such), then a higher level degree helps to support that narrative. But excepting a few cases like I mentioned above (academia, government, private research), experience and results are weighed more heavily in most cases.

But again, that is my perspective as a US native. The scenario might play out slightly differently if Visa sponsorship is involved. It could be that the degree would figure more prominently in that circumstance. I don't know.

 

Short answer: to get a better job, NO!

Long answer:

Let's be honest a little bit, most of computer projects (software & hardware) were not invented in the university researching labs but in big tech companies like IBM, Google, MS, and Amazon and so. Thus, having a Master degree in this field is not a big advantage (as it is in Medicine or Math).

Aside from the fact that you will spend loads of money to get into a "university of a good reputation", you would be better off working (and making more money) in a great team in a small-to-mid company where get the most benefit, and not get lost in a large company system.

If the goal is to get a PhD (after getting Master) and continue in the academic line, then that's a whole different story.

 

I think it's probably not a bad idea. Spending a couple of years on a Master's degree could give your friend added credibility that would help them to get a job at a silicon valley company. Whether a graduate degree would be helpful or not in terms of actually doing the work is somewhat debatable. However, I do think that having such a degree from an accredited and reputable college would have value in terms of getting a job. This is especially true for someone coming from a foreign country where their original degree may not be recognized. That last part about the programme being accredited and reputable is important though -- I wouldn't want your friend to get fooled into going to some crappy for-profit diploma mill!

 

Depends on your goals, I have some friends of mine who did it, but for me would be a big waste of time and money.

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Gaurav Shankar
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