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The M.S. Degree vs. Everything Else? 174

Posted by Cliff
from the any-edge-when-looking-for-a-job... dept.
salad_fingers writes "It has been said that the Bachelor's Degree is the new High School Diploma: everybody has one. It is taking a greater investment of time, money and effort on behalf of the individual to give oneself that needed edge in the professional world. I have noticed that in technical fields, specifically engineering, employees are flocking in droves to MBA programs to capitalize on the upcoming retirement of the Baby Boomers, and have largely considered pursuing a graduate degree in a technical field as a waste of time and effort. What does Slashdot see as the future of the M.S. degree versus other available and somewhat non-traditional degrees? What path should engineers pursue for maximum future employability?"
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The M.S. Degree vs. Everything Else?

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  • Foot in the door (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PIPBoy3000 (619296) on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @09:31PM (#15915900)
    I ended up with a masters in biology education, with no intention of teaching high school science (my student teaching was that bad). Fortunately having a master's degree provides a nice foot in the door. Later on I got several Microsoft certifications, which helped me move from being a programmer to a SQL Server administrator.

    There are some professions that are specific to a job, but any master's degree helps in a competitive field. Once you're in, of course, it's all about what you can do.
    • Later on I got several Microsoft certifications, which helped me move from being a programmer to a SQL Server administrator.
      And you thought this was a step up?
      • To be honest, I quickly bored of being a SQL admin. I've been back to programming for many years now, making the switch when web development became the thing to do. Fortunately it wasn't a fad.

        Being a SQL admin, I know quite a bit about the database backends we work with. Being able to troubleshoot locks and design intelligent indexes and interfaces is incredibly useful.
        • Interesting. I find about the opposite experience. The web-based development work I do is endless banal variations on a theme. "Could you maybe make that blue instead?", "No, no! We want to take twelve percent as a gross margin BEFORE factoring in overhead".

          But, every database is a special unique snowflake. The front-ends are all the same but the data is frequently interesting. I'd rather write stored procedures than application code.

          However, opinions vary and I'm glad that some people find satisfac

          • Well, I do web development, and I find it quite interesting. However, each project usually consists of and extra 20% time spent tweaking it to make it look right. I'm not really sure if it's wasted time. Most of the time I use style sheets and other good programming practices, so that using a darker shade of blue doesn't require all that much work. There are plenty of boring web development jobs using .Net where you drag a bunch of controls on a page, do a minimal amount of programming, and that's it.
    • Not to offend you, but - you went from a masters in biology to programmer to sql server admin ? Sounds to me like you've been demoted all the time.
  • Supply and demand. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Eevee (535658) on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @09:38PM (#15915938)
    If everyone else has a business degree, then a technical degree will be worth more.
    • by timeOday (582209) on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @09:57PM (#15916039)
      I don't know. There are a lot fewer people in US manufacturing these days, and it doesn't mean those who remain are making more money. What happened when programmers became too scarce, higher salaries? Nah, the H1-B visa was created specifically to depress wages in that field, i.e. "ensure a supply" of workers. What happened when farm labor grew scarce, higher salaries? Nah, the Man just looks the other way allowing a flood of illegal immigrants in order to keep wages low. If you start to make more money than social conventions dictate, something or other will prevent it. Techies will never make more than business types, period. They set the salaries.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Ugh. This is why I think it's idiotic for people to say that "The bachelor's degree is like the new high school diploma", as mentioned in the article. Only about 24-25% of US citizens actually *have* a college degree (according to some statistics on Clark Howard's site), compared to nearly the 85% that have a high school diploma. Of all of those college degrees, think about how many of them are in cakewalk disciplines like business programs or liberal arts. I've known many people who just blow their way
      • Sorry, you missed the point here. Obviously a college degree means you've learned more. But what you *GET* for it is what a high school graduate used to get. A middle class job if you're lucky.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    1. M.S.
    2. Certification (CCNA, MCSE. etc)
    3. Actual impressive looking program
    4. Bull during the interview on how great you are. That's how I got my job.

    The issue here is that degrees are the only way most HR people actually grade prospective employees. And most of them are not even technically inclined. Getting the job is one thing, actually keeping it is another. But still you gotta impress to get the job before you can worry about keeping it

    It doesn't matter how good you are, only how good t
  • started their education by majoring in one of the engineering disciplines. Knowledge of engineering and business are both valuable, and possibly even more valuable together depending on what your long-term goals are job-wise. If you see yourself as managing engineers, then it could easily work in your favor.
    • In most cases, engineers with MBAs are engineers who sold out and/or couldn't cut a real Master's degree in engineering. Note, I said *most* cases. Not all MBA engineers are like this, but it's far too often what I see. Done appropriately, yes, the two could be a valuable pair. But it shouldn't just be a second choice degree.

      That's just how it is--unless you're this guy [nasa.gov].

      Michael Griffin holds the following degrees:

      bachelor's degree in Physics from Johns Hopkins University
      master's degree in aerospace science
  • by hazem (472289) on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @09:40PM (#15915951) Journal
    The answer entirely depends on deciding what you really want to do and where you want to do it. So many people bumble about thinking that getting just one more degree will bring them their dream job happiness. $50k later, they're working at Burgerville with a Masters in Fine Arts and wondering how they're going to make their student loan payment.

    Do some soul searching and try to figure out what kind of job you really want to do and the kinds of industries and businesses you want to do it. If you can't get a good bead on that then you're just trusting your life to fate.

    So, once you figure out what you want to do or where you want to do it, do everything you can to learn about it. Contact professionals in the field/business and arrange informational interviews. If you're still in school, try to get some kind of internship or "special project" with that business/industry - your profs are your friends here and probably know someone in industry who can help you.

    For example, if you want to be a supply chain analyst for a sportswear company then you should see if any of your profs know someone at a sportswear company and see if you can do some kind of class-related project. Find out who they use for temp staff and get work there when you can.

    Check to see if your school has an alumni program where you can find alumni out in the world and see if any of them are working in a field/company you're interested.

    Once you get in, make contacts. Ask LOTS of questions. Find out what THEY look for when they are hiring. My current job at a place pretty much requires an MBA. The previous job I did as a temp employee didn't care what my degree was or if I even had one.

    If you know you want to be a software developer for IBM, then find out what IBM looks for. They're the ones you need to impress. That answer is totally different than if you want to be a systems administrator at a university.

    But, until you can answer "what do you want to do", there's not much point in going for a higher degree unless you feel like you'll be lucky.
    • by tverbeek (457094) on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @10:54PM (#15916320) Homepage
      If you're going back to school, get a second degree (bachelor, master, associate, doctor... science, arts, fine arts... whatever) in whatever field you wish you'd gotten the first one in. If you're asking the question, you probably have some dissatisfaction with whatever you spent those first four years studying and where its gotten you. Now that you're not a drunken adolescent, you have a better sense of what you'd really like to be doing. Apply for whatever program of study you qualify for, in that field.

      Several years ago when I was at a crossroads in my career, my parents suggested I go back to school. They were thinking I'd follow my BS in CS with an MS in CS. Instead I went for a BFA in Digital Media/Illustration. It hasn't been the road to riches, but I sure am happier with what I'm doing now than what I would have been doing if I'd just stayed in the job market or if I'd returned to the same educational track.
    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @11:07PM (#15916363)
      I work for a university engineering department and we have a real problem with grad students, particularly foriegn grads, doing that. They get in the masters program without any clear idea why. They aren't interested in research, they jsut want a master's degree. They see it as just another hoop to jump through to get more money. The upshit of this is that they tend to have very fragile knowledge. They are all book smarts. You ask them a question in terms of a formula they learned and you get an answer. You ask them the very same question in terms of the real world you get a blank stare. I mean there's a lab full of peopel that do networking that can't properly work out the subnet their computer is supposed to be in, when you give them the subnet (they kept putting it as a /16 since we are in the class B part of the IP space).

      I think your advice is very good: Decide what you want to do, and see if a degree (I'm talking undergrad here) really matters. For some jobs, it's manditory and it has to be in the correct field. For others, it's highly beneficial, but doens't really mater what it is. Still otehrs it helps a little bit, but no more than a year of experience and a good refrence.

      For master's, unless it's something that the place you want to work for really wants, you need a personal reason to get it. A master's degree SHOULD be because you enjoy learning about something, and want to work on some orignal research for it. A master's thesis is supposed to be you going out and exploring something. Unfortunately many places (like where I work) will instead let you take a comprehensive exam which is just a hoop to jump though. If that's all you want to do, you shoudln't be getting a master's.

      While an undergrad is, for the most part, just a continued somewhat specialized education, a master's is supposed to be mroe research oriented. It should be the kind of thing you do out of personal love, not professional intrest. Because, when you get down to it, what employers REALLY care about is if you can do the job they want. Having a master's degree that is backed by no skills to apply it isn't useful and even if they don't know when interviewing you, they'll figure it out.

      You'll get far more jobs through experience and personal references than with a peice of paper. I can't emphasize the personal reference thing enough. Find someone who knows someone who works where you want to. Meet that person, have them give you a reference. It goes a looooong way. Really, I've only ever gotten one job cold, all the rest were because I knew someone who knew someone. Sometimes, there was no interview at all just a "This the guy? Good, you're hired." People trust the opinions of those close to them more than the trust the paper from your alma matter usually.
      • You'll get far more jobs through experience and personal references than with a peice of paper. I can't emphasize the personal reference thing enough. Find someone who knows someone who works where you want to. Meet that person, have them give you a reference. It goes a looooong way.

        I'm sorry, but why are references so bloody important to get a job when they're fundamentally superficial in light of a potential-hiree's actual abilities? And some of us think it as rather tactless and shallow to buddy-buddy
        • by booch (4157) <slashdot2010 AT craigbuchek DOT com> on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @12:33AM (#15916742) Homepage
          Here are a few clues for you:

          1. Many hiring managers are not very good at determining an applicant's technical skills. Especially if HR gets involved.

          2. Networking is more about finding out about positions than anything. A large number of jobs are never posted. And it's better to have a several people looking for you, than looking just on your own.

          3. A person vouching for a prospective hire's skills gives the hiring manager warm fuzzies. It adds another data point that the person has the right skills, and it also pushes some of the blame on the person recommending the hire, in case things goes wrong.

          4. One very important part of hiring a new person is how they will fit in the culture or the group. If they're already friends with one employee, they're likely to fit in in a similar manner.

          5. So-called "soft skills" are more important in most jobs than the hard technical skills. Soft skills are all about working with and communicating with others. This is another thing that a reference can show that you are good at. (This is even harder to discern during an interview.)

          6. Networking works. I didn't believe it when I was younger, either.
          • Alright, that makes sense, even if it's still fundamentally superficial at the core. I can only hope interviewers are at least more lenient for entry-level graduates with no previous industry experience when it comes to being picky about references (or lack thereof). Sure, networking sounds easy to do once you're in the workforce with fellow colleagues who you establish bonds of trust with, but I doubt living in a hick town, a 2 hour drive from the state's major software-heavy metropolitan area, has many
            • by Grab (126025) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @08:22AM (#15918028) Homepage
              Most places do, but you'd better be going for a entry-level-graduate position. If you say "I've got years of experience working with X" but you've got no industry references to show, your application goes in the cylindrical filing area. Even if you've done tons of coding at home, that doesn't equate to knowing how industry works. Coders are cheap - any teenager can hack out code. *Engineers* are expensive...

              Grab.
          • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Wednesday August 16, 2006 @02:30AM (#15917108)
            The reason the reason is that, if the hiring person is any good, they want to know if you have a certain unmeasurable quality. One of my friends calls it being a "bithead". Basically to me it's do you have both the ability and the drive to be able to learn about and solve novel problems in regards to technology. That's all I really want to know ability wise. If you've knowledge in the area we need you to work, great, if not that's fine, we can train you provided you have that unmeasurable quality. If you don't, I don't give a fuck what you know because it's not useful.

            To put it another way I need to know if your knowledge and learning process are fragile or not. You may have a master's and certificates up the ass, that means only that you know how to pass tests. Sure you might have a shitload of facts stored in you, but if they can't be applied to the real world, I don't need you.

            There's no good way to test for that, either, other than having someone do work. I can try and design tests to see but they don;t necessarily show me anything. If it happens to be something you read in a book, you can pass, even though you lack that so-called bithead quality.

            The parent's point about fitting in is highly valid as well. Some people just don't work. I remember at one of my student jobs they hired a new guy that I just didn't like. Now at first I thought it was just my being an introvert, you know a new guy intruding on a familiar space. I told myself that I was being petty and needed to just wait and it'd change....

            Never did. That guy creeped me out the whole time he was there until they let him go (incidentally he never did any fucking work). He just didn't fit. Later, we hired another guy who was a friend of one of the employees. I liked him almost immediately and he worked out really well.

            So you really get to trust references not only because we are inclined to listen to personal anecdotes more than empirical evidence, even though they are less valid, but also because it does seem to work. Where I work now, we hire student workers pretty often. That's the problem with students: They keep graduating. Well if we can, we get them by having our current students refer them, or people we meet since some of us take classes. If not we go to ads on campus. Of the referrals, all that I can remember have worked out. They have had varying skill and knowledge levels, but they were all bitheads, and they all got along. Of the cold hires, I'd say it's less than 50%. Many are not bitheads, many simply don't get along well in the work environment, some both.

            For example, we hired a grad student not too long ago. Nice enough guy, but didn't work out. For one his problem solving skills were abysmal. He could only do a task if it was very precisely defined, at which point the amount of time needed to explain it usually made it faster to just do yourself. He had no initiative to try and find things to do, he'd just sit at his computer fiddling with Linux unless given a task. He also fit in poorly, he didn't socialize almost at all with the rest of us, despite our efforts. To top it all off, he never intended to keep the job. He wanted a research assistant position. As soon as he got one, he skipped (1.5 months roughly).

            That kind of thing doesn't happen with people referred to us. Maybe it's just luck, but I think it's more that you don't want to ruin your reputation. Sure maybe you talk a friend up a bit, but you aren't going to go and say he's a great reliable guy if you know he's going to bail at the first opportunity. If you give bad references, pretty soon your credibility is shot to hell and people won't listen to you.

            The parent is also dead on about jobs that aren't posted. I mean you'll get situations as so:

            A technical group is down a person, someone good just left. However they are a large group, he's one in twenty, so they don't go and open a posting right away. His work is absorbed by the team, nobody really wants to go through the trouble of a hiring process right now.
          • That list can be boiled down to a single, simple equation:

            Nepotism = jobs.
        • A lot of people applying for certain technical jobs really don't know *anything* -- personal references help prove that you're not one of the BS'ers.
        • "I'm sorry, but why are references so bloody important to get a job when they're fundamentally superficial in light of a potential-hiree's actual abilities?"

          Because humans are first and foremost, social creatures, and that's pretty much how the world works?

          "If being an unctuous manipulator is a more important skill to get employed than your actual skills related to the job in question, I'd rather end up homeless the rest of my life."

          It's not unctuous or manipulating in the least to talk to people

        • If being an unctuous manipulator is a more important skill to get employed than your actual skills related to the job in question, I'd rather end up homeless the rest of my life.
          Lucky you! You might just get your wish.
      • I know all your foes are spelling nazis, but I have to know: was "upshit" intentional? I certainly hope so because it is my new favorite word.
        • No it was supposed to be "upshot". Next to letter transpositions, missing a key for the one next to it is my most common mistake. Comes form the fact I can't type, look at the keyboard while I do, and type too fast.

          What I need to do is get in the habit of using Google's spell checker in their toolbar. I forget all the time. Previously I'd never found one worth it, Spellbound is about 6 buckets of worthless, but Google does a good job. I just forget to run it before I hit submit.

          I don't mind people asking le
      • I work for a university engineering department and we have a real problem with grad students, particularly foriegn grads, doing that. They get in the masters program without any clear idea why. They aren't interested in research, they jsut want a master's degree. They see it as just another hoop to jump through to get more money.

        I helped out with grad student orientation this year and saw the exact same thing. However, at my university, we have a non-thesis Master's option in the ECE program. The nu

    • Delayed Masters!? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by TaoPhoenix (980487)
      My career path has been fairly simple. I put more weight to "pick slowly and wisely" than "it's never too late to change".

      Some high schools have a Mood. Ours was Pro Science, and somewhat disparaging to business. I did passably well in Freshman year in college, took one glance at the upcoming "only sophomore" Organic Chemistry book, and wilted. I learned I'd rather *read* Scientific American articles in a day than take a year to write one.

      I set about good sharp DeepRead of the future, and picked Accounting
  • When you consider how little I actually learned in high school, yes, my diploma is BS. Fortunately, college [highpoint.edu] is shaping up much better.
  • Assumptions (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @09:41PM (#15915959)
    What path should engineers pursue for maximum future employability?

    Learn agriculture. Seriously, it is looking more and more likely that the post war paradise the baby boomers experienced is an anomaly in the course of human history. Better learn to survive in a post cheap oil world.
  • My impression (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jellomizer (103300) *
    As one who is starting an MBA Program. Ill share my insights on this. Getting an M.S. In Computer Science is generally designed for you to enter the PHD program and become more focused in one area of study within Computer Science.

    Especially for technology unless your are planning more of a research type job say at Google R&D an M.S. and PHD is a Risky Job venture. Technology changes way to fast what first takes a high level of education to master is soon available as a class library, which you just nee
    • Re:My impression (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @09:58PM (#15916042)
      This is a little off topic and a bit of a rant, but I wanted to point out the common misconception held by the author. While an M.S. or Ph.D. generally involves a program specialized in a particular subfield, don't underestimate how much these programs can improve one's ability to do science and think critically. These are both general skills.

      I'll put it in MBA terms ... these are like "people skills". ( Sorry, but I couldn't resist. :) That could be a serious point, though. What do you learn in business school? Accounting, management, marketing, ... but a critical part of good programs is networking and working with people. So, in some sense, b-school is building a more general set of people skills.

      The same thing happens in M.S. and Ph.D. programs. You just learn to think better. It sounds silly, but it's real.
      • Re:My impression (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Mateito (746185)
        "People Skills"

        As (yet another) MBA candidate, who also had started a Masters in another discipline (Gas Plasma Physics), I can attest that there is a huge difference between a Masters designed to further your knowledge in your area of speciality, and one designed to give you a broad grounding in a complementary subject.

        Anybody who tells you that an MBA is a short cut to a million dollar career is either lying, or attending one of the top 7 or 8 business schools on the planet (spread throughout the USA, Eur
      • Very true indeed. The "soft skills" (I couldn't resist either) you learn on a PhD can often be more valuable than the technical skills since many people don't stay within their specialty.

        The problem is that employers don't think this (unless they have a PhD themselves) so it is up to you to convince them using those communication, logic and persuasion skills you learnt on your advanced degree :)
    • by fishdan (569872) *
      If I see a resume with a BS in CS, MS in CS and no Ph.D I'm going to ask about it -- and I'm already thinking "Either failed out of the Ph.D program, or couldn't hack it in the real world, so went back to school." Ask anyone who's been working in a job where they USE their CS degree, and ask which was more value in the real world -- 2 years of work, or 2 years of education pursuing a masters. As you learned in your first Data Structures and Algorithms class:

      for (year:YearsAfterBachelor){

      if(in th

    • Re:My impression (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      As one who is starting an MBA Program. Ill share my insights on this. Getting an M.S. In Computer Science is generally designed for you to enter the PHD program and become more focused in one area of study within Computer Science.

      Jeezus how do some of you people function.

      In SOME CASES an MS is a starting point for a doctorate, but many, many programs exist to either facilitate the transfer into the field from another technical degree or to hone and develop skills in a preferred area of CS. There are major u

    • I have to disagree with this statement regarding high level technical degrees becoming outdated... an MS in Computer Science is not like an MSCE certification. You are learning theory (in theory) and thus your education will never be outdated. Personally when I finished my B.Sc. I felt that I was only beginning to get "good" at programming and really understanding the theory. Another 1-2 years of courses would really have put me over the top. In my opinion the MBA is becoming one of the most overrated
  • by cmholm (69081) <cmholm&mauiholm,org> on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @10:00PM (#15916050) Homepage Journal
    If you're in some little start up, neither an MS or MBA will make any difference (unless you're working AND getting the degree). As you move out into your thirties and forties, you'll probably find that the MS in what ever will provide more oportunity (than a BS) on the programmer, engineer, tech lead, scientist, senior scientist track, while the MBA will set you up for the section head, department head, site lead, etc track.

    If you want to work on and create technology, go MS. If you want to manage it, go MBA.

    If you wnat to know what program to do NOW, before your life responsibilities stack up, and you can hack the program, go MS. Frankly, the vast majority of MBA programs can easily be completed in your spare time, even if you've got a working spouse and a couple of kids, so you can safely put that off until you turn 30 or 35. Then, with both an MS and MBA, you'll be head and shoulders over many of your peers no matter what direction you decide to go (including doing your own thing).
    • I think you are correct here, I've seen already several cases where people first get their MS, then get their MBA, also next to a job. This combination is probably the best way to get a really nice job at a place of your choice. With only an MS, it's a bit more difficult, but there are still enough institutions (say banking, consulting), that look for people with an MS that requires abstraction skills (physics, mathematics, etc).

      Also, don't forget extracurricular stuff. If you helped organizing, or was ch

  • Follow your #1 interest, the thing you are best at.
    At the end of the day; to ensure employment you have to be exceptionally good at what you do... Average performers will struggle getting employed, in almost any field. Exceptional performers will easily find work.
    You're looking at it entirely wrong if you think certain educations will give you an easy employment.
    If you get an MBA, and you graduate as an average student at an average institution, you WILL stuggle to find employment. Work with something yo
  • by stienman (51024) <adavis@NOSpam.ubasics.com> on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @10:09PM (#15916101) Homepage Journal
    What does Slashdot see as the future of the M.S. degree versus other available and somewhat non-traditional degrees? What path should engineers pursue for maximum future employability?

    On an international scale, in order to stay competitive economically the US has to be the worlds largest consumer. In order to consume individuals must have enough education that their jobs aren't easily outsourced. So the US encourages higher education.

    The generic "here's a spec, design it" engineering can be accomplished by a bachelor's degree holder, as well as most outsourcing companies. The research that is done at the master's and PhD levels is important for new technologies, but that has largely been watered down (fewer skunk works, menlo parks, etc)

    If you want to stay competitive in today's industry, you'll have to settle for a bachelor's degree or higher, coupled with management experience. Many companies move engineers into a position to act as liasons to outsourced workers, and still keep a smaller engineering group around for fixing designs, quick proof of concept, and developing new technology.

    But in the end you'll be fine and happy with a bachelors degree once you have experience. All a masters does for you is move you up the pay bracket 10-15%, and the reality is that after the two years of real world experience rather than going for a masters, most bachelors are at that level by the time you get your masters.

    I did a lot of work while in school, developed a passion for my field, and graduated with a bachelors. I may want more schooling down the road. I'm not certain, however, that a masters of engineering will serve me as well as a masters in business, so I decided to work for a few years to get an idea of the industry and find out where the opportunities that look interesting lie.

    What you should do to ensure maximum future employability is do what you love, and love what you do. That is what will shine through - too many people do engineering because they want money, but don't want to be doctors. They make OK engineers, but until they find the passion they end up being lukewarm for 1/3 of their life while at work, asleep 1/3, and bored the other 1/3. Don't do that.

    -Adam
    • But in the end you'll be fine and happy with a bachelors degree once you have experience. All a masters does for you is move you up the pay bracket 10-15%, and the reality is that after the two years of real world experience rather than going for a masters, most bachelors are at that level by the time you get your masters.

      This is true. The reality is that the kind of work that you need a masters degree for is pretty rare relative to everything else. Sure there are some jobs where the deeper level of under
  • Party Card (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @10:10PM (#15916108)
    Back in the USSR, people talked about "getting your Party Card." It was a validation that showed you had jumped a particular barrier to entry into the elite - didn't matter what you knew, it showed you had the Right Stuff to be allowed entry into that small group that actually got to set the agenda.

    Getting an M.B.A. in our culture is like "getting your Party Card." I know, I've got one. People who only have technical degrees are journeymen and tradesmen, they know how to do something but not why. Having your M.B.A. means you've got what it takes to understand The Business, and that trumps anything technical, any time. Having an M.B.A. means that after great effort - it ain't easy - you've learned the language, you've learned the secret handshake, so you can be counted on to understand The Business - be an operator at the level where money is created and decisions are made about investing in all those engineers, operators, plumbers, and carpenters below you.
    • Interesting theory. There are enough significant exceptions to your theory that it is pretty easy to just disregard it. Microsoft and Apple are companies that have been run by the engineers most of their lives and they have done very well. They each employ their share of MBAs, but implying having a MBA somehow puts you above people who are primarily engineers. (I know in my example neither of them have degrees, both have good business sense, most would still consider them engineers.) If you find what yo
      • Microsoft and Apple are companies that have been run by the engineers most of their lives and they have done very well.

        Not Microsoft. Gates dropped out of Harvard Business School to start it, not MIT.

      • Re:Party Card (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mmmmbeer (107215)
        Well said. An engineer who gets an MBA is still an engineer. An MBA who goes back for an engineering degree becomes an engineer. As for the previous post who said that getting an MBA "ain't" easy? Nonsense. MBAs are what engineers get in their spare time while working full time, raising families, and contributing to OSS projects for fun. Sure, an MBA is useful, partly for the management skills but mostly to fulfill arbitrary requirements from other clueless managers. Still, if you thought it was hard
    • by neo (4625)
      Worked for Bill Gates. He has his MBA and... he wait a minute. The richest guy in america didn't even finish college. I think you're logic and secret hand shakes are just barriers MBAs put up to keep their little club from getting too full, and being forced to share the wealth.

      Keep up the secret society.
  • IT Masters & Charles Sturt University together offer Masters Degrees with industry certification included. Everything from MSCE, to CCNE & even Novell certified Linux Administrator (or something). It is all via correspondance and takes between 2-4 years. There are students from the USA taking part in some of my classes. http://www.itmasters.com.au/ [itmasters.com.au]
  • by akuzi (583164) on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @10:35PM (#15916241)
    First off - I don't think it's possible to effectively manage
    tech people without having strong technical skills yourself.
    Your knowledge will be too superficial to make informed decisions,
    and in the end you just won't be respected.

    In my experience it definitely pays off in the long run to get
    a graduate degree in CS, and it's easier to do it the first time you
    are at school. I'm in my early 30s and am working as a
    development director in a startup. I find that most of the people
    i deal with, other senior tech people, CTOs, senior architects,
    generally have a very strong formal education, Honours in BSc,
    M.S or Phd. There are some exceptions of course, there are
    many IT middle managers out there with no technology skils - but
    these are the people who tend to get ignored in meetings when
    the real decisions are being made. There are also a lot of people
    out there with little formal education but with the smarts to
    make up for it.

    I see an MBA as something that makes sense to do later perhaps in
    your late 20s/early 30s when you have already have some management
    experience and are ready to move into a executive level.
    • Your knowledge will be too superficial to make informed decisions, and in the end you just won't be respected.

      Or you just don't make tefchnical decisions. That's what your reports are for.

  • by aoteoroa (596031) on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @10:38PM (#15916251)
    What path should engineers pursue for maximum future employability?

    seriously

    High prices for crude oil are going to stick around for a while. Oil companies litterally can not hire enough people to work. I'm not just talking about push hands and drill pigs. They need engineers, welders, geologists, software developers. Every company out here is starving for employees. If you have a pulse you're hired. Don't have a resume? No problem. Completed a University or Technical program. . . great you're hired. No education? Companies out here will pay for courses.

    The economy here in Alberta is so hot that the word "booming" doesn't seem to describe it well enough. Of course there are downsides. Line ups everywhere are huge. If you walk into a coffe shop expect a minimum of 15 minutes to get your latte. Labour shortages have affected every industry.Of course every boom will have a bust. But I don't see that happening in the next couple years and I would hire somebody with two years good experience over somebody with two years more general education.

  • by Meddel (152734) on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @10:46PM (#15916280)
    I struggled with the same questions, both when I was in school getting my Bachelor's and later while working (I'm 26 now, and still haven't come to a conclusion). I was doing my Bachelors in CS at Stanford, and having a great time of it. I didn't see a reason to stop, so I applied for the coterminal Masters program, in which you just keep right on taking classes. I started being a TA for CS classes, and enjoyed teaching. During the summers, I did internships all over the place, and had a good time doing it.

    After a couple of years, though, I started thinking about what the goal was. I didn't actually have a reason to want the Masters: it was just a way to keep taking classes. So after five years I had my Bachelors and was partway to the Masters, but I'd had enough. I took a job at Microsoft as a developer, and have been having a great time at that, too.

    But lately I've started to think again about what the goal is. Do I want to be a dev forever? I have friends here where that is absolutely their goal. Do I want to run the company? If so, I can either get an MBA, or try to start working my way up through the management chain (there are a bunch of VPs at Microsoft without MBAs). Do I want to do something completely different? I've thought about joining a start-up or working for a consulting house. Maybe I could swing working in another country for a while. The good news is that there's no deadline... I don't need to have this all decided by the time I'm 30.

    So look around and figure out where you want to be in five years, and then figure out where that points you for twenty years out. If you're unhappy with that, start thinking with longer horizons in mind. I'll be honest: I've never missed my CS Masters. If I go back to school, it'll be for an MBA.

    If your only goal is employability, you're barking up the wrong tree anyway: lawyers are basically always employed, and make more than I do as well. So start figuring out what's important to you besides being employed... I'm guessing it's a longer list than that.

  • First of all, many MS programs are only one year. These are preferable. I'm in biotech, which is sort of a clearing house for all the technical professions. At this time, breadth is more valuable than depth. An MS is a great way to learn another craft, provided you learned good engineering fundamentals in college. I got a BS in chemical eng, and am now getting an MS in bioeng. Getting an MS in a field different from your undergrad major is more realizable than you may think, since you don't need to re
  • There is no shortage of tech jobs. Walking out of college with a 4 year bachelors degree, a head full of knowledge, and the motivation to work hard and improve yourself will make you extremely marketable. Sure, having a masters in a technical field would make you more knowledgeable, but you're going to need the work experience to go with it. I would take a new hire with a bach degree and 2 years experience over a new hire with a masters degree any day.

    I say this as I'm wrapping up my second bachelors and pl
  • I Dunno... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Greyfox (87712) on Tuesday August 15, 2006 @11:11PM (#15916379) Homepage Journal
    I've interviewed a few technical people with Masters degrees in CS who couldn't even tell me the difference between an array, a hash table and a linked list.Go for the degree if it's what you want to do (You enjoy learning, you enjoy hitting on the cute freshman girls, or whatever) but don't count on it to be the distinguishing factor between you and someone else. Though a cool thesis paper would go a long way toward convincing me that I might want to hire you (Apparently neither of the folks I interviewed went through programs that required them.)
  • If what you care about is $$$ then don't bother working as a run of the mill engineer. Consider real estate and other forms of investment.
  • Seriously... if you love school and are interested in the classes, then go for it. Me, well I dropped out of college to work full time back in '99 and never looked back. Best thing I ever did. Obviously not everyone can be sucessful in technology w/o a college degree (I've done IT, software development and security) but it worked for me. FWIW, there are a number of other people at my current job (a small security startup) w/o college degrees too and they're just as good as the people with B.S.'s and M.S
    • The main difference I have found in hiring is that there is a pretty low "signal-to-noise" ratio at all degree levels if you were to hire a random sample of employees at each degree level. In other words, you can't just rely on the degree as an indicator of how good someone will be in a job. However, I will say that the signal-to-noise ratio is worse among candidates with Bachelor's degrees. The best hires tend to have Master's degrees. They're more affordable, very nearly as smart, and more efficient a
  • Maybe things are different in the US but in the UK getting a Masters degree when you already have a bathelors degree is a one year full time course and makes little or no difference to your job prospects. It basically says i did 4 years at degree level and not three. Are things different over there?
    • In the U.S. a batchelors degree is considered a 4 year degree (although some people take 5, especially if they switch majors). A masters degree is usually completed in 2 years.
    • While being a European, I have some experience with Master degrees at US universities. As I see it, in the US the MSc degree is really the beginning of a PhD path. If you do not intend to get a PhD at some point, there is no reason to bother about an MSc. In Europe, however, an MSc degree is considered more a rounding off of your academic career. A BSc means you are only half-finished.

      Any Americans out there who wish to correct me, please go ahead.



  • What path should engineers pursue for maximum future employability?"

    As an engineer who's about to turn 50, I would suggest you pursue a different career. Opportunities for engineers are dwindling. Today, most product manufacturing and design is done in countries outside the USA. If you plan on remaining in the USA, prospects for continued engineering employment are bleak.

  • When I finished up undergrad, I didn't want to spend 4-6 years of my life on a PhD, but I also wanted to take more classes in some specific topics, and those classes weren't available at the (really good) small engineering college I'd gone to. I ended up doing a 1 year M.Eng. program at a large university. This gave me the opportunity to take graduate-level courses from very good professors in the areas I was interested in, and I was exposed to a lot of topics which had only been mentioned in passing in u
  • My observance:
    If you watch TV or listen to the Radio or look at the banner ads on slashdot or websites you visit you keep hearing these advertisements for online schools like Phoenix, Devry, ITT and where they are all offering BS/BA degrees in some technical field. This slashdot article is really talking about these types of BS degrees and how there is a huge increase in the number of BA degrees being offered by these schools. All it is, basically, is a marketing tool. These institutions cater to people who
  • The problem you have to worry about is, of course, HR (come the Revolution, don't line them up and shoot them, just lay them down and pave the roads with them). Worry about the phrase, "overqualified".

    Related to this was someone's post concerning the falling number of programmers, and the H1B visa (instead of higher salaries). I'm not sure it was higher salaries that were needed. Instead, corporate (I almost wrote coprophite, which they are) wanted to cut our salaries. Further, if you're out of the country,
  • You see, the same amount of education that you used to get with your HS diploma is now only completed when you have a bachelor's degree. The education that you used to be able to claim with a BS or BA is now only there if you've completed a Master's degree. The whole "no child left behind" theory that our goverment is currently espousing completely neglects the fact that some children ought to be left behind. If you simply cannot do the work, you *should* fail the class. If that means failing the grade

Heisenberg may have been here.

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