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The responses I'm reading rather evenly fall on both sides for the same reasons!
* Get your Masters you will:
* be hired more readily - companies look for people with degrees.
* be paid more when you are hired for a net $ win
* Don't get your Masters, get a job you will:
* be hired more readily - companies assume people with Masters want to be paid more and screen them out.
* make 2 years of income which will more than offset the cost of grad school plus any increase in pay you might get
This isn't terribly surprising - any one person on
The conclusion you should draw from this is:
* when you go to work, either way apply to lots of companies! Some might screen you out because you have a Masters or because you don't!
* salary probably has a lot more to do with your negotation skills, location, job market etc.
I have some other things for you to consider, given how open you left the question: "which is better?"
Obviously your professors think you should stay in school. After all - they all did, didn't they? It worked out for them. And they might have some non-obvious stake in you sticking around too.
Well, what do you mean by better? This is a pretty personal decision. Perhaps "make more money (immediately or in total)" isn't your deciding factor.
How much do you like your field? Many responses seemed to assume that you wanted to get a career as a sysadmin/network admin, which wouldn't match your degree (not that it matches any degrees really). Do you want to get a fair bit more depth in a more narrow subject area in your field of study? If you are unsure about your field, you should probably get out and work!
Consider that once you are working full time, it will be a LOT harder to go back to school even part time, even if you work for a company that pays for all of it. This will get even harder if you get married or have kids.
Maybe you are already in a serious relationship or have kids? That should drive you pretty solidly towards "get a job."
How much do you care about -where- you work? Do you want to work for a specific company or range of companies? Maybe do a straw poll of the company or companies you are interested in, and see if THEY prefer an advanced degree. In computer engineering you might want to go work for HP, Intel, AMD or IBM - in which case a PhD might not be out of the question. And you might even get paid accordingly.
How much did you pay for your undergrad? If you got a fancy degree from Caltech or MIT at $50k/yr you are going to have a hard time "upping" that with a Masters. On the other hand if you went to a "low end" school (this is by your field mind you! An affordable state school could have an excellent rep for your field) AND you have excellent grades it might be wise to try for an MIT Masters to top it off.
What is your funding situation? Would you be paying your way (or would someone else pay it for you?) or would you need to be a TA/RA? Obviously if you've got someone lined up to pay it for you that weighs pretty heavily in the "yes do it" side!
Interested in starting your own business? How does the degree factor into that? Timing - would a 2 year delay help or hurt? Funding - would the money you spend on your degree impact your ability to start the business? Or are you one of "those" people who find grad school the perfect environment in which to start a startup?
Some mentioned teaching - but I didn't see much mention of mention teaching college. I'm guessing since you didn't mention it that teaching high school is not under consideration or you'd be looking at the well-covered Education degree. Teaching college doesn't necessarily mean full time. Increasingly colleges are hiring adjunct faculty and it can be one way to supplement income. Generally a Masters is required (but a Doctorate may not be). I tried this out and can't personally recommend it, but I suspect it depends a great deal on the situation.
Does money really matter to you? Get more accurate data than a straw poll of
Is there a specific Masters program you are interested in? Faculty you want to work with or be your advisor? Some specific locality perhaps (2 years in Hawaii doesn't sound all bad when you've spent the last 4 in Michigan)?
In summary - do a fair bit more research outside of this
Speaking as someone who has plenty of work experience, in a field (sysadmin) where a Masters (CS) would be useless, I still wouldn't mind getting my Masters part time if I worked for a company that paid for it. And I wouldn't have regretted it if I'd chosen to stay in school and still ended up a sysadmin where it made no difference. I like my field a lot and I'm always interested in it - I just happen to like -working- in a different one. In which I'm also interested and if somewhere offered a "Masters in Sysadmin" I'd consider it.
But that is obviously highly personal to me and with no consideration for the $ value.
There are still LOADS of gaps like this anywhere from tiny utility software up to enterprise level stuff. Pick one. Whatever one bugs you the most. Write some really good software. Open source it and sell support. Or don't.. whatever. Just write good software.
So you need some deadlines to keep you going? Not uncommon. Have someone do it for you (isn't that what you would do by contracting?). Either get yourself a partner (preferably someone who is keen on handling all the _other_ parts of creating and running a company in exchange for the possible rewards) who is also a good deadline-setter and will not let you slack. Or hire yourself a business coach if you do want to try your hand at the other aspects of running a company and just want someone to egg you on.
Read Paul Graham's essays for encouragement and why starting your own software company is (still) a good idea. http://www.paulgraham.com/
Oh yeah - ALSO find yourself another engaging hobby or two. They must involve at least the following:
Social interaction. Yes you need this. You cannot work in front of a computer at work and do programming all day and then come home and do it all night. Your boss made that rule for a _reason_ . In order for your creative programming side to flow the rest of your mind must be fed. If you just program all day every day for primary job and then your side job your productivity will drop like a rock. This should ideally involve more than one person - a significant other will severely cut into the time you can spend on the stuff you need (socializing with more than 1 person and getting outdoors (see below)). It is a trade off.
Get out. Out of the house. Out of buildings. Gardening maybe. Or hiking. Bicycling. Whatever appeals really. This is important for all the same reasons that social interaction is. It will tend to give your mind a break from thinking too heavily and the opportunity for creative thoughts to bubble up. It will also keep your body healthier. Not Olympic gymnast healthier. Heck - gardening will leave you a fat slob (if you are, and want to remain so), but it will bring your health up a slight notch nevertheless. If you want to be time-efficient, find a hobby that combines social activity plus getting out - this would possibly allow the space to date. But I do feel that doing something relatively mindless (BUT NOT IN FRONT OF A SCREEN - no video games and no TV. They are not mindless enough) is also fairly important even if it is only for a short amount of time..but regularly. At least once per week. Heck - just sit outside in a lawn chair in the sun and make chain mail. No thought involved, but you get fresh air and sun.
Remember, the hobby must be engaging enough that you will continue to do it in spite of the pull to spend all of your time in front of the computer. Try out a few and see which one sticks with you for a while. Plop a reminder in your calendar a few months down the line to start the programming part (ie: don't get so sucked into the hobby that it cuts off your original plans). Plop a reminder in your calendar a few months down the line to re-examine your hobby(ies).
Yes, this will severely cut back on the total amount of time that you spend in front of the computer programming. In fact, you might get only a tiny bit of code done per week (best done in extended-concentration burst I know - maybe one weeknight and 6-8 straight hours on one weekend day). But it will be much higher quality and you will get a LOT more done during that time.
If you are concerned about the time issues and you happen to watch TV cut it out. Watching TV fulfills neither of the requirements for a healthy body and mind needed for programming. If you must watch TV, get yourself a TIVO and use it to ensure that you only watch the good stuff and you don't just plop down in front of the TV to "watch what's on." And also make some rules about the TIVO for yourself ie: once a recorded program reaches its time limit let it expire off. For every new program you add to your favorites, you will take one off. Etc.
If you like video games - figure out some way to cut back. Maybe an old-fashioned timer - set it in the next room for 30-60 minutes. When it goes off you quit your game and then go into the next room and shut it off. And then you do something that doesn't involve sitting down.