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Is Graduate School Useful in Today's World? 369

An anonymous reader wonders: " has an entry on the Top 10 Reasons to go to Graduate School in the Modern World. Why did Slashdot readers go to graduate school and what did they get out of it?"
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Is Graduate School Useful in Today's World?

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  • a graduate degree!

    Assuming they graduated from said graduate school...
  • Lots? (Score:3, Informative)

    by ccccc ( 888353 ) on Friday July 14, 2006 @07:53PM (#15722535)
    Interesting contacts, a job closer to my interests, and higher pay. Not so bad a combination, I think.
  • by Napalm Boy ( 17015 ) on Friday July 14, 2006 @07:55PM (#15722548)
    4. You can use graduate school as a pivot to change your career.

    That was my #1 reason. I wasn't really happy doing general business consulting after my undergrad, so I quit to get a Master's degree and get myself into the entertainment industry. I moved myself across the U.S. to do so, and I've got to say I haven't regretted doing so.

    I have a year left in my program, but I'm confident that I'm going to get a job where I want. Programming video games is a little more specific than other industry changes, perhaps, but at least in this case I know that I'm getting some skills and practical experience doing things I haven't ever done before. A lot of people said to me, "Don't go back to school, just program some games yourself!" That's hard to do when you've got a full-time job and a commute, so I decided going back to school was the best thing to do in my case.

    School is expensive, but having a job that you love doing is worth any amount of money.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 14, 2006 @08:20PM (#15722656)
      I urge anyone to go to graduate school if possible. With only an undergraduate degree, you will be treated as a technician in most jobs. My Ph.D. has allowed me to largely do my own thing in 2 major corporations.
      • by grammar fascist ( 239789 ) on Saturday July 15, 2006 @12:10AM (#15723369) Homepage
        My Ph.D. has allowed me to largely do my own thing in 2 major corporations.

        That's pretty much it. If you've got a bachelor's degree in CS, you're always doing somebody else's thing.

        That's why I'm back in school, along with:

        1) Business programming (which is mostly what's available) turns your brain to mush.

        2) I want to teach.

        Free advice that's actually worth something: get as much schooling done as you can all at once. It's hard to quit your job, sell a house and a car, and move into a tiny two-bedroom apartment. (You can believe me, because I did it, and it was only supreme desperation that made it possible - along with my wife's support, which not everybody can count on.) That's pretty much what's required. Almost nobody is capable of getting a graduate degree while sticking it out in a full-time job.
        • by StarvingSE ( 875139 ) on Saturday July 15, 2006 @12:26AM (#15723438)
          Almost nobody is capable of getting a graduate degree while sticking it out in a full-time job.

          I disagree. I am a semester away from graduating with an MS in computer science, and have been working full time the entire way. Anyone can do it if they are motivated. Basically, I take out the partying, vacations, computer upgrade budget etc for 2 years, suck it up, get an advanced degree and get leaps and bounds over my fellow colleagues with only a B.S.

          The key phrase is "suck it up." You have to realize that you'll be giving up basically 2 years of fun activities to make an investment for your future career.
          • My anecdotal evidence can beat up your anecdotal evidence.

            I get my information from my graduate advisor, who has seen quite a few people try and fail. Congratulations on being one of the outliers, by the way.
          • by uop ( 929685 ) on Saturday July 15, 2006 @04:32AM (#15723952)
            "Sucking it up" by foregoing partying and vacations might do it for bachelors.
            "Family" was obviously not one of the things on your list.

            I've plenty of friends who've tried to go back to grad school while keeping their full-time job.
            Many of them gave up at some point.
            For most of the others, it took them 5 years to get the degree, and they said they did not have the time to enjoy it at all.

            The way to succeed with this seems to be to wait with working full-time, and work part-time until you complete your MS.

          • by CrazyTalk ( 662055 ) on Saturday July 15, 2006 @02:45PM (#15725267)
            I disagree as well. In two weeks, I will have completed my MBA after three years of working full time and going to school in the evenings. (ironically, I now find myself out of a job and the MBA salarys for jobs I'm interviewing for are less than what I used to make as a software developer). That said, it was an enormous comitment in both time and money - 2 3 hour classes per week from 6-9, plus "on average" 10 hours of work per class outside of the classroom per week. Couple that with group projects that require scheduling meetings on weekends and off times, and you pretty much kill any social life you might have had.
        • Almost nobody is capable of getting a graduate degree while sticking it out in a full-time job.

          I did it. So did everyone I work with who has a Masters Degree. Of course, schoolteachers have the summers off, and their own little laboratory (their classroom) in which to do all of their homework.

          I basically got the degree to get a pay increase, but there have been a lot of other good things that came out of it. I think through my classroom management more clearly and I plan my curriculum better, among

        • by NDPTAL85 ( 260093 ) on Saturday July 15, 2006 @10:56AM (#15724545)
          Think about it. You want people to spend 4 years in college, than an additional what 2 or 4 years for something thats NOT Law or Medicine? And why? Just because you can't find the job you want with an undergrad degree? Why are other people with undergrad degrees able to find good jobs then? What makes them better at it than you? I think its absolutely gonzo nutjobbish to suggest that having an undergrad degree isn't enough. There are folks out there without any degrees at all who are making it so anyone with an undergrad ought to be able to do just about anything they want. Getting a graduate degree should be something you do because you want to not because you feel you have to. Personally I would be damn near suicidal if I knew I went to school until I was 25-28 just to become a slightly higher paid WORKER. All that time in school post college (or post high school) could have been spent founding and building your own company.

          Also what if the gamble fails. What if grad school doesn't lead to a better career. How are you supposed to shoulder the costs of college + grad school loans then? Bankruptcy laws were recently changed to forbid people from shedding their educational loans paybacks.
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        I have a different perspective: I decided to work, keeping in mind that I would later do grad school. My reasons:
        - - working gives you a new view on the world, so that you have a better idea of what you want to do and where you want your schooling to go
        - - working gives you an income that gives you a lot more flexibility, such as in being able to afford grad school
        - - if you just graduated, you're young. You're smart. Go for full-time work and part-time grad sc
      • I have two undergraduate degrees; IT (Software Dev.) and a Science (Computational Mathematics [Numerical Analysis to the hard arses]) [from Australia, American system may be somewhat different]. I have thought about doing more study, but have since realised that, at present, I don't need to. I think it depends on a couple of things. Firstly, just how enthusiastic you are about what you do. Employers here seem to almost rate that a little higher than post-graduate study. Secondly, a couple of interviews
  • Yes. An MBA is especially useful should you ever want to run for President of the United States. Also, if you want to avoid the draft and run for VP, graduate school might be for you!
  • by samuel4242 ( 630369 ) on Friday July 14, 2006 @07:56PM (#15722557)
    I wore scruffy clothes and thought mind blowing thoughts. I ended up with some great stories and nothing of any value for my resume. This happened to 90% of the folks who entered with me. All of us had to go reinvent themselves and take jobs that they could have gotten without a PhD. All of us work alongside people with bachelor's degrees and one even works for a man who dropped out of his undergraduate college to study calligraphy. Unless you have a real desire to study one particular subject, I think you should run as fast as you can away from graduate school. It's great fun if you're already sure of what you want to study. But if you're going to tread water, do it in an office where they pay you a real salary. The universities are filled with professors who make $200k/year, presidents who make $1m and grad students who make $10k. Plus, it's a terrible ponzi scheme. Remember that the professors need warm bodies to do the work that brings in the grants. They don't get paid until you get there. But once you graduate, you become competition. So they want you to check in and never leave to be a success.
    • by edremy ( 36408 ) on Friday July 14, 2006 @08:22PM (#15722663) Journal
      If you really think the majority of professors make $200k, you're nuts. At the school where I work, incoming assistant profs make ~$40k, associate profs with tenure about $55k and the full professors clear about $90k. The president makes about $165k. This is for a liberal arts college, but even research one schools such as where I went to grad school the full profs get $120-130k. Not that many presidents clear a million, and these are folks who could get 10x that in the private sector. The profs at research 1 schools can supplement that with grant funding or consulting (if they are in some decent field like science, engineering or law), but that cash goes primarily to a few big names: most of the folks starting out are almost broke.

      Don't even get me started on adjuncts: I'm a summer adjunct for the local community college teaching chemistry. I make $611/credit hour: the 4.5 credit hour chemistry course with lab will net me $2750 before tax, which works out to about $25/hour of my time. I only do it because I like to teach.

      *Nobody* goes into academia for the money

      • I disagree with both the parent and the response. First, I don't care what graduate school you go to, 90% of the people don't drop out. If you were looking at graduate schools, and you saw a 90% attrition rate, would you ever consider attending? No, not at all. The parent post is right in that professors do need warm bodies to do their bidding, and they will try to keep you under their thumbs for as long as possible. However, it serves their best interests to let you graduate, or else no prospective gr
        • by edremy ( 36408 ) on Friday July 14, 2006 @09:45PM (#15722942) Journal
          However, in any field that involves the discovery of new things/processes (biology, chemistry, physics), income from patents are going to match or exceed income for even the mediocre professors.

          Again, not really true in more cases than you would think. I have a PhD in chemistry. My grad school advisor is one of the giants in his field. Brilliant dude, tons of awards, member of the National Academy of Sciences, etc. Full professor at Stanford. He should be making a mint, right?

          Well, no. He's a theorist. To the best of my knowledge he doesn't hold a single patent: he certainly never applied for one in the 5 years I worked for him. Many professors tap grants, but theorists don't get big grants for the most part. He's certainly not hurting for cash but he's not exactly buying yachts either.

          For folks in marketable fields, yes, you can get some patents. But many university scientists don't really work in areas like that. Most of my friends worked for a guy who did ultrafast laser spectroscopy. Another really really smart dude, but again, no patents that I know of. He didn't do any outside consulting or own a company either.

          On the flip side, a few folks I knew worked for Dick Zare. Now Zare is the guy you're talking about. Or others who worked for Barry Trost. (Google the names if you're curious) Trost made a mint consulting for all the big drug companies: my Dad ended up working with him a few times while he was a Merck. Then again, only a few folks are good enough to get these kinds of gigs, and Trost is awesome.

        • "income from patents are going to match or exceed income for even the mediocre professors"

          Yes, but the patents are usually held by the university, not the professor.
      • by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Friday July 14, 2006 @09:17PM (#15722851)
        > If you really think the majority of professors make $200k, you're nuts. At the school where I work, incoming assistant profs make ~$40k, associate profs with tenure about $55k and the full professors clear about $90k.

        Clearly it depends on the school and the professor's field, but those numbers are way low for computer science.

        Check out the Taulbee Survey []. Scroll down to Table 34, examine the median and mean for tenure track salaries, and take note of the fact that that's a 9-month salary for someone who just put their foot on the stair.
  • by FatMacDaddy ( 878246 ) on Friday July 14, 2006 @07:57PM (#15722562)
    It's going to be hard to be a physician or lawyer without going to grad school, after all. The answer is really dependent on what kind of career you are trying to persue. My ex got a medical degree from grad school and it was definitely worth it for her. My buddy at work just got a MS in web design, and while he learned a lot he hasn't been promoted or given more interesting assigments as a result. He would still probably say it was worth it, though, since it probably increases his potential salary when he goes job hunting.

    My $0.02 anyway.

    • Being a private lawyer is possible without going to law school. All you have to do is pass the state bar exam. Being a physician, on the other hand, is impossible without at least going through medical school.
      • by Ohreally_factor ( 593551 ) on Friday July 14, 2006 @09:08PM (#15722816) Journal
        I think that varies from state to state, and that it's nearly impossible to even be allowed to take the bar exam without having graduated from a law school. Some states require that the law school be American Bar Association approved/accredited or that the state itself recognizes the school as "reputable".

        This might be apocryphal, but the story I heard as to why California tightened up it's Bar Admission requirements was because too many experienced legal secretaries were passing the bar and going into practice. Not only was this increasing competition, but it was leading to a shortage of competent legal secretaries. (A competent legal secretary was essential to a thriving law practice in the old days.)

        Anyway, simply passing your state's bar exam is not a guarantee that you'll be admitted to the bar. Applying to take the exam doesn't guarantee that you'll be permitted to take the exam. They have many ways to keep you out if you haven't attended law school.
    • My buddy at work just got a MS in web design

      People can actually get an MS in web design?

      Or does "MS" in this case refer to some local school's "specialty" definition like a PhD in Wicker Furniture.
  • by joe 155 ( 937621 )
    # very late so;
    #if useless use;
    >/dev/null 2>&1

    I'm considering doing a post-graduate degree (which is what I think your talking about), I have to agree with a previous poster, for me it would just be to get the letters MA to use after my name (whilst not feeling as silly as the people who use BA but not as good as the people who get phd). I have a year free so it's no real loss and I can probably get it for free. I don't think that it would be as valuable as a years experience in
    • have to agree with a previous poster, for me it would just be to get the letters MA to use after my name (whilst not feeling as silly as the people who use BA but not as good as the people who get phd).

      If you want to feel silly, try carrying around the initials you get with a Bachelor of Science degree.

      Most people are approaching this question the wrong way, I think. There are other reasons to study a subject than looking forward to the salary your earned degree will get you. Why would anyone get a PhD

  • Yes, it helps (Score:5, Informative)

    by panaceaa ( 205396 ) on Friday July 14, 2006 @07:59PM (#15722572) Homepage Journal
    Graduate school is definitely an asset in the software engineering industry. At my company, people in positions with the most responsibility, such as software architects and managers, primarily have graduate degrees. Software architects, who are tasked with coming up with a framework under which 10-50 engineers develop within, typically have PhDs in Computer Science or Mathematics. First-level people managers typically have a masters in Computer Science, or occasionally an MBA. Second-level people managers, known as directors here and many other places, nearly always have an MBA.

    I've been doing quite well at my company with a simple bachelors in Computer Science, but it will take me much longer to become an architect without a graduate degree in CS. It would also be very difficult to obtain director status without an MBA. I'm not saying it's impossible for me to obtain these roles, but having an advanced degree gives one substantial credibility, even if it is undeserved.
    • Re:Yes, it helps (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Telvin_3d ( 855514 ) on Friday July 14, 2006 @08:51PM (#15722769)
      I think Credability is the key word here. Right or wrong, that piece of paper does confer some level of credability. Without it, you are jsut some guy with ideas. They may be right, they may be wrong, it doesn't matter because for people who don't know you there is little credibility to back that up. With the piece of paper, you still might be wrong, but it is easier to convince people that your ideas are worth looking into to start with.
  • . . . OTOH, been told that if I wanted to move into manglement, I needed a Masters. . . So I start next month, MIS program with InfoSec concentration.

    Frankly, it's stamping a block on a form, but if you want to advance, well, a Grad degree is the defacto union card. . .

  • Comment removed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by account_deleted ( 4530225 ) on Friday July 14, 2006 @08:04PM (#15722598)
    Comment removed based on user account deletion
    • > How many really require a graduate degree? Not that I said "to do," not "to get." The B.A. is slowly supplanting the Diploma as the "price of entry" into the workforce, and the M.A. is becoming the new B.A

      I've worked at a place where there was an obvious glass ceiling separating the degree holders from the non-degree-holders. The field of the degree didn't matter. Even though it was an IT department, a BA in art history was sufficient to put you above the ceiling.
    • This particular die-hard capitalist, along with several others, have as much disdain for the regard in which graduate/postgraduate degrees are held as you do.
    • Re:Mixed Bag (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Zaphod2016 ( 971897 ) on Saturday July 15, 2006 @02:43AM (#15723772) Homepage
      You raise a great point. Let me use myself as a real-world example.

      I dropped out of H.S. and got a job at age 16. It was 1996, and the job market was very forgiving. I was able to enter a major corporation and slide up a few rungs before anyone even noticed my lack of schoolin'. I had virtually no debt, and thus, every paycheck was putting me further and further into the black.

      Cue 2002: suddenly I was under-educated for my own job, and so, went $30,000 in debt to afford a college education. However, I really wanted to make something of myself so I lived plunged in with both feet. I started a small retail company to pay the bills, and was able to get my 4-years done in about 3.

      Now in 2006 I have been out of school for a bit more than a year, and most job offers I see are for LESS than my 1998, HS dropout pay. The irony is, I learned far more running my own buisness than I did in school. As a result, I'm in no hurry to return to my cube. Of course, I might prefer the stability of a "real job", but not at these current wages being offered.

      I'm not "unwilling" to work, I'm unwilling to work for less than I am worth. And I am no hater of capatalism; thanks to the glory of capatalism I made more money day-trading yesterday than I did freelancing.
  • by bugi ( 8479 )
    Somebody has to do basic research. Somebody has to teach the next generation. Both of these require advanced studies, of which graduate school is the standard means. If you're smart enough and dedicated enough and masochistic enough to hack a PhD, go for it.

    With a masters degree on the other hand you will have specialized somewhat and be ready for independent work in your field, whereas with a bachelors you will be well prepared for entry level work.

    Another reason is that with the economy perpetually on
    • Another reason is that with the economy perpetually on the verge of collapse, your investment in a masters degree will stand you in good stead when competing for nearly any job.

      Having a master's degree will likely put you at a disadvantage for most jobs, as companies will see you as a person who feels entitled to more salary. If they can hire Joe Schmoe with just a BA (or BS) degree to do the job at $15k/year less, what makes you think that having an MA (or MS) will stand you in good stead?

  • by ziggyboy ( 232080 ) on Friday July 14, 2006 @08:12PM (#15722631)

    I would have to go for #7 and #8 in the list:

    7. You can get involved in projects that have absolutely no impact on the real world. You can work on things simply because they're interesting and fun. You often get paid to do this.
    8. You can do things that you missed out on in your undergraduate school. It's a second chance.

    I'm a software engineer and study masters part-time during the evenings. I do this mainly to study interesting CS topics that I wasn't given the chance to do in my undergrad. Also, real-life projects sometimes don't require as much creativity. I find that in the industry your creativity would revolve around the "how" rather than the "what". For most software engineers in software houses, requirements have already been laid out for them by clients. I would like to get involved in projects that I find interesting regardless of whether the world would like to use it or not.

    I do understand that people do masters for various reasons. I would say a good 50% do them solely for career advancement and for bragging rights after they get their degree. That's not to say I won't be proud to have done graduate studies but I would say 70% of me is doing it out of interest while the rest for my career. I would have to say though that most software engineers probably don't need (technical) graduate degrees unless they'd like to eventually end up in hardcore research (in universities or for companies like IBM).

    To answer the thread question, I don't think graduate studies in a technical field like CS or engineering is very useful in a technical job if you've got a good undergrad. However if you want to branch out to other fields or get into management then something like a masters in bioinformatics or MBA would be useful.

  • Value of an MBA (Score:2, Interesting)

    by bongk ( 251028 )
    I received an undergrad in Physics and Comp Sci from a liberal arts college, so I thought I was pretty well rounded. I then went into various development, network management, and eventually IT leadership positions. I started pursuing my MBA thinking it was basically going to be busy work to prove to others that I am ready to move to the next level (a leadership position outside if IT). Some of it is busy work, but there is real value to much of the content, even though I've been a do-er and a leader in c
  • I'm there now (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Kell Bengal ( 711123 )
    I'm doing a PhD in robotics solely because when I left my undergrad degree there were no jobs for someone with my skillset and qualifications. Sure, I made the mistake of not looking for work before I actually completed, but I was driven to spend all my time studying to get that last high distinction. I'm using my post-grad as a form of on the job training in UAV design and control - the kind of work that's impossible to get as a graduate unless you've got years of experience. It's thrown me in the deep
  • In Hindu tradition [], a person's life from age 5 through 25 is supposed to be spent in the pursuit of education.

    The people who thought this up must have had some motive :)

    They did however impose celibacy on the Brahmachari. The idea's obviously not going to be popular now.

  • Being an undergraduate, I'm wondering - how does one afford to go to Graduate school and quiting their job? Do they go to Graduate School while working? how does this work?
    • Many times the department which you are working in offer some sort of assitantships - usually in the form of teaching or research that help out with tuition. Often, your whole tuition (or nearly all) is paid for by the school when you take these things up... it really depends on the school that you are going to. (UC Berkeley, I know provides a grad. student's entire tuition, at least in the Coll. of Chem. ... but other ones I'm not particularly sure of).
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Most places, at least in science and engineering, will pay most people's way. I'll be at U Wisc, and they are paying my entire tuition and giving me about $13,000 over the school year. In return I'll TA a class or two. There are also research assistantships (RAs) that pay a bit more. Most places offer better deals than that to at least their top acceptances; a friend of mine will have a stipend of about $18,000 I think.

      It's not much, but it's (barely) enough to live on I figure. Plus, at least some people g
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 14, 2006 @09:22PM (#15722868)
      Graduate Assistantships are usually your best bet for making it through graduate school. As a GA, I made around $1500/mo, which is peanuts for an engineer, but it took care of living, food, and the bills; my tuition was also paid for in full because of the position. At some of the larger, more prestigious universities, it's common to have professors with $1M+ grants that need research assistants. Granted you'll be a bitch boy for the professor, but he or she will often take care of your expenses in return, especially if you do a fair amount of work. Fellowships are also fairly easy to come by if you have a fairly decent GPA, GRE scores, and work/research experience. Applying to UCF, I was offered a $10k/year fellowship beyond a GA position.

      The Gov't also has what's called a Palace Acquire program, for civilian employees, where you work one year, then go off to school for two years, then work an additional year. During those 4 years total (or 3 if you only take 1 year to complete a masters), you are paid a steadily-increasing salary, along with free tuition up to a certain dollar amount (you couldn't expect $150k for MIT). The only catch is that if you already have one technical masters, you cannot use the program to obtain a second one or work toward a PhD. In this case, most people use that to obtain an MBA, or a similar degree, to go off into the private sector and become upper-level managers.
    • It is very rare to pay your own way through graduate school in most programs. You either teach or grade for the lower level courses or you are a research assistant for a professor. At least in the departments I have been in and the associated departments I've known people in (humanities) if you aren't a grad assistant or research assistant and are paying your own way, people kind of assume your research sucks because as a graduate student you are much closer to the faculty and they talk about you to each o
    • Being an undergraduate, I'm wondering - how does one afford to go to Graduate school and quiting their job? Do they go to Graduate School while working? how does this work?

      It's called funding. Call it the difference between immediate financial disaster and slowly bleeding to death. :-)

      I went back to school in my late 30s. It was an adjustment, going from A Real Job (tm) to being a starving student. My first post-grad-school job included a 50% raise on my last pre-grad-school job, but the real reason f

  • Graduate School (Score:3, Insightful)

    by the eric conspiracy ( 20178 ) on Friday July 14, 2006 @08:30PM (#15722698)
    I attended graduate school at Yale University. I got to learn from some truly great teachers, and have that experience to rely on for the rest of my life. I also benefit from being able to send my resume to just about any company and get an interview - I've never had a problem getting a job.

  • by Profmeister 3000 ( 926684 ) on Friday July 14, 2006 @08:31PM (#15722702)
    ...this reason for going to grad school: you love the subject!

    Especially for Piled high and Deeps, the destination is never guaranteed, so you'd better enjoy the journey.

    • What do you mean love the subject?

      The only point of education is to do a job and make money.

      You will be talking subversive commie nonsense about personal fulfilment, development and enjoyment next!

      (PS not to the less bright moderators, I am being sarcastic)
  • There are some jobs that require an advanced degree to advance. Primary and secondary teachers in many districts are given a mandatory raise when they get their masters or (very rarely) doctorat. Other jobs do not allow people to advance into higher management without such a degree. I think it really depends on what specifically you want to do. Call around, check out the Bureau of Labor Statistics [] and decide if you want to or can do it.
  • In my opinion ... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I'm about ~50% through my PhD.

    In my field -- I research VLSI CAD algorithms for semiconductor development (and will be working for a major FPGA manufacturer when I graduate) -- people simply don't get jobs without having a PhD. (Well, some people do, but they tend to be the exception, not the norm; and people without PhDs tend to get stuck working on the GUIs or writing test scripts more than new development.)

    The differences in payscale (in my field) can be quite drastic, too -- typical yearly salaries are
  • by Kunta Kinte ( 323399 ) on Friday July 14, 2006 @08:32PM (#15722709) Journal
    Grad school seems to have become the new bachelor's degree.

    There are too many accredited diploma mills out there it seems. Sad to say but it's getting harder to differentiate between candidates, so many companies are requiring further study. Is that the right thing to do? I don't know, but it they're definitely going in that direction.

    If you really want a good start in any engineering field, I'd suggest a MSc.

    • by Geoffreyerffoeg ( 729040 ) on Friday July 14, 2006 @10:00PM (#15722982)
      There are too many accredited diploma mills out there it seems.

      On the other hand, a bachelor's from, say, MIT is not going to look like a diploma mill...wouldn't that be more valuable than a master's from UPhoenix?

      (Assuming you get in. But there are a lot of places that aren't as hard as MIT that still are quite well known and won't look like any-old-bachelor's.)
      • That is definatly true, but places like those are the minority. The majority of newly trained programers and engineers will be coming from the State colleges and Universities. Just because your university doesn't have the same name recognition as MIT does not mean that you are incapable of meeting the performance requirements of a given job. Heck, I would say that MIT has made sure they the people they graduate are perceieved as being overly qualified. But is the person that graduated bottom of their cl
      • A bachelor's from anywhere may not mean anything. Hell, 20 years ago I knew a guy who graduated from Stanford, with honors, with a bachelor's in physics. I met him working at Macy's. He sold clothes in the men's department and I was working stock in electronics department (they sold Apple computers way back then). I've done VERY well for myself without finishing my bachelor's by climbing the ranks and not job hopping. I've only worked for 2 different companies in the last 20 years. A degree of any le
  • As a MA in English degree holder, the only place I'm in demand is overseas. Not that I'm complaining; working on my thesis was one of the most challenging experiences of my life, specifically with regard to people management skills (I'm proud to say that there are several people still alive today that I could have cheerfully strangled while doing thesis work). It's sort of depressing, however, that after seven years in school, even entry level positions in my desired field (publishing) are out of my reach
  • by blackcoot ( 124938 ) on Friday July 14, 2006 @08:51PM (#15722771)
    ... a graduate degree is a great thing. It opens doors to jobs which simply would be shut otherwise (e.g: DARPA now only hires Ph.D.s to be program managers) and you can expect a healthy salary premium for those jobs. That said, it takes a particular kind of personality to do well in grad school and to excel at those jobs which require graduate level degrees. If you're in it just for the money, do an MBA, because you are likely to be miserable (and, incidentally, also make the people in your classes miserable) otherwise. Expect to put in 5 to 8 hours of projects and studying in per hour of lecture if you're serious about succeeding. If you aren't comfortable working with theory and concepts at a highly abstract level, you also need to seriously reconsider your motivation for pursuing a graduate degree. If you lack the intellectual curiosity and discipline to seek answers out for yourself, you have no place in grad school. The program that I went through hit the theory hard very early on (mostly as a way of weeding out candidates, the department's philosophy was generally to let most people in and let the core classes separate the wheat from the chaff) and the projects were designed to really emphasize the interface between theory and practice.

    In summary: if you're the sort that does well in an R&D environment, then a graduate degree is going to open a lot of doors. Otherwise, you're going to want to steer clear.
    • by Quiet_Desperation ( 858215 ) on Friday July 14, 2006 @09:03PM (#15722803)

      All I do is R&D. Fortunately, I have established myself with just my measly MSEE. Some of the PhDs here even refer to me as the "honorary PhD" and come to me for questions on things. :) They have come to learn they only have to explain something to me once, and I'm the conduit through which their abstract ideas become real hardware.

      I think one needs to do the whole graduate level thing as young as possible. I got the MSEE when I was in my late 20's, and it was a drag even though my employer required less than 40 hours a week during that time. Now, at 40, I think I'd rather be captured by terrorists and have my head sawed off rather than go back to school.

  • MSEE (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Quiet_Desperation ( 858215 ) on Friday July 14, 2006 @08:57PM (#15722788)

    Got an MSEE that my employer paid for. Got a raise out of it, but little else. Most of what I use on a day to day basis is from application notes, manuals published by industry component makers like Xilinx and Cypress Semiconductor, IEEE papers and my own library of books.

    My employer offered to send me to get a PhD, but the reward to annoyance ratio was prohibitive. I think my exact response was "Ha ha ha ha ha! You're kidding, right?" I dunno... I just have no buring desire to be called "Doctor". I think it's pretentious.

    Instead I spent the time designing equipment that won me company awards, and much more respect than some piece of paper. :-)

  • A better question might be, "Is an undergraduate education useful," or "Will you learn anything useful in undergrad?"
  • by Goldsmith ( 561202 ) on Friday July 14, 2006 @09:18PM (#15722853)
    I spent a year leading the grad student government at my school and spent an insane amount of time talking with students, administrators and faculty about graduate education. From that point of view, graduate school is getting a PhD. Masters and professional students serve two purposes: fund raising and an outlet for failed/burned out Ph.D. students. If you're not paying tuition and you're getting a master's, someone somewhere thinks you'll end up getting a doctorate. The difference in research and learning between a 2 year master's and a 6 year doctorate is huge. Getting a master's degree is a continuation of your bachelor's work. Getting a PhD redefines your life. It can be good, it can be bad, but it forces you to see what you are capable of.

    If you're not exited by the chance to do research, if you wouldn't work in the best lab for (insert your favorite area of research here) for free, grad school may not be for you. Universally, if you do not love your subject, you will not finish. No matter how important or cool your research is, no one is going to care about it. Sure, at the end, someone may be interested, but you're not going to get a lot of attention even from friends and family while in the middle of the project. Your boss may not care about it. Many people drop out of grad school not because it is too hard, but because it's too long. Family emergencies, health problems, getting older, poverty and boredom are all killers in grad school. Anything that can distract you at a crucial moment can lead to someone else publishing that great paper that would have finished your dissertation.

    That's not say it's all bad. There are reasons to be here. It's a bit difficult (not quite impossible) to get into science without a PhD. Certainly, being invited to work on things like fusion and nanotechnology is better than begging for it. If what motivates you is science, technology and shaping the future, then go to graduate school. It's an opportunity to work on what you think really matters. For example, many people today think we're too dependant on oil, graduate school is one opportunity to actually do something about it. If what motivates you is money, fame, personal freedom, video games, sports, politics, or anything like that, maybe it's not for you.

    Another interesting thing about grad school is the age of the people here. At my school, the average grad student is 30 (there are 5000 of us, so that's not just a few old-timers). Either we've been in grad school forever, or we've been out to the world and discovered that it's not all we'd hoped for. Grad school is a place where you really can get out as much as you put in. Working for the right people can lead you to opportunities to do things you were told were impossible in college. It's a place where you can work on things you've only read about in science fiction. It's a place where you really can get a lot done, and you can see the frantic pace of progress first hand. It's also a place that can chew you up, spit you out, openly treat you like a second class citizen and ruin your life.
  • I skipped grad school because:

    1. My focus was comp sci and CS is not an old enough discipline to have a useful postgraduate program. Let me put that another way: Not enough is understand yet in the discipline for there to be more than four years worth of material to teach.

    2. The bubble was just kicking in to gear (late '95) and I wanted in on the ground floor. I figured if I was wrong about grad school I could always go back after riding the bubble to its end.

    Do I regret it? Absolutely not. I rode the bubbl
  • by Jerf ( 17166 ) on Friday July 14, 2006 @09:28PM (#15722888) Journal
    I went for two reasons.

    First, I read the course descriptions of the Masters program, and drooled. Most of my peers recoiled in horror. I say, go with your gut on that one. You're not going to have a chance to get that education as easily.

    The second one won't apply to you. I had to decide in 1999 whether to try to get a job or go into a post-grad program, before the pop. However, I fully expected it to occur, and I figured after two years things should have settled down. As it turns out I was wrong and it was still pretty tough going even in 2002, but I wouldn't have been any better off outside of school. At least they paid me to go.

    As for whether it will be useful outside of school, I am a firm believer that if you start from the assumption that your schooling was worthless, you will never even realize how wrong you are; you'll encounter certain hard problems, and waste time hacking out partial solutions when you could have actually solved the problem better and in less time if you used your schooling. Having a Master's level education ups the problems you can attack with confidence even further. However, if you are stuck in the "school is useless" ideation, then for goodness' sake don't waste another two years of your life in it. You need some real experience to evaluate your position better. You might end up coming to the same decision that more school isn't for you, but you'll be making that decision on a much firmer basis.
  • Line by line (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Spazmania ( 174582 ) on Friday July 14, 2006 @09:53PM (#15722966) Homepage
    1. You get to meet and work with people who are pretty clear about what they want.

    I do that now. Why do I need graduate school for this?

    2. The rest of the world suddenly takes you more seriously.

    I just negotiated and won approval for a $600k project. The people I care about already take me seriously.

    3. You can use graduate school as an ideal environment for beginning work on a startup.

    Or you can spend some time working for startups and parter on the next project with people who have experience and credentials starting a company, not just wild ideas.

    4. You can use graduate school as a pivot to change your career.

    If it took you that long to figure out you picked the wrong career.

    5. You get to pick your choice of work and your work hours.

    I do that now.

    6. You can get involved in projects that can actually impact the real world.

    You can do that in the work force and be well paid for it.

    7. You can get involved in projects that have absolutely no impact on the real world. You can work on things simply because they're interesting and fun. You often get paid to do this.

    And then you can become a professor/researcher at the school and continue to get paid piddling amounts for someone with your talents. Which might be okay if you had free choice in what you wanted to investigate, but you don't have free choice. You have to write proposals and sell your ideas to various committees and sponsors and fight your way through some vicious office politics on the way. So in the end you don't work on what you want to, but instead settle for what you can get approved.

    8. You can do things that you missed out on in your undergraduate school. It's a second chance.

    If you need a second chance. But if grad students are folks who needed a second chance to get it right, what does that say about their abilities?

    9. If you're good at what you do, you can count on being invited to travel around the world to conferences and seminars.

    If you like public speaking. Personally, I'm an introvert.

    10. You get to be the TA this time around.

    Because I always wanted to be the guy who got paid piddling amounts of money to do a lousy job of teaching students, all of whom clearly understand that I'm doing a lousy job.

    • You are so ingorant and speculative.

      You claim:
      Because I always wanted to be the guy who got paid piddling amounts of money to do a lousy job of teaching students, all of whom clearly understand that I'm doing a lousy job.

      This is beyond stupid. I get paid $32 / hour for my TA responsibilities at the grad level. How is that at all piddling? And for your information, I teach my students quite well, and find TAing to be a significant training excerise towards one day teaching my own students.
      • Re:Ignorance (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Spazmania ( 174582 )
        And I was paid roughly the same in my first job after my bachelor's degree ten years ago... Except I was paid on salary, not part time, and I got paid vacation and benefits to too. And it was ten years ago.

        As for how well you teach your students, it sounds like you're on track to become a professor. If that's your goal then you're doing the right thing and you shouldn't let me dissuade you. Teaching was not among my goals.
    • >>1. You get to meet and work with people who are pretty clear about what they want.

      >I do that now. Why do I need graduate school for this?

      A degree helps clearly advertise that you know what you want. Helps with communication with others. Something of a social contract. "Look here, I spent x years pondering this field of expertise. After doing x years of practical suff in the field."

      >>2. The rest of the world suddenly takes you more seriously.

      >I just negotiated and won approval for a $600k
    • Re:Line by line (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Somnus ( 46089 )
      A few criticisms:

      And then you can become a professor/researcher at the school and continue to get paid piddling amounts for someone with your talents. Which might be okay if you had free choice in what you wanted to investigate, but you don't have free choice. You have to write proposals and sell your ideas to various committees and sponsors and fight your way through some vicious office politics on the way. So in the end you don't work on what you want to, but instead settle for what you can get approved.


  • I went to grad school (for a PhD that I didn't finish) for a few reasons.

    The job market sucked when I finished my BS in Computer Science. Delaying my job hunt by 3 years helped that a lot.

    My undergrad track record wasn't great. I think I finished with a 3.1 GPA. Going to grad school let me reset my GPA meter and get a fresh start.

    And the number one reason I went to grad school? It's also the reason I left. I thought it was what I wanted. I thought that getting a PhD and a tenure-track teaching positio
  • We're going to get the following responses in 33% proportions:

    YES!!! I went to grad school, got a great job, and it changed my life.

    Yes...I went, but I feel that I could have gotten just as far on a BS

    NOOOOOOOO!! I already make xxxk$/year and I didn't go to grad school, it is worthless and time consuming! Based soley on my experience, because I made it without grad school, noone should go to grad school.

    I think all of these answers are possible right to a certain degree. I've found that with my pusuit of a
  • I'm working on my phd in a department related to Cultural Studies and I'm going to school because I like going to school and I want to be a professor. I can't imagine getting a phd or masters just to go do something unrelated to education. I think it would incredibly frustrating to wait up until an extra 6 years to start your real job.

    As it is, I'm kind of already doing what I'm going to do for the rest of my life: teaching, writing, grading, reading. The only difference is that my reading has been in cl
  • I went to high school, did electronics there which included quite some datacomm, computer systems, programming. I planned on working a year, then go back to school, I never went back.

    My last year of high school was so annoying, I lost all feeling for school. I learned absolutely nothing interesting except for some math nor did I learn anything new not about electronics nor computers. Then I went on one of those trips to a university where some 2nd & 3rd year students were showing of their projects. I ev
  • I'm in the middle of getting my Masters in Computational Engineering and Science ( [] )...

    My main reason for going back after my undergraduate was for the money. With the job I have higher education is a must... most of the people that work there have PhD's.... and they pay for it too... When I get back I will get a hefty (think 5 digits) raise just for getting my Masters... and if I end up getting a PhD it will go up by about the same amount again... (Not too mention they pay me while
  • There's a great resource here [] that will tell you everything you need to know!
  • All I can say is that a Master's degree has promised me the megabucks. Hell, my thesis was focused in combinatorics, which, while fascinating to me, seems virtually inapplicable to the majority of industry these days, but I got calls back left and right when I applied for positions and they didn't seem remotely put off by my technological shortcomings. Distributing 20 applications in a week yielded me five interviews, which I strongly believe is far higher than the standard. I accepted a position back home

Who goeth a-borrowing goeth a-sorrowing. -- Thomas Tusser