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Old 09-21-2009, 11:28 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by IndependentlyPoor View Post
If all you want to do is make more money, I think there are easier ways to do it than getting an MS. You know the drill, polish up your resume, work on your networking, be willing to move, yada, yada, yada.
You forgot the number one method of getting promotions, money, time off, or other goodies at work: SCHMOOZING. It's despicable, revolting, and personally I just wasn't ever any good at it. But IMO that works better than anything if you decide you want to stay in your present organization. Unfortunate but true.

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Old 09-21-2009, 11:45 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by SoftwareDeveloperII View Post
Well it's contingent upon my immediate supervisor's approval. I'm almost certain that my immediate mgr has his position from his experience (10 or so yrs) in this same "department" if you will. I don't think the Master's was a prereq. Why he decided to get it? I haven't asked.
What I meant your boss supportive of you advancing yourself through education? Some bosses can be funny about this feel threatened if they are the current top dog.
Some are just fine and will actively mentor a newer person. It all depends on the personality.
Don't get sidetracked however you gauge your boss's attitude, but be senstitive that some middle age supervisors like their younger people right where they are, w*rking for them. Others will clap you on the back and make your way to a degree as easy as possible.
I've had both types.

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Old 09-21-2009, 12:47 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by Want2retire View Post
I have to agree. My MBA has done little in opening doors into higher level management here. I do work for the feds tho, GS12 level. Lots of old timers have high school degrees only, and have "put in their time" to get promoted.

I did the MBA because I was out of school for about 20 years and wanted to get some brain exercise. Employer paid for 80% of it (would have paid for all, but I left!).

So, take the classes if you can and want to do it. If not you may find schmoozing to be as effective (or more so) in increasing your salary.
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Old 09-21-2009, 12:54 PM   #24
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I'm a software engineer, who is also a college drop-out. There are times when I wish I had the lambskin, because it would make things easier when looking for a new job. Given my history, I may be biased, but I wouldn't persue an advanced degree unless you're looking to move into management, or do very specialized technical work. After my first job, every job I've moved to has been because of contacts. I'm not a schmoozer, at all; in each case somebody I worked with liked me and my work enough to either recommend me, or directly hire me.

Working on your people skills may be the single best thing you can do to enhance your earnings potential. Even in technical fields, it's usually not about who produces the best work, but who produces good work while also being good to work with. I've worked with a number of brilliant people who were fired or laid off not because of their output, but because they were painful (or just unpleasant) to interact with.

Beyond that, if you have time to devote to advancing your career, and are willing to devote nights and weekends to it, I'd suggest that you look for additional after-hours projects within your own company. You mentioned that there are senior programmers there who are getting more interesting projects. Perhaps you can approach one of them who you like and respect, and ask them outright to be your mentor. You could assist them with their projects, and have an opportunity to pick their brain at the same time.

Finally, as some have pointed out: life changes as we get older, and free time is a commodity that should not be wasted. If I'd known then what I know now, I'd have used my personal time better when I was in my twenties. I have 2 small kids now, and free time is in short supply.

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Old 09-21-2009, 01:29 PM   #25
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It depends! That is the answer to most questions on here. Generally, I recommend a masters in a different area than your major. If you have a computer science major, do an MBA. If you are a business type try for a Master of Science. Of course if your goal is to be a professor of Geology, it would be better to go up the science track.

However, most folks in the working world make more money by going the management route. The computer field is ripe with guys that are great programmers and lousy managers. Business is beginning to catch on that just because you can program or sell does not mean you know jack about managing people. When they find someone with techinal skills and an MBA you are on the road to higher pay.
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Old 09-21-2009, 01:33 PM   #26
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Although I would think a masters on your resume would be like the granite-countertops called out in a real estate ad (putting you ahead of the pack), I can also see that you might be perceived as being overqualified for some positions with it, too. So that's something else to consider, I guess.
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Old 09-21-2009, 01:50 PM   #27
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Lots of good posts from both sides...

As you are a software engineer... (and I work for a small software company)... an MBA would mean nothing to us... well, I will take that back a bit.. I have heard the boss say 'nobody back there knows anything about business'.... so it MIGHT mean something if you are able to change other people's views on what should be in a program and what is just fluff that some software jockey thinks is 'cool'...

I did get mine while working... but I also took 6 years to get mine... most places will not allow you that long. You get it in 5 or your courses start to fall off and you have to take them again. It is a commitment of time and energy you might not want to do.. I did mine because I needed continuing education for my CPA... so got a MBA in the process...

As for me, an MBA has not meant any extra $$$s... every place I have been, they have looked at what I can do and not my 'letters'... my current job was more interested in my CPA... but having it on your resume can make a difference when looking for a job...

Good luck in your decision...
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Old 09-21-2009, 03:10 PM   #28
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I'll also say that I haven't seen it as useful to anyone I know in the tech industry, either in my dept (IT), or my hubby's as a Software Engineer.

I think you'd be much better off using your free time to work on some extra projects on your own. Work on another programming language, build some iphone apps, or even see about doing some small consulting projects on the side. Check to see what your current company's policies are for IP though. You won't be able to say that you have X years in experience with something, but if you can show an app that you've created that is of significant difficulty, it'll be just as impressive.

Of course, most of these suggestions depend on what your plans are for the future. Do you want to stay with the company you're at? Are you willing to move and/or travel for a new position? If you're willing and able to move between companies, the more technologies you are familiar with and can work with, the better your resume is going to look, and the easier it is to find a position. If you're planning on staying with your company, you'll need to look more at what skills you need there and what it takes to move up there.
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Old 09-21-2009, 03:50 PM   #29
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Originally Posted by Bestwifeever View Post
Although I would think a masters on your resume would be like the granite-countertops called out in a real estate ad (putting you ahead of the pack), I can also see that you might be perceived as being overqualified for some positions with it, too. So that's something else to consider, I guess.
I'd be particularly concerned about that in this economy. I think the reality is that unless someone has a goal to obtain a research or academic position, a four-year degree and solid real world experience is all most employers want in a software development position. And the experience in the right technologies is far, far more important than the advanced piece of paper.
"Hey, for every ten dollars, that's another hour that I have to be in the work place. That's an hour of my life. And my life is a very finite thing. I have only 'x' number of hours left before I'm dead. So how do I want to use these hours of my life? Do I want to use them just spending it on more crap and more stuff, or do I want to start getting a handle on it and using my life more intelligently?" -- Joe Dominguez (1938 - 1997)

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Old 09-21-2009, 04:21 PM   #30
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Found this link also. It's very relevant.
The Joel on Software Discussion Group - Is an MSCIS degree worth it?

What I meant your boss supportive of you advancing yourself through education?
When I mentioned that a master's was an aspiration of mine, he mentioned that our megacorp reimburses for that, so I took that as an OK.

look for additional after-hours projects within your own company.
Asking for more projects sounds good. My only fear is that my boss may decide to throw busy work at me.
You know the drill, polish up your resume, work on your networking, be willing to move, yada, yada, yada.
I almost would. A few things make me want to stay with my megacorp, if not just the northern VA area itself. 1) have the opportunity to buy a house for relatively cheap, near an area that brings in 2) many jobs, which are mostly a product of government spending. 3) Megacrop has good benefits. 50% matching 401k, education reimbursment, employee stock purchase, and security clearance.
Still, it's a large megacorp, so it's possible to move around within it. There are also plenty of other positions in northern VA/DC.

I wouldn't commit my free time to a degree program unless your lack of knowledge (not lack of degree) is preventing you having the career you want to have.
That's a big reason. I know I'd benefit from the guided instruction to get that knowledge. If even some of the knowledge gained from required experience can come from the knowledge from a curriculum, it will probably help.

It's helpful to know that the value of a Master's degree on paper is usually not much. There are graduate certificates offered nearby that directly target the skills I want. If I'm going to learn something, then may as well get credit on paper for it, the certificate. I'd think a list of those will look more descriptive on a resume that a generic Master's in CIS/MIS/CS/CSIS/MS CS/CE.
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Old 09-21-2009, 09:15 PM   #31
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Originally Posted by SoftwareDeveloperII View Post
Asking for more projects sounds good. My only fear is that my boss may decide to throw busy work at me.
Don't ask - come up with projects to recc to your boss. Think of a project that would be good for the company, interesting to you, and might help you develop skills in a new area (or get sharper at something you already know).

Most bosses would be impressed that you took the initiative to suggest a project, rather than saying "got anything else for me to do, boss?", which is actually creating more work for your boss.

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Old 09-21-2009, 09:38 PM   #32
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OP, as I remember from another thread, you said you weren't very interested in moving up into management. If that's truly the case, I certainly wouldn't waste too much time on getting a MSCS, or even more an MBA. Those might help you if you want to get up in the VP arena. I worked nearly 30 years in IT, and I stayed in the technical path the whole time. IMO, certifications are much more worthwhile, assuming you get opportunities to use the knowledge. I had a number of useful certs, but I also got a few where I never used the info. I tended to leave those off my resume.

Having said that, I also think you might be on the wrong side of the experience curve to be deciding what you'll be up to in 5 years or so. I know an awful lot of people who didn't intend to become managers, but did anyway. A couple of them were even good at it.

I would also recommend reading The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich (9780307353139): Timothy Ferriss: Books. I don't really buy his overall strategy, but there are some things in there that it took me my whole career to learn, and they could help you in not burning out, as well as in placing yourself in a position to shine in your organization. The suggestions on avoiding the meaningless meetings are worth the price of the book, and there are good ideas for managing email and phone calls too.

Good luck.
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Old 09-21-2009, 11:17 PM   #33
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Originally Posted by Bestwifeever View Post
For some reason I thought OP was talking about continuing to work full time and also taking courses toward the masters, paid for by the employer after the courses are completed? Not taking a couple years off from his job. If that is the case, would that not make him more appealing to prospective employers down the road--to have the uninterrupted work experience plus showing the initiative to work toward a masters at the same time?
True, getting the degree while working minimizes the lost experience that would come with taking time off work to get the degree. However, I still think the time spent on the degree is much better invested elsewhere. Let's say that a masters degree would take XXXX hrs of your time above and beyond work. In my mind, there's so many better ways to use that time.

For me, I'd vote personal development first - always wanted to learn to play guitar? speak another language? rebuild an engine? You won't believe how little time you have once you settle down with family - that XXXX hrs of personal time will be worth so much more when you're 40.

But focusing on career development - the biggest problem I see with developers is that they're too focused on the code. I blame schools for instilling this almost religious treatment of technology and almost no focus on the business of creating solutions. Becoming a more well-rounded team member means you'll have a huge advantage over your peers.

1) Learn your business/industry - whatever industry you happen to be in, spend the time to learn how it works, and get to a point where you can talk shop with your users and your customers. PMs generally spend most of their time trying to figure out how to make business users happy - if you can communicate effectively with them, they'll love you, and so will your PM. As a bonus, if you stay in your industry when looking for another job, your knowledge of the industry will be a tremendous advantage.

2) Learn how to communicate - there's lots of options - public speaking, technical writing, meeting facilitation, presentation skills, etc. Generally be someone that can communicate well, don't be the guy that the PM locks up in the back office - be the guy that the PM would be comfortable interacting with anyone and everyone.

3) Learn how to estimate properly - nothing more frustrating for a PM or Business than a techie that estimates everything at "more than two days and less than two months". Learn how to estimate work and help the project manager. Do a proper work breakdown into logical units, estimate tasks using reasonable historical data, document your assumptions. Basically, make it easier for the PM to understand how you're approaching a problem. That's his problem? Maybe, but he'll like working with you 100x more than the guy who claims things get done when they get done.

4) Learn how to do light graphical and user experience work - appearances are everything to most non-technical folks, and like it or not, your work is going to be judged by how it looks more than just about anything else. Most projects don't have access (or enough access) to folks that can do a proper visual treatment. Learn enough image editing and authoring skills to create decent looking user interfaces and documents. Learn enough usability and interaction design skills to create efficient screen layouts. You'll be amazed how much more people love your work when it looks nice and flows well

5) Learn how to do proper testing - take classes in QA and Testing. Learn the testing tools your QA folks use. Your code will be more robust and you won't be the guy that gets blamed next time there's downtime due to an emergency patch.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Yes, you have to be a good developer first and foremost, but realistically, no one is going to judge you on how elegant your code is - at least, for the folks that matter, they'll judge your value on how you contribute to the overall development process. Each of the items above will help elevate your status in the eye of your boss (PM), and his boss (realistically the Business)

Sure you could be like the vast majority of the developers out there that stick their head in the sand on anything unrelated to technology - there was a time (.com bubble) when technology was king, but now, technology is just another commodity - the more generic your skills, the more likely you'll be outsourced or downsized.

Instead, be the standout - sooner or later you'll be the go-to guy/gal that the business can't do without. Even if you don't go into mgmt, you'll find you get a lot more input into what projects you get assigned to, and what parts of those projects you get to work on. You might even make some more money

OP - hopefully you don't think I'm implying by the above that you're lacking in the skills listed. I don't know anything about you other than that you want to make more money, don't want to go into mgmt, and like software development! Lots of generalizations on my part, but hopefully you get the gist of it, which is that, even if you don't stop work for a masters, I think your time is much better spent developing useful skills vs. collecting degrees.
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Old 09-28-2009, 03:41 PM   #34
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Originally Posted by Want2retire View Post
Personally I think it is preferable for the decision of whether or not to get a graduate degree to be driven by personal desire/need to learn, not by salary potential. Depending on the degree, often you cannot depend on a substantial increase in salary and sometimes the result is no increase at all. However, completing a decent graduate degree is a substantial commitment of time so it helps to have a solid non-monetary reason to be doing this.
I agree.

I have a graduate degree from a 'name' international university. It took me a year out of the work force, required a lot of (unpaid) effort, and cost quite a bit of money (especially living abroad). It looks impressive on the cv, but because it does not demonstrably add to my work skills I received no salary benefit when I returned to work: so the net financial effect was an actual loss. For all that, it was a great experience and I don't regret it for one minute ... because I was really interested in the subject matter. If I had just wanted to get my 'ticket punched', I would have a very different perspective.
"To know what you prefer, instead of humbly saying Amen to what the world tells you you ought to prefer, is to have kept your soul alive". Robert Louis Stevenson, An Inland Voyage (1878)
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Old 09-28-2009, 05:00 PM   #35
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I'd say use the reimbursement program your company offers, and get an MBA. I don't think a master's in CS would raise your salary one bit, but many senior managers where I work (I work in the computing industry in Silicon Valley) have MBA's and I get the feeling MBA's are becoming more of a norm for the upper management here. I don't know if that's the kind of career path you want to get into (maybe you want to stay more technical), but definitely more money potential.
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Old 10-16-2009, 06:56 AM   #36
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I thought I'd throw my two cents in on the general idea of advanced degrees. About 10 years ago, I attended a seminar held at an engineering college on the subject of grad school vs getting a job after finishing an undergraduate education. The message was that getting an advanced degree, in general, does not get you more money, but buys you "freedom of thought". Of course this assumes that by continuing school you are giving up some early years of wages that can never be made back up by a higher starting salary...which clearly doesn't apply to someone working and doing grad school.

However, I think that in general those with advanced degrees have more opportunity to pick their projects and/or make decisions on the direction of those projects....thus the "freedom of thought". So who knows if you'd get more money with an advanced degree? But you might find more enjoyment in your work.
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Old 10-19-2009, 07:19 AM   #37
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I started taking masters classes (at megacorps expense) ... then the time commitment conflicted with my path to FIRE (rental property). My boss said to dump the rentals .... so I dumped the masters program and bought MORE rentals.

I still be grinding away in the salt mine if I had my masters.

The advanced degree is a great resume enhancer. If you're staying put, you don't need it to advance. When I left megacorp I had people reporting to me with higher degrees (one doctorate, one masters). But was promoted over both because of relationships I had within the company and with customers.
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Old 10-19-2009, 08:18 AM   #38
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My net worth might have been 50% higher if I hadn't gone part time to get my masters degree (engineering). I missed out on a very lucrative second stock option grant. But then again, if I hadn't gone back to school part time, would I have stayed at the company long enough for all my options to vest? I might have gotten too burned out. It's really hard to make a call on that one.

Did it help my subsequent career? Maybe if I had gone to work for another company. Some of the things I learned definitely helped, as I had a wider background to draw on.

But overall, my general feeling was that it probably wasn't worth it in the long run - especially as I stayed with the same company, and I think the career opportunities would have been just as good without.

My motivation for the advanced degree was really personal. I just wanted that next level of education. I also came from a family that held advanced degrees.


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