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Masters After Undergrad vs. Part-Time While Working

  1. Jun 15, 2009 #1

    In the opinions of the members of this forum, which is more beneficial in the long-run: Pursuing a masters degree (MSEE) directly after undergrad or working for a company with tuition reimbursement for about 6 months and doing it part time. I figure that the 30 credit hours needed for the degree would take about 1.5-2 years right after undergrad or 3-4 years part-time/online (6 months to get used to the company, 1 class a semester, including summers).

    On one side, doing it right after undergrad gets it done quicker, allows you to stay in "school mode," and gives a higher starting salary (which equals a higher 3-5% raise when they are given). On the other hand, doing it part-time allows you to see exactly what you like and get a degree plus 3-4 years of experience. However, it can be hard because you are used to not being in school and already work 40 hours+ a week. Plus, you never know what you may be doing in life then (family perhaps, etc.). I realize there are many advantages and disadvantages to each approach and I was wondering everyone's opinion on the matter. To add to this, I am an EE major in power and will have 12 months of co-op experience upon graduation.

    Thank You
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 15, 2009 #2


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    Both are completely reasonable options. I did my MSEE full-time immediately after my BSEE and I'm glad that I got it out of the way while I was still in "school mode," but it wouldn't have been any major hardship to do one course at a time while working full time; I have several colleagues who are doing exactly that right now. They do become very busy during final exam/project week, but no worse so than when we have a deadline crunch. (It would be bad to have final exams AND a deadline crunch at the same time, though!)

    There are a couple of practical considerations that you should take into account: (1) if you have to physically travel to the university for your classes, how far away is it, and in what kind of traffic; and maybe more importantly (2) what kind of commitment will the company require in return, i.e., will you be required to either stay at the company for N years after finishing the master's or reimburse them for the cost if you leave? This is not uncommon. Depending on your intended career path, you may or may not want to sign up for that kind of commitment, as there is generally a benefit in terms of salary advancement and breadth of experience that comes with not "stagnating" too long at one company. (This also depends heavily on WHICH company it is.)

    Of course there's also the financial part of the equation: how much will it cost you to get the MS on your own, including tuition (if any) and opportunity cost of not starting work sooner. I did mine partly on a teaching assistantship so the direct cost was low (plus I got a small salary), but I didn't have the engineer salary during that time, and I also graduated into a worse job climate (early 1990s) than when I finished my BS.
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2009
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