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Master's Thesis OR Comprehensive Exam?

  • #1

Main Question or Discussion Point

Hello Forum,

I'm a first year graduate student in a Master's in electrical engineering program. I am currently taking several graduate courses in different fields so that I may make the very important decision of what to focus on in my later coursework. I would like to ask those of you with similar experience, what the benefits and drawbacks of going the thesis route versus the comprehensive exam are for a master's in EE? I am asking this question in a very general sense, as I'm sure this can vary on different circumstances. I am coming from the perspective of wanting to go straight into industry after completing my master's degree and not continuing on for a Ph.D. I am unsure of whether I will head into the semiconductor field or wireless circuit design. But in general, is there a large advantage to going the thesis route from the perspective of an employer? Or is a master's degree simply a master's degree regardless of how you got it.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
UltrafastPED
Science Advisor
Gold Member
1,912
216
The thesis is a work product which you can show to a prospective employer in your portfolio.

It would be especially useful if it matches up with the area in which you are seeking work.
 
  • #3
analogdesign
Science Advisor
1,140
354
A MS is just an MS once you're a few years out of school. The real difference is getting that first job. The thesis is work product as UltrafastPED said. A completed thesis indicates you completed a challenging project, which is an important job skill. If you do an exam, you did well in your courses but you haven't demonstrated that you can independently complete a project. That's important.

If you have an inside track to a company or a set of companies (from connections or internships or whatever) a comprehensive exam is fine. I have several friends who went that route. If you want to impress employers and get an a fast track to be a top-level engineer, a highly relevant thesis would be a great step. That way you have something solid to talk about at an interview and you're going to be less of a risk from the hiring manager's standpoint.
 
  • #4
235
2
To some degree a MS is just an MS. But a thesis does becomes something you can present to demonstrate your knowledge in an area in addition to your actual MS. That may or may not matter, but it can't hurt.
 
  • #5
1,119
21
On the other hand, a comprehensive exam will be finished in a few hours. A master's thesis will be done when it's done...
 
  • #6
182
7
Another thing: While an MS might just be an MS after your first job, YOU might get more out of a thesis than the exam. While it's great if you can translate that into an interview and increase your chances of getting a job, even if it doesn't, the learning experience of doing a thesis can make you a better person and employee. It can expand your experience as to what types of projects you have undertaken, which could be valuable insight to have at some point.
 
  • #7
235
2
On the other hand, a comprehensive exam will be finished in a few hours. A master's thesis will be done when it's done...
That is true. I took the easy way out and didn't do a thesis but I also already had about 8 years work experience when I created my Masters. I would have preferred to do a thesis but didn't really have the time with work and other commitments.
 

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