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Master's Thesis OR Comprehensive Exam?

  1. Sep 30, 2013 #1
    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.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 1, 2013 #2


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    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.
  4. Oct 1, 2013 #3


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    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.
  5. Oct 1, 2013 #4
    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.
  6. Oct 1, 2013 #5
    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...
  7. Oct 2, 2013 #6
    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.
  8. Oct 2, 2013 #7
    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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