Is a master’s degree really worth the time and effort?
I got an MSEE right after my BSEE, and I think it opened some doors early in my career.
I think it depends as much on the company you work for as it does with what you want to do. Very very large companies sometimes value the MBA over a MSE - the trade-off is often going "management" instead of "technical expert". In a very very small company I think the MSE is more valuable.
The same question might be asked of a PE license. At least in the company I am in there seems to be no real benefit.
In my case, my master's degree has been a great benefit. I waited eight years to go back for mine and had specific goals in what I wanted to learn. The credential has benefitted me, but more importantly I was able to grow my engineering knowledge and improve my skills. If your organization supports further education and you have specific growth goals, then it is definitely a good idea.
I come from a different field, but my observation is that it makes sense to let this be driven by what you notice about opportunities. I worked happily as a chemist with a BS until I hit a certain ceiling, then went back for a PhD. The simple fact, though, is that with experience and a willingness to learn, I and others like me were just as competent as BS chemists as many with more education. If the door requires a certain key, go for it, and if not, focus on being good wherever you sit.
I think it depends on individual goals over collective pressure. Temper than with hustle, drive, and willingness to delve into problems, fix stuff and make stuff go. The results aren't as trivial as one might think.
A Master's degree might be "worth the time and effort", but only if you have a plan. Just earning a Master's degree (in anything) and then hoping that it will lead to better jobs and pay won't work. You need to analyze your interests and the industry that you want to work in. Are there jobs offered that ask for Master's degrees? If so, which flavor? Also match your career goals to the degree. An MBA works if you want to move from technology into management. But if you want to stay technical then you need a technical Master's. I know that sounds obvious, but I’ve run into too many people who thought any Master’s would suffice.
Watch out for glutted markets. In my town, a large employer offered to reimburse employees who completed an MBA through a program it set up with a respected local University. A lot of people completed the program. But there were too many of them for the employer to offer each a promotion, so many ended up with the MBA but the same job and salary. Several tried to market their new MBA to other employers, but the market was too limited. So I know several folks with MBAs that have never used them and don’t know if they ever will.
Be prudent, as you should be whenever buying something expensive. Decide first what your ideal career goal is. Then determine if a Master’s will help you get there. If it will, determine what kind of Master’s degree is necessary – as well as school costs and reputations. Then decide if you can afford the time and expense, or if you need to plan and work towards this as its own goal. Planning works out better than wishing and hoping.
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