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Should I go straight through to my doctorate or work for a while first?

TWNealTWNeal Registered User Posts: 72 Junior Member
edited October 2011 in Graduate School
I will be majoring in computer science in college. I plan to pursue graduate school immediately thereafter. Should I go straight through to my doctorate, stop at masters and get the doctorate later, or wait and get both degrees later? Please also provide an explanation as to why. Thanks in advance!
Post edited by TWNeal on

Replies to: Should I go straight through to my doctorate or work for a while first?

  • scaleupchemscaleupchem Registered User Posts: 105 Junior Member
    I say go to work if you don't know what you want to do. I worked for 4 years before I decided what area I want to focus on. Also, work allows you to see what direction to take your career in. I don't think that a MS program is necessarly the correct place to answer that question, given that it may not be free. I would rather understand what I want to do, and then go at it head first with the break lines cut.

    While on the other hand, if you know specifically know what you want to do, go to school. But even then, your interest may change. The ultimate question you should be answering yourself, is what do you want out of life and a career. Are you interested in working in industry, or academia, or possibly for a governmental organization? Do you like working on somewhat obscure/boring projects to help the company grow market share? Or do you want to work on problems that actually interest you, and become an academic? These are the questions that working a 9-5 can help you answer better than any graduate program.
  • juilletjuillet Super Moderator Posts: 11,568 Super Moderator
    Depends on you. I went straight through to a PhD program and while I don't regret it, sometimes I wish I had some work experience before hand. It helps you focus your interests a little bit more, plus you can avoid burnout and save up some money before a PhD program. You can also take this opportunity to do things you may want to do, like teach abroad, travel, etc.
  • TheDadTheDad Registered User, ! Posts: 10,224 Senior Member
    One datum (limited sample): In my D's Top 10 PhD Econ cohort, all US students except one had work experience. (The internationals generally had a Masters, at least one has two.)
  • b@r!umb@r!um Registered User Posts: 10,168 Senior Member
    A few more data points: Most of my CS major friends got a job after graduation. The few that went straight to graduate school enrolled in PhD programs because they were pretty sure that they wanted an academic career. Only a single friend of mine enrolled straight in a Master's program - she was an international student and was unable to secure a job due to visa and security clearance issues.

    Not that another path would close any doors. I know a couple of PhD students in computer science who worked in industry before going to graduate school, and a couple of CS professors who worked in industry after getting their PhD before making a commitment to academia.

    Computer science seems to be one of the few disciplines where academia and industry work hand in hand.
  • HImomHImom Registered User Posts: 29,487 Senior Member
    I'd say it's a bit early to decide, as it doesn't sound like you've even started college. Some Us have a 4-5 year program where you can get your bachelor's & masters, with or without writing a thesis. Some of S's classmates did the 5 year program to get their masters because they had no job offers. I talked with one guy who was getting his masters when S was getting his bachelor's. He was disappointed because as he saw it, he just had one more year of debt and still no job offers. I'd suggest you start your college career & see how it goes.

    S graduated in EE. We encouraged him to stay in school & get a MS and PhD but he insisted he wanted to work for a while to get more focus on what he wanted to research, so we respected his choice. Also, he never had a gap year and was ready to be away from school for a while. So far, he's pretty happy with his choice & his employer will subsidize his grad school if/when he decides to go.
  • OyamaOyama Registered User Posts: 2,486 Senior Member
    I worked for a year after graduating; it served two purposes: helped me recoup money to pay off my undergrad debt (completely paid off $21k now!), and further reinforced my decision to be an academic since I really disliked consulting.

    It's these little breaks that help put perspective in your decision to go to grad school.
  • pseudoghostpseudoghost Registered User Posts: 159 Junior Member
    Depends if you want to become an academic or not. If you do, then working is, to be honest, just wasting time, as it puts you behind your peer group. If you want the best chance at becoming an academic, then you need to go straight through and work your ass off to establish a name for yourself before you graduate from your PhD program. Age works against you if you want to become an academic.

    If you're not sure you want to be an academic (its quite different then you imagine) then you would be better served by a few years off, as it will let you see what kind of possibilities are out there for you. Computer science is one of the few STEM fields where a PhD might work hand in hand along side someone with a BS on a project.

    You might be surprised at what you can do with just a BS in CS coming out of college. You might really enjoy it. So, my advice would be to look at your possible career options carefully as you get close to graduating, and then decide. And then decide again after you get a Masters.
  • HImomHImom Registered User Posts: 29,487 Senior Member
    One problem that sometimes plagues people who get advanced degrees is that they can become over-qualified for jobs and have MORE trouble getting hired because employers don't want to pay the higher salaries that advanced degrees often command. This was an issue for some of the kids with masters in engineering who graduated with S who got his BS.

    Also, it's important to figure out WHAT you want to study and who is doing the most interesting research in that field and what it would take for YOU to get accepted there & compile a list of all the places you would be interested in doing research at in your field.
  • tetrahedr0ntetrahedr0n Registered User Posts: 1,954 Senior Member
    . If you want the best chance at becoming an academic, then you need to go straight through and work your ass off to establish a name for yourself before you graduate from your PhD program. Age works against you if you want to become an academic.

    Age does work against you if it's some very large age gap (ie, you start your PhD at age 50.) One year means nothing here though. There is no disadvantage to doing something else for one year between undergraduate and graduate studies.

    Also, there's no peer group based on age in graduate school.
  • OyamaOyama Registered User Posts: 2,486 Senior Member
    I'm around 4 years younger than all the first-years in my PhD program and around 6-8 years younger than most of the older grad students in the same program. Everyone from my department who's been on the academic job market have found positions at least in the last decade. Just a quick datum point about the universality of age working against you.
This discussion has been closed.