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MSCS or Post-Bac BSCS?

They're been plenty of CS education topics on JoS, but I'm going to bore everyone with just one more.

I have a non-CS undergraduate degree and have decided to go back to school and get a CS degree.  But I can't decide whether to go for the MS degree, or just fulfill the requirements for a 2nd BS degree (aka Post-Bac).

Oddly enough, they'd take about the same amount of time, but the MS degree would be a lot more expensive.

In most fields a MS degree is more highly regarded, but in the software field it seems as though it may not be (judging by comments I've read here and elsewhere).

Any advice that might sway me in either direction?

Don't know much about CS-ology
Friday, March 7, 2003

You normally don't have to worry about the cost of doing an MS degree in CS(atleast in US schools). I have an MS in CS and I didn't have to pay anything. And everybody I know have never paid single dime to do thiers. In fact it's the other way around, you get paid like $1000 per month!
You normally get what is called Graduate Resear Assistanship(GRA) or Graduate Teaching Assistanship(GTA) from the university. You need to work around 20 hours/week for the university though. Doing either some sort of research under some professors or teaching some undergraduate CS classes. Or it might be also doing some other sort of computer related work like sys admin, web design or some light programming.
But like you mentioned I don't see a lot of advantage of having an MS in CS compared to a BS in CS with 2 years of experience.
But in your case it may be worth while since MS in CS will not cost you anything!

Friday, March 7, 2003

I was in what I assume to be a similar situation. I had a non-CS undergrad and wanted to get a CS degree.

Ultimately, I decided to go the MS route. In my case, the MS was not substantially more expensive (I did it at Columbia) but it was by no means fully funded. Although schools will sometimes fund MS students (and virtually always fund PhDs), I think that someone without a CS undergrad is pretty unlikely to get funding. At least that is what they told me.

For me, the decision came down to a couple of things. The first was the difference between having a real degree and a certificate. It is just a lot easier to explain to employers and I feel more comfortable with it on a resume. Another big issue was that although I had to take roughly the same number of courses, I got to take more advanced courses -- the basic prereqs for an MS were less than for a second BS.

Obviously each school will be somewhat different, so your mileage may vary. Feel free to email me with questions about the process and my decision.

Friday, March 7, 2003

I have a BS in math with a concentration in CS.  (A Concentration is somewhere between a Major and a Minor.)

I'm going to school at night for the MS.  So far, all the classes I've taken were reimbursed by my employer 100%, so I only paid for books.

At most companies, this is a standard benefit.  Of course, it can be hard on your family, so YMMV ...

Matt H.
Friday, March 7, 2003

Go for the BS only if you want to become an excellent programmer and take the courses that will give you this infrastructure. In many circumstances, you can only take some of these courses at the MS level and they are crucial to being a top-notch programmer IMHO.

However, if you're more worried about career advancement or non-programming knowledge, then by all means go for the MS. Everyone will more highly regard it than an MS. Guaranteed.

Personally, I have a BSEE and an MSCS. I spent my MS time learning about client server architectures, advanced database performance tricks, object-oriented development paradigms, and queuing theory. More fun than simply coding, but I had already taken undergrad CS stuff before my BS. Like I said, if your goal is to be a top-notch programmer, then you HAVE to take the undergrad CS stuff. There is no substitute for it unless you're some kind of superstar or have a great mentor.

Tom Fairlie
Monday, March 10, 2003

IMHO, a second BS is a waste of time.  It will include a bunch of unrelated electives that you might not be able to opt out of, and few high-level courses. Undergrad classes are less challenging.  A second BS will carry less weight on your resume.

An MS will be much more focused on the discipline, though you may have to take some undergrad prerequisites.  The classes will be faster paced, and I found we got exposure to a broader range of topics.

If you're going to spend the time, go for the degree that takes you farther and deeper. You can read up on the undergrad stuff you missed on your own afterward, and you'll be well equipped to do it.

Done That
Monday, March 10, 2003

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