Masters worth it with a well paying SWE job already?

New / Eng beriblend
Jul 8 16 Comments

Some background:
I triple majored in college with Accounting, Finance, and Management Information Systems. Felt all that shit was boring so I pivoted to software development, which I very much enjoy. I never got a CS degree.

I spent a very long year getting my ass handed to me working long hours for no pay and eventually landed a job at a reputable high frequency trading firm working my way up to a C++ developer. Right now I’m on year 3 of my career in my mid 20s and I’ve never really given what I want to do from here much thought.

I’m constantly bombarded by recruiters, a few who throw big numbers at me like 300k-600k TC, though I’m being hit with a bit of imposter syndrome as that seems unfathomable.

That’s where the masters degree comes in. I recently found an online course provided by the University of Texas, a top 10 CS school, and was thinking about doing it.

So my question is, with my background would a masters in CS be worth my time or should I just leetcode like a madman? I’ll add that I find a large amount of the appeal in a masters to be the knowledge aspect, though I’m not about to trade in what will likely be all of my time if it’s a moot point in terms of financial gain, and will likely explore other free and more specialized avenues.

If I were going to do the masters I’d do it while remaining employed.

TC 150k YOE 3 SWE


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TOP 16 Comments
  • Goldman Sachs faith91
    A few questions you should ask yourself:

    1.) You have been a developer for almost 3 years now. How fluent/ comfortable are you in writing/understanding complex, meaty code? Do you feel that you on a par with your peers at work, who also code?

    2.) You enjoy coding. Nice! But, do you see yourself coding 5 or 10 or 15 years from now?! Or do you see yourself moving on to a managerial/some other role in tech industry?

    3.) Apart from coding, are there any other sub domains of being a software engineer that entice you more? I mean, like AI, ML, Big Data, etc?
    Jul 8 2
    • New / Eng beriblend
      Thank you a lot for your thoughtful reply, points like yours really help put things into perspective. Point 3 has definitely been one occupying my headspace lately, and perhaps one I should devote more time to.
      Jul 8
    • Goldman Sachs faith91
      Happy to help!

      To add some more I input:

      I would not go to the extent of saying that Masters is an utter waste and all that. But, what’s important is to analyze and understand in advance as to what your reasons for going for masters are! And it’s a good thing that this is what you are doing right now!

      Personally, for me, masters opened a lot of different avenues. I had learnt most of my coding in my undergrad, and I had come out as a decent developer, if not the best. What MS did for me, was open a bunch of new avenues. I took up a few courses in Big Data, a few in Fin Tech and so on. I had options to focus on Distributed Systems, ML, AI etc as well. But that wasn’t my plan at that point! I could have guided my career to whichever direction I had wanted.

      But, for a lot of people, Masters is a means to either enter the Tech industry or get a higher paying job (if they are already in the industry), which I feel shouldn’t be worth a reason enough! Of course, out of college MS students are paid more than BS students, initially, but in the long run, everyone catches up $$$ wise if that is what they are aiming for. And without, having a CS degree, you have landed a developer job so early in your career and that should be a reason enough to give you some confidence. So, I am sure that you can make your way on your own and become a better programmer, without a degree, if you continue doing what you are doing. Most of us are raw developers when we come out of college (BS or MS) and we become better only after working in the industry. So, you shouldn’t be too far behind!

      However, if you feel that you want to pivot your way in a different direction, within the Tech industry, it’s totally worth it to go for a Masters degree!

      But whatever, it is be clear about what you want out of it!
      Jul 9
  • Google / Eng
    चाचा चौधरी

    Google Eng

    चौधरीकोइँन H Y P E
    चाचा चौधरीmore
    I smell bullshit. Who is offering 600k for 3 yoe? Also 150k is not a "high paying" job if medium/high COL
    Jul 8 5
    • / R&D
      serjorah R&D

      Yeah 600k is bullshit. ~300k is possible.
      Jul 8
    • Goldman Sachs faith91
      Ummmm... A HELL LOT of trading firms! It is fairly common in finance industries to be approached by fuck load number of companies which offer this much, especially if you have a relevant finance background! I get approached by tons of recruiters myself and I have quite a few friends who are earning $500k+ these firms! However, taking up such a job promises 0 WLB and extremely stressful hours!

      There are countless such opportunities in NY and Chicago, especially!
      Jul 8
    • Amazon _101010
      I dont think that recruiters telling him 600k is bullshit. I just think recruiters are lying or misrepresenting. Maybe these are linkedin recruiters who spam
      Jul 8
    • New / Eng beriblend
      I live in Chicago. If 150k is not “high paying” to your standards then kudos to you. For me personally it’s been a fairly large achievement. And I assure you it’s not bullshit, I don’t hold the job so I have no reason to flaunt that number, I could very well be under qualified and that is my concern, and the gap I’d like to bridge.
      Jul 8
  • Facebook derpd
    Reputable HFT firms pay a lot more than 150k...

    If you feel your skills are not up to scratch, then sure, maybe a masters is the right avenue.

    That being said, AFAIK, I've never seen a masters in CS that was anything but resume fodder. I've seen plenty of mediocre developers with masters from Harvard and MIT. You're probably much better off self learning (especially if you already know how to code).
    Jul 8 1
    • New / Eng beriblend
      True, we get a lot of masters graduates that come in to interview and in most instances they really don’t hit the bar. Though like anything else it depends on what you do with it, part of the reason why I’m conflicted.
      Jul 8
  • Uber TcOrDie
    Only coders with masters I’ve seen are international students doing it for a student visa til they can get H1B
    Jul 9 0
  • masters isnt worth it in cs......
    Jul 9 1
    • MassMutual / Eng

      MassMutual Eng

      Lead Software Engineer
      Agree. But if your degree was in an unrelated field - then it can be worth it.

      I generally openly take a dump on ppl who get the MS in CS.
      Jul 9
  • Facebook / Eng mturtle
    Masters has very little value, just resume header and barely even that. PHd does but its huge time commitment.

    Which HFT firm are you at? Any recruiter saying 300k - 600k for 3 yoe is lying. You won't get offers like that until you have around 10yoe.
    Jul 9 0
  • Box / Other Hotbox
    Get the 300-600k job first. And think about next move.
    Jul 8 0