Grad school when I already have a degree?

Hi. I just heard about and began Free Code Camp over the weekend and it’s been fantastic so far. It’s also been fantastic reading all the success stories of those who have been employed after finishing the program. It has me wondering about my own situation, which I hope you can shed some light on. My situation, I think, is distinct from the other grad school thread at the top of this forum.

I have bachelor’s and master’s degrees, both in physics. My interest nowadays, however, lies in programming and web development, so I began a master’s program in computer science this fall with the hope of becoming more desirable to employers. I have to pay out-of-pocket for this program and it will end up costing over $8,000 when all is said and done. I already have a fair bit of informal development experience and had a portfolio before beginning FCC, but look forward to adding these projects as well.

My question: do you think it’s worthwhile to continue in the CS program, or would my time and money be better-spent completing FCC and looking for jobs with a master’s outside of the field, with only informal programming and project experience? I would be seeking jobs in Chicago, if that’s relevant.

Thank you in advance.


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I agree that a formal degree is not a requirement when you have an advanced degree in a STEM field. That said, if you want to study CS in traditional academia and find personal value in that but are just concerned with the cost, you can probably pay off half your tuition with a signing bonus alone.

If you really want to have a career in web development, I suggest you don’t ‘waste’ (this is relative) time and money to having another degree. I for one have an engineering background, giving me the necessary prerequisites in Mathematics that really helped in transitioning to computer programming. However, I don’t have the luxury to spend more time and money studying so I made a learning path for myself. I still landed a job. You, on the other hand, have a master’s degree already. I suggest you dive straight to deepening your programming knowledge and creating projects that you can showcase to your potential employers.

This forum will naturally be biased towards self-directed learning although in your case I have to agree with those who commented already. FYI, I’m an engineer (B.S.) and a self-taught amateur programmer.

Degrees have intrinsic value when searching for a job, however I believe there are significant diminishing returns when you being stacking them. As others mentioned, what your Physics degree really tells an employer is you can solve technical problems and you don’t become frustrated when presented with problems without immediately apparent solutions.

It doesn’t really matter where you acquired the specific skill-sets you need for a job. As long as you’ve proven yourself in University and you have the knowledge.

I’d even go a step further and suggest there might be some employers who become skeptical of individuals with too much credential… They might either wonder if you didn’t cut it in Physics or if you can’t stay focused on a field for more than a couple years. (I’m sure neither are true, and I’m sure there are plenty of companies that would hire you regardless, just throwing it out there)

I have been coding (scripting) for years, on and off. I have a PhD in chemistry. I am working through the free code camp curriculum because I eventually want to develop some software that requires user input, and a GUI. Even though I may not use javascript, I think the challenges are beneficial. I have considered getting a CS degree, but I feel that If I look at the core curriculum of the CS degree and commit to learning that on my own, it would be just as good or better. I agree with others, if you have an advanced STEM degree, most employers will only care if you really understand the concepts. If you complete a course online, you should log that to your CV.

Having a degree that is not required for a position can reduce your chances to get that position. You are essentially overqualified. Look around now for jobs that are attractive to you. If they require the CS degree you are pursuing, then you should finish the degree. If they don’t, consider that having the extra degree can be a disadvantage.