Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Why Masters Degrees are Useful/Important

Hey everyone! 

I hope it's been an awesome year for you all, and your summer is going well!

I just want to start off by saying, that this piece is totally my opinion and based off what I have experienced and seen in industry.

As engineers, I believe it is part of the job description to never stop learning. Ok well it's part of our job as living human beings,  to never stop learning. You get the idea.

I completely understand what I lovingly refer to as "burn-out-itis."

It happens. We make it through undergrad, we feel like we can never go back to school ever again, we never want to set foot on the same college campus again. All of the above. We have internships that teach us "everything we learned in school is useless" once we get to a full time job because "we will learn what we need to know as we go."

Anne's inner skeptic: "So what's the point? Why does it matter? Why should I care?"

Well starting off, it's a pay increase/experience jump. You will start out a level 2 with a masters degree (depending upon where you go), and automatically get paid more than someone with a bachelors.

Anne's inner skeptic: "Ok but the degree costs money that I don't have, #studentloans, and balances out the pay I would receive up front as I'm paying for the cost up front."

There's multiple options for getting a masters degree.

1. Several schools offer programs online that allow you to work full time, gaining real world experience, while also taking classes.  There are still several companies out there that are also willing to pay for the degree which makes the cost out of pocket negligible.

2. There are also plenty of scholarship opportunities for minorities in graduate school #ladiesinstem.

3. I know what you are going to say. "Anne, fellowships are super hard to come by and I don't know many people who get them for masters degrees"  Yes. You're right. They are harder to come by, but that doesn't mean there aren't opportunities and or ways to seek them out!

4. Hold a part time job while you are a student to help ease some of the debt.

5. Do some of your masters degree while finishing your undergraduate and have scholarships pay for it.

Personally, I did options 1,4, and 5 to make it through my degree, and yes my time was precious, but I didn't have to pay a thing!

Anne's inner skeptic: "Ok, so WHY should I care again?"

1. It gives you an opportunity to focus your interests, and your career. Maybe you were one of those kids that really loved Heat Transfer, and you wanted to dive deeper into some of the reasons why the conduction constants are the way they are. Maybe you were a controls kid, who wasn't satisfied with just learning simple linear controls, and wanted to dive deeper into the non-linearities. First step to figure this all out? Learning. Easy place to learn? School. Good opportunity? Graduate School.

2. It gives you an opportunity to figure out what you like and what you want to do (at least a non-thesis option does). Yes, there are some people who graduate with an engineering degree and either A. can't figure out what they want to do for a job, or B. are just not ready to give up the college learning lifestyle. Continuing on to graduate school satisfies both of those cravings.

3. It sets you apart early AND later on in your career from your coworkers. Having that degree is a distinguishing factor on your resume. Having that extra knowledge and that extra education helps you to stand out against others when looking for jobs.  In competitive market places, and startup environments, this helps.

4. While working, sometimes it's nice to be able to take advanced classes that further your learning or help out with abstract concepts while working on them.  This one is HUGE for me.

Anne's inner skeptic: "Ok, ok you made your point. So when's the best time to get one? What if I just want some time after undergrad to relax a little?"

Most people will recommend going straight into grad school. Once you are in the mindset of learning it is easier to just continue forward and chug along getting the degree out of the way. At the same time, each person is different. Let me just say as a full time engineer working mandatory overtime and going to school, it is ROUGH. I am definitely able to handle it, but I do have to sacrifice some of my social life to make it happen. Each person is different. That is for you to decide.

All in all, despite sacrificing time for friends, family, reading books, binge watching netflix, and picking up new hobbies, it's definitely been valuable for me to take this time to get this degree!

If you have any questions feel free to reach out to me at withaplananne@gmail.com