Worth it to pay the bills to get the skills?
January 9, 2012 8:08 PM Subscribe
Engineering master's degree: worth it in my special situation? I have an engineering BS, the MS would be in the same sort of engineering, and it would be free (sort of). I've been working in non-engineering academic research, but I want to get into industry R&D.
posted by your mom's a sock puppet to Work & Money (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
(Sock puppet because basically no one knows I'm looking to switch jobs.)
I have an undergrad degree in engineering from a good school; graduated five-ish years ago with average grades. After graduating, I continued working at said school in a science field tangentially related to my undergrad education. I've moved up the ranks of non-doctorate academic research, but I've always thought about leaving academia. I'm not sure I have the engineering skills to pay the bills, though. I'd like to get a position that's a bit better than fresh-out-of-undergrad entry-level, hopefully focusing on R&D in a startup-like environment.
(I don't want to do a Ph.D., engineering or otherwise, at this point, but it is a possibility down the road. I know that would be even better for getting into this line of work, but I can't currently take the pay cut going to a Ph.D. student's stipend.)
For family reasons, I now will be at least in the same city for another 3+ years. I could try to find an engineering job here, but they're pretty thin on the ground, especially smaller companies. That makes me think I should leverage the tuition benefits at my school to tack on a master's in the same engineering field to compensate for my lack of industry experience-- experience that I'm not likely to be able to get for some time.
If it were as easy as that, I would totally do it. But "free" unfortunately isn't free. It would get taxed as a benefit to the tune of $3800 a semester. Since it would be job-related enough for the IRS (man I hope it would be), I'd get it back in my return. (I have meetings with HR and the department lined up to hammer this out.) I don't have that kind of money in savings, or room in my budget for it. Since it's short-term, I could probably borrow the money from family, but there might also be loans of some sort in my future. (Also a bridge I'll build when I get to the river.)
Bottom line: master's degree-- is it worth it for working as an engineer in smaller, more cutting-edge, startup-type companies, given that I have limited engineering experience? (I plan on spinning the more engineering-related parts of my current job as sort-of experience.) Does the fact that the degree would be free-ish make a difference?
If the specific field matters, I'll chime in with that info or can give it over MeMail.