CS academia vs. industry, with snowflakes
February 15, 2014 11:30 AM Subscribe
I'm graduating this spring with an undergrad degree in computer science, and I'm lucky enough to have two great postgrad opportunities on the table. But how to choose between a safe and enjoyable industry job vs. attempting the grad school grind to (maybe hopefully) do what I love?
posted by serelliya to Education (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm graduating with a CS undergrad degree and need to decide between a dream job offer and the chance to pursue a totally different long-shot dream.
1) I have a job offer from a very prestigious large tech company. If I were to pick industry, it'd absolutely be my #1 choice, especially as a first job. I would be working as a developer/software engineer on an area that I have prior internship experience in, although not my research interest. I'm pretty sure that I would be *happy* working in industry, with a good work/life balance and fulfillment from the work (I like solving problems, writing elegant and well-documented code, creating something that will be immediately useful). On top of that, the financial compensation is about 3x as much as option #2 below.
So why am I even considering something else? Well...
2) I have also been accepted to a PhD program at a top-20 (top-10 in my field) school in CS with full funding. The faculty seem excited about working with me and there are opportunities to pursue a teaching-oriented (vs. all-research) track. My goal would be to get tenure at a liberal arts college. I'm pretty sure that I will be less happy during grad school because I like-don't-love research and I'm prepared to be psychologically "at work" 24/7. I enjoy teaching, although I don't know whether I'll enjoy lecturing vs. one-on-one mentoring.
The snowflake-y part: actually my ultimate goal, and the passion that makes me pause from jumping enthusiastically into industry, is curricular and educational policy. As an undergrad I've served on several faculty-led administrative committees and I love thinking about issues like tenure-line allocations, curricular restructuring (e.g. flat vs. hierarchical prerequisites), comparative research into peer institutions' practices, etc. So my first interest in academia is actually committee service. If I could get tenured at a college with a strong educational mission, I would want to be department chair and eventually provost or something like that.
Downsides: 6 years PhD + 7 years pre-tenure = a loooong time. And I might not be able to persevere through grad school, leaving me to reapply to industry in two years after having turned down my dream industry offer.
Any advice from MeFites who've been through a similar dilemma? I'd especially love to hear from people who can sympathize with/understand why I'm drawn to committee service, the part of an academic's job that everyone universally complains about.