Can an MA graduate fill an MS job?
February 16, 2009 3:52 PM   Subscribe

A job opportunity opened up that requires an "MS degree". I have a MA. I know that I have the knowledge and experience for this position. Is there any way I can apply for this job?

It's an adjunct professorship at a school focusing on Information Technology. I have around 12 years experience directly relevant to the open positions. I received a MA in International Studies but did my thesis on information science. I fulfill all of the other requirements. I have teaching experience and I think I would do a really excellent job. What, if anything, can I do?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (23 answers total)
Is there any way I can apply for this job?

Sure, why not? Whether or not you will get hired is the question!

You can either A) not apply, and you'll never know if you would have gotten the job or not. Or B) apply and take a chance. It can't hurt.

Perhaps your cover letter could explain that, while you might not have the MS, you have an MA and experience to make up for the lack of the required degree.
posted by nitsuj at 3:55 PM on February 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

What, if anything, can I do?

Send your resume and a cover letter explaining your qualifications?
posted by pravit at 3:58 PM on February 16, 2009

I think the question here is whether or not they really mean you actually have to have a MS or do they mean "a masters level degree." Either way, I would apply if it were me.
posted by Silvertree at 4:04 PM on February 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have applied for and received jobs where I didn't meet the requirements on paper. In each case, I had to personally convince them that I was the best candidate for the job. This is in addition to my references having very positive things to say about me.

Can you get a professor from the same or a different institution to write a letter saying how wonderful you are?
posted by Pants! at 4:05 PM on February 16, 2009

Apply. They just didn't think of an MA in "Information Science"... They were thinking narrowly about IT, instead of broadly. That won't be the thing that keeps you from the job. It could be that the job requires you to teach courses that you're not comfortable teaching (i.e., your masters program, good as it was, didn't focus on those specific topics). But hey, take the shot.
posted by zpousman at 4:17 PM on February 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Well in some fields (psychology for example) some institutions offer a BSc and some offer a BA. I presume that this is the same for some postgraduate psychology qualifications, and also applies to other fields.

I've also just started work in the Information Systems field, but most of what I'm doing is actually sociology/managment/social research.
posted by singingfish at 4:17 PM on February 16, 2009

Honestly, I can't remember whether I have a MA or an MS. While I might put one or the other in a job description I would write, it wouldn't matter whatsoever to me-- I would be greatly surprised if they are explicitly looking for one or the other.
posted by gregvr at 4:18 PM on February 16, 2009

Apply. Explain your suitability on you cover letter and make sure that this is also clear in your cv as well.
posted by ob at 4:18 PM on February 16, 2009

Yeah, emphasize the value of what you bring beyond your degrees in the cover letter. Experience counts for a lot in information science academia, especially if you can pitch it the right way (e.g. that you can expose students to experiences they don't usually have access to in courses).
posted by spiderskull at 4:19 PM on February 16, 2009

Yes. My current job "requires" an MS. I have a BS in an unrelated field.
posted by SpecialK at 4:21 PM on February 16, 2009

Also, as with all academic job postings, you don't know who wrote the advert. It could be the search chair, a composite of wish lists of the search committee or a weird hack job of either of these things with some HR input too. Or something else that I have neither the imagination or the wherewithal to think of just at the moment. The point being as long as it's your field you might as well go for it unless you lack the level of experience or qualifications, neither of which seems the case here.
posted by ob at 4:23 PM on February 16, 2009

My degree is a BA in a field where a BS is more traditional. No one has, as far as I can tell, every blinked.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 4:28 PM on February 16, 2009

I have an MA in physics. Nobody cares (except when I filed my PhD thesis, they cared. But nobody else does.) Nthing everyone else who says this is really asking that you have a masters-level degree.
posted by nat at 4:41 PM on February 16, 2009

I know someone who applied for a job which "required" a driver's licence, without having one. She was offered it.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 4:50 PM on February 16, 2009

I don't think I've ever been qualified on paper for any job I've gotten.

Also, it's natural and easy, but wrong, to think that the people doing the hiring always know what they're doing. I was asked to write a job description and hire someone one time, and I wasn't even really clear on what the person would be doing (had a dizzy boss with spacey vision), and I had never hired anyone. The people applying were probably all nervous and imputed me with all sorts of knowledge and competence, but I was just some random guy who got dragged into something and winged it.

We would also hire people sometimes more to get someone on staff and claim the budget in the annual budget fight rather than lose it, and so descriptions were kind of loose - but we had to write something and follow certain protocols in order for HR to approve it.

At other times we knew what we wanted, and what qualifications the person should have, but none of the applicants entirely fit the bill. But we needed somebody and time was running out, so we picked the best we could from what we had. It always worked out fine.

Other times somebody applied for a job we advertised, and we liked them, but picked someone else. But we kept their resume, and when a somewhat different position came open, called them up and asked them to apply and they were perfect. So it was good that they had introduced themselves to us even though it didn't work out at first.

Never listen to job requirements. If you want a job, apply, and make a case for why you fit. If there is a qualification they want that you don't have, don't start apologizing for why you don't have it - simply present your strengths as applicable to the job. You'd be surprised how quickly given requirements fly out the window when an otherwise impressive candidate shows up. They could be starving for someone like you for all you know. A nuclear physicist is going to need degrees in that subject, true. But it's more flexible for most of us. And lots of real world experience is often much more valuable than a degree. Good luck!
posted by Askr at 5:53 PM on February 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have an MA in computer science, so nthing "write a cover letter explaining your qualifications, and go for it."
posted by zippy at 6:52 PM on February 16, 2009

They are not going to care. Remember that Adjunct Profs get all the courses that no-one else wants to teach. The "difficult" classes: at odd times, with difficult students, or with a high learning-curve. They don't get paid top rates and they tend to work on 1-3 year contracts, whic are not very secure. Which is the point of hiring Adjunct Profs. If you are still interested, make sure that you put the line:
MA International Studies (Thesis in Information Science) [year]
on your resume. Also write a good letter that describes (concisely) how your professional experience qualifies you to teach Information Technology. You do have experience in a wide set of computing technologies, understand client-server config., standard programming languages like Java, and recent scripting languages like Ruby and Python, right? If not, can you familiarize yourself with subjects like this very rapidly, given a good book? OK, explain that you can do this in your letter.
Best of luck!
posted by Susurration at 6:56 PM on February 16, 2009

The purpose of job requirements is to scare you away from applying if they make you feel unqualified.
posted by BaxterG4 at 8:04 PM on February 16, 2009

Yes. Helps if you have an inside person to get you past some initial dumb-ass screen that thinks "MA" is significantly different from "MS".
posted by Nelson at 8:51 PM on February 16, 2009

I don't have any degree. I work in a job that requires a masters. The requirements for the job said that plain as day. I applied anyways, and had thirty seconds in the interview to explain my take on the discrepancy.

If they think it's a requirement, and they don't see what they want on your resume, they won't call back. Apply for the job, silly.
posted by talldean at 8:58 PM on February 16, 2009

Nthing the possibility of landing the job through a demonstration of your skills. I got into an engineering position with a B.S. in Physics this way. This worked partially because I was simply inspecting and critiquing other people's work; it wasn't a job where you needed to be able to put your stamp on a mechanical drawing. However, if I hadn't demonstrated understanding and analytical ability in the interview, they wouldn't have gotten to the point of thinking about whether they might actually give it to a non-engineer. They used my background as justification for paying me significantly less, though...
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 10:03 PM on February 16, 2009

Definitely, definitely apply.

At the end of the day, they will hire you on whether they think you're right for the role - not because you have a qualification on a piece of paper. If you can back up, in the interview, why you're right for the job despite the discrepancy, then there's no problem!

Plus - in my opinion - applying for jobs is never going to make anything bad happen. They won't call you up and yell at you for applying when you don't meet all the requirements. Worst case scenario is, they just won't ever contact you for an interview.

I have probably applied for 150+ jobs in the 10 months (yes, seriously) and most of them I didn't even honestly want. But what's the harm in it?
posted by angryjellybean at 6:36 AM on February 17, 2009

I've done hires with similar requirements. I wouldn't even blink at the MA/MS difference. Some universities give out MAs, some give out MSs. I don't care what the letter is, just that you've got the master's level qualification.
posted by bonehead at 10:18 AM on February 17, 2009

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