Graduate studies - now or later?
May 5, 2010 10:49 AM   Subscribe

About to have a second bachelors, in embedded systems design. Graduate studies now, or later?

Basically my situation is this - I have a BA from a liberal arts college, though it turned out to be a pretty scienc-y BA, in media sciences. Rather than pursue the media side of that equation, I decided to go into engineering, and I've about completed a piece-meal BS in embedded systems design...

QUESTION: I'd really like a CE job, I'm just not really sure what the market for computer engineers is like. Should I get my BS, start looking for a job now, and pursue a graduate degree later on, or would it make more sense for me to transition into the graduate program, finish that up, and then look for employment? I guess I'm concerned that I'll end up with a graduate degree and zero related work experience and have a hard time landing a job later on.

Any perspective on all this would be much appreciated. Thanks!
posted by Horizontally a Champion to Education (5 answers total)
I was at an event where Mark Hurd was speaking earlier this week. He mentioned that it is currently taking HP 95 days to fill a US Technical Position, so the market sounds like it should be good for you. Larger companies usually have education reimbursement programs too. If you can go work for one for a few years you can get them get them to pay for your graduate degree.
posted by IanMorr at 10:55 AM on May 5, 2010

Apply to both graduate schools and jobs. That way, if you don't get a good job with your BS, you can go to graduate school while you job hunt.
posted by Jacqueline at 11:06 AM on May 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

My experience is as a BSEE with a job right out of school, and then going back for my MSEE.

Engineering graduate degrees tend to be paid for by the company you're working for. The main help to your career also may come from saying you have the degree instead of what you've learned in graduate school. I've learned more about embedded design working my job than I did getting my MSEE. But for eventual future promotion, the MSEE will look good on paper.
posted by garlic at 11:10 AM on May 5, 2010

Within engineering, programming and computer engineering, internships are a popular system of job hunting. If you're worried about job experience that's what to do. If your BS won't be finished this May, you might try hunting down an internship, but it's a little late in the season.

Assuming that you don't have time left to qualify for an internship, your next step should be to build a quality CV from which to extract resumes. You've got a more diverse education than most engineers, so finding ways to describe how it applies is crucial to placing you over competition. Once you have a large CV to draw from, brainstorm a list of companies. Include companies you'd like to work for, companies recruiting locally, and companies that have hired from your college in the past. If you don't know of any, ask your professors since they're frequently asked for letters of recommendation.

Having done graduate school before getting a serious job, my advice is to do the opposite and land a job first, and then see how a graduate degree would fit into your career. Use the work experience to build effective time and money management habits that will serve you well in grad school. Some places put no value on advanced engineering degrees, so you'll have to calculate whether grad school is worth the investment of time and money based on personal circumstance. You may find yourself five years into your career needing an MBA more than an MSEE.
posted by pwnguin at 11:43 AM on May 5, 2010

Being a graduate student means living a student's life on a student's income. If you work for a few years or so, you may not be comfortable giving up that income and the stuff it buys.
posted by justcorbly at 12:03 PM on May 5, 2010

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