Double-degree while keeping job
January 5, 2011 12:21 PM   Subscribe

Is it possible to do a part-time MSc and a part-time MBA at the same time while continuing to work?

I have been working as a software engineer for 5 years, and have a bachelor's in Computer Science. I'm having some management experience and would like to mature that side of my career with an MBA, but at the same time I feel I haven't yet reached the level I can in my current profession. So I was thinking of either getting a double-degree (MBA/MSc CS) or doing two part-time degrees at the same time (3 years to finish each), while keeping my day job. Am I wanting too much? Is grad school really so hard as everybody says? Just for context, I flew through (state) college (GPA 3.9) and scored 730 in the GMAT without much effort, so I'm wondering if I can go the extra mile on this one.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (13 answers total)
Grad school is much more than undergrad. I would recommend that masters'-level students spend 10-12 hours/week per course they take, to really get something out of it and have a good GPA you can brag about at the end. Some courses take more, some less.

To this you can add stuff like commuting to campus, if you are in f2f classes.

So, figure out what you want to do, then how many courses you will be taking, then multiply by 12. Do you have that many hours free per week - really free - to devote to a degree? Listening to podcasts in the car on the way to work does not count ...
posted by carter at 12:26 PM on January 5, 2011

There are MBA courses with an IT component. I think one of these would be a much better choice than trying to do too much at once.
posted by hazyjane at 12:28 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

hazyjane is right. One degree is better. Also what do you want to do? If you're into a degree to help support a career in project management, you may want an MS in Information Systems (more emphasis on tech) or an MBA that covers IT - maybe there are courses in business informatics?

The IS MS will probably be business-lite, and the MBA technology-lite.
posted by carter at 12:34 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Some schools have combination business and technical masters' degrees, and some even have commuter or distance options (I'm personally considering the SDM program at MIT). Look into those -- they'll be easier to fit into your schedule and they should help you achieve both your goals.
posted by olinerd at 12:54 PM on January 5, 2011

IME a 'part-time' Master's is very much like full time. On my course the expected time spent was 20 hours a week. If you're certain you can always keep to that, and manage 80-hour weeks, do both.
posted by tel3path at 12:57 PM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Why the rush? seriously. Is there a reason why you feel you need to get both degrees at the same time?

Maybe you're really really smart, but even so, to do two masters level courses part-time while working a full-time job (let's conservatively assume that's 40 hours/week tops) is going to = you doing hard brain work flat-out all day everyday. What kind of life will you be able to lead while you do this. Think, do you have a girlfriend/boyfriend? because you sure as hell won't be seeing much of them during term time. What about the activities like hobbies that keep you sane, will you miss them? because you won't have any time for those either.

Doing this will seriously affect your quality of life. Perhaps if you're a polyglot and your hobby is studying, then this could work. But I still think you'd need to be some kind of savant to make this work -- and if you were, you wouldn't be asking Metafilter.
posted by davidjohnfox at 1:06 PM on January 5, 2011

Are these programs designed for working adults? I have been in both traditional graduate programs and graduate programs for working adults. (I have also taught in both types of programs.) My experience is that the expectations for each type of program are VERY different. If these are both programs designed for working adults, you should not have a problem doing both and keeping your job. (As long as you realize your social life is basically over for these three years.) However, if these are traditional graduate programs that allow students to take them part-time, you would probably be screwed.
posted by hworth at 1:28 PM on January 5, 2011

I have a different degree, but in my experience, grad school is not totally about being smart; it's more about being single-minded and tenacious. (Lots and lots of us are smart.) I've seen people much smarter than me give up/lose patience/get driven out. So I think you should ask yourself if you're that dedicated to the idea, and if so, go for it. I don't think you'll be saying to yourself, "Grad school is so hard..." but rather, "Grad school is so nit-picky and time-consuming!"
posted by Knowyournuts at 1:30 PM on January 5, 2011

I just finished my MBA two years ago. I would caution you that it is a heck of a lot of work, even if you flew through your undergrad and the GMAT. I have a BSEE -- I graduated in 4 years (no summer school) with honors (3.65) while cutting a lot of classes and doing a lot of partying. I studied a little bit (maybe 5-10 hrs) and scored 720 on the GMAT. I have 20+ yrs of management experience and a lot of the MBA coursework covered material I'd learned and used on the job.

Even with all that background, the MBA was a heck of a lot of work. The biggest difference I found was the emphasis on class participation. My program was part online, part face to face. We were expected to read a lot of material (case studies, papers, etc...) and then discuss either online or face to face. Wading through everyone's online comments in order to make an intelligent comment took a lot of time and it had to be done within a 1-2 day period every week.

In my undergrad program, homework sometimes counted for a bit (10-20% max) of the grade, and the rest of the grade was the test. So, I could screw around a lot, and then study for the test and that was it. Grad school is not like that. (or at least it wasn't for me).

With regards a MS in computer science, if you have a thesis, expect that to be like a project except that it isn't finished until your thesis advisor says it is.... which could take a lot longer than you might think. My sister started her MS (forensic chemistry) program at the same time I started my MBA. I finished my MBA in Sept 2008. She's still working on her MS degree....
posted by elmay at 1:34 PM on January 5, 2011

I'm going to echo the advice that you just do one Master's now, or a program that was designed to be a dual degree for working adults. I can't even fathom the amount of juggling that would be required to do two different degrees in different programs (especially traditional ones) at the same time you're working, just from an administrative standpoint. (I have done two Master's in two vastly different programs while I was working, btw, just not concurrently.) It has nothing to do with how smart you are, it has to do with overlapping deadlines, classes, and a plethora of possibly contradictory administrative deadlines and advisement. And I have never heard of someone doing two theses at once.

Also, the grad school that everyone warns you against and complains about the difficulty of is a PhD. It's a totally different animal. I didn't find either my MA or my MS particularly difficult, per se, but they did require some commitment and time. One of them had a thesis, which required quite a lot of extra time and one required a portfolio of projects, which was fairly easy and required about a week of write-ups.
posted by wending my way at 2:44 PM on January 5, 2011

Why do you want to do two Masters? Is there any particular reason why your career would benefit. Clearly there is nothing wrong with getting as much education as possible but the subject areas you mention appear to be related to job prospects, not pet interests so I assume the reason is career progression. And you won't be promoted twice as fast or paid twice as much because you have two masters. The only potential benefit would be to allow you to pursue a more drastic career change in a few years down the line. So why would you do it to yourself?

I do work with a bunch of pretty smart and driven people, some on and several striving toward 7 figure salaries in the medium term and none of them have two Masters. In fact the only person with two Masters I actually know was a former professor, well established in his field at a top university who decided to do a Masters in literature (i.e. completely unrelated to his field)...but he is not representative and certainly didn't do it to further his career, he did it because he has varied interests and the opportunity and means to do it.
posted by koahiatamadl at 3:42 PM on January 5, 2011

Forgot to add that I sailed through my undergraduate degree without breaking a sweat coming out with a 1st and I had to put effort into my MSc so make of that what you will.
posted by koahiatamadl at 3:43 PM on January 5, 2011

Bear in mind that your reward may be having employers sneer "we need smart and gets things done, not two degrees in having your head up your arse". Most employers, especially in computing, equate getting an advanced degree with doing nothing while failing to think for yourself. They may consider you stupider than you were when you started. You may also find your opportunities restricted to junior jobs and graduate training schemes. I'm not saying don't do it, but prepare to bend over for it in the job market later.
posted by tel3path at 4:33 PM on January 5, 2011

« Older Help my friend make a big splash!   |   Is a friend in need really a friend indeed, or... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.