By December 3, 2015

Should I Get My Master’s For 20k More?

In this episode, I talk about getting a master's degree.


Full transcript:

John:               Hey, John Sonmez from I got a question here about career and studying. This question comes from Gabriel and he says, “Hi John, I have a question for you which I’m hoping you might be able to help me with. I’m currently working fulltime as a system admin and studying bachelor of computer science part time with the goal of moving my career from system admin into software development. I’ve been offered a position with significantly higher pay still working as a system administrator. If I were to accept this position I would have to change my university studies as the job is in a different area. I have found out I can either continue my bachelor studies via correspondence or I could step straight into a masters of mobile application development. The graduation date would be the same but the cost is significantly more for the masters approximately 20K more. What are your thoughts on the value of post-graduate qualifications or in a similar vein to one of your recent videos on boot camps would I be better off finishing my bachelor and pursuing online courses to teaching myself mobile application development? The bachelor teaches the fundamentals and theory but not so much how to practically write an application whereas the masters, oddly enough is more practical and even taught by professionals in the industry. I really appreciate your insights. Cheers, Gabriel.”

So there’s a couple of things Gabriel. You didn’t even really ask this question but I’m going to start with this which is I’d say to start off by taking the higher paid system admin job while you learn software development. The reason why I say that is because if you got an opportunity to make significantly more money it would be better to take that opportunity and to utilize that money to invest or to further your career and your learning in software development. More experience in a higher position is always good and it may lend its opportunity to a software development job later on. If you’re getting an opportunity to take a more authority position, a higher up position I think you should take that. It’s not really just about the money it’s also about the responsibility and gaining—taking a higher position. Anytime you take a higher position it’s going to be easier I think even to switch fields because you can always say that you’ve been in this higher position. So I would do that and plus you’re going to get valuable experience being in a higher positions.

Then I would say in that new position even as—even though it’s sort of a system administrator role try to do as much software development work if possible. You might say, “Well, John, that doesn’t make sense because it’s a not a software development role” but hey, everyone needs tools. I’ve been in positions where I haven’t been a “software developer” especially when I was starting out my career but I found ways to write code by writing tools, tools to do my job, tools to help other people do their job and that’s always a good way to be able to get that practice on the job and get paid for it.

Now it’s a tough choice I’d say between paying the extra 20K or not to go for the masters. It really depends here. I’d look at your current financial situation to determine this. If you’re making 80K a year right now 20K more is probably a big amount and then if you’re making 120K right now go ahead and invest the 20K. That’s what’s really going to determine this. If you’re on a budget, if you’re making less money, learning online is probably going to be your best choice. Throwing 20K into something that may be valuable or not is going to hurt you much more significantly and probably it’s not a good investment. But if you’re making a lot of money, if you have that extra money then I would say go ahead and go with the masters program. Even if it turns out to be not the best investment, even if you could have learned online you might save yourself some time and trouble. Maybe it takes you 6 months to learn or a year to learn something by yourself but if you could do this program and pay 20K maybe they’re going to have it kind of charted out for you and maybe that would be worth it especially if you said it’s being taught by industry professionals. It sounds like it’s more like a boot camp than it is like a traditional education.

I think as far as the masters itself I think it’s more likely to help you in the current path that you’re on with the system administrator and taking a higher responsibility but it’s not necessarily going to help you so much as a software developer. The key thing is what you learn from it and that’s what’s going to help you the most.

Anyway, I hope that helps you. It’s sort of a tough situation. I don’t think you can really go super wrong here but I would just be careful to—I always tell people to try to take more responsibility rather than just looking at pay and I think you have an opportunity to do both here. Take the higher job that’s going to give you more responsibility that’s going to get you more pay and learn software development as you’re doing this to look to make sort of a horizontal transition so that you can come in as a senior software developer rather than you’re saying, “Okay well this isn’t the path I want to go so I’m not going to accept this job and I’m going to go ahead and start as a low level software developer.” I think that’s the choice I wouldn’t do. Instead I would keep going up and then hopefully you can make a horizontal transition over time. The question of whether or not you do the masters degree or learn on your own is really going to depend on how much money you’re making now. Like I said, if you’re making 120K or something like that then yeah, it’s a no brainer, just pay the money and have someone help you to learn this much faster than you could on your own. But if money is a big thing then, nah, I don’t know, then maybe you have to think a little bit more about this.

Anyway hopefully this advice is helpful to you. If you have a question for me just email me at and don’t forget to subscribe to the channel. Take care.



About the author

John Sonmez

John Sonmez is the founder of Simple Programmer and a life coach for software developers. He is the best selling author of the book "Soft Skills: The Software Developer's Life Manual."