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Value of a technical MS in hiring?

Danielm7Danielm7 Member Posts: 2,310 ■■■■■■■■□□
This question is mostly motivated by my personal situation but I'd like to see some other discussion around it as well.

Me first since it's my thread icon_wink.gif

I have almost 20 years in IT, a BS (WGU), a pile of older certs, MS, Cisco, CompTIA, a CISSP, and indexing books for a SANS course right now. I work in infosec, have a manager role but am still in the technical trenches as a lead and they never backfilled my engineering role. I have some tuition reimbursement and I didn't want it to go to waste. I figured I'd get a master's degree.

I have a busy life otherwise, help coach kid stuff, very demanding job, gym/martial arts, renovating a house, family. I'm not really one to just use all my time binging TV.

So, anyway, I started a master's in computer security at a state school earlier in the year, doing it remotely. I'm 30% in and completely overwhelmed by busywork. Things like forced and graded discussion posts where you have set word counts and citations required in every reply, I learned a bit in one class, but nothing I couldn't have picked up with a book and a Cybrary course. For reference I learned more usable info an a week long SANS conference than any 700 level class I've taken so far.

I'm not really one to quit most things, but I'm heavily considering quitting this. I even had to quit some of the extracurricular stuff I do because I'm just out of hours in the day, and that's not really the healthy option. Looking at my future 70% of the program I'm not even seeing any courses that I'm even looking forward to taking. At this point I'm just constantly stressed and annoyed I have more papers to write and assignments to do while my actual job and other training is suffering. Even starting to think about quitting this and focusing more on my job and certs is making me feel better.

I do some interviewing and hiring for security staff, and I've had a few people apply with MS degrees and I have to admit I've given then zero extra preference over people who didn't assuming experience and certs were reasonably equal.

So, for others out there that hire, or have some influence. How much weight do you give to someone having a related MS in the hiring process? I know a number of people locally in director level positions in F500s that said they required one and none of them have anything above a BS.

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    UnixGuyUnixGuy Mod Posts: 4,567 Mod
    Danielm7 wrote: »
    ....

    I do some interviewing and hiring for security staff, and I've had a few people apply with MS degrees and I have to admit I've given then zero extra preference over people who didn't assuming experience and certs were reasonably equal.

    This has been my observation as well...

    Danielm7 wrote: »
    ....
    So, for others out there that hire, or have some influence. How much weight do you give to someone having a related MS in the hiring process? I know a number of people locally in director level positions in F500s that said they required one and none of them have anything above a BS.

    I don't give it any value unless it's a known difficult specialized degree. Say if I'm hiring a data scientist, a masters degree in Data Science/Business Analytics will make a difference. But a generic Masters in Computer Science, not so much. Relevant experience, certs, and personality are the main things looked at.
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    paul78paul78 Member Posts: 3,016 ■■■■■■■■■■
    I suspect that hiring managers tend to hire people based on their past experience and how they want to shape a team's dynamics. I personally don't compare candidates based on their education level. At least not for security, devops, or software engineering staff. As I recall, I only time where I cared about someone's degree was when I was hiring for data scientists and in that department, everyone had a Phd.

    But that could be a bias because I myself don't have a degree so I am predisposed to not care about someone's degree.

    I have held positions which do require an MS or MBA so if I suspect that if I had to apply for the job without a reference, I probably wouldn't have been considered for the job.
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    EANxEANx Member Posts: 1,077 ■■■■■■■■□□
    The only time I care which degree someone has is if they have no experience.
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    Danielm7Danielm7 Member Posts: 2,310 ■■■■■■■■□□
    Thanks for the feedback so far, confirming my suspicions. I'm likely going to withdraw my just starting classes and back burner this whole plan for awhile. Like I had said, I don't really like quitting too many things and I was overly harping on the whole sunk cost fallacy but right now the time commitment for something with a very low ROI is severely hurting all the much more important things in life.
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    DatabaseHeadDatabaseHead Member Posts: 2,753 ■■■■■■■■■■
    Master in Computer Science not valuable? I think it is.

    With that said, I agree there are other factors mentioned. Personality, experience etc.....
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    Danielm7Danielm7 Member Posts: 2,310 ■■■■■■■■□□
    And just to clarify, one of the other posters said computer science as an example, mine is in info assurance & computer security.
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    SyntaxSyntax Member Posts: 61 ■■■□□□□□□□
    I haven't been in a position to do hiring, but as someone who completed their Master's degree and have since been offered jobs I think it does help a small amount. I wouldn't say it was the reason I was hired, but it gave me the opportunity to speak to what I have learned, the types of research and work I completed while in the program, and my willingness and desire to learn. Based on feedback I have received, I believe it adds more of a quality attribute to a potential candidate. However, like most degrees really, it will not replace years of relevant experience. If you don't really enjoy graduate work (writing research papers mainly), and you don't have much time or resources to spend on it otherwise, then it's not really worth it.
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    Danielm7Danielm7 Member Posts: 2,310 ■■■■■■■■□□
    Syntax, I'm curious, what is your experience level like that the interviews asked about your master's work and research? From interviewing architects, engineers and directors I've yet to see anyone even mention their educational background so far.
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    DatabaseHeadDatabaseHead Member Posts: 2,753 ■■■■■■■■■■
    Danielm7 wrote: »
    And just to clarify, one of the other posters said computer science as an example, mine is in info assurance & computer security.

    I understand now.
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    RoyalRavenRoyalRaven Member Posts: 142 ■■■□□□□□□□
    I'm a bit thrown based on the title of your thread. Using the word "technical" explains many of your frustrations out of the gate.

    Grad school is usually not oriented towards technical aspects as you described it. It's primarily to generate and enhance the existing knowledge base in your field of study. Papers and research are the primary methods to evolve the knowledge. Discussions are key to understanding greater depth of the subject. Publishing new research is the goal.

    Think about it from an academic perspective and it will be much clearer. A masters program is the stepping stone to doctoral work. It is also another method to self-serve academia by training folks who will continue working on the same topics and research even when they're not in the classroom. A university needs folks with graduate-level backgrounds to continue teaching it back and serve the next generation. Overall society needs folks who can provide this ability to enhance knowledge.

    Its easy to be frustrated comparing it to experience and certs. Its not those, but serves a much different purpose. I didn't fully grasp most of this until I got further into my masters program and had 1:1 conversations with my advisers, professors, and classmates to understand what drove people to keep at it. I found that to keep going, you have to thoroughly enjoy the subject, face challenges that appear, and the times you want to quit you need to rise up and push forward. There is always more to discover and learn.

    Who knows what the exact ROI will be over my career for the degree, but it provided many things that I just simply can't measure nor would be a fair comparison to other things I have worked on. I do like that I may not be challenged for a degree again! Earlier in my career that was a major snag in getting advanced work. Now having a masters (and preceding degrees), education is a non-issue. (unless I shoot for a doctoral-level job, which 99% of the time is academic-focused anyway!) It is a great place to be in your career to have the education box pretty much checked off.

    Its ok to take a break and re-review where you are at periodically. I had to stop once or twice for major life events, but I continued on. Just don't take too long of a break. I would see if you can talk to some more folks who have been in your shoes or have completed the degree. They can provide some great guidance.

    My direct advice: don't quit. You'll appreciate this later and perhaps for the rest of your life once you complete it. I'd also recommend trying to enjoy it to the best of your ability. It's not easy, but it is much more enriching with that approach.
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    SyntaxSyntax Member Posts: 61 ■■■□□□□□□□
    Danielm7 wrote: »
    Syntax, I'm curious, what is your experience level like that the interviews asked about your master's work and research? From interviewing architects, engineers and directors I've yet to see anyone even mention their educational background so far.

    I have about 8 years in the IT field. Not much in a primary security role. The interviews did not ask much about the masters, but when they did at least mention the degree I took the opportunity to describe my education further. I also received the degree last year, so I believe it's relevant as any employer wants to know what you've done inside and outside of work to develop yourself.
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    Danielm7Danielm7 Member Posts: 2,310 ■■■■■■■■□□
    Thanks, RoyalRaven for your interesting input. I specified a "technical masters" to clarify that it wasn't an MBA. Not all the courses are technical, they have risk management, data privacy, etc but the overall program is in a technical subject matter.

    As for publishing new research, I really don't have any desire to do that, nor continue to a doctorate level program afterwards, either.

    I feel like the issue that I'm having, is outside of my current schedule and overwhelming amount of forced busy work, is that my end goal really was just to check a "oh hey he has a master's degree" box in some future job. A lot of the searching I'm doing isn't turning up very much in the way of people who are in my situation finding a lot of benefit of having that level of degree and job searching.

    I'm already at the point where it's negatively affecting my real job and family life, for something that's not looking to have a worthwhile ROI it's hard to justify right now. I'm not closing the door on it forever. I've even looked into the new Georgia Tech MS program where it seems like it might be more self paced and directed which might fit my lifestyle more after a break. I've said here many times, I'm not anti-education in any way, but I believe it should have a point. If it's to get past HR, even just love of learning, but sometimes the situation just isn't working out.
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    RaisinRaisin Member Posts: 136
    I suspect, just like with certs, it comes down to the person doing the hiring. HR types certainly like things they can filter candidates on. A more technical manager realizes most masters are mostly about writing papers. This could be a bonus if the position requires a lot of paperwork, reports, compiling information and proposals. Otherwise, for a hands-on technical role, it wouldn't factor in too heavily.
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