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Masters vs. Ph.D.: Which one to choose? How far to go? Kathleen Fisher, Tufts University Linda Apsley, Microsoft.

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Presentation on theme: "Masters vs. Ph.D.: Which one to choose? How far to go? Kathleen Fisher, Tufts University Linda Apsley, Microsoft."— Presentation transcript:

1 Masters vs. Ph.D.: Which one to choose? How far to go? Kathleen Fisher, Tufts University Linda Apsley, Microsoft

2 Revisiting Choices Given that you are at the end of your first year in either a Ph.D. or MS program, the questions are: 1.Am I in the right program for me, based on a better understanding of What I want (what I love / what I dislike) in the graduate school experience? What I want as a future career path? 2.If not, then how do I get onto the right track?

3 Kathleens Story EducationB.S. and Ph.D. Stanford University (1991, 1996) PositionsAT&T Labs Research ( ) Tufts University ( present) ResearchProgramming Language Theory, Domain-specific languages, ad hoc data management ServiceCRA-W, CRA, SIGPLAN, ACM SGB, JFP,… FamilyMarried to Steve ( ) Elaine born (1992) Married to Bob ( present) FunBallroom dancing, studying Italian, traveling, cooking, watching hockey

4 Lindas Story EducationB.A., Organizational Behavior, BYU (1982) MBA, City Univ. of Seattle (2008) PositionsComm. College CS Part-Time Faculty ( ) Tester, Technical Writer, Microsoft ( ) Technical Program Manager, Microsoft ( ) Group Program Manager, Microsoft ( ) Director of Program Management, Microsoft (2008-now) SpecialtiesEnterprise computing: design and deployment Business and technical strategy Incubating new technology and teams ServiceHoppers, Women of Windows, Boy Scouts FamilyMarried to Richard ( ) Married to John ( now) Three sons (Allan, Patrick, John) Three daughters (Arwyn, Julianna, Suzye) FunBallet, bicycling, cooking, reading

5 Switch Grad School Paths First year MS course MS thesis project PhD -based Job industry / startup Job lab / academia coursework to dissertation Reapply

6 Experience of Course-Based Masters Degree Your educational goal: to acquire more knowledge (breadth & some depth) in the field via coursework. Specialize in CSE courses more than in undergrad program – Select courses to match your interests (a nd, do well in your courses) Short time to get what you need: – Job-hunting soon after starting the program – Cultivate & extend professional network Reference letters? Future PhD advisers?

7 Experience of Research-Based Masters Degree Your educational goals: – To acquire depth and project skills via Masters thesis under supervision of advisor – To get a taste of research (to decide about eventually pursuing PhD) Research component is similar to Ph.D., but… – May be more development rather than innovative & deep independent research – May result in 0-1 published papers, rather than 3 or more – Choices (of adviser, project, etc.) have lower stakes: Youre committing to 1-2 years, rather than ~5.

8 Experience of Ph.D. Degree Your educational goal: – To do original high-impact research – To learn the skills needed to be a contributing member of the research community Technical, soft skills, and culture Long process (4-6 years), multiple phases – Predictable challenges and stress points I Research

9 Grad School Paths First year MS course MS thesis project PhD -based Job lab / academia coursework to dissertation Choose advisor Qualifying exams Thesis proposal Submit papers Write dissertation Job hunt

10 CRA-W Grad Cohort Workshop 2005 Pick advisor, move from coursework to research Pick a TopicFirst submissionReviewer commentsWrite & defend thesisAdvisor stress Job interview invitations Experience of the Ph.D. Quals

11 Lessons from the Roller Coaster The ride is similar for most people You are qualified for the ride. Its scary for everyone. You arent alone. Share your experiences. It takes externally applied energy for the uphills Your advisor will be a key person (later session on this). Seek support from many sources (technical, emotional) There are a lot of downhill sections Frustration & doubt are guaranteed. Things can go wrong. Momentum is important Keep moving forward. No side trips to distract.

12 Setting Research Goals Youre in the pilot seat – not yet sure of your destination – need a capable crew to help you fly Network, mentors, friends. PhD Research requires redefining success – Class performance is not as important as before In research, nobody knows the answer! – And half the challenge is in asking good questions!

13 Career Paths First year MS course MS thesis project PhD -based coursework to dissertation Development jobs in industry; Create a startup; Project manager Research in industry or government labs; Project leadership in industry; Create a startup; University research/ teaching

14 Career Opportunities with Masters Degree Types of jobs you can do in industry with a Masters Operations – Consulting – Install and administer software – Technical support/troubleshooting – Web site management Product or application development – Design, code and/or test new software – User interface design, human factors analysis and test – Write technical documentation – Program or product management, marketing – Project management Research support (very similar to product development) – Contribute to prototyping new software ideas and to publications

15 Types of Employers of Masters Degree Holders Information Technology (IT) companies – Software or hardware or services companies – Start-ups – Spectrum of established companies (small to big) Companies in other industries – Banking, insurance, telecommunications, healthcare, environmental engineering, manufacturing, travel, … – EVERY industry needs software engineers today Universities – Typically in support roles

16 Course vs. Research Masters Course Masters Breadth of knowledge may qualify you for marketing, project management, product management roles – But if thats what you want, take some business classes! Lack of major project may be a handicap for development roles Research Masters Deep project may qualify you for more interesting development roles Potentially channeled more into development Much more attractive for a research lab position – Thesis will help with publications

17 Career Ladders in Industry Technical Entry level: implement parts of products designed by others Mid-level: lead design of product components Senior: lead product design and implementation Management 1 st line: Direct single project/component to successful conclusion Mid-level: oversee several related projects Executive: oversee product and corporate strategy

18 One View of the Technical Ladder in Industry LevelContribution and ImpactScope and OwnershipWho Knows You Are a Leader FellowMajor industry or market impact Major corporate initiative CEO knows you Distinguished Engineer Major group impactMajor group initiativeMany VPs know you Senior Tech. Staff Member Major division impactMajor division initiativeYour Sr. VP knows you SeniorMajor line of business (LOB) impact Major LOB initiativeYour LOB director knows you AdvisoryMajor product impact (or research area) Major product initiativeYour department head knows you StaffMajor department impactMajor department initiative Your manager knows you EntryMajor team impactMajor team initiativeYour team knows you

19 Career Opportunities with Ph.D. Degree Research or advanced development in industrial research labs Development leadership roles in industry Technical project management / leadership Academic research and teaching in a university as a professor I Research & Teaching (?)

20 Industry Career: Research and Industry Impact Research – Engage in scientific discovery, collaborate with peers, fund research (but typically later in career, possibly internal funding) – May involve university faculty and students – Develop creative thinking around technical solutions to problems Technology Transfer – Contribute to companys products, client engagements, open source… – Demonstrate strong problem-solving skills – Publish work and engage with academia Service – Departmental (hiring committee, e.g) – Company-wide (promotion review board) – Professional Expected to do all three well!

21 What can I do now to prepare for a job in industry? Complete a project(s) – Will make you a more interesting candidate Get an internship(s) – Try out a corporate culture, job type, industry – Experience counts a lot! Acquire key skills – Building your professional network, communication, negotiation, making yourself visible Find a mentor(s) – Provides a useful perspective

22 Finding Industry Jobs Identify organizations of interest and do internships – real world and specific organization experience is valued Know what positions are within your scope and focus on the right type of position for you Plug into on-campus recruiting at your school Apply through formal methods, but try to make contact with people who will get your resume into the right hands Conferences, conferences, conferences – employers attend conferences specifically to find you Network with friends, colleagues, and friends of friends to make contacts and get a foot in the door Consider startup organizations – higher risk, but greater potential for increasing the scope of your responsibilities Demonstrate good communication skills in addition to technical savvy Ask for what you want!

23 Academic Career: Research, Teaching and Service Research – engage in scientific discovery, involve graduate and undergraduate students, fund research Teaching – active teaching, mentoring, advising Service – Departmental – University – Professional Expected to do all three well!

24 Different Types of Colleges Research universities: Ph.D. program - emphasize research – but teaching, service important Colleges/universities: M.S. program- emphasize teaching – but research & service also important Selective liberal arts colleges: B.S. program – emphasize teaching with research a close second, but service important Teaching-oriented colleges: B.S. program – emphasize teaching & service but research can be expected

25 Academic Career Ladder Professorial Ranks – Assistant – Associate – Full – Chaired Professor – endowed Administrative Ranks Department Chair, Dean, Provost, President Instructor – teaching & service Postdoctoral positions - research

26 What can I do now to prepare for an academic job? Research – Apprenticeship: learn from adviser, doing it, and others – How do ideas come? – How to organize research? Teaching – Teaching experience, teach some even if dont have to Service – Organizing student organizations/support groups – Women in CS – Working on department committees – Volunteering at conferences

27 Moving Between Research Lab and Academia From University to Industry Must build real systems Establish visibility and knowledge in industry From Industry to University Must continue publishing Establish visibility in research community

28 Thank you! Questions?

29 Progressing in Research How to choose good problems Relax: your adviser often gives you first research problem. Balance: concrete enough to make progress far-reaching enough to be research. Read: In other papers, think of what the authors didnt do. Notice: challenges that make your research hard. These may be future research opportunities. How to make progress Break the big problem into steps Then break the first few steps into even more steps Eventually: a to-do list becomes a roadmap for what to accomplish each day. Use meetings with your adviser effectively: listen, take notes, follow-up.

30 Progressing in Research How to choose good problems Relax: your adviser often gives you first research problem. Balance: concrete enough to make progress far-reaching enough to be research. Read: In other papers, think of what the authors didnt do. Notice: challenges that make your research hard. These may be future research opportunities. How to make progress Break the big problem into steps Then break the first few steps into even more steps Eventually: a to-do list becomes a roadmap for what to accomplish each day. Use meetings with your adviser effectively: listen, take notes, follow-up. The real research challenge: Remaining confident, effective and happy while walking along an unmarked path to an unknown destination of unknown payoff !

31 Example of Different Expectations Research Institution: – 60% - 80% Research – 10% - 35% Teaching – 5% - 10% Service Teaching-oriented College: – % Teaching – % Professional Development – % Service


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