Tag Archives: masters degree

In Defense of Grad School

I’ve received lots of praise and pats-on-the-back for my acceptance into Grad School here at UofT for Computer Science.

However, there’s another side of the coin.  While I was still mulling the decision, I mentioned it to a few people here and there, and sometimes I got a strange look…like I’d agreed to have a lobotomy, or take experimental medication or something.

Believe it or not, I’m still getting it from time to time.  It’s strange.

At one point, I posted my Grad School status on Twitter, and got back the response “Don’t!  It’s a trap!”  Trap?  Really?  Have aliens taken over the school?  Am I unwittingly joining some bizarre cult?  Am I going to get pushed down an empty elevator shaft on my first day?  Awful hazing rituals?  What’s going on?

What’s wrong with Grad School? I’ve asked a few people this question, and gotten the following (paraphrased) responses:

  1. You’ve been in school too long.  Get out now and enter the work force!  Don’t you want to have fun?
  2. Grad School is expensive.  You’re going to go deeper into debt.
  3. If you choose a thesis/subject that you end up disliking, it will be an awful experience
  4. Work first.  Then go to Grad School.  Just trust me.
  5. You’re educated enough – you don’t need a Masters degree.  You’ll learn everything you need in the field.
  6. The courses are super hard and boring.

Here are my responses, in defense of Grad School – they’re numbered to correspond.

  1. Who says Grad School isn’t fun?  I really enjoy the field of Computer Science, and this is my opportunity to do some cutting edge research.  The whole point of a thesis (I believe) is to focus on something in the field and make it my own – to master it.  This means background research, thesis, experiments, conclusion, the whole bit.  That’s the science part.
    Also, there’s a self-serving economic payoff:  Bachelors degrees are going down in value.  Lots of people have a B.Sc.  A Master’s degree stands out, and will bring higher pay and more interesting jobs.
    My uncle once said that his days in Grad School were the most educational because of the people that surrounded him, and the conversations that he had.  I think I’ll find that here, and it’s exciting.
  2. Believe it or not, I’m actually getting paid to do this.  Sure, I owe the University a chunk of money.  Thankfully, the Department of Computer Science is paying for it, and I should have enough left over to live a modest lifestyle.  Living like a student for one more year isn’t so bad – it could certainly be worse.
  3. Why would I choose a thesis or subject that I don’t like?  From what I’m told, the first few weeks of Grad School are spent scouring around with a supervisor, trying to nail down a thesis subject.  I plan to do one better, and try to nail a thesis subject down this summer.  Once I’ve got it nailed down, I’ll do the background reading, and try to figure out some interesting experiments.  It’s easier said than done, but I’m not going to be stupid enough to pick a thesis on something I really can’t stand.  Am I going to do my thesis on complexity theory?  No, of course not.  Am I going to do it on how to teach software engineering students design patterns in a more visual, animated way?  Who knows, maybe.
  4. This answer assumes that I haven’t worked before.  I’ve worked.  I’ve been out there.  “You haven’t seen the real working world”…well, maybe I haven’t, but I’ve seen something that’s probably pretty close.  Working three summers at the school board hasn’t been a cakewalk.
    Some might argue that working for a while before going to Grad School will help me to gain the discipline necessary to work in an unsupervised environment.  Well, I have to tell you, I was barely supervised at the school board.  They gave me a task, and I did it to the best of my ability, with little-to-no oversight.  I set my own schedules, I dealt with clients directly.  I can work on my own.  I can manage my time.  I know how to work hard.  Don’t give me that “real world” crap.
  5. Like I said in #1, a B.Sc. isn’t what it used to be.  Lots of people have them, and it’s probably becoming less useful as a marker for separating the wheat from the chaff.  It’s only 17 months more work, but I think the payoff is going to be considerable.
  6. Maybe.  Thankfully, I’m only taking two a maximum of three per semester.  Workload does not frighten me anymore – I’ve been overloading myself for years, and I’m fine.  I’m not at all saying that Graduate School courses are going to be a breeze – but, and I hope I don’t sound arrogant,  I’m more-or-less used to doing the practically impossible.

Have I missed any reasons for not going to Grad School?  Do my rebuttals miss something entirely?  It’s a bit of a moot point now – I’ve already accepted the offer.  But if there are any interesting reasons that I missed, I’d love to hear them.