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Should I go to a top MS CS program after getting 2 YOE in Big Tech?

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Entry-Level Software Engineer [SDE 1] at Amazon10 months ago

Hi all. I joined AWS after university and recently got laid off. I have 2YOE at AWS and a 1 year internship at NASA.

During undergrad the only thing I stood out for was having multiple publications. I suspect really talented undergrads in CS programs where targetting FAANG so there wasn't much competition. Maybe I was good at research though.

I am a US Citizen and I went to a medium tier university for undergrad. The name is recognizable but it's not impressive. What kinds of doors does attending a top university for MS CS open for me? I might be able to get into a top school like PHYMS.

Most people tell me that top schools are not useful after getting a couple YOE. I remember I was talking with someone that went to MIT for undergrad and they told me that there is a company that will basically give students $100,000 to do a startup and all they needed was an idea. They told me that it was pretty easy to get and many people got that at MIT. That's not something that would ever happen at my university.

I have some concerns:

  1. I am not interested in doing research. I want to stay a backend SWE. MS CS is getting away from that.
  2. I don't need a visa. Graduate programs in my experience are usually for international students that need a visa.
  3. The opportunity cost and tuition cost of doing a masters is huge.
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Discussion

(2 comments)
  • 10
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    10 months ago

    Most people tell me that top schools are not useful after getting a couple YOE.

    In general, post-grad education is not that useful for SWEs with a good amount of YOE, especially if they worked at a top-shelf company like Amazon. So at a high-level, I'm strongly leaning no towards doing an MS CS:

    • As you mentioned, the opportunity cost and tuition cost are huge
    • You don't want to do research, which is the unique experience that academia can offer over industry

    If your goal is to boost your job portfolio, I think doing a combination of applying to more places, doing side projects, and waiting out the economic downturn is better ROI.

    If your goal is to boost your skills, then side projects are way better until you find a job as I talk about in this video: How To REALLY Level Up Your Coding Ability With Side Projects

    I recommend checking out these other discussions about doing a Master's as well:

  • 7
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    Head of Engineering at Capgemini
    10 months ago

    Alex covered the key point here. After you've worked a few years, especially at an established place such as AWS, your options open up and rarely is school the best option.

    Don't let the "unknowns" of navigating the job search process in a tough market cloud your decision making by deferring to the more "known" option of going to school. I think you already intuitively know that this may not be the best option given the 3 concerns you listed.

    So now it's just about investigating what alternatives you have to achieve what you want at a lower cost. Some options to consider are:

    • Side projects and building your portfolio (as Alex mentioned)
    • Building relationships and securing your next job through your network (e.g. community participation, tactfully reaching out to people, putting content out there for other to discover)
    • Building your own startup. The $100K seed funding you brought up can be obtained through other avenues outside of a school environment (vast majority of VC-seed is actually). Although it's tougher in this economy, there's still plenty of capital people are looking to deploy and you never know unless you put your idea in front of them.
Amazon.com, Inc. is an American multinational technology company which focuses on e-commerce, cloud computing, and much more. Headquartered in Seattle, Washington, it has been referred to as "one of the most influential economic and cultural forces in the world".
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