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Life/career advice needed (Getting a Masters degree)

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by Badfish740, Oct 4, 2013.

  1. flyingcow

    flyingcow Minister of Fire

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    I only read the first few dozen threads. Badfish, you're all set. Go forth an conquer. BTW, UPS is a good solid way to go.



    IMO, you've got your mind made up? Do you not?


    Your daughter....these early years are so damn important. In your gut, you know this is right.



    5pm to 10 pm? Rock on, easy hours.

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  2. Ashful

    Ashful Minister of Fire

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    Okay, Badfish... I read your posts, but not many of the replies. Maybe some of this is just repeating what others have said.

    I found myself in a situation very similar to yours, excepting that we were still "planning to have kids," rather than already having had them, and I knew that my situation at the time was not where I wanted to be stuck for life. When the telecom industry tanked in 2001, my wife and I (and thousands of other Lucent/Agere engineers) found ourselves without jobs, and I decided this could never happen to me again. I started shopping full-time masters programs, and actually found that if I was willing to enroll in a Ph.D. program, I could get a free ride.

    Not really wanting to do the full Ph.D. at the time, but not wanting to PAY for school even more... I went for the Ph.D. Then, three years into the 5-year program, the company funding all of my research pulled the plug, although they did offer me a job... in Boston, where I could continue working on the Ph.D. Instead, I negotiated to transfer my dissertation credits over to master's thesis credits, and graduated with an MSEE (plus something like 36 extra credits toward a Ph.D. I'll never complete). I was then faced with the same task that worries you... explaining in job interviews why I hadn't been working the last three years, and even worse... why it took me THREE years to get a master's degree.

    I found both items to be a complete non-issue. In fact, in every case, the interviewers were impressed that I had chosen to go back to school, and with the course- and lab-work I had completed during that time. Many had either similar stories of their own to tell, or expressed some desire to do the same for themselves.

    More importantly, with my education and skill set / job experience, I have almost zero concern about staying employed. I interviewed with several companies after graduation, and received offers from every one of them. The company I chose actually had several rounds of layoffs shortly after I was hired, but since I brought something highly valued to the company, others were laid off in my place. If I do somehow lose my job down the road, I have no concern with finding another, since my area of study is in-demand, and so very few working in my field are schooled in my particular area of expertise.

    All that said, it was very hard getting it done, and I imagine your road will be even harder. I did not have kids at the time, life's biggest factor in stuff like this. However, I always tell myself I can do ANYTHING, if there's an end in sight. Two years, three years... seems like a long time, looking forward. However, look back three years, and it seems like yesterday. You can do it, if you know it's just a couple years. Just keep the end in sight, and make sure your work is moving you toward that end... as quickly as possible. I disagree with the notion of taking a partial load... just get it done.
    Swedishchef and woodgeek like this.
  3. Grisu

    Grisu Minister of Fire

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    Hi Badfish,

    I also would say that the "hole" in your resume actually will not really be one since you will be getting your degree and be working during that time. However, I see a big problem with your plan: When are you actually going to study? A 2-year old being alone at home with Daddy will not be happy just playing by herself for more than a few minutes. She will want your attention plus that pesky household stuff like preparing lunches, cleaning dishes, doing laundry etc. will rear its head. Have you researched how many hours of course work you will need to complete during the semester? At least double that with time needed for assignments, reading etc.

    I do not worry that you will have a problem with your resume but I fear you completely underestimate how difficult it will be to juggle the demands of a toddler with the workload of a masters degree. Just "squeezing that time in somewhere" does not sound like a workable plan IMHO.
    firebroad likes this.
  4. woodgeek

    woodgeek Minister of Fire

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    Of course, like many a mom trying to finish a degree (or just take care of life), you can work out a reciprocal child care arrangement with a friend/neighbor/relative/bear with a similar aged child. Or buy child care for the portion of time required.
  5. Retired Guy

    Retired Guy Feeling the Heat

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    How is the potential of finding a Public Administration job without relocating?
  6. Swedishchef

    Swedishchef Minister of Fire

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    I think part of the answer lies on what type of person are you. Some people have commented that you should just keep your current job, it's a job and there are millions of people who would want it. Others suggest you take the leap of faith/risk. So do you enjoy the simple/stable life you have now or do you have a drive to continue studies and roll the dice for a big payout?

    For me, personally, I will NEVER spend 1.5-2.5 hours a day commuting to a job. That is approximately 1/4 of a work day travelling. I have had numerous job opportunities with my current employer but in Montreal. My office would be located in one of the worse places in town (geographically speaking) so a commute would be hell-ish.

    You may not be there for the bedtime routine but hell, you'll be with them all day. They won't need to tell you how their day was: you were with them the entire time. That is priceless in my opinion.

    PS. What does you spouse suggest?
    flyingcow likes this.
  7. Mrs. Krabappel

    Mrs. Krabappel Minister of Fire

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    I say go for it, but I'm salting away at a master's and I often regret it. It makes life really hard, which is hard on my kid. In the bigger picture it will be good for my life, but 2.5-3 years is a big chunk of his childhood.

    That being said, I don't have a spouse who can help get household things done or take a kid out for some fun.
  8. Badfish740

    Badfish740 Minister of Fire

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    Another small point of clarification. I think maybe some have gotten the idea that I am a corporate hotshot who is making tons of money and is climbing the ladder to success but doesn't see his family right now looking to transition to a position where I slow down see my family more. Quite the opposite. In 2006 when I graduated from college I took a low paying, crazy schedule, high stress job (with a long commute) thinking "this will only be temporary." Seven years and an economic crisis later, it turned out to not be so temporary.

    I never really thought about it when I typed it, but I'm sure to many in other parts of the country, an hour and 15 minute commute probably does sound quite insane. However, when you live in NJ (most densely populated state in the union), it's a sad reality. If you Google mapped my commute right now it would tell you 48 minutes door to door (its only 37 miles), but the 9 million other people trying to get to work in the morning/home at night adds the extra half hour. Furthermore, if I got out of work at 4:30 or 5:00 everyday (instead of 6:30-7:00) I would be home in plenty of time for bedtime. Heck I could even split wood during the week! Throw a work from home day in there once in a while and I'd think I'd died and gone to heaven.

    She's just as unsure as I am. She doesn't even want to work, but in NJ that doesn't fly. We couldn't even support ourselves on my sub $45K per year salary let alone us plus our daughter. Still pondering the opportunities, but I am enjoying the discussion in the meantime. I am committed to starting a Masters in January (Spring 2014 semester)-it's just a question of how to do it.
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  9. Ashful

    Ashful Minister of Fire

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    Glad someone asked the spouse question, I did not think to do it. I've had a few invites to go back to school and finish what I started, but my wife is the one saying, "don't even think about it." I'm okay with that.

    You know that $45k in NJ just isn't going to cut it, long term. You live in the third highest ranking state by median income, in our entire country. Put aside your crazy high NJ property taxes, mortgage, vehicles, food... now you have the expense of college for your kids to consider! I didn't see if you posted the age of your kids, but I'm sure you already understand compounding.

    If you survive it (all up to you, and how tough or stubborn you are), you will not regret it. Just plan your sleep and home repair projects around holidays... it's what I did for three years. As long as you keep focused on that distant light at the end of the tunnel, you'll get thru it fine. Just be damn sure that the career / education you are pursuing is worth it. I see far too many people who are so highly educated in nothing useful. Some careers just don't pay for higher education.
  10. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

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    You are not alone Badfish. It could be worse, my wife used to make 70 something as a hospital nurse and around here we couldn't keep the lights on even at that pay (and we have no debt other than house/student). Right now she is a SAHM but even if she went back to work full time we would still need my job to make ends meet so I dont have a lot of flexibility to take a leap like you are considering. So I say if you are ready - go for it!

    I see those same statistics that say the Average American commute is 20 minutes and I scratch my head. My drive is only half yours - 18 miles - and can be anywhere from 35 minutes at 6:15 am to well over an hour if I cant get out early and have to do it at 5pm. I bet Boston is like your area - us young professionals all have to head west out of town to find a town cheap enough to live in, then head back east into town where all the tech companies are inside the 128 (I-95) loop road.

    I am lucky that my company has generous vacation (at my tenure 30 days plus holidays) and is very tolerant of telecommuting and flex hours and I take advantage of that a lot to increase the time I can spend with my (almost) 3 year old twins. I put up with a lot of non-ideal things career wise right now for that flexibility. Its priceless.
    Ashful likes this.
  11. Badfish740

    Badfish740 Minister of Fire

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    It's very similar here. Basically in NJ the cities have "ring suburbs" where a home like ours (2 bed/1 bath 1960s era ranch) can easily run into the $300K range with a $5K per year property tax bill. Nice towns, if you can afford them, but we can't. We moved out beyond those for that specific reason, but I pay the price in commuting.

    Flex hours are another thing I look for in a potential job. We are early risers-if I could start at 7:00 and leave at 3:00 I'd do it in a heartbeat. I do want to make sure that I'm not coming off as whiny though-I don't think that I should be "entitled" to any of these things at my current job, I just want a crack at a different job that offers them.
  12. Ashful

    Ashful Minister of Fire

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    BTW... you might want to wear a different hat to your job interview.

    badfish.jpg
  13. Swedishchef

    Swedishchef Minister of Fire

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    I don't think you are whining whatsoever. You are simply stating facts.

    As for the commute: it is all what you are used to and what you are ready to accept. My home province takes 4 hours to get from tip to tip. I certainly won't spend 1.5 hours in a car to get to work one way :)

    Move to Canada ;) Lots of firewood waiting to be cut, very small population (finally busted the 35 million mark for the first time) for the size country we have and we even have good hockey teams! haha.
  14. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    Good idea.

    To add to Joful's experience and recommendation the most important thing that I took about his story is that he has a valuable degree/specialty. MSEE which I expect means a masters in electrical engineering. If you traded your bachelors in history for a bachelors in EE then we wouldn't be having this conversation as you would have plenty of opportunity. Joful's success depended on that chosen field of study. There are plenty of phd graduates out there unemployed or making 45k a year because they chose an easier field of study.

    So I hope that you are certain of the employment opportunities (aka reward) for giving up a sure thing at your current job.
    Ashful likes this.
  15. mass_burner

    mass_burner Minister of Fire

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    >> $5K per year property tax bill

    that would be a $1200 cut for me. But its for the schools, 65% of town budget is for schools.
  16. Badfish740

    Badfish740 Minister of Fire

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    That's a whole other discussion entirely. I mean, I could have skipped a four degree entirely, gone to trade school for plumbing/HVAC/electrical and gotten an Associates in either Business or Construction Management and seven years out I'd probably have my own mechanical contracting business by now. But I didn't. When I was in high school History was the one subject that interested me besides shop class (I wanted to be a welder or a machinist). My two blue collar parents were dead set on me going to college (I was the first one in my family to go) because they thought it was a ticket to a better life than they had. They didn't know anything about college except that it would probably mean that I'd have a job that didn't depend on the weather, punching a clock, or whether or not my back was going to give out on any given day. Looking back I would have done things differently.

    Well as I said before-when I look around I see lots of people with History, Poli-Sci, and Communications undergraduate degrees holding the kinds of positions I would like to be in. The difference between them and me is that they tend to have either MPP (Masters in Public Policy), MPA (Masters in Public Affairs/Administration) on top of those undergraduate degrees. I've been on at least two interviews where I was eventually turned down. When the position was eventually filled, I either heard through a connection with the job or stalked Linkedin and found that the person who landed it had an MPA. That said, my original question was "how do I get my degree" not "what degree do I get?"
  17. Swedishchef

    Swedishchef Minister of Fire

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    I know lots of engineers who aren't making more than 45K a year. When you join a firm with 200 employees, it takes time to climb to a higher pay scale.

    The easier field of study is different from one person to the next. I have an honors degree in Chemistry (with some quantum theory) and a double minor in physics/computer science. To me it was easy. However, I can't write an essay in english literature of take a philosophy class without wanting to gouge my eyes out. I find those classes very very hard. My mind is a scientific one, not artistic.
    Highbeam likes this.
  18. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

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    Location plays a large part in that. Around here, 45k was a starting salary in my field (Mechanical engineering) 15 years ago, with EEs and CEs making more. Today starting salaries are closer to 60, and probably 70-80+ for Masters and more for Doctorates. Its not unheard of for folks with an advanced degree or just a lot of years on the job to break into the 6 figures while still completely technical (i.e. not in management track).
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2013
  19. Ashful

    Ashful Minister of Fire

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    Aside from Badfish's OP, entirely, but EE salaries are generally near the top of engineering disciplines. I don't know the actual published numbers, but based on the group of friends I knew, starting salaries from my school were $65'ish for BSEE, $85 - $95 MSEE, and $105+ Ph.D.EE.

    Highbeam's point is a good one, though, and it seems Badfish has already thought this thru.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Job Type
    Salary Range
    Median Salary

    Executive Director of a non-profit
    $34,000 - $66,500
    $60,000
    Human Resources Director
    $79,525 - $97,750
    $88,000
    Management Analyst
    $43,750 - $56,163
    $51,000
    Policy Analyst
    $35,000 - $53,844
    $45,000
    Consultant, Business
    $57,500 - $74,500
    $60,000
    Program Administrator in an non-profit
    $40,000 - $55,000
    $40,000
    Director of Program Management, Human Services
    $55,000 - $70,000
    $60,000
    Purchasing Manager
    $48,750 - $56,250
    $52,500
    Entry-Level Federal Position (Grade 11)
    $46,189 - $60,049
    $53,000
    Mid-Career Federal Position (Grade 13)
    $65,832 - $85,578
    $75,000
    Source: US Office of Personal Management and Pay Scale

    While it's no guarantee of a higher salary, the range does become much more skewed in your favor with the MPA.
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2013
  20. Badfish740

    Badfish740 Minister of Fire

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    As another aside I just want to say that it's a testament to Craig, all of the mods, and all of the posters in this thread (and in general) that these kinds of things can be discussed here. I've seen threads similar to this one turn judgmental and nasty/political in hot second elsewhere.
    Ashful and flyingcow like this.
  21. Swedishchef

    Swedishchef Minister of Fire

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    I was mistaken. A starting salary for ME around here is about $60K. I was thinking of when my buddy was doing his P Eng with a firm. Ooops, my bad!!

    Funny thing is that the job I have not doesn't require more than a HS diploma and after 3 years your base salary is $82K. Hence why lots of friends (including my 3 friends who studied ME) do the same as me.

    I say GO FOR IT.You seem to already know you're gonna do it..

    This thread is making me want to go back to school. That won't happen anytime soon: my wife currently stays at home and I am the sole income winner. :|
    Ashful likes this.
  22. Ashful

    Ashful Minister of Fire

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    hey... we gotta talk about something other than woodstoves, once in a while.
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  23. Swedishchef

    Swedishchef Minister of Fire

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    Exactly!!! We could even talk about my wife who just backed into a hand railing at the post office and scratched alongside our car (actually, let's not talk about it. Keep the OP thread going.).
    :)
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  24. flyingcow

    flyingcow Minister of Fire

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    I don't want craigs head to get too swelled up, but it is a very well run board. Also, one of the best group of participants for a BB. These type of discussions are interesting to me, mainly the different view points and experiences.

    I think I live a very sheltered/isolated life. Most of the time I'm happy with that. But when you need to run to a mall or box store, it's just an hour away--if you drive 80mph. It has helped now they got the interstate speed limit at 75mph now. A lot of people up here commute an hour and fifteen to work, which will get them about 80/85 miles from here.
  25. Swedishchef

    Swedishchef Minister of Fire

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    I am 250 miles from a box store :(

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