Author Topic: Company-paid Master's in Computer Science  (Read 1099 times)

Greyweld

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Company-paid Master's in Computer Science
« on: April 13, 2018, 11:14:45 AM »
I've been fighting with myself for a while over whether to take the advice of my boss at work and enroll in a Master's degree, which would be paid for by the company. Obviously, there are some pros:

-Reimbursed by the company.
-The company is VERY into people having advanced degrees.
-I would get a one-time bonus on completion.
-Higher probability of more rapid advancement/salary increase.
-Additional merits on my resume were I to want to change companies.
-The place I would likely go is an "easy" place to get your degree (though this could be considered a con, since the reduced rigor may make me look lazy to some companies).

However, I'm hesitant to take the plunge for a few reasons:

-Any reimbursement must be returned if you leave the company less than two years after a given reimbursement. The degree is about 20-30k.
-It's definitely more time out of my day for 2 years that I'm not excited to spend. I have no enthusiasm for getting the degree - it would be purely a career advancement tactic/an ego thing that everyone seems to have their master's but me.
-Husband and I have been thinking we're ready to start trying for a kid soon, for some value of soon <2 years. So there's a possibility that I would have an infant while not being done with my degree, and that seems like it would suck. I think I can handle a career and a kid, a kid and school, or maybe school and a kid. But not all three.
-Husband has the income for me to be a stay-at-home-mom if we decided to go that route (also I have the income for him to be a SAHD, but that's not relevant to this decision). To get the degree, have a kid, and then immediately leave my job to stay at home seems like a waste.

For a while we were planning on waiting until I was 30 to have kids anyway, and have recently considered moving that up, so it's not like waiting until I get the degree and almost have the 2 years service put in would be a deviation from our original plan. I'm just getting pressure from a lot of sides, everything seems like the wrong decision, and that kind of sucks.

Any advice, analytical or emotional is welcome. I'm worried about wasting my time on something I may not use, but also missing my window of the easiest time to get the education that could give me a permanent pay bump if I do use it.
« Last Edit: March 28, 2019, 12:58:00 PM by Greyweld »

secondcor521

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Re: Company-paid Master's in Computer Science
« Reply #1 on: April 13, 2018, 11:50:01 AM »
BSCS/MBA here.

The only suggestion I have is that you seem to have locked yourself into a binary choice:  take their offer or not.  As a fellow CS person, that makes perfect sense.

But what you might try is various counter-offers that work better for you:  See if you can prorate the payback, so that if you leave after 18 months, you only pay back 25% of the degree cost.  Or you don't pay it back if you leave for maternity; you only payback if you leave for a competitor.  Or you have the option of suspending payback if you leave for maternity (so you could do the program, work for another year, go on maternity leave but not pay back the 50%, then return two years later to finish up the second year of indentured servitude).  Or you do 1 year full time after finishing the degree, go on maternity and do an additional two years part-time work from home to finish the two years that way.

Other than that, it sounds like you are genuinely conflicted, which is a tough place to be.

Good luck!

Greyweld

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Re: Company-paid Master's in Computer Science
« Reply #2 on: April 13, 2018, 11:53:21 AM »
BSCS/MBA here.

The only suggestion I have is that you seem to have locked yourself into a binary choice:  take their offer or not.  As a fellow CS person, that makes perfect sense.

But what you might try is various counter-offers that work better for you:  See if you can prorate the payback, so that if you leave after 18 months, you only pay back 25% of the degree cost.  Or you don't pay it back if you leave for maternity; you only payback if you leave for a competitor.  Or you have the option of suspending payback if you leave for maternity (so you could do the program, work for another year, go on maternity leave but not pay back the 50%, then return two years later to finish up the second year of indentured servitude).  Or you do 1 year full time after finishing the degree, go on maternity and do an additional two years part-time work from home to finish the two years that way.

Other than that, it sounds like you are genuinely conflicted, which is a tough place to be.

Good luck!

I guess I never considered that there might be room for negotiation. I'll definitely ask, maybe if they want me to go to school bad enough I could get something in writing that gives me more breathing room. The company is pretty big with a fairly concise policy, so I don't know what the likelihood is, but it never hurts to ask.

secondcor521

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Re: Company-paid Master's in Computer Science
« Reply #3 on: April 13, 2018, 12:06:24 PM »
I've worked for big companies too.  In that scenario, HR probably will stick to the well defined policy.  But you may be able to have your management chain run some informal interference for you.  In other words, if you're valuable (sounds like you are), your boss and his/her boss and maybe his/her boss can have a side deal with you that you can possibly rely on if you trust them and the company and they are stable enough to be around and keep their promises.

Greyweld

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Re: Company-paid Master's in Computer Science
« Reply #4 on: April 13, 2018, 12:14:23 PM »
I've worked for big companies too.  In that scenario, HR probably will stick to the well defined policy.  But you may be able to have your management chain run some informal interference for you.  In other words, if you're valuable (sounds like you are), your boss and his/her boss and maybe his/her boss can have a side deal with you that you can possibly rely on if you trust them and the company and they are stable enough to be around and keep their promises.

Yeah, and I think that there's some wiggle room in other policies that might allow some loopholes. I think they may already do something like if I leave over 2 years after the reimbursement for class/semester/quarter 1, I don't have to pay back that first thing. In addition, I'm pretty sure maternity leave (6 weeks) and parental leave (2 weeks) count as 'time worked,' if I save up some vacation time I could effectively work half-time until it was used up and then quit, but all that time would count as time worked.

Husband and I will talk about it. His biggest objection to me doing it is that he thinks I'll hate it. He's not too worried about the possibility of paying it back. In his words, we've spent that much money on dumber things that have NO potential to earn us more money (stupid freaking car...).

MoStache

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Re: Company-paid Master's in Computer Science
« Reply #5 on: April 13, 2018, 12:21:05 PM »
BSCS here as well...  I hear you on not wanting to go back to school.  I was in a very similar position at one point (sans kid factor) and opted not to go for the masters.  From what I saw getting a masters would have given a modest pay bump but it wasn't going to help me do my job better.  Not worth it from what I saw.  If it's the pay bump you are focused on I would try to go about it in a different way - find other ways to increase your value to the company.  Consider spending 20% of the time you would be spending on a masters trying to improve yourself and increase your value in your current role.  That's what I did and it paid off.  I was offered a promotion in a different department (also a big company) in less time than it would have taken to get a masters.  The best/easiest way to get a pay bump is to switch jobs.  If you work for a big company the good news is you can do that internally.

Another take...  Do the math.  Estimate how many additional hours a masters will add to your workload and what kind of pay bump you will get and when.  Then figure out how many hours (including school) you have to work before FIRE in each scenario.  Even if you didn't do what I suggest above I'm guessing the "no school" option wins if you are serious about FIRE.

jlcnuke

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Re: Company-paid Master's in Computer Science
« Reply #6 on: April 13, 2018, 12:24:44 PM »
I'd just like to point out that the earlier you utilize education to advance your career, the more that advancement will compound over time. Getting a 40% raise now and 3% raises for the next 20 years is more lucrative than getting a 3% raise for the next 6 years, then a 40% raise, then 3% raises. "Free" education can also go away at anytime in the future at the whim of your employer. I'd ask how any plan for maternity leave would impact your reimbursement (if just a leave, I'm guessing their policy wouldn't require a payback as long as you fulfill your "total" time working with them after you graduate).

If I were in your shoes I'd make sure that maternity leave wouldn't trigger repayment, then put off having kids until after you graduate with your free education (assuming you have interest in the additional compensation and/or opportunities the education would afford you anyway).

secondcor521

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Re: Company-paid Master's in Computer Science
« Reply #7 on: April 13, 2018, 12:37:30 PM »
Some other comments:

1.  I'd try to find out - this would be a better question for HR rather than your boss - what happens if you do half of the master's then quit just because you hate it?  Do you owe them just a year of servitude then?  Or do you have to pay it all back anyway since you didn't do the whole enchilada?  Sounds like this would be good information to have.

2.  Is the MSCS valued elsewhere, or just at this company?  When I looked into it for myself about 10 years ago, I found that it was of zero value (in terms of increased salary, etc.) to the companies I worked for.  If it's just at your current company, and you're potentially taking time off for a child/children, then there is a large possibility of you going back to a different company, in which case having the degree may not be as valuable to you.

3.  Would the company pay for any different advanced schooling?  An MBA, perhaps?  Mine contributed to a management role and probably a 25% salary bump over the course of a few years.  Did that for about 5 years then was able to FIRE.  Of course you have different goals and you're at a different stage in life, but my point is, maybe there is a different degree out there that would serve you better that they might pay for.

Greyweld

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Re: Company-paid Master's in Computer Science
« Reply #8 on: April 13, 2018, 12:50:28 PM »
Good points. The raise I would get from the MS, based on the salaries of those with my position but with more education, would be closer to 20%, if not lower, and likely doled out slowly over 6-month increments, and I feel like I could get an equivalent instant pay raise just by jumping ship and changing companies. I would be very tempted to do so if I didn't love my current project and have a desire to see it through.

I like the idea of expanding my skill set outside of school. I keep seeing these job postings for things that I know I *could* do but just haven't had much practical experience, and those technical skills are probably a good place to start, especially if I think I may want to leave at the conclusion of my current project.

Some other comments:

1.  I'd try to find out - this would be a better question for HR rather than your boss - what happens if you do half of the master's then quit just because you hate it?  Do you owe them just a year of servitude then?  Or do you have to pay it all back anyway since you didn't do the whole enchilada?  Sounds like this would be good information to have.

2.  Is the MSCS valued elsewhere, or just at this company?  When I looked into it for myself about 10 years ago, I found that it was of zero value (in terms of increased salary, etc.) to the companies I worked for.  If it's just at your current company, and you're potentially taking time off for a child/children, then there is a large possibility of you going back to a different company, in which case having the degree may not be as valuable to you.

3.  Would the company pay for any different advanced schooling?  An MBA, perhaps?  Mine contributed to a management role and probably a 25% salary bump over the course of a few years.  Did that for about 5 years then was able to FIRE.  Of course you have different goals and you're at a different stage in life, but my point is, maybe there is a different degree out there that would serve you better that they might pay for.

1. I would owe them two years from the last time they reimbursed me. Payment to the university I'm looking at is by-quarter, so if I paid them for quarter 1, did quarter 1, got reimbursed for quarter 1, either I stay for 2 years after completion of quarter 1 or I pay the company back what they gave me for quarter 1. Does that make sense?

2. The value does seem to be primarily to this company. At least when I look on glassdoor for a 'estimated proper compensation' or whatever, the number doesn't change at all when I change the education variable from BS to MS.

3. I asked about this, and my boss said that an MBA wasn't paid for 90% of the time. They only like ~technical~ degrees. Which is stupid, because that's probably why our management we have often seems undertrained at actually doing business things.

405programmer

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Re: Company-paid Master's in Computer Science
« Reply #9 on: April 13, 2018, 01:03:07 PM »
I can share my experience but I don't know if I have any great advice. I received my MS in Computer science while I was still in school just because it was ridiculously convenient via my school's 5 year accelerated program. I think it meant I got an extra 5% pay at my first job and since then I don't think it has affected my compensation at any following jobs. It definitely helps get an interview because it looks really nice on paper! I think the value I really got out of the MS program was a chance to confirm that I never want to do CS research but really enjoy teaching others how to program.

I don't know if an MS is worth 20-30k. It is worth it if it's free but only if it won't make the next 2 years of your life hell.

I think either way would be a fine choice but if you're doing it just for the money I would seek out contracting work on the side. I bet you could make the one time bonus MUCH faster in side work than the 2 years it would take to complete the program.

phred

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Re: Company-paid Master's in Computer Science
« Reply #10 on: April 13, 2018, 01:03:48 PM »
Can you work from home until the baby is weaned?  The company provides the computer, printer etc

Greyweld

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Re: Company-paid Master's in Computer Science
« Reply #11 on: April 13, 2018, 01:28:18 PM »
Can you work from home until the baby is weaned?  The company provides the computer, printer etc
Policy-wise, possibly. Practicality-wise, I've been told by MANY parents not to count on having any ability to focus well enough to work at home with an infant.

I don't know if an MS is worth 20-30k. It is worth it if it's free but only if it won't make the next 2 years of your life hell.

I think either way would be a fine choice but if you're doing it just for the money I would seek out contracting work on the side. I bet you could make the one time bonus MUCH faster in side work than the 2 years it would take to complete the program.

This is a good point. The one-time bonus is quite small: $2500. In two years, I could make that like, babysitting for three hours a week, which is probably less time than I would spend doing schoolwork per week, so it's not really an incentive.

Unless someone can guarantee me a pay bump upon completion of 20k or so, I'm leaning toward no...

COEE

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Re: Company-paid Master's in Computer Science
« Reply #12 on: April 14, 2018, 11:31:27 AM »
I got a company to compensate a portion of my undergrad (I got extremely lucky).  I had a 1 year contract to sign each semester.  Towards the end of my schooling I decided that I just wouldn't ask them to pay me back for the final year of school.  Could you do something similar?  A post graduate degree usually takes 4 years to get when you're working full time as well.  You'd at least get half of it paid.  I was never asked why I didn't want the last year paid.  If I did, I decided I'd tell them, I want to keep my options open.

2 year contract seems awful long - locking you into the company for 6 years basically.  1 year contract is more normal.  Can you find a job with a company that will only do 1 year contract?

Greyweld

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Re: Company-paid Master's in Computer Science
« Reply #13 on: April 14, 2018, 11:40:35 AM »
I got a company to compensate a portion of my undergrad (I got extremely lucky).  I had a 1 year contract to sign each semester.  Towards the end of my schooling I decided that I just wouldn't ask them to pay me back for the final year of school.  Could you do something similar?  A post graduate degree usually takes 4 years to get when you're working full time as well.  You'd at least get half of it paid.  I was never asked why I didn't want the last year paid.  If I did, I decided I'd tell them, I want to keep my options open.

2 year contract seems awful long - locking you into the company for 6 years basically.  1 year contract is more normal.  Can you find a job with a company that will only do 1 year contract?

Possibly, but my husband is considering changing jobs for more pressing reasons, and Im not certain it's wise to do that at the same time.

My thought is that if I do this, it's on a reimbursement structure, so at the end of each semester upon reimbursement I can stick the money either into a high yield savings account if I want to be cautious or I can put it into index funds so it has the possibility of growth.

shelbyautumn

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Re: Company-paid Master's in Computer Science
« Reply #14 on: April 14, 2018, 01:29:15 PM »
I got my Masters in Healthcare Administration while working. I would have jumped at the chance of my employer paying for it. But it was something I wanted to do, not something I was being asked to do.

Iím also 27 and thinking about having children in the next couple years. I 100% could have done my program with a job and a kid. It was not a huge time commitment at all. I donít have a ton of work experience in the healthcare admin field, so I donít think itís gotten me any significant pay raises, but I do think itís gotten me interviews. I think as I get older and further in my field, it will become an expectation, so Iím glad I got it while I had the time and was young. School gets harder the longer youíre out of it. Side note: Iím also taking a course for my PMP certification through work right now. Watching the older people struggle with concepts that came easily to me was enough to convince me to continue learning in some way, shape, or form.

How is the program structured? In my program I took one class at a time and each class was 8 weeks long. I had to do discussion board posts and a paper every week and a large project as the final. A schedule like that is going to be more manageable than taking 3-4 classes at a time. I honestly probably spent 5 hours a week on school on normal weeks and 8 hours on a finals week.

If your gut says no, then donít do it, but I thought Iíd chime in with a positive experience from a masters program!