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PhD or MS?


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I'm currently in a masters program, and have taken a few CS courses as part of my degree. I've discovered I love programming, and have been taking extra CS courses in preparation for a graduate degree in CS.

The problem is I can't seem to decide whether I should apply for MS or PhD programs- I would love to get into somewhere like UMD, VaTech, UVA, etc, but I'm not sure that they would accept me as a PhD student. However, I would already have a Masters, and my family is strongly pushing me to only apply for PhD programs (they see another MS as a waste).

Any advice? When I apply this fall, I will have taken/ be in the progress of taking these CS-relevant courses:

Undergraduate: Algorithms & Data Structures, Foundations of CS, Computer System Org, Computer Architecture, Discrete Math, Linear Algebra, Calc 1-3, Statistics, Differential Equations, Operating Systems, and Programming Languages

Graduate level: 2d graphics, 3d graphics, 3d simulations

I don't have any graduate research, since I'm in a professional program, but I do have quite a bit of undergraduate research. I know research ability is very important in PhD applications, so this also gives me pause.

Thanks in advance!

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I think the first thing you need to ask yourself is what do you want to do as a career? Is research something that you want to do in the future? Or do you want to get into the tech industry as a programmer? I almost feel like I agree with your family - I'm not sure why you would want another MS in CS and quite frankly I think a lot of schools would ask the same question if you were to apply for another MS. If you know what it is you want to do in the future for a career then I think that would be a big help in determining your next step.

Also, I don't see why you couldn't apply to schools like VaTech, UVa or UMD for a PhD. Sure they are going to want good research experience, but not every successful applicant has that. What they look for more is research potential. So if you're able to demonstrate through your SoP and your recommendation letters that you have a good idea of what you want to research in grad school, why you want to and that you'd be successful at it, then I think you would have a shot at admission at those places. What's your GPA and GRE scores like?

Edited by newms
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Thanks! Ideally, I'd love to do graphics R&D, so I am definitely interested in research.

My current GPA is a 3.93; my GRE quant score from a few yrs back is 720, which I know isn't good enough for CS programs; I'm planning on retaking it next month (when I took it initially, I didn't prepare at all). My verbal score was a 670.

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That sounds like you should be looking at a PhD program then. Perhaps what you can do is to read papers on the topic or topics that you think you'd be interested in researching to get a deeper idea of what's involved, and so you can get a good idea of where your research interests lie. This will also help you to write a good SoP when that time comes.

The GRE isn't so important, but you probably should try to increase that 720 for the quantitative.

Good luck!

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It looks like you have a decent coursework background. I would spend the rest of your masters focusing on doing either programming projects that you can use to show that you know your stuff, or research projects (better). I know you said you're in a professional program and aren't doing research, but there should still be opportunities to do this, and I think it will help your PhD application more than anything else. Unfortunately it might be too late to apply to research-oriented summer programs, but maybe you can still find something along those lines. You might also take some initiative and come up with a research project on your own - if you aren't in a research oriented MS, your professors might not get involved, BUT if you were to come up with something cool on your own time and show them what you've done, I'm sure they would be supportive in helping you publish your work or anything that might help your grad applications.

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