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Leaving decent job for funded MS at mediocre school


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I'm in a bit of a dilemma...

I was accepted last fall to get an MSME at a mediocre school and deferred a year so I could work and pay off some bills. I like my job although it's not exactly my passion, the place is great and has been good to me. They also have a policy of paying for education which is nice.

I have a couple options...

I could:

A. Work full time. Get a masters at a slow rate locally. Work said they could probably give me a project to use toward the MS. With this option I could probably buy a house and work on some other of my passions like recording and perfoming music and various mechanical projects.

B. Work part time while taking school on roughly full time but with no assistantship. Work would likely pay for schooling costs. I'd probably earn more than graduate stipends pay.

C. Move away to go to school full time with assistantship and scholarship. Basically I wouldn't have time to form a band and would be living pretty meagerly but I feel I'd learn more and possibly open the door for some interesting opportunities in a field I'm more interested in. I could always form a band when it's all over in 1.5-2 years. However, this would mean throwing away a good job and starting over again (sort of) after graduation.

Right now I'm leaning toward option C but option A is tempting due to my lack of patience. I'm not sure if I'd want to go all the way for a PhD but I would like to start my own company (or something like that) some day.

Both schools in question are of about the same level of prestige except school C has slightly more advanced facilites.

Anyone have any insight? Similar dilemmas?

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What's your goal with your MS? To improve your career prospects, to prepare for PhD coursework, or to gain skills that would allow you to work in some other job, closer to your passion?

If you're happy with your current job, and you're looking at the MS more as a means of increasing your earning power, I'd say stick with the job and take the cheaper/longer/more relaxed route. Play your music, save some money, and have a life outside of work and school!

If, on the other hand, you're looking at the MS as a transition either into a different field of employment or into a PhD program, I think it's worth devoting more attention to your studies (and, if the PhD is your goal, perhaps it's worth applying to stronger programs).

Just my two cents! Best of luck. :)

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I don't have a solution for you but I think it's clear from your options that A and C are sort of opposite options.

A - places your other activities above studying - you would continue working full time, form a band, etc.

C - places school above your other activities - no time for the band, you quit your job.

B - same as C, but you get to keep your job and have more money.

I guess my question would be, how slow is the "slow rate" at school A? I have to say, since it doesn't seem that school C is better than school A in ranking/placement and with the state of the economy being what it is, I'd be wary of leaving a good job that's accommodating of your studies and which you enjoy. If you're worried about wasting a lot of time doing this, consider going for option B - get the MS faster, so you can get on with the rest of your plans. I don't really see the advantage of C over B - in both cases it takes you the same amount of time to get the MS, but if you go for B you get to keep your job and have more money than in the case of C. You'd probably work harder taking option B but if you can do it, then you'd be getting the best of both your worlds.

If you're looking to do the MS in order to continue on to a PhD program, only then would I advise going to school C. Devoting yourself to doing good work in your program will be the best way to get into a top PhD program down the line. If that is indeed the case, I don't think you'll have all that free time you imagine you'll have. You will have to immerse yourself in your studies if you want to go from a "mediocre" MS program to a better PhD one.

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Thanks for the replies!

I'm not sure if I have it in me to go for a PhD. I feel like I'll never have these years of my life back and they will end up being the best. Spending them studying vs. living and enjoying other productive activities is a very tough choice.

My reasoning for continuing my education is basically to force myself to find things I don't know yet. Learning anything on my own is not an issue. It's finding out about the new things in order to learn them where school has helped me.

A more advanced degree will surely help with pay but I do still have my entrepreneurial urges. Doing some research for the degree may lead me closer to this goal as well though.

I guess it's all about making the biggest and broadest positive impact for me.

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