I am 23 years old and finishing my associate degree (3 years part-time) in Computer Science. I've been thinking about pursuing a career in academia; I've started to do research and got a paper accepted to a relevant conference in my field (pattern recognition).

I already have some experience in industry (4 years software development), so it's something I've tasted before, but nowadays I see academia fulfilling me better in the long term (big thanks to this post).

My goal would be to grow a career in academia (pattern recognition) and work as a consultant on the side.

Would count against me to go directly to Masters without a Bachelor? Or is there some better option? My concern is that my associate's degree didn't have a good mathematical foundation; it was focused on market-related technologies (programming languages, databases, software engineering, testing).

At this moment I've been thinking about two different paths I could take:

  1. Take 2 more years to get a bachelor's degree, and then go to master's (at age 25). This would allow me to grow more (both in foundation but also in maturity aspect) and make the most out of my master's.

  2. Go straight to Masters I believe I would have a really hard time with this, due to concepts I haven't seen before (calculus and linear algebra). Certainly I would try to learn beforehand, but this kind of knowledge takes time to grow. At this time I feel that I wouldn't make the most of it, but it would save me two years.

Note, I am in Brazil. College is free, and the only requirement for a master's program is to have an undergraduate degree, which both associate's and bachelor's are, so this wouldn't be an impediment.

  • Go with 1. 2 is going to be very hard, and in fact, very few masters programs will take someone with just an Associates.
    – JoshuaZ
    Commented Nov 24, 2018 at 23:40
  • @JoshuaZ in my country (Brazil) this is not a requirement, once both associate and bachelor are on the same level of education (undergraduate). Commented Nov 25, 2018 at 0:04
  • 1
    Welcome to Academia.SE. I've cleaned up your question a bit; please feel free to edit if I ruined anything. Also, I do not know what the situation may be in Brazil, but in the US, faculty positions are very competitive; I would be concerned if this is your only reason for pursuing a higher degree.
    – cag51
    Commented Nov 25, 2018 at 0:38

2 Answers 2


You will almost certainly need to obtain a bachelor’s degree before enrolling in a master’s program. Virtually all master’s programs in STEM fields have the requirement of a bachelor’s degree in either the same or a related field as part of the admissions process. It will also give you the opportunity to make up for deficiencies in your previous experience before beginning the more difficult master’s program (relative to the bachelor’s).

  • I agree with your point about the deficiencies, once it will allow me some extra time to grasp concepts I haven't seen before and will for sure be required lately. About the master's requirements, in my country (Brazil), the only requirement for master's program is to have an undergraduate degree, which both associate and bachelor are, so this wouldn't be a problem. Commented Nov 25, 2018 at 0:06
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    I hope you are interpreting that correctly. I would guess an associates degree wouldn't qualify as an "undergraduate" degree for the purposes of going on. It seems more like it is shorthand for bachelor's degree as it is most other places. Best to check and be certain.
    – Buffy
    Commented Nov 25, 2018 at 0:12

First, I agree with others saying to double-check that an associate's degree is acceptable for admission to a master's program. This is not true in most countries, and it's not clear to me from a quick search that it's true in Brazil.

Now for the CS answer: I would point out that computer science and programming are very different. Knowing the latter is certainly helpful for the former, but computer science also has a lot of fundamental math -- potentially even at the level of theorem/proof, depending on your specialty. Thus, I would have very serious concerns about you moving forward without a very strong background in calculus, linear algebra, and real analysis. I don't know the typical ordering of courses in Brazil, but I would expect these classes would be taken before starting a master's program. For that reason alone, option #1 seems better to me -- though perhaps an "option #3" would be to do CS associate's + 1 year of math courses, not sure if that is practical in Brazil.

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