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I am trying to decided whether pursing a Master's in Computer Science will make me more competitive for a job designing video games. I went to a prestigious undergraduate school and finished strongly. The graduate schools which offer Master's programs with concentrations in video game design are less prestigious than my undergraduate school.

The average starting salary with a graduate degree from one of them is actually $30k less than my starting salary with just an undergraduate degree.

If I attend a less prestigious graduate school, will that cancel out my undergraduate degree? Could I end up making less money with my graduate degree from one of these less prestigious schools? Will employers make the false assumption that I attended a lesser graduate school because I did poorly as an undergraduate?

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    Please clarify -- is your long term goal to work in academia, or in industry? – Corvus Mar 2 '15 at 22:29
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    If you are doing a PhD to go into academia you should ignore all statistics about money because professors don't make much in comparison to similar industry positions. – WetlabStudent Mar 2 '15 at 22:31
  • @Corvus industry – Evorlor Mar 2 '15 at 22:34
  • Is the average starting salary for the graduate school you mention for your field, or across many fields? – mac389 Mar 3 '15 at 13:54
  • @mac389 a variation of my field – Evorlor Mar 3 '15 at 14:19
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Edited heavily based on further information provided by OP

If you are going into industry, or pursuing a Master's, it may hurt you in the short term

A Master's degree is mostly course work. It's too short for you to create a body of work that stands on its own. The quality of the courses largely determines, consequently, the quality of the Master's. Prospective employers may use an institution's reputation as a heuristic/proxy for the quality teaching.

Attending a less prestigious institution will make it more difficult to get interviews. Not being able to attend the bigger names also means you miss out on their alumni networks.

Create a compensatory professional network that overcomes these limitations. Most Master's in CS programs have a semester-long project. Make an impressive project and shop it around. This is a good way to build rapport with potential employers.

  • Awesome answer. Computer science is the undergraduate and some form of video games/interactive media is the graduate. Any feedback on that? :-) – Evorlor Mar 2 '15 at 23:28
  • PhD or Master's? – mac389 Mar 2 '15 at 23:33
  • Master's Degree – Evorlor Mar 2 '15 at 23:33
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    Eep! You are making me strongly reconsider my plans of going to grad school. Thank you for the excellent and informative answer! – Evorlor Mar 2 '15 at 23:47
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    @Tim Pay is lower, work is longer, but you forgot to mention...the difficulty is greater as well. Job security is non-existent. The average career of a game developer is 4-10 years before they switch industries. etc. The career choice isn't being debated...just the path to it. :-) – Evorlor Mar 3 '15 at 3:15
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In my experience people care more about whether you have the appropriate skills for the job at hand rather than where you went to college.

What work-related experience do you have in your field?

Do you have a professional network you can leverage to get the attention of people you might not otherwise?

  • That's quite a few contradicting thoughts there – Evorlor Mar 2 '15 at 22:43

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