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I completed my undergraduate degree with good grades five years back. After that I have been working for a well-known organization for the last 5 years.

I recently decided to pursue a master's degree. One of the major requirements being recommendation letters from professors, I am having a bit of trouble providing those, since I have not been in touch with my professors for a long time.

I can provide letter from my supervisors from my past and current organizations, but I am not sure how much value it will add to my profile, since none of them are from purely research-oriented background. I have been worried regarding this from quite some time, will it be a road block for my application though I have good grades and relevant industry work experience.

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    In what subject do you wish to pursue a master's degree? – Pete L. Clark May 25 '15 at 19:25
  • I want to pursue master's degree in Computer Science, have under graduate degree in the same and working in software development from last 5 years.. – payalc May 25 '15 at 19:41
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    Are you looking for a research-based or coursework-based masters degree? – Nate Eldredge May 25 '15 at 19:49
  • course work based master degree.. – payalc May 26 '15 at 6:40
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You are not required to provide a recommendation from people who are professors. What is needed is people who can comment on your ability to do research. While it is helpful to have recommendation letters from people who work as researchers (whether in industry, academia, or other non-university organizations), if they are not available, you have to work with the resources you have at hand.

What can such people comment on? Well, your ability to solve problems independently and creatively, as well as any capabilities or skills in teamwork and leadership would also be helpful. Other "soft" skills relevant to research—good oral and written communication skills, and so on—would also be helpful. Of course, just mentioning that you have the above abilities is insufficient; the letter writers should provide helpful examples to support their claim (just like in research!).

One thing to also note here is that having letters from your undergraduate professors is not entirely helpful if they only knew you in a classroom context. Three recommendation letters from such people would probably not be as helpful as someone who knows you in a more work-related environment.

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  • I think this is excellent advice for some academic fields and less so for others. For instance, in my field (pure mathematics), an applicant who had all letters coming from industry would be at a huge disadvantage, whereas having all three letters coming from professors who knew the candidate (sufficiently) well in the classroom is totally fine. That was the case for my recommendation letters, for instance, and I got into all five of the programs to which I applied. – Pete L. Clark May 25 '15 at 19:13
  • @PeteL.Clark I'm not sure if that holds for many fields other than (pure) mathematics—just because of the nature of the field. I also can't imagine many people on such a trajectory (five years in industry, then back to school for just a master's in pure math). – aeismail May 25 '15 at 19:16
  • I think it would probably be similar in fields for which the strongest undergraduates show their strength through coursework rather than research, which would be the case in much of the humanities, for instance. If we don't know, we could try asking about it on the site. Anyway, pure mathematics is one of the most common things asked about on this site -- and sure, some people spend time in industry and want to come back to academia. A lot of these people want to start with a master's degree. (I didn't see the word "just" in the question.) – Pete L. Clark May 25 '15 at 19:21
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    What is needed is people who can comment on your ability to do research. This of course assumes that the OP is heading into a research-based masters program. – Nate Eldredge May 25 '15 at 19:49
  • Okay, after further clarification the answer seems quite on-point for the OP. – Pete L. Clark May 25 '15 at 20:08

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