I'm a recent electrical engineering and computer science graduate and landed a full-time job developing software. I plan to attend grad school working toward a Masters in computer science once I've settled in to my job, but there are a lot of things that I've been considering that I'm not terribly sure I would know how to approach regarding entering a graduate program with a full-time job.

  • Research outside of school

I was a pretty good student in undergrad, graduating magna from a decent school. I had jobs on campus, including research. My research, however, was unpublished. I want to do research before I apply not only to get a competitive edge, but also to find out what I like and what I don't like. Does anyone have suggestions for finding research opportunities while not a student?

  • Coursework

I'd say a reasonable guess for the number of courses a "typical" graduate student takes in a semester is around 3, saving time for any independent research and assistantships. For someone with a full-time job, how many classes are recommended? I was assuming 1 or 2 per semester, but I'm totally unsure.

  • Research in school

Another huge component of graduate studies is doing research. Hopefully by the time I'm accepted to a program I'll be a semi-competent researcher (see Research outside of school), but how does one manage independent research with a full-time job and coursework?

If anyone has experience with this, I'd love to hear! Any tips? Do's or do-not's?

  • 4
    I got my master's degree in CS while working full time as a programmer. It took me a bit over twice the normal full time version of the same program. To do that, I had to live computing - very little time for anything else. Commented May 29, 2015 at 20:11
  • @PatriciaShanahan Did you do a thesis option or only classwork?
    – erip
    Commented May 29, 2015 at 21:35
  • The program required a small research project and a report on it. That part would be much easier now than when I was doing it in the early 1970's. I had to physically go to college to get access to a computer network. Commented May 29, 2015 at 21:45
  • I got a Masters in Physics, while being a full time International teacher and later, as a cleaner
    – user34619
    Commented May 30, 2015 at 7:32

1 Answer 1


In terms of the points you raised concerning publications and research opportunities, it's pretty common for an undergrad not to publish. You ought to publish during your Master's though if you want to continue on to do a PhD, or to keep that option open for the future. If you would like to publish in an academic journal or conference before embarking on your Master's, I believe that you'll need to team up with some sort of R&D or academic institute. In terms of what you could work on, that's really up to you. There's plenty of open-source projects out there, and each one is linked to a field with plenty of open questions. Being an electronics engineer that can program puts you in a pretty good position; there's a lot to do in 'making hardware work' which requires both of those skills.

In terms of coursework, 6 credits (2/3 of permitted load per semester) + research + full time job should keep you well busy. You'll lose friends, you won't have time for a relationship or pets. You'll also have many, many 24 and 36 hour working days, especially towards the end. If you want to finish your MSc on time, so that you're on the same track as your competition (read colleagues), I suggest you negotiate a part time shtick with your employers, or that you take a hiatus from work for the first year of your MSc and focus on getting as many courses as you can out of the way. Overload whenever possible. Once you have the topic settled and the hardest courses out of the way, you can refocus on your career, your research, and getting published during your second and final year. I hope I made it clear how much discipline this needs, and how much you'll be giving up.

The last point: I think I've covered that above, but to reiterate; it's mostly about discipline and time-management. Learn how much time you really need to rest and recharge and don't overdo it, and see how much you can dedicate to maintaining your career to the level you deem as 'just enough for me to be satisfied with my work' and put all of the rest into your research. That means:

  • Instead of GoT with dinner = Technical conference video.
  • Instead of 9Gag on the subway = Reading technical papers, magazines, or even fiction to stimulate your mind.
  • Slow day at work and your boss doesn't mind = Write your papers, find solutions to that problem that's nagging you, etc.

    But, please, do not neglect yourself. Exercise, rest when you need rest, and maintain a healthy diet; it makes a huge difference.

    Finally, please frequent this site, it has plenty of good advice and also visit 'How Not to Suck at Graduate School'. It's a blog by one or more McGill-ians who have some pretty good advice to give on managing your time, not losing your soul, etc.

    Good luck!

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