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I am looking to apply for a professional masters program in computer science (M.E. in Computer Science). This program is designed to for the working software engineer and thus not advised for those interested in doing computer science research in academia. As part of this, I am going to need to submit 3 letters of recommendation. It has been a few years since I graduated with my bachelors and I did not have a significant relationship with any of the professors in my undergraduate program. Thus, I would not be comfortable asking them for a letter of recommendation.

I am now working and I am highly regarded at work. I am confident that I could get very strong letters from various managers that I have worked with at my company. Will 3 strong letters of recommendation from these individuals be enough? How will they be weighed against a less strong letter from an undergrad professor?

  • For a professional masters, I could see it being fine to get all your letters of rec from people in industry. You don't need a professor's opinion too much since you're not going to get involved with research. – spektr Oct 20 '16 at 0:06
  • Agreed, this should definitely be fine. – Hobbes Oct 20 '16 at 14:25
  • If it's "designed .. for the working software engineer" they probably get LORs from managers and supervisors all the time. – MissMonicaE Oct 20 '16 at 18:16
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I have only been an admission committee member in the biomedical field so I cannot say too much about your field. For us, here are the concerns.

Generally, the pattern we have seen is applicants who returned to school after a long period working in industry face a harder time. A few factors include age difference (harder to find study partners), technology gap (unfamiliar with online learning platform or software), and anxiety related to assessment (examinations, tests, etc.)

While I understand it's a professional degree, a professional degree is still a degree given in an educational organization. There will be assignments, due dates, evaluation, course load management, study skill application, group work, etc. It will not be free of academic features. Admission committee would like to know if the applicants are ready for that.

If you have had a strong relationship with any professor I'd recommend go get his/her letter that would highlight your abilities as a student, but too bad you haven't had one or it may be too long a gap. This is not to say you should give up one strong co-worker's reference letter in favor of a weaker one from a former professor. Instead, a second best approach would be to ask one of your reference persons (preferably the one who trained you or someone who holds an adjunct professor title elsewhere) to highlight your good properties as a learner, and (if he/she also teaches) provide an estimation on your ability to thrive in an academic environment.

Another possible step to take is to ask the admission/recruitment staff. They can perhaps also let you know what the general patterns are and if your combination of reference letters would raise a red flag.

Good luck!

  • "ask one of your reference persons (preferably the one who trained you or someone who holds an adjunct professor title elsewhere) to highlight your good properties as a learner, and (if he/she also teaches) provide an estimation on your ability to thrive in an academic environment." I feel like this is the 'best' part of the answer, but it is a bit buried in the other text. – Hobbes Oct 20 '16 at 19:24
  • Agree with Hobbes comment - if any of your professional references can speak to your personal proclivity towards professional development, that might be great too: "When our team didn't have any experts on warp drive technology, Andrew was able to bring us up to speed without prior knowledge in the area" sorts of statements, and anything else they can say to support that you are up to date on any new developments in your field that a modern BS in CS would unquestionably know. – Bryan Krause Oct 20 '16 at 22:17

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