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I'm currently approaching the end of my undergrad, and I'm faced with a dilemma (my field is computer science). On the one hand, I have a professor that I've been working very closely with on some promising research, and he's pushing very hard for me to go into grad school. On the other, I have the (extremely lucrative) world of industry beckoning. I don't really have a chance to get into grad school anywhere but with this professor, because my grades are terrible (I'm a better researcher/programmer than student), and I would very likely do it if I wasn't trying to get away from the town I'm going to school in (which is also my hometown).

Being in CS, I know that productive long-distance collaboration and research is possible. My question is, what are the potential pitfalls of essentially doing a Master's "on the side", while working a full-time (or possibly part-time) industry job in a different location?

  • Have you talked with that professor about this? – scaaahu Nov 12 '16 at 7:42
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I think what you're forgetting is that a master's involves a lot of coursework, not just research.

Your idea is only likely to work if the courses are designed to be taken remotely. Take into account that even when you are attending the classes in person, you had some trouble. It wouldn't be fair to put you in suboptimal conditions and suddenly expect a strong academic performance. One might be able to get by in an undergraduate program with C's, but that wouldn't fly in a graduate program.

You're considering a binary choice right now, work full time or work full time and pursue a master's at the same time. There is a third option -- get started in industry now, and go back to school later on at some point.

By the way, there is no rule that you must be enrolled in a degree program, or even that you get academic credit for doing research. If you are interested in a research project for its own sake, you can always work on it for the satisfaction itself.

However, it might be wise to wait to get started with such a project until after you see how much time and energy you really have to spare. In other words, allow yourself to get in the swing of the new job before committing. Perhaps you could leave things open with the professor you have in mind working with.

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Well I'm doing literally exactly this right now - working in industry while pursuing a distance masters in computer science part time - so I should probably try to answer.

Bluntly, you are right that this arrangement will produce a strained relationship with your professor. As far as I can surmise, you are at a point in life where you cannot have it both ways and you have hackneyed a solution to avoid making a choice. You are going to start your industry job, more or less enjoy it, be somewhat passionate about it and sometimes not, and develop other hobbies and activities. I'm not sure if you know what it's like working 9-5 or 9-9 as the case may be, even in a relaxed environment. I'm not going to call it "soul-sucking" but it is a very different way to spend most of your time each day and you will need time to decompress in one form or the other.

And you seem to have no idea what a masters degree is. If you really like this idea, just research with the professor without getting a masters degree. The focus is, usually, almost exclusively on coursework, and you pay a lot of money to do it. It usually serves a specialized purpose in one's career, such as: a path to immigration, an assistant tool in a late career pivot, a hobby and nothing more, a backup plan after not getting a job after college. Research is something you usually get paid to do. You are proposing paying, and also having to complete a bunch of coursework.

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