I dropped out of an e-commerce program fourteen years ago (yes, it was a short-lived idea for a program). I entered the work force, but kept self-educating ever since. Around seven years ago I began a career in software development. My self-education continued, I have a great CS foundation under me, am now a respected consultant and, recently, a speaker.

I’ve long had a desire to return to formal education, but dread the thought of taking a lot of elementary classes. It feels like a waste of time and money to get a BS when I have equivalent experience (probably better considering my experiences with recent CS grads) just so that I can pursue a MSc. I do have an area of research that I’m interested in pursuing.

What are the options for a middle-aged professional looking to pursue his/her master’s? Is it possible to directly pursue one in the US? It seems possible in Australia, but from what I can tell, US schools require an undergraduate degree in order to be accepted into a master’s program. If it’s not possible, how can a BS be accelerated as much as possible? I’m certain I can test out of most courses, including a number that are outside of my field.


I was in a similar situation about a decade ago. I just went ahead and got the BS degree. I was a systems admin for about 10 years prior. Here are my thoughts:

Of all the classes I only learned useful stuff from about 4 of them. Data structures, algorithms, signal processing (ironically in a brain device class where the equipment was garbage), and operating systems. Everything else was a complete waste of time including all the calculus' (more than 2 years worth of calc+ math) and general ed.

Id say that if you already know algorithms and data structures real well along with memory management and signal processing then there is no point to either a BS or MS degree. You will learn nothing. But if you have not seen those subjects before, it might be worth it though I suppose, now that I fleshed out the entire thing for you, you could just get a few books (lol). By the way, I teach CS now at both undergrad and masters level even though I dont have a masters. That said...

I actually started a MS degree once and all I got was the same education but more specific to certain fields like signal processing sound waves for voice recognition. I learned nothing in that course but it did require a huge amount of my time which I didnt want to waste on such a trivial thing that I can figure out without instruction. I just dropped the program after that. If you want to go into education however, you really should get a masters which is the only reason I am currently considering doing an online program. But if youre already in the real world, id say time is better spent making a product.

  • I don’t expect to get much from the classes themselves honestly. I’m just trying to set myself up to be in a good place to teach later in my career. Do you mind me asking how it is that you’re teaching w/out a Masters? I was under the impression it was basically a requirement to teach.
    – RubberDuck
    Dec 17 '17 at 13:21
  • 1
    Private universities do not have to follow federal rules (unless they want funding) and even public universities dont require a masters for everything. Plus, there are many loopholes to the rules. Basically, I am their well kept secret thanks to some creative contracting. The reason they keep me is because among all the professors, I am actually one of the few with a lot of real world experience and so I have a much better rapport with students. Its easy for me to explain complex things (like data structures and algorithms) in a way that most people understand them. This means money for them. Dec 17 '17 at 13:41

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.