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 looked for a tag along the lines of "adult-learning" or "professional", but did not see one. If a member of the community finds either of those appropriate, please add it.
    – RubberDuck
    Commented Jun 10, 2017 at 17:48
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    @BobBrown can you elaborate please? I have an assumption about what you're trying to say, but I don't like to assume.
    – RubberDuck
    Commented Jun 10, 2017 at 19:46
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    @RubberDuck - Wikipedia has a helpful description. Take a look. Commented Jun 11, 2017 at 1:39
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    I think it depends highly on what you want to do and what your background is. Perhaps you can elaborate a little. For example " My self education continued, I have a great CS foundation under me, am now a respected consultant and, recently, a speaker." - what do you mean by a CS foundation, that you're able to and enjoy proving the soundness of a logic and decidability of problems? Or that you're a great software-engineer? Next, what do you want to pursue, theoretical CS, AI, software-engineering? I think this all matters for which programs will accept you. Commented Nov 19, 2017 at 14:22

1 Answer 1


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
    Commented Dec 17, 2017 at 13:21
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    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. Commented Dec 17, 2017 at 13:41

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