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I have been working as a entry-level web developer for approximately a year now. I am looking to go back to school to get a Master's Degree in hopes that I will be able to teach programming/development at the community college level (which requires a Master's Degree). I'm not interested in a PhD because I have to work full-time to support my family and I'm not interested in doing research. I have narrowed down my options to 2 programs:

  • Brandeis University has a Master's in Software Engineering, which teaches a lot of very specific, high-level courses (primarily Java programming and development).

  • Boston University Master's in Computer Science - Web Development, teaches a more holistic approach that spans several domains, but doesn't go into as much detail.

Do you find that a particular academic background makes one more marketable for teaching at the community college level? I feel that having a deep mastery of a specific technology is great, but community college courses generally do not get that deep into the material. I'm also a little nervous that if I take a more general curriculum that introduces me to many topics, my transcripts may not show that I have a deep enough understanding of a specific subject to teach at the college level.

Does anyone have any recommendations/insights or experiences with this type of career transition?

Thank you and have a great day.

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...in hopes that I will be able to teach programming/development at the community college level (which requires a Master's Degree)

While this is technically true for many community colleges, it is also true that with a Master's degree vice a PhD, you will be less competitive for positions, as many PhDs also apply to community colleges. A friend of mine from graduate school worked successfully as a programmer at Microsoft for 20 years, and when he started looking for teaching positions (with his Master's already) at community colleges, he was told that he would not be competitive for available positions.

A further caveat: because community colleges generally do not have research requirements for instructors, they tend to rely on teaching experience as much as a particular degree when hiring instructors. I would suggest that you consider trying to get some computer science teaching experience as well (if you don't have any). You might want to see if either of the two schools you mentioned will allow you to TA classes -- you may not be able to get paid, but you could do it for free for the experience.

You might also want to consider approaching the graduate school of education at BU (if you attend there) to see about education courses -- they have a number of teaching classes, and taking one of those would also bolster your resume. You could also see about trying to get adjunct teaching positions at various community colleges -- teaching a one-off class may be possible, and you'd be able to leverage the experience.

Bottom line: unfortunately, there probably isn't a short path to being competitive for teaching positions at community colleges. If you are going to go down the MS route, your best bet is to do as well as you can in a program, and to try to get some teaching experience under your belt.

  • Chris, thanks for your response. I do have some teaching experience. I have a Master's in Education and I previously taught secondary science. I just realized that the subject material and student population weren't the right fit for me. Maybe I'll just have to pursue the Master's, get some experience (and save some money) and eventually maybe a PhD will be able to fit into my life. I was hoping I wouldn't have to go this route, however. I guess only time will tell. – Java Jeff Apr 4 '13 at 12:06
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    @JavaJeff Ah -- this does change things. With the MEd and the high school experience, you will be much more competitive with the MS in CS. You might want to think about looking around for adjunct positions in the science you taught with just your MEd -- you might be able to land something (Bunker Hill CC, Roxbury CC, or UMass Boston, maybe?). With your foot in the door, once you get a MS you may have a good shot at a full time CS position. – Chris Gregg Apr 4 '13 at 12:45
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I would suggest that you go for a Masters degree,if you wish to teach in a community college. Where I live ,Industry experience is also a big plus for teaching.Lets say if two candidates applied for teaching a java course and one of them has industry experience as well as a Masters degree then he would be the preferred candidate for the job.

Ofcourse , phd candidates are still preferred over the Masters.But where I live ,phd candidates are considered more suitable for the theoretical courses like Automata,Operating Systems etc.Guys with industry experience are considered more suitable for teaching programming languages.

Again, a Masters degree is very important for teaching positions.So I suggest that if you wish to go for teaching then go for Masters.

  • Thank you for your message. I was under the impression that most Community College instructors were educated with a Master's degree. After perusing local school websites (and attending community college classes), I haven't seen many PhD's among the faculty. As far as Master's degree curriculum is concerned, do you find the classes you take affect your teaching options? I.E. Do you think I would need a curriculum heavy in Java to be able to teach Java even if I have experience? I'm not sure if BU's CIS program would have enough programming courses to make me a strong teaching candidate or not. – Java Jeff Apr 9 '13 at 16:08

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