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How would you advise someone within an interdisciplinary field such as computer science or engineering to pursue a masters degree so that they can move into a position of technical leadership in their organization.

Should someone stick to their background and refining their existing skillset or pursue an advanced degree and specialize more with in an industry?

For instance, most organizations employ software developers. If a software engineer works for 15 years in an aerospace company, is it better for that individual to continue to master the software trade or begin to add qualifications specific to the new industry? Assuming a passion for that industry of course and a willingness to move higher within that specific industry?

closed as off-topic by IDrinkandIKnowThings, gnat, Dukeling, gazzz0x2z, sf02 Jan 15 at 18:54

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  • What does that individual want to accomplish? I can't say for a given person whether it's better to keep developing software or move into a leadership or management role. I decided to keep developing software, personally, but other people went into leadership/management roles and have done well. – David Thornley Jan 10 at 18:24
  • Can you clarify "technical leadership?" If we're talking about your example of a software engineer at an aerospace company, do you mean leading software engineers? Or leading aerospace engineers? Both? Some other sort of "technical" leadership? – dwizum Jan 10 at 21:37
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I would advise the person to network with people in the industry and ask how much a Masters is worth in that particular industry to advance within it.

Then I would carefully consider how much in-depth knowledge of the industry I'd need to advance in my industry. If it is a more technically demanding industry, you might need to go for the degree, but in most instances, a few courses might be more than sufficient.

The important thing is to develop your core competencies. IE, if you're a programmer, focus on that and take one-off courses on industry specific items that would strengthen your base knowledge of the industry.

If you're in finance, for example. Going for your series seven license might be of more value than a masters. A few accounting classes might be of use, but more than that would be overkill

If you're in the shipping industry, a good general knowledge of tarrifs, bills of laiding, et cet would be far more valuable than any degree.

So, it does vary by industry, and while industry specifi knowledge may be useful, a formal degree that is appropriate for the industry may not be.

But again, network with people, and research the industry as well as individual companies.

In my own experience, I've run the gamut. I'm a self-taught hacker that went to a trade school. I never graduated college. For most companies, that's not a problem at all, for some, it will halt my advancement past a point, and some have hard and fast education requirements. I found it mildly annoying when one company ignored several decades of experience in favor of a degree, but that's how it goes.

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    It can vary by company even inside the same industry. Some employers will care a lot about formal degrees, while others will look for specific certifications. And yet others will only care about what you can actually demonstrate. Network for sure, but in the end you will need to do what is right for you. – Seth R Jan 10 at 18:13
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How would you advise someone... to pursue a masters degree [to] move into a position of technical leadership going forward within [their] organization.

First make sure that people within that field value a masters degree, and if so which one.
Make sure people who don't have a masters say the same.

An MBA may be the most useful if you want to move into management. It is unclear to me if you consider "technical leadership" to be management or non-management.

At a certain point of technical knowledge your ability to network, your relationships, and your people skills become more important than your technical knowledge.
This varies by field: in a university setting having an advanced degree is the starting point - in physics you'd need a PhD, but in Engineering you'd just need a masters.

Full disclosure I don't have a masters, nor am I (at the moment) in technical leadership (though I have been at previous positions).

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Should someone stick to their background and refining their existing skillset or pursue an advanced degree and specialize more with in an industry?

If you want to move into technical leadership, generally a Masters degree is not necessary for most software companies. I've been managed by Bachelors and Masters degree holders, CS and non-CS degree holders, etc.

If a software engineer works for 15 years in an aerospace company, is it better for that individual to continue to master the software trade or begin to add qualifications specific to the new industry?

Aerospace is an interesting case, because you tend to be funded by the government one way or another. The US government agency tends to value graduate degrees more than regular software companies.

But either way you'll have to do more research on the norms in the particular industry you're interested. Generally you don't need a graduate degree to take on a leadership position nor does a graduate degree necessarily make you a better candidate than someone doesn't have one.

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