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I have obtained two master degrees in 2010 with one in Biomedical Engineering and the other one in Applied Math and Statistics. I then pursued phd study in Applied Math and Statistics, but didn't finish it and left it recently in 2013.

Because I am an international graduate student in U.S. and leave my school without a new degree. I can't find a job in industry, since virtually no employer can apply H1B (the working visa) for me in April 2014, and wait till Oct 2014 when H1B takes effective and only then I can start working.

So I am thinking about applying to a master program in computer science starting in Spring 2014. My career goal is to find a job about data mining, machine learning and computer science in IT industry.

But some friend said that if they were the recruiter, they would be surprised to see that I had three masters, and my resume couldn't even pass the recruiter.

I was wondering what the general perception of recipient of three master's degrees, such as in my case?

Thanks!

closed as primarily opinion-based by Jim G., jcmeloni, jmac, CincinnatiProgrammer, IDrinkandIKnowThings Oct 1 '13 at 18:38

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    You would have three masters immediately following your undergraduate work? There's a big difference in doing three MS programs right after a bachelors vs the course of a career. – enderland Oct 1 '13 at 10:56
  • @JoeStrazzere: Perception of hiring managers, recruiters, and yours. My career goal is to find a job about data mining, machine learning and computer science in IT industry. – Ben Oct 1 '13 at 14:01
  • You are saying 'and leave my school without a new degree' - so you wont have a degree. Then how come you will have three degrees. If you do have three degrees you always got the OPT/CPT routes to work in the US, post which your H1B petition can be filed. – happybuddha Oct 1 '13 at 14:03
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    @enderland: I don't have employment experience yet. – Ben Oct 1 '13 at 14:03
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    @Tom - You could always simply finish your PhD program or continue to work on it until you can get start looking for a job with H1B. You could also become a citizen. – Ramhound Oct 3 '13 at 12:52
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As with any sort of specialization, there is always a trade-off. Earning another degree (masters or PhD) makes you more specialized which tends to make you much more interesting to a very small number of employers and makes a larger pool of employers a bit more wary. But that's no different than, say, if you wrote a book or did something else to distinguish you. For the people that really want an employee with that exact specialization, it's great. For everyone else, the assumption is that the additional specialization would make you more expensive, less interested in the job they have to offer, and don't provide a lot of value to those employers. But these may not be jobs that interest you in the first place (hence the expectation that you'd be less interested).

People in industry are always a bit suspicious of people that have spent "too long" in academia without doing any industry work (it's not clear whether that's the case here or whether you have some industry experience as well). Fundamentally, there are often different outlooks between industry and academic pursuits. Industry, for example, isn't generally interested in innovation for innovation's sake, they want the results as quickly as possible. Academics are often seen as having their head in the clouds a bit in a way that makes it difficult for them to efficiently solve the current practical problem rather than the general class of problems it represents. Someone with 3 post-graduate degrees and no track record of industry experience is likely to raise some concerns on that front.

Finally, there is a question of whether the particular degree you're after adds a whole lot of value. Your existing degrees and your work on your PhD already indicate that you're likely pretty familiar with computer science and programming so it's not obvious how much you would really learn in a computer science program that you don't already know. As an interviewer, there's a good chance I'd ask you what you gained from the last degree program that you didn't get from the first two.

Personally, if you want to pursue a third master's degree, and assuming that you don't have a lot of industry experience elsewhere, I'd try very hard to design the program so that you can work closely with an industry partner on some real-world project that is something you'd be interested in doing after graduation. A more practical degree program would tend to help alleviate some of the concerns that employers would tend to have about someone that had spent that long in academia.

  • Hi Justin, Thanks for the reply! If I will be asked why I studied for a third master degree in CS, will it be an acceptable answer that "I am an international student not finishing my last PhD, and according to the law, I need a new degree in order to find a job in industry with a working visa"? Or it is very likely that my resume may not even be able to pass the recruiter, so no question will be asked to me. – Ben Oct 1 '13 at 0:12
  • @Tom - It's not a question of "acceptable" or "unacceptable". Some employers will undoubtedly question how long you've been in academia (let's guess 2-3 years for your first 2 master's degrees, another 3 years in a PhD program, and another 1-2 years for your third masters for a total of 6-9 years of postgraduate education with no industry experience). Employers will question how much the point of a third degree in a highly related field. Some will find the explanation reasonable, some will probably think you're overqualified before they even interview you. – Justin Cave Oct 1 '13 at 0:19
  • Thanks, Justin! Is it okay that I don't mention my master degree in Biomedical Engineering in job hunting? I would like to use master degrees in Applied Math and Statistics and in Computer Science to find a job of quantitative analysis or a software engineer in IT industry, using statistics, machine learning, data mining, etc – Ben Oct 1 '13 at 14:10
  • @Tom - It's generally fine to leave off information that isn't relevant from your resume though it's reasonably likely that information would come out in a background check. And leaving off degrees when you have no industry experience probably isn't going to address many of the issues with being considered overqualified for a lot of jobs. – Justin Cave Oct 1 '13 at 14:24
  • Thanks! As to having no industry experience, if I can find some internship during my study for the third master degree in CS, would that change my situation significantly? During my third master study, will my past make it also difficulty to find one internship? – Ben Oct 1 '13 at 14:28

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