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I’m currently pursuing a part-time masters degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering while working as a Computer Engineer. I was wondering, Will my part-time degree be treated any differently than a full-time degree would be?

I’ve met with some strange reactions when telling people about my part-time degree (even though they have become a fairly common thing); mostly because I only take 1 class per semester, for 3 semesters a year. Even though I take the same classes as the full-time program, I feel that the part-time degree gets less respect, because it doesn’t require you to go through the full rigor of 12 or more credit hours each semester.

I know that it’s the individual’s skills that matter more than just the degree for most (good) companies. But has anyone had an experience where a part-time degree M.S. was treated differently than a full-time degree, in terms of salary/compensation or in terms of job qualification?

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    What do you mean by "some strange reactions"? How do you know they treat full time degree differently? Different in what sense? – scaaahu May 27 '15 at 4:27
  • What country are we talking about? Please edit and add a tag – Jan Doggen May 27 '15 at 6:26
  • I don't get it. If you attend part time or full time, don't you still get the same degree? I thought part time just meant that you achieve it more slowly? – Brandin May 27 '15 at 6:49
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    You get that reaction because you are selling it poorly. Why are you doing a "part-time degree"? Will your certificate state that you have a "part-time degree"? A marketing guy may tell you he "is doing his Masters degree alongside his job" and explain it with "his eagerness to learn and his need for continuous professional development". Now, which one does sound better? – Alexander May 27 '15 at 10:41
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    I'm doing a similar thing (2 classes per semester, 2 semesters per year). If anything, it's been a plus. Employers like to see that I can work full time, I'm motivated to do the course work, and have a high GPA. – Kathy May 27 '15 at 14:12
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Whether you finish a degree in 1 semester or 20 has little bearing on its competitive value. Your terminology is a bit flawed, there is no such thing as a "part time degree". Once you have a degree, you have it. The fact that you went to school part-time has no relevance. If a school doesn't hold the same requirements for a "full time degree" and a "part time degree" then they're doing it wrong (i.e. they should really have their accreditation revoked).

On the other side of that coin, for some positions where you received the degree and in what program has much more relevance. MIT or Harvard may have options for part-time students, but I bet it's competitive getting into those programs, and some simply won't accommodate part-time students (though most will).

More important than either of these is the explanation you have for things. In a few years, you really only need to put your graduation date, Degree, and GPA, etc., not the years attended. You'll inspire some with your tales of going back to school after being in the workplace and working your way through school if you are able to tell a good story. Others won't be so interested, but the things you learned at work while going to school part-time, etc. will potentially be very valuable.

  • This might vary based on the school and industry. MBA students at Booth (University of Chicago) are treated very differently by the industry if they were full or part time students. It will come up during interviews. – Chuu May 27 '15 at 15:20
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I've been involved in interviewing people a few times. If someone lists a degree on his resume, it has never occurred to me to ask whether they were studying full-time or part=time. I don't recall ever hearing anyone else involved in selecting a candidate bring the subject up. If you don't mention it, I doubt anyone would ask.

That said, I'd think that if anything getting a degree part time would be MORE impressive than full time. After all, this means that you had to take classes while also working a full time job. Someone who got a degree while living with his parents may well have had his parents pay much or all of the cost, while someone getting a degree while he's got a job and living on his own is probably paying the cost himself. If that's the case, he probably takes it a lot more seriously: we value what we have to work and pay for more than what gets handed to us on a silver platter.

I wouldn't be embarrassed about your part-time degree at all.

  • I agree with this - especially since your degree and job are somewhat related, it gives the impression that you're going above and beyond the bare minimum required for the job, and putting in your own spare time to improve. This is a good thing, sell it as such! – user29632 May 27 '15 at 11:41
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    I agree with the first part, but the second point, I couldn't disagree more. I happened to be fortunate enough to have my parents pay for my master's degree, and it is ridiculous to believe that I took college less seriously than those who are less fortunate than I am. I worked my tail off to graduate with a 3.9 GPA in Mechanical Engineering while classmates of mine, who WERE paying for themselves and/or part time students were just squeezing by and apathetic. I'm not saying it's more or less impressive, but to make any sort of generality regarding the seriousness of the student is absurd. – dberm22 May 27 '15 at 11:56
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    @dberm22 I didn't intend that comment as a 100% thing. When I was in college, almost all the students were there direct from high school. Of the young people, most worked hard and took it very seriously. But there were a substantial number who did not, who just saw college has a time to party before they had to get jobs. The handful I've known who were going to college part time while working all took it seriously. I don't claim to have done a study. I was just speculating based on a handful of cases and logic. – Jay May 27 '15 at 13:17
  • @Jay I understand that. I also know a substantial number of people straight out of high school that did not take it seriously (and who's parents were paying), as well as many older students paying their own ways who took it extremely seriously. But I think that distinction is more an indictment on age and maturity than the means for which the education is paid. It is true that in general, people value more what they worked hard to get, but that doesn't necessarily apply to ones education and how hard you work to learn the material and earn the grades. – dberm22 May 27 '15 at 14:33
  • @dberm22 - Someone who goes to college to party doesn't usually get admitted to graduate school. A) You have to graduate B) You usually have to graduate with better than average grades. Then again, if you can party, graduate with good enough grades to get into grad school, you may have more going for you. – user8365 May 27 '15 at 21:31
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I feel like the Part Time degree gets less respect, because it doesn't require you to go through the full rigor of 12 or more credit hours each semester.

This is probably your own feeling, not necessary others. As you put it, the only difference is that you take 1 class per semester as opposed to 12 or more credit hours each semester.

Once you get the degree, part time vs. full time issue disappears. Ultimately, what you truly learn from the graduate school matters. If the stuff you learn from school greatly increase your value in the workplace, you'll get more salary and possibly promotion. If you don't get much learned in the school except the degree, you won't get much in the workplace neither.

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Short answer: Completing your degree full time or part time should have no bearing on its "value".

Honestly, I have been on the selection panel for candidates many, many times over the years and I have not once seen or heard of there being an issue with someone studying part time. As long as the degree has been attained and is through a reputable institution then it's not important.

On the flip side, studying full time often is perceived as meaning that the candidate is out of the market during that time and their "industry" skills could well be out of date. So I wouldn't think that obtaining your degree part time is necessarily a bad thing!

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If the school is at all decent, part-time degree is fully equivalent to full-time. I believe the distinction doesn't impact hiring.

(Degree doesn't directly affect pay; it affects hiring -- does the company need the additional skills -- and which jobs you can apply for, and like nonacademic experience the additional competence may get you promoted faster. But if the job doesn't require your particular expertise, and isn't in academia, don't expect significantly higher pay just for the degree. My employer will pay for graduate study, which indicates the value it... but it's then up to us to apply those skills to the job if we want monetary reward.)

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    Well, in real life want ads often say that a certain degree is required to get the job. When my wife was a teacher, they had a formula to determine how much each teacher was paid, that was based on years of experience and what degree you had. The degree directly affected your pay according to a rigid formula. I'm sure in plenty of jobs they pay more to people who have degrees, regardless of their actual competence or lack thereof. – Jay May 27 '15 at 5:58
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    @Jay I'm not sure teaching is the best example; it's a highly unionised profession where a lot of things are done regardless of actual competence or lack thereof. I would be surprised to see that sort of pay scale in a normal business. – sapi May 27 '15 at 8:51
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    Because many jobs have a sliding scale of requirements bachelors + 10 years experience or masters +5 years experience, it can determine if you can even apply for the position. For internal promotions having the advanced degree can directly impact pay, because they can charge the customers more for your services. – mhoran_psprep May 27 '15 at 10:21
  • So you are saying a PhD is not worth a penny over a BS? That is crazy. You see sliding pay based on experience all the time. A graduate degree is experience. – paparazzo May 27 '15 at 11:35
  • Clarified my point, and restructured so it actually answers the question. Hope that helps. – keshlam May 27 '15 at 14:29
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has anyone had an experiences where a Part Time degree M.S. was treated differently that a Full Time degree, in terms of salary/compensation or in terms of job qualification?

No, never.

Both my graduate and undergraduate degrees were earned via evening classes. That has never affected my salary, or impacted the kinds of jobs I was qualified for - not even once. Few folks know that I went to night school, and those that do know don't care.

As far as employers go, once you have attained your degree, nobody cares what path you took to get it. Your resume will state that you have an "M.S.", not a "Part Time M.S."

You may be feeling self-conscious now, and that may lead you to conclude that others have strange reactions, but that should pass once you are degreed.

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I think you're misinterpreting their reactions to your explanation - I've questioned people about finishing my Masters degree at work, and their reaction is usually that I've already got a job, so pursuing my masters wouldn't be productive*

Consider asking them why they think your pursuit of your Masters Degree is unusual - it may be that they just have a different opinion on its value than you do. They're entitled to that, but ultimately your own beliefs in the value of your degree outweigh theirs, and I would definitely agree that being able to say you have a Masters Degree in your field is a worthwhile endeavor, whether you are a full-time student or a part-time student.

*(Not only do I disagree with their assessment of the value of education, but my masters is nearly complete save for my thesis, but this is about analyzing their reaction, not the value of a degree)

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