Fresh from grad school, but with some bits of thesis left to finish, I got hired into a great team in a software company (in US), as a Master's degree holder. After 9 months full-time (+3 internship), I realized I won't finish it in reasonable time (read: when it's still novel/impressive). I want to take unpaid time off to finish it.

  1. I heard it's quite damaging to a new career, even though the culture seems to be very encouraging about long vacations. Does the "damage" vary by culture?
  2. I'd be more productive with a 1 week off every month, instead of a one-time leave. How much harder is it to schedule projects around that? (Our design cycle is ~1 year).
  3. I'll go over my current responsibilities to see how to fulfill them. But is there anything else I need to take into account?
  • Our company provides developers 12 days a year of leave. But that's paid leave. If possible, you could ask for reduced work time, in exchange for reduced pay, say 35 hours a week. I don't think you'll get outright off days in a month, though. If, for example, there are single parents who have to look after their child, they adopt this policy of reduced work per week. – cst1992 May 8 '16 at 18:17

I had the same dilemma. After getting my BS degree in computer science I get an offer for an internship at Intel. In my mind it was going to be for only few months while I write my thesis at the same time but it ended being a full time opportunity too.

Long story short, after 2 years as full-time developer I figured out how I left behind my goal of finishing my master's thesis.

After talking with a co-worker that just graduated after a long 7 years of working + thesis he gave my this great advice:

"Making a thesis is like running a marathon. You have to put in the hours. But see this, if it takes let's say 500 hours but if do an hour per week worth of work it won't take you 500 weeks, it will take you 2000 weeks. Because of the context switch. My advice for you is that you compress the time and make it happen as soon as possible."

Having that in mind I approach my manager with 3 options:

  • Allow me to allocate 2 hours per day for my thesis.
  • Allow me to take a unpaid license time off to finish it.
  • If this does not work, I'll have to quit.

It happen often that big software companies have retention systems so their employees don't quit. It's cheaper for them to keep their staff than search a new fit.

After a period of trying working 2 hours in my thesis per day it turns out that was not enough time and I approached my manager again to tell about this. He offer me 1 month off.

After a long period of thinking about it I quit and I just few weeks apart from getting my degree. In retrospective it was the best choice that I could probably make. I've a new project for my portfolio, so I have not 'dead time' in my resume. I have done my thesis really fast (2 months) and there are plenty of open positions for coming back to the same company.

  • Something to highlight on this for the sake of the OP, give your employer alternatives and options, dont just approach them and ask for x solution applied. Variate your proposal into 2-3 different solutions like @fuxes did and you ll make it much more easier for them to help you. – Leon May 24 '17 at 7:22

Ask HR what continuing education benefits exist. Those will indicate whether the company might give you a leave of absence or just support your taking classes on your own time or anything else.

If you really want to go back to school full time, you may have to accept that they won't guarantee your job will be there when you get back.

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