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    #1

    Default Is a Masters degree REALLY worth it?

    Since I finished my bachelors a few years back I've been contemplating the idea of returning to get my masters in something security related. (Many schools offer different types of degree programs)

    This is a little more complex in my situation for many reasons...a.) I graduated from a private university so I have a pretty good chunk of student loans, b.) I've been in the security field for about 10 months now, c.) My employer most likely will not pay for me to return to school

    So....here's my questions:

    1. Does the ROI outweigh taking out another $20-$30k in student loans?

    2. Should I wait another few years before pursuing an advanced degree? Experience is the biggest factor in success, but making myself look more marketable helps get past those stupid HR screenings.

    3. If it would be a good move, what kind of schools are available at a decent tuition rate while still being reputable?

    Any advice is greatly appreciated!

    Thanks!
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    #2
    Going to tag along here as I am in a similar situation. Not sure of your age but I am 48 so I feel that plays into my decision too. Do I have enough time left in my career to benefit from racking up more student loans? I'm still paying student loans from my B.S. from 2010.
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    #3
    Could be worth it. Might not be though... Depends what type of jobs you want. Higher level positions might ask for Master's degrees. I would look up jobs you are wanting to pursue and see exactly what they are asking to get your answer.
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    #4
    I think it's never too late to go back to school, but with how much college costs now it's nerve wrecking. A lot of jobs I see now are considered mid level and they "prefer" a masters degree. At least, that's what the HR people want to see.
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    #5
    Quote Originally Posted by NetworkNewb View Post
    Could be worth it. Might not be though... Depends what type of jobs you want. Higher level positions might ask for Master's degrees. I would look up jobs you are wanting to pursue and see exactly what they are asking to get your answer.
    I'd like to pursue a supervisory/management level security jobs eventually, but once I get the experience. The hard part is taking on the debt, which I can start to pay off while I'm in school. Tough decision man. Thanks for the response.
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    #6
    No I wouldn't you are good to go. You were smart, you aligned your degree with your career path. In doing so you saved yourself a lot of pain and suffering by having the luxury of avoiding a masters degree. It sounds like you are already in debt another reason not too.

    Just my thoughts.
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    #7
    Based on the quality of SANS courses I'd say that their Master's is very valuable from knowledge and skills acquisition standpoint. But it's probably not an option unless paid by employer.
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    #8
    Pay off your student loans from Bachelors degree. Then pay out of pocket along the way for Masters. Just my .02 I never encourage debt. However, I know people that bought labs costing upwards of 30k and moved up quickly in the field and have experienced great ROI.
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    #9
    What exactly are you trying to do and where are you in your career?

    Masters *generally* is a worthwhile investment if you intend to go into management.
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    #10
    THE ROI in your situation isn't worth getting the degree. I'm only thinking of getting a Master's simply because my work place will pay for it in full. I'm going down the Cyber Security route (Pen testing, red team, etc) and certs are valued in this regard. I'm making Master degree level money without a Masters. So at this point I'm mainly doing it for the knowledge (even though most of the stuff you can get from books at a good library) and I want to go up to C level positions.
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    #11
    Quote Originally Posted by blatini View Post
    What exactly are you trying to do and where are you in your career?

    Masters *generally* is a worthwhile investment if you intend to go into management.
    So, currently I'm a security admin who's responsible for all things ITSec (firewalls, vulnerability scans, web filter, spam filter, incident response, forensics, etc.). My short term goal is to just expand on my current skills, learn some new ones like basic pentesting, gain some decent certs and possibly advance to an engineer level position. In the long term I want to pursue management, but I feel like having a solid technical background will help me be more successful at that. I actually used to be in management in retail banking, but crossed over into IT while I was finishing school.
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    #12
    Quote Originally Posted by higherho View Post
    THE ROI in your situation isn't worth getting the degree. I'm only thinking of getting a Master's simply because my work place will pay for it in full. I'm going down the Cyber Security route (Pen testing, red team, etc) and certs are valued in this regard. I'm making Master degree level money without a Masters. So at this point I'm mainly doing it for the knowledge (even though most of the stuff you can get from books at a good library) and I want to go up to C level positions.
    Man, I WISH I had the luxury of my employer paying for a masters. If that were the case, then this post wouldn't even exist. I do intend on moving into management eventually though, but not before I get some solid technical experience under my belt. Best of luck in your journey and thanks for the response.
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    #13
    This blog discusses the same question, but with certifications as the subject rather than a MS.

    Off the cuff, I'd say that in your case, it's not worth it if you're incurring that much additional debt. If your situation changes, and the economics work out a bit better for you, then it's worth reconsidering.
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    #14
    Sounds like you are better off waiting. Couple reasons:

    -Management isn't in your immediate future
    -Might move on to another company that is willing to pay for school
    -Maybe after building your technical chops more the company you are currently at will see you as management material and change their mind about paying for school
    -You can pursue different certs, of your choosing, while paying off your student loans to avoid putting yourself into a worse financial situation

    Edit I also think this is very telling:

    My short term goal is to just expand on my current skills, learn some new ones like basic pentesting, gain some decent certs and possibly advance to an engineer level position.

    What you are describing doesn't sound like 3 month "short term goal." It's more a year+ (probably a few more) goal.
    Last edited by blatini; 05-19-2017 at 03:42 PM.
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    #15
    Quote Originally Posted by blatini View Post
    Sounds like you are better off waiting. Couple reasons:

    -Management isn't in your immediate future
    -Might move on to another company that is willing to pay for school
    -Maybe after building your technical chops more the company you are currently at will see you as management material and change their mind about paying for school
    -You can pursue different certs, of your choosing, while paying off your student loans to avoid putting yourself into a worse financial situation

    Edit I also think this is very telling:

    My short term goal is to just expand on my current skills, learn some new ones like basic pentesting, gain some decent certs and possibly advance to an engineer level position.

    What you are describing doesn't sound like 3 month "short term goal." It's more a year+ (probably a few more) goal.

    When I say short term goal, it really means next 2-4 years. Long term is anything after that. I just want to make sure I'm also setting myself up for success in my long term goals by being proactive.
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    #16
    Researching options and preparing yourself would be a great move. But you are definitely better off revisiting the decision to go for a later date IMO
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  18. This site changed my life mzx380's Avatar
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    #17
    In today's job market it is best to be as well equipped as possible. Sure you may have your undergrad and experience for now but imagine you reach a juncture where you want a senior position and your opponents end up having a graduate degree while you don't?

    You never want to be caught in a situation where you have to ask "what if?" That is worse than any loan you could ever take.

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    #18
    @Mzx380

    I've been in those positions before and still beat out the candidates who had higher degree's (sometimes multiple), and higher GPAs. In the world of IT, experience is king and that's what got me to the table and aced the interview. The degree's are check boxes. Hence why they have "or X amount of exp required" by the degree requirement a majority of the time.

    It really matters on the situation at hand and his situation screams out you should get experience and certs (for the specialized knowledge). If you want to climb up to senior leadership (CISO, or SES in the government), then that Masters' is going to help many years down the road. not right now. Degree's in general get better over time. A masters degree in IT 12 years' ago means less now than a Masters degree from today's studies.


    Don't go into more debt, it's not worth it right now. Use your knowledge you gained and make the most out of it. I'm paying 400 a month right now to get my loans down. Another 20k would be another 200 + dollars. Do you know how much more money you need to make to offset that? It gets insane. Get a house, invest in a business, max out your 401k (especially if you are young), get certs, jump jobs, or invest in stock before you get another degree.
    Last edited by higherho; 05-19-2017 at 05:28 PM.
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    #19
    Quote Originally Posted by mzx380 View Post
    In today's job market it is best to be as well equipped as possible. Sure you may have your undergrad and experience for now but imagine you reach a juncture where you want a senior position and your opponents end up having a graduate degree while you don't?

    You never want to be caught in a situation where you have to ask "what if?" That is worse than any loan you could ever take.

    my .02
    I totally agree. My mentality is to always be finding a way to have more knowledge than I did the day before. I don't ever want to be comfortable in what I do, because there is always something to learn and everyone is replaceable, regardless of experience.
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    #20
    As someone who got a Masters degree mid life, and was very disappointed by it, i feel i have a lot to offer in this topic. First, I don't think a masters degree by it self will open many doors. It may help get more interviews, but don't expect much more. As an educational path, they might be useful, but if you are self disciplined you can learn a whole degree without even going to school.

    I think alot of people get degrees expecting to get better jobs, but in reality masters degrees are probably better from making you better at the job you already have.

    But (IMO) always, check to see if your current employer will pay for grad school for you
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    #21
    Quote Originally Posted by higherho View Post
    @Mzx380

    I've been in those positions before and still beat out the candidates who had higher degree's (sometimes multiple), and higher GPAs. In the world of IT, experience is king and that's what got me to the table and aced the interview. The degree's are check boxes. Hence why they have "or X amount of exp required" by the degree requirement a majority of the time.

    It really matters on the situation at hand and his situation screams out you should get experience and certs (for the specialized knowledge). If you want to climb up to senior leadership (CISO, or SES in the government), then that Masters' is going to help many years down the road. not right now. Education in general, degree's get better over time. A masters degree in IT 12 years' ago means less now than a Masters degree from today's studies.


    Don't go into more debt, it's not worth it right now. Use your knowledge you gained and make the most out of it as much as possible. I'm paying 400 a month right now to get my loans down. Another 20k would be another 200 + dollars. Do you know how much more money you need to make to offset that? It gets insane. Get a house, invest in a business, max out your 401k (especially if you are young), get certs, jump jobs, or invest in stock before you get another degree.
    You make a lot of great points. I throw money at my debt like crazy and fortunately I can afford to heavily invest in 401k (like 15% with employer match). Just bought my first house last year. So I'm definitely making the right investments at this point in my life (just turned 29). I've committed to 3 certs a year in the beginning until I get to the more difficult one's. I really do wish education was more affordable though. It's really sad how many of us go into so much debt just to earn a decent salary. I guess I'll just keep on doing what I've been doing and see what happens in the next few years. Thanks!
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    #22
    Quote Originally Posted by Node Man View Post
    As someone who got a Masters degree mid life, and was very disappointed by it, i feel i have a lot to offer in this topic. First, I don't think a masters degree by it self will open many doors. It may help get more interviews, but don't expect much more. As an educational path, they might be useful, but if you are self disciplined you can learn a whole degree without even going to school.

    I think alot of people get degrees expecting to get better jobs, but in reality masters degrees are probably better from making you better at the job you already have.

    But (IMO) always, check to see if your current employer will pay for grad school for you
    Honestly, my bachelors degree was the best thing I ever did as far as my career goes. Sure, it taught me some basics about many areas of IT. More importantly, it taught me 2 things...1.) HOW to learn more effectively and 2.) Effective communication which are HUGE in this field. I can't tell you how many IT folks I've met who are complete geniuses behind a keyboard, but are TERRIBLE at communication. Most Masters programs require a lot of writing and communication skills...that's where I see a lot of value in it.

    But I do agree, just a degree won't do jack for someone's career. It's just another piece of the puzzle.
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    #23
    Quote Originally Posted by Node Man View Post
    It may help get more interviews, but don't expect much more.
    In the end that's all any of these pieces of paper are really there for. (certs and degrees) To make yourself as marketable as possible to make more money. No one actually "needs" any certifications or degrees to be successful. They just help a lot.

    And why are people saying management isn't in his immediate future? Right now it sounds like he is the lead in his security department. "a security admin who's responsible for all things ITSec"

    Say he goes after his masters right now, in a couple years when he completes it he will a few years of admin experience and a Master's degree. Its not like we are talking about someone fresh out of college with no experience.

    I don't know if a Master's degree is totally worth it, but it doesn't sound like a crazy idea for you imo.
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    #24
    @NetworkNewb - My points have mainly been focusing on the ROI, the debt, and other ways to achieve management goals. His lead experience is more than enough to get into Supervisory roles.

    Quote Originally Posted by ITSec14 View Post
    You make a lot of great points. I throw money at my debt like crazy and fortunately I can afford to heavily invest in 401k (like 15% with employer match). Just bought my first house last year. So I'm definitely making the right investments at this point in my life (just turned 29). I've committed to 3 certs a year in the beginning until I get to the more difficult one's. I really do wish education was more affordable though. It's really sad how many of us go into so much debt just to earn a decent salary. I guess I'll just keep on doing what I've been doing and see what happens in the next few years. Thanks!
    Anytime, glad I could help. With your credentials and exp you should be easily in the 100k bracket by now (just from the round figure perspective). Network with people and get to know management better then you will find out you can get into those management positions much easier. I would jump jobs or convince your current employer to pay for the masters degree if you want to move in that direction. Not sure why more employers do this because it's a tax wright off. I would not go for mine if It wasn't for my job paying for it (I'm focusing on my OSCP first though).

    DEBT is your enemy to financial freedom.
    Last edited by higherho; 05-19-2017 at 06:15 PM.
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    #25
    Quote Originally Posted by higherho View Post
    @NetworkNewb - My points have mainly been focusing on the ROI, the debt, and other ways to achieve management goals. His lead experience is more than enough to get into Supervisory roles.
    Ok
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