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Which should I highlight more -- my cert or master's degree?

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Last year I went back to school to finish my master's degree in computer science. I will be done at the end of 2003. I have accumulated three and a half years credit of Windows-based application development in Delphi, which has not proven too helpful in my job hunting. As a matter of fact, I would like to do something more mainstream like Visual Basic .NET. Do you think a master's degree will scare off employers that are probably looking...

for just a bachelor's degree? I want to start working towards the MCAD certification. Should I highlight the certification more than the master's degree? In your opinion, how long do you think it will take for the .NET market to pick up with regards to the creation of new jobs? You're definitely thinking along the right lines: Delphi is losing steam and is no longer much sought-after in the workplace. You're wise to be thinking about switching to the Microsoft developer environments, and wise to make .NET and the related framework and development tools the focus of your activity. While a master's degree won't necessarily scare off employers, per se, it will do several things that you should consider carefully before proceeding:

  1. It will make you more expensive, thus limiting the range of job options (but these may be more attractive options for you anyway, so this isn't necessarily a bad thing).
  2. It will delay your entry into the job market for at least two years, unless you put yourself into an accelerated program and really work yourself very hard.
If you're interested in working toward MCAD certification anyway, it may make more sense to start looking for a job right away, and to think about going after certification as soon as it's feasible. You can do that part-time while working (as you can also do a master's degree online or through an extension university). As to whether you should focus more on certification or on a master's degree, that depends on whether or not you want to get to work sooner or later -- if sooner, certification may be a better path; if later, it's wise to observe that a master's degree once earned never expires, and that certifications must generally be renewed every two to three years.

The .NET market is already leading to a significant number of new jobs, but if I understand the intent of your question correctly, I think we're still 18-24 months away from seeing .NET development become the norm in corporate Microsoft development groups in North America, PacRim and Europe, and probably 24-36 months elsewhere.

HTH
--Ed--

This was first published in March 2003

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