Conferences and Summits:
Why Graduate School?
Deciding whether to go to graduate school or to pursue a career directly in industry can be a challenge. Making a well-informed decision will help you choose what path makes the best sense for your career goals. Make sure to research your options as you are getting ready to graduate.
Earning a master’s degree helps you gain specialized knowledge to advance in your field. Here are some benefits to pursing a graduate degree:
- Negotiating power – a higher level of education allows you more power to negotiate your salary.
- Management versus entry level positions – with higher credentials, you have the skills and expertise to enter into higher level positions.
- Enhanced career flexibility – higher level positions provide you with more flexibility in your career.
- Greater choice of work – as someone with more skills and expertise in your field you have more of a choice in what type of work you can do.
- Greater mobility – A graduate degree can make it easier to transition into more senior positions, such as management and leadership.
- Choice of geographic location – with a graduate degree, your skills and knowledge are in demand, this provides you with more opportunities to find jobs nationally or globally.
- Competitive advantage – the benefits of a master’s degree or Ph.D. in science can differentiate you in the market. You will learn to use critical thinking and innovation to solve problems. These skills are much sought after and really make a Ph.D. graduate, and even a master’s graduate, stand out from other potential employees.
- Demonstrated ability to perform rigorous tasks
- Increased Compensation – on average people with graduate degrees are paid more than someone without a graduate degree.
- Role model for your community – leadership positions within your organization provide you with a platform to be a leader for your community.
Need for People with Graduate Degrees in Computer Science
There is a growing need for people with graduate degrees in computer science. Employment of computer and information research scientists which requires at least a master’s degree in computer science, is projected to grow 21 % from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations. The median wage for a computer and information research science was 131,490 in May 2021. (Bureau of Labor statistics, 2022).
Graduate School Application Materials and Tips
Most institutions request the following application materials for admission into graduate school.
Applying to graduate school can become expense. Unlike applying to college for an undergraduate degree, there is often less information about fee waivers for applying to graduate school. Application fees can range from $40 to $150. If you apply to several schools, this can get very expensive quickly. However, some schools offer fee waivers for students. Typically, there are fee waivers for students from minoritized backgrounds. Contact the program directly or the graduate school at the institution to see if there is a possibility of getting your application fee waived. There are also special programs for students from minoritized backgrounds who are applying to graduate school, for example, the Big Ten Academic Alliance FreeApp program where you can apply to have your application fees waived if you are applying to PhD programs at Big Ten Academic Alliance universities. See for more information: https://btaa.org/resources-for/students/freeapp/eligibility
A personal statement is typically a 1 to 2 page written statement describing why you are interested in graduate school and how your qualifications (personal and academic) make you a competitive candidate for admissions. Make sure to write your personal statement with enough time to have someone look over it and provide you with feedback. Some programs like Stanford’s computer science program for example, offers students from minoritized backgrounds additional support as they are applying to their CS PhD program. (see The Student-Applicant Support program: https://cs.stanford.edu/admissions/phd/general-information) It is helpful to know ahead of time what programs you are interested in to see what resources are available to you as you complete your application.
Some programs will request that you submit a resume of the work you have done since high school. This should include information about any internships, jobs, student organizations or professional development you have participated in. Even if you don’t have CS work experiences, it is important to talk about other experience that showcase your soft skills.
Most programs typically request that you submit 2 to 3 letters of recommendation. Programs will typically ask for letters of recommendation from faculty who are familiar with your academics. Some programs will look for a letter of recommendation from someone who can talk about your qualities outside of the classroom.
Tips for Letters of Recommendation
- Ask faculty that you know will confidently write a strong letter of recommendation (you’ve worked with them closely, you got a high grade in their class, you know they are invested in your success).
- Have your personal statement ready for your recommender to review. Make sure you share your personal statement with your recommenders so that they know why you are interested in graduate school.
- Have an updated resume to share with your recommenders so they can draw from the activities you are involved in that will speak to your abilities and strengths.
- If possible, create a one-pager with highlights/talking points that you want your recommender to talk about in their letter of recommendation for you.
- Ask your recommender for a recommendation with enough time for them to write the letter. Most faculty will probably need at least a few weeks to write your letter. Let them know when the letter is due and how they can submit it, every program is different.
- If your recommender has not submitted your recommendation, it is okay to send them an email to follow-up or stop by their office to provide them with a reminder.
Most computer science graduate programs will request that you take entrance exams for admission into their programs. Make sure you take the required test early enough for the results to be sent to the institutions you are applying to at time.
Most programs will request that you submit official transcripts as part of your application process. Make sure to submit your request for your transcripts at least two weeks before the deadline. Some institutions take several days to process transfer requests. Keep in mind that some institutions will not send your transcripts if you have any outstanding fees on your student account. Make sure you take care of any outstanding balances before submitting your requests for transcripts
Funding Graduate School
There are several ways to fund your graduate education. Here is a list of different resources:
- Graduate Student Positions
- Research Assistantship – A research assistantship means you will work closely with a faculty member on a research project. Some research assistantships only provide a monthly stipend, while others can offer a stipend and also cover tuition, fees and health insurance.
- Teaching Assistantship – A teaching assistantship means you will teach or co-teach a course with a faculty member. Typically, these are larger introductory level courses. Some teaching assistant positions only provide a monthly stipend, while others can offer a stipend and also cover tuition, fees and health insurance.
- Institutional scholarships – universities, departments and programs can offer scholarships for graduate students. You often have to apply early to be considered for institutional scholarships. If you are offered scholarships are more than one institution, you can sometimes use scholarship award letters to negotiate scholarship offers from other institutions you might be more interested in attending.
- External scholarships – These are scholarships that are awarded to you from outside organizations, such as the Hispanic College Fund or the Gates Millennium Scholarship. These scholarships can give you leverage when you are applying to graduate school, by not only adding to your credentials but also helping you with admissions if an institution wants to admit you but does not have the funds in their program to cover you.
- Fellowships – Fellowships can come from national organizations or the institution. They are most often awarded to doctoral students. Fellowships are similar to scholarships in that you typically don’t have to work while you are on a fellowship. They provide you with the flexibility focus your efforts on your academics.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Computer and Information Research Scientists, at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-and-information-research-scientists.htm.