Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Career query of the week

Hi Rashmi,

I've been working in XXX (a much admired American company) as a software engineer for the past 1.5 years. I did my BTech from YYYY, probably the best college for a computer science degree in the country.

I was always convinced that this would be sufficient even for the best tech jobs in India. However, lately I've been hearing that students who return with a "phoren" MS degree get paid almost twice as much as we do, even though their job profile may be the same as ours.

Now, I'm confused whether I should go for an MS or not. I do not wish to leave the country, neither for higher studies, nor for a job. However, I'm quite sure that an MS even from the best colleges in India does not compare to a degree from a US university, in terms of market value. Since it makes a huge difference, I think I should consider going abroad... its just a matter of 2 years, right?

Even though at this point, money is the only incentive for further studies; in the future, its possible that better jobs come to our country which require atleast an MS degree. I'm only 23 years old now. Isn't it best I do an MS now, rather than growing 30+(which is too old for an MS) and feeling sorry for not doing it when I could?

I should also make it clear that I am absolutely not interested in any kind of MBA. I love tech, and I do not wish to become a people manager. So NO IIMs, ISB, etc.

This has been a very long mail. Lets summarize.

Objective: A challenging tech job in India. Get paid as much as the other guy who is doing the same job, but may have another degree!

I have the following options:
1. No more studies. Be content with BTech and current job/salary.
2. MS from Indian univ. Will make resume a little prettier, but will it increase my package? Is it worth staying away from work for 2 yrs?
3. MS from some Indian univ affiliated with a foreign univ. Ex - JIIT(jaypee) affiliated with University of Florida. Again, I'm not sure how good this is?
4. MS from abroad.

Please advise!

dear S
I'm not too happy to learn about the foreign MS degree holder getting paid twice as much as you.. but that's life I guess. I think an MS from a top university in the US is a good idea for you.

As for which school, which program - I leave it to the wonderful readers of this blog to advise you! Folks, please do share what you know with this young man...


  1. My advice to that young chap is not to compare himself with others because he is going to be frustrated for the rest of his life. There will always be someone who gets paid more than him . Let us take the example where his boss is an ordinary graduate and is paid ten times higher than him ,what do he do?
    so better be very clear about the package and profile and don't benchmark it with what others are getting. if you are going to live your life comparing with others, you will be the most frustrated person in the world. No MS or Harvard degree will make you happy.

  2. I believe MS from US holds a lot more value..simply because there is a perception even in the Indian companies which I believe is mostly right that the quality of education especially R & D over there is much better as compared to India

  3. Companies have been doing this distinction to get people from leading institutes. For example a person from IIT/IIM will definitely be attracted with more package. What they don't do is offer dissimilar profiles to people attracted with different packages and then afterward pay for performance. If they offer different profiles discontentment will be far less among employees. It depends how one wanna take it according to his priorities. If you wanna earn more then do what it takes to earn more. Go to US and grab the best paying job.

  4. Hello All,

    Well that's life, even the great Jack Welch calls this as concept as "differentiator", one cannot help it. But the best way looking forward is being positive and not having any ill-feeling towards the others. Well, coming to the point of MS in US, many parameters do play into it like Financing the education. You have one option of asking your company to sponsor your MS. Good Luck for your future. Stay Hungry. Stay Positive. Keep your Ego under control(I know easier said than done)

  5. Any Post graduate degree fetches more money than a B. Tech. If you want to prove you can get that by having bigger individual contributions like Patents and doing a more visible work and earning all the credit yourself. That's what I learned working in my Company. I do not think a foreign degree would matter that much. And I also agree there is no point comparing yourself with anyone. If that's what is bothering you I would rather recommend becoming an Entrepreneur rather than cribbing about your salary.

  6. At 23, you don't have much of a track record, and neither does the other guy. As an employer, I am hiring/paying you really based on your future potential, rather than what you're currently doing.

    And the guy with an MS from abroad has more future potential for the following reasons:

    1. Top schools in US _are_ better than top schools in India, for post-graduate studies. No question. If anybody tells you otherwise, he's an idiot. (Note: I am not making the same claim about undergraduate studies.)

    2. A person who has spent a couple of years in the US, has more "exposure", and that is important. Someone who has stayed in India all his life has less useful life experiences.

    I say you should do an MS from abroad now, if it is possible for you, and as long as you get into a top-20 school. Below that is not worth it.

  7. Dear S,

    I guess many of us, who wish to continue in technical line, face the same quandary. And I believe no one can guide us better than ourselves.
    It depends on you that what are your priorities. If you consider money as an important factor than you should go for MS and moreover, don't take studying abroad as some evil provided you come back to India rather than settling there. In fact, you will gain more knowledge and a nice exposure which I don't consider as waste of two years.

    Just think patiently, set your priorities and goals and then choose among the tunnels which can take you to them.

    -- another B.Tech student of Computers

  8. You failed to notice one important fact that he spent 2 years more of his life, has studied more and still is in the same job profile. This simply implies that you are a better candidate for company than him. Also, AFAIK this difference in salary is only initial, as with this degree company can't trust on you totally, but if you suits it, no doubt you will be much better placed a few years down the line. Just imagine you give 2 more years studying abroad (which also means you are spending a lot), and then return to same job profile with just a better salary. Will it be better? Please don't get frustrated just by comparing yourself with others.

  9. I would go with what Navin tells but would focus on top 10 tech schools.

  10. Why you should consider doing MS from the US:
    1) Quality of education and exposure is worth every dollar, provided you are truly interested.
    2) 1-2 years of work experience in the US after (or even during) an MS helps tremendously.
    3) A post-graduation from abroad definitely adds luster to your resume.
    4) Apart from bookish knowledge, living with people from all over India (and even the world) as a student may make your point of view broader, helping in everyday life.

    Why you should not do MS from the US:
    1) If you are interested only in money.
    2) If you absolutely can't stand any more years studying and giving exams.
    3) If one is very used to the Indian educational structure in most (not all) Universities - more theory, less practical stuff, studying only during study leave,just before the exam, ready-made answers provided - the heavy and strictly disciplined coursework for MS may drive one nuts.
    4) If you cannot stay away from the temptation of settling down in the US once you become used to life there.

  11. MS degree will be helpful if u want to go into architecture role besides that it will be helpful if you want to open your own company.But all will be more beneficial if u stay in foreign for some time.

  12. I'd say the most important thing to think about is where you want to see yourself 15 years down the road. At the end of the day, if you want to get paid, you need to prove that you're worth it. You graduated from "one of the best colleges", and are working for a top tech company (Google?). So you've proved that you're smart. But that's done. Over.

    To get ahead in the long run, think about what you have learned so far. And how best can you improve upon it. It could be industry - your current job, a start up or any other big company - but find something where you'll add to your skills and assume greater ownership every quarter, every year. It could be a Masters degree or even a doctoral degree - if either of these allows you to obtain skills or establish yourself that your current job doesn't give you. Eventually, either by working in the right places in the industry or by completing a PhD, you want to be able to be an expert in a certain area. Expertise and specialization is what you need to able to add value to some place. And you WILL get paid, if you're adding value.

    If you already know what field interests you in Engineering - that's great - you know where to begin. Otherwise explore for another couple of years - maybe an MS will help - and figure it out.

    So really, find exactly what you want to be an expert in and then devote all energy to getting there.

  13. If you want money and don't want to go the MBA way then
    1. get your MS,
    2. follow that up with working while on OPT
    3. get your H1b
    4. work your ass off for a few years
    5. get into tech consulting (work even more harder, companies like KPMG, Guidewire, Capgemini etc.)
    6. get paid big, so big that even MBA's from IIM's, ISB's don't get this high up.

    Am on step 4 right now

  14. Hi,
    I just completed my masters in CS last week. My experience says, it is better to go for MS in some "good" uni in US. There's no point coming to US and joining any "faltu" university. Moreover going back to studies doesnt mean you will loose touch with your work. You will get enough opportunities along with studies here. So its always worth doing MS.

    May be after 2 yrs of MS, your taste may change. you will have more options to decide your career.

    Good luck :-)

  15. I believe you can take advice and help from all around but in the end what matters is what you want? What your circumstances allow you to achieve? and last but not the least do you have it in you??
    I think going for MS is always a wiser option simply because in US you get access to the state of the art infrastructure , good innovation environment and best minds in business to work with. As far as the monetary things are concerned as many commentators have rightly said 'to grow in your career stop comparing' , better start working on what you have.


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