masters of my domain

June 16, 2008
Was chatting with MELAS (My Ever-Lovin' Aunt Susan) last night and an idea came up, not a new idea, but kind of a new context: should I go ahead and seek a Master's degree?

Old contexts would have included (A) a general nudge from the family and its respect for education as something worthwhile, almost for its own sake and (B) something that would make for a more solid résumé and generally crank up my earning potential. But (A) wouldn't really be enough by itself, and I've interviewed enough well-degreed folks who seemed to be complete programming imbeciles that I don't put a lot of stock in (B).

So the new context is opening up the possibility of teaching, like maybe at a small college or as an online instructor. MELAS feels this has worked well for her... the money isn't fantastic, but she finds the traditional 9-month Academic year to be very pleasant, and the work can be rewarding, and generally not overly strenuous.

When I went to college I had the idea of training to be an English Teacher -- Tufts had both a top-notch English program and a great Education program, but then as computers and not English seemed to be academic forté I made my "other major" Computer Science instead of teaching.

(I felt guilty about that for a while, though my beloved high school English teacher Mrs. McLaughlin consoled me by pointing out that I might not be a great teacher because I might be impatient with students who are slower to pick something up than I feel I would have. So that sounds a note of caution for my current thoughts.)

To be clear, my current debate is "shall I get a Masters" (and have more career options) and not "should I change careers"... having drifted from one (generally pretty well-paying) job to another, and not being driven to corporate leadership, I don't have a ton of options stretched in front of me.

One issue is with Computer Science: there are kind of two camps in it as an Academic pursuit, and there's a lot of tension. The first camp sees it as a part of Mathematics, and is very much about the theory and the beauty of computation. The second camp tends to be more Engineering in its outlook, and see it as more of an applied art, maybe even a bit of a craft. People in the former see the latter as wanting to make trade schools, people in the latter see the former as having their heads in the clouds.

I'm in the latter camp, no question. I find that computer programming is a lovely way of making new things. So that might influence my decision of school and program.

I have no idea how tough it is to get into programs (actually I heard there's an inverse relationship between the health of the job market and the number of people going into school.) I graduated Summa (thanks to grade inflation and some blatant begging) and with a 4.0 in my major, and I generally have done well on bubble-type tests.

Thoughts of places to go would be Northeastern, a decent school that I think is oriented towards careers and people who are studying while working and is about 3 or 4 blocks from where I live, and my alma mater Tufts which is pretty prestigious and I know some folks.

The idea of being a teacher is a little daunting, of course. Actually I wonder if being as public as I have been on this site and other places would be a drawback? It's easy to forget teachers are people too. But I think I'm good at breaking down problems into explainable parts, and maybe I could learn to fake the gravitas required...

As always I welcome thoughts and feedback!

(Random followup: decided to click around Northeastern's website a little... I realized that there Digital Media sounds a lot more compelling to me (after, you know, 20 seconds of poking around their webpage) than traditional Computer Science, a way out of the whole "CS is math"/"CS is craft" dilemna. Conversely, I don't know if that would mess up the teaching idea.)

Link of the Moment
Cute Flash Animation vs Animator movie, kind of in the spirit of Stick Figure Death Theater. (via Bill the Splut)
Yeah, I'm a homer who doesn't know basketball, but the hell is up with these refs?
pentomino "we pass the time to forget how time passes" - Amelie. A little bit less morbid!
WOW, did I really just find myself saying 'Oh look, another jerk with an iPhone'?
MELAS and I agree: time spent just fiddling around expands to fit the shape of its container.
Note to self: mojitos: tasty (even when just premix :-( ) but not a boon to productivity in the evening.