The MSBR Rant…

“You know, so and so joined in a Dev job finally..”
“Yes, I’ve heard of it.”
“Like I said before, MSBR won’t make any sense at all unless you do a PhD..”
“True, True, True.”
*******************
The conversation happened (although with not the exact same exchange), a few days ago. Although I agreed to that statement so emphatically on that day, I’ve been thinking of it ever since. Let me brief the terminology before going ahead:

1) BTech/BE etc: Any undergrad degree in Engineering (You all know that!)
2) MTech/ME/MS: Masters degree in Engineering (You all know that too!)
3) MBA/MA/MSc etc: Other masters degrees (You all know that too!)
4) MS BR : MS by Research (A masters degree with ‘ulterior’ motives..for those who don’t know :P)
5) PhD : …well…its a PhD degree😉

Okay, the context here is: Indian universities with decent computer science research groups, that offer MSBR degrees along with Masters without that “research” tag. Many people (including some fellow MSBRs), opine that –

1) MSBR is a waste of time and those who graduate with it will end up applying for same jobs as they would have applied, without that damn degree.

2) So, since there is no point in doing an MSBR, We can either continue with our existing job (if we are working already!) or enrol in a non-research focused Masters program (Eg: ME/MTech for Engineering), which prepares us better equipped for the kind of jobs we will be applying for, eventually.

– When I graduated, I shared the same sentiments and recession added to that. But, looking back, I think the idea of MSBR is different. If it works, it works. Otherwise, you can still do a lot of things with what you learnt. Let us start with the assumption (which I believe in) – that a degree is not only about the eventual job it fetches you. I don’t deny that its a part of the purpose though.

(Ofcourse, we all think about the ultimate job that this new degree fetches us and all… I don’t deny the fact that I did …and I still do too. I am not a saint(-ess)!)

The “ulterior” motive of MSBR is to make you do a PhD😉. Okay, it tries to motivate you for that goal by doing these things :
1) Tell you what “doing research” means
2) Tell you what “doing good research” means
3) Tell you how living the life of a “research scholar” is
4) Give some insights in to how a “researcher” does things.
5) Give a chance for you to try out and decide if research is your thing.
-Infact, a few years after graduating, I think the idea is great for anyone who is confused about doing a PhD, just after bachelors. Ofcourse, any idea is great… only for its believers!

So, at the end of the degree or after an year or two in to “working” at some R&D place or in software development, if you conclude “research is not for me” and decide to move on, its not the failure of MSBR program, but its success (IMHO). If you decide to quit your work as a developer and decide to do a PhD, I would still call it a success for the MSBR program. The program did what it is supposed to do. It gave an overview of what a research career will be and had let you take a decision for yourself.

Well, how much of what we learnt in our bachelor degrees do we actually use, anyways? How much of that will be useful if we move on and do an MBA..or an MA…or something totally different from what we did in Bachelors?
-Can we claim that our previous degrees were a waste of time?😉 I can at least claim that my Bachelors degree told me that its not for me ;)…so I don’t call it a waste of time.

There is this cycle of looking down upon other job profiles. I am sick and tired of that too😉 Whats wrong with doing software development? What is it with testing? what is it management? what is it with housekeeping? What is it with teaching? What is it with a clerical job?

-Will the society survive with researchers alone? or with software alone? or with managers alone? To me, all are still professions where “expertise” means different things. Sometimes, its “intellect”, sometimes its agility, sometimes its time-management, sometimes its street smartness, sometimes the ability to work monotonously without getting irritated etc..etc..

Okay, I should not digress. My topic is MSBR. To conclude, MSBR is as good or as bad as any other Masters degree, in my opinion. My thoughts, ofcourse are more netural to MSBR now, than, say, three years ago (for those who knew me during and after my masters)🙂

Calling the negative to neutral turn as positive:
…the relatively positive feelings about MSBR are not totally because (for whatever reasons) I enrolled myself in to a PhD program last year and they are not also because Iam enjoying it thoroughly atleast until now.

Something that I really identified with, when I read a couple of years back…and still empathize with… can be read on the ShArk Food blog, here. Although its majorly about the Dual-Degree programs that rather “force” teenagers in to research without telling them what it is, I still agree with almost everything that was said there. My current post is about the idea of MS (BR) degree as such and not about the aftermath, though😉

(I think atleast one peRSon I know will continue brainwashing prospective students about the merits of MSBR with more vigor, if he comes to know of this post!!)

Published in: on April 3, 2012 at 10:45 am  Comments (7)  

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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I am happy to read your post after a long time..:) and i am more happy to see your thoughts getting matured and neutral…. I think i also share same thoughts as you in the process of joining PHD from MS (leave aside the job experience) that MSBR helps in giving a full dress rehersal of how PHD life will be n so it has its own significance..:)

  2. Agreed. Actually it is a good choice ’cause one doesn’t have to make the long term commitment of a PhD. If you discover that research is not your thing, you can still get out in relatively short time with a degree in hand.

  3. Interesting.

  4. Agreed with most of the things. MSbR, is supposed to give a feel of what research is, that is supposed to help you decide, if PHD is your cup of tea or not. A program with good intentions but a faulty execution. Firstly, the unrealistic criteria of at least two peer – reviewed publications, extends the duration to at least 3 years.Secondly, lack of stipend money. And lastly it could use some structure. Like a annual report seminar for every research student to keep track of the research progress. Of course, it goes unsaid, that what happens after the masters is one’s responsibility. We could rant about how the institute is doing nothing for MS placements, the truth remains that there are no research jobs on the market. ( at least there were very few options for robotics 2 years ago). So its upto us to brush up the basics and compete for the campus placements or look for a longer research stint.

    • Yes, I never understood why the annual research seminar doesn’t exist in IIIT…I always thought its a way of performance evaluation, which is necessary everywhere, let alone MSbR.
      Do you think this will qualify as a SCAR rant?😉

  5. By all means🙂. But is that community still alive ?

    • 🙂 I think it too got SCARred for its life and got deformed with too many of them😛


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