A lot of factors are taken into consideration by the admissions committee at a college in the US while reviewing a Master of Science (MS) application. The admission selection process depends upon a number of factors that interact with each other in various ways. As you must already know, the major parameters that are used to evaluate your profile are your GRE score, CGPA, TOEFL/IELTS score, Letter of Recommendation (LOR) and Statement of Purpose (SOP).
Now there is a question that often baffles the MS aspirants - whether prior work experience enhances the candidate’s profile and increase the chances of getting an MS admit? And if so, then by how much?
Work experience definitely enhances your chances of getting an MS admit but there are a few key points to consider before we arrive at a definitive conclusion. Different universities approach the admission process differently. So, it is hard to judge what exactly works, but this blog aims to give you a broad picture.
The first and foremost aspect that matters is how relevant your work experience is. Relevant work experience in the field you are applying to can enhance your candidacy significantly. Work experience here refers to the full-time jobs taken after graduation rather than part-time jobs and internships. For example, let us assume that you wish to apply for an MS in Computer Science and specialize in the field of Artificial Intelligence. The kind of work experience that would add substantial value to your profile, in this case, is when you have been working in a company that deals with Artificial Intelligence problems like Robotics, Image processing, Language processing, Speech Processing, etc. Any other job that is still related to Computer Science and gives you a significant programming experience would also add value to your profile. However, your job as an operations manager in any industry, say automobile industry, is not very likely to have any impact on your application.
Another important factor to pay attention to is the extent to which your work experience can matter. As we mentioned before, different universities attach different levels of importance to this factor. Further, the weightage given to the work experience depends upon how much the admissions committee deems it to be additive – relative to other aspects of your profile. According to Karthik Raghunathan, who has been a member of the Computer Science Department’s MS admissions committee at Stanford University, “Unlike the requirement for MBA programs in some US schools, work experience is not at all necessary to apply for MS at a US university. In fact, work experience need not even necessarily improve an applicant’s profile or increase his/her chances of getting accepted. Thus, someone fresh out of college is just as qualified to get admitted as an experienced professional.” So, if you are a student who has graduated from a fairly well-known college with a good CGPA, have great GRE score and a fantastic SOP, your probability of getting admission in a good graduate school is already high. In such a case, the work experience will not matter much. But if you are a student with an average profile, relevant work experience can prove to be the saving grace for you. It can enhance your profile and henceforth increase the probability of getting a MS admit from a decent graduate school.
Having prior work experience increases your chances of getting an internship while you are completing your Master’s program. Also, employers prefer graduates with prior work experience – although the difference is not significant. According to the findings of the GyanDhan’s Data Science team, if a Manipal Institute of Technology B. Tech goes to the University of Florida for a Master’s program, the probability of him/her not getting a full-time job is 1.7% if he/she has any prior work experience; else it is approximately 3%.
To wrap it up: if you already have an excellent profile, it is recommended that you apply for MS right after you complete your Bachelor’s degree. Look at all the facts, weigh them up, decide whether the work experience is going to help you marginally or substantially and then make a decision. If you’re on the fence, you can always apply right after your Bachelor’s to check which universities you can get into. Remember – the GRE score is valid for 5 years, and application cost per college is around $100 only.
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