Will getting my Masters in Software Engineering hurt my chances of getting into B-school?

I am a female from Nepal, almost 30 yrs old. I have a undergrad in Computer Science from a small liberal arts school. Post undergrad, I worked at a not-for-profit organization and a higher ed organization. I was exploring MBA programs and went to visit HBS, and totally fell in love with the energy in the classroom and the school. I interacted with students and thought they were impressive. At the time I felt that I would one day pursue an MBA and was simply doing my homework early. As a Computer Science major I have always sought to gain a masters in a technical field. I stumbled upon your posts and thought you’d be the perfect person to ask about my dilemma. Do you think that getting a more technical masters degree in Software Engineering will hurt my chances of becoming a more ‘raw’ applicant to schools like HBS? I just got accepted into a very good Masters in Software Engineering program but I am in a dilemma about its payoff since I want to pursue an MBA within the next couple of years. I think BOTH an MBA and a MS would be a perfect combination for me for my long term career plans but I am unsure if I should do MBA first?

The Harvard MBA says:

First of all, congratulations on getting accepted into your Masters program.  That in itself is a good thing.

In terms of your question, if you’re going to get both your MSCS and your MBA, it’s better to get the MSCS first, then the MBA.  The reason is that top-tier MBA programs have outstanding recruiting programs to help you find a great first job.  It’s much easier to get a job coming straight out of b-school than it is at any other time in your life.  If you were to get your MBA first, then your MSCS, you’d be wasting that opportunity.

When you’re done with your MSCS, you’ll still only be 30 or 31, which is well within the normal range of ages for attending business school!


  1. Jose
    Posted June 9, 2011 at 12:18 am | Permalink

    “you’ll still only be 30 or 31, which is well within the normal range of ages for attending business school!”

    What do you consider to be the top range of age? I.e. when do you consider someone to be too old to attend B-school?

    I would figure it to be case-by-case dependent but I remain curious.

  2. admin
    Posted June 9, 2011 at 12:34 am | Permalink


    Anything under 35 is normal, and I had classmates who were pushing 50 when we started HBS.

  3. Ashish
    Posted June 11, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    I think this is a situation where the writer has to make a tough choice. An MSCS will be totally irrelevant to her post-HBS career. Once you accept that, the opportunity cost of a year pursuing an MSCS is huge – almost anything else (starting a company, learning a “business language,” working a great job) would be a better use of her year.

    Also, the child-bearing biological clock may (should – if you’re planning to have kids) play a role in decision-making that it doesn’t for male B-school students.

  4. admin
    Posted June 11, 2011 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

    Great point, Ashish. Like most men, I completely forgot about the biological clock issue.

  5. Posted July 26, 2011 at 2:01 am | Permalink

    Hey Chris,

    Would be interested in hearing your opinion about getting a master of accounting, obtaining CPA certification, working for a big 4 firm, then going for the MBA. Is this similar to the young lady’s situation above? The reason I ask is that I don’t consider accounting to be as technical as software engineering. Would this make my situation different? Thanks!

  6. Posted July 26, 2011 at 2:03 am | Permalink

    almost forgot my undergrad is a B.Sc. in finance.


  7. Posted September 18, 2011 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    I’ve always assumed that having an MSCS and an MBA would lend the owner greater credibility within the bounds of Silicon Valley than just having one or the other… at least once the person in question has actually done something of substance in the technical realm (i.e., founded a start up in which they did a substantial amount of the coding). Not to mention better equipping you to bootstrap a start up yourself by virtue of a more developed skill set.

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