I’ve decided I’m not going to graduate school — not now, anyway. That means I hope to start full-time work upon graduation.

The decision wasn’t easy. On one hand, I’m a pretty curious guy, and graduate school would present a significant intellectual challenge and an environment full of bright people. A master’s degree would be a nice thing to have on my resume, and statistics show that people with master’s degrees make more money than those whose highest degree is a bachelor’s.

On the other hand, I’ll be able to find stimulating work and bright people in the workplace, too, and a university isn’t the only place you can learn — I’m pretty good at teaching myself. The main area of computer science that I’d like to study more is machine learning (the process of getting a computer to “learn” something, like how to translate speech or recognize faces in images), so I asked for and received permission to take Baylor’s graduate-level machine learning course next semester as an elective. Finally, if I wait to get a master’s degree, I can do so on a company’s dime and not foot the bill myself. (Yes, graduate students can get funding. No, it’s not that easy.)

But what about those salary figures — will not having a master’s degree hurt my career? Not as far as I can tell. The impression I’ve received from recruiters, fellow students, and work is that a master’s degree, which takes about two years to earn, is no better than two years of work experience. Also, I’ve heard employers don’t pay much attention at all to your resume beyond the last couple years of your life. I’ve done very well at Baylor, so I’d have to do very well as a master’s student just to keep from hurting myself. Finally, I realized the other day that the salary difference I mentioned above may hide a subtle problem: the group of people whose highest degree is a bachelor’s includes people who didn’t make it into graduate school or who didn’t have a shot in the first place. If those in the master’s group are generally brighter — the top 10% of an undergraduate class, according to one of my professors — you’d expect them to have higher salaries regardless of degrees.

I’m happy with my decision. The world of the workplace just moved two years closer.