Saturday, 19 January 2013

Graduate School

How important is graduate school for engineers? I know in most cases engineers should be able to find a job with an undergraduate degree because of the amount of knowledge we acquire in school and how practical our degree is. Typically in our undergrad we take much more courses than other faculties in the span of four to five years. Many people choose to go work and start their career rather than go back to school for another two to five years.

I graduated with a nanotechnology degree in electrical engineering so I find it a lot harder to find jobs that are tailored for my option. Furthermore, most the jobs that are posted that fit my field of study typically requires a masters degree or even a PhD. I have been thinking of going back to school to do my masters, but I am not sure what field of study I want to go into now though. I have been looking at the different things I could study and there are a lot of options!

As well, in Canada when you do a masters you can take two different routes! Masters of Engineering or Masters of Applied Science. What makes them different is one is mostly course work and a small project based. The other (Masters of Applied Science)is thesis based and a lot less courses are taken. Another important factor to point out is you can only do your PhD if you do a Masters of Applied Science. There are exceptions to that though. At my school if you do a Masters of Engineering you can switch into the Masters of Applied Science program before hitting the one year mark in the program. Another thing is if you go into a Masters of Applied Science you can receive funding from your supervisor for your tuition and living expenses, but if you go into the Masters of Engineering program you receive no funding. Typically the tuition fee is much higher in the MEng program.

Here are some of the options I have considered:

Option 1:

I could apply for the Masters of Applied Science program in nanotechnology and learn more about carbon nanotubes and semiconductor devices. Some of my research interests would be working on solar devices and creating solar cells that would have a high efficiency to low cost ratio. I am not sure if I would want to continue this path though, because of the job market.

Option 2:

I could apply for the Masters of Engineering in electrical engineering and take some courses I didn't get to take in my undergrad. I could take more power courses such as Power System Analysis, Advanced Power System Analysis and Advanced Power System Control and Dynamics. This path would be a 180 turn for me. I am a lot more interested in this direction because of the job prospects and how practical this stuff is.

Option 3:

Masters of Engineering in clean energy. In this program I could take many courses that will help lead me on a career path to clean and renewable energy. This path is interesting because I could learn about alternative energy technologies and thermal energy systems.

Anyways I still haven't applied for graduate school yet. I already missed the deadline for September of 2013. I emailed the admissions and they said I still have a chance of making it. As well, I don't know how competitive the grades will be this year so I don't even know if I will get in. I also finally got confirmation from all my professors who will write a reference for me when I do apply to grad school. Hopefully I get into grad school and make the right choice in choosing what kind of education I want.

Are you a graduate student in engineering? Have you considered going to grad school? Did you start working after you finished your undergrad and then decided to go back to school? What do you think of grad school? Leave a comment below on your thoughts!

21 comments:

  1. If you care about money then go with Masters of Engineering, if you do this for yourself go with MAS. Best option would be going with both, but then again you must choose if you want money and job first or would you like to broad your horizons and then care about future. Personally I'd go with ME, but I'm interested in this as well :D

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  2. I am currently working on my undergrad degree in Plastics Engineering with a minor in Material Science at Western Washington University. I have been considering graduate school for some time now. I narrowed it down to University of Southern Mississippi. They have a fantastic program for masters and PhD work in Polymers & High Performance Materials. Exciting opportunities.

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  3. Currently I'm doing my MESc (Masters of Engineering Science) and I am reclassifying into my PhD next year. The pay is great and if you find a supervisor and a project you really like, you will have a great time. Getting paid to go to school, nothing wrong with that. Versus MEng, you virtually take no courses and you focus on your work. As well you stay an academia which opens a lot of doors for you. To all undergrads, keep up your third and forth year marks, they are what counts (most of the time)

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  4. im a British engineer, and a Beng here will pretty much set me up any where in the world except in the uk. so fuck it Beng then time to move on

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  5. Here in Australia CPeng is much higher regarded. Statistics also show that engineers with only a bachelor earn more than those engineers with masters or phd's.

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  6. am about to graduate with a B.S. in engineering technology management; minor in business management. and am considering Master in Engineering Management. but with my low GPA 2.5 am not sure if i will find a school who accept me without working experience. if i found one i will for sure choose to keep going in order to insure a spot in the job market since my B.S major is broad and i need to make it more specific in master.

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    1. If you can find a professor who likes you, your GPA won't be a problem in some cases.

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  7. I am doing my grad project on mechanical engineering, and thinking deeply about becoming master and then PhD in fluid mechanics.

    A long road to walk, hopefully it will be fun.

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  8. Industrial Engineering/ Ops Research.

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  9. I'm currently in third year of Phd in Chemical Engineering at a UK university. Obtained a MEng in Chemical with Environmental Engineering before that, and have no working experience in the field except for 3 months as a Health, Safety & Environment (HSE) trainee in a petrochemical plant during my penultimate year of undergraduate study. I decided to pursue a PhD because I wanted to work in R&D, which most companies require at least a masters by research or a PhD.

    Let me be honest with you about my experience doing a PhD so far. For the first two years it was great, I'm not going to lie. I actually enjoyed doing research in my area of interest. The motivation was overflowing, too. But going into third year, I'm starting to learn the true meaning when they dubbed PhD as "permanent head damage" or "piled higher and deeper" (as in the comic strip. oh yes, the comic is like your bestfriend who understands you fully of what you're going through).

    So, I guess what I'm trying to say here is that, if you're really considering to go for a PhD, do it because you want to, because you're absolutely interested/curious on the topic. Because trust me, PhD brings a whole new meaning of 'studying'. Novel research is essential in order to pass. There's a good reason why professors are willing to pay you to come to school out of their research grants, which are so precious to keep the research going otherwise.

    But don't let this scares you, though. In general, I can still enjoy doing what I'm doing. No pain no gain, no?

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  10. My subfield (Coastal and Ocean Engineering) is typically lumped under Civil Engineering in most places (though MIT has it under Mechanical). While most who work in the Oil and Gas industry can probably just get a BS in Ocean Engineering from Texas A&M and start working, Coastal Engineering requires a Masters, whether thesis or non-thesis.

    In my case, I worked for two years between MS and PhD. I found the experience invaluable. It was also a source of motivation, as I wanted to know more about certain topics but couldn't in the context of the job.

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  11. Here in Finland all that matters is the M.Sc degree. Bachelors degree is fairly new addition and was invented during Bologna prosess and it is something that you get when you are half way through your studies, not when you graduate. Most people thus get the masters degree as it is much easier to get jobs with one than without (it also might have something to do with free education)

    Then on the other hand there is more practically oriented schools (usually translated in english as universities of applied scienses, thou no-one in finland would call one "university".) that grant graduates bachelors degrees.

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  12. I recommend doing a Masters' degree if you are in electrical engineering. I am on the verge of completing mine from the University of Florida and haven't had too much difficulty in finding a job, with my specialization in microelectronics and VLSI. All the semiconductor companies are fair game if you are in nanotech via EE (Intel, AMD, nVidia, Micron, SanDisk etc.); I suggest you switch gears very slightly so that you are in line with what the industry wants (MOSFETs, FinFETs etc.) I currently have job offers from Intel, months before my graduation.

    A couple of things that are important are the reputation of the school, the amount of funding they have, and the courses they offer. I would also recommend doing your Masters' program in the US, rather than Canada, if possible.

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  13. Jed Sutherland21 January 2013 09:47

    Perhaps a better question to ask yourself is: what do I want my life to look like in 10 years? Working, for all of us, is a way to pay for your life. Want kids? House? Boat?

    I graduated in 1978 and took one of the two jobs I was offered. Worked in a power utility, switched to an oil company, did a MEng. Worked in robotics and finally ended up in manufacturing. I worked at Starbucks for a while because I couldn't sell myself by the pound on the street corner. No jobs for engineers in that economy.

    Did I want to do all the types of work I ended up doing? No. But you do what you need to in order to get money to eat.

    In retrospect, taking a master's was a complete waste of time as a way of boosting my income or giving me a leg up in getting a job. But, because I ended up in manufacturing (electronics), I got a new career that eventually allowed me to retire at 45. Your experience will be different.

    If you want to do a Phd, it will be difficult to get a job at a uni, because you have to wait until all those other professors retire. The way that costs have sky-rocketed, many schools (perhaps not engineering ... yet) make use of sessional lecturers who get paid peanuts. This could happen with engineering some day.

    What's the takeaway? Trying to tailor your education to what you think the job market will look like in 3-4 years is pointless. If you desperately want to study some area of interest, take an advanced degree for that reason. Otherwise, finish your BScE, and get a job. Maybe take any job so long as it's engineering. All that bullshit (and it is bullshit) about planning your career and life will just waste your time.

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  14. I think it is so wonderful that you are exploring your options uor furthering your education and career. I believe that any course you choose will help you. :-)

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