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Need help with choosing the right Masters Degree Program

Need help with choosing the right Masters Degree Program

Need help with choosing the right Masters Degree Program

Hi Everyone,
Ever since I can remember, I have known that I wanted to have at least a Master's or a PhD in my field. I have a B.S. degree in Civil Engineering with an emphasis in structural engineering from a great school. While I thought I wanted to go into structural engineering, the truth of the matter is that I went into general civil (land development) right out of school. Today, I have 5 years experience in general civil engineering including about a year and half in project management. Unfortunately due to the state of this economy, I was laid off twice last year and currently just working part time for my present employer.

While the idea of getting a master's was merely that because of a very busy schedule, I feel that now is the time for me to go back to school and get that degree. I am debating whether I should go for a Master's in Structural or General Civil and which programs to apply to.

If choose, a degree in structural engineering I would the ability or should I say it would be easier for me to switch careers to the structural field; something which I am seriously considering since it has been my first passion. I did work for a structural company for almost two years when I was still working on my BS degree and I enjoyed it. If I go for a masters in general civil, I would be adding the degree to my resume and that can only help to make myself more markeatable. Have any of you been confronted with such a decision?

My second question has to do with which program to choose to apply to. While the idea of going to a regular university for a masters seemed impossible before bacause a very hectic schedule, it now seems like it could work since I am only working part time. On the other hand there are online schools where one can earn a masters degree. This sounds so attractive since regardless of one's schedule one can accomodate the class to fit that schedule something that one may not be able to do in a regular unversity. My concern is this: How do others view online degrees? Will an online degree be seen as any less than a traditional university? Any of you that may have gone through this, what programs are you attending or have attended? I came across an online university but they mentioned that their Masters program is not ABET accredited? does this change things? I know my BS degree is from an accredited university, so are masters looked at differently?

Any advice that anyone can provide would certainly help.

RE: Need help with choosing the right Masters Degree Program

i'm kind of in the same boat you are.  6 years experience, general land development.  although i have a job i'm getting bored with it and feel like getting a masters will be beneficial.  Although i'm looking at water resources / environmental.  i feel those will be lucrative areas in the future.
As far as on-line degrees, if its an accredited university i woudn't see it as an issue.  i don't think the prestige of the university matters as much as the program itself.  you have to feel like you will actually be learning something valuable and their program meets your goals and needs.  Not much help for your question but just my thoughts!

RE: Need help with choosing the right Masters Degree Program

Thanks Trey for sharing your thoughts.
The online program which I came across mentioned that their undergrad program is accredited but their master's program is not. I just don't want to pay for something that in the future someone is going to tell me that is not worth anything due to the lack of accreditation. The school's rep for this program told me that institutions usually seek acceditation in either their master's or undergrad program but not in both. That didn't seem right to me. Has anyone outer heard of such a thing?

Trey, if you don't mind sharing, what is boring you at your current job? Is it that you don't feel challenged by your current assignments? General work environment?
Thanks again.

RE: Need help with choosing the right Masters Degree Program

Very few master's programs are accredited, and those that are accredited may not be the best programs (I just looked at what I consider to be the best MS programs in civil engineering, and none of them are accredited).  If you have an accredited bachelor's degree in your field of engineering, don't worry about accreditation of your master's degree.  Though if neither their BS nor MS programs are accredited, that might raise a red flag for you regarding their program.


Eng-Tips policies:  FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies

RE: Need help with choosing the right Masters Degree Program

Thanks for your input. Yes my BS degree is from an accredited institution. I'll have to do a little more research before I make a decision. HG, what programs are you referring to? Any recomendations?

RE: Need help with choosing the right Masters Degree Program

My background is structural steel, and the programs I keep hearing from in terms of research results are University of Texas (Austin), Purdue, and Lehigh.  When I was applying to programs back in 1997, U Cal Berkeley and University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) were also considered to be very good programs, though in the last 10 years I haven't run into any of their research (and Cal can thus bite me after the attitude they gave me).  But that's more of an indicator of PhD programs, I think.  I don't know who has a good non-research MEng.  There are also various programs out there that may not have the greatest overall reputation but are THE place to go for a particular specialty (earthquake engineering, structural foams, etc.).


Eng-Tips policies:  FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies

RE: Need help with choosing the right Masters Degree Program

My comments for what they are worth.

I would not get an engineering degree, BS, MS, or MEng from an online university.  I don't think most mid to upper level engineers will give the degree much if any credit.  I have taken online courses in non-technical fields and find them very useful, but I would not give ANY credit to online technical courses.

Getting a Masters in General Civil would be a complete waste.  The goal of a Masters degree is to specialize.  Why would anyone pay more money to someone who just has more course work in a general field?  If you are really interested in structural engineering, then getting a Masters, either MS or MEng; and then going to work in that field would likely server you well in the long run.

As for choosing a school...  The ones mentioned previoulsy all have a fine reputation.  You will need to consider the economics of paying out of state tuition for some if not all of them.  You also need to consider whether you are interested in a reaseach focused school or a more pratical focused one.  Personally, I like the University of Louisville's program; however, I don't know much about their current structural facualty.

Good luck in whatever you choose.

RE: Need help with choosing the right Masters Degree Program

It's harder to get funding for a master's than for a PhD, but with a good application (grades, test scores, recommendations), it can be done, and then out-of-state tuition isn't a big deal.

Funding is only a possibility if you're going to go full-time, though.  The school isn't going to invest an assistantship or fellowship on a part-time student.  And an assistantship is officially a 20 hr/wk position, and unofficially can take a lot more time, so you'll have to weigh the tuition waiver plus stipend against whatever you'd make working your part-time job and paying the tuition.

Student loans are cheap money, though.


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