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Returning to college for MS or BS?

Returning to college for MS or BS?

Returning to college for MS or BS?

I graduated in 2006 with a BA in Architectural Studies and I'm looking to return to college for either an MS in Structural Engineering or a BS in Civil Engineering. Structural definitely interests me the most of all the specializations in engineering; however, is it better to just do civil engineering and have more options for a career? Structural is tied to the economy, real estate and the government more than others. Obviously, I would love to do what I'm interested in, but job security is more important to me. What are your thoughts?

Additionally, if anyone knows the qualifications for the FE in Illinois, I would appreciate any information you have. I tried to look at their website and it seems I need a BS in civil engineering. However, I would hope all I really need are certain classes, but I can't determine what they are from the website.

RE: Returning to college for MS or BS?

Illinois makes it damn hard to be licensed without a BS in some kind of engineering or other.  The MS won't cut it.  But depending on your architecture program, you might be able to get through the BS program in a very short time.

Regarding job security, structural & general civil both are similarly tied to the economy, real estate and the government.  I don't see a distinction in that regard.  But there's a certain amount of job security (for below-average pay) when your job is to handle crumbling infrastructure, because the infrastructure will never stop crumbling and there will always be a demand for your services.

My biased advice is go for the BS, see which civil specialization you like, and if it's structural, then get good grades and get an MS on fellowship.  It's difficult to get MS funding (as opposed to PhD) but it's possible.


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

RE: Returning to college for MS or BS?


You're saying the state looks more highly upon a Bachelor's degree than a Master's?  Huh?

Dan - Owner

RE: Returning to college for MS or BS?

It has to do with ABET accreditation.  Most MS programs are not accredited, and the ones that are are not necessarily the best ones.  The story I keep hearing is that they can only accredit one program, either MS or BS, so they pick BS.  Doesn't make much sense, but there it is.

So, yes, the state of Illinois doesn't care whether you have 7 PhDs in engineering if you don't have the BS.  It was someone from Illinois who talked me out of going straight for the MS.

The other half of their point, though, was that by the time I finished whatever remedial work I needed to do in order to function in the structural MS program, I'd be so far along the way to a BS that there really wasn't sufficient payoff to risk the ABET issue.

If you had a very technical architectural program, you might be able to get through the BS fairly quickly.  If you did not have a very technical architectural program, it would take you longer--but then if you did not have a very technical architectural program, you wouldn't survive a structural MS program alongside students coming straight of of civil engineering programs with structural specializations.  Check out the prerequisites for the specific classes in the MS program you're looking at (UIUC?).  

You'll need at least a semester of calculus-based physics (mechanics).  Two semesters of calculus unless you had AP calculus in high school.  Statics.  Solid mechanics.  Preliminary classes in structural analysis and in concrete and steel design.  Maybe dynamics as well.  And even more math if they strictly enforce the prerequisites rather than letting you negotiate your way out.

I can't imagine having gone through my MS program without having gotten my BS first.


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

RE: Returning to college for MS or BS?


According to this:
ABET changed their policy in 2008 to allow both MS and BS licensure from the same program.  (I also like the note in the article about how no one knows where in hell this [idiotic] requirement came from.)
This is consistent with their manual:
But a web search still pulls up an outdated FAQ:

I assume it will be many years before the graduate programs decide to become accredited after so many years of non-accreditation, and thus many years before accreditation is any indicator of the worthiness of a graduate program.


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

RE: Returning to college for MS or BS?

Based on what I've seen locally, structural engineers have fared better during the recession than general civil engineers, particularly civil engineers who do residential site work.

As far as MS vs. BS goes, if you want to delay the decision, seems like you could talk to a counselor and start taking classes that you would need for both options.  Even if you went straight for MS, you would need a lot of articulation courses, which would also be valid for the BS.  You are going to need to play catchup on math and physics for science majors, as well as basic civil courses like statics.

RE: Returning to college for MS or BS?

I find it hard to believe that a BS would be valued higher than an MS and that ABET would have anything to do with it.  I could not imagine getting an MS in engineering woithout having a BS first.  It's been a while for me , but I just assumed that having a BS was a prerequisite for getting into grad school.  

I looked into getting an MSEE.  I have a BSME and an MSME and they still expected me to take a bunch of undergraduate EE courses before they would accpet me into graduate school.   I decided to shelf that option.

RE: Returning to college for MS or BS?

"I find it hard to believe that a BS would be valued higher than an MS and that ABET would have anything to do with it."

The question is, valued by whom and for what?  We're talking licensure here.  Not education, not hiring, but licensure.  ABET is an enormous part of determining acceptability of educational background as a prerequisite for licensure.  They give the thumbs up and thumbs down.  Some states let you substitute a few years of experience for lack of accreditation of your degree, some don't.  So if the state requires an ABET-accredited degree, then FOR THE PURPOSES OF LICENSURE, an ABET-accredited BS is what you need and a non-accredited MS is typically good for reducing the experience requirement by a year but nothing more.

I don't have a good sense of what will change now that the accreditation rule has changed.  Since most if not all states require, as the default case, an ABET-accredited ABET, programs are under pressure to get the accreditation.  Since right now there's no requirement to have an MS at all, let alone an accredited one, I don't see the same kind of pressure to get accredited just to give people an option who are coming into an MS program via a non-traditional route.  It'll probably be a peer-pressure thing; some programs will get accredited and then others will be afraid they'll look bad by comparison and get theirs as well.


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

RE: Returning to college for MS or BS?

I have a ABET-TAC BS in civil engineering technology. It & job experience was sufficient for PE license in my state of PA. The job experience was same as for those holding BS CE degree. I am able to obtain PE in some other states, but not all. I had planned to get a MSc in water resources, to enable registrations in those other states. Upon further inquiry, those states would only accept ABET-EAC BS degrees for licensing requirements. The MSc would not be an acceptable substitution. The reason, as others have said above, is because ABET has a specific program structure established, so that all degrees meeting ABET-EAC are somewhat standardize in the minimum level of education outcomes needed to be a PE. Bottom line is you need to have the ABET-EAC BS degree as your standard education platform to go from for PE licensing. In my case, to get the MSc degree, I would have a year or couple of remedial undergraduate work, just to meet the MSc entry requirements.. but ABET will not see it as the same package they need... needs to be an earned ABET-EAC BS DEGREE. You would need to weigh the cost tradeoffs involved obtaining such and the expected payback period, since you already have a substaintial investment in your non-engineer BS degree. I doubt beyond the 1st year of that degree you have is going to be transferrable in any meaningful sense..maybe looking at 3 yrs yet for your BS degree. In the long term, not having a PE will cost you ALOT. Get the BS CE degree w/structural emphasis, then get cracking on that PE... forget that MSc nonsense.

RE: Returning to college for MS or BS?

I have my Civil BS specialized in Structural.  Definitely go for that.  I can't imagine you could jump right into a Masters with none of the undergrad engineering classes.  From talking with my buddy who went to USC for Architecture, their courses are very different from Engineers.

Civil Development Group, LLC
Los Angeles Civil Engineering specializing in Hillside Grading

RE: Returning to college for MS or BS?

I thought that the new PE licensing laws that become effective in a couple years require an MS degree. No longer will a BS + 4 years of training be acceptable for new PEs. I have my PE so I don't keep up with the requirements anymore but if it is one, then definitely MS will be what you want.
 I agree that you should get your BS before your MS. With all the prerequisite requirements, I don't see how you could "skip" to an MS only anyway. Besides, this isn't an English degree you're going for.


RE: Returning to college for MS or BS?


The requirement to get a MS degree is something floated by the NCEES, but to my knowledge, hasn't been adopted by any state. The NCEES is trying to get it in their model law, but their version of the model law is there only for states to copy and isn't an actual law itself.

Expect fierce opposition if / when state legislatures take the issue up.

Cedar Bluff Engineering

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