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Why so few US citizens in Engineering graduate schools?
7

Why so few US citizens in Engineering graduate schools?

Why so few US citizens in Engineering graduate schools?

(OP)
I've always wondered why US citizens don't pursue advanced engineering degrees? They are a minority in most universities. It makes no sense because Silicon Valley is full of very high paying software engineering jobs. Other disciplines may not pay those high rates but still offer very well paid and rewarding work..

I remember working at megacorp and seeing a bunch of maintenance workers coming to fix some pipe or something. These people had been in the country for generations and had excellent command of the language, customs and culture. Yet they were probably earning half of what the engineers in that building earned. Plus their work had an element of danger to it. Most of the engineers in the buidling were foreign born who had poor to modest command of the language and minimal understanding of the cultures/customs. Some of them were technical managers and such.. The dichotomy strike me as very odd.

I guess same thing applies to my US citizens don't go to Medical school also...

RE: Why so few US citizens in Engineering graduate schools?

3
I'm sure part of the reason is because advanced degrees aren't necessary to have a successful engineering career.

I was counseled by multiple Ph.D.s that a doctorate was a waste of time in my field unless I wanted to teach or needed it for immigration status.

RE: Why so few US citizens in Engineering graduate schools?

3
Possibly also (guessing here), their original degrees are not recognised within industry in US due to the country of origin or something, so they go get a masters to effectively make them eligible for engineering work in the US?

RE: Why so few US citizens in Engineering graduate schools?

Canada does too, it seems. But most world students prefer the USA. Nobody wants to study engineering in an igloo.

Also note that we North Americans are rather comfortable with evaluating ourselves skill by skill, and we feel entitled to discuss personal strengths and talents freely among ourselves. This is not as comfortable a conversation in other parts of the world, where one's paper credentials are a bigger part of the ticket. A local university degree isn't worth as much as the same degree from a US university, all because of the cachet of going to the USA. We call it "one-up-man-ship" and may even think it's pretentious, but don't say that to someone from China/Korea/etc. because you will sound like you are running down that person's reputation.

I could also refer to the relative strength of attitudes to class and rank. Again we westerners may be more egalitarian in our attitude, although that seems to be slipping these days, too.

Then there are also my own personal observations about who is more "autodidactic" than whom, or enjoys having technical hobbies, but there's nothing scientific in my observations and I've never heard anyone ever take much interest in such things, except boosters of STEM education. But I do see a pattern, and it's based on age, not just nationality.

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RE: Why so few US citizens in Engineering graduate schools?

Simple, once you have a BS or MS engineering degree, one can get a relatively high paying job. Why live on near poverty wages while getting a PhD for an amount of time that can be largely out of your control. Very few industry engineering jobs requie a PhD.

RE: Why so few US citizens in Engineering graduate schools?

Quote (SWComposites)


Very few industry engineering jobs requie a PhD.

Unless you work for someplace like NASA. But in that case you get an entry level job first, and then go to grad school on the taxpayer's dime, to get your PhD.

But out in the real world, where engineers are designing and manufacturing stuff used right here on Earth, not so much, or at least you don't notice it as much. I worked with several engineers over the years who had their PhD but never said anything about it. As one guy told me, "If my mother had wanted me to have 'Dr' on my business cards, she would have sent me to medical school."

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RE: Why so few US citizens in Engineering graduate schools?

I think you may have missed the point. A university will take on a fee-paying Masters student from overseas. This masters from a recognizable university then becomes the dominant educational achievement and overrides the bachelor's degree from unknown university in wherever-land. As an added inducement at least in Australia that Australian masters entitles the student to an extended visa, if not residency, and smooths the path to PR.

Cheers

Greg Locock


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RE: Why so few US citizens in Engineering graduate schools?

Yeah, like others have said, it's just not required for the majority of positions out there. Of course some do require a PhD if they're R&D positions or similar.

If you studied physics or something like that, it becomes a very different scenario.

RE: Why so few US citizens in Engineering graduate schools?

Quote (TheTick)

I was counseled by multiple Ph.D.s that a doctorate was a waste of time in my field unless I wanted to teach or needed it for immigration status.

My PhD father did precisely this. After being out in the field, I usually tell college kids the same when asked. In my world (building structural design), the PhD probably closes more doors than it opens. Probably a good idea if you want to do really specialized stuff like work for NASA or one of the giant national labs (Sandia, Fermi, etc.) and certainly if you want to go into academia. But in my field it's mostly just costing you several years of full-time pay.

Quote (GregLocock)

I think you may have missed the point. A university will take on a fee-paying Masters student from overseas. This masters from a recognizable university then becomes the dominant educational achievement and overrides the bachelor's degree from unknown university in wherever-land. As an added inducement at least in Australia that Australian masters entitles the student to an extended visa, if not residency, and smooths the path to PR.

Another more cynical take: cost of tuition for international students is typically significantly higher than for US students (and certainly higher than in-state tuition at public universities), at least in my general area. Also a lot of the students coming to the US for school are well off enough that they don't need loans. So not only do colleges get more tuition money out of them, but for many of them they don't have the hassle and risk of lending them money or giving them aid because the students are paying cash.

For what it's worth I think for at least the university I went to, there actually aren't that many fewer US students. But there's significantly more international students (and thus a larger student body overall). So overall number is similar, maybe down slightly. But proportion of US students to overall student body is much lower than it was say ten years ago.

RE: Why so few US citizens in Engineering graduate schools?

(OP)
Seems like most are replying about why foreign students come to the US. That is a no-brainer for the reasons cited. I hoped this thread would spark a discussion on why US citizens don't choose the same advanced degrees? Despite many advantages on their side many opt for low-paying and high-risk professions ( like building maintenance staff ).. I think there is something deeper going on with how society operates in the US.. It is unlike any other country as it allows this "reverse employment"...

RE: Why so few US citizens in Engineering graduate schools?

Quote (ParabolicTet)

I hoped this thread would spark a discussion on why US citizens don't choose the same advanced degrees?

At least for me, I disagree with the basic premise. Prevalence of advanced degrees in the US is increasing and currently the highest it has ever been (see below). It may seem like there's less US students because there's more international students coming to the US to get their advanced degrees, but the overall number is increasing, not decreasing. And we were already one of the best educated countries in the world from a college standpoint (there's arguments to be had there for pre-college education).

That there's a lot of international students in our universities speaks to the quality I think. We've got like 40 of the top 100 universities in the World according to Times Higher Education, and almost 70% of the top 25 schools. Meanwhile we're only 4% of the world's population. So a large portion of the remaining 96% of the world is going to want to do their graduate work in the US if possible.

RE: Why so few US citizens in Engineering graduate schools?

Well there's a difference between asking "why US citizens don't get PhDs" and "why US citizens in engineering don't go to grad school"; the answer to the latter is already above.

If you're asking why the general number of US citizens in grad school is lower than other countries, I'd assume that's directly related to the absurdly high cost of tuition in this country and the (relatively) return on investment for most advanced degrees. A PhD in history/language/etc won't bring in a ton of money, so unless the person is very passionate, they won't pursue the advanced degree.

RE: Why so few US citizens in Engineering graduate schools?

(OP)

Quote (RVAmeche)

If you're asking why the general number of US citizens in grad school is lower than other countries, I'd assume that's directly related to the absurdly high cost of tuition in this country and the (relatively) return on investment for most advanced degrees. A PhD in history/language/etc won't bring in a ton of money, so unless the person is very passionate, they won't pursue the advanced degree.

I agree the ROI for advanced degrees in many liberal arts fields is low. But for field like software and electrical engineering the ROI is extreamly high. Engineers at facebook, google, amazon, and apple can easily earn upto 500k/year.. And this is for kids in their 20s/30s..

RE: Why so few US citizens in Engineering graduate schools?

The electrical/computer/software engineers at those companies make big bucks but do all those positions require PhDs? I know people who've gotten jobs there w/ just a BS.

Also note that most of those jobs are currently in Silicon Valley where 500K does NOT go as far as you would think.

RE: Why so few US citizens in Engineering graduate schools?

At one work assignment I was surrounded by Ph.D.s. Best quote was from a Ph.D. materials scientist:

Quote:

Around here a Ph.D. is just a parking ticket for idling in a school zone too long.

RE: Why so few US citizens in Engineering graduate schools?

Quote:

Despite many advantages on their side many opt for low-paying and high-risk professions ( like building maintenance staff )..

Apologies but your examples are throwing me off a bit. Are you referring to engineering graduates' tendency to go into non-engineering fields or are you suggesting the majority of folks could become engineers?

Quote:

I was counseled by multiple Ph.D.s that a doctorate was a waste of time in my field unless I wanted to teach or needed it for immigration status.

I received the same advice as a junior engineer. The majority never thought much of the cost but viewed their education as simply a title. If you wanted to become a good engineer you went to work and gained experience, if you wanted to pursue office politics or work outside of industry then pursue a doctorate. A decade later I agree.

RE: Why so few US citizens in Engineering graduate schools?

There's been competing forces. On the one hand, American culture, had traditionally eschewed higher degrees as "eggheads"; but more recently, the push to get more people into college has forced some to seek higher degrees to distinguish themselves from the "pack," and certainly, many schools recruit foreign students simply because they can charge full rates.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
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RE: Why so few US citizens in Engineering graduate schools?


I think the one thing that a graduate degree does do is act as a filter of who is into engineering for the technical details and who had to pick a major and just happen to be good at math. Most people I know who got a graduate degree in engineering later in life were already different from most engineers. Likewise, I am rarely surprised by the technical interest and ability of those pursuing an MBA.

RE: Why so few US citizens in Engineering graduate schools?

I know why I did a Master's degree and didn't do a PhD: I took engineering economics and ran the numbers on it.

I did a combined Bachelors-Masters, which was an option offered at my uni. It allowed me to get out in a year, so that the cost of lost income could possibly be paid back by the potential for higher wages and more potential job opportunities.

That being the case, I could afford to pursue knowledge in depth, doing a project where I ran the show, had to make all my own measurements, interpret the data and defend the conclusions I drew from those interpretations. Worth its weight in gold as life experience. Had a lovely time- didn't have to work nearly as hard as I did in my undergrad, got decent grant money, did a little teaching which I enjoyed, and saw the research-educational complex from the inside.

My sister pushed me to become a prof- for the lifestyle. I looked at what the profs I knew were actually doing, though. They taught students who mostly didn't give a shit about what they were teaching. They ran research groups, but had little time to do any of the research themselves- they spent their time writing grant applications and reading the results of the work of others (theses, papers etc.) And in industry? What a PhD sentenced you to here in Canada was a 1 way ticket out of the country, or taking a job which was a compromise- where you were hired because of your PhD but for the wrong reasons, or you were hired DESPITE your PhD.

The PhD would also have been fun. But it would have been a bad financial decision for someone who didn't want to have to move to where the work was, even if that meant changing country.

My friends who did PhDs all left Canada- with only two exceptions. One works at Google, so he's a statistical anomaly, i.e. he is part of such a small cohort that he doesn't exist (he was way more interested in stats than in chem eng). The other moved out west and made a living there that never put that PhD even approximately to use. Of the others- the ones who ended up in the US- some of them are quite comfortable in the USA- they're practically 'mericans. Or they were, until 45 came along...Personally I don't regret my choices for a moment.

As to why so many foreign students in the grad programs? Two reasons 1) unregulated tuitions and 2) it's a fast track to immigration, or a way to legitimize a questionable undergrad degree in the eyes of foolish employers. Education is no longer a public service, despite the fact that it is still paid for mostly here by public funding. Rather, it pretends to be a business enterprise which seeks revenue and which has a growth mandate. It's nuts, and it's damaging the profession. That's part of the reason why only 30% of people with engineering degrees in Ontario work as engineers. When I graduated, that figure was over 70%.

RE: Why so few US citizens in Engineering graduate schools?

I don't know that the 30% figure is necessarily from that; 40 years ago, fewer schools had engineering departments; computer science as a degree wasn't that big a thing (math majors would be hired as computer programmers when they couldn't find something more seriously math related). But, the conventional wisdom became "an engineering degree is the E-ticket"; which drove up applications, which drove up class sizes, which drove sleepy unis into engineering powerhouses. However, a side note from the engineering graduate thread in the Pub is that not all graduates are cut out to be engineers. That's almost always been the case, but more recently, the push has been so strong that people that neither have the "knack" nor the "calling" are graduating with engineering degrees, but some of them probably shouldn't have. Certainly, the likes of Google, Microsoft, Facebook, etal, are now driving more people into computer science and more schools are hosting computer science departments. UC Berkeley just formed a data science department whose first year engendered 780 declarations of major, compared to the CS and EECS departments' total enrollment of around 3200.

Case in point, 40 years ago, UC Berkeley was pretty much THE engineering school in the UC system; today, UCB, UCLA, UCSD (former party school), UCI, UCSC (another former party school), UCSB (another former party school), UCD (Cal Aggie) and UCR all have engineering departments. And each school is about double in size from 40 years ago.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Why so few US citizens in Engineering graduate schools?

Importance, availability, and cost of education in International versus North American schools
Ease to transition from a domestic degree to a PE is more straightforward than for an international degree


...but I can't recall if I have ever solved that problem yet.

RE: Why so few US citizens in Engineering graduate schools?

May be jobs mostly available in this field of work.

RE: Why so few US citizens in Engineering graduate schools?

Part of the issue is that a college is a 4-yr time lag, relative to the needs of industry, and while people in the US will soon see that we've got a glut of most engineering disciplines, for people in other countries, engineering is still the way out of lower classes. Unfortunately, it takes so long to identify trends in the economy that we're always in over/under supply situations

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

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