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Masters of Structural Engineering Degree

Masters of Structural Engineering Degree

Masters of Structural Engineering Degree

(OP)
Hi All,

I am about 5 years in the workforce and am about to begin becoming chartered in structural engineering through engineers Australia.

Whilst looking into this, I saw the option to potentially do a masters in structural engineering.

From the people here, are there real benefits in going down the route of getting a masters degree? Is it beneficial for career progression, pay, extra knowledge etc? I believe that the $40k that it cost would be covered by the consulting firm that I work at.

I don't believe that there is a great deal in my current role/company that requires getting a Master, but to maximise future opportunities I can see the benefit in having one. Also looking into a few Universities in Australia there are plenty of courses that I would be interested in taking to further develop my understanding.

Any feedback as to the pros and cons would be greatly appreciated.

RE: Masters of Structural Engineering Degree

Generally masters are not well regarded in Australia. They are mostly the area of people looking to break into the Australian market after getting bachelor's in non Australian universities.

RE: Masters of Structural Engineering Degree

If you wish to climb the ladder, you will at some point be expected to have more technical knowledge than a bachelor´s degree will provide. Finite element methods, structural dynamics, structural stability (beams, plates, shells, discrete models), advanced structural mechanics (plates, shells, sandwich structures, laminates), prestressed concrete, advanced steel design (plate girders, moment joints etc.), material models and many other things are of great use both for project managers (who, for bidding work, must evaluate if a project is feasible with given resources) and engineers in more technical roles.

If you wish to progress beyond the cookie-cutter design work, additional education will fill many gaps in your knowledge and allow you to tackle more demanding (and better paid) design tasks. I´d say that getting the degree is the smart thing to do, and if your firm covers the cost, it would be a guaranteed way to earning more and doing more interesting things during your career.

RE: Masters of Structural Engineering Degree

As I understand in rowingengineer is practicing in Australia, I believe centondollar isn't. I would take on rowingengineer's advice. In my opinion a master's is not worth it if you already have an engineering degree, a career and are almost chartered. (I'm also Australian)

Centondollar's advice about focussing further learning on skills beyond 'cookie-cutter' roles is good advice. Though in Australia I don't believe that the best way to go about that is with a Master's degree. If you want to expand your knowledge then seek out that education yourself. Either self taught, CPD opportunities such as with EA, or formal short courses. Focus on areas that you will find useful in your current work or in an area in which you want to head.

Let me guess. You got good to excellent grades in your prior study and got hired as a graduate at a medium to large firm. You have churned through the 5 years and are getting to the point of being chartered and are now looking for your next goal to progress your career. Your current work is engaging but you something more interesting. Thus you are seeking out further education.

On my numerous presumptions, it sounds like you need some good career advice rather than further education. Either chat to somebody that you trust or ask questions here.

RE: Masters of Structural Engineering Degree

(OP)
Appreciate the feedback here.

@rowingengineer, interesting your thoughts here that its mainly used for people trying to break into the Australian market. Would you agree with the advice from human909 that the best way to expand your knowledge is self taught, CPD courses etc?

@centondollar in my undergraduate course I covered FEA, structural dynamic, prestressed concrete, FRP plated slabs/beam etc in 4th my advanced electives. Some of this knowledge I use on the projects that I do now e.g. PT slab design but others less so. I cant say that I feel that I am doing any cookie-cutter design as of yet as the projects that I work on are quite varied. However this may not be the case in the future and I do look at masters degrees here in Australia and find courses that my knowledge is limited on which might help if the project that I work on do change.

@human909 Seeking out self taught education is really something that I am looking to improve this year and the CPD hours that I require will assist with this. I had fine results at uni but I completed the degree in my late teens early twenties and didn't have the work ethic that I have now being a bit more mature. I work at a small firm with less than 20 employees, but with the rest you are pretty much spot on. I am not sure what my ultimate goal is as an engineer; I have worked at 3 small consulting firm now and the amount of time (70+ hrs), risk, responsibility etc is immensely high and not for the fait hearted. I have already been in a firm that is no longer in operation. Similarly becoming a principal engineer at a medium to large firm may require the extra knowledge which is why I am looking into the masters degree. Or maybe even another path that I don't even know about yet.

RE: Masters of Structural Engineering Degree

Quote (They are mostly the area of people looking to break into the Australian market)


My first reference to our 'Professional Association' in second year. Ram Godse had the academic qualifications to be an engineer. He is still alive and well, and practicing, in Winnipeg. The association wanted him to take additional courses for registration. He left our second year class and took his masters.

As an idealistic kid, I thought it was terrible that the association would refuse to acknowledge academic credentials that the university would accept.

I had no idea that the professional association was worse than that.

Rather than think climate change and the corona virus as science, think of it as the wrath of God. Feel any better?

-Dik

RE: Masters of Structural Engineering Degree

I thought the days of 70+ hours had died off, I know I try to keep my guys around the 40ish and we are a small firm, guess it depends on your profit aims, mine as a manager is for my guys to be able to do this for more than a few years. Burnout was a big thing a while back, and I have aimed to change it.

In my opinion you need to work out your specialist area. It changes based on your selection. I tell everyone "you will find a bit of gold in most resources, you just have to dig it up". Personally I have found self taught to be best for an all rounder, going down a rabbit hole is fun, most lectures in Australia area great to deal with.

However when I was trying to be a fea jockey back in 2008, I found the code courses by experts to be great, I did a vibration modelling course by hera NZ and it was great, also did a concrete behaviour course by via and it was also good, if had continued down this path building on those courses would have been key. I would also have annoyed rapt, Gilbert, ids etc more.

RE: Masters of Structural Engineering Degree

what areas of your studies have you applied in your 5 years of working ?

what of those areas interest you, to want to learn more ?

are you going to study part-time, or take 2? years off work ??

don't expect to see a significant salary bump for the Masters.

another day in paradise, or is paradise one day closer ?

RE: Masters of Structural Engineering Degree

As a bit of background for those who don't know the Australian education market. In my experience employer pay almost zero attention to your tertiary education beyond the first couple of years. Nor do prestigious Universities carry much weight beyond your first couple of years for most employers, though it could still be a signal of the socioeconomic background of where the applicant has come from. To be honest I think this mostly deserved but I do think employers should pay a little more attention to the academic credentials of the applicant. Someone who went to one of the top tier Universities on average is going to be more academically adept than one of the lower tier universities. Though there plenty of exceptions to this.

Yes people do go do further post graduate study to try to enhance they employability. And Australian tertiary institutions are more than happy to take your cash. But it is rarely worth it.

I say all this as somebody who has done two undergraduate degrees with honours and Masters Degree to get my engineering qualification. ponder (What can I say, I was young and naive when I entered undergraduate study.....)

Quote (Garoppolo)

Similarly becoming a principal engineer at a medium to large firm may require the extra knowledge
Sure to become a principal engineer requires 'extra knowledge' but that extra knowledge can be much better gained through experience than extra study. Your goals should be about acquiring that experience being able to push the boundaries of your engineering knowledge.

Quote (Garoppolo)

I have worked at 3 small consulting firm now and the amount of time (70+ hrs), risk, responsibility etc is immensely high and not for the fait hearted.
That sounds intense, but not at all an uncommon story. For me it is uncommon and it makes me feel like I am working in a sheltered workshop!

If you happen to be in Victoria I'm happy to sit down for a beer or coffee if you wish. Not that I have necessarily better advice that is already given here but I have some understanding.

RE: Masters of Structural Engineering Degree

Must admit I only care that grads have a bachelor's, I know we are going to provide on the job training that builds them up to a level, normally 3 months to start.

RE: Masters of Structural Engineering Degree

(OP)
@rowingengineer the 70+ hour working week bit was the owner/director of each business, not me personally. I do about 50-55hrs typically but has been more when a project demands it. I have seen first hand how tough a toll it can take running your own business and am not convinced yet that I should go down that path, but am keeping my options open for now. I haven't found a specialist area as of yet, currently I work on different commercial, retail, industrial buildings with a bit of residential, but previous jobs were more towards the residential. As a young engineer I have covered a lot of bases being in different sectors which has been great so far and also the main materials too: concrete, steel, masonry, timber design.

@rb1957 Most of the concrete and steel courses as this is what I use in design the most. I wouldn't say that I have found a particular area that I like the most so far, I have worked on many unique jobs that always teach me a thing or two. I was most interested in a Masters of Structural Engineering at Melbourne Uni, its 1 year full time or 2 year part time. I would be doing it part time over 2 years whilst working. The 8 course could be the following ; High Rise Structures, Steel and Composite Structures Design, Earthquake Resistant Design of Buildings, Extreme Loading of Structures, Concrete Design and Technology, Structural Dynamics and Modelling, Building Information Modeling, Geotechnical Applications (others are options). Most of these courses sound really interesting.

@human909 I completely agree with your thoughts here, changing to my current job 2 years ago my academic studies wasn't bought up in the interviews past what uni that I went to. The discussions were more about what projects I have you worked on, what did you do on these, how independent were you etc. I have moved companies in the past to be able to work on more interesting and bigger jobs to gain that experience and will keep trying that in the future too as required. As I mentioned above the 70+ hrs was the director not me personally. Unfortunately I am in Brisbane but do appreciate the offer, maybe when I am down that way for a project or conference in the future!

RE: Masters of Structural Engineering Degree

Regardless of money, opportunities etc furthering your education can only be a positive. Especially if you don’t have to pay for it

RE: Masters of Structural Engineering Degree

As an employer its of no interest to me to be honest. I remember asking my old boss as the time if I should go for a masters. He said you’d be better off doing it in something like philosophy or something more interesting than engineering!

RE: Masters of Structural Engineering Degree

Masters of Structural Engineering is good if you want to expand your knowledge base, however for most buildings this level of technical knowledge (i.e. FEM, blast design) would be a bit overkill, so I would say if you are not working on the Eureka towers of the world then that investment would sit idle.

In my opinion, I think it's a question of where you want to go, as different routes require different training. Do you want to be a tech expert and work on big projects? or do you want to run your own business? or simply you want to be a leader in your firm?

Talk to engineers with lots of experience and see what they say about being where they are. I found that we all have a preconceived knowledge of whats its like to be this or that, but once you reach that place it may not be what we expected it to be.

RE: Masters of Structural Engineering Degree

Quote (EireChch)

Regardless of money, opportunities etc furthering your education can only be a positive. Especially if you don’t have to pay for it
Getting something for nothing always seems great doesn't it? And if that something is truly beneficial then it is hard to argue with you logic. However the study will also impose significant time burdens that might be more useful invested elsewhere. CPD in areas that are specific to current work could potentially be extension to current work is likely more productive use of the time.

The employers and locals have spoken about the lack of tangible benefits from a masters degree, I really do believe this to be the case for most engineers. (Probably more so with Australian education which has sold its soul make money out of foreigners rather than turn out educated minds.)

Quote (Enhineyero)

Masters of Structural Engineering is good if you want to expand your knowledge base, however for most buildings this level of technical knowledge (i.e. FEM, blast design) would be a bit overkill, so I would say if you are not working on the Eureka towers of the world then that investment would sit idle.
Agreed. So much academic teaching focus is in areas that you are unlikely to use. And one course of study on the topic isn't going to suddenly open the door for you to use it.

In contrast I do use FEA approaches in my work and that was self taught and required because of the type of industry I am in.

Other may have different experiences but I'd say that once you are a practicing structural engineer your skillset grows by taking on new work that requires incremental skillset expansion. I think it is less likely to occurs the other way around by studying a course and suddenly saying I'm going to stop designing houses and start designing high rises and blast resistant buildings!

RE: Masters of Structural Engineering Degree

I did a PhD straight after my undergraduate degree, which took an extra 3.75 years. My goal was always to end up in the industry doing hands-on structural design work, which is where I am now.

I was lucky not to have to pay a cent to do the PhD, and actually got paid a livable income through scholarships, which are pretty generous for local students.

While I don't regret doing the PhD, and am quite proud of what I achieved, I believe that time would have been better spent getting industry experience. In the short term, it delayed my career progression in terms of seniority and pay. Only ~4-5 years after finishing the PhD did I manage to catch up to where I might have been with the extra industry experience. In the long term, it is hard to predict where it will get me.

Any sort of postgraduate research will be so narrowly focused and so niche, that it is difficult to find a direct application for it in the industry unless you are lucky. There have been maybe 2-3 occasions where my area of research has come in handy with my day-to-day work. Having said that, all of the other peripheral experience that comes with that postgraduate research (e.g. general research skills, technical writing, ability to work independently, problem solving, outside the box thinking) is hugely beneficial, just less tangible.

There are plenty of guys in my area of work that have made huge contributions and climbed the career ladder impressively just with a Bachelor's degree.

Main point I would make is that if you are conscientious and smart enough to get through a Masters or PhD, whether you do it or not, you will do well in your career. I don't think the extra degree will get you any further than if you were to just get industry experience instead.

RE: Masters of Structural Engineering Degree

Hi Garoppolo, I can offer a bit of insight here in addition to all the great advice you've already received.
I got my masters from UNSW a while ago and truth be told, I haven't really gotten any significant benefits out of it (other than networking I suppose). That being said, there are some areas/scenarios where a masters can definitely help:
  • Project management courses - especially those that deal with scenarios above and beyond what you see at work.
  • Courses that can provide Career pivoting opportunities down the track - E.g. programming courses.
  • Possible future PhD/lecturer opportunities - only if you're going the Masters by research route, and even here I believe having a masters isn't a big advantage as they do allow for relevant experience at the start for industry lecturers. A masters by research is a good way to get a taste of what the research part is like.
Others have mentioned FEA, but in my experience the way FEA is currently taught isn't good. I'll caveat this whole comment as my experience was specifically with UNSW and other universities may be better.
During my masters, the focus with FEA courses was far more on the theory and math side of things than on actual application - which is a problem since you don't really use the former all that much in day-to-day engineering work. I believe this is the case with a lot of universities right now, and I would be very surprised (and happy !) if unis in Oz were teaching about checking FEA results with back of the envelope hand calcs.
I was also made to use programs like Abaqus/Ansys for FEA courses - which are not really used by engineers for solving day-to-day tasks. Also, for research tasks there was a very heavy reliance on products like Matlab - which aren't used much outside of academic settings.

Again, all of the above applies specifically to UNSW from a few years ago and things might have changed by now.

That being said, some special topics (like blast engineering) can help set you up for projects like metro stations and important structures where these are required.

RE: Masters of Structural Engineering Degree

"isn't taught good" ... sigh.

ANSYS is well used in my industry, and MATHLAB (a very nice tool for preparing reports).
But uni shouldn't IMHO teach you how to use a code, but rather the underlying principles of the analysis
(and then how those principles are navigated in a code). Picking up a new code is only learning a new grammar.

if you want to learn a code ... go to a tech college, or the code's training courses.

INVHO, I think you should do a masters on project mgmt (or anything) only after you've worked in the field for a couple of years. Project mgmt is two things ...
clearly presenting data to show the status of the components of the project,
and working with people (hard to teach in school).

another day in paradise, or is paradise one day closer ?

RE: Masters of Structural Engineering Degree

Quote (the way FEA is currently taught isn't good)


ponderpipe

Rather than think climate change and the corona virus as science, think of it as the wrath of God. Feel any better?

-Dik

RE: Masters of Structural Engineering Degree

(OP)
Appreciate all the responses here.

I am quite glad that I ask this question here in this thread. This has probably completely changed my future career path of not getting a masters in structural engineering.

Its disappointing to hear peoples comments on state of Australian unis. Many young engineers like me are likely embarking down the masters route now hoping to progress their careers for it to potentially be a waste of time/money. The benefits don't seem to stack up bar a couple a niche paths mentioned above.

I am not currently planning to do my PHD/Lecturer/Project Management or career path change etc. I enjoy working in a structural consulting firm for now and was only trying to assist this.

As a bonus, whilst looking into the masters degree many of them had recommended textbook for certain subjects. I now have a long list of books to buy/read!

If this has helped with anything is to direct my focus in getting my CPeng through EA and actively participating in CPD events.

RE: Masters of Structural Engineering Degree

Quote (Garoppolo)

I now have a long list of books to buy/read!
If you'd care to share that list in this thread then I'd appreciate that. I might find one or two books there that would help.

Quote (Garoppolo)

Its disappointing to hear peoples comments on state of Australian unis.
It is spread far and wide and well beyond Engineering. But rot is most acute in vocational degrees due to the type of demand and the type of teaching. There are many mediocre lecturers as most of the good engineers are practicing not academics, and the good academics are not good teachers. Likewise on the demand side you get numerous international students paying vast sums for vocational degrees and incentivising institutions to lower the pass thresholds.

Quote (Garoppolo)

Its disappointing to hear peoples comments on state of Australian unis. Many young engineers like me are likely embarking down the masters route now hoping to progress their careers for it to potentially be a waste of time/money.
I hope not. I think most competent people get a toehold into the workforce without further study. Those who go onto further study are often those struggling in the workplace. (This doesn't apply to all areas, eg science you pretty much need minimum honours if not masters.)


While my comments may sound jaded, it is not without perspective. I was somebody who went back to study Masters of Engineer and Unimelb after having done a different undergrad and struggling to find a suitable 'career' with my previous studies.

RE: Masters of Structural Engineering Degree

A different perspective:

I started work in Australia in 1985, having graduated in the UK in 1972. I started a part-time Master of Engineering Science course in 1986 at UNSW, through the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra (it was about 50/50 military and external students). I found the course interesting and the standard of teaching excellent, and the research component turned out to be directly relevant to a job opportunity 7 year later with a company developing a new product, and is still relevant to the work I do today.

In more recent years I have done part time lecturing work (again at UNSW) and I have found all the academic engineers I work with keenly involved with engineering, knowledgeable, and actively engaged with practical engineering.

Of course there are conflicting commercial interests for universities, and they are far from perfect, but then they always were.

For anyone with a few years practical experience and the opportunity to do a masters course in engineering, I'd say go for it. The end result may not fit your future career as well as it did for me, but contrary to what others have suggested I am sure there are many opportunities with companies looking for staff who have something to offer above a bachelors degree level education, including design consultants, material and product suppliers, and contractors.

Doug Jenkins
Interactive Design Services
http://newtonexcelbach.wordpress.com/

RE: Masters of Structural Engineering Degree

Quote (IDS)

In more recent years I have done part time lecturing work (again at UNSW)

I am interested to know how you got into this gig? It is something that I would be interested to do at some point in the future. I have a few contacts at UNSW and USyd that I could reach out to from back when I did the PhD. I always really enjoyed the teaching aspect of the work (running tutorials for various structural engineering subjects), even though the research aspect wasn't my favourite.

RE: Masters of Structural Engineering Degree

gusmurr - it was mainly through contacts made through the Concrete Institute. If you send an e-mail to my gmail account (dougaj4) I can be more specific.

Doug Jenkins
Interactive Design Services
http://newtonexcelbach.wordpress.com/

RE: Masters of Structural Engineering Degree

(OP)

Quote (human909)

If you'd care to share that list in this thread then I'd appreciate that. I might find one or two books there that would help.

Human909 refer to the below list of books that I have read or want to read in the recent/near future. Most of these should be fairly known titles I believe. Hope this helps.

Concrete Construction Engineering Handbook Edward G. Nawy
Wind Loading of Structures, 4th edition John D. Holmes
Designing Tall Buildings: Structure as Architecture Mark Sarkisian
Structural Design for Fire Safety Andrew H. Buchanan
Composite Structures of Steel and Concrete: Beams, Slabs, Columns and Frames for Buildings Roger P. Johnson
Displacement-Based Seismic Design of Structures - 2nd Edition Hardcover M.J.N. Priestley
Dynamics of Structures in SI Units Anil Chopra
Finite-Element Design of Concrete Structures, 2nd edition: Practical Problems and their Solutions GA Rombach
Time-Dependent Behavior of Concrete Structures Raymond Ian Gilbert
Tall Building Foundation Design Paperback Harry G. Poulos

RE: Masters of Structural Engineering Degree

Quote (Garoppolo)

Human909 refer to the below list of books that I have read or want to read in the recent/near future.
Thanks Garoppolo.

Also I have just noticed that you have only recently joined this forum. Try sticking around.

Reading and answering other peoples questions can greatly expand your knowledge. While many questions are genuinely basic you never know what in depth discussion can occur or what windows into other areas of engineering might be opened up by simple questions. Who ever thought that a question about a

Quote (https://www.eng-tips.com/viewthread.cfm?qid=459248)

simple fly brace
could inspire so much discussion including question of the validity of some aspects of AS4100 and expanded blog posts about rational buckling analysis.

Quote (IDS)

A different perspective..

In more recent years I have done part time lecturing work (again at UNSW) and I have found all the academic engineers I work with keenly involved with engineering, knowledgeable, and actively engaged with practical engineering.
Nice to here an unjaded and non cynical view on things... The only two lecturers that I have at Melbourne Uni that were decent were those with real work engineering experience.

I also was a mediocre student when I returned to study strucural engineering, so I'm also partly to blame for a poor experience. Thankfully my enthusiasm and aptitude have help make up for me being a bad student. (I hope anyway!)

RE: Masters of Structural Engineering Degree

Quote (Human909)

Nice to here an unjaded and non cynical view on things...

No doubt the real world is somewhere between the two extremes :)

Doug Jenkins
Interactive Design Services
http://newtonexcelbach.wordpress.com/

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