Engineering Masters (terminal degree)

My son is on track for geological engineering undergrad degree in December 2022. Is having 2nd thoughts about the subfield and exploring other possibilities, including full-time, on-campus terminal Masters program(s).

Has 3.7 GPA at Missouri S&T (aka Rolla). Had 35 ACT in HS, but has not taken GRE or the like. Has worked in reasonably related fields for last 2 summers, but no full-time (out-of-college) experience.

There are multiple possibilities for Masters degrees at Rolla, which in he believes he can easily be accepted to, and likely complete in one year.

But let’s say he were to apply to other universities for an Engineering Masters program, to upgrade University prestige, to add different possible fields of study, and/or for better social life.

Consider U Michigan as a case study (though it’s not the only possibility):

Would he be able to complete any/many Engineering Masters programs in 1 year?
Would he need to take GRE and/or other testing?
Would a Rolla 3.7 + high test scores likely get him into the program?
Could he do all this in fall of 2022, and be admitted/matriculate to the program in January, 2023?

Does he need a masters to get a job in this field of engineering? I’m asking because I honestly don’t know. If not, perhaps working in the field might help him better decide which direction he wants for a graduate degree.

He does not need a masters for geological engineering.

But job prospects in geo are much less attractive than he’d anticipated, and he’s exploring other options, including other fields of engineering.

Well then…if he doesn’t need a masters, I think getting an engineering job might be a benefit.

Is there a career center on campus he can access? I’d also tell him to talk to an advisor or a trusted professor about masters programs.

Purdue’s masters in engineering degrees can be completed in a year but it’s typically a full year - Fall, Spring, and Summer session. They do accept students for Spring semester but the application deadline is Oct 1st. Some majors require the GRE, others do not. I would think all of this is very schools specific.

I would piggy back on Thumper’s question about if there isn’t an opportunity to work in engineering in a different industry for a bit and then decide if a masters is necessary. What kind of work experience has your son had as an undergrad? Is there an opportunity at an internship company to work in a different aspect of engineering?

The question, and I would pose it in the engineering forum, is what other engineering fields overlap well enough that he could get a job? If they aren’t attractive, then he needs to decide what field he wants to do.

As for switching schools, it’s very hard to move schools and finish in a year. Any added prestige, will be offset by added cost, as terminal MS degrees are not typically funded.

My son was faced with a similar situation, although not switching fields. He could stay at Cal Poly and finish a funded, thesis based MS in a year, or do a non-funded, non-thesis based MS at Stanford in 2 years. The numbers greatly favored staying at CP, and the broad opinion among engineers was that it would not hurt him.

Rolla is well known and respected by hiring engineers. I wouldn’t lose any sleep over that. It’s really a numbers game of what will it cost to stay vs. leave.

Congrats to him on a 3.7 in a challenging program.


Yes, there is, IIUC a career center at Rolla (that son has not utilized to date, but plans to in next few weeks). Yes, he can talk to professors (and plans to).

I’m just trying to think through the possibility set. There are pluses, I think, to having, say, Michigan or Georgia Tech in the picture, if he does opt to pursue a Masters. But I’m trying to weigh that against the possible drawbacks. (More of a scramble to get accepted, possibly longer timeline to get a Masters if he goes to one of these schools).

Yes, in general, a career/field switch is at least a possibility at the present time. This is based on his assessment of what he’s been doing the last 2 summers, and the types of work and salary levels he’s seeing online/hearing about in his discipline. It’s not a foregone conclusion - just trying to assemble some different possibilities for research and assessment…

There are two decisions.

  1. what does he want to do?

Only he can decide that.

  1. what is the extra prestige worth?

Not much. Everyone who hires has pet schools, but engineering hiring is regional, and pretty egalitarian. Beyond that, it’s nearly all meritocratic, with virtually no relationship between schools and skills. My son works for a guy who is an authority in his realm, retired before 45 and came out of retirement for this project. He went to a school very similar to Rolla and not on anyone’s radar.

I was in your shoes. You want what’s best for your son. His achievements and skills will sustain him much better than any piece of paper. Trust him and don’t let him build a giant debt for a name.

I would counsel one thing, a thesis based MS is worth much more than a course based MS.