Masters in Engineering

Our daughter is in the process of applying to graduate schools. She has looked up requirements for several programs, is pretty sure the area(s) of concentration, and is updating her CV.
However, the grad school process is very different than undergrad.
Question 1-- What is considered good research experience? She was an athlete in undergrad, so was not able work to do research in college… except her senior project.
Question 2-- She interned at NASA, and has worked for an aerospace company the last 2 years working on various projects… will this be sufficient for research experience?
Question 3-- She had a good relationship with one of her undergrad professors, she took three of his classes, one of which was a grad level class her senior year. However, he has since left the university. Letters of recommendation are very important, she may only be able to get her supervisors and work associates? Will these people work for the letters of rec? Further most of her work projects are classified so not of lot of detail can be shared?
Her mechanical engineering gpa 3.9/4.0. She is not taking the GRE so only applying to test optional schools.
Thanks for any input.

Is your daughter applying for a professional masters degree or a more traditional two-year program? The professional masters degree (M.E.) is typically to get additional skills to enhance employment. For example, my middle son got a one-year (three semester) Master of Biomedical Innovation and Development from Georgia Tech. My youngest son is two-thirds through a Master in Polymer Engineering from Lehigh. For these type of degrees, research experience is not particularly important. These degrees are expensive and financial aid is typically not available. These professional degrees are big money makers for universities.

A two-year engineering master of science degree will typically include research and a thesis, although some have non-thesis options. We did not look into these programs, so I just have a general impression that research experience is a plus, but not an absolute requirement. You would need to look at specific programs for details. There may be some financial aid available including teaching assistant pay.

If your daughter’s goal is a PhD, then don’t apply for a masters degree. Instead apply directly to the PhD program. For this, research experience is very important. My oldest son is just finishing up his PhD in Aerospace Engineering from Michigan. Your daughter’s PhD would be fully funded: tuition and funds for housing and living expenses. Heath insurance would likely be paid.

I can’t really evaluate your daughter’s research experience. She should definitely track down her professor for a LOR. Work LORs would not be especially valuable. Her NASA supervisor might still be good.

If you send me a private message, I could tell you more about my son’s application process, graduate school life, etc. He is actually home for the next week, so I could ask him specific questions.

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If your are interested, I posted several years ago about my son’s journey to grad school.


Thanks for the information. Since she has been working for two years, quitting her job and trying to find a research option is not practical. Especially since most master of science degrees do not appear to be funded.

She needs to read the literature on who is doing what in areas that interest her. Then, she’ll choose the advisor, not the institution per se. This is critically important if she’s looking at doctoral programs.

She is only looking at masters programs… and is not interested in the professional MS degree.

The same rules still apply, it’s just a little less personality related. She needs to find people doing stuff that she’s interested in and contact them to see if they have a spot. Ideally she’d get funding. It’s not common, but they’re out there. My son’s MS was funded. Does she have any geographical preference and what is she interested in? Given her background, I might be able to point her to a cool project. PM me.

I just sent you a pm.

Why does she need a masters?

Working in aerospace for the past two years has opened her eyes to a lot of different options. She was a D1 athlete in college, so did not get to do research in undergrad… and feels like that was something she would have enjoyed and missed. Further she would ultimately like to work for NASA and has a few dreams that only having a master will open the door.

It’s easy to take the fact that you can work as an engineer in most fields without a postgraduate degree as evidence that it’s just unnecessary. Graduate degrees have many advantages, mainly deepening one’s knowledge and skills in an area that interests them. It’s hard to get that level of deep understanding without it. Kudos to her for being willing to jump back out of the job market to follow a dream.