Engineering is a competitive field that is ever growing and evolving. Consequently, engineering professionals are expected to have an academic background that prepares them appropriately to keep up with the latest advancements in the field. While engineering is a very hands-on profession where much can be learned in the workplace, higher education is a valuable way to advance a career in this industry.
Whether you’ve recently finished your bachelor’s in engineering and already know that you want to continue your education, or you’ve been working in the field for years and are interested in taking your career in a new direction, consider enrolling in an online engineering program to expand your knowledge and expertise. An advanced engineering degree can open up opportunities for professional advancement in the workplace, and earning a master’s in engineering has salary benefits as well.
Why Earn a Master’s in Engineering
As an engineer, you likely already spent four or more years of late nights and long hours earning your bachelor’s degree. Making the decision to go back to school to earn a master’s can be daunting, especially if you’re not in a position to take a year off from work to pursue further education. However, the ability to earn a degree online is making it easier than ever for engineering graduates with a bachelor’s degree to earn an advanced degree no matter where they are in their career.
Pursuing an additional degree is an opportunity to stay up to date on the latest technology, gain knowledge of the financial implications of your work, take a deeper dive into a particular area of interest, and build on your undergraduate education and workplace experience to improve the quality of your work. It will not only help you be the best you can be in your field but also show employers that you’re ready to take on a leadership role within your organization.
While these programs can deepen your knowledge of the facet of engineering that you already work in, completing a higher degree can also be a smart decision if you’re interested in taking your career in a new direction. A second degree can be your opportunity to specialize in a different area than what you studied as an undergraduate, or a nuanced specialty of your current field.
For example, if you’re working as an electrical engineer and want to pursue a position specifically in nanotechnology, a master’s in engineering with an emphasis on materials at the nanoscale could be the next step. A master’s can be especially helpful if you don’t have the opportunity to gain the precise experience you need in your current position.
Choosing an Advanced Degree: Master’s or Doctorate?
When it comes to pursuing an advanced degree, you have the option to choose either a master’s or a doctorate in engineering. A master’s, the more common of the two, will prepare you for most industry positions that do not involve research. It allows you to specialize in a particular topic and take on more responsibility in the workplace. Instead of handling much of the day-to-day tasks on the job, you may work behind the scenes in design or production, or take on a role as a project manager supervising other staff members. Depending on whether you’re enrolled full- or part-time, a master’s degree typically takes one to three years to complete.
If you’re looking to grow your research skills, a doctorate could be the answer. A doctorate is a larger time commitment — programs often take anywhere from five to seven years — but will give you a background in engineering theory and investigation that will be valuable if you wish to teach or work in cutting-edge research and development. If you’re interested in pursuing a doctorate, you may want to consider completing a research-based master’s in engineering degree first, and then decide if you wish to pursue a doctorate as well.
Ultimately, the choice to pursue a master’s degree largely depends on where you want to take your career. For the majority of engineers, the master’s offers not only the right academic background to specialize in the field of their choice but also appealing salary benefits. By investing time and money to pursue a higher degree, you can advance both your career and your wages.
Master’s in Engineering Salary
While there are numerous reasons to continue your engineering education, one of the major advantages of completing a master’s degree in engineering is the positive impact it can have on your earning potential. Though engineering positions in general are already among some of the highest paid in the country, earning a second degree can help you attain an even more competitive salary in a variety of positions.
According to the salary aggregate site Payscale, the median annual master’s in engineering salary was approximately $100,000 as of August 2022. This is a noticeable increase from the median annual salary for a bachelor’s in engineering, which Payscale reported at approximately $87,000. While factors such as years of experience and the specific branch of engineering all affect salaries, earning an advanced degree typically provides a financial boost.
Types of Careers for Master’s in Engineering Graduates
Jobs for Engineering Graduates
When an individual pursues a master’s in engineering, salary potential is only one consideration for a postgraduate career. The most critical element is deciding which branch of engineering is most relevant to their interests. They can choose from several fields, including the following:
- Civil engineering: Focuses on the design and creation of infrastructure projects
- Electrical and electronic engineering: Concerns the design and development of electrical/electronic equipment and systems
- Mechanical engineering: Involves the design and development of mechanical and thermal devices and sensors
- Chemical engineering: Concentrates on resolving problems using products such as fuel, pharmaceuticals, and food by applying scientific principles like chemistry
- Computer hardware engineering: Focuses on the design and development of computer systems and components
- Aerospace engineering: Concerns the design of airborne objects, such as aircraft, spacecraft, missiles, and satellites
Additional Opportunities in the Workplace
While a master’s in engineering can lead to a salary increase in your current position, it can also open doors to new roles. And with an advanced education combined with your experience in the field, these new positions will likely carry not only additional responsibilities and opportunities, but also a higher annual salary.
Specific roles depend on the engineering specialization an individual pursues. Jobs that can be obtained with an electrical engineering specialization include the following (all approximate median salaries according to August 2022 Payscale data):
- Senior systems engineer: $110,000
- Senior electrical engineer: $109,000
Jobs that can be pursued with a chemical engineering specialization include the following:
- Process engineering manager: $117,000
- Senior chemical engineer: $112,600
- Chemical process engineer: $79,700
Potential jobs available with a mechanical engineering specialization include the following:
- Senior mechanical engineer: $101,700
- Project engineer: $71,300
- Mechanical engineer: $73,600
Jobs that can be considered with a civil engineering specialization include the following:
- Construction project manager: $76,200
- Structural engineer: $71,900
- Civil engineer: $69,548
A master’s will also set you apart when you apply for more general positions. If you’re happy in your workplace but want to demonstrate your potential for advancement, pursuing a master’s degree could prove to be an advantageous next step in your career.
Earning an Affordable Master’s Degree Online
For many professionals, the decision to pursue a master’s degree is appealing, but it may be hard to imagine taking enough time off to complete a degree. Some may also worry about the costs involved. If this is your dilemma, consider enrolling in an online master’s in engineering program.
By pursuing a degree remotely, you’ll be able to continue in your current engineering position. The flexibility of the program will allow you to do your coursework and listen to lectures at the time and place of your choosing, tailoring your education around your responsibilities in the workplace.
In addition to being a convenient option, pursuing your master’s degree online while working simultaneously shows employers that you’re able to effectively multitask and prioritize important, time-sensitive projects simultaneously. Those are valuable skills for an engineer to not only master but also communicate in the workplace.
An online program eliminates a number of other extra expenses associated with attending school in person, including costs associated with commuting such as gas, parking passes, and eating out. You’ll also have more time to focus on your studies since you won’t need to travel to get to class.
For these reasons and more, online engineering degrees are becoming increasingly popular options for working professionals. If you’re ready to advance your career, consider enrolling in the University of California, Riverside’s online Master of Science in Engineering program today. You’ll not only enjoy the career and salary benefits that accompany a higher degree, but also do so with the additional savings and convenience offered by remote learning.