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Graduate School necessary?

  1. Jul 26, 2010 #1
    I'm debating whether I want to pursue graduate education in ME. Seems like a B.S. nowadays is like the new high-school diploma and you can't really "make" (or design) anything unless you have graduate education. With B.S. it seems like all you can do is be someone's robot and do all the boring non-skilled non-creative work in a cubicle.

    I want to design combustion engines and general automotive parts (clutches suspensions transmissions, etc). Will it be necessary to attend graduate school for a M.S.?

    What's the general feeling from you guys? Can anyone help me out?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 26, 2010 #2


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    Hmm, I design and develop engines and have managed pretty well without a masters. Your attitude and aptitude will determine your job opportunities.
  4. Jul 26, 2010 #3
    I don't think it is necessary, but it certainly helps. I worked 4 years after my BS, then went back part-time to get my MS. I appreciated school a lot more the second time around since I had the work experience and could apply a lot of the concepts I was learning immediately.

    I would also look at doing an internship or coop during your BS, there is no substitute for exerience.
  5. Jul 27, 2010 #4
    Well at least at my school you're a nobody until you are a graduate student. People ask you if you're undergrad before they ask your name.

    Seems like most of the stuff you do in undergraduate courses are too simplified and can't really apply to tougher situations.

    For example in gas turbine engines, I would bet no B.S. Mech Engineer works on those, it is just too complicated to work out with the simple models taught at the undergraduate level.

    I hope I'm wrong, but it doesn't seem like it.
  6. Jul 28, 2010 #5

    If you truly like what you do, then you'll find that you can teach yourself in just about anything in Engineering. It's just that the modern world has stereotypical attitudes as to who can or cannot get to be an Engineer. If possible, I'd advise you to make it formal and get an ME only if you've gotten some support from an Organization/employer in need of these specialized skills.

    On a personal note, I did finish my Undergrad B.Sc.in 2007, and I'm yet to utilize even more than 10 % I got from text books..
  7. Jul 28, 2010 #6


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    Rubbish, I know dozens. More with Bachelors degrees than Masters in fact.
  8. Jul 28, 2010 #7


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    I'm not sure where you're getting your information from but a bachelor's degree is far and above a high school diploma in terms of usefulness, and is enough for you to get a job as an engineer. The limiting factor when you first graduate is EXPERIENCE. An engineer fresh out of school has to prove that they are capable of applying what they've learned and engineer something. Same goes for someone who has a master's.

    This isn't a result of your degree (or lack of a graduate degree), it's a function of your experience. You need to work your way up the totem pole, no getting around it. An internshiop or co-op that is relevant to your area of study can help with this. A graduate degree makes you more desirable than someone with no experience and a bachelor's, but 3-5 years of strong real-world engineering experience trumps a graduate degree any day IMO.

    You're better off getting your bachelor's (with a good GPA), getting a summer co-op/internship, and then getting in on the ground floor at an automotive manufacturer. After working a few years, you can decide if you want a master's, and what area that might be in.
  9. Jul 28, 2010 #8
    Yes grad school is necessary IF you want to formulate your own theories, designs and models and understand why you don't know anything, yet. Yes, it is necessary if you have your own ideas about how things should work, and your own ideas about how to make things work.

    No it is not essential to start working in any field. You can get the basic skills on your feet.

    Don't rely on coming back to school after a couple years of work. Life becomes hard and unless you don't have a family, you can't devote the time needed for grad school. It's just difficult.

    Here's what I mean by 'having the time': MS programs assume full time status with students on research projects working for about 12 hours a day, 5 days a week w/ some brief time off now and then. For PhD's, typically, I want my PhD candidates to work 12+hours X7 days, no vacations. That's what I did. That's the dedication it takes to be a real Doctor of Philosophy. Can't do it? Don't join a PhD program. Having a Doctorate is not all that it's made out to be. Then there's the qualifiers. I don't know about most schools, but Stanford, MIT, Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon, and Caltech rip people's soul out before allowing them to qualify as a hopeful PhD candidate. Then there's dissertation proposals, and if you are working on your own, this is where you can get kicked out of programs if your advisor doesn't like you. It's a weeding process. I know some people never had bad qualifier/proposal experiences, but that tells you about the school they come from.

    The older professionals who claim that they didn't need grad school to start working on their dream engineering jobs didn't have either a tough market or the detail of complexity now introduced by computers and simulation techniques. They had a fairly restricted education experience which was sufficient in those days to get them started. However now, we teach you too many concepts and all with just barely sufficient information so that you can start getting a basic idea about a subject. This basic idea is about sufficient to read the instruction manual of an instrument.

    MS is like a short extension of the undergraduate degree. Again, things have changed over time. MS used to be considered real grad school and people would spend three years at times working for it. You could have obtained real research exposure in those days (almost everything except design your own experiments). But now, all big schools consider MS to be another undergrad type-short term, highly lucrative deal (for the schools). Too many programs that offer one year course work MS. Heck, you don't even get funded unless you are exceptional while working on your MS.

    My point being: Don't join an MS degree program which you have to pay for, unless you want to get a PhD as well. Don't join a PhD program unless you are willing to work really, really, really hard to earn that degree and spend around 5/6 years of your life in that process. You need to be tremendously motivated. To gauge your motivation level, spend a whole week trying to solve problems given in a graduate level text in your favorite field, then ask the question can you do that consecutively for the next 7/8 years (worst case) of your life? Are you going to be happy to lose all your hair, your eyesight, your carefree existence in the process of learning the intricacies of your favorite field and subsisting on the delicacies, pizza and ramen? Will you be able to live with the frustration of not finishing your PhD if your advisor suddenly dies or is sent to prison? If your answer is still yes, go ahead and start applying!

    (No sense in mollycoddling hopefuls. The brochures already show them grinning pretty girls doing the intel dance in clean rooms and Chinese/Indian graduate students playing soccer/Cricket on green fields... :D)
    Edit: Oh and did I tell you we don't care about your GPAs as long as you can get it to work without bothering us?
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2010
  10. Jul 28, 2010 #9


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    I agree. In my first job out of graduate school (MSME) I worked with new BSME's and had no more starting responsibility than anybody else. I did come in at a slightly higher level and salary but it didn't really mean anything in terms of job assignment.

    Having said that,the MS did open opportunities w/ research institutions that wouldn't necessarily have been available to me w/o the graduate degree, but in the end it matters what you want to do.
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2010
  11. Jul 29, 2010 #10
    What I want to do is exploit my creativity and design engines and car parts (like I said, suspension, clutches, differentials, systems, etc). And I don't mean just copy designs and re-draw them a bit differently, I mean create original and novel designs. I don't want to use the word "invent" because people get too fired up, but that's what it is.

    The truth is that I already have quite a few good/decent ideas, but I can't build any of them at the moment. When I started out I knew I didn't even need school, because I can learn most principles on my own. If I owned my own machine shop it wouldn't be a problem, but I don't. I don't have $600,000 to buy equipment with, so I need to use the shop at the school and then try to get along with a bigger company that has what it takes (laboratories, machine shops, computers, etc).

    Problem is, I need to prove myself, otherwise they'll look at you like you're a nobody. No one will take you into their laboratory unless they're convinced you can do good work in there. That's my question, with so many MSME graduates coming out every year, is it even possible to get started towards such an objective without graduate school?

    I don't want anyone telling me what to do and what to make, or what problems to solve. I want to design my own designs, work my own experiments, and solve my own problems. The subject I must study is combustion and compressible fluid dynamics, which I don't think they teach in undergraduate courses. For example in a rotary engine, the different rates of volume changes has effects on the gas expansion, turbulence, etc. I need to study that so I can tweak my engine. I probably could petition to get into a course like that while in the undergrad program, but who would believe me?
  12. Jul 29, 2010 #11
    Wow - I don't think you have a good grasp of how the world really works. I have a motorhead friend who worked in Detroit for a while, "in the upper left radiator bracket department" as he says. Most big companies have few (like 2 or 3) chief engineers that do whatever they want to. The rest are part of the machine for making profits.

    Maybe you will be happier working for yourself.
  13. Jul 29, 2010 #12
    No one. And no one will care.

    gmax137 is right. And the chief engineers usually have either experience or a PhD. If you think you have a 'few decent ideas', then why don't you enter those into competitions? Most competitions don't expect you to actually fabricate anything, only submit a detailed technical writeup of the idea. If you win, people will take note. Otherwise, your ideas are just like that balloon boy's father's ideas-Hokey.

    And since you are not born a m(b)illionaire, it would be advisable to stop thinking like Tony Stark. If you claim to understand academic texts, I can guess the kind of quack texts you are reading, because 'combustion', and 'fluid dynamics' are always described in the formal mathematics and you do need a structured learning environment to pursue those (think linear algebra+vectors, calculus, physics, intro to fluids, thermodynamics). Why don't you just move to a college town for a few weeks and find out how the engineers their talk like? See if you can follow anything they say. Or you can even contact a proff and ask him to let you sit in on one of this classes, most should agree. If you truly are brilliant and impress them, they can get you admitted to the departments without even the need for an undergrad degree.

    The reason why education is so expensive is because you get to learn more than 'tweak my engines'. Otherwise you are better off getting a diploma as a mechanic and working for some federal lab/Industry. You will be directed by the scientists there on how to do the things they tell you and you can learn a few things there. Of course they won't really ever care about your learning or interests (unless you are brilliant..) and you won't be able to choose what you work on.
  14. Jul 29, 2010 #13


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    There's not a whole lot to be fundamentally innovated in the parts you've described. Engineering is the practice of applying natural laws of nature to make a system that does something- in the case of differentials, clutches, and suspensions it's basically just calculating required operating loads and environments, choosing materials and geometries that will fit the bill, and drawing it up.

    If you have an idea, draw it up in Solidworks and enter it in a design competition. You don't need $600k in machining equipment to make it. Keep in mind your "good ideas" are likely to have significant trade-offs and detrimental effects you're not thinking of, and people will likely find those problems when they criticize your design.

    That's because you ARE a nobody. People that have an idea they think will change the world are a dime a dozen. I think you need a reality check...

    No one is going to hire a student fresh out of school with no engineering experience to work in a radical R&D lab working on the next big thing (master's degree or otherwise). A lab like that will be filled with people with 15+ years of real world experience, and likely graduate degrees.

    HA! You have no idea how engineering works, that's for sure. If you're getting hired by a company it's because they have a task for you to do, and will expect you to do it (and document measurable progress). The only way you'll be able to do what you're describing is start your company- and I seriously doubt you'd stay in business for long with an attitude like that.

    It's not that hard to get into a single graduate class if you can talk to the professor and you have the required prerequisites. It will depend on your school's academic requirements.
  15. Jul 29, 2010 #14
    So are you complaining that no one in your school (I am lost if you are considering an undergrad or a MS degree) wants you in their lab?

    If THAT is your problem, you need to talk with your academic adviser and tell him what you want. The probable reasons why no one wants you in their lab are 1. Very bad GPA 2. You haven't tried hard enough 3. You don't know how to work with people/have communication issues 4. You do not behave professionally, or even attempt to. If it's reason 1/2, then you still have hope. If it's the other two, then forget it, you can as well become a mechanic or an arts major. Engineers ALWAYS work in teams, that's the way it works best.

    If you stop fantasizing, and really really want to be independent, with "noone telling you what to do and what to make, or what problems to solve", (nothing wrong with that, everyone wants independence from everyone else) then you have to have your own research group. Research groups are not formed by mainstreet Joes. You need money for the research, which generally comes from Federal/industry or personal grants. Many people compete for such grants and you need to show that you are capable of tackling all issues that might creep up if you get funded (usually through a combination of peer reviewed publications+ degrees+ work /academic experience). You need infrastructure as well (office space, lab space, secretaries, communications, office hardware..).

    The easiest way to get all this is by becoming part of laboratories or academic institutions. And they don't accept people without degrees unless you truly are remarkable. This whole process takes some time; in engineering you would be around your mid 30's before you obtain such independence, in sciences (phys, bio, math) it might take a little longer (early 40's).

    There are other ways around this, but you might need to be a genius or a very rich person for those. For example, start publishing your ideas in peer reviewed publications. Nobody disputes a person who's published articles in reputed journals. About 15+ high-impact articles should be sufficient to convince anyone to fund your research.

    My thesis adviser used to say "Three kinds of people in the world, 1. those who know that they know 2. those who know that they don't know 3. those who don't know that they don't know". The first and second kind of people are usually great to work with. Even if the category 1 person acts snobbishly, they have earned that right. Category 3 people are liable to be ostracized and publicly humiliated. You might want to find out to which category you belong.
  16. Jul 29, 2010 #15
    Oops, I knew people would go ape shyt if I used the word "invent". I apologize. When someone says they made something original, it doesn't mean that "OMG YOU WILL BE THE NEW ROCKEFELLER!". All it means is that the particular individual is not retarded with zero creativity.

    I know that "engineering" these days means you are a robot who takes orders from a boss and cranks out a small part of a big project. Of course most *jobs* are about that type of work exactly, but there is no problem here. Do any of you have any idea how many kids go to college without having a clue what they want to do? I ask people in my department all the time, "so why are you doing ME" and 99% of them don't know. Its either because they want a *job* or because their mom made them go to school. These kids have no plan, I tell you. Most of them drink beer, copy notes from lectures, plug-and-chug brainlessly for homework, and study (aka memorize) for exams. None of that stuff impresses me. Even most graduate students are clowns, they're still in school because they have no clue how they can apply their skills (if they got any) for a real world application.

    Of course after graduation they'll look for a *job*. Not me. That's equivalent to going around begging someone to put you to work. If I ever get to that state in my life, please kill me because it means I'm a complete failed loser.

    Now lets take 10 seconds to breathe, and let me tell you that I try to be the most modest person on PF and on campus. I don't mean to brag, don't get offended. I've been studying my stuff since I was 6, designing cars and systems for cars. I KNOW what I want to do. Why do you all act like design engineers are somehow chosen at random. Design engineers are what they are because they WANT to, because they went after it. Why can't I do it?

    When I talk about laboratory I don't mean the school BS where you pull a big yellow lever every 6 minutes and collect data. That's not research. I'm talking about things like this:
    But my school is not doing research on engines, so if I get involved with a professor I'll have to work on their retarded project which I don't care about. It's a waste of time.

    I'll have my B.S. in ME probably some time late 2011, maybe early 2012 if I decide to stay longer and get a minor in physics, minor in mathematics, and take some extra graduate courses. My problem is that I don't think I'll be good enough in 1-2 years to build all the things I want as proof that I'm not a clown engineer like the rest 99.999%.

    If I was good at machining, I could go to the school's shop and build 2 engines, a clutch, a turbocharger, and a transmission (my designs, not stolen), then flip off everyone and say f u I don't need you anymore. Problem is, I'm not good enough in metal machining. I'll still try to spend some time and learn how to use the equipment, hopefully I'll get some of my simpler designs done.

    A good thing to do is to partner up with someone who's not an airhead and who has some resources. Maybe a guy like Bruce Crower, for example.
    What do you think? How do I enter the loop?
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2010
  17. Jul 30, 2010 #16


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    We're not going "ape shyt" because you said "invent," we're trying to point out that engineering is fundamentally a team-oriented environment where you need to work with people of many different disciplines. The sooner you understand this the better- engineering is basically incompatible with someone who wants to sit in a dark room "inventing" their own stuff without any outside intervention or feedback.

    I'm not sure why you're so negative about it, and what you're describing is more of a technical drafter than an engineer. Having a boss is not a negative thing, they have important responsibilities managing the project scope and funds and keeping things on schedule. "Engineering" these days means someone who can solve a problem with a product, and that can include designing parts or systems, analyzing those systems, and creating fabrication drawings that make sure the system is built to spec and works as intended the FIRST time.

    I personally work on 2 or 3 projects at once, and am involved in all levels of the design from system-level overviews to individual part drawings. My job is to make sure the design works, not to be a "drone for the man."

    I think you're being awfully dramatic... When students graduate they want a job that will utilize the degree they've just earned, what's the problem with that?

    I got a design engineering job straight out of school with a bachelor's degree, what's the problem? I know plenty of people that have graduated in the last 5 years that have design engineering jobs with bachelor's degrees (and I also know people that have gotten "engineering" jobs which have job descriptions closer to a technical drafter).

    Listen, really good engineers are good at their engineering AND good at dealing with people. Over and over you're asserting you want to be able to do what you want and tell everyone to go pound sand; this view is incompatible with really good engineering any way you slice it. Nationally recognized engineers are personable, competent, and publish their work for thousands of their peers to scrutinize.

    1) You're not the smartest person in the world. There is always someone smarter than you.
    2) When you graduate, you need to realize that you'll have a lot to learn and everyone starts somewhere.
    3) You won't get a job by demanding to be treated as a genius level visionary ready to take on the world.
  18. Jul 30, 2010 #17
    I'd suggest that you need to get a job in industry (in the summer or whatever), becuase you are going to get a hell of a shock if you go in to a job with that attitude.

    You will either:
    a) piss off all your work colleagues and they will make your life difficult by being uncooperative.
    b) get the sack.

    I can understand why you are thinking like this, I thought engineering was very much the same as you did when I started university. I'm glad im a little older and a little wiser now. I leant that engineering is one of those things that "the more you konw, the more you know you know nothing at all".

    You may think that beucase you've done a couple of years at University and read a couple of books that you can now design things, but come back to this thread in 5 years. (After you've graduated and acutally done some work in industry) you'll know what others are getting at.
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2010
  19. Jul 30, 2010 #18


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    Well, by your definition I'm a robot who takes orders and cranks out a small part of a big job.

    Let me tell you. I graduated five years ago and got a job working for a big engine manufacturer. Since then I've spent a bit of time as a CAD jockey, a bit of time on test and basically proved myself. However, I've also designed tiny novel components, developed whole complex systems, and managed complete engine development programmes. I've bought raw materials and I've sold whole power stations. I've spent days working in solitary confinement, but years in highly dynamic, integrated teams.

    I can't think of a single time in the last five years when a masters education or qualification would have helped me to do a single aspect of my job, and I can't recall a time that anyone expressed any desire to try and recruit a masters graduate, or rely on knowledge gained by one. It just doesn't matter. It's nice to have a bit more academic experience, and the knowledge could be useful, but it's so unimportant since this knowledge is so easily gained by other means. I learnt more in my first month in this job than I did in my entire university career.

    Having the opportunities to do the things you want to depend ENTIRELY on your attitude and capability in roughly equal measures. Nothing else. Without both you'll not even get a job interview.
  20. Jul 30, 2010 #19


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    You're a real piece of work man. Make sure to PM me our real name so I can make sure I never have to work with you. :rolleyes:
  21. Jul 30, 2010 #20
    1. Your questions were technically answered a long time ago, by people with good intentions.

    2. You believe in the conspiracy theories, don't you? The know-it-all swagger is the same.

    3. You are a social misfit, and not out of choice. You have a bad GPA. Your teachers think you are real crap and won't have anything to do with you.

    4. So you actually learnt to count after you started designing engines? How nice! You must have been garbageting motor oil? Did your parents have a hard time wiping your arse? Or did they slip and fall? Or did you just roll about, grease monkey, in your own 'motor oil'?

    5. So you know all about psychology? And weren't you the one looking for answers? Your knowledge of psychology helped you get your answer yet? Or are you using your knowledge of psychology to just feel important on a fairly anon forum? Anyway, the guy who owns the forum knows who you are. His op friends know who you are. So die.

    6. I doubt Picasso used a lot of paintbrushes. At what age was Woods recognized as a prodigy? And what age are you? Too late.

    7. On your smartness perspective. Yes they do. For example, you are not getting into MIT. Now extrapolate.

    8. Think? Of course. You will. While applying for the same jobs you scoff. While collecting SS.

    9. Your team spirit: Right. You think us illiterate? Or that we suffer from anterograde amnesia? Your posts, current and previous, demonstrate you don't even have a clue what you are talking about. (You want to talk friction babe? Talk to me. Contact mechanics models inside engines? Talk to me. We can find out where the momenta of all this gas acts)

    Of my nine points, the first three are facts. The rest conjectures/hopes/desires/ etc. The moderators can ban me if they please. I hate sophist self-important buffoons.
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