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Graduate School questions

  1. Dec 20, 2006 #1
    Hey everyone, I'm graduating this May and I have two options:

    1) Go for a MSEE, which entails writing a thesis, and not working during this period. I'm assuming that it's unreasonable to work while pursuing this option because I don't see how you can research for a thesis part time.

    2) Go for a MEng; a master's degree in engineering. For this option, I just need to take a certain amount of courses and then complete a cumulative exam. I believe this would be the best option if I were working. However, I think this is a "terminal" degree. That is, I don't believe you can move on to a PhD easily if you get a MEng.

    Now, there are a few wrenches to toss into this decision.

    1) I want to work, and I don't doubt that I'll be able to find a job, so I would like to try something new besides homework and lectures. Also, I feel bad not working right now. I am not strapped for cash and I'd be able to go to graduate school without starving, but I don’t want to be living like a student forever. However, working isn't an urgent necessity right now with respect to finance.

    2) One of my life goals is to get a PhD. Therefore, I'm leaning towards the MSEE. Is it possible to work while writing a thesis part-time? Is it incredibly stressful? I just spent 4 years without a lot of free time - I'd like some time to relax.

    I’m kind of lost right now considering all of these factors and I’m looking for some advice. Has anyone here worked while writing a thesis part-time?

  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 21, 2006 #2
    Well, I'm also a EE major graduating in May, and I decided to apply for the MS/Ph.D. program at several graduate schools. Honestly, I'd just suck up living as a student for a few extra years and go for the MSEE and Ph.D. You said that it is a life goal of yours to get a Ph.D., and it seems to me that even if you get a steady job while working on an MS, you'll have the following disadvantages:

    1. You'd be dividing your time in two, and your work in the job and the MS will both suffer.
    2. Your Ph.D. work and your MS work would be discontinuous, which means that you'll spend a lot more time as a Ph.D. candidate than you really need to.

    In the end, it seems to me that going the route you're talking about is an ineffective use of your time. I have considered it as well, so I know that it would be nice going to work for a company and making actual money. In the end, I decided that I would be wasting my time. Of course, your situation might be different from mine: I don't have a girlfriend or anything else really tying me down, so I have no real compelling reason to get a job (other than money, which isn't that important to me).
  4. Dec 21, 2006 #3


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    Staff: Mentor

    What specialties are you interested in? What do you see yourself doing with the PhD -- teaching/researching, or working in industry?

    There are a couple other options you could consider (and you probably already have). You could take a year off to work and relax a bit, and then enter the MSEE program and continue on to the PhD if you want. Your choice of jobs may be limited a bit by the fact that you only want to work for the one year, however. Plus, if you end up liking the work a lot, you may never end up going back for the MSEE.

    Another option would be to go to work for an EE company that offers to pay for you to pursue the MSEE part-time. Many large EE companies offer this as an incentive to attract the best candidates. Take a look under the "Benefits" section of large EE companies websites (like HP, Intel, IBM, etc.) for more info.

    I can understand the desire for a break, especially with you considering a full PhD. Maybe apply for admission to the MSEE program with a year delay, and go work a fun job for the year. Like teach scuba diving in Hawaii, or something like that involving one of your side interests. It won't pay like an EE job, but it sounds like you are doing okay financially right now anyway.
  5. Dec 21, 2006 #4
    I am interested in communication systems, digital signal processing, and control systems. I also have a passing interest in VLSI design, but I'm not sure it's big enough to pursue in graduate school. I liked my power electronics class, but I don’t know too much about power design in industry. If I had to choose a specific field, it would probably be communications. I've taken two comm. classes and have enjoyed both of them.

    As for my future goals, I certainly want to work in industry. I have no desire to go into academia.

    I know a few companies around here that pay for their employee's education; however, I am sort of worried that they would make me get a MEng. How could I write a thesis if I have to work everyday? However, if I decide to go this route I will certainly inquire about my options.

    Overall, I'm leaning towards doing the same thing as Manchot – staying a full-time student and getting my MSEE right away. I'll probably do my PhD part-time in the future while I'm working.
  6. Dec 21, 2006 #5


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    Staff: Mentor

    Yeah, communication systems is a great area. Very technical, lots of different things to work on, and pretty solid in terms of job prospects. Especially if you do a practical thesis in a hot area, you will do well in the job market.

    Sounds like you have a good plan. Best of luck!
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