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Engineering Help with choosing path after bachelor's degree in engineering

  1. Jan 8, 2009 #1
    I have been wondering a great deal about what to do education wise after I finish up my degree at the end of next year. I took our required seminar last semester, and I learned a lot about the options after completing a BS. But have heard / seen consistent splits about the benefits of pursuing a Ph D after graduation. While some employers have said that if you want any seniority / control over research, etc. you MUST complete a doctoral program. Others have said that engineers in the workplace would be better served with something like an MS/MBA program. My question in this regard is, if you want to develop products and conduct research in an industry setting, don't you need a considerable level of expertise in your area? Or is it necessary to have the managerial leverage to push your ideas and projects?

    However, at a career event, there was a doctoral graduate there who was basically warning undergrads about the benefits of getting in the industry BEFORE you are well / overqualified. I talked to a career advisor who agreed with him, stating that in fact you will have an easier time understanding and choosing your specialization if you have a background at an actual job, and it's better since some employers are willing to cover the costs of graduate study (provided you are granted admission to a course of study). So basically what I am wondering is this; at what level does a person become, well, "over qualified"? Like, is there such a thing as overspecialization? Also, if you are going to be developing products / equipment , etc. is it better to have the advanced (though narrow) knowledge that a doctorate will provide, or should you do something else, like pursue an MBA? Is it more of a case by case sort of deal? I will say right now that I am not interested in pursuing a career in academia; my areas of interest include space engineering (space craft design, fueling and even space tourism) and energy research (solar voltaics and fuel cells). I could see myself in an R&D position, possibly in a managerial role, but I also like making things and DIY projects, so I would like to be part of or found a start-up at some point. If I were to pursue advanced studies in an aerospace engineering program, what could I / should I do to prepare myself now? ( I am a third year undergraduate in mechanical engineering, and my in major / overall is 3.01 / 2.66, if that helps. )
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 8, 2009 #2
    Just to be realistic, to get into a competitive degree program right after undergrad (and I'm not just talking top 10 here), you usually need a 3.5 (overall, and especially in the major).

    My father worked for Bell Labs with two MS's (in Mechanical and Electrical) and certainly developed products. He eventually was pushed into management (this was before MBA's were common).. and I think at that stage he wished he would have completed a Ph.D... and probably would have wanted to enter education. maybe Bell Labs was a pretty special place... but i don't think that it's that unreasonable to find employment that is satisfying or that is willing to pay for further education. Just my 2 cents.
  4. Jan 12, 2009 #3
    Thanks for the feedback. I will work hard to get my in major / overall up ^_^

    Did your father do a bachelor's in mechanical or electrical engineering? Also, after he went into management, did he sort of 'lose touch' with research, or was he able to remain with the same projects and development?
  5. Jan 12, 2009 #4


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  6. Jan 14, 2009 #5


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    I strongly feel that unless you plan to go into academia for a career, there is no 'practical' reason to get a PhD. The years and money you spend in a graduate program, can be just as fruitfully spent working in your industry of choice, gaining valuable industry-specific experience and building your professional reputation that way (with the added bonus of actually making money at the same time).
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