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Programs Is interdisciplinary engineering worth the money?

  1. Feb 11, 2019 at 1:51 PM #1
    I am considering a masters in interdisciplinary engineering from Purdue with a concentration in either systems engineering or computational engineering. Is this a waste of my time and money compared to just getting an aerospace masters and taking courses in systems engineering or computational engineering?
     
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  3. Feb 11, 2019 at 2:06 PM #2

    boneh3ad

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    I've never even heard of "interdisciplinary engineering," which is a statement you would probably hear a lot.
     
  4. Feb 11, 2019 at 2:19 PM #3
    A good point.
     
  5. Feb 11, 2019 at 2:55 PM #4
    Just my opinion...
    Focus on the basics: Math, Physics, Chemistry, etc. When I was hiring EEs, lack of basic knowledge in the sciences was a deal breaker, regardless of how much specific training people had. I never asked to see transcripts or grades, I just asked technical questions. Out in the real world people don't care about the details of an academic program and they don't care what grades you got. They care about what you know and can do. They want people who can adapt to new problems. That gives you some freedom to build your knowledge base as you like. If you know that you prefer one over the other then do that one. Otherwise it probably won't matter in the long run.
     
  6. Feb 11, 2019 at 8:22 PM #5

    symbolipoint

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    People who interviewed me in the past often asked 'can you figure this out' type questions, almost always being basic stuff in my field; if they liked how I responded and wanted to consider me as prime intherunning, they would ask for transcripts later. The positions were not engineering ones but usually the person doing the interviewing was an engineer.
     
  7. Feb 12, 2019 at 5:16 AM #6

    CrysPhys

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    <<Emphasis added.>> I would not support such a broad generalization. Some employers don't care; others do. I once worked for a major Megacorps R&D lab. We targeted candidates who had the right knowledge and experience, the right abilities and capabilities, AND the right schools, degrees, and GPAs.
     
  8. Feb 12, 2019 at 5:52 AM #7

    CrysPhys

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    I am a proponent of interdisciplinary training, but I am not a proponent of ad hoc degrees. You're better off getting a degree in a well-established major and taking electives in other programs. Employers have at least an approximate baseline reference of what to expect from a candidate with a masters in a well-established major. But what would they expect from a candidate with a masters in interdisciplinary engineering? Would hiring managers skimming through a stack of resumes take the time to find out? More to the point, in many organizations, initial filtering of resumes is done by HR, often via software searching for a match for specific degrees or work experience. "Interdisciplinary engineering" would not likely pass through the filter (perhaps if the filter is set broadly for "engineering", rather than more narrowly, for, e.g., "electrical engineering", "mechanical engineering", or "aerospace engineering").
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2019 at 6:01 AM
  9. Feb 12, 2019 at 7:08 AM #8

    StatGuy2000

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    While I agree that earning a well-established major has its advantages in terms of having employers recognizing the degree, the caveat to that interdisciplinary engineering programs are far more likely to be recognized (with hiring managers recognizing their worth) if such programs are offered at a prestigious university.

    Purdue is often rated to have among the best engineering programs in the US. So an interdisciplinary engineering program (whether it be a bachelors or masters degree) is far more likely to be viewed positively compared to a similar interdisciplinary program from a less well-known school. After all, HR also filter for names of colleges/universities as well as the name of programs (among many other categories) and I would suspect that the filter programs have various ranking algorithms involved in terms of different categories (e.g. well-established engineering program from lesser school = interdisciplinary engineering program from highly ranked school).

    A similar situation analogue exists in Canada with respect to my alma mater (University of Toronto) with their Engineering Science program, or to the University of Waterloo with their Systems Design Engineering program.
     
  10. Feb 12, 2019 at 9:30 AM #9

    CrysPhys

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    Ah, but how would "interdisciplinary engineering program from highly ranked school A" compare with "well-established engineering program from highly ranked school B"?

    There's also the issue of a fall-back Plan B (which everyone should have). An MS (or MSE) in interdisciplinary engineering may be OK if you are planning a career in, e.g, program or project management. But if you decide that's not for you, and that you'd really be happier as a hands-on engineer, you might have a hard time getting a job in a specialized engineering field. On the other hand, if you have an MS in a well-established engineering major (along with electives in other fields), you will have an easier time finding a job in a specialized engineering field should you choose to switch careers (or are forced to switch careers by changes in the job market); so you have more flexibility.
     
  11. Feb 12, 2019 at 9:41 AM #10

    StatGuy2000

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    In regards to your first question, obviously the specifics will vary depending on what is actually taught in said interdisciplinary engineering program, and how long has the interdisciplinary program has been in existence (the newer the program, the less highly ranked it would likely be). For example, the Systems Design Engineering program at the University of Waterloo, long established at the school, is highly regarded, not just in Canada but internationally, and graduates from the program have been highly sought after in a wide range of jobs, including hands-on engineering jobs. Naturally, the question would then be whether the Systems Design Engineering program be considered a "well-established" engineering major or an interdisciplinary program.

    As to your second point, you do have a point about more flexibility with a well-established engineering major with suitable electives, at least in terms of finding a job in a specialized engineering field. That being said, if you are forced to switch careers by changes in the job market, it is generally the case that it is less likely you will find a position in another specialized engineering field unless that other field has considerable overlap.

    On the other hand, someone with a graduate degree in an interdisciplinary engineering program working in program or project management could fairly easily work in a project management role in a different engineering company or even in a completely separate role entirely.
     
  12. Feb 12, 2019 at 10:51 AM #11

    Vanadium 50

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    Why?

    You never explained why this is better than an aerospace masters. What are you trying to accomplish?
     
  13. Feb 12, 2019 at 12:25 PM #12

    CrysPhys

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    Let me clarify with a simplified hypo. Suppose we have have three engineers:

    Eng A: Core expertise in EE, with some knowledge of ME

    Eng B: Core expertise in ME, with some knowledge of EE

    Eng C: Some knowledge of EE (on a par with Eng B), and some knowledge of ME (on a par with Eng A).

    Suppose the job market is such that there is a demand for engineers with some knowledge of EE and some knowledge of ME, for which all three engineers are sufficiently qualified. All three engineers are employed in such interdisciplinary positions. Life is good. Then, one day, the market for such engineers dwindles. Eng A has the option for seeking a similar job elsewhere OR a job requiring core expertise in EE; Eng B has the option for seeking a similar job elsewhere OR a job requiring core expertise in ME; but Eng C is still limited to seeking jobs requiring only some knowledge of EE and/or some knowledge of ME.
     
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