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Masters or Experience

  1. Jan 2, 2012 #1
    I am an Undergraduate Electrical Engineering student. I want to know what is the difference between having work experience (like five years), then do masters and going straight to masters after an undergraduate degree? Which one is more advisable and why?

    Hope to read your valuable inputs and thanks in advance
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 2, 2012 #2
    Experience will make you a better Electrical Engineer, but having a Masters will give the company you work for one more excuse to not lay you off, I would imagine. This thread needs more input than mine...
  4. Jan 2, 2012 #3
    thank you, sir. can other people too help in putting what they think or what they know, please.
  5. Jan 2, 2012 #4


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    Look at this question as an employer would. Suppose you have two qualified candidates to choose from - both have Master's degrees, but one has five years of documented work experience. In most cases, the candidate with work experience would be the safer choice.

    The risk to you, as the student making this choice: suppose you take a job, intending to return to school in five years. But then life happens: maybe a spouse, kids, a house payment...or maybe you just really like your job and see no reason to return to school. Life sometimes takes turns you didn't foresee.
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2012
  6. Jan 2, 2012 #5
    Let me say from the start that I have a very jaundiced view of the way most hiring decisions get made. There is a certain degree of bureaucracy that is causing these decisions to be more and more concerned over which candidate will get the employer in the least amount legal trouble than with any concern over what sort of work the candidate might be able to do.

    I am generally in favor of more hands-on experience. Engineering is the intersection of theory and practice. You have so far learned lots of theory, but gained very little experience as to how things are REALLY done. The extra experience will always make you look like a better candidate

    That said, going back to school may be more difficult than you realize. Many people get work, settle down, start a family, and then such notions are often left by the side as more important concerns take up your time.

    However, having only a bachelor's degree in Engineering is not such a bad thing. You can get the PE. That, along with your experience and expertise will probably take you further than if you went to school for a Master's degree. However, the PE isn't good for everything. If you're more interested in work that is more Research oriented, then you'll find that a Master's degree is probably a better choice.

    Fair Disclosure: I have only the Bachelor's degree and a PE and my work tends toward the more production-oriented engineering, not research.
  7. Jan 3, 2012 #6
    wow! nice inputs... please keep them coming, i am in a dilemma between these two.. hope to read a lot later in the day.

  8. Jan 3, 2012 #7
    Also understand that lisab and JakeBrodskyPE likely have an order of magnitude or two greater experience than I do. Their thoughts and opinions regarding how the real world works are more realistic from my own. :)
  9. Jan 3, 2012 #8
    oh that can be true but I respect all the comments and I am expecting more.
  10. Jan 4, 2012 #9
    My people, i am waiting for your inputs please..
  11. Jan 4, 2012 #10
    I received significantly better salary/bonus offers after doing my M.S.E.E. and for job descriptions that seem a lot more challenging. That's my (limited) experience so far. You should be able to manage your career so that after 5 to 10 years you will be doing rewarding work for great pay no matter what you choose, but a masters (with good grades and research experience) will help that out of the gate.
  12. Jan 4, 2012 #11


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    IMO, experience and good word-of-mouth beat a piece of paper any day. If you can afford to continue your education in these days of under-employment, that might be a strategic move to make.

    My youngest nephew got engineering internship jobs every summer at a local pulp and paper mill. With all that experience, he had jobs waiting for him when he graduated. No masters, but a quick ride to management supervising engineers. We all have strengths and weaknesses, and he rode his strengths to a pretty nice job. I'm proud of him.
  13. Jan 4, 2012 #12
    Wow! that's nice. So what actually are you trying to put across? Is it the importance of Masters or work experience? And how are internships very important in playing a part in work experience??
  14. Jan 4, 2012 #13
    This depends on how many hookups you have in the industry.
    I'm going for M.S. because I want to do more "fun" jobs after I graduate rather than Microsoft Excel crunches, and I also don't have hookups in the industry.
  15. Jan 4, 2012 #14
    Do you mean if you can have hookups in a company you need masters?
  16. Jan 4, 2012 #15


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    In his case, internships and good references were enough to fast-track him into a really nice job. His family (my widowed sister and his siblings) were not well-to-do, so staying on-track for a masters looked pretty expensive, anyway.

    His oldest sister got her masters in education last year, but only after taking years of night-classes and summer courses while working as a teacher.
  17. Jan 4, 2012 #16


    Staff: Mentor

    look here for salary estimates and do the math for your case:


    Only Bachelor of Science Degree – $55,328 – $73,550
    Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and Master of Science – $60,350 – $86,607

    from the lowend rates abve it looks like starting a job as BS EE over 5 years you'd get
    maybe a 10% increase in salary which would mean you'd be getting what a starting MSEE gets after having worked 5 years.

    However in that 5 yr period the starting salary for an MSEE would probably grow to $70K and so you'd still be behind. My guess then is going for the MSEE now is the better option (besides you get to party longer) also your study skills are still as sharp as they ever will be making no more difficult.

    The caveat is my guess on the $70K if MSEE starting salaries don't change then going to work is better in the short but you might have regrets later on as higher degrees open more doors.
  18. Jan 4, 2012 #17
    Oh great!! this has really helped. OK my problem is, I am on a scholarship here in Morocco but i don't really want to do my masters here but they have a degree called "INGENIEURE D'ETAT" which is equivalent to Masters which i preferred doing here to masters then go for masters in a well developed country like UK, USA, Canada, etc. What about that?
  19. Jan 4, 2012 #18
    Investments have risks. Past statistics are no guarantee of future performance.

    If they were, we'd all be very rich investors.
  20. Jan 5, 2012 #19
    IMO, experience > masters, and this is coming from someone who's almost got their PhD in chemical engineering.

    I've found that as I've got older I've become much lazier and much more concerned about how I spend my time. In retrospect, had I been able to secure a graduate engineering job I would not have undertaken a PhD/masters.

    Experience is everything.
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2012
  21. Jan 5, 2012 #20
    If "INGENIEURE D'ETAT" is equivalent to a masters then why bother doing a masters at all?

    That's my 2 cents.
  22. Jan 5, 2012 #21
    i can see that you are experienced and helpful, kudos! do you know anything about INGENIEUR D'ETAT? enlighten me please if u do.
  23. Jan 5, 2012 #22

    If I were you I would not waste my money studying for a masters at a foreign university.

    No, I don't know anything about it, other than it means "state engineer". My lab buddy is a french chemical engineer doing his PhD, that's how I know what it means.

    I'm from the UK by the way, not the USA. L'expérience est meilleure que d'une maîtrise. Surtout si vous voulez travailler dans l'industrie, ou pour le gouvernement et être un ingénieur d'Etat. ;D
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2012
  24. Jan 5, 2012 #23
    merci monsieur. je veux faire master cars je vraiment sais pas comment le diplome d'ingenieure d'etat est classé au monde. est-ce que vraiment c'est l'equivalence de master?

  25. Jan 5, 2012 #24
    It doesn't matter how it's ranked compared with the rest of the world. The important question is, where do you want to work?

    If you want to be a state engineer in France or Morocco then that's where you should get your education.

    If you really want to know then I'll ask my french buddy when I see him tomorrow, and post then, because I don't know, I'm not french or french colonial.
  26. Jan 5, 2012 #25
    ok ask him for me please
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