Will getting a Masters Degree in an engineering discipline be worthwhile? After all, it's more years in school, more late nights studying, and a delayed entry to the job market and officially kicking off your career.
- A masters degree in engineering is fantastic if you want a fantastic, long career in...you guessed it: engineering. But if you want to eventually be in management, a CTO, or CEO, skip the ME and look into a Master's in business or management. Many businesses want engineers in management, but they want ones with diversity, not too much specialty. High levels of specialty thrive better in the project and staff engineering ranks or engineering department level management. But be warned, pure MBAs are having a tough time in the job market. But not so for Engineers with MBAs say some studies, who tend to stand above a pure business-school graduate.
- If you are hugely passionate in your field of degree and can see yourself happily designing away at age 60, then go for it! For a true engineer that just wants to design, a MSc degree will serve you well because there are always companies doing deep R&D that want engineers with short learning curves and the proven ability and passion that a graduate degree indicates.
- If you're unsure, as so many of us are while trying to decide on whether to transition into the workforce or go back for more schooling, hedge your bets and get your ME in a related but not duplicate field. Mechanical Engineer? Get a masters in biomechanics or manufacturing engineering. Electrical engineer? Get a master's in biomedical informatics, digital communications, or optics. Etc. Or consider a bridging solution with an online MSc degree, such as this one now offered by Georgia Tech in Computer Science. You'll commit less time and still get the degree you want, with massive flexibility in scheduling instead of the often family-unfriendly schedule of night classes.
Getting the right education to match your long-term career goals isn't always easy to plan. I know many people who have gone back to school later in life, as well as a few that regret spending so much time in higher education before launching into industry. So there is no universal right answer. Evaluate what's important to you at the 5, 10, 20 year marks and then ask people in your industry what degree levels you need to match those endpoints. And most of all, plan to enjoy your career as much as you can. Nobody should spend 30 years in misery, and you have ultimate control - so use it!