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Why You Should Be Pursuing Your Master’s Online

By William Key posted 05-20-2019 06:08 PM


Online graduate education is no longer the sole domain of MBAs. Civil engineers, in increasing numbers each year, are returning to universities across the country to pursue master’s degrees from the comfort of their offices and couches, obtaining the same degrees as students in the traditional campus setting. If you haven't looked into advancing your education and credentials by obtaining a graduate degree online, allow me to give you some information to consider.

One of the biggest benefits of pursuing a graduate degree is the increased technical academic education. BSCE programs have consistently been reduced through the years from up to and above 150 credit hours to 140 credit hours and below. It was for this reason that NCEES and others previously campaigned to make an MSCE the minimum educational requirement for sitting for the P.E. exam, and it may be difficult to reach the additional educational hours requirements to sit for many states’ S.E. examinations without some form of graduate coursework.

It's an oft-repeated phrase, but engineering school doesn't teach you to be an engineer; it merely prepares you to learn how to be an engineer.

Pursuing a graduate degree online will give you the opportunity to take 30-plus hours of courses focused specifically on subjects germane to your professional career, or the area you would like to switch directions to. The knowledge gained will make you a better engineer and an asset to any organization.

Another benefit of pursuing your graduate degree online rather than in a traditional campus setting are the soft skills so central to success. Working full-time in civil engineering and taking graduate-level courses online, you've got no alternative but to become a master of time management. Those empty hours in your commute? You'll learn by necessity how to utilize them to ensure you hit the ground running at work or to organize your approach to a difficult assignment in your coursework.

Prioritization will become a major asset in your skillset, and your sense for identifying complicating issues in a project or calculation will become keener.  Necessity is the mother of invention, and pursuing your graduate degree online will require you to become a leaner, more efficient, and decisive professional.

In addition to the educational benefits, an online graduate degree offers significant benefits to your career. A new set of courses will increase your professional network with a completely new set of colleagues and instructors who can lead you to all sorts of new opportunities, projects, and ideas. A master's degree also serves as an impressive credential that will set you apart from your peers, which can be significantly important in developing clients or seeking roles in senior leadership for a respected firm. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ recent survey, only one in five civil engineers has a master’s degree, and those engineers possessing a master’s earned 9-13 percent higher median salaries than their peers without a graduate degree.

An online master’s degree in civil engineering will make you a more knowledgeable engineer, a more effective professional, and better prepared to lead, as well as increase your network, separate you from your peers, and increase your value to any organization.

Online master’s degree programs in civil engineering include the same coursework and learning outcomes, usually with the same instructors, and provide the opportunity to obtain the same degree that is conferred upon traditional on-campus students – no, your master’s degree will not come with an asterisk! Find a program that fits your specialization and timeframe – a simple Google search will do, but I'll link to an article touting the top programs (HERE). The list is not exhaustive by any means, but there may be others out there that are a better fit for your goals. My personal choice was largely driven by the pace of the program at UAB, for example.

And don't forget to talk to your HR department or leadership. Many firms these days are offering tuition funding/reimbursement graduate courses.

William began his career in the AEC industry working for general contractors in large commercial construction on a wide variety of projects including mid-rise, educational, retail, and healthcare throughout the southeast. After a decade in the field, he returned to the classroom and obtained his BSCE, with a concentration in structural engineering, from the University of Memphis where his involvement in ASCE began with the student chapter. He now works for AE firm TLM Associates in Jackson, TN performing structural design on a myriad of projects and building materials throughout the West Tennessee region, and is pursuing a Master of Engineering in Structural Engineering degree online from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Outside of work and graduate school, William spends majority of his time travelling, riding motorcycles with his wife Shauna who is also a Memphis civil engineering alum focused in structural, and designing their future home to survive “the big one”.

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1 comment

06-21-2019 07:11 PM

Wonderful article! 

I have often associated earning a Master’s degree with having to postpone my career. Your article provides great insight to non traditional options that allows one to further their education without sacrificing career progression. 

I’ll certainly be looking into the options for the online programs. 

Thanks for sharing!