Discussion Thread

  • 1.  Should I augment my bachelor's and have a specialty by getting a masters degree?

    Posted 04-20-2023 10:49 AM

    I have a question on who I should talk to about potential career paths. I am a non-traditional student currently studying at Texas State University with a planned graduation date of May 2025. I'm pursuing my bachelor's with minors in Applied Mathematics and Sustainability Studies. I worked in the industry for 12 years so far and am currently the CAD Lead at my company.

    Texas State's Civil Engineering program is still in its infancy, and the first graduating class will be this May at which point Texas State will pursue ABET accreditation. Because it is such a young program, there aren't as many higher level courses as older programs, which means concentrations or specialties aren't available here. Should I pursue a master's degree to augment my bachelor's and have a specialty? I would love to go into the sustainability engineering field within civil engineering. Would something like the University of Texas' Sustainable Systems degree be a good option?

    I appreciate any advice or direction you can provide.

    Thank you for your time and consideration!

    Gabrielle Nguyen S.M.ASCE
    CADD Lead
    Austin TX

  • 2.  RE: Should I augment my bachelor's and have a specialty by getting a masters degree?

    Posted 04-21-2023 11:13 AM

    It probably depends mostly on what opportunities are available and what you want in your career. Education can come via the classroom or through work. Some civil engineering specialties are more likely to expect a MS than others.

    Here are some ideas:
    - Are there any opportunities to start working on sustainability engineering topics at your company where you're currently the CAD Lead? If they let you split your time it will start building your knowledge and resume about these topics.
    - There are several online undergraduate and graduate programs in civil engineering. Maybe you could take some upper level classes from another school and transfer the credit? Also, you could look into many different MS programs that might fit your needs and schedule.
    - You could finish your BS and then see if not having the MS is hindering your opportunities.

    Erin Rooney P.E., M.ASCE
    Coastal Project Manager
    Metairie LA

  • 3.  RE: Should I augment my bachelor's and have a specialty by getting a masters degree?

    Posted 04-22-2023 09:39 PM

    Hi Gabrielle Nguyen,

    You have earned such impressive background to start. However, I think you already know the answer for taking Masters or not, but here is my personal opinion and not a professional opinion. If you are lead CADD operator you will have more opportunities in every specialties because it was very useful such as water resources or flood control management jobs, structural engineering, geotechnical engineering, transportation planning, environmental, construction management, and other other related specialties. It would be great if you have a real engineering job of your desire, then after many years with that field, consider having masters. Because if you choose to have masters first, you will not be able to get expertise in your desire field of civil engineering, and we also have licensure to consider too. Not to mention that I have a same problem of you, and expecting to graduate this year hopefully. But I realize I need to go out first instead of making ties in school for such a long time. Except if you're planning to be a college professor, Master's degree would help you to teach effectively. I hope other bro's and sis reply to this, because I want to hear from them too. 

    Llala Chrishaye Ocampo Aff.M.ASCE
    City of General Trias Cavite

  • 4.  RE: Should I augment my bachelor's and have a specialty by getting a masters degree?

    Posted 04-22-2023 09:39 PM

    Congratulations on your perseverance in getting the bachelor's degree. That's the most important step. After that, graduate level coursework is a good idea. The bachelor's focusses on standard engineering procedures. Graduate courses usually focus on issues that go beyond standard methods and solutions. While you can learn those advanced approaches in self-study and OJT, that's much slower and provides less insight into the "why" part of processes that improve intuitive solutions. While an advanced degree isn't an essential end product of grad courses, it's good to work towards that as an extra credential. It may get you a job or a project you would otherwise miss.

    William McAnally Ph.D., P.E., D.CE, D.NE, F.ASCE
    Columbus MS

  • 5.  RE: Should I augment my bachelor's and have a specialty by getting a masters degree?

    Posted 04-25-2023 10:22 AM

    Congratulations on all of your hard work so far. Your background will certainly show potential employers that you are serious about the field you selected to pursue a career in.

    I think your question about whether or not to get a masters next is a bit of a loaded question, simply because if you ask any employer "would you prefer if I were even MORE well qualified and experienced?" they would reply "well, yeah of course." 

    You could try to look for jobs without the masters and see how you do, or you could get the masters, particularly if you find that someone else is willing to pay for it. A lot of times, these decisions have more to do with how feasible it is and how it will impact your lifestyle. In a world of infinite time and money, there would be much less question about whether or not you should "just go get it". 

    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer