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  • 1.  Are additional degrees beneficial?

    Posted 01-18-2017 07:04 PM

    Hi everyone! A number of my friends and I are PE's. We were discussing if getting an additional degree once you have your PE is "worth it" in our field. We've observed that the founders/presidents/principals of our respective (small) firms only have a bachelor's degree, and for those who have been promoted it seems to be based largely on years of experience. I am personally interested in getting an MBA. Alternately some of my friends with a bachelor's degree would be looking at a technical master's degree. In theory we would do this part time while still working.  Do you think the additional degree would be beneficial and if so how?

    Stephanie Slocum P.E., M.ASCE
    Associate Principal
    Hope Furrer Assoc Inc
    State College PA
    (814) 234-8191

  • 2.  RE: Are additional degrees beneficial?

    Posted 01-19-2017 06:31 PM


    Great question, my opinion only is, it depends.

    In certain sub-disciplines, structural, geotechnical, perhaps some environmental the MSCE is more or less a requirement. 

    However for others, mainly land development you will not see it much.  I would bet a lot of the small firms you reference do a lot of land development.  In those cases an MBA or Engineering Management Degree or some such degree may be more applicable or useful than an MSCE.  A degree like that will also broaden skills you would not be exposed to in a purely technical degree.

    Also at a larger firm, when times or good, I submit you will get many more opportunities to specialize and get the benefit from a purely technical degree.  Personally, I pursued an MSCE with a Water Resources emphasis.  I did a thesis on 2D flow modeling and even ended up applying that at the office.  This may be rare but the MSCE helped me "specialize" as I desired.  However, now as  Program Manager at a large sewer district, and so specialized, I seldom use purely technical skills such as I learned in my degree, the Engineering Management courses I took come in useful.

    I would also submit you have to be realistic about costs and availability.  My degree was paid by my employer and my thesis involved a work project.  Some places, cities, employers may make getting a degree much, much easier, affordable than others.

    Finally I would submit as time goes by the MSCE or graduate degree, will get more  in demand, not less.  ASCE believes this this, at least in the raise the bar initiative:

    Finally I submit the key is to figure which credentials will get you where you want to be and get those versus, should I do this or that.  The more credentials the better.  Please see:

    I hope that is useful.

    Michael Buechter P.E., M.ASCE
    Program Manager
    Webster Grvs MO
    (314) 968-9723

  • 3.  RE: Are additional degrees beneficial?

    Posted 01-19-2017 07:07 PM
    Hi Stephanie,

    I would also concur with much of what Michael B. said.  I think the ASCE "raise the bar" initiative say alot about the need for more education not less for engineers as time goes on.  I also think in my experience at larger firms that advancement on a technical level will definitely require a masters degree. So as Michael said it depends on your career choice.   I also believe that these days with the on-line degrees there many ways to achieve it beside full time at a University.

    Ronald Burns P.E., M.ASCE
    Arcadia Technology, Inc.
    Principal Engineer
    Brookline MA

  • 4.  RE: Are additional degrees beneficial?

    Posted 01-20-2017 12:20 PM
    Hi Stephanie:
    I will give you my opinion.  I am basing this off you are a PE and have at least 5 years experience.  I might give different opinion if you were in school and had no experience.  You should do some thinking and determine where you want your career path to talk you.  By that I mean do you want to stay in mainly a technical track running and doing project work or do you want to manage people and run a firm (i.e. a business).  If you want to become a technical expert in an area of practice I would suggest a focused MSCE in and advanced area of practice.  
    If you want to lead a team and run a department(s) or a firm I would suggest an advance degree outside of engineering (MBA, finance, etc.).

    I am also of the opinion that a full degree from a brick and mortar institution is not a must.  There are lots of executive course out there that are shorter in duration than a full masters degree and cost less.  This is also a way to get your feet wet and see if that is really the path you want to go down.

    We have a saying in our company.  "You don't know what you don't know"  and engineers are not taught in undergrad school how to manage individuals or run companies.  When you take some advance courses I think you will quickly see there are a lot of thing we as technical engineers do not know with regards to effective management.  At least that has been my experience.

    And as always if you don't use the tools and techniques you have invested in, e.g. an advance degree (whether technical or business) I would say it is nothing more than a very expensive (both in time and dollars) piece of paper.


    Seth Spychala P.E., M.ASCE
    Minneapolis MN

  • 5.  RE: Are additional degrees beneficial?

    Posted 03-07-2018 10:41 AM
    I agree with others, that it depends on what you want to do in the future.  If you are already licensed and have experience in your field, then I do not think an MSCE would be worth the time or money.  I obtained my masters degree ONLY because I was not licensed yet, and because I work in the Structural field (where it almost required these days).  If you were still in undergraduate school and/or an unlicensed professional, then I would recommend the masters degree.

    In your current situation, I would only consider it if you want to enhance your technical knowledge and will see benefits from your employer (tuition reimbursement, pay raise, etc).  I would speak with your company's leadership team and see how furthering your education could benefit the company (and yourself).  Also, find out where they see you going within the company.  If you plan to go into management, there might be other types of certifications that could be just as worthwhile as a masters degree (PMP being one example).  

    These are just my opinions.  Good luck with whatever you choose.

    Professional Engineer

  • 6.  RE: Are additional degrees beneficial?

    Posted 09-25-2018 03:23 PM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 09-25-2018 03:22 PM
    ​I am involved with a selection of consulting engineers for federal environmental projects. Selection is very competitive and often hinges on the qualifications of the personnel. A PE is an essential requirement to get through the first gate and an advanced degree is often the deciding factor on personnel qualifications. Also, keep in mind that you are competing with your peers for desirable positions where a PE is a minimum requirement and an advanced degree can determine whether you are in the competitive range for selection. It is all about competition and positioning yourself as a desired employee with a company or in your effort to secure a premium job.

    James Sheetz
    Supv Env Engineer
    San Diego, CA

  • 7.  RE: Are additional degrees beneficial?

    Posted 09-26-2018 10:24 AM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 09-26-2018 10:24 AM
    ​I would say additional degrees beyond a bachelors are required, especially if you are trying to get into certain industries in the civil engineering world. I have seen companies only look at hiring entry level engineers that have a masters degree in a technical field. While I know there is some resistance to Raise the Bar, I believe the industry I am in is moving towards requiring entry level hires to have a BS+30(MS).

    For the experienced engineer with a PE, I would say while experience is key, obtaining an additional degree may help an individual be a step a head of someone else or help a company be more competitive. Typically, I have seen firms get more excited about advanced technical degrees or technical degrees mixed with management, rather than straight MBA's. I have heard of firms not willing to help cover the costs of MBAs and would rather see the advanced technical or technical and management degree.

    Kenneth R. Mika, PE
    (licensed PE in MI and WI)
    Mobile: 414.731.3111


  • 8.  RE: Are additional degrees beneficial?

    Posted 09-26-2018 02:36 PM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 09-26-2018 02:35 PM
    Another possibility is to obtain specialty certification, e.g., by the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists (AAEES) which certifies engineers in eight specialties, and/or by ASCE.

    Stephen Lippy P.E., BCEE, S.C., M.ASCE
    Lutherville MD

  • 9.  RE: Are additional degrees beneficial?

    Posted 09-27-2018 11:14 PM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 09-27-2018 11:13 PM
    Thank you for your insightful comments on this thread. My takeaway from the comments here so far is what is right for one person may not be right for another. 

    In my opinion, if you already have your PE and experience in the industry (as I do), it probably doesn't make sense to get another degree financially (as compared to taking some courses or obtaining a certificate of some sort) unless your employer will help fund it or you have a long-term goal that requires it.

    I also wonder how much "confirmation bias" plays into how we answer this question. In other words, if you have an additional degree and have found it beneficial, it seems likely you'd think others would find it beneficial too. If you work for an employer that helps pay for additional degrees, it seems more likely you'd have gotten one. If you have a Bachelor's degree and feel you haven't had any issues, you'd wonder why others want more education.

    It's an interesting discussion and I appreciate all your thoughts.

    Stephanie Slocum P.E., M.ASCE
    Engineers Rising LLC