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Are additional degrees beneficial?

  • 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

    I have a BS (in CE).  I have been successful in this business for 33 years.  Not having a Masters or Phd has not hurt me.  I looked into getting a Masters some years ago, but my job moved me around so much I didn't find time to get serious. 


    I think if I was involved in some of the more physics and chemistry involved side, like treatment, I would have pursued a higher level.  But I learned what I needed from my mentors and on my own.


    I attended a workshop at Cal once, and a professor their told us, if you want a higher order degree, get it.  If you don't want it, don't.


    (He said he got Phd to impress his wife's Dad).


    Dan Chase

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  • 3.  RE: Are additional degrees beneficial?

    Posted 01-20-2017 05:26 PM
    I am a civil engineer working at Google. At the age of 40, I received my MBA. I started school at night and finished in the day program. It has made all the difference in regard to opportunities and financial rewards. 


  • 4.  RE: Are additional degrees beneficial?

    Posted 01-21-2017 10:38 AM
    I think the question is better posed from the standpoint of 'additional' undergrad degrees versus 'higher level' degrees (masters, PhD). From the perspective of a practicing RCE in private consulting for virtually my entire 30 years, i would have to say no from both perspectives. In public service, where communication and organizational skills are perhaps emphasized more, other supplemental degrees separate from engineering could be very useful. But in my experience, mentors in the field of consulting has definitely enhanced my career much more than any additional formal degree would have. As a result, I feel my contribution to the field of Civil Engineering was optimized by not spending more time in the classroom, and seeking CE knowledge on my own terms through client projects and my own personal methods of educating myself off the clock.
    Charlie Marr

    Sent from my iPhone

  • 5.  RE: Are additional degrees beneficial?

    Posted 01-19-2017 06:47 PM
    Gaining knowledge is always useful. If it will pay off financially depends on career goals and varies with employers. A good question to ask is will it help me to do my job better or better prepare me for the next step in my career goals.  At a present place of employment it would be good to ask your manager if it would help in the area you wish to advance. If looking at other places of employment, see what degrees employees have in the position you wish to seek.
    In general, your decision to peruse additional degrees is best not to be centered in financial reward but in will it make me better prepared to serve my customer.  Most advancement is based on the ability and potential to perform. This involves personal motivation,pleasant to work with,  experience, and knowledge.

    Ronald Heil P.E., M.ASCE
    Santa Fe NM
    (505) 466-4144

  • 6.  RE: Are additional degrees beneficial?

    Posted 01-20-2017 09:57 PM
    Addition degree definitely helps in shaping our career.Whenever we apply for job, most of organizations look for M.tech or MBA or any PE/chartered engineer certificate.These additional degree give one cutting edge than those people who does not possess it.Sometimes knowledge only is not enough.I have seen this even in my case when I applied for job few years back,most organizations did not accept my application as I did not have Master degree/PE.

    Mukesh Kumar M.ASCE

  • 7.  RE: Are additional degrees beneficial?

    Posted 01-19-2017 06:55 PM
    I can give you three ways to discuss this topic meaningfully...

    First - I have three degrees, AAS-Arch. Tech; BSCE; MPa...was well into an MSEnvE but decided on a different career route.  Since I worked and raised a family at the same time I attended school, it took me 17 years and work, family and my health did suffer, but it was what I wanted to do.  Just about 3 years ago, with over 30 years of experience, I was again contemplating going back after a Master's in Community and Regional Planning, but ultimately decided against it.

    Second - a college professor of mine, a former student of Hardy Cross no less, relayed the results he said came from a study taken back in the early 1980's, where engineers were asked what classes/types of education they felt they could have used to help them in their current career paths.  Those in roughly the first 8-10 years of their career cited technical classes, like more structural analysis, advanced wastewater treatment, etc...; those with 8-15 years of experience cited accounting, marketing and supervision types of classes; finally those in the 20+ years of experience cited humanities, art appreciation, history, music, etc...  If this survey occurred or not I cannot say, but I can say it is true for me and many of my peers...we wanted job related classes early, as we advanced we wanted work related, management classes and as we became quite experienced, we wanted classes that gave us the tools to enjoy where we were and appreciate the attaining of our goals.

    Third - how fortuitous you brought this up today...a daily email I receive has an article referenced 5 Things to Weigh Before Going to Back to School After Age 50
    Money Talks News remove preview
    5 Things to Weigh Before Going to Back to School After Age 50
    Need a degree to compete with younger workers? Find the sweet spot in the market before you invest. Older workers who've been downsized know the job market can be brutal. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of December 2016, the average length of unemployment for 55- to 64-year-olds was 38.3 weeks.
    View this on Money Talks News >

      (hope this works) and this contains some of the similar concepts noted above.

    For me, it is simple - there are no right answers to the "question" of going back to school.  If you desire to go back to school, do it...if it is important to you, and if you think you can do some good with the extra degree/education.  If you only do it for advancement, or for job status, you will not enjoy it or truly utilize what you learn...and what would be the point of that?

    Reed Schwartzkopf P.E., M.ASCE
    Project Manager
    Bolton and Menk, Inc.

  • 8.  RE: Are additional degrees beneficial?

    Posted 01-19-2017 07:07 PM
    MBA sounds good.
    Have a Fantastic Day!
    My warm regards,

    Rizaldy D.Charifa,P.E.,M.ASCE
    State Lic.C- 62585 : B- 801748             
    President  & CEO
    TITANIUM  Engineering
    815 W. Cesar E. Chavez Avenue (Formerly Sunset Blvd.), Suite  205
    Los Angeles, CA 90012
    TEL. (213) 621-2634 FAX (213) 621-2635  Cell (818) 253-6189
    EMAIL: titaniumengineers@...

  • 9.  RE: Are additional degrees beneficial?

    Posted 01-20-2017 09:15 AM
    It depends on where you are and where you want to go. You mentioned an MBA. In general engineers who get MBAs tend to end up in middle management at medium to large engineering firms and their responsibilities lean more towards the business and finance end of things. If rising into middle management is your goal, an MBA sounds good. If you want to start your own company, you don't need it and a few cheap or free entrepreneurial courses would probably help more. If you want to advance as a designer, an MBA is rather irrelevant.

    In short, though knowledge is always a good thing, how good depends on your ultimate goal and how it relates to that goal.

    Ron Zagrocki P.E., M.ASCE
    Aliquippa PA

  • 10.  RE: Are additional degrees beneficial?

    Posted 01-20-2017 09:39 AM
    Yes, I would encourage getting an MBA dependent on your years of experience and then go for an PMP. 
    These credentials would upgrade your management skills. 
    Alaa Hussein Mohsin, C. Eng., B. Law, MASCE
    S T Consultant – Governance Global Practice
    The World Bank
    Erbil, Iraq
    T: +964 770 290 6252
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    M-Personal: amkazzaz@...
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  • 11.  RE: Are additional degrees beneficial?

    Posted 01-20-2017 11:43 AM
    Actually additional degrees are beneficial when it is related fully or partially. MBA, etc might be beneficial for any kind of field. But if someone qualified with an engineering degree, additional degree in Political Science may not worth. But MSc in the same field is much worth. 

    Rohana Dasanayake M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer
    Sri Lanka

  • 12.  RE: Are additional degrees beneficial?

    Posted 01-20-2017 12:35 PM
    YES! (of course a faculty member would say that!)

    However, it is really about new skill sets.  A degree is one way, certificates, specialized training, etc are all other ways.  In my view, you need to look at the skill sets your have, what gaps exist for your career path and fill them.

    Marc Hoit Ph.D., F.ASCE, F.SEI
    NC State University
    Raleigh NC

  • 13.  RE: Are additional degrees beneficial?

    Posted 01-20-2017 11:42 AM
    Additional degree implies higher education and qualifications, and engineering like other professional practice grows with more knowledge and competency. Therefore whatever it takes to compete favorable in the professional practice is worthy to achieved. Though through the process of practice one could have secured necessary exposure and experience for Job practices, but when there is <g class="gr_ gr_417 gr-alert gr_gramm gr_run_anim Grammar only-ins doubleReplace replaceWithoutSep" id="417" data-gr-id="417">opportunity</g> for competition, the benefits of higher education gives encouragement and confidence of intelligent personality.

    Olusegun Afolabi P.E., M.ASCE
    University of Lagos
    234803 4248600

  • 14.  RE: Are additional degrees beneficial?

    Posted 01-20-2017 05:10 PM

    Hello Stephanie:


    I earned my BSCE in 1971 from what was then the University of Missouri – Rolla.  At that time, the required hours for a BSCE was 144 hours.  That did not include any credit for college algebra or college trig, which were considered remedial classes for engineering majors.  ROTC hours did not count toward the BSCE either.  So, I had a total of 169 hours when I graduated with my BSCE.  The average time to graduate even without the extra hours was 4.9 years.  In an effort to push undergraduate students through a BS program, the engineering curriculum at many schools has been diluted.  A BSCE then would be akin to a BSCE today plus almost  a professional development degree.  That is why I support the movement to require an MS degree for licensure as a Professional Engineer.  To answer your original question, yes, I think earning an advanced degree is important.  I worked for a few years after I earned by BSCE and then returned to graduate school in 1976 for my MSCE.  Yes, earning an advanced degree gives you more knowledge, but more important is the way it enhances your ability to think and solve problems more effectively and to communicate better.  It will also build your confidence and self-esteem.



  • 15.  RE: Are additional degrees beneficial?

    Posted 01-20-2017 05:14 PM



    I would like to add one other comment to your question.  While I was in graduate school, I had a professor for aa advanced public works management class who told us that engineers fit into two categories, technocrats and generalists.  When we begin our careers, we are all technocrats.  After a few years in our career we reach a fork in the road.  Those persons who are content to do technical work, design and calculate, and are uncomfortable with leadership required for the business aspect of the profession will continue as technocrats.  There is nothing wrong with that, if that is what you find satisfying.  Those engineers who have leadership skills will assume a generalist role in management.  Sometimes, that management course will even take them into fields other than engineering.  This is where an MBA could be a good post BS choice.

  • 16.  RE: Are additional degrees beneficial?

    Posted 01-20-2017 08:59 PM
    If there's a masters degree for getting your plans approved by regulators quickly without having to answer numerous irrelevant comments or add excess cost for insignificant features, I'll suggest it would be well worth the time and expense!

    Jeff Haas M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer
    Austin Brockenbrough and Associates
    (804) 592-3902

  • 17.  RE: Are additional degrees beneficial?

    Posted 01-21-2017 08:19 AM
    Education is always valuable and I feel that it has benefits that go beyond monetary reward.  There is a lot to learn beyond the undergraduate curriculum and I think that engineering college attendance should be, or could be, seen as more than a trade school.  I have an MSCE and I learned a great deal of technical information and approaches that I would not have learned in the workplace from reading a book.  

    Many opportunities in public service are closed off if you do not have an advanced degree so there are advantages in some sectors.  I think that in the private sector you could be better served to obtain an MBA unless you are involved in a specialized practice.

    Alternatively, and humorously, I once had a supervisor who I respect greatly who once told me that the reason to get an MSCE was so that you did not have to be intimidated by those that do have one.


    Charles Thompson P.E., M.ASCE
    Bureau Chief, Dam Safety
    Albuquerque NM
    (505) 899-0417

  • 18.  RE: Are additional degrees beneficial?

    Posted 01-21-2017 09:53 AM

    Additional degrees can be very beneficial if the degree is consistent with your career objectives.  Keep in mind that obtaining a degree is a commitment in time and resources that may take away from your other goals and objectives.  Looking at my own career (over 40 year period) I have become associated with academia and engineering school research by working on specific projects that have been related to the structural performance of polymer composite structures in bridges, buildings, fire performance, standard and code development, etc. and have found that in many ways the associations and experience obtained are equally important if not more so than actually obtaining advanced degrees.  We have collaborated in doctoral research which not only benefited students involved in obtaining advanced technical degrees that led them into successful careers but given that there were specific industry objectives desired the work has been of significant importance to the advancement of polymer composites.           

    In considering obtaining advanced degrees one should:
        -  Consider career path and objectives
        -  Know your own talents and interests where an advanced degree could enhance your skills 
        -  Understand the commitment required and benefits received in obtaining the degree
        -  Work with employer, supervisor, industry contacts to see the objectives where your advanced degree could benefit others
        -  Explore how current projects for your employer could lead to your advanced degree (many times an employer will assist in the financial side of your advanced degree if beneficial to the organization)   

    Engineers are required to obtain continuing education credits to maintain professional registration and these opportunities can be very critical to allowing the engineer to work into advanced degree programs.  

    Bottom line is to know where you want to end up  so you can know if and how an advanced degree can allow you to better achieve your objectives.     
    Best to you in the path ahead!

    Daniel Witcher P.E., M.ASCE
    Bristol TN

  • 19.  RE: Are additional degrees beneficial?

    Posted 01-21-2017 08:51 PM
    Hello All,

    I wrote an article on deciding on which additional degrees to get on the ASCE Careers & Leadership blog, I hope it helps here:


    Anthony Fasano P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer, Author, Speaker and Coach
    The Engineering Career Coach

  • 20.  RE: Are additional degrees beneficial?

    Posted 01-22-2017 05:25 PM
    Sorry, I am so late to this conversation.

    Stephanie, it really depends on what one wishes to do in their career. However, it also has to do with your degree's age and program structure.  Current U.S. bachelor degrees have less credit hours than previous ones, thus less education.  If you graduated since roughly 1995- 2000, your four year BS degree has at least three and more likely four less classes (9-12 credit hours) than those 30 year older (say 45 - 65 age) firm principals to which you are comparing yourselves.  They also have about two to four less classes (6 -12 or more) credit hours than their predecessors had.

    Universities have been slowly cheapening the BS degree to cut expenses.  Students pay more but get less credits.  Thus, the unstated reason the technical societies (which are full of academics) are pushing the five year plus program.  They need the master degree students to make budget but also realize (but do not admit) the four year BS degree is becoming less and less sufficient.  Most engineering BS degree programs now (since 1995-2000) are in the 120-126 (semester) credit hour range and have had engineering content classes removed.  In the 1960s - 1980s, the degree programs were in the 132-140 credit hour range and before that, the approached 150 credit hours.  Now, those classes are cut back.  For example, a engineering geology may now be combined with the soils class vs. two separate classes in the past.  This is happening across the technical degree spectrum.

    In addition, to the surprise of most people, the actual educational content of accredited degree programs varies greatly from institution to institution.  School A's BS graduates may not even be aware of concepts taught to School B's BS grads.  This is easily determined and exposed in the work place.  Thus, many of those principals and managers you are looking at may have technical or business knowledge other members in the firm (and you) do not, simply based on the degree program they followed.  

    In summary, today's BS grads may need that additional MS technical degree just to be adequately educated in their field let alone stay abreast of advances. While I did not think so before, I am seeing a need now.

    MBAs or MPAs are subject to debate. They can help in certain organizations. But, not very many smaller private firms (and most private engineering firms are small) can afford to pay a $150K-$200K+ salary most such MBA grads want to receive to pay for their degree.  Business management classes may be more cost effective than a full degree for some.

    This issue does not get the airing and understanding it should as it is politically incorrect to point out the universities (and regents they report to) are ripping the students off.

    Bradley Novacek P.E., M.ASCE
    Senior Engineer
    Stanley Consultants, Inc.
    Phoenix AZ