16 responses to “Considering grad school? Don’t (unless you’re a civil engineer)”

  1. paul hopwood

    Free advice is only worth the money you pay for it, I personally wouldn’t encourage or discourage them either way.

    Just give them the facts (perhaps even by refering them to this blog & a few others you’ve written) & let them decide what choice to make.

  2. Moiety

    Some more data to chem on (made in 2010)

    Depends on what they are going to do. The rule of thumb in chemical engineering (90%+ I believe will be covered by this); on balance a degree w/wo masters and then another degree/diploma some time later (maybe safety management) seems to be better. If the graduate is going straight into industry with a focus on production or validation or equipment orientated etc, a PhD is plain useless.

    If the student is going into research either industrially or at an institute, a PhD is recommended but may not be necessary. Knowledge of catalysts from a PhD could be an excellent addition to a catalyst working group.

    For chemical engineering the most important things for jobs that may require a PhD is to not have a PhD but have chartership.

  3. gasstationwithoutpumps

    A PhD is the entry ticket for doing research (rather than development). For most engineers, it is not a financially sound plan. The best strategy seems to be to get a job with a BS, then go back to school in a few years and get an MS in a field you may not even have been aware of as an undergrad. The MS degree provides the best return on investment in terms of expected lifetime salary vs. cost and time invested.

    If you want to be a professor, you need the PhD. Otherwise there is little advantage to it for engineers. (Exception: bioengineers. Because biology has been overproducing PhDs for decades, the biotech industry is used to only hiring people with a few years of postdoc experience.)

    Note: I’m an engineering professor, and I like it better than I’d like an industry job, though I would probably have made far more money in industry. I do not regret my PhD for a minute.

  4. Fluxor

    So shouldn’t this be titled “Considering a Ph.D.?…”

  5. Miss MSE (@MissMSE)

    This is one of those situations where the ampersand sort of falls off materials science & engineering and we’re more of a science field. The Ph.D is necessary for a decent number of non-academic jobs. There’s significant research in my field, and so the PhD is required. On the other hand, our Ph.D completion rates are probably on the lower side from the students who bail after an MS despite initially intending to get the PhD, since the MS already opens up a wider variety of jobs.

    Still, I agree that don’t go for the Ph.D unless you have a *good* reason (and the crappy job market isn’t actually a good reason). It’s too much work for too little pay if you aren’t motivated.

  6. WG

    While its focus is not engineering, the 100 Reasons NOT to go to Grad School blog has a lot to say on this question:

    Believe it or not, the PhD completion rates are better in engineering than in virtually any other discipline. Grad school requires a massive time investment, so it can be a terribly disheartening experience if you leave it without a degree (as thousands of people do).

  7. Haider Ali

    My name is Haider Ali and i did my B,Sc in Civil Engineering in 2008 but i dont know im not satisfied i think i should not be an engineer also im doing job in my field but im not happy.

  8. GMP

    Well, I know that, in the semiconductor industry, there is a lot of demand for people with PhD’s (well, as much as there is any demand now). It has to do with the highly specialized processing that requires a lot of training, plus they still put a lot of money into R&D.

    I think one should neither encourage nor discourage anyone from grad school, without knowing much about their abilities and inclination.
    One thing that is probably wrong is to look solely at earning potential as the reason to do it or not do it. Lots of fields where the earning potential of a PhD equals the earning potential of an engineering BS would consider us hopelessly spoiled (ask some humanities prof bloggers how much their salary is… Yeah, that’s right, they earn less than some BS EE’s, and none of them did the PhD for the money, that’s for sure).

    I agree with gasstationwithoutpumps: PhD is a research degree, so if a person is curious and likes learning new things (and is not burnt out like a lot of undergrads after a BS), then sure, why not go for the PhD. Sure, you are not paid much, but you typically have an RA or a TA, paid tuition and health insurance; if you are in a good group, doing good science, learning new stuff, traveling to conferences, befriending other students from all around the world… There are worse ways to spend your early 20’s.
    It’s not for everyone, but it can be a great and enriching experience (pun intended).

    Btw, I like this article and recommend it to my undergrads who consider grad school:

  9. Moiety

    @ Cherish

    For a chemical engineer in Europe, to get chartered you have to join the icheme or aicheme (www.icheme.org). Then there are several exams, interviews etc depending on your education and experience which determine if you reach the chartered criteria. This allows you tos sign as C.Eng as opposed to M.Eng or B.Eng for chemical engineering. In Europe the different fields of engineering have different processes.

    I am not gone on the idea as the process is up to the feelings of the people who are assessing you. It also is not that important if you are in indsutry (being an associate should be enough) but in a research position, it shows an additional drive to excell in your field.

  10. » A Few Good Reads (9/26/11) Hydraulically Inclined

    […] Considering grad school? Don’t (unless you’re a civil engineer) (Engineer Blogs) When finishing up my MS, I went to talk to my advisor to discuss the possibility of doing a PhD.  He told me that, unless I had a very good reason, he never recommended going for a PhD. Written by: Anthony Alvarado on September 26, 2011. […]

  11. An old engineer

    Unless you want to teach engineering as a profession, I’d recommend just getting your MSE and work towards getting your professional license. For a working engineer, this is probably the best.

    The only exception to this is in chemical engineering. In many biotech companies, a PhD is almost manatory for senior management.

  12. Michanikos-Online

    It’s a very difficult issue. It depends on 2 main facts.
    1) How much money you got.
    2) What kind of carreer you want.

    There are many fields in our science that need specialization so the question cannot be answered 100% no or yes.

  13. Jed Sutherland

    This is a late response to your entry, but I came across this article http://moreintelligentlife.com/content/ideas/adrian-wooldridge/dole-queue that I thought might provide food for thought. The item focuses on humanities-type work and originates in Britain. There are still some useful parallels with North America.