The future is Bright for Engineering Graduates

Students planning to embark on a career in engineering have a lot of choices when it comes to their education. One particular area of dilemma is whether to pursue a masters in engineering or a masters in business administration. Valerie Harris, provides a fresh perspective on this topic based on collected insights from scholars and academics. Valerie writes exclusively for people who want to get a technical masters education, and knows the field very well.

As the recession slowly ends and economists predict a dramatic market recovery in the coming years, employers will hire more college graduates to fill vacant positions. This is especially true in the engineering sector – and today, academic experts are urging students to pursue degrees in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics ) to increase their chances of landing post-graduation work.

According to Job Outlook 2013, a report published by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, company leaders expect to hire 13 percent more graduates from the Class of 2013 than students who completed college in 2012. Certain sectors – particularly chemical/pharmaceutical manufacturing and computer and electronics manufacturing – are projected to hire the most new degree-holders. For this reason, students are encouraged to choose their major carefully. “While employers are seeking graduates from a broad range of disciplines, this fall they expressed particular interest in hiring new graduates with business, computer science, and engineering-related degrees and are looking to college campuses to supply their hiring needs,” said NACE Executive Director Marilyn Mackes. According to the report, three engineering sectors – mechanical, electrical and environmental – all placed within the 10 most demanded majors for the forthcoming graduating class.

Forbes contributor Jenna Goudreau recently listed several engineering fields among her list of “most valuable college majors.” Biomedical engineering was ranked at the top of the list; entry-level employees earn a median salary of $53,800, wages increase an average of 82 percent by the mid-career mark, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the sector will grow by more than 60 percent in the next few years. Four other engineering fields made the list: software engineering (fourth), with a mid-career median of $87,600; environmental engineering (fifth), with a mid-career median of $88,600; civil engineering, with a mid-career median of $90,200; and petroleum engineering, with a mid-career median of $155,000 (the highest median wage on the list). “There is a high demand for [these majors] and a low supply of people with the skills, so it drives up the labor market price,” said Katie Bardaro, the lead economist for Payscale.

However, a common concern persists among undergraduate engineering majors is this: is an advanced degree even necessary? According to Lee Grayson of Small Business Chron,graduate-level degrees – particularly MBAs – are useful when the economy is weak and employers are hiring with a little more selectivity. An engineer who has earned an MBA also makes a significantly higher salary. Mechanical engineers who earn MBA degrees, for example, earn an average of $63 per hour, which is equivalent to an annual salary of $120,000. However, pay rates for engineers with advanced degrees will vary between workplaces. “The value of an MBA combined with an engineering degree depends on the amount of work the employee attracts to your company because of the degree and the type of work your firm offers,” Grayson noted.

In other engineering fields, an advanced degree may not be worth the time and money commitments. Earlier this year, Kathryn Hawkins of Yahoo! Finance listed computer engineering among her list of “graduate programs that are not worth the money.” While the BLS projects the software development sector will increase 30 percent by 2020, the computer engineering sector only stands to rise 12 percent. Furthermore, a recent study conducted at Georgetown University found that computer engineers with an advanced degree only received a 16-percent pay increase over those who held a bachelor’s degree. For this reason, computer engineers are encouraged to forego the advanced degree in favor of hands-on workplace experience.

In the coming years, college graduates with engineering degrees stand to prosper in the American job market. However, not all engineers will financially benefit from earning an advanced degree – and for this reason, all prospective graduate students are encouraged to heavily research their field before enrolling in a master’s or Ph.D. program.

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