Unlike many fields, engineers can make a pretty good salary with only a bachelor’s degree.
Graduates with a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University in 2017 made a starting median salary of $69,500 upon entering the workforce. US News and World Report lists the median salary for Mechanical Engineers overall in the US at $84,190. That’s not a bad return for a four year investment. With these benefits available to graduates with only a bachelor’s degree, why would someone consider making an additional investment into a master’s level engineering degree? Below, find four reasons you might consider taking that next step in your engineering education journey.
The most obvious reason to get a masters in engineering is the increase in salary that an advanced degree provides. Graduates with an MS in Mechanical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon had a starting median salary of $90,000, that’s more than $20K more than undergraduates in the same field from the same university. Considering that an MS in Mechanical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon costs roughly $50K, the investment doesn’t seem that big if it could be feasibly recouped within 3-5 years with a higher salary. CMU’s data shows that similar pay rises apply to other master’s engineering graduates.
While it is possible to work your way up to a leadership role with a bachelors in engineering, adding a graduate qualification can make that path shorter. Engineers with master’s level degrees will have most likely had some kind of in-class training in management techniques, and experience working on or leading teams in more complicated engineering projects as a part of their master’s coursework. Adding these kind of soft skills to an already technically impressive resume is an important reason to think about pursuing a masters in engineering.
A masters degree in engineering can be an effective way to shift the direction of your career. For example, let’s say you have an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering and worked for five years in oil & gas, but during that time, you became more interested in the software side of operations, and want to make a change by pursuing a masters in software engineering. Engineers with an undergraduate degree already have a lot of the technical skills they’ll need to successfully transfer within the industry, and oftentimes your previous experience in a different field of engineering can help give your admissions profile a competitive boost if you had opportunities to lead teams or projects.
Engineers with a bachelor’s degree will likely develop some specialized skills if they stick with one company or one industry early in their career, but the choice of specialization will largely be directed by the needs of the companies they work for. Engineers with a master’s degree will have developed a more fine tuned set of skills and interests during their graduate program that will give them a greater chance of finding a job that is in line with work they’re passionate about doing. That means engineers with master’s degrees not only get paid more, but they’re probably more satisfied with the work they’re doing.
Speaking of employment, according to US News and World Report, engineers have some of the lowest unemployment rates in the US, with mechanical engineers having a minuscule 1.1% unemployment rate. While engineers can lead a perfectly comfortable life holding only a bachelor’s degree, with the reasonable investment of a master’s degree an engineer can make quicker career progression, make more money, more easily change career paths, and have a better chance of working on projects that they’re passionate about.
That’ll get you started. Still have questions? Reach out, and let’s gab.
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