Katie Schenk - April 23, 2019
Hoping to further your engineering career? A masters degree is one of the fastest ways to increase your salary and your career options.
But which masters?
One of the key differences between these degrees is the approach to learning:
But, you’ll find plenty of schools and grads ready to argue with this - you’ll find that both degrees are interested in a mix of coursework and research. And, you’re not going to find a MEng or MS degree that’s entirely practical or classroom-based.
But, there are still a few differences in the Masters of Engineering vs the Masters of Science showdown.
What’s the difference between MSc, MS and SM?
In truth, not much. These are all different abbreviations for a Master of Science.
* The MSci degree offered in the UK is not a master’s-level degree, but rather a combination of bachelor’s and master’s-level curriculum, which can make it confusing for those looking at MSc degrees.
Masters of Engineering
Masters of Science
Type of degree:
examination or project
As many in engineering academia will tell you, the biggest difference is whether you plan to pursue a PhD or you want to immediately increase your opportunities in the workplace - but not always.
A look at UC Berkeley’s engineering degree differences,¹ demonstrates that the admissions requirements for Masters of Engineering vs Masters of Science are largely the the same. Both require GRE scores and both need three letters of recommendation.
But, the Masters of Engineering degree from this university is completed in two semesters, but it costs non-resident students $27,887.25 per semester. The Masters of Science degree is completed in three semesters and costs non-resident students $16,979.75 per semester.²
In this case, the shorter degree costs more at $55,774.50 vs $50,939.25, but that accounts for just tuition, of course. The total Cost of Attendance (CoA) is much more.
At other schools, you may find that the cost per semester is the same which means that it boils down to the number of hours you take plus the cost of living.
That’s the case according to the Texas A&M calculator³ which calculates tuition according to school (engineering), year of admission, and whether students are state residents or not.
Still looking at Texas A&M, but considering academics rather than finances, you’ll see there are plenty of similarities. Looking at the Masters of Engineering in Mechanical Engineering⁴ and the Masters of Science in Mechanical Engineering,⁵ you’ll quickly notice that the academic outcomes are exactly the same. The path, however, is different.
EXAMPLE: MEng students must take MEEN 602 — Modeling and Analysis of Mechanical Systems to satisfy their math requirement. MSME student may take MEEN 602, though they could take MEEN 601 or MEEN 603, but they’ll still need permission from their thesis advisor.
The core course choices are identical, though it’s a matter of what an individual student chooses to take. The key difference is whether a student pursues a thesis, in the case of a Masters of Science degree or a portfolio project, as per the Masters of Engineering degree.
Of course, not all schools offer a choice of Masters of Engineering vs Masters of Science - or at least not in the same field, such as mechanical engineering; you may not have a choice if you’re set on a particular university.
If the core content is similar and the academic outcomes are identical, it’s fair to wonder whether there’s a big difference in the way employers recruit Masters of Engineering vs Masters of Science grads.
And, it doesn’t seem as if there is.
Still looking at Texas A&M, there’s an Engineering Career Fair⁶ which takes place annually in the fall semester.
Here, there isn't any separation of degrees; it’s open to everyone in the engineering and related faculties.
The companies registered to take part in the recruitment process⁷ don’t mention specific degrees either; they provide the level they’re recruiting at (bachelors, masters) and the departments they’re specifically looking at, such as Mechanical Engineering. They also note whether they’re interested in interns or full-time positions.
It seems to make little difference whether you’re pursuing a Masters of Science or a Masters of Engineering when it comes to getting your foot in the door.
At UC Berkeley, reports from previous career fairs⁸ show they don’t discern between the degrees either; only by the department and level of education.
So is there a Masters of Engineering vs Masters of Science difference in salaries?
Again, the answer is, not really.
Masters of Engineering
Masters of Science
Electrical engineer salary (low)
Electrical engineer salary (avg)
Electrical engineer salary (high)
Mechanical engineer salary (low)
Mechanical engineer salary (avg)
Mechanical engineer salary (high)
Project engineer salary (low)
Project engineer salary (avg)
Project engineer salary (high)
Software engineer salary (low)
Software engineer salary (avg)
Software engineer salary (high)
Snr software engineer salary (low)
Snr software engineer salary (avg)
Snr software engineer salary (high)
According to PayScale.com, the figures are pretty similar for grads of either degree based on the position they occupy.
In the battle of Masters of Engineering⁹ vs Masters of Science,¹⁰ the field matters more than the degree, as does the location of employment.
But, a glance at the numbers of recorded salaries from the US demonstrates that there are more Masters of Science grads - either that take the time to report their salary or just in general.
One reason for that may just be that with such balanced curriculum, opportunities, and salaries, the option of pursuing a PhD in the future, students want to keep their path open with an MS degree.
That is, perhaps, the biggest difference - especially considering that you’ll find top schools offering both degrees. And, with Prodigy Finance loans for qualified international students, it’s entirely possible to find funding for both.
Interested in pursuing a management degree to climb the ranks in engineering?
It’s a popular choice. You’ll find a variety of courses offered in both business and engineering departments, as well as a number of crossover degrees.
Although there is plenty of overlap between the engineering fields, there aren’t any general engineering degrees at the master’s level; you’ll need to pick an engineering specialisation before beginning your engineering applications.
Already know which engineering field and degree is right for you? We’ll talk you through each step, from the GRE to Statement of Purpose essays.
According to salary.com, aerospace engineers with a master’s degree earn a median salary between $129,143 and $137,305.
2019 top ranked US aerospace and aeronautical engineering schools
Monster.com puts the median pay for biomedical engineers at $129,000, with Directors of Engineering earning around $164,000 annually.
2019 top ranked US biomedical and bioengineering schools
The median pay for US civil engineers is $86,640 - and jobs in the US are growing at a rate of 11% - according to the US BLS. Now’s a good time to get your foot in the door.
2019 top ranked US civil engineering schools
The 2018 median salary for electrical engineers in the US is $99,070 annually which is higher than the US BLS median salaries for many engineering fields. And, it’s only the median in this diverse field.
2019 top ranked US electrical engineering schools
Industrial engineering in the US earned a median salary of $87,040 in 2018 - and another 25,100 new jobs are expected to open up over the next several years.
2019 top ranked US industrial and systems engineering schools
In 2018, the median salary for mechanical engineers was $92,390 - and the top 10% of earners took home a median of $148,110.
2019 top ranked US mechanical engineering schools
In the US, the top 10% of agricultural engineers earn an estimated $114,800 annually. Jobs are spread across states and industry types.
2019 top ranked US agricultural and biological engineering schools
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (US BLS), the 2018 median salary for biomedical engineers is $104,910 - and that includes entry-level employees, so you can bet master’s salaries look even better.
2019 top ranked US chemical engineering schools
This is one of the highest-earning master’s degrees you can get according to a Forbes ranking, with a mid-career median salary of $129,000.
2019 top ranked US computer engineering schools
2019 top ranked US environmental engineering schools
Materials engineers earn a median of $92,390 in the US, according to the BLS; it’s also offers work in some of the most diverse companies across the globe.
2019 top ranked US materials engineering schools
With one of the highest median salaries - $107,600 - according to the US BLS, you can see that skilled engineers are in high demand, inside and outside the US.
2019 top ranked US nuclear engineering schools
Sitting in the top 10 of an engineering ranking list is a good reason to consider an engineering programme, but it’s not a reason to rule out other programmes.
If you did, you’d be missing schools such as:
Obviously, you’ll want to shoot for the best possible GRE score you can get, but you shouldn’t rule out your top choice schools because of a lower than desired score. Several highly-ranked engineering schools have average GRE scores under 320.
And, although engineering master’s programmes usually don’t specify minimum GRE scores for admission, they’re a good indication of the applicants they’re looking for.
How much you’ll make as an engineer depends on several factors, including your engineering field, education level and the school you attend.
Either way, you can expect to earn at least $17,000 more annually than engineers without a master’s degree. Sounds good, right?
Interested in making as much money as you can? Take a look at the highest paying engineering jobs that’ll give you opportunities to spread your wings.
Already have an admit to your top choice engineering master’s?
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