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Which engineering master's should you do?

Katie Schenk - April 23, 2019

Prodigy Finance MEng vs MS degrees

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? 

MS or MEng: which engineering degree do you want?

One of the key differences between these degrees is the approach to learning:

  • The Masters of Science in Engineering is considered to be a research-oriented degree.
  • The Masters of Engineering is thought to be more focused on coursework.

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.

  • MSc is more commonly used in the UK and Europe.
  • MS is the preferred form in the US.
  • SM is short for the Latin words Scientiæ Magister, which translate to a Master of Science in English.

* 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

Semester hours:



Completed in:

2-3 semesters

3-4 semesters

Type of degree:




examination or project

thesis paper

Ideal for:

technical experience

future PhDs

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.

MEng vs MS: academic differences

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.

MEng vs MS: recruitment and salary differences

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 process 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. 

Why engineers make excellent business leaders

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. 

Which engineering field will you pursue?

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.

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

Choosing the best engineering programme for you

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:

Eligibility based on GRE scores

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.

Of course, your GRE score is simply one aspect of your engineering application. You’ll also need a solid Statement of Purpose essay and to secure awesome reference letters

Engineering salaries: should you go for your Masters?

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?

Now’s the time to start thinking about financing your degree, securing an F-1 study visa and making the most of your campus experience. And, we can help with all of it.

Calculate the 20 year returns from studying a Master’s degree.

Please enter a number between $ 20,000 and $ 225,000.
Please enter a number between $ 2,000 and $ 200,000.
Please enter a number between $ 2,000 and $ 250,000.
Please enter a number between 0% and 5%.

Total 20 year earnings

You would earn Help over 20 years if you did a Master’s degree.

Without a Master's degree

With a Master's degree

¹ engineering.berkeley.edu/academics/graduate-programs/graduate-guide

² registrar.berkeley.edu/tuition-fees-residency/tuition-fees/fee-schedule

³ tuition.tamu.edu

⁴ engineering.tamu.edu/mechanical/academics/degrees/graduate/meng.html

⁵ engineering.tamu.edu/mechanical/academics/degrees/graduate/ms.html

⁶ careercenter.tamu.edu/Events

⁷ careerfair.sec.tamu.edu/students/companies#!

⁸ career.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/pdf/studentdata1314empfairs.pdf

⁹ payscale.com/research/US/Degree=Master_of_Engineering_(MEng_%2f_ME)/Salary

¹⁰ payscale.com/research/US/Degree=Master_of_Science_(MS)/Salary

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