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Getting a job after your MS Engineering degree

Katie Schenk - March 23, 2017

Getting a job after
your MS Engineering degree

In some parts of the world, an advanced degree comes with a job placement. But, it doesn’t work like that everywhere. Students from India, for example, may be shocked to hear that American universities aren’t responsible for finding their MS Engineering graduates a job. That’s all on you.

But, that doesn’t mean US universities don’t facilitate the process to some extent.

Rather than submitting GPAs to recruiting companies and administering filtering tests as found in many Indian universities, American universities maintain offices dedicated to assisting students to improve their résumés and interviewing skills. They also host career fairs.

What are career fairs?

Career fairs are almost exactly what they sound like. Companies arrive on campus, set up booths with marketing material in an auditorium or other large space, and make themselves available to chat with students.

Typically, the largest career fairs are held during the fall semester, though you will find some during the spring semester. If you begin your studies in the autumn, you’ll need to be remarkably quick to take advantage of these opportunities.

Different universities attract a diverse set of companies. And, likely, you spend hours drooling over the recruiting companies while narrowing down your options for MS Engineering programmes, so you have a few ideas about which ones you hope to meet when you’re on campus. If you somehow missed this step during applications, it’s time to get stuck into career research because…

…you absolutely cannot walk into a career fair unprepared.

At the very least, these events are slightly more than a meet-and-greet, and you may even find yourself in the middle of an interview with a company that you’re excited about. It’s usually not stipulated by the university; it’s all up to the firms themselves.

Planning and research are crucial

It’s impossible to understate the importance of researching companies and preparing yourself prior to career fairs. If there are 400 businesses recruiting on campus during the course of a few days, you simply won’t have time to market yourself to every single company.

As soon as your US university releases a list of recruiters participating in a career fair, it’s up to you to dig deeper. Do they work in your field? Do they have branches in your home country? Could you imagine working in the snowy or sweltering climate of their home office? Although you will have an opportunity to ask about company culture during a career fair, you just won’t have time to ask every company on campus.

At some schools, you actually need to register your intent and/or have your résumé approved before you may even schedule participation in on-campus recruitment fairs.

Because you may just have an on-the-spot interview, your goal should be to get yourself ready for that point. And, it’s very likely that what American companies want to hear and learn about you is different than the norms set in your home country.

That suggests a visit to the career services office at your university should be one of the first stops you make after settling in. They will be able to offer insights and run you through stereotypical American interviews.

In addition, this is the office that will knock your résumé into shape. Although there are plenty of online guides to résumé writing, a close look at yours will reveal aspects that you may never have noticed. The American résumé may seem similar to the curriculum vitae, but there are subtle differences. Much of the information you would unquestionably include on a CV in your home country has no business on American résumés. Indeed, providing details on your marital or family status, religious beliefs, or your race will make American recruiters flinch. With strict employment non-discrimination laws, they really don’t want to know more than your work and academic histories.

Career fairs are not the only means of finding a job

You can’t pin your hopes on a single (or handful) of career fairs. You will need to pursue companies that interest you; that means sending letters of interest, submitting your résumé through online platforms, and regularly checking with your programme’s career services department for opportunities. Even if it’s not the university’s job to find you a position, they will bend over backward to assist you.

As long as you put in the work and make contact with them. Just take a look at the range of services offered by Virginia Tech. While they will vary from school to school, you can expect something similar at every reputable university offering MS Engineering degrees.

But, there is an additional piece of this puzzle that every international masters student in the United States must consider – the ability to work in the United States. That means another visit to the international student office. As they work with the university to assist international students in obtaining their visas, they are versed in post-grad visa options as well. Indeed, they may even know which visiting companies have applied for H1-B visas in the past. (Alternatively, you can use the research tools provided by Cornell University.)

Above all, if you’re hoping to take a position in the United States after completing your MS Engineering degree, spend as much time as you can learning about the career and international student services offered by your university before arriving on campus. And remember, a position with a company is the same as acceptance into an American university – it doesn’t guarantee you a visa. You’ll need to make sure you’re on the right side of immigration at all times, so there aren’t any questions when you land your dream job. 

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