While a master’s degree was not always a requirement in the field of engineering, it is becoming more of a standard requirement today. If you want to gain access to the most interesting, best paying work with the most responsibility, you should earn your master of science (MS) in engineering.
Earning your master’s degree will give you a much more technical background in engineering than your bachelor’s degree. Typically, an aspiring structural engineer will earn a bachelor’s degree that covered maybe six classes in structural analysis and design. Getting your master’s degree in engineering will add approximately 10 more classes to your focus area. Those extra classes will cover vital areas such as mechanics, structural analysis and modeling, structural dynamics, and advanced RC design.
A master’s degree in engineering will distinguish you from many of your peers and will allow you to qualify for really interesting work. Many engineers with only a bachelor’s degree often can only get lower level analysis and design jobs. Your master of science will open doors for you for much more challenging work. Many high level engineering companies only want candidates with an MS.
Also, earning your MS will provide you with an excellent opportunity to conduct original research and to publish a thesis. There is a chance that you can even get funding and have a stipend while getting your master’s. If you finish a research project and publish it, you will show a high level of proactivity that will distinguish you from your peers. Further, you will gain important analytical skills and a strong technical ability to grasp research articles. You also can often develop strong relationships with your professors that can be useful and rewarding for many years.
The American Society of Civil Engineers suggests that a master’s degree should be considered the baseline professional degree for all structural engineers.
Last, engineers are paid very well. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the median wage for civil engineers was $77,500 in 2010. The top 10%, which is those with a master’s degree in most cases, was $119,000. Also, the employment of engineers is expected to increase by 19% by 2020.
Why Earn a Master of Science in Engineering
Experience tells us that on average, a master’s degree holder will make more money over their lifetime than someone with only a bachelor’s degree. How much of a difference it makes salary wise depends upon the major. But a recent study by Georgetown University shed very interesting light on this subject.
The 2015 study found that college graduates with only a bachelor’s degree earn an average salary of $61,000 over their entire career. A worker with a master’s degree earns an average of $78,000.
In the area of engineering, the same study found that earning a master’s degree in engineering did indeed result in a higher salary:
- Civil engineering: $83,000 with bachelor’s; $101,000 with master’s
- Electrical engineering: $93,000; $112,000
- Mechanical engineering: $87,000; $107,000
- Architecture: $67,000; $76,000
Also, keep in mind that we are living in a technical world that is getting more advanced by the decade. As technology becomes more important in global commerce, workers who learn advanced technical skills will find that they will generally earn higher salaries. Engineering, computer science and finance are career fields where it often pays to be better educated with a master’s or even doctoral degree.
Other sources point out that some types of engineering yield a higher salary with a master’s than others. This source indicated that materials and biomedical engineering yielded significant salary increases with a master’s degree in engineering. With materials engineering, the boost in salary was as high as 39%. Petroleum engineering, on the other hand, yielded only a 7% increase in salary with a master’s.
Another reason to consider a master’s degree in engineering is that it is often necessary to move into a managerial or supervisory position in many companies.
Featured Online Master’s of Science in Engineering
- Master of Science in Electrical Engineering: This master’s degree from Fairleigh Dickenson University will give you the skills and knowledge that you need to pursue an exciting career in electrical engineering. You will be prepared with the scientific knowledge and mathematical techniques to succeed in this growing field. You also will have the chance to work with faculty on research through independent studies, or a thesis.
- Master of Engineering Management (MEM): Earning your MEM at Ohio University means that you are taking a big step towards becoming a stronger engineer and a strong team leader. This accredited engineering program is a strong examination of all of the specific management and leadership skills that are so important in the engineering field. Classes are focused on Six Sigma, project management, process improvement and related disciplines.
- Master of Science in Engineering: At the University of Illinois, you can earn this engineering degree in a total of 32 credit hours. This program includes such programs as Control Systems, Introduction to Optimization, Nonlinear Systems, Optimal Control Systems, Stochastic Systems and Topics in Decision and Control.
- Master of Science in Industrial Engineering: In this top industrial engineering program from Georgia Tech University, you will take a total of 30 credit hours so that you can earn your master’s degree in two years. You will take some of these classes: Manufacturing Systems, Warehousing Systems, Transportation and Supply Chain Systems, Deterministic Optimization, Probabilistic Models, and Simulation.
- Master’s Degree in Engineering: At Kansas State University, you can earn your master’s in engineering in software, chemical, civil, electrical, mechanical, operations research and engineering management. You will not need to visit the campus to do any of your coursework. After the coursework is completed, you will need to visit campus so that you can take the final exam.
- Master of Engineering: This online degree from Texas Tech University includes a total of 36 credit hours, and you should have a bachelor’s degree in engineering. You can choose from several engineering tracks, such as software engineering, systems and engineering management, and structural engineering. Most students can complete this program online in 27 months.
- Master of Science in Engineering: The online engineering program at North Carolina State University will provide you with the engineering and computer science classes that you need to excel in the field of engineering. This online program is new, but it is already ranked as one of the top 10 online engineering programs by US News and World Report.
- Master of Science in Engineering Management: This is a 36 credit hour program offered entirely online by the University of Nebraska. This program will ready you for advancement in both engineering and business management by focusing on organizational structure, statistics, risk, process and economic analysis, project management, evaluation procedures, business theories, and much more.
Popular Career Paths for Master’s of Science in Engineering
With a master’s degree in engineering, you can enjoy one of these rewarding career paths:
Civil engineering is one of the oldest forms of engineering. These highly needed engineers design, build and operate various construction projects and systems in both the public and private sector. Some of the most common projects that involve civil engineers are roads, bridges, tunnels, dams, airports, and bridges. Civil engineers also are heavily involved in building systems in local communities for water supplies and sewage treatment.
Civil engineers have the very important job of inspecting many major public works projects to ensure they are safe and meet regulatory standards. They also are responsible for ensuring that safe work practices are closely followed at various construction sites for public works projects.
A civil engineer with years of experience and a master’s degree can hold a supervisory or administrative position. You could for example be the supervisor of a city construction project, a public works director or even a city manager. Other civil engineers often work in construction, design, research or teaching.
Some of the specialized types of civil engineers include:
- Construction engineers: Responsible for the management of construction projects and ensure that they are on time and budget.
- Geotechnical engineers: They are responsible for ensure that construction foundations are solid. They focus mostly on how structures that are built by civil engineers interact with soil and rock. They also make plans for retaining walls, slopes and tunnels.
- Structural engineers: Assess and design major construction projects, including buildings, dams and bridges.
- Transportation engineers: Design, plan and operate streets, highways, airports, ship ports and harbors.
Job demand for civil engineers will rise by 8% by 2024, which is about as fast as average as other occupations. Experts note that as the US infrastructure ages, more civil engineers will be necessary to manage new projects to build new infrastructure and to repair existing bridges, roads, and dams.
As the population of many states and cities in the south continue to grow, there will be more urbanization and new water and sewage systems will be needed. Also, current water treatment systems will need replacing and updating. A possible limit on employment in this area could be reduced budgets at the local and state levels.
Another possible area where civil engineers will be needed in the future is to work on renewable energy projects. In many cases, getting state permits for such projects take many years. A civil engineer plays a vital role in this process. As new renewable energy projects get approval, civil engineers will be more involved in overseeing how wind farms and solar arrays are constructed.
The median pay in this field is $82,200.
An environmental engineer uses advanced engineering principles, biology, soil science and chemistry to devise solutions to serious environmental problems. They work on efforts to enhance recycling, waste disposal, water and air pollution and public health. They also are concerned with addressing serious environmental issues that affect the entire globe, such as climate change and sustainability.
One of the most critical duties of environmental engineers is to do hazardous waste management studies, where they evaluate the significance of an environmental hazard. They then provide advice on how to treat and contain the problem.
Many environmental engineers also focus their careers on minimizing climate change, acid rain, depletion of the ozone layer and how to build new housing projects in a sustainable fashion.
The job outlook for environmental engineers is relatively bright, with a 12% increase in job demand expected by 2024. There is much greater concern today with how to increase the efficiency of how communities use water. This is leading to greater job demand in many localities.
Interestingly, much of the growth in employment in this field will be in professional, technical and scientific services. Governments in the state and local levels often bring in environmental engineer consultants to help them to reduce the impact of government run facilities.
Environmental engineers also will be needed in the future to assist utilities and water treatment plants to stay in compliance with new state and federal environmental regulations.
The median pay for environmental engineers was $84,500 in May 2025. Engineers who have a master’s degree and more than five years of experience typically can earn up to $128,000 per year.
- Georgetown University. (2015, Feb.). From Hard Times to Better Times – College Majors, Unemployment, and Earnings. Retrieved from https://qz.com/347927/graduate-school-salary-increase/
- Civil Engineers. (2015, Dec. 17). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/civil-engineers.htm#tab-5
- Environmental Engineers. (2015, Dec. 17). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/environmental-engineers.htm#tab-2