Postgraduate study in engineering

Graduates in disciplines with a strong science and technology content tend to be better paid than graduates in other areas.

Engineering students are fortunate to be in a position to enter the job market immediately, so are less likely than graduates in other areas to feel the need to pursue postgraduate study. After all, a job means money and jumping straight into your career. However, although postgraduate study may mean more debt, it demonstrates to employers your high level of commitment and your superior knowledge and skills base – and naturally the trend for better pay continues at higher and graduate diploma, masters degree and PhD levels.

Within the engineering field a postgraduate qualification is also a useful tool if you are trying to change career direction and convert to another unrelated area, such as consultancy, teaching/lecturing, the civil service, investment banking, law and technical writing.

The options

Funded masters and PhDs are usually advertised on institution websites and often in the national press. There are a huge number of postgraduate courses to choose from and collaborations with industry are common, combining study and practical hands-on work experience. Many engineering graduates pursue postgraduate diplomas or masters in finance, business and project management, enabling them to apply for engineering and business related roles upon graduating. Some engineering graduates enter the teaching profession.

Taught masters are typically one year in length (full-time) or two years part-time. A masters obtained by research can vary in length, but on average takes 18 months of full-time work. The PhD is obtained by undertaking extensive research, completion of a dissertation and usually an oral examination on the research matter. Typical duration is three years, but some programmes could take up to five.

Conversion courses

One of the great things about having an engineering degree, regardless of discipline, is the scope to move into another area of engineering. For example, if you are a chemical engineering graduate and want to specialise in an environmental aspect, you can continue your studies in this area, which is also open to other branches of engineering such as civil engineers. In your lecture halls and laboratories, graduates from many disciplines of engineering may be studying/researching similar topics. Many postgraduate engineering programmes are also open to relevant science graduates.

Funding

The Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology (www.ircset.ie) and, in the UK, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (www.epsrc.ac.uk) provide funding for students wishing to continue with postgraduate study in engineering. It's also possible to obtain sponsorship of funding from industry if the topic being researched is of specific interest.

Issues to consider

Engineers who graduate from 2013 and wish to become chartered engineers will need to hold an accredited masters degree (Level 9), or equivalent. Level 8 backelors degrees will, from 2013, satisfy the requirements for MIEI membership only.

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