Is a Mechanical Engineering Master’s Worth It?

January 5, 2015

Featured in 2015 Guide to Getting an Engineering JobAs you near the end of your mechanical engineering Bachelor’s, you’ll inevitably be faced with the decision to pursue a postgraduate degree or move into the workforce. Is a mechanical engineering Masters worth it?

It’s not an easy question. On one hand, you’re taking on additional debt right when you want to be earning money. On the other, you’re investing in your future.

There’s prestige in having a post-graduate degree, but is it worth the time, effort, and money?

Get Your Resume Noticed

Is a Mechanical Engineering Master’s Worth It Engineer Jobs Sara V

Credit: Sara V

Bob Hadick has been a recruiter with Russ Hadick Associates in Dayton, Ohio for 15 years, and formerly worked as a Director of Engineering in both the US and the UK. “It’s not a hard and fast rule, but in my experience, larger companies generally want to see a Master’s degree,” he says.

When you start your job search, you need every advantage you can get. We regularly talk about the value of internships and extra-curricular activities, but one thing that’s bound to stand out is a postgraduate degree. “If all the other candidates fresh out of college have got a Bachelor’s, and you’re the one with a Master’s, you’ll get noticed,” says Hadick. “It’s a huge differentiator, especially when you have no actual experience.”

Position Yourself for Promotion

Although you can be a successful mechanical engineer with just a Bachelor’s degree, the evidence is that having a Master’s will give you an edge throughout your professional life. “When an employer is looking at their staff for assignments for new projects, the person with the Master’s is more likely to get picked for senior roles,” says David Soukup, Managing Director of Governance at ASME, The American Society of Mechanical Engineering.

Hadick concurs. “Management and director level jobs generally want a Master’s,” he says. “They don’t necessarily make it a stated requirement, but that’s where the jobs go in practice.

Command a Higher Salary

Is a Mechanical Engineering Master’s Worth It Engineer Jobs Francisco Osorlo

Credit: Francisco Osorlo

ASME recently conducted a survey into the value of a Master’s degree. The average salary for a mechanical engineer is about $10,000 higher if they have that extra degree. Over the course of a lifetime that adds up to over $250,000, even allowing for the cost of the degree and the lost income. So just by looking at the basic numbers, it’s clear that it certainly does pay off to give up that year and a half and spend that tuition money.

Hadick urges a little caution, however. “Starting salaries aren’t that much different,” he notes. “Don’t expect that Master’s to pay much more at first. But over time, it builds up as your career develops.”

So: Is a Mechanical Engineering Master’s Worth It?

Mason Green runs his own company, Greenchild, which develops guitar pedals and other audio equipment. He sums up the situation concisely. “The extra credential is not going to make or break your career. Rather, its another feather in your cap, and potential employers will recognize the analytical and problem solving skills required of such a degree. In the current job market, a Master’s in Engineering will only serve to make you more competitive.”

However, that’s not the only way to look at it. “Another way to answer this value question is to look at what your goals are. I use the knowledge gained in my Master’s courses everyday. I tackle engineering challenges in all facets of the business: research, product design and development, sourcing, and distribution.”

The answer seems clear. A mechanical engineering Master’s can help you find work, boost your career, and pay for itself. Even if you don’t do one right away, it’s worth considering at a later stage when you’re ready to take the next step.


Featured Image Credit: US Navy