Is a Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering Worth it?
March 9, 2021 | edX team
Whether you’re a newly minted mechanical engineer or several years into the profession, you may be wondering if it’s time to go back to school to earn a master’s degree in mechanical engineering. Is it worth it?
The truth is, it depends. Mechanical engineering graduate programs require a significant amount of time and commitment, so it’s not a decision to take lightly. But they're also more affordable and accessible than ever, thanks to the development of top-caliber online education programs by world-class institutions. Prospective students who have the desire to earn a master’s degree can do so while staying close to home and without having to hit the pause button on their current careers.
What are the Benefits of a Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering?
A master’s degree in mechanical engineering can allow working professionals to develop and deepen their mechanical engineering skills and knowledge in a range of disciplines that include aerospace, automotive, biomedical, automation, and fluid mechanics. The best mechanical engineering programs are transformative learning experiences, led by world-class faculty, that are tailored to meet your career interests, address your learning gaps, and deepen your skillset.
In general, there are a lot of different personal, professional, and financial benefits associated with earning a master’s degree in mechanical engineering. A bachelor's degree continues to open many doors, but many now see an advanced degree as critical to standing out in the job market and unlocking professional potential. The number of college graduates who have earned master’s degrees in the last two decades alone has more than doubled, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Having a master’s degree is also a predictor of job security; according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the unemployment rate for professionals with a master’s degree is lower than the national rate.
Open Doors, Increase Career Opportunities
Higher salaries are another big consideration when calculating the ROI of a master’s in mechanical engineering. The payscale for mechanical engineers includes a median salary of $88,430, according to the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook for mechanical engineers, and top earners will make closer to $140,000.
If you’re a mechanical engineer who’s been working at the same firm for a number of years, you may be thinking about your next move. It's fair to wonder about the best ways to get promotions or salary raises. That’s one reason a lot of mid-career mechanical engineers consider a master’s degree.
Take Andrew Penning, a college graduate working as a mechanical engineer at 3M, the multinational industry conglomerate. After a few years working at the company, Penning says that he started to notice that he had some knowledge gaps. Could a return to academia help?
“There was always this piece where I was learning the industry side of this, but from the academic point of view, some of the fundamentals were missing,” said Penning, who is earning his Online Master's in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University, one of the world’s top-ranked engineering schools.
Penning is still in the process of completing the graduate degree program, but says that the experience has already paid off. Thanks to the research he’s been doing through the master’s program, he’s recently moved into a corporate R&D position, fulfilling one of his early career goals. “It’s something that I was hoping to get into earlier, but the Purdue program really allowed me to do that.”
What Will You Learn in a Mechanical Engineering Master’s Program?
As a student enrolled in a mechanical engineering master’s program, coursework is a combination of graduate applied math courses, mechanical engineering courses, and technical electives. The mechanical engineering field is a broad one. It’s important to find a specialization that fits your professional goals and interests, whether it’s in fluid mechanics, nanotechnology, computational simulations, or system design.
Conducting research in mechanical engineering is a big part of Purdue’s cutting-edge master’s program, with a focus on developing skills that will enable you to innovate in any field, from fuel pumps to heart pumps, carbon fiber to carbon nanotubes, solid rockets to soft robotics.
Critical Credential: Pursuing a Ph.D.
A master’s in mechanical engineering can also be ideal for people who are pursuing a career in research. A degree will help you focus your interests and deepen your qualifications in a certain area. It’s also a crucial credential and stepping stone if you want a doctorate, which is another common career pathway for prospective master’s degree students.
Just ask Jonathan Ore, who had a lifelong dream to pursue advanced learning that would lead to a Ph.D. After completing an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering, Ore found an entry-level engineering job working as a systems engineer and assumed that the opportunity to achieve his childhood dream was fading. But then he learned he could continue working while studying part-time on nights and weekends to earn his master’s degree in mechanical engineering. He used the opportunity to launch a new career as a researcher. As a Ph.D. student at Purdue University, Ore credits his online graduate degree experiences as his “second chance” to do what he wanted.
“Anyone can do this if you’re willing to dedicate time and effort. And a degree can never be taken away from you,” Ore said.
So, is a Mechanical Engineering Degree Worth it?
There’s no question that investing in your own development as a professional is absolutely critical. There are a lot of ways to do that, and for engineering professionals, earning a mechanical engineering master’s degree is an alluring one.
To learn more about whether a mechanical engineering master’s degree is right for you, start by exploring Purdue’s 100% online, top-ranked Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering.