Will a civil engineering MSc, PhD or EngD help me get a graduate job? – TARGETjobs

Civil engineering graduate jobs are competitive to get. Will a postgraduate qualification on top of a bachelors degree impress employers? TARGETjobs investigates.
Employers prefer to hire graduates with an MEng or MSc over those with a BEng.
You ask: ‘should I do a masters in civil engineering, structural engineering or a related engineering field, such as sustainability?’
Well, seeing the letters MSc or MEng after your name tells employers that you are on course to become a CEng (chartered engineer). The CEng is an internationally recognised professional qualification that signifies that you have a high level of professionalism (and therefore allows companies to charge clients more for your work). A masters degree in engineering guarantees you’ve met all the educational requirements for chartership. But beyond that is it worth it? Will it do anything for your career? Here are some things to consider:
The stereotype goes that engineering PhD students are on course to becoming academics, while EngD students (see below) are aiming for jobs in industry – but that’s not necessarily the case. Frances Elwell, now a divisional general manager for the environment division at Mott MacDonald, joined the company after her PhD. ‘I studied the recirculation of water in coastal bays. The work involved a mixture of computer modelling, lab experiments (I had a big tank of water to play with) and field work (I went out in a boat to measure water speeds),’ she told a previous edition of our sister publication the UK 300 . ‘I had more variety in my work than many doctoral students, but by my final year I was ready for the range of project work offered by industry.’
If you want to work in industry, the main downside of a PhD is that it takes at least three years: time which could be spent earning valuable job-experience, working towards chartership, and enjoying pay rises. However, over the long-term, having a PhD also has its pluses:
For civil engineers, the EngD is an attractive alternative to the traditional PhD. Like the PhD, it requires you to make an original contribution to engineering knowledge. Unlike the PhD, the EngD is driven by the research needs of sponsoring companies and has a very strong industrial focus. EngD students usually get higher stipends than PhD students, access to university MBA courses, and direct experience working in industry. Here are some things to consider:
Deciding whether to move into industry or stay in academia is a dilemma for many engineering students. Joel Thai, an engineer at AECOM who spent ten years in academia before moving into industry, says: ‘I suggest that you thoroughly investigate opportunities in industry first, as you will already have a sense of what academia involves and you can always go back to school later. Try doing as many internships as possible. Go to open days and careers fairs and speak to employees: ask what projects they are working on, the challenges they face in their work and about their career path.’
Frances Elwell’s advice is similar: ‘If you are deciding between going into industry and staying in academia, I recommend talking to people who are doing both: see what they actually do and whether it would suit you.’ Ask your university department to put you in touch with doctoral students. If you have already graduated, get in touch with universities’ admissions offices and use LinkedIn to contact professionals within industry.
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