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General Eng Grad School Questions from an Undergrad


liammo29
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Hi,

 

So recently I have been giving significant thought to the idea of pursuing a career in academia in the engineering world. Both my parents are professors and it seems like a very rewarding career. My engineering program is a co-op program that gives several 4 month work placements. I am realizing that while I love my schooling I seem to dread the work placements and really dislike the idea of the 8-5 grind. Not to mention, I find the oil and gas industry has so much paperwork and politics that I can’t find what I’m looking for: A career that is mentally stimulating, allows for problem solving and is cutting edge. Basically, I really enjoy school, have a passion for learning, would love to teach, and need to be constantly challenged.

 

I have 4 4 month internships in oil and gas, have a 3.9 GPA, and have been top 10% of my class every term.

 

Anyways, I have several basic questions that would be a big help if anyone could take the time to answer some of them.

 

-First off is an MS in mechanical engineering classwork based? I assume it is similar to the undergrad.

 

-Is MS generally funded? It appears several PhDs are funded but can’t see much info on masters.

 

-How long does an MS take? I am looking at several schools and see that Columbia appears to only be 1 year. Is this normal?

 

-How long is a PhD normally?

 

-What is grad life like? How many more hours is it than undergrad? We had 6 courses a term in undergrad. I assume there is free time and some form of life balance (maybe not for final year of PhD??)

 

-Do you recommend doing the MS and PHD at the same school? I am Canadian but would love to get an ivy league school on my resume and have always wanted to live in NY. My dream would be 1 year at Columbia and then a top engineering school here in Canada for PHD. Plus it would be easier to get funding in Canada as I would not be an international student

 

-For the PHD, how much of it is class work, how much is research? Is the final year dissertation?

 

-Do grad students go home over the summer if they want? Do you stay at the university for the final year of dissertation?

 

-Would you recommend working for a couple of years after I graduate? I am thinking it would be a good to idea to try industry 1 more time (not as a student on an internship), get a little bit of money saved, and get my P.Eng designation. Is this a bad idea?

 

Thanks a lot for your time, I know some of these may seem like stupid questions but I don’t really know where to ask them.

 

 

-Liam M

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Usually at most grad schools MS gives you three options, course work only, project or thesis. 

 

It seems to me that most of the master students are not funded.

 

MS usually takes 2 years, and Master of Engineering takes 1 year but it's more oriented towards professionals who want to go to the industry, 

 

A PhD is usually 4 years. 

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Thanks for your answers. It seems like quite a rewarding experience. I have been reading horror stories about 80 hrs a week for grad school. Is this true for engineering? Do I have free time, flexibility, a hobby etc.? Someone said these kind of hours are more for lab based sciences like chem/bio is this true? Any experiences you can share would be great!

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Thanks for your answers. It seems like quite a rewarding experience. I have been reading horror stories about 80 hrs a week for grad school. Is this true for engineering? Do I have free time, flexibility, a hobby etc.? Someone said these kind of hours are more for lab based sciences like chem/bio is this true? Any experiences you can share would be great!

 

It depends a lot on the program and the adviser. A lot of PhD programs are designed for you to get a Masters along the way. I am not a grad student yet, I am finishing up the process by choosing between two schools. This is an important issue for me, and I have asked this a lot when talking to current grad students. The general consensus is that for the most part it can be treated like a normal work week, except when you get close to deadlines you might work more. The first year or so might be busier because you are taking classes as well as research, and even busier if you are a TA, but there is more free time than undergrad. 

 

Some advisers might expect you to work more, but that is a question you ask when deciding and you don't choose that adviser.

Edited by ShortLong
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Thanks! Thats kinda what I am hoping. If I can do it with 40-50 hour weeks I am totally good with that. Plus I love the idea of flexible hours and not just punching the hours. Seeing as you have spoken to several eng grad students it seems like a safe bet that 80 hour weeks are quite the exaggeration.

 

Good luck!!

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Remember, I said this is adviser specific. There are probably some advisers that expect this, or they expect a certain amount of work which someone might be able to get done in 40-50 hrs per week, but you might need 80. But these are all questions you ask when choosing between schools and advisers and such.

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