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Engineering PhD Prestige question


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Hi all,


I'm not sure how much the prestige topic has been discussed on the Engineering forum, so I thought I would give it a shot here, since perhaps its importance is different in Engineering than in other fields.


I completed my undergraduate at a top 30-40 program in Civil Engineering, followed by completing two separate Masters in Engineering at a Stanford/MIT/UC-Berkeley type of school (trying to keep this post somewhat anonymous).  Last spring, I applied to several PhD programs, but ultimately decided to stay where I was since (at the time) I generally enjoyed the project I was working on, and I assumed I would be on track to graduate faster.  Unfortunately, there have been several problems that have come up over the last year (mainly political), and the cumulative toll of everything has made me plan to move on after this academic year.  Now I am in the situation of trying to figure out where to attend next year.  I have basically two alternatives, each with great faculty who are doing work I would enjoy:


- Scenario A: Return to my undergraduate institution, where I would work with a close adviser who is in the field and is well known, plus I was told I could graduate fairly quickly since I could build upon my MS/beginning PhD work.  Also, it is close to home, which is the region of the country I would like to work upon graduation.


- Scenario B:  I could also pursue my PhD at a larger institution, as when I explored universities last Spring, there was a faculty member at a UT-Austic/Va Tech/Ga Tech/Purdue type school who left an open invitation for me to join their program, and I should say their research, as well, matched my interests.  Graduating here would probably take a longer, 4 years, looking at other students of this faculty member.


My main question is how much does prestige really matter?  Additionally, I have heard of regional bias when searching for positions for Civil Engineering (not sure of how true that is), both in industry and academia, and I know I want to live in a certain part of the country upon graduation, so I am favoring my undergrad institution, but obviously want to know if dropping down to a still well-respected, but obviously not elite/prestigious program, significantly reduces one's placement opportunities upon graduation.  I have so far published 3 ASCE/TRR journals (working on a 4th manuscript now), so I wonder if continuing to publish at either school/perhaps TAing will far outweigh anything else?



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