Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering
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BAEM Advising Guide

Continuing in Graduate School

If you are considering continuing your education in graduate school, this page attempts to give you some background on graduate school in engineering. There are two levels of degrees in engineering at the graduate level: Master's and Ph.D. Most students who get a Ph.D. degree get a Master's degree first, but it is not required.

Master's of Science Degree

At the U of M, a Master's of Science degree usually takes a year and a half to complete. The summer is used for research that makes up your project or thesis work. Most schools are similar. The Master's requirements are mainly course work that adds advanced and more specialized knowledge beyond your BAEM. Depending on the school there may be a required project or thesis. Most employers that hire students with BAEM degrees also hire students with Master's degrees. A Master's of Science degree can be useful for later career advancement, but if your career takes you along the management track, you may find an MBA degree more useful. Pick a school to attend for your Master's Degree based on their offered courses and research in an area (fluids, solids, propulsion, controls, etc.) of interest to you.

Ph.D. Degree

A Doctor of Philosophy or Ph.D. degree is the highest degree awarded in engineering. To receive this degree a student must do original research which is reported in a thesis. Most Ph.D. programs require about two years of additional course work (beyond a B.S.) and then another two or three years working on your thesis research in close collaboration with your faculty adviser. The faculty adviser plays a very large role in a Ph.D. program and you should pick a school for your Ph.D. work based on the research being done by specific faculty members. Once you choose an area of interest for your Ph.D. degree, you will find that even at the largest schools, there are only a small number of faculty working in that area, and so you must make sure that at least one of these faculty members would be an acceptable adviser for you.

A Ph.D. degree is required if you hope to be a faculty member at a college or university, but in industry only the very largest companies hire students with Ph.D. degrees. Thus getting a Ph.D. reduces the number of possible employers and may make other considerations, such as a geographic preference, more difficult to achieve. Spouses who both have Ph.D.'s (the so-called "two body problem") may find it challenging to find suitable employment for both persons in one location.

Financial Support

In engineering* almost all students attending graduate school are supported by either a teaching assistantship (TA) or a research assistantship (RA). A few top students may be offered fellowships. The best fellowships may provide support for several years. When you apply to a graduate school getting support is of much more importance than getting admitted (you won't get support without getting admitted). All of these forms of support, TA, RA, and fellowship, cover tuition and provide a stipend that is adequate for a student to live on.

Most students that get support will be promised a TA or RA for the first year and support for subsequent years is contingent on finding a faculty adviser with funding support for you. If you get offered an RA, it will be with a specific faculty member and by accepting this support you are agreeing to work with that faculty member on the research project providing the funding. A TA offer will usually entail either grading or teaching lab or recitation sections of a course taught by a faculty member, but this does not involve a commitment to have this faculty member be your research adviser.

There are also fellowships, such as the NSF Graduate Fellowship, that will allow you to attend any graduate school. You can apply for many of these fellowships during your first year of graduate school. Having a fellowship is very desirable as it lets you choose to work with any faculty member regardless of whether that faculty member has funding for research in the topic that interests you.

* This is not the case in the sciences and mathematics.

Required GPA

Clearly continuing on in graduate school is for students who have done well as undergraduates. While the formal entrance requirement for graduate school at the University of Minnesota is a 3.0 GPA, we prefer to see students have at least a 3.3 GPA to enter our program.

Finding a Graduate School allows you to search for graduate schools in your field of interest. You can also ask your adviser or other AEM faculty about which schools might be right for you. You can get ranking information from US News & World Report, although for a Ph.D. the reputation of your research adviser is at least as important as the ranking of the program as a whole.

Staying in AEM

Details on our graduate programs can be found on the AEM Graduate Program Pages. We generally advise our BAEM graduates wanting to get a Ph.D. to attend another school. This provides a much broader educational experience. However, we regularly have several students stay to pursue Master's degrees and if a faculty member has a research project that fits you perfectly, it may also make sense to stay for your Ph.D.

Last Modified: 2018-09-24 at 10:10:22 -- this is in International Standard Date and Time Notation