An engineer who views his stream as an opportunity to earn his living will definitely not want to pursue higher education simply because the whole process of studying engineering itself calls for a lot of commitment and sacrifice. The course requires concentration; it is challenging and leaves a student with very limited time for extra- curricular activities. Obviously students look forward to embarking on a career and do not want to be burdened with heavy studying for another couple of years. However, for some people, engineering is not a vocational program. It is, in fact, their call in life. They are those who can be called born engineers who have an active left brain making them analytical thinkers and problem solvers. For such people, a graduation program provides them with basic knowledge which only sets their mind on fire for more knowledge. For these engineers, options are to pursue an MS and then later a PhD in engineering.
Going back to school to earn a PhD in engineering or IT is a major commitment. For some it's an obvious decision, but for others it takes more consideration. Depending on long-term career goals, getting a PhD may be an essential step on a career path. Before one decides whether or not to pursue a PhD, it is important to first understand what it entails.
A PhD program one must remember is a multi-year project which calls for self-reliance, discipline and commitment. It is not about classroom studying and instead it is about innovating and problem solving. A perfect program for a technology driven individual.
"If you want to do highly analytical and specialized work such as operations research, artificial intelligence or nuclear physics in industry or in academia, a PhD is often required," says Melissa Lawrence, director of human resources, ITA Software, Inc. in Cambridge, Mass. "If you want to solve interesting computer science problems, a PhD might be an asset, but would not be required."
Lawrence adds that in her experience, technical graduate degrees are more important if you want to be on a technical career track as opposed to a management career track.
So does this mean that others should not pursue higher education after their engineering?
Not really. In fact, for those who have viewed their engineering program as vocational training will benefit largely by pursuing an MBA program as an MBA program offers them variety within the cachet of jobs available for engineers. They can choose programming, testing, designing or they can even move into business development, sales and marketing.
Dr. Andres Fortino, dean of Polytechnic University's Westchester campus in New York, says that advanced degrees represent educational opportunities for transformation, which training experiences do not always provide. "Obtaining an advanced degree prepares one to develop a new mind set and a deeper knowledge of a subject."
When to pursue higher education
Deciding whether to pursue a higher education program right after college or after a few years working in the field is another choice one must make. There is no "right" time to go to grad school, but for those interested in becoming a professor or doing research, it is perfect that they do this as a continuous process without breaking the pattern.
Combining work and school is also an option. "These days going to school part time while working is much easier than it once was," Fortino says. "The economics of earning a salary while having some or all of your education paid for by an employer offsets any sacrifices that are made in your personal life."
Keep in mind that experience is especially important when considering graduate school as a way to change one’s career focus. "If a technical person wants to switch to management, it is definitely better to wait five to six years to accumulate enough work experience to pursue the transition into a manager or business person," says Fortino. "Most schools require that much work experience in their MBA candidates, for example."
"From a hiring perspective, I like to see people take a break between undergraduate and graduate school," says. "I think gaining real-world experience makes employees more balanced graduate students and eventually more well-rounded employees. For most positions at our company, too much theoretical work and too little industry experience can be a detriment."