Q&A – Should I Get a Master’s Degree in Civil Engineering if I Want to Specialize in a Discipline??

This question kind of answers itself: If you want to specialize in something, you have to be educated in that specialty, right….? Do you have the capacity (time, financial, drive & determination) to get an advanced education? What are you career goals for the first, say, 5 to 10 years of your career: Do you want to be hyper-focused on one aspect of the industry? Or do you want to get started working, earning an income and gaining experience? These are major components in your decision.

I’ve will give you a 30+ year industry veteran’s opinion: I think that graduating engineers or early-career working engineers all need the same thing – Industry experience. You can sit in classrooms, and go to labs, and learn software analyses and become extremely knowledgeable in a particular sect of the industry, but the rubber only hits the road when you apply that knowledge to real world problems that need real world solutions. And the only way you gain that experience is by being in the arena.

I realize that humans are all cut from different cloths and that what might be useful to me might be a waste to you. So, to decide if you want to specialize is an individual decision. If you really want to specialize, find a way to do both: Work in industry, either for a stint, or while you are working towards a M.S. You need book & classroom work, of course. But, you also need to be in the trenches with industry peers. Book-smart engineers with no On The Job experience simply aren’t as valuable to industry as those with some seasoning who can marry the theoretical with the practical.

Feel free to reach out to me directly if you’d ever like to dialogue or need some specific thoughts or advice – I enjoying helping young, aspiring engineers.

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