General Engineering Degrees: Master's, PhD & Online Course Info

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What will you learn in a general engineering master's or doctoral degree program? Read about master's and doctoral degree program requirements, the pros and cons of a master's or doctoral degree and potential careers.
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Studying General Engineering: Degrees at a Glance

General engineering degree programs are typically interdisciplinary in nature. Master's degree programs in the field usually offer a Master of Science in General Engineering. General engineering-related Doctor of Philosophy programs are commonly offered in engineering science and systems or in engineering and applied science.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most careers in engineering require a bachelor's degree. However, graduating from a master's degree program may increase your employability or your earning prospects as a professional engineer. Graduating from a doctoral degree program prepares you to work as a postsecondary engineering teacher.

Master's Doctoral
Who is this degree for? - Professional engineers seeking interdisciplinary, advanced training in the field
- Individuals interested in attending a doctoral degree program
- Individuals interested in a career as a postsecondary engineering teacher
Common Career Paths (with approximate May 2011 median annual salary) - Engineering occupations ($72,000 for all architecture and engineering occupations*) Career options are the same as those for master's degree holders, plus:
- Postsecondary engineering teacher ($91,000*)
Time to Completion - 30-36 course credit hours
- Some schools allow a maximum of five years to complete program
- 60-76 course credit hours
Common Graduation Requirements - Thesis and oral exam or additional coursework and oral exam - Dissertation candidacy exams
- Publication of journal article
- Dissertation
- Oral defense of dissertation
Prerequisites - Graduation from an accredited undergraduate engineering or science degree program (graduation from an ABET-accredited program may be required )
- GRE scores
- Undergraduate transcripts
- Conditional admission may be granted to students lacking prerequisite coursework
- Bachelor's degree in engineering, science, technology or a related field or a master's degree in engineering
- GRE test scores
- Statement of purpose
- Letters of recommendation
Online Availability Rare None available at this time

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Master's Degree Programs in General Engineering

General engineering master's degree programs often include instruction from multiple university departments about subjects related to engineering. Typically, these programs are designed to provide professional engineers with advanced instruction in a variety of engineering subjects, such as operations research, energy systems and engineering economic systems.

Pros and Cons


  • Some programs may offer courses in the evenings, allowing you to work while earning your degree
  • Interdisciplinary nature ensures that you obtain an education in a breadth of engineering topics
  • Some fields of engineering were projected to experience faster-than-average growth between 2010 and 2020 - for instance, biomedical engineers (62%*) and environmental engineers (22%*)


  • A master's degree is not normally required to work in the field, so you may compete with bachelor's degree holders for the same jobs
  • Degree does not prepare you to work as a postsecondary teacher
  • Not all engineering fields were projected to experience growth; chemical engineers and electrical and electronics engineers were expected to experience slower-than-average growth during the 2010-2020 decade*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Courses and Requirements

Classes you may take in a general engineering program include:

  • Green technology
  • Active optical sensing
  • Manufacturing aspects of medical devices
  • Thermal requirements for microelectric packaging
  • Designing for manufacturability

Some programs may require students to specialize or concentrate their studies in a specific area, such as green technology or manufacturing systems. Despite this requirement, however, the ultimate degree awarded to graduates is in general engineering.

Because of their orientation towards working professionals, some of these programs may offer courses in the evenings. Regardless of their schedule, however, most programs allow students to elect to write a thesis, or they may complete additional coursework and pass an oral exam in lieu of writing a thesis.

Online Options

Online Master of Science in General Engineering degree programs require completion of approximately 30 credit hours of study and a project. Classes in these programs cover business and engineering topics, including financial accounting, manufacturing systems, statistics and engineering analysis.

Although general engineering master's degrees are not normally offered as a Master of Engineering, some schools might offer interdisciplinary Master of Engineering degree programs online. These programs allow a student to craft a degree program that suits his or her needs by completing coursework in two areas of engineering. Usually, these programs require about 30 credit hours of study.

Stand Out With This Degree

To stand out with your degree, consider specializing your studies in a field of engineering that the BLS projected will experience growth. Focusing your studies on, writing a paper in a topic related to or completing a project on a subject in biomedical or environmental engineering (both of which the BLS projected will grow faster than average during the 2010-2020 decade) may impress employers in these industries. This may make it more likely that you will find a position in one of these growing industries after graduation.

Doctoral Degree Programs in General Engineering

Much like general engineering master's degree programs, doctoral degree programs in the field are often interdisciplinary in nature and offered through a collaboration of multiple university departments, such as science, computer science and engineering. Graduates of these programs are typically trained to perform research and teach at the postsecondary level.

Pros and Cons


  • Degree makes you eligible to work as a postsecondary engineering teacher, a field the BLS predicted will experience average growth during the 2010-2020 decade*
  • Interdisciplinary nature of programs permits you to obtain advanced education in a variety of fields
  • Some programs allow you to concentrate your studies, thereby letting you focus them on the engineering subject of your choice


  • A doctoral degree is not required to work as an engineer; you may therefore compete with undergraduate or master's degree holders for professional engineering job positions
  • Online programs are not available, which may make it more difficult to work while earning your degree
  • The BLS predicted fierce competition for tenure-track professor positions, which may make it difficult to obtain a permanent teaching position

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Courses and Requirements

Because of its interdisciplinary nature, coursework in general engineering doctoral programs is often selected by the student in conjunction with a faculty advisor. However, classes you may take could cover areas such as system design and analysis, research ethics and risk analysis. Some programs may require that students focus their studies on one or more areas of specialization, while others may allow students to craft an area of specialization for their studies.

In addition to coursework, students in doctoral degree programs must usually pass oral exams prior to being able to work on a dissertation. Dissertations usually must also be defended before a faculty panel. Some schools may require that students be published in journals in addition to writing a dissertation.

Online Availability

Currently, general engineering doctoral degree programs are not available online. Attending an in-person program allows you to interact with fellow students and faculty members and conduct research.

Stand Out With This Degree

To stand out with your degree, consider completing a concentration or focusing your dissertation on an area of engineering projected to experience high growth during the 2010-2020 decade. Gaining research experience in and having extensive knowledge of one of these areas may impress employers.

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