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February 10, 2009


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I have a friend who has two Masters, both from overseas; along with a bachelors from a prestgies Ivy School. She makes the same amount that I do; doing the same job. Difference? My one Masters and B.S. cost me a lot less then what her 85K in school debt will cost her. Sometimes, it's just not worth it, depending on what field you enter. The Government pays the same to all it's foot soldiers in the end. :)

I went for civil engineering because I knew I could get a job making good money and I didn't have the math skills for some of the harder engineering degrees :) Civil is regarded as the lowest paid engineering field and it may be, but I still am making $100k a year with 10 years experience. New grads in LA are getting around $60k to start, it's a pretty good deal.

Engineering's been good for me; went with Chemical since it was highest paying degree in the late 90s. What I found out later (pleasant surprise) was that the degree mattered more than the school since I was working alongside Harvard and Princeton grads getting the same ratings or higher, while I went to a state school. So, my ROI's been great. A few other findings after a decade in industry:

a) Best to branch out of your initial discipline for both job security and salary. I subsequently did an MBA and got out of biotech manufacturing and into more strategic business roles. If I fell on hard times, I could always return to manufacturing, but if I had been in manufacturing the whole time, and outsourcing took over, there was nothing to fall back on.

b) If salary is really important to you, a very very easy way of drastically increasing your salary every few years is to simply jump jobs for salary increase opportunities. I haven't done so, but have seen many of my peers making 20-40% bumps multiple times in their careers to the point they're probably making close to double what I do. I've chosen to stay put for my own reasons.

Other good degrees in my mind include Pharmacy - some start at 6 figures right out of school...and remember that a degree doesn't always pay off (we all know that guy with the $120K in college debt due to a Harvard History major that's working at Starbucks now). Military's a good option right out of high school. Decent signon bonuses and great incoming considering most of your expenses are paid for. Training there can set you up for a great career later. I just read that enrollment is increasing big time with the ecomony in a shambles.

$96k post-MBA salary bump? According to ... BusinessWeek?! LMAO!

The rest of their data looks more realistic (e.g. $40k extra for Harvard grads).

In most cases, an MBA is a big investment, which you'll want to earn back soon, which limits your career options post-graduation. I graduated from college 2y ago, but my MBA enthusiasm has cooled, as I realize it makes only financial sense if you choose a typical MBA career. For now, I'm not sure I want that.

Add-on to my previous post:
like the previous poster I studied engineering (electronics) and ventured into a strategic role in Banking. However I'm feeling more and more attracted to start-ups (instead of the corporate bureaucracy). Not exactly the careers that will care about an MBA, let alone pay it back.

Computer Science has been good to me, but I have Master's. I wonder why they suggested only an Associate's degree - why stop there? Surely in current economic climate they'd have to compete with those who have at least a BS and are likely to lose. Besides, with graduate assistantships in CS easily available in most universities, a BS with good grades can allow one to get an MS for free.

This country needs to focus less on fancy colleges and more on trade schools, particularly at the High School level. Not everybody is going to go to an Ivy school, and most shouldn't. However we need to be more open to the idea of teaching our kids skills they'll actually use in life. I'd much rather know how to do my plumbing than some freakin discrete mathmatics. My toilet runs every now and then, but I can't a time I needed to engage in a conversation about the Ergodic theorem.

I'm going for an MBA. I -should- get it debt free, so it would be a horrible mistake not to get it. For now, I'm majoring in business and economics.

Engineering provided a long, happy, and rewarding career for me, but it isn't for everyone.
Unless you are a methodical, meticulous, logical, persistent and nitpicking type of person you aren't going to either be good at it, or what's even more important, you won't like it.

Electrical engineering requires the greatest Math skills.
Civil engineering often has great benefits because you can work for a government agency offering nice pensions and job security.
You will also eventually need an MS degree if you want promotions and job security, for a managerial career the MBA is a good second degree to have.
If you want to do research then a PhD is almost essential these days.
I have Bachelor degrees in mechanical and aeronautical engineering and a Masters in Engineering Mechanics but the vast majority of the analysis that I was involved in was solving problems that are linear. If you are more interested in nonlinear problems the mathematical requirements are a lot higher.

As an aside, I can't imagine two engineers getting married, for a peaceful life it's better to have one from the arts and the other from the sciences to provide balance.

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