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The Role Of The Master's Degree Within Engineering Education

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Graduate Student Experiences

Tagged Division

Graduate Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1465.1 - 12.1465.5



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Paper Authors


Carol Mullenax Tulane University

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Carol received her BS in Engineering & Applied Science from Caltech, an MSc in Mechanical Engineering from Washington University, and an MSE & PhD in Biomedical Engineering from Tulane. She is currently employed in industry by Bastion Technologies, Inc., as a Project Manager for the Non-Exercise Physiological Countermeasures Project, operated out of the Johnson Space Center for NASA.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

The Role of the Master’s Degree within Engineering Education

Introduction/purpose: As engineering educators and industry personnel struggle with determining the educational needs of the Engineer of 2020, there have been many arguments regarding the structure of engineering education; one such topic has been the role of the Master’s degree. In an environment where some propose that engineering Bachelor’s Degrees should be five years in duration, there are also proponents espousing that the Master’s Degree, rather than the Baccalaureate, should be the professional degree for engineering.

This paper provides a historical perspective of Master’s Degrees and shows the trends of granted degrees to the present time. It discusses these trends, broaches the pros and cons of the Master’s Degree, discusses current trends in curricula, and assesses the value of the Master’s Degree as currently implemented for the engineering practitioner.

Background: The earliest mention of Master’s Degree dates to the thirteenth century, when Master’s Degree was the top of three offered degrees: Scholar, Bachelor, and Master. At this time the Master’s Degree, also sometimes called Doctor or Professor, meant teacher. In the intervening years Doctor became the more common moniker for this degree.[1]

There are currently three major types of engineering Master’s Degrees in the US: thesis, non- thesis with exit exam, and non-thesis course-based only. Statistics rarely show specificity beyond the degree conferred.

There were 40,650 Master’s Degrees awarded in engineering in the US in 2005.[2] Over time since WWII, the ratio of Master’s Degrees to Bachelor’s Degrees typically awarded to US citizens each year in engineering has hovered between 1 in 3 and 1 in 4;[2,3] in recent years the differences have narrowed, as exemplified by the 70,768 Bachelor’s Degrees awarded in the US in 2005.[4]

Engineering enrollment in the US in 2005 was 356,800 full-time undergraduates, 30,316 part- time undergraduates, 49,704 full-time Masters, 30,077 part-time Masters, 48,379 full-time Doctoral, and 7,565 part-time Doctoral students.[4]

Degree awards in 2005 were up from AY2001-02, when 26,015 Engineering Master’s Degrees were conferred in the US. Of these, 10,792 were awarded to non-resident aliens. This is in comparison to a total of 59,481 Bachelor’s Degrees awarded, 4,262 of which went to non- resident aliens. At the same time, a total of 5,195 Doctoral Degrees were awarded, of which 2,934 were to non-resident aliens.[5]

Mullenax, C. (2007, June), The Role Of The Master's Degree Within Engineering Education Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--1785

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