Engineering Postgraduate Study: MSc, PhD, or EngD?

Doing your postgraduate studies can open up plenty of new opportunities, but what are some of the things that you must consider before making your decision?
The gradsingapore Team
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While a postgraduate degree does not automatically lead to employment opportunities, it does greatly impact your career direction.

It is highly advisable to spend some time gaining experience in the field before pursuing a postgrad, so that you’ll know for certain which area to specialise in your course of study.

Additionally, years of dedication to an employer might also lead to some form of support from the company.

Here is a brief outline of some of the certifications that an engineering student may consider for their postgraduate studies – whether locally or overseas.

MA courses

Most masters courses typically take no more than a year for a full-time student, allowing you to specialise in a specific area of interest.

If you already have a BEng degree, it may even speed up the process of achieving a chartered status.

An engineering postgrad student can select from three types of courses: The MSc (Masters of Science), MRes (Masters of Research), and MPhil (Masters of Philosophy).

Each degree provides you with in-depth knowledge of a specific subject, but has very different course structures.

MSc is course-based and may sometimes require the submission of a short dissertation, whereas MRes and MPhil are typically research-oriented.

If you plan to continue with a doctorate degree, then the latter two is better suited for you as they will help you build your foundation in research skills.

Working adults may opt for part-time courses instead, although these courses may last up to two or three years.

You may want to speak to your employer before applying for the course to gauge the level of support they can provide you with – in terms of a more flexible schedule to accommodate both work and school or any form of financial backing, for example.

Doctorate courses

There are two types of doctorate courses available for engineering students, the traditional doctorate (PhD) and the engineering doctorate (EngD), each catering to different needs.

  • PhD

A PhD usually takes about three years to complete, and involves ground-breaking research. This route is typically recommended for those interested in becoming an academic.

You will primarily be guided by a supervisor as you conduct your research, although there will be plenty of opportunities to work alongside other PhD students and researchers.

While some may opt to do a purely academic PhD, many others may incorporate industry-related training from an industry partner for a more practical and hands-on experience.

Depending on university requirements, you may have to commit at least three months to working on the premises of the industry partner.

  • EngD

Engineering doctorates can take up to four years to complete. It typically focuses on researching about and finding solutions to contemporary industrial issues in the sector.

While EngD students are required to go for taught courses on specialist technical and professional development subjects related to the area of research, onsite industrial training will take up nearly 75 percent of their time.

Graduates with an EngD typically go on to become highly-specialised experts in their own field, guiding others interested in their area of expertise.

Funding

In Singapore, there are scholarships offered by universities, government bodies, and companies to help postgraduate students. You will need to communicate with the respective departments for more information.

For instance, the NUS Graduate School offers the Commonwealth Scholarship for Integrative Sciences and Engineering for students from any of the Commonwealth countries, whereas A*STAR has the National Science Scholarship and various collaborations with international universities around the globe.

You may also want to keep an eye out for international scholarships offered by various third-party funding organisations. 

Location

Opting to study locally or at your alma mater is a good idea given that you will be familiar with the culture and staff in the university.

You may also get special waivers or access to additional sources of funds, but don’t reject the idea of doing your studies in a different institution.

Doing your postgraduate studies in a new environment gives you the chance to explore new networks, academic sources, as well as expertise. 

Be sure to run a basic check on the institution’s admission requirements, facilities provided, and the resources that will be made available to you. 

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