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Obtaining A Combined Bse and Mse In 4.5 To 5 Years, What Are Implications of This Path For Students and Employers?
Looking back 20 to 30 years, it was not unusual to expect a BSE degree followed sequentially by an MSE degree to take anywhere from 5.5 to 6 years for full-time students to complete both degrees. Part-time MSE graduate students often took 3-4 years to complete their MSE while working fulltime as a BSE engineer. Many part-time graduate engineering students did not complete their MSE degrees. Recent trends have indicated most fulltime BSE students opting for the combined BSE+MSE programs are completing both degrees in 5 years, with a significant fraction completing both degrees in only 4.5 years. Beginning in 1990s and early 2000s the first combined BSE/MSE programs appeared at major academic institutions. This corresponded to the increasing numbers of incoming engineering students with advanced placement and college credits and a decrease in the number of foreign graduate student applications. The combined “4+1” BSE/MSE programs were developed and expanded to address these trends. Currently combined BSE/MSE programs are very prevalent and sought after by incoming undergraduate students. Reasons for the success of these programs is self-evident. The MSE degree typically brings students higher starting salaries, more attractive assignments, and signifies a higher academic achievement. It is easy to understand why these programs have gained so much popularity amongst BSE students. What is unclear is if this path is the best choice for BSE students, considering those who will seek MSE or Ph.D. degrees This paper examines this trend from both pro and con positions for the student and future employers. The authors explore economic, experiential, and educational implications of a student pursuing the combined degrees vs. seeking graduate education after completing a BSE. Employer preferences or requirements of new engineers with advanced degrees was also surveyed to evaluate this trend from employment implications as well. This paper is meant to start or continue the debate as to whether these BSE/MSE programs be generally recommended to most students.