Can you pursue a master’s degree in civil engineering, one of the highest paying master’s degrees, if you didn’t major in civil engineering as an undergraduate? Prospective students will be relieved to learn that, although a bachelor’s degree is required to get into a master’s degree program in civil engineering, a precise major is not. Students who studied the subject as undergraduates will have the easiest time with the curriculum, but students may also be accepted into a civil engineering program from a different engineering major or a major in an area of science or mathematics.
Changing Your Field of Study From Another Branch of Engineering
Engineering is a multidisciplinary field as it is, one that encompasses a breadth of skills and knowledge, according to professional engineering organization IEEE (the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers). All branches of engineering generally use the principles of science and mathematics to design solutions, whether those solutions are mechanical, electrical, chemical or structural in nature.
Further, many engineering colleges have students complete coursework across different disciplines of engineering, not just in their own declared major. If you earned your bachelor’s degree in a different branch of engineering but now want to transition to civil engineering as a graduate student, you likely won’t have a problem doing so.
Changing engineering disciplines without going back to school would be a lot more difficult than getting into a master’s degree in a different field of engineering, because regular on-the-job training won’t cover the foundations and basic applications of civil engineering.
Earning a Civil Engineering Master’s Degree When You Didn’t Major in Engineering
Perhaps you didn’t major in engineering, but you did major in math or one of the natural or physical sciences. Getting into and succeeding in a master’s degree in civil engineering is a little harder in this instance. You’ve got plenty of knowledge in the foundations on which engineering designs are based, but you don’t have as much knowledge of the design process and the hands-on skills needed to work in civil engineering.
The work you did as an undergraduate may be all you really need to get into a civil engineering master’s program, since some programs only require students to have a strong background in math and science. However, without a background in engineering, you may be more likely to struggle in your graduate-level coursework. You should give yourself plenty of time to devote to your studies and, if you find that you’re falling behind or not understanding the material, proactively reach out to your instructor, your academic advisor and tutoring services for help.
Some master’s in civil engineering programs require students without an engineering background to take make-up courses in the fundamentals of chemical engineering. You won’t have to make up years of engineering coursework, but you may need an extra semester to complete these make-up requirements. Although taking these extra classes adds to the time and expense of earning your degree, it also allows you to be better prepared for the curriculum of a graduate program in civil engineering.
Even if you may need to take make-up courses in engineering, start comparing college programs and understanding the application process first. Some programs may accept you to the graduate program early and add this extra coursework to your curriculum.
Catching Up on Math and Science Coursework
You will have the hardest time earning a master’s degree in civil engineering if you don’t have a strong foundation in the math and science principles and applications underlying the field of engineering. Students of the arts, humanities, social sciences and communication may complete only basic college-level math and laboratory science coursework as part of their curriculum. If they decide later that they want to study engineering, they’re going to be behind their peers in terms of their math and science knowledge.
That said, it’s not impossible to change paths to engineering. Doing so just takes more time and work in this situation than it would require if you had a stronger background in math and science. If you don’t have a strong science and math background, you may need to take extra courses before you get started.
Some students without a science or mathematics background meet the prerequisites of a civil engineering master’s program by earning a second bachelor’s degree. When you earn a second bachelor’s degree, you’re not starting from scratch. Your general education courses should all still count toward your degree. What you need to complete is your major coursework, which often translates to one to two years of full-time study in your new major. If you don’t want to pursue a second bachelor’s degree, look for a master’s in engineering program specifically designed for adults with non-engineering backgrounds, like a Late Entry Accelerated Program (LEAP) option.
Boston University’s LEAP program is the best-known program for non-engineering majors to transition into graduate studies in engineering. Schools like Northeastern University and the University of Alabama in Huntsville offer programs with a similar purpose.
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