Students - Graduate School Tips
Engineering Graduate School
This page created by Jeremy VanAntwerp
BS ChE Michigan State University 1994
MS ChE University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 1997
PhD ChE University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 1999
WHY GO TO GRADUATE SCHOOL?
- The kind of work you want to do (e.g. structural engineering or automotive engineering require at least a Master's degree)
- More money [*] (See the August issue of Chemical Engineering Progress for the annual salary survey.)
- You want a career in research and development
- You want to teach engineering
- Like being a student (learning, the schedule, etc)
- Can't get or don't want industry job now
[*] When controlling for other variables, Chemical Engineering Progress found that a Master's degree was worth 4% more than a Bachelor's, an MBA was worth 8% more and a PhD was worth 11% more. Chem. Eng. Prog., Aug 1998, pp. 109-112.
OPTIONS FOR GRADUATE SCHOOL
- MS-CEP (Based on practical work experience. An uncommon degree)
- MS (Can be thesis or non-thesis. Some companies will pay for this)
- MBA (Usually requires work experience first. Some companies will pay for this)
- PhD (Requires a dissertation)
- MD/PhD (A very long program, but the PhD tuition waver usually pays for medical school)
WHICH GRAD SCHOOL?
- Identify possible grad schools
- Rankings (See the National Research Council report. Go to "Download data Tables", and look at appendix P.)
- Other factors (e.g., location)
- Get catalogs
- Read catalogs
- Narrow list
- Where did you get accepted?
Q: HOW DO I GET ACCEPTED?
A: HAVE A GREAT APPLICATION!
Graduate school applications are evaluated based on the following criteria:
- Research experience
- Letters of recommendation
- List of honors and awards
- Statement of purpose
TAKE THE TIME TO WRITE A GOOD APPLICATION!
- You typically will get an offer of $19,000-$25,000 per year plus tuition waver
- They will pay for you to visit the school
WHY APPLY FOR FELLOWSHIPS?
- External funding may favorably influence your choice of advisor at some schools
- Prestige (helpful when applying for jobs later on)
- Supplemental income. Most schools will provide an additional stipend if you have external funding.
- Some fellowships pay fees and/or travel expenses.
Here are some links to fellowship programs:
- The Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation
- National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship Program
- Some other Department of Defense programs
- The Whitaker Foundation
- A big list compiled by Michigan State, not all of which are relevant to engineering.
QUESTIONS FOR THE VISIT
- How does advisor selection work? How many students get their first choice?
- What are the job prospects for like for graduates? Describe the job placement/recruiting services. [this one is very important and often overlooked].
- Are you glad you came here?
- What is the one thing you wish you'd known before you came here?
- Do you like living here?
- How many students leave with an MS? Why?
- What is the department climate?
- What are the guarantees for support (stipend) after the first year?
- Is support automatically cut off after a certain number of years? How many students don't graduate by then?
- What is the average number of years to a Ph.D. (department-wide, and for the specific professors you might like to work for)?
- What are the requirements for the degree you are interested in? (M.S. required before Ph.D., language competency required for Ph.D., number of courses required, etc.)
- What are the registration fees students must pay out of pocket each semester/year?
- What is the timeline to graduation (when do you take qualifier, M.S., prelim, Ph.D., etc.)?
- How many students flunk qualifier each year? Is it routinely used to eliminate students?
- What are the requirements for T.A. duties?
- Are the grad students happy?
- What is the intensity level for studies?
- What outside interests/activities are pursued, both individually and collectively by grad students (department IM sports teams, meeting at the bar for happy hours, parties, etc.)?
- How do the grad students like their relationship with their advisors? Talk especially to students of professors that interest you.
- Is health insurance available? Approximate cost?
- What is the general cost of living (apartment rates, etc.)? Do most students live on or off campus? Is parking available, or a good bus system? For how much?
- What do you do for fun around here?
- Tell me about the local _________. [Bars, Churches, Movie theaters, Parks, Bowling alleys, Concerts, Travel, Etc.]
- Take the GRE early. Since it takes 4 to 6 weeks to get your scores back you want to allow plenty of time to retake the test if you need to. Practice!
- Spring of Jr. year to Nov. Sr. year - choose schools to apply to.
- September - start NSF application.
- December 1 - some fellowship deadlines.
- January 1 - have all of your applications in.
- January to April - visit schools.
- April 15 - make your decision.
THE GRAD SCHOOL EXPERIENCE
- 1-2 years of classes
- 1-2 years of TAing - variable
- PhD qualifying exam - written, typically first year
- Master's - second to fourth year (also depends on thesis)
- PhD preliminary exam - oral, third to fifth year
- PhD thesis defense - fifth year (usually, maybe more)