Is A Higher Level Degree Going to Help You?

By: Lauren Mineau

For engineers, a bachelor’s degree used to be just fine. Higher degrees were optional, but you could mostly find meaningful work without one. However, a new Engineering.com survey found that it is becoming more common for companies to prefer or require candidates to have an advanced degree in order to move up within the company, have more responsibilities and earn a higher salary.

Sure, most recent grads don’t expect a corner office on their first day. But would they stay in school in pursuit of a higher degree knowing that without it, they may never get there?

Engineering.com surveyed 311 members to determine any correlation between job satisfaction and the level of degree held.

According to the survey results, 50 percent of engineers hold bachelor’s degrees, and 28 percent hold master’s degrees, while 46 percent of senior engineers hold bachelor’s and 31 percent hold master’s.  The distribution of bachelor’s and master’s degrees is similar in pattern for those in managerial positions, with the exception of those with the “director” title – all of those respondents reported having a higher-level degree.

When asked if their workplace required advanced degrees, 69.1 percent said it was not explicitly required, but 41.2 percent said it was easier to advance at their workplace with one. Similarly, 18.3 said they strongly agreed it was easier to advance with higher-level degrees.

The audience felt that earning these degrees was very important for deepening their skills, which is an appealing offering for those looking to advance their careers. 45.7 percent felt this way and 33.4 percent were neutral. Only 20.9 percent said it was not important for to earn a degree in relation to expanding your knowledge.

Speaking of neutrality, the question that got the most neutral response was relating to quality of work. About 40 percent of respondents felt neutral when asked if graduate level degrees mean someone produces a higher quality of work. What’s more, 36.7 percent disagreed with this notion and only 23.2 agreed.

Most of the results regarding job satisfaction were good overall. Salaries ranged between $60,000 and $120,000 for all the respondents, which is pretty standard for the engineering world. However, only the slightest difference was shown in overall satisfaction between those that held bachelor’s degrees versus a master’s degree: 78.2 percent and 78.7 percent, respectively.

So, it would seem that while a high level degree isn’t crucial, it can sometimes help. It may depend on your industry or specific job. To see the full survey results, see engineering.com