How to Get a Doctorate in Engineering

Engineers use science and mathematics to solve problems in most areas of society. They work with computers, health care, agriculture and chemicals to solve mechanical and hypothetical problems. Although you can become an engineer after receiving a bachelor's degree, many engineers opt to pursue graduate level studies. Master's and doctoral engineering degrees prepare students for research and development in the private sector and teaching positions in academia. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that receiving a graduate degree can provide you a 32 percent increase in salary. You can choose to specialize during your graduate courses. Depending upon the university, you can pursue 17 different types of engineering, including civil, mechanical and computer engineering degrees. Learn how to get a doctorate in engineering.


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    Foster advanced skills in math and science. People who seek graduate engineering studies should have aptitudes in spatial reasoning and problem solving. Start taking advanced math and science courses while still in high school, if possible.
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    Apply for a bachelor's of science (BS) degree. Many doctoral students have already received a bachelor's degree in engineering; however, other people minor in other types of science. Keep in mind that you will need a large number of engineering prerequisites before starting a graduate program.
    • Although you can seek a general engineering degree, many universities prefer that students choose a chemical, agricultural, electrical, mechanical or other engineering specialization. If you already know what area of engineering you would like to pursue, research and choose a college that is well known for its engineering department.
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    Take your Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) test. This is required of all graduate level students. You will need a very high score on the GRE to get into the best graduate engineering programs.
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    Write a Statement of Purpose (SOP). This paper outlines your professional goals, research goals and interests. It should be carefully crafted and specific to the type of engineering you want to learn while in grad school.
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    Choose a specialization for research or future schooling. Engineering specialties include: biomedical, agricultural, computer, materials, aerospace, aeronautical, architectural, bio mechanical, chemical, civil, environmental, electronics, health and safety, geological, manufacturing, mechanical, ocean, nuclear, mining, mineral, structural, petroleum and textile programs.
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    Choose to get some work experience before continuing school. 1 to 5 years of research experience can enhance your statement of purpose and graduate school applications. Practical experience can make up for a bachelor's degree in another science or a lower GPA.
    • It is a good idea to take your GRE after you complete an engineering degree. The test scores are good for 5 years, if you choose to gain work experience.
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    Apply for graduate school. There is more than 1 path that you can take to get your engineering doctorate. Choose 1 of the following tracks based upon your previous experience and specialization.
    • Choose to apply for a master's degree program, if you did a bachelor's degree in another type of science. If you did not receive a high GPA, excellent research opportunities or a strong statement of purpose, then you should choose to take a master's program before entering into a doctorate program. It is unlikely you will make it straight into advanced doctoral programs without these qualifications.
    • Opt for a PhD program after you receive your BS or after you receive a master's degree in engineering. Dedicated engineering BS students can apply directly to many engineering PhD programs if they have an excellent GPA, a high GRE score and a well executed Statement of Purpose.
    • Apply for doctoral fellowships in engineering. Some graduate degrees offer students the chance to teach while they research and study. Some of your schooling or room and board may be paid for, while other fellows receive a salary while they attend school. You will need to be an exceptional student with high recommendations from former professors.
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    Complete your PhD credit hours while researching your dissertation. You may work on your dissertation while working on university engineering projects. Submit your dissertation to the PhD committee for approval or revision.
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    Apply for a job in the governmental, private or academic sectors. Private companies and governments employ doctors of engineering in research and development. Academic positions usually include both research and teaching.
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    Obtain your license as a Professional Engineer (PE) if you plan to offer your services to the public. This requires a degree, at least 4 years of work experience, a passing grade on the state license exam and fees paid to the state. You may need to take continuing education credits to remain licensed.


  • Consider spending time in research after you graduate with a BS. Work on published studies and research projects can help you gain entry into premier PhD programs.

Things You'll Need

  • Bachelor's of science
  • GRE scores
  • Statement of purpose
  • Master's degree in engineering
  • Graduate fellowship
  • Dissertation
  • Published research

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