After the initial excitement of taking the leap to apply to graduate programs in engineering, you might be faced with sticker shock after realizing the cost involved. How will you be able to pay for this crucial next step in your career? Luckily, there are some methods you can employ to help subsidize the cost of attending an advanced degree in engineering program. In this article, I will focus mainly on master’s programs (given that applying for a PhD in engineering is rarer), but I will spend some time at the end discussing PhD funding options for individuals considering that degree.
The first place to look is your target program and, more generally, the parent university. While master’s programs typically don’t offer a robust funding package, there could still be some opportunities. For this reason, it is very important to pay close attention to any supplemental essays or concurrent fellowship applications available while you are completing the program’s application for admission. For example, a diversity statement might flag you for potential eligibility for certain scholarships/fellowships for incoming students. Likewise, you should research opportunities that might be available on campus from the general engineering school (which usually houses all engineering programs). You can do this by searching through the school’s webpage, contacting admissions, speaking with students to ask about their funding experience, and even checking out student CVs on LinkedIn or in the program’s directory to see what funding awards others have won.
However, most scholarships/fellowships available for master’s programs will be private – granted through a nonprofit, association, or corporation. To find these opportunities, you might start again with your target program’s webpage that discusses funding because these pages sometimes provide links to external awards. In engineering, professional associations and corporations for your chosen field are especially valuable. Professional associations for specific areas of study, such as the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, or specific demographics, such as the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, are great places to look for funding. Likewise, many corporations who need talented engineers have nonprofit arms that provide scholarship/fellowship/paid internship opportunities. The Intel Foundation, for example, provides all three.
You might also wish to consider working while you are in your master’s program. If you already are an engineer or work for a company in your desired field, there might be programs in place to help subsidize your advanced education, especially if you can make the case that doing so would better your abilities as an employee. Another working option is teaching, which can often be done within the engineering department, regardless of your prior experience (this depends, of course, on the school). Teaching can be especially helpful because it can sometimes come with compensation in the form of tuition reimbursement. Finally, paid internships are another way of gaining experience and helping pay for school. Spend some time considering what types of companies you would like to work for upon graduation. Look up the firms and see whether they have internship opportunities available and/or a special relationship with your university.
The biggest differences between master’s and PhD programs in engineering are focus and length. While master’s programs are often geared toward professional development, PhD programs are much more intensely focused on research. Your fellowships/scholarships could come from all the avenues we just discussed for master’s programs. However, make sure to spend extra time looking into research opportunities related to your field. In addition, there could be more research-associated funding opportunities available for PhDs from departments, universities, and even the government. You might also wish to explore corporate research arms/divisions because they will be most interested in funding your work.
Although obtaining an advanced degree in engineering can be expensive, it is often a logical and necessary next step in advancing your career. Hopefully, keeping some of these tips in mind will make the step more feasible, despite the cost of tuition.
Vanessa Febo has ten years of experience teaching academic and professional writing at UCLA, with a special certification in teaching writing techniques. She has drawn on this expertise to guide clients to placements at top institutions, including Harvard, Stanford, and USC. Before joining Accepted, Vanessa coached UCLA students through the application process for graduate programs, major grants, fellowships, and scholarships, including the Fulbright, Stanford Knight-Hennessey, and the Ford Foundation Fellowship. Additionally, Vanessa has extensive experience successfully guiding clients through applications for a diverse range of programs, including those in business, humanities, social sciences, and STEM fields. Want Vanessa to help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!