This section will address how to select which program you should attend.
MOTIVATIONS FOR DEGREE
If you are a recent graduate of Engineering, and want to specialize in Mechanical Engineering, or are already in the field and want to switch your focus, you can decide to apply for a Master’s in Mechanical Engineering. This builds on your undergraduate knowledge. “You’ll learn more sophisticated ways to understand and utilize research on engineered systems and their performance, through deeper knowledge of a specific engineering discipline. These studies help develop new perspective on emerging engineering trends.” (ASME)
What you can expect to study
Some typical courses of study in Mechanical Engineering (ME) include: Mechanics of Solids and Fluids, Thermodynamics, Heat Transfer, Robotics, Kinematics, Dynamics and Vibrations, Controls, and Power Generation. In some programs, you may also have a chance to work on bioengineering, graphics, automated mechanism design, modern and optimal control, flexible manufacturing, materials processing, and continuous web manufacturing. Computer-aided manufacturing and computer-aided design have also become more common recently. So all in all, if you choose to pursue a Master’s in ME, you will be able to learn a variety of things. You can learn how things work, and be able to work on techniques and machines for manufacturing. As an ME graduate student, you may also have the option of focusing on innovations in the field.
Master’s degrees in Engineering typically prepare students for careers in industry. If you are hoping to work in research (whether that be in academia, research labs or even in industry), the PhD may be a better option for you.
According to US sources, graduates of ME can typically work in a number of industries, including any manufacturing industry, energy resource industry, auto and aircraft industry. Career opportunities in Pakistan may be different. If you hope to return to Pakistan and work, you should connect with your professors and/or other professionals in the field -- talk to them about the area of ME you are interested in specializing in, and ask them about job prospects for it in Pakistan.
If you are hoping to work in the US, it would help to get a license (it is not required for all jobs, but it could help make your job search slightly easier). If you are hoping to work for a governmental organization or in education, licensure may be required. The licensing process will vary from state to state, but you will generally have to take an exam after gaining four years of work experience, and having an engineering degree. (Note: do check residence/visa requirements if you are interested in applying for licensure within the USA).
TYPES OF DEGREE
In a nutshell, the following degrees + sub-fields/ specializations are available for a Master’s in ME:
- Master of Science (MS)
- Master of Engineering (MEng)
ME programs will usually require 1-2 years of full-time study. Some of the programs you will be able to specialize in including the following:
- Manufacturing Systems Management
- Aerospace Engineering
- Packing of Electronic and Optical Devices
- Design of Mechanical Products
- Dynamical Systems
- Energy and Sustainability
- Heat Transfer and Thermodynamics
- Naval Architecture/Engineering
- Ocean Engineering
- Marine Engineering
Please note this is not an exhaustive list. Universities may have other specializations they are offering. You should visit your prospective university to find out which other specializations are on offer, and then decide what the most suitable specialization is for you.
How to select the best option for yourself (among degrees/programs within this field)
ME vs MS
Master of Engineering degrees are considered to be a little more professional in nature, while MS degrees are more research-oriented. Some MS degrees might be slightly longer in length than the MEng degrees. If you hope to do a PhD after your Master’s degree, an MS would be more relevant. If you hope to gain technical experience for a specific job, an MEng would be more suitable.
When choosing which degree program/university you should apply for (Master’s or Doctorate), Princeton Review recommends that some of the questions you should be considering include:
- What kind of mechanical engineering are you most interested in? Does the program you are thinking of applying to offer that specialization?
- Are you more interested in actual manufacturing or in studying the way people do their work?
- Are you willing to work in a field which may require you to keep up with new developments, even after you have completed your degree?
- Who are the faculty members in the university? How accessible are they?
Note that some universities allow you to choose between a thesis or coursework. If you are interested in research, it is recommended that you choose thesis. Then in your personal statement, it is recommended that you write about some research topic/s that you would like to do your potential thesis in. In this way, you can signal to the university that you hope to enhance your research skills and possibly pursue it as a career path post-graduation. Then, if you get accepted and successfully complete the thesis, in the future it can be an advantage for your research career.
How to select the best option for yourself (among specializations and sub-fields within this field)
You should go through university-specific websites to see what sort of specializations are available and the course-components they include. Look at the job opportunities that different specializations are offering, and take those into consideration before deciding which degree to opt for. Some Engineering programs may have some research components -- if you are more interested in research, you should look for Master’s in ME programs that offer this.
If you are interested in Mechanical Engineering, you might also like:
- PhD in Mechanical Engineering
- Eng.Sc.D. (Doctor of Engineering Science)
- Other areas of Engineering (Chemical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Civil Engineering etc.)
How to select the best option for yourself (among allied fields)
- Doctorate in ME: If you are interested in teaching at the university level, or getting involved in some research or development work, a doctorate in ME (PHD or a Eng.Sc.D.) may be suitable for you. These degrees will take much longer than a Master’s degree. The total length of time required will be dependent on the field of research you choose to specialize in. With the doctorate, you will have the option of exploring a different area, an area that could be unexplored. So if you are interested in conducting research in new or unexplored areas, you should consider one of these two degrees. You can also go through the PhD in ME tip sheet on our website for more information on this degree. Click here for more information.
- MBA: Some graduates of engineering, who are interested in learning management skills or going down an entrepreneurial pathway (i.e. starting their own business), apply for an MBA. If you find this more aligned with your career goals, an MBA could be a good option for you. Some useful links to help you compare the MSE to the MBA can be found here and here.
- Career Prospects: Do look at the different employment opportunities that different areas of Engineering may offer. If you are hoping to work in Pakistan, does a Master’s in Civil Engineering perhaps have better job prospects? Or if you are hoping to work in the US, how do the prospects for Chemical Engineering compare to those for Mechanical Engineering? You should try to connect with Engineering professionals (in Pakistan/USA) to find out what the prospects are like for areas you are interested in. In addition to that, you should also go through the tip sheets on our website for other specializations in Engineering. There may be some other fields in Engineering that also pay fairly well in the US, you can go through this link to find out more about those.
- When should you apply: a few students apply after their undergraduate degree, others take a gap year/gain some work experience for a few years and then apply. If you have a good understanding of the application, what you are hoping to get out of your degree, and have a strong graduate school application, it may be beneficial to apply immediately. But if you want to gain some work experience or are not yet sure about which areas of ME you want to specialize in, you should try to get some work experience. You should talk to professors very honestly about when you ought to be applying -- tell them about your application, what you wish to study and take their advice on when you should be applying. (Some programs could require/recommend work experience to applicants, so do check for that before applying.)
- Where to apply: You should apply to a mixture of ‘top tier’ and ‘regular’ schools. Matt Might recommends that students should apply to 10 ‘top tier’ and 10 ‘regular’ schools, to boost your chances of acceptance into Engineering programs.
Complement the above field-specific tips with general tips on program selection (under the tab of ‘selection’).
A lot of our tips talk about how you can strengthen your application, but you can build a stronger application when you’ve done the things this program values in the years prior to the application. The application itself is the communication part (in which you communicate what you've done to the admission committee); but this section gives guidance on the substance part (what you can actually do before you apply). In this section we talk about what you can do in the years leading up to applying that can make you an ideal candidate. Supplement the following tips with general tips (under the tab of ‘Pre-Application’) to become a competitive applicant.
If you have an undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering, or in related fields (in other fields of Engineering or in the Sciences), you will be eligible to apply for a Master’s. Some programs also require students to have had exposure to the cores of ME and possibly other Engineering principles. You should check your prospective university websites for any such prerequisites, and try to meet all of those before completing your undergraduate degree.
Universities will usually not identify a minimum CGPA requirement, or cut-off. But if you are hoping to apply to the top schools, you should try to have a very high CGPA. Do visit your prospective university websites for more information.
Research experience will always contribute positively to your application. Doing a senior project, independent study or a research project in any area of ME that interests you can help your overall application. You should also visit your prospective university website to find out if any specific kind of research experience is recommended or required.
Master’s in Engineering programs will usually not require work experience (very few universities may require some), but you should check your prospective university website to confirm this. Getting some work experience could help, especially if it is relevant to your degree choice. Do go through your prospective university websites for more information.
Typically not required, but you should check your prospective university website for more information
If you plan on applying to a more research-based degree (such as the MS), then you should consider doing a supervised independent study on some relevant research topic -- if you do so you can get a good strong letter of recommendation out of it.
This section provides an overview of general guidelines pertaining to the application process. It also delineates the key components of the application process.
Your application will generally consist of a statement of purpose, a few letters of recommendation, transcripts, standardized test scores, and possibly an interview along with your resume. Generally your statement of purpose will be a very important component in your application. Transcripts/grades will usually be quite important as well. Other important components include the letters of recommendation, your test scores and an interview (if required).
Refer to the Program Selection Section for further information.
Is this component required?
How important is this component (in the overall review of the application for admission)?
Standardized tests or entry exams
Transcripts (past academic records)
Letters of recommendation
Resume or CV
May be required
May be required
Complement the above field-specific tips with general tips on overview (under the tab of ‘overview’).
Pakistani applicants suffer most because of inadequate information -- or wrong information -- about essays and personal statements. This section will address those inadequacies specifically in relation to applying for this program. Supplement the following field-specific tips with general tips (under the tab of ‘essay’) to craft a stellar personal statement.
You will typically be required to submit a statement of purpose or an essay to each program that you are applying to. Specific requirements (the prompt/questions for the essay, the word limit etc.) will vary by university/program. So you should go through your prospective website to find out what those requirements are.
The essay will usually be one of the most important components of your application. It should ideally convey your interest in the program, why you want to pursue the particular ME specialization you are applying for, and what you hope to gain from it. Some general tips on the statement are provided below.
Note: The essay may be titled ‘statement of purpose’ or ‘personal statement’. Universities usually give you an idea about what to write in either case, which you need to pay close attention to. For example, in many cases, a statement of purpose is supposed to be more focused on your study and research goals for the program, with minimal mention of personal details/journeys etc. Most graduate programs require this (personal statements are usually required more so by undergraduate programs).
Which resources should I make use of?
- Read the following links before you start planning your personal statement:
TIPS ON GOOD AND BAD STATEMENTS
What is essential in the statement:
- Within your essay, you should explain your motivation for applying to the program. Why do you want to study? What is it about the degree, and the specific specialization, the department and the university that attracts you to it? What do you expect from the program, and how will you contribute to it? To answer these questions, you need to research about the university/program etc. You can look out for things such as labs, professors, research groups etc., and then write about how you plan to work with these resources. This kind of research and consideration shows the program that you have made an informed decision about applying.
- You should also write about how this degree/program will help you in your future career. This ties into motivation or reasons for applying, as mentioned above. You need to show why this degree/program is crucial and important for your future goals.
- Do you have any experience in the field? Engineering programs are less likely to look for work experience than some advanced degrees. But if you have any related experience, you will need to demonstrate how it informs your choice of degree or add to it.
- If you hope to pursue a research career within ME: As mentioned before, you should opt for programs that also offer or require the completion of a thesis post-graduation. Within your personal statement, you should write about a research topic/s you hope to work on for the thesis, to show your commitment to such a career path.
- If you didn’t do well in any relevant courses during your undergrad, explain the reasons why this happened. It is better to explain the gaps if you can, if you can.
What are bad statements/ what things to avoid:
- Though you need to write about your motivation and interest for the field/program, try to avoid exaggerating your passion.
- Try not to boast -- your work and accomplishments are important and you can talk about them, but you don’t need to brag about them.
- That doesn’t mean that you should stick to the facts and list all your accomplishments/work, because that's what the CV is for. If you feel that you can say something about them that isn’t mentioned in the CV, and if you feel that it is important to mention them because they are linked to your study/career goals, then you can write about them. In other words, write about these experiences if they are relevant and important to mention.
- Try to avoid using quotes from famous people.
How can applicants manage the process of writing?
You can turn to your engineering professors or advisors at work to go through your essay, in case you missed something about your work or approach.
This section will cover the basics about recommendation letters, which are one of the most important parts of the application process. Supplement the following field-specific tips with general tips (under the tab of ‘recommendations’) to ensure you have strong letters of recommendation.
You will typically need to submit 2-3 letters of recommendation along with your application. Your recommendation letters will give the admissions committee insight into your work ethic, your ability to work well with others, how you collaborate on projects and deal with assignments. There may be many applicants who have strong test scores or undergraduate transcripts, so a strong recommendation letter can certainly make the difference between two otherwise equal candidates.
If you have recently completed your undergraduate degree, you could request one of your professors or advisors to write you a letter of recommendation. If during your undergraduate studies, you completed an independent study on some relevant research topic, then you could ask your supervisor to write a LOR (if you are applying to a research-based program). If you have been working in this field for a few years, you could request one of your director supervisors to write your letter of recommendation.
- Before requesting your recommenders for LoR, go over the following links carefully:
This section will cover everything else related to the application process; including transcripts, interviews, resumes, and standardized tests.
Please visit your prospective university website to find out if interviews are conducted for your program.
Complement the above field-specific tips with general tips on preparing for interviews (under the tab of ‘interview’).
Some schools may require a resume. Please visit your prospective university website to find out if is required.
Complement the above field-specific tips with general tips on building a resume (under the tab of ‘Resume/CV’).
You will typically be required to take the TOEFL or the IELTS as an international applicant. Make sure you meet the minimum score requirements, as specified by your school, for these.
Schools may also ask for GRE scores. The GRE is an important component -- particularly at top schools. You should usually aim for high percentile scores to give yourself a good chance of getting in. But a good GRE score does not guarantee admission, you need to make sure the rest of your application is strong as well. Your score in the quantitative section may matter more than your verbal scores in the GRE.
Complement the above field-specific tips with general tips on preparing for standardized tests (under the tab of ‘tests’).
This section will cover approximate costs of the program and provide information of resources that may help with funding. Complement the following field-specific tips with general tips on finances (under the tab of ‘finances’).
Which resources can I find useful?
You can go through some of the following sources to find out which scholarships you may be eligible for. In addition to that, it is also recommended that you visit your prospective university websites to find out about more scholarship opportunities.
These tips were compiled with the valuable help of SHAHEEN volunteers.
We thank our volunteers for their contribution, and hope their tips and advice help you in your application.
The following sources were also consulted in developing this tip-sheet: Princeton Review, Matt Might, USNews, MBA Crystal, ASME, Prodigy Finance (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)