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5 The Master's Degree Master's degree graduates are well grounded in engineering funda- mentals and design practices beyond the bachelor's level as the result of engaging in additional course work and practice. Often a thesis is com- pleted, but by and large master's graduates are not likely to be as thor- oughly capable of conducting independent research as are doctoral graduates. Ph.D.s are expected to have conducted original research in a specialized field of engineering, usually in addition to attaining the master's degree, ~nc3 OS a result are more experienced than are master's graduates. Furthermore, through then thesis experiences they are framed to discern, delineate, and solve problems. The Council of Graduate Schools in the United States has described the master's degree In this way:45 Broadly speaking, the Master's degree indicates that the holder has mastered a program in a particular field sufficiently to pursue creative projects in that speciality.... The degree should be awarded for completion of a coherent program designed to assure the mastery of specified knowledge and skills, rather than for the random accumulation of a certain number of course credits after attaining the baccalaureate. The Master's degree is customarily awarded to an aspirant who achieves a level of academic accomplishment substantially beyond that required for the baccalaureate degree. The Master's program should consist of a coherent pat- tern of courses frequently capped by comprehensive examinations and a thesis or its equivalent in a creative project. Ideally, all Master's programs should include an opportunity for the student to learn to present inflation in writ- ten and oral form to a variety of audiences. 72

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THE MASTER'S DEGREE 73 A thesis has been a requirement for the Master's degree since its inception and has traditionally been a modest contribution to knowledge, certainly origi- nal to the student, and it may be original to the field. Although the thesis is not now a requirement in many Master's programs, a component demonstrating creativity should be required in quality programs. With regard to the thesis, the Manual of Graduate Studyin Engineer- ing says:46 It is only at the doctorate level that there is justification for the requirement that a thesis shall comprise an original contribution to knowledge as evidence of expertise acquired. In respect to the thesis for a Master's degree, the time conventionally assigned is limited and the student is usually inexperienced in research. It should be clear, therefore, that the objectives of the Master's thesis are not necessarily the same as those of the doctorate. A commonly accepted principle in the curriculum leading to a Master's degree in engineering, is that the Master's thesis is to be primarily considered as a contribution to the train- ing of the candidate rather than a contribution to knowledge. According to the 1983 publication Engineenng College Research and Graduate Stu~y,47 196 U.S. institutions reported that they offer mas- ter's degrees, 150 of them with nonthesis options. In most cases where explicit information was given, it is clear that the nonthesis options include a requirement for a report or a project. In a few cases it was explicitly stated that no thesis, arid presumably no project, was required. Stanford University, the nation's largest producer of engi- neeriIlgmaster's degrees {753 master's degrees in 1982-198348J and one of the nation's most respected graduate schools, specifically states that a thesis is not required for a master's degree. On the other hand, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the nation's second largest pro- ducer {602 master's degrees in 1982-1983), does require a thesis. Fifty-fire of the 196 U.S. institutions reported that they offer the Master of Engineering degree. Most of these stated that a report, a project, or a "design problem" is required for this degree. Three institu- tions reported that they require industrial experience or an internship for the Master of Engineering degree. In most cases 30 semester hours {45 quarter hours) of work are required for the degree, making it nomi- nally possible to be completed in one year. Those who favor the elimination of the thesis as a requirement for the master's degree tend to fee] that the numbers of master's theses each year are too great to permit adequate supervision, particularly if there is simultaneously a heavy load of doctoral theses. Hence, they worry whether the master's thesis requirement properly fulfills its role

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74 ENGINEERING GRADUATE EDUCATION AND RESEARCH to provide a challenging, creative experience for the student. On the other hand, there are many who feel strongly that a master's thesis is an important "capstone" requirement and that it provides a major oppor- tunity for a graduate student to undertake a project activity under his or her own initiative. A significant, well-supervised master's thesis project clearly has value for the student, but the value declines if the thesis is allowed, under the press of other business, to deteriorate into a routine exercise. The thesis for creative design projects should be structured in such a way as to be a me~n~gful, creative experience for the student. While it need not be an original contribution to the knowledge of the field, it should be sufficiently difficult to challenge the student's best capabili- ties and should be original with the student. It should not represent a project that is within the technical scope of a baccalaureate engineering education, but should call upon knowledge and skill that lie substan- tially beyond the usual baccalaureate level. One of the purposes of a graduate program is to deepen a student's understanding of fundamental material. This, in turn, implies that there will be a greater emphasis on mathematics and science at the graduate level than at the undergraduate level, as well as an increasing degree of specialization. At the master's level, students will be moving in the direction of the " cutting edge" of technology, where less material has been formally reduced to textbook form and much information is in the process of being discovered and organized. Since the latter process is the one called research, it is natural that graduate education is inex- tricably interwoven with research. At the master's level the involve- ment with research will typically be less then at the doctor's level. In the case of doctoral programs, the students are expected to work directly at the frontier of knowledge, and, in fact, to make original contributions of their own to the body of knowledge. The intimate involvement with research is what characteristically separates under- graduate and graduate education. Undergraduate students may be involved with research on occasion, master's students usually will be, and Ph.D. students always are. The utilization of master's degree holders in industry differs from company to company. In many companies they are employed to do the same kind of work that a bachelor's degree engineer does. However, those with a master's degree con make a contribution sooner and with less additional training and experience. In other companies the view is that the master's degree is indeed a more specialized degree than the bachelor's, and the recipients are employed on more technically demanding tasks, similar to but perhaps less demon cling than those

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THE MASTER'S DEGREE 75 that challenge a doctoral recipient. Statistics from the Engineering Manpower Commission indicate that including those earned by fully employed engineers who are part-time students- about one master's degree has been awarded for every three bachelor's degrees in recent years. This suggests that a fairly broad spectrum of utilization exists for the master's degree holder. But since this ratio has not been growing {in fact it has shrunk since the mid-1970s), it is clear that the master's degree is not becoming the "standard" entry-level engineering degree supplanting the bachelor's degree, no matter how attractive a goal that may seem to some. Today's typical baccalaureate program provides reasonable coverage 'a mathematics, basic sciences, engineering science, and engineering design. Humanities and social sciences are required but seldom are sufficient to prepare the student for an effective role as a "totally edu- cated person." After provision has been made in the undergraduate engineering cur- riculum for the components mentioned above, the remaining portion {about one year) is intended to provide for additional breadth, or some- times depth, in the general disciplinary area of study. In the discipline of civil engineer-in", for instance, this portion of the program is utilized to provide exposure, at a minimum level, to the several subdisciplinary areas structures, water supply, waste disposal, transportation, geotechnical as well as to develop some rigor in problem solving, design, synthesis, and pl~nn~g. Unless the student is exceptional in that his or her goals are very clear, the possibility of incorporating any depth in a specific area is limited. Most consulting engineering firms, regardless of the discipline, find that their practice requires the breadth described above but also requires additional depth in one or more of the subdisciplinary areas. While not requiring that all members of a team be expert in all of the related fields, a general understanding of the related elements is required of the participants in order for the problem-solving process to proceed effectively. There is a dilemma in the practice of engineering by disciplines: on one hand, the problems presented are increasingly difficult, involving a much higher degree of sophistication larger buildings, less desirable sites, energy conservation, dwindling material resources- thus requir- mg a more rigorous background and understanding of engineering sci- ence. On the other hand, these same problems are much more complex hazardous wastes, environmental concerns, and economic and social aspects so that their solutions require an interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary approach.

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76 ENGINEERING GRADUATE EDUCATION AND RESEARCH In the experience of many consulting firms, their success requires that additions to their professional staff be at the equivalent of a mas- ter's-leve] program. Generally, such a program would ideally be ori- ented toward substantial depth in one of the subdisciplines with emphasis on design practice or problem solving rather than on research or theory. Industrial practice, while being more amenable to the development of specialized divisions in an engineering organization, also has many of the elements described above. This not only suggests a more general approach to the master's graduate program but recognizes the need for more thorough preparation for rapidly changing technology, with its implications for response to midcareer changes and adaptation. It may also come to imply the development of an advanced-level program that would include an internship in engineering practice. Of particular concern is a recognition of the inadequacy of a single, concentrated educational experience as preparation for a lifelong career. Not only are today's graduates less likely to "stay the course" in one organization throughout their working lives, but today's organiza- tions are equally less likely to remain in their current areas of involve- ment. The graduate must be prepared to respond to change the different requirements of a new employer or the changing requirements of a continuing employer. In the latter case, the change may require a sub- stantial period of retraining at periodic intervals. The basic education must prepare the person to accomplish that task successfully. The master's degree in some branches of the engineering profession has assumed the role of a "capstone" degree the highest educational level to be sought, with no intention of proceeding to a higher degree. This produces a situation quite different from that prevailing in most fields of science, where full professional recognition by other scientists is usually accorded only to those with doctor's degrees. In some fields of civil engineering and in most fields of electronics and computers, the master's degree has become, for the most part, the standard level of academic preparation for those engaged in design. As a result, a strong demand for part-time master's programs has come into being for engineers who are full-time employees in industry. Several different modes of part-time master's programs have devel- oped. The most common is the evening program; at some universities the graduate programs are almost entirely conducted in evening hours. A variant of the evening program is one that offers graduate classes in the early morning hours, from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. Sometimes called early-bird programs). The advantage is that classes can be com

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THE MASTER'S DEGREE 77 pleted early in the day, since most business meetings and crises that might interfere with class attendance are not likely to occur before the midmorning hours. TV has been employed by many universities to reach fully employed engineers, as was mentioned earlier. One popular mode uses "live" TV, and berm s graduate courses to nearby industrial employers via closed circuit microwave. A variant of live TV is the use of videotapes of courses, which are mailed, or sometimes carried by special courier, to the industrial locations. Time saving is the principal advantage of TV systems, since the industrially employed students only have to go to where the TV sets are instead of traveling to campus. The principal disadvantage is loss of student-faculty contact. Offsetting this disadvantage, however, is the fact that fully employed students often display a high degree of enthusi- asm for their part-time studies. The reason for this drive is presumed to be that such students, besides being more mature than usual graduate students, are likely to see a good "payoff" in taking courses closely coupled to their activities. Fully employed part-time students are gen- erally so appreciative of the availability of TV courses that they usually say only positive things about such systems, even when the systems sometimes malfunction; on the other hand, full-time on-campus stu- dents often show extreme resentment for courses by TV, whether live or on tape. Unlike part-time off-campus students, they are likely to perceive every deficiency image quality, system malfunction, in- accessibility of instn~ctors-as a serious threat to the integrity of their educational programs. Part-time degree-oriented programs can be included with other kinds of course work, either with or without credit, under the general heading of continuing education. Since continuing education is the subject of a study being done parallel to this one, it is not treated extensively here. However, the subject of technical obsolescence is discussed briefly in the context of continuing education. "Obsolescence," for engineers, can occur in many different ways. Rarely, however, does it occur in an individual who remains active in a given field, with respect to the knowledge content of that field. Such an individual generally becomes more rather than less capable in his or her field. But obsolescence con occur quickly as a result of external factors. For example, an engineer's field can become of little or no interest to the engineer's employer if the "action" moves to a different field. This happened when vacuum tubes declined in importance and were largely supplanted by transistors. The charged particles in evacuated media continued to behave in the way they used to such laws remained as b

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78 ENGINEERING GRADUATE EDUCATION AND RESEARCH valid as they ever were; but vacuum tubes were not used much any more. It didn't help that vacuum tube engineers were more competent than ever in their chosen field-it was still necessary for most of these engineers to move into a new geld, or perhaps to apply the knowledge of the behavior of charged particles to another field where such knowl- edge was applicable, such as plasma physics. "Obsolescence" can also occur if fundamental knowledge that was once well understood by the engineer has been largely forgotten because of nonuse. Many engineering schools require their mechanical and civil engineers to take courses in electric circuits, for example. But if this material is not used it will be forgotten. It may be possible for the engineer to recapture the forgotten material through independent study, but individuals often seek out formal courses instead. Companies offer extensive amounts of in-house education to their engineers, often because of the companies' movement into new tech- nologies. The widespread advent of computers and of computer-aided manufacturing has required a great deal of continuing education, much of it in-house. So has the arrival of the microprocessor, which has completely changed the way many products operate. Such courses obviously help ward off the spectre of engineer obsolescence; yet, employers worry about obsolescence and how to combat it. For exam- ple, an extensive study of policies in 17 research and development laboratories showed that there was a general fear that organizational productivity would decline as the average age of their technical staffs increased.49 Although it is widely thought to be so, there seems to be little hard evidence that productivity truly does decline with age. More likely, "obsolescence" is the result of field shifting or of forgotten unused material. In fact, in the study of RED organizations cited above, there is some evidence that. scientific productivity may actually increase after age 50, although the productivity may consist more of things like pulling together the ideas of one's life work than of coming up with major new ideas. However, in another study, the investigators ~d find evidence of declining performance with age, based on evaluation of engineers by their managers.5 An especially significant finding in this study was that the routine taking of courses for the purpose of continu- ing education seemed to have no effect on performance. The investiga- tors found another result that they thought was of special importance: engineers with advanced degrees were considered productive up to 10 years longer than those with bachelor's degrees. Hence, the investiga- tors made the recommendation that midcareer graduate work inten

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THE MASTER'S DEGREE 79 sive enough to result in a degree might effectively prolong an eng~neer's productive life. However, orate could legitimately question whether it is the graduate program per se that has such a beneficial effect; it could just as well be argued that the personal drive of the individual is the factor that holds off obsolescence and also causes him or her to enter a protracted and intensive program leading to a graduate degree. Eaming a master's degree can be quite a flexible matter, since many schools make it possible to complete a master's degree in one year. Because of the wide availability of part-time programs, an engineer frequently con make the decision to go into a master's program without simultaneously facing the decision to resign from full-time employ- ment. Maintaining access to such programs is important to many engi- neers. Universities should provide evening courses or should utilize technologies such as TV courses, live or videotaped, to reach fully employed engineers in industry. It is useful to know something of the attitudes of engineers toward graduate study. A survey of 3,246 engineers was conducted in 1964- 1966 as a part of the Goals Study.s ~ The response of the engineers to a set of questions regarding graduate study is shown in Table 22. Roughly half of the respondents felt that graduate work was needed. In a 1981 survey of 3,401 engineers, a similar set of questions was asked, with the responses also shown in Table 22.52 In the 1981 study, responses were tabulated by sex of the respondent; Table 22 reveals virtually no differ- ence in the attitudes toward graduate study between male and female engineers. In 1966, 57 percent of the respondents thought graduate work in management was important; in 1981, this percentage was about 50. In 1966, 52 percent of the respondents thought graduate work in mathe- matics and science was important; in 1981, this percentage was about 30, but 47 percent of the 1981 respondents thought graduate work in . . . engmeenng was Important. Table 22 shows that the respondents were divided about the particu- lar forth that continuing education should take, but it is worth pointing out that continuing education takes many forms, not only that of lec- ture courses. In the 1981 study just cited, the respondents reported that they had engaged in the following activities during the preceding year s2 Activity Discussed new engineering developments Read about new engineering developments Subscribed to engineering periodicals Respondents 68% 79 79 (Continued on p. 81)

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THE MASTER,S DEGREE (ContinuedfIomp. 79) Activity Read new books on engineering or science Purchased new books on engineering/science Attended local technical meetings Took nongraduate credit engineering course Completed graduate courses in engineering Attended national technical meeting Presented one or more technical papers Attended short course on management 81 Respondents 40 40 46 16 15 28 11 28 It is possible that the activities "discussed new engineering develop- ments" or i 'subscribed to engineering periodicals" may not represent much of a commitment to continuing education, but "read new books on engineering or science" {40 percent) and "attended national techni- cal meeting" t28 percent) represents a heavier commitment, as does the taking of courses, whether in engineering or management. In par- ticular, if "took nongraduate credit engineering course" and "com- pleted graduate courses in engineering" are nonduplicative, then 31 percent of the respondents engaged in formal course work in engineer- ~ng. There were significant differences in the makeup of the 1966 and 1981 pools of respondents. The 1981 pool had been deliberately selected to consist mostly of young engineers: 71 percent of them had less than 10 years of experience. Id the 1966 pool a substantially smaller fraction was in the young group: only 40 percent had less than 12 years of experience. The educational levels of the two groups were as follows: 1966 1981 No degree 1% 1% Bachelor's degree 71 56 Master's degree 17 35 Doctor's degree 11 6 Other 3 Furthe~lllore, the 1981 group consisted of approximately 41 percent women while the 1966 group was virtually all male. In spite of the differences in the makeup of the groups and the elapsed time between 1966 and 1981, the responses were strikingly similar: about half the engineers in both surveys thought graduate work was needed, and gave their votes in about equal proportions to graduate study in engineering or ~ management.

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82 ENGINEERING GRADUATE ED UCATION AND RESEARCH Findings and Recommendations 1. Well-supervised master's thesis projects have great value for stu- dents, but their value becomes questionable if they are allowed to degenerate into routine exercises. A master's thesis need not represent an original contribution to the field, but it should be original with the student. It should represent a meaningful, creative experience from the student's point of view. 2. A single, concentrated educational experience is not sufficient for a lifelong career. Graduates must be prepared to respond to the chang- ing requirements of their employers, which may require retraining at periodic intervals. Universities should provide programs for such a purpose, either through TV or other means. Employers should provide in-house educational programs.