How do I get a PhD in Engineering?

J. Nelson

A PhD, or doctorate in philosophy, with a specialization in engineering is an advanced degree that requires one to undertake a graduate school program in engineering, after earning a bachelor or master of science degree. A doctoral program in engineering may last anywhere from four to six years. The doctorate in engineering is usually focused on one of three areas: mechanical, electrical, or civil engineering, and the student chooses which of these to study.

Most civil engineer PhD candidates are required to complete an onsite internship.
Most civil engineer PhD candidates are required to complete an onsite internship.

In order to be awarded the degree, one must first choose a doctoral program from an accredited institution. This is generally not an issue for North American students as most, if not all, PhD-granting institutions there are accredited in the fields for which they award degrees. In the United States, engineering programs are accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). In Canada, the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board (CEAB) performs that function.

Engineering PhD students are best prepared for careers in teaching.
Engineering PhD students are best prepared for careers in teaching.

Often, someone who wishes to pursue a PhD in Engineering has already earned one of three possible master’s degrees — a Master of Engineering, Master of Science, or Master of Technology. These programs are usually the gateway to doctoral study in engineering. The PhD will differ from the master’s program in that the PhD coursework will have a heavy research component. Individuals graduating with a PhD in engineering are best prepared for careers in teaching and research, in academia. This is typically the sole reason one pursues this advanced degree.

A student can choose to focus on the field of mechanical engineering for the doctorate degree. Mechanical engineering, as the name suggests, researches and develops mechanical systems and design for manufacturing and machines. This can include mechanicanized power for aircraft, boats, robotics, or industrial implements, such as surgical devices.

Specialization in electrical engineering is another option for the PhD in engineering. This sub-discipline generally involves the study of electricity, electronics, and electromagnetism. Electrical engineering is often different from electronic engineering, which deals with small-scale electronic devices, like computers. Electrical engineering usually encompasses large-scale projects, such as power grids and electrical supply.

The third track of study for the Phd in engineering is the area of civil engineering, which centers on the design and construction of infrastructure. This can include bridges, roads, canals, dams, and buildings. Civil engineering is a uniquely broad area of engineering in that it has several sub-disciplines, including environmental engineering, structural engineering, and transportation engineering.

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