Masters Degree in Engineering: Program Overviews by Specialization

There are many specialization options for students who want to enroll in a master's degree program in engineering. Learn about graduate programs in chemical, mechanical, and nuclear engineering to decide if one of them meets your needs.

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Essential Information

Students who want to study engineering at the master's degree level can choose a Master of Science or a Master of Engineering in a wide variety of engineering subfields. For instance, chemical engineering students explore chemical transport and molecular kinetics. Master's degree programs in mechanical engineering emphasize mechanical controls, combustion engines, and fluid mechanics. In nuclear engineering programs, students learn about laboratory procedures and reactor design in order to prepare to work in settings such as power plants. Additional specializations include, but aren't limited to, biomedical, electrical, civil, and industrial engineering.

Graduate students may complete their study on a non-thesis track or conduct thesis research that solves an existing problem within their engineering discipline. In order to apply to any of these programs, students need to hold a bachelor's degree, preferably in a related field.

Master's Degree in Chemical Engineering

After earning a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering or chemistry, students can enroll in a Master of Science in Engineering or a Master of Engineering in Chemical Engineering program. Those who hold bachelor's degrees in different fields may need to take prerequisite courses in basic chemical separation and analysis prior to enrollment.

Graduate study provides students with the advanced skills required to create new chemical compounds, improve industrial processes, address alternative energy challenges at the molecular level, or develop new agricultural products. Students also learn advanced research skills, and some programs require them to assist or supervise undergraduate students. Master's degree courses provide advanced mathematical skills used in engineering and chemistry professions. Common course titles include:

  • Chemical reaction design
  • Molecular kinetics
  • Chemical transport
  • Chemical engineering thermodynamics
  • Process analysis and design

Master's Degree in Mechanical Engineering

A Master of Engineering in Mechanical Engineering or a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering can be applied in a wide variety of industries, including those focused on aerospace applications, power generation, manufacturing, machine tools, and nanotechnology. Students can concentrate their studies in such areas as energy production, vehicle systems, hydraulics, dynamic systems, and robotic applications. Graduate students learn how to develop or improve new products that can withstand temperature extremes or have moving parts. Coursework teaches students about heating and cooling systems, materials science, materials design, and conducting mechanical engineering tests. Common course titles include:

  • Combustion engines
  • Acoustics in mechanical engineering
  • Mechanical controls
  • Thermodynamics
  • Reverse engineering
  • Hydraulics and fluid mechanics

Master's Degree in Nuclear Engineering

In a Master of Science in Nuclear Engineering or a Master of Engineering in Nuclear Engineering program, students gain competency in the application, analysis, and design of nuclear technologies. They usually have the option to focus on a particular area of interest, such as nuclear radiation, fusion energy or reactor physics,. Regardless of specialization, all students learn about the operations of nuclear power plants, controls, and disaster mitigation. Master's degree courses cover such topics as nuclear safety, engineering mathematics, and reactor controls. Elective coursework varies depending upon the concentration, but some possible course titles include:

  • Nuclear laboratory procedures
  • Engineering process design
  • Nuclear waste disposal
  • Reactor design
  • Reaction modeling

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the median annual wage for chemical engineers was $104,910 as of May 2018 ( The BLS also predicted that employment in this field would grow 6% from 2018-2028.

The BLS predicted that employment for mechanical engineers would increase 4% between 2018 and 2028. The best job prospects will likely be for those with the software development skills needed for computational design and simulation. In 2018, the median annual income for mechanical engineers was $87,370.

The BLS reported a median annual salary of $107,600 for nuclear engineers as of May 2018. A 1% decline in employment is predicted for the 2018-2028 decade. This decline is expected because proposed regulations that call for upgrading safety protocols will raise the cost of building nuclear power plants, which will limit new plant construction.

To summarize, prospective master's degree students who want to study engineering have multiple specialization options to consider, including chemical, mechanical, and nuclear engineering. Future prospects depend on the field the student chooses.

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