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What your bosses want

Still unconvinced that an MSc is a good career investment?
Tiffany Holland explains why some employers demand them.

Universities are certainly keen to encourage uptake of MScs, believing it is the way to go if you are seeking to become a chartered engineer and help fill the specialist skills shortage in the industry. But do MScs really matter to employers?

KBR civil and structural engineering discipline manager Phil Howsley says the answer is yes: “At the first stage of filtering [applicants for jobs] we ask whether or not they have got a masters degree.”

Howsley organises training for employees and runs the firm’s graduate training scheme. The option to take an MSc is available and the company offers sponsorship for anyone who chooses this route.

But, only in exceptional cases does the company take on someone without the full qualifications and so the lack of an MSc can significantly affect a person’s employability.

“Organising sponsorship for an MSc can become quite a hassle and so nine out of 10 people [who work for the firm] already have an MSc, which avoids this,” says Howsley.

“I think they should have one before joining us.”

However, the rules can be different for those with lots of experience.

“In terms of employing people with 10 or 15 years experience, we do not look at whether they have a masters degree,” says Howsley.

The approach to recruitment differs at consultant Atkins. Head of professional development Simon Nuttall says: “We take on all manner of graduates and postgraduates. It’s not just about what you know, it’s about what you do.”

Nuttall, a chartered engineer who does not have an MSc himself adds: “It depends what position you are taking on as to whether an MSc gives you an advantage. There are certain work activities such as transport planning where a postgraduate qualification is a must.

“I don’t believe that I need one [an MSc] to progress in the company. I’m already a chartered engineer and so other types of training are appropriate for me.”

Atkins offers and encourages a wide range of further training for its employees, reviewing progress regularly and assessing the best type of training and learning for the individual. Nuttall says: “There is such a range of disciplines that not one size fits all”.

To progress and fill the skills gaps, the industry needs more academic specialist civil engineers combined with those with practical on site experience. The best advice for those looking at further training is to check out all the options and find the most appropriate course that suits you and your lifestyle.

MSC Courses: what’s available

Intercollegiate MSc Transport with Sustainable Development

Where? Imperial College London,University College London
Why? The course aims to provide a grounding in techniques for analysing transport problems and developing policies, as well as evaluating transport projects and recognising the political, social, commercial and financial issues involved.
Requirements: A good honours degree or equivalent, in a relevant academic discipline.
Duration: 12 months full-time or two to three years part-time.
Anything else? Competition for places on the course is strong. Scholarships are available.

MSc Civil Engineering
Where? University of Aberdeen
Why? The course covers areas such as breathing wall systems, multi-functional materials, low energy architecture, vibro-impact systems, fluvial and coastal hydraulics, sediment transport and sustainable water resource management.
Requirements: At least a 2:1 honours degree, or equivalent.
Duration: 12 months full-time (part-time study is also possible)

MSc Structural Engineering

Where? Newcastle University
Why? Students will learn how to implement and draft design codes, apply advanced materials and construction techniques and develop understanding about professional standards.
Requirements: Minimum 2:2 BEng honours degree, or equivalent, in civil engineering, mechanical engineering or applied mathematics.
Duration: 12 months full-time, four years part-time

MSc Water and Environmental Management, Distance Learning

Where? Loughborough University
Why? The course focuses on
water supply and sanitation but
also includes water resources
and international environmental issues.
Requirements: Good honours degree or equivalent.
Duration: Eight years distance learning
Anything else? This is a modular programme aimed at graduates wishing to pursue a career in water sector planning and management.

MSc Civil Engineering

Kingston University
Why? It provides a strategic overview of civil engineering and management issues.
Requirements: A good honours degree in a relevant engineering discipline or academic equivalent.
Duration: 12 months full-time, two to three years part-time

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