Masters Thesis versus Non-thesis


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I graduated with my BS in mechanical engineering in 2004 but I haven’t done any engineering work since I did an internship for an environmental engineering firm assisting with SPCC plans.

I have been a middle school math and science teacher since I graduated from my undergraduate. I wanted to go into engineering when I graduated from college but I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to coach football for a few years. I have accomplished what I wanted to in that field and I am looking to getting back to the engineering field.

I have been tossing a few ideas around and wanted some advice from people that are already in the field.

I am planning on pursuing my MS in mechanical engineering next year to help “brush” up some of my skills before I enter the workforce as an ME. I have done a search and I still don’t know which option would be better a non-thesis option or a thesis masters option and whether or not a Masters is the best way to market myself as an ME.

I am interested in advice on the.
1 Thesis versus Non-thesis option
2 Masters (help with the lack of experience?) would I still be considered entry level? I am guessing yes.
3 Any other things I should be aware of with this career change.



  1. Unless you are interested in a job in R&D, learning how to do research, or getting your PhD eventually, skip the thesis. The companies that I have worked for as a non-R&D engineer don’t care.
  2. Yes, you will still be entry level, since you have no experience working as an engineer. As a matter of fact, expect that most of what you learn in a Master’s program will help you very little on the job. Even much of your undergraduate education will be no help - most universities teach too much theory and not enough practical knowledge.
  3. Don’t learn equations, learn concepts. If you understand the concepts, you should be able to develop the mathematics. That way, you won’t be limited by a static group of formulas. Understand how to derive the more specific equations from the very general equations. For example, don’t learn Δx = v0t + 0.5at2. Derive it from x = ∫∫adt. (Of course, this doesn’t work too well with empirically-determined equations. Those you simply have to learn.) I like to think of my knowledge as a toolbox - I have a bunch of tools in it to tackle known problems, but I’m a better engineer if I know how to make new tools using my existing tools to help me tackle unknown problems. Learning how to derive the mathematics gives you that ability to expand your toolbox when necessary.