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PE Exam Prep vs. Grad School

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So now that I'm done with the Power PE I'm looking for a new engineering challenge to occupy my evenings.  I have yet to attend grad school for EE but it's something I've been thinking about for a while now.  For those of you who have already completed a graduate program I'd like to ask you, how do you compare it to preparation for the PE exam?  I realize to a certain degree it's like comparing apples and meteorites, but I'm just trying to get a sense of how much of my evening would be devoted to coursework compared to what I've grown accustomed to with PE exam preparation.  Thanks for your input.

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I have a civil engineering degree. I chose to get an MBA in lieu of a MS in engineering and it has been very rewarding, career wise. I haven't sat for the PE but I will say that getting my MBA was the most enjoyable thing I've done so far in my career pursuits. After a long day of work on a construction site, it was refreshing to just sit in class and talk. Accounting and finance were fun compared to engineering math. I also have a PMP and a CCM and most employers care more about my PMP and bachelors degree than an MS in engineering.

However, when I'm done with the PE and when things calm down in my personal life, I would like to get an MS in CE - Materials Sciences because it's a cool subject. I don't really care to use the MS. I just want to go back to school at some point because why not.

Edited by civilrobot

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I would only pursue an MS as a personal goal - my gut tells me that an MS will do little to advance your career that a PE already do.

For this reason, an MBA seems to be a much more popular option, as it should open come doors career wise.

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You can sort of think about it more like the relationship between work and power. The PE requires less work than a masters but it's done over a much shorter period of time so it requires more power. Its a personal decision as to which you'd prefer.

The PPE engineering problems are much easier to solve, but they must be solved correctly the first time with little time to get it right. The engineering problems in grad school are much more difficult but there's much more time to solve them and there's partial credit.

The PE is 200-400 hrs of studying and prep work over a 2-4 month period. Grad school is 500-1000 hr over 1-5 yrs. You lose your social life for a much shorter period of time studying for the PPE...

Pick your poison.

I disagree that a masters/PhD isn't worth the time and effort. It depends entirely on your field and what you do and want to do in that field. The same can be said of obtaining a PE, it's practically mandatory in some disciplines and almost useless in others.

I've frequently read that for engineers an MBA will do more for advancement in the private sector than and MSE, PhD, PE, or PMP.

 

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Education is always worth the pursuit.  If its worth the cost and if you will see any financial gain is another question...

Consulting Power..  probably not any major career advancement and i dont think anyone really pays more for it.

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2 hours ago, RBHeadge PE said:

You can sort of think about it more like the relationship between work and power. The PE requires less work than a masters but it's done over a much shorter period of time so it requires more power. Its a personal decision as to which you'd prefer.

The PPE engineering problems are much easier to solve, but they must be solved correctly the first time with little time to get it right. The engineering problems in grad school are much more difficult but there's much more time to solve them and there's partial credit.

The PE is 200-400 hrs of studying and prep work over a 2-4 month period. Grad school is 500-1000 hr over 1-5 yrs. You lose your social life for a much shorter period of time studying for the PPE...

Pick your poison.

I disagree that a masters/PhD isn't worth the time and effort. It depends entirely on your field and what you do and want to do in that field. The same can be said of obtaining a PE, it's practically mandatory in some disciplines and almost useless in others.

I've frequently read that for engineers an MBA will do more for advancement in the private sector than and MSE, PhD, PE, or PMP.

 

I think you brought up some good points here. So there is an even longer play with getting an MS in Engr. One could decide to get a PhD as well and eventually ride off into the sunset as a tenured professor. My goal is teach Construction Management towards the end of my career and during retirement, however, I only wish to teach it in a practical setting like at a community college versus a 4-year university. However, I've looked at both, and in order to teach at a university, one must complete a PhD. A pre-requisite from most PhD programs is a MS degree. So there is some value for use in the future should you pursue a path in education. 

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18 minutes ago, civilrobot said:

I think you brought up some good points here. So there is an even longer play with getting an MS in Engr. One could decide to get a PhD as well and eventually ride off into the sunset as a tenured professor. My goal is teach Construction Management towards the end of my career and during retirement, however, I only wish to teach it in a practical setting like at a community college versus a 4-year university. However, I've looked at both, and in order to teach at a university, one must complete a PhD. A pre-requisite from most PhD programs is a MS degree. So there is some value for use in the future should you pursue a path in education. 

Teaching at a university or college is a fun, I used to enjoy a lot with my students when I was teaching AutoCAD at the university. For those have industrial experience, you will enjoy the interaction with students. Good solution is working in the industry and having part-time teaching position in the university. Research is kind of painful and stressful way, really.

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3 hours ago, RBHeadge PE said:

You can sort of think about it more like the relationship between work and power. The PE requires less work than a masters but it's done over a much shorter period of time so it requires more power. Its a personal decision as to which you'd prefer.

The PPE engineering problems are much easier to solve, but they must be solved correctly the first time with little time to get it right. The engineering problems in grad school are much more difficult but there's much more time to solve them and there's partial credit.

The PE is 200-400 hrs of studying and prep work over a 2-4 month period. Grad school is 500-1000 hr over 1-5 yrs. You lose your social life for a much shorter period of time studying for the PPE...

Pick your poison.

I disagree that a masters/PhD isn't worth the time and effort. It depends entirely on your field and what you do and want to do in that field. The same can be said of obtaining a PE, it's practically mandatory in some disciplines and almost useless in others.

I've frequently read that for engineers an MBA will do more for advancement in the private sector than and MSE, PhD, PE, or PMP.

 

MSc and PhD will provide students different things, really... How did I know it? I am already in...:40oz2:

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A few things:

So I completed my masters in Power systems back in early 2016. 

Focused on getting my C.E.M. certification at the end of 2016.

Started studying for the Power PE exam and passed.

 

Looks like I did this the other way around compared to you. The masters in power helped tremendously in preparation for the PE exam, it helped me get a raise (and promotion) at work, put me at an advantage over other engineers, took up all of my time after work and more importantly, it solidified basic concepts for electrical engineering. It was definitely a challenge between research papers, presentations, quizzes, homework, tests and coordination with peers [and working full-time obviously]. It was absolutely worth it in my opinion. Compared to the PE Power preparation that I endured, they were both very challenging but the masters program had me up at night with very little sleep (2-4 hours per night for a year and a half). At times, it was just a huge load of work, not necessarily hard. Not sure on your masters program you're looking into but I chose the comprehensive examination instead of doing a thesis just so I could finish faster. If you can pass the PE exam, I'm sure you'd be able to do it for a comp. exam in a masters program.

Conclusion:

Do it if you crave the challenge, it's worth it!

Edited by Convolution
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1 hour ago, civilrobot said:

I think you brought up some good points here. So there is an even longer play with getting an MS in Engr. One could decide to get a PhD as well and eventually ride off into the sunset as a tenured professor. My goal is teach Construction Management towards the end of my career and during retirement, however, I only wish to teach it in a practical setting like at a community college versus a 4-year university. However, I've looked at both, and in order to teach at a university, one must complete a PhD.

I don't know where you are in your career,or what academia will be like in 20+ years so I can only comment on how things are now.

Most community colleges generally only require their professors to have a masters. PhDs are becoming more common though. Tenure is *usually* just for 4-year colleges and universities, typically for PhDs and there's usually a research requirement there too.

PhD is usually for research. D.Eng. is more practical.

A MS doing end-of-carreer/post-retirement part time teaching at a small school is pretty common. Could change in 10 years, but it seems like a solid plan right now.

1 hour ago, Mr. Zane said:

MSc and PhD will provide students different things, really... How did I know it? I am already in...:40oz2:

Yep. And it targets different kinds of jobs too. Lots of engineering jobs may require a PhD to start. I also know of some engineering career tracks and employers where having a PhD is viewed as a negative and would keep you from getting hired.

 

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3 hours ago, Convolution said:

A few things:

So I completed my masters in Power systems back in early 2016. 

Focused on getting my C.E.M. certification at the end of 2016.

Started studying for the Power PE exam and passed.

Looks like I did this the other way around compared to you. The masters in power helped tremendously in preparation for the PE exam, it helped me get a raise (and promotion) at work, put me at an advantage over other engineers, took up all of my time after work and more importantly, it solidified basic concepts for electrical engineering. It was definitely a challenge between research papers, presentations, quizzes, homework, tests and coordination with peers [and working full-time obviously]. It was absolutely worth it in my opinion. Compared to the PE Power preparation that I endured, they were both very challenging but the masters program had me up at night with very little sleep (2-4 hours per night for a year and a half). At times, it was just a huge load of work, not necessarily hard. Not sure on your masters program you're looking into but I chose the comprehensive examination instead of doing a thesis just so I could finish faster. If you can pass the PE exam, I'm sure you'd be able to do it for a comp. exam in a masters program.

Conclusion:

Do it if you crave the challenge, it's worth it!

This was almost exactly my experience. Curious where you did your MSEE? I did mine at Michigan Tech (a rather new at the time online program) and it was also a power-focused program. And I also graduated in April of 2016, LOL. But I will also attest that it is not for the faint of heart. If you are seeking a challenge, a technical MS degree will certainly provide that. At times it seemed near impossible to balance working full time, running a small computer business, and managing family responsibilities with having a newborn in the house at the time (I worked on one of my final projects in the delivery room :( ). There were many, many sleepless nights (as Conv pointed out) which affected my productivity at work and at home. But alas I was able to power through it all and eventually received my MSEE degree. It's likely the single most difficult endeavor I've succeeded in my professional career thus far. But again, that's due to all the other elements involved with my particular situation. Had I decided to go from my BSEE right into an MSEE, it likely wouldn't have been quite as taxing. 

Another thing to keep in mind, in terms of an extreme time commitment, for me it was also a $$ commitment. Only towards the very end of the program was I eligible for reimbursement through my employer. But the bulk of the investment was roughly $30K out-of-pocket.

An MS degree in terms of time and $$ commitment really doesn't compare to the PE exam IMHO. Yes the PE exam is difficult as are the preparations. However, preparation is generally at your leisure versus following a very strict course syllabus and all the work/deadlines that accompany it. Especially when some of those obligations often occur during the regular work week.

All said and done, I also agree with Conv that it was worth it in the end. With my particular employer in private industry, there are now doors and career paths available to me with my added qualifications that I don't feel otherwise would have been. :thumbs:

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4 hours ago, knight1fox3 said:

This was almost exactly my experience. Curious where you did your MSEE? I did mine at Michigan Tech (a rather new at the time online program) and it was also a power-focused program. And I also graduated in April of 2016, LOL. But I will also attest that it is not for the faint of heart. If you are seeking a challenge, a technical MS degree will certainly provide that. At times it seemed near impossible to balance working full time, running a small computer business, and managing family responsibilities with having a newborn in the house at the time (I worked on one of my final projects in the delivery room :( ). There were many, many sleepless nights (as Conv pointed out) which affected my productivity at work and at home. But alas I was able to power through it all and eventually received my MSEE degree. It's likely the single most difficult endeavor I've succeeded in my professional career thus far. But again, that's due to all the other elements involved with my particular situation. Had I decided to go from my BSEE right into an MSEE, it likely wouldn't have been quite as taxing. 

Another thing to keep in mind, in terms of an extreme time commitment, for me it was also a $$ commitment. Only towards the very end of the program was I eligible for reimbursement through my employer. But the bulk of the investment was roughly $30K out-of-pocket.

An MS degree in terms of time and $$ commitment really doesn't compare to the PE exam IMHO. Yes the PE exam is difficult as are the preparations. However, preparation is generally at your leisure versus following a very strict course syllabus and all the work/deadlines that accompany it. Especially when some of those obligations often occur during the regular work week.

All said and done, I also agree with Conv that it was worth it in the end. With my particular employer in private industry, there are now doors and career paths available to me with my added qualifications that I don't feel otherwise would have been. :thumbs:

But the reaalllllyyy important question is did they pay you more?  :winko:  

From what you wrote, it sounds like the benefits only come if you jump ship.  Not that having more options is a bad thing, you just weren't bragging about the Porsche they comped you for your effort so I'm presuming it was negligible.

Only 1 employer I've worked with offered anything tangible,  and it was around a 3-4 K bump and they would pay like 2000 of the tuition if I stayed another 5 years...  After taxes, It was like a 15 year ROI with how expensive schooling has become.  

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16 hours ago, Maine PE PLS said:

I would only pursue an MS as a personal goal - my gut tells me that an MS will do little to advance your career that a PE already do.

For this reason, an MBA seems to be a much more popular option, as it should open come doors career wise.

^^^ This. If I ever do go for a Masters degree I’d be going for an MBA. Not a masters in engineering. While I’m sure an engineering Master msnight make one a better engineer, there is little benefit in most positions salary or job wise.

Now an MBA paired with an engineering bachelors and PE license is a well rounded power punch in the career world as far as opening doors in management and other opportunities. 

Ymmv

Edited by Surf and Snow

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10 hours ago, knight1fox3 said:

This was almost exactly my experience. Curious where you did your MSEE? I did mine at Michigan Tech (a rather new at the time online program) and it was also a power-focused program. And I also graduated in April of 2016, LOL. But I will also attest that it is not for the faint of heart. If you are seeking a challenge, a technical MS degree will certainly provide that. At times it seemed near impossible to balance working full time, running a small computer business, and managing family responsibilities with having a newborn in the house at the time (I worked on one of my final projects in the delivery room :( ). There were many, many sleepless nights (as Conv pointed out) which affected my productivity at work and at home. But alas I was able to power through it all and eventually received my MSEE degree. It's likely the single most difficult endeavor I've succeeded in my professional career thus far. But again, that's due to all the other elements involved with my particular situation. Had I decided to go from my BSEE right into an MSEE, it likely wouldn't have been quite as taxing. 

Another thing to keep in mind, in terms of an extreme time commitment, for me it was also a $$ commitment. Only towards the very end of the program was I eligible for reimbursement through my employer. But the bulk of the investment was roughly $30K out-of-pocket.

An MS degree in terms of time and $$ commitment really doesn't compare to the PE exam IMHO. Yes the PE exam is difficult as are the preparations. However, preparation is generally at your leisure versus following a very strict course syllabus and all the work/deadlines that accompany it. Especially when some of those obligations often occur during the regular work week.

All said and done, I also agree with Conv that it was worth it in the end. With my particular employer in private industry, there are now doors and career paths available to me with my added qualifications that I don't feel otherwise would have been. :thumbs:

Hello Electrical Brother!

I completed my MSEE at Cal State Los Angeles. Great program with great professors. Had my company reimburse me at the end of every quarter (A = 100% reimbursement, B= 90%, C = 80%, D = NONE). Agreed, definitely not for the faint of heart. I'm sick in the head, I enjoyed the stress, fast-pace and being busy Lol! Looks like you absolutely had your hands full at home! Wew.

I actually completed my BSEE in 2012. The experience at work tied many things together in theory during the MSEE. Loved how it worked out. Great to hear you enjoyed the challenge! 😎

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14 hours ago, Szar said:

But the reaalllllyyy important question is did they pay you more?  :winko:  

From what you wrote, it sounds like the benefits only come if you jump ship.  Not that having more options is a bad thing, you just weren't bragging about the Porsche they comped you for your effort so I'm presuming it was negligible.

Only 1 employer I've worked with offered anything tangible,  and it was around a 3-4 K bump and they would pay like 2000 of the tuition if I stayed another 5 years...  After taxes, It was like a 15 year ROI with how expensive schooling has become.  

Yes. As I said, based on my new added qualifications, there were new career paths available to me with my present employer. One of which I just recently decided to pursue as Global Product Manager. Which I am now making roughly 12% more than I was in my previous role and less the MSEE qualification.

11 hours ago, Surf and Snow said:

^^^ This. If I ever do go for a Masters degree I’d be going for an MBA. Not a masters in engineering. While I’m sure an engineering Master msnight make one a better engineer, there is little benefit in most positions salary or job wise.

A broad, generalized statement that has not been my experience. It all depends on what career path you intend to follow. A more technical track or that of a project/business management track. For which the choices in a graduate degree are fairly obvious.

11 hours ago, Surf and Snow said:

Now an MBA paired with an engineering bachelors and PE license is a well rounded power punch in the career world as far as opening doors in management and other opportunities. 

Indeed. But as mentioned above, I'd argue that an MSEE, BSEE, and PE also packs a well rounded punch in terms of moving up the technical career ladder. 

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You mentioned using your evenings, so I assume you intend to do a degree part time while working?

Right now I'm doing an online masters degree for geotech engineering, 1 class per semester. I took a semester off to study for the PE exam, so I can offer a pretty good comparison between the two. (FWIW, the masters degree is not going to help me all that much in my current engineering job - I'm pursuing it mostly to open up teaching jobs in the next couple years.)

The PE definitely demanded more hours of my time per week. I needed to consciously reserve time on my evenings, weekends, and lunch breaks to study and prepare. In contrast, I can keep on top of my masters work with about 2 hours of lecture-watching per week, plus maybe 3 or 4 more on when I have homework. It's much more manageable, and I can frequently get it all done during lunch breaks alone.

(Of course, you may experience more or less work than this, depending on the program, class, professor, your own study style, etc. My husband is also doing an online masters and spends MAYBE 30 minutes per week. I have another friend doing an online masters and he spends 10+ per week. All in all, though, I think my 2-6 hours per week is pretty typical)

Here's the flipside: I was able to make my own schedule much more when studying for the PE. If I knew I was going to be busy during a week, I could double up before or after to make up for it. With grad classes, you're at the mercy of homework and project deadlines, not to mention your own teacher's preferences for when assignments and lectures are posted. Not a huge deal, but it's certainly less flexible than PE studying.

The other thing? GROUP PROJECTS.

I would rather take the PE again than do another group project. You think I'm joking?

Here's my takeaway: you're already in the habit of reserving large amounts of time during your week for not-so-fun studying, so you're already familiar with the time commitment and discipline it takes. Give or take a couple hours each week, do you think that schedule would be sustainable for the next 4 or 5 years? If so, I'd say go for it. 

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46 minutes ago, shmoe said:

The PE definitely demanded more hours of my time per week. I needed to consciously reserve time on my evenings, weekends, and lunch breaks to study and prepare. In contrast, I can keep on top of my masters work with about 2 hours of lecture-watching per week, plus maybe 3 or 4 more on when I have homework. It's much more manageable, and I can frequently get it all done during lunch breaks alone.

A very interesting perspective and a good example of how the various engineering disciplines differ as this was almost complete opposite of my experience. If I wasn't devoting a minimum of 15 hours per week on my electrical power engineering courses, I would have quickly fell behind. The term projects and mid/final examinations were the most strenuous IMO. Especially those where I was required to submit calculation code and simulations.

I concur on group projects. Eventually I became acquainted with a few select individuals whom I knew were also working professionals (vs. full-time students) but that I could also depend on to get things done in a timely fashion. Some of the newer grad students, not so much and often times it was like herding cats where I felt like the parental figure in trying to press them to get their respective project portions complete. <_<

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2 hours ago, shmoe said:

I would rather take the PE again than do another group project. You think I'm joking?

tumblr_n2vbys238p1tw1vhco1_250.gif

I'm NEVER doing the PE again. Nope, not gonna happen, no way, nuh uh, nein, nyet, lo, non, nr, dim, avai, leai, 'a'ole, ne, nem, le, ochi, geen, ixnay on the yes part, not just no but HELL no, f#$$ that noise!

1 hour ago, knight1fox3 said:

A very interesting perspective and a good example of how the various engineering disciplines differ as this was almost complete opposite of my experience.

I concur on group projects. Eventually I became acquainted with a few select individuals whom I knew were also working professionals (vs. full-time students) but that I could also depend on to get things done in a timely fashion. Some of the newer grad students, not so much and often times it was like herding cats where I felt like the parental figure in trying to press them to get their respective project portions complete. <_<

Maybe it varies based on engineering discipline or school? But I'd take a group project over any other option. So much easier and less time consuming. Yeah I've had people not pull their weight, but it's always been manageable and still easier than an individual activity.

As for studying, I've only had one class in all of grad school that required more than an average of  three hours/week of outside classroom studying. Most of my grad coursework was nuclear engineering. I'm excluding thesis and dissertation hours. The one exception was ME: Advanced Mechanics of Solids. It was a co-offered undergrad/grad class, and generally considered an easy class. Except the semester I took it there was a new professor. Instead of following the previous syllabi, he taught it as a Math: 600 level  tensor calculus with elements of engineering continuum mechanics.  It required about 50-60 hr/week of outside study. It wasn't just me, everyone other student has to devote as much or more time to it. We all started calling it Continuum Mechanics or Tensor Calc instead of advanced materials. I spent more time studying for that class than I had for every graduate level course combined.

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2 hours ago, knight1fox3 said:

A very interesting perspective and a good example of how the various engineering disciplines differ as this was almost complete opposite of my experience. If I wasn't devoting a minimum of 15 hours per week on my electrical power engineering courses, I would have quickly fell behind. The term projects and mid/final examinations were the most strenuous IMO. Especially those where I was required to submit calculation code and simulations.

I concur on group projects. Eventually I became acquainted with a few select individuals whom I knew were also working professionals (vs. full-time students) but that I could also depend on to get things done in a timely fashion. Some of the newer grad students, not so much and often times it was like herding cats where I felt like the parental figure in trying to press them to get their respective project portions complete. <_<

Sounds like a time management issue.  Should have gotten your PMP and Sigma Six first to help with the scheduling and efficiency issues.  :thumbs:

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2 hours ago, knight1fox3 said:

A very interesting perspective and a good example of how the various engineering disciplines differ as this was almost complete opposite of my experience. If I wasn't devoting a minimum of 15 hours per week on my electrical power engineering courses, I would have quickly fell behind. The term projects and mid/final examinations were the most strenuous IMO. Especially those where I was required to submit calculation code and simulations.

I concur on group projects. Eventually I became acquainted with a few select individuals whom I knew were also working professionals (vs. full-time students) but that I could also depend on to get things done in a timely fashion. Some of the newer grad students, not so much and often times it was like herding cats where I felt like the parental figure in trying to press them to get their respective project portions complete. <_<

Interesting... my classes are hardly any programming (just problems similar to the PE). I wonder if that has something to do with it? I'm taking a numerical methods class this summer and it's all programming... definitely my most time-consuming class yet.

YES I've had both awesome and terrible group projects in grad school, and it all comes down to whether the group members are full time students or working professionals. The professionals always had their stuff done ahead of time without being asked, and would take more than their share if they were able. I had to play serious project manager with the students.

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1 hour ago, Szar said:

Sounds like a time management issue.  Should have gotten your PMP and Sigma Six first to help with the scheduling and efficiency issues.  :thumbs:

:oldman:

It most certainly was a time management issue. But not on my end, on what was required per the course professors. They liked to call it "homework". But I think it was more akin to introductory thesis work. :thumbs:

I actually did take a PM course as an elective. It was somewhat valuable but mostly just busy work. Damn PMBOK...

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Does anyone know of an accurate listing / website of Colleges that offer an On-Line Master in Power Engineering?  

I thought I found one but it didn't have K-State, who is more expensive then I want but seems to be rock solid course offering for Power.

You would think such a thing would exist with the god awful amount of money flowing around in Academics and their recruitment.

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On 6/19/2018 at 3:14 PM, Szar said:

Does anyone know of an accurate listing / website of Colleges that offer an On-Line Master in Power Engineering?  

You would think such a thing would exist with the god awful amount of money flowing around in Academics and their recruitment.

Nope. Why would any one university take the time to generate list with other competitive degree options? :dunno:

An independent 3rd party maybe. But then that would literally involve researching each and every institution to see what options they offer. I think you're better off targeting a few select programs which have a good reputation and participant feedback, like Michigan Tech. :thumbs:

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43 minutes ago, knight1fox3 said:

@Szar

Or NC State 😉

Obviously I don't have experience anywhere else, but NC State has a really great setup for distance students.

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On ‎6‎/‎19‎/‎2018 at 3:14 PM, Szar said:

Does anyone know of an accurate listing / website of Colleges that offer an On-Line Master in Power Engineering?  

I thought I found one but it didn't have K-State, who is more expensive then I want but seems to be rock solid course offering for Power.

You would think such a thing would exist with the god awful amount of money flowing around in Academics and their recruitment.

I'm currently finishing up the program at Kansas State. I've had a pretty good experience and would say it's worth the money I'm paying for it (which is nothing due to company reimbursement)

But in all seriousness they have been great to work with and have been very accommodating of my work schedule, can't recommend them enough.

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