Different Types of Masters in Engineering Degrees

Many experienced engineers with a bachelor’s degree in engineering want to earn a master’s degree. This advanced engineering degree can offer you with better career opportunities in terms of managerial positions and a higher salary. With a master’s degree in many different specialties of engineering, you will be track for a very rewarding and stimulating career.

Which master’s in engineering you earn depends upon your experience, interests and career goals. The most common master’s in engineering degree specialties are listed below.

Master’s in Computer Engineering

Computer engineering is a fairly new field, and it has highly evolved in the last 10 years to handle the huge surge in demand for the many applications needed to run computers and electronics in business, consumer products, government, defense and more. Computer engineers are responsible for embedding computers into various systems and machines, building networks to transfer larger and larger amounts of data, and finding ways to make our computers faster, smaller and more useful.

Most master’s in computer engineering programs today focus on the major areas of modern computer engineering:

  • Embedded systems: This discipline involves hardware and software design fundamentals that are required to build these types of systems. Topics in embedded systems include designing and using hardware devices; real time system programming; model based development and analog and digital electronics for embedded computerized systems.
  • Computer systems and networks: Covers the machinery and hardware that underlies major technologies such as the Internet and World Wide Web. Students study computer architectures; principles of operating systems design; networking technologies; networking applications; and secure and reliable computing principles.
  • Intelligent systems and robotics: This area of computer engineering focuses on the design of artificial intelligence, and also includes technologies such as control systems, image processing, robot vision and robot manipulators. Students also study intelligent control techniques.

Professionals who earn their master’s in engineering typically work either in hardware or software, but some engineers combine them. Most industries hire computer engineers with master’s degrees, including financial services, chemical companies, computer makers, defense contractors, consulting organizations, and consumer goods manufacturers.

Master’s in Software Engineering

A master’s degree in software engineering provides students with the knowledge in computer, engineering and project management skills that are critical to developing complex software applications that drive so many of the electronic products we rely upon today. They are responsible for writing the code, designing the algorithms and ensuring that software programs meet all of the requirements of various disciplines and industries.

To get a better idea of what this type of engineering degree entails, below are the required courses in the master’s program offered by Penn State’s World Campus:

  • Pattern Oriented Design
  • Database Design Concepts
  • Software Systems Architecture
  • Enterprise Integration
  • Applied Human Computer Interaction
  • Requirements Engineering
  • Software Systems Design
  • Software Construction
  • Software Testing
  • Web Security and Privacy

Engineers who earn this master’s degree often work in industries such as telecommunications, intelligence, biomedical, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, government and even nonprofits.

Master’s in Electrical Engineering

A master’s in electrical engineering teaches students how to design, test, develop, and supervise the way that electrical equipment is manufactured. Professionals with this master’s degree will be involved with running and designing complex electronic equipment such as electric motors, navigation and radar systems, communications systems and equipment for generating power.

With the skills learned in this master’s program, you will do things such as design electrical systems and devices with basic electronic parts such as coils, magnets, conductors, switches, batteries, capacitors, diodes and inductors. Although electronics have gained in sophistication in recent years, most electrical and electrical devices use these types of simple components – from power plant generators to the microprocessors that operate a smart phone.

Engineers in this field learn how in their master’s program to use computer-aided design or CAD programs, as this is the modern basis for creating electronic schematics and laying out circuits. Some of the courses that are covered in a typical master’s in electrical engineering program are:

  • Theory of Linear Systems
  • Introduction to Computer Graphics
  • Machine Learning
  • Digital Image Processing
  • Optimization Theory
  • Computer System Software
  • Advanced Networking Topics
  • Foundations of Computing
  • Multivariate Control Theory

Electrical engineers can be employed by both private and public organizations in researching, designing and evaluating all types of electronic devices in computing, transportation, manufacturing and aviation among many others.

Master’s in Environmental Engineering

Environmental engineering plays a critical role today in maintaining the quality of the human and natural environment. A master’s in environmental engineering involves the scientific assessment and development of innovative engineering solutions to many complex environmental problems that affect our land, water, air and biosphere. Environmental engineers work at the meeting point of society and the environment, as they work to protect the ecosystem and human health.

To deal with these complex challenges, environmental engineers with a master’s degree develop the skills needed to address them with courses in advanced mathematics, chemistry, physics, mechanics, fluid dynamics and thermal sciences.

Common courses that are taken in this master’s program include:

  • Environmental Chemistry and Microbiology
  • Water and Wastewater Treatment
  • Hydrology
  • Groundwater Hydrology and Pollution
  • Environmental Systems Management
  • Environmental Impact Assessment
  • Advanced Environmental Chemistry and Microbiology
  • Solid Waste Management
  • Environmental Geotechnology

Environmental engineers after their master’s program can choose from many employment options. A particularly common path today is in private consulting, where these engineers provided customized advice to client companies to reduce their environmental footprint to stay in compliance with state and federal regulations on environmental matters.

Master’s in Civil Engineering

Civil engineers are responsible for designing, constructing, supervising, operating and maintaining large construction projects. Some of the most common projects civil engineers work on are roads, bridges, buildings, sewage and water systems, tunnels and dams.

Civil engineers with a master’s degree also handle the preparation of the job site for earth moving, excavation, and grading for major construction work. Civil engineers also typically write the specifications for testing the durability, reliability and performance of the materials and structures used in civil engineering projects.

In a master’s in civil engineering master’s program, student study mathematics, physics, hydrology and geology. They need to have an excellent understand of the most common construction materials, including steel and concrete. With this understanding and knowledge, civil engineers then can devise structures that will meet the requirements for reliability, cost, safety durability and efficiency.

Depending upon the program you study, you also may have the option of focusing on a specific discipline of civil engineering, including highway and traffic, urban systems, geotechnical, and structural engineering.

Some of the courses usually offered in a master’s in civil engineering program are:

  • Materials for Civil Engineers
  • Environmental Impact Assessment
  • Urban Infrastructure Systems Management
  • Project Management for Construction
  • Risk Analysis
  • Instrumentation, Monitoring and Condition Assessment

Civil engineers can work for public and private organizations, but there are a lot of civil engineers today who are working for state and local government agencies. Their work is very important to ensure that various government road, bridge and other construction projects are done safely and efficiently.

Master’s in Industrial Engineering

Industrial engineers must apply mathematics, science and engineering to highly complex systems and operations. These are very large and complex systems, so all industrial engineers must have strong skills in engineering, communication and an overall broad perspective of systems. Industrial engineers with a master’s, for example, may analyze and design facilities, material handling systems, production systems, IT systems and even group and individual workplaces.

Some of the courses commonly taken in this master’s program are:

  • Quality Control and Improvement
  • Facility Planning and Design
  • Factory Simulation
  • Production Control
  • Operations Research
  • Leadership in Manufacturing
  • Production Science

Most industrial engineers work for manufacturing companies. Many often have subspecialties in assembly, raw product processing and administration.


  • Computer Engineering Overview. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://engineering.vanderbilt.edu/eecs/Undergraduate/ComputerEngineeringOverview.php
  • Software Engineering Master’s Degree. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.worldcampus.psu.edu/degrees-and-certificates/software-engineering-masters/courses
  • Civil Engineering Overview. (2015, Dec. 17). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/civil-engineers.htm