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Will postgraduate study help?

Industrial research is more important to the engineering profession than to any other. A postgraduate research qualification is good evidence that you have learned the skills associated with such research.

The Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology department at Cambridge University ( points to a number of important skills that postgrad students have to offer employers, including:
*Project planning: all research projects involve problem solving. Progress cannot be made unless problems are solved.
*Team work: most projects involve close collaboration between the student and members of the workshop staff, supervisor and other members of the supervisor's research group.
*Presentation skills: postgraduate students are obliged to give presentations on their work to the department and usually to national and international conferences as well.
*Writing research reports: publishing research papers and, ultimately, a PhD dissertation requires writing skills, the ability to present an argument in a logical order, and the ability to use a word processor!

“Since 2000, almost half the students leaving the department after completing a PhD degree became employed in the area of research, both in the higher education and the industrial research sectors. The remaining half obtained jobs in a variety of other areas, with the research degree providing a significant advantage in many cases,” it says.
The University of Southampton’s School of Civil Engineering and Environment ( offers PhDs in civil engineering, environmental engineering and environmental sciences. The School has four divisions covering the environment, energy and coasts, infrastructure and transportation. PhDs are typically application-focused rather than discipline-focused so involve interdisciplinary research groups operating between the four divisions.

“Carrying out a PhD leads to the development of a broad range of transferable skills. Most prominent among them is the ability to conceptualise, design and implement a project, adjusting the project design in the light of unforeseen problems. Also, it promotes time management skills, presentation skills and independent thinking,” says the School.

Typical career destinations for PhD students include: civil engineering, construction and infrastructure industry; petroleum industry; environmental organisations and authorities; conservation; planning; government agencies and academia.
Another option is a Masters qualification, which will give you extra insight into your chosen engineering speciality and sharpen some of the skills that are honed by a PhD. An MSc in a subject that is in big demand by employers, for example engineering design, structural engineering and software simulation, will always give you a head start against graduates with a basic engineering degree. Again, keep an eye on big projects around the world. The School of Civil Engineering and Environment at Southhampton University points out that the run-up to the London Olympics in 2012 is going to be a very busy period for civil engineers - and is one of the drivers behind its newly-launched MSc in civil engineering.

Much of the funding for postgraduate engineering qualifications comes from the departments themselves, via industry and the research councils. To find out more, visit the department websites and those of the research councils, particularly the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council ( and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (